The V word. Carrying the DWX upstairs, dialing them in then listening all prompted a vigorous V for victorious value. Unexpectedly weighty with trim rings, waveguides, phase plugs and terminal plates all in solid metal, quality fasteners, beautiful veneer/stain work, 95% Abe Lincoln not offshore parts & labor all starting at $1.4K/pr… it's impressive how resourceful Zu have become in getting the most from their 10.3" driver platform which was alive and kicking back in 2005 (!) when I reviewed Druid 4. The usual trend of iterative refinements spells upward pricing. And Zu certainly won't refuse clients packing thicker stacks. A Definition 6 wants at least $25K. In late 2008 a Definition 2 with a quad of active rear woofers per side got $11K. That was less than today's Druid 6. Across 15 years, inflation and serious hikes in ship fees and parts costs all have compounded. In the original Biblical sense, here the two DW models repent most seriously as in, turn about 180° from sinful to saintly conduct. Obviously fair profits are no more sinful than selling affordable hifi is saintly. Yet experiencing this box first hand, it seems none too farfetched to talk in such terms. Though any reasonable arithmetic will insist that playing at Street Geezus must have entailed a gratuitous strip down, the DWX doesn't feel, look or sound stripped down. How they managed is a bit of a stumper. My best guess is optimized work flow, simplified rectangular build, reduced margins and hard-earned chops of how to make the most from humble ingredients. With that brief intermission over, onto more sonics.

Having displaced micro widebanders whose mini AMT likewise tacks on unusually high for similar timing exactitude, the core DWX differentiators were wallop and warmth; with a decisive qualifier. All too often warmth really stands in for time-domain blur; high even-order distortion; curtailed HF; or any combination thereof. Phase shift from complex filters, massive output transformers, capacitor coupling and dielectric release creates temporal errors. Those inject a certain blur or fuzz which many listeners find pleasing. Deep triode is synonymous with thick THD which has a syrupy effect. A treble cut will downshift the tonal center to create a different kind of warmth. If the DWX suffers one of these symptoms, it's a just mild case of the latter. It's simply not accompanied by the artificial softening of insufficient rise times or energy absorption/release effects. Like other Zu speakers before it, the DWX generates warmth through density and a civilized treble without charging us for it in that other coin. Because of it, Zu-style timing doesn't carry the benzene whiff of 'speed' which surrounds friskier Lowther types. Even where those behave well in the amplitude domain, they carry a racetrack's imprimatur of 'the quick'. It's one reason why so often they're deliberately slowed down by no-feedback single-ended triodes. The DWX doesn't express its timing virtues in hyper-accelerated fashion. It has no need of tubes to rebalance to normalcy. That makes it ideal for transistor lovers who want a warmer/fuller sound without any valve drag. Versus my SuperMon Mini widebanders, the DWX felt just as staccato precise on beats, accents and attacks but injected more warmth from applying far larger cone surface across the same bandwidth. In the above scenario, the direct-coupled valve linestage with 700kHz bandwidth injects just a bit of 'atomized oil' into tone textures to offset some 'speedy leanness' in my usual minis. Given Zu's tuning, I was curious. What would passive autoformer volume do? Time to bench the triodes in the utility closet and unleash the petite octopus of my Pál Nagy icOn 4Pro.

Et voilà, more quicksilver less yellow gold. In our audio kitchen we're all master chefs. If we can't stand the heat, we ought to dine eat out with fully active streaming speakers whose designer controlled the lot. The takeaway from my little swap is simple. Despite budgetary positioning, the DWX was plenty astute to parlay even small upstream changes. Its take on image density and associated warmth was at no coarse expense of transparency. To visualize earlier subtext, the speaker which the Zu replaced sits between the icOn filter and preamp. When I said mini I really should have said micro. Those Ted Jordan-evolved Alpair drivers from Mark Audio measure about as wide as the DWX tweeter lens. If you asked me to describe the subjective difference in speed, I'd call the Zu more settled so less twitchy. But I didn't think that the primarily low SPL which I curated this night-time system for suffered in intelligibility. Perhaps the significant offset in voltage sensitivity saw to it? The DWX needed a clearly lighter foot on the gas to play as loud.

To demonstrate more Zu tuning facets, cue up "From Green to Green" by Iranian-born singer Mamak Khadem. The cut has a Dead Can Dance vibe of high recording quality. It ends with the strident glare of multiple shehnai, a primitive Indian oboe precursor with a metal bell. Like screeching bag pipes meant to turn enemy bowels to water during ancient Highlands warfare, the shehnai has real nails-on-chalkboard bite. The DWX defanged its grating incisiveness to digest a lot easier. While image placement was keen and deep as expected from virtual point sources, it didn't separate out nearly as sharply as the recently reviewed MonAcoustic PlatiMon which forwarded to John Darko's lair in Berlin. On the soundstaging score, the DWX threw an expansive spread but left the checkerboard sorting and laser-guided edge limning to others. Its take on that subject was more organic far-field where images bloom larger and transition like watercolors not woodcuts. Cueing up modern symphonic fare thus translates to a mid-hall seat. For some bottled lightning, try "Chisera" from Juan Carmona's Sinfonia Flamenca, a third of the triptych whose other panels are the Vicente Amigo and Juan Manuel Cañizares flamenco symphonies. To stay unruffled by greater structural complexity or demands for timbre varieties were no real challenges for the DWX. It caters to symphonic repertoire as though we sat in row 10. Meanwhile the bouncy dance number "Antonia" from Ketama's female incarnation Los Migas puts us right in the middle of snappy beats and close-mic'd vocals; while Goota's synth stomps of "Tumbi" could loosen a few dental fillings if dialed up too high. Well-damped cone surface of suitable dimensions will do that.