Head kicks or body shots? Aside from by submission, competitors in Mixed Martial Arts get finished by classic head punches, debilitating liver shots, crippling calf kicks. The violence is the same, how and where it lands divergent. Nenuphar attacked from the upper midrange upward for classic head aim. Soul VI attacked solar plexus and liver. Both behaved very dynamic yet the origin of their behavior had different centers. Nenuphar sounded faster because it blitzed higher and lighter. Soul 6 sounded brawnier because it clobbered lower and loaded up heavier. As far as a silly tie-in with modern cage pugilism goes, this is a pretty accurate attempt at pegging two core gestalts.
Standard driver height and lowrider on the main floor.
Nenuphar was clearly airier and did ethereal, fragile and upper harmonics far closer to my Raal ribbons. Its perspective also was taller—the above difference in widebander height shows it physically—and its on-stage lighting stronger. Music's power range was softer and though its far larger quarter-wave cabinet added raw extension, bass textures were bloomier so less well damped. The Polish speaker benefits from a subwoofer not so much for extra reach but to swap in control and grip where the cab's loading softens. The American appreciates a sub for an extra octave's extension but needs zero help with controlled grip. Its stage lighting was dimmer, the overall scenery darker. This traded sheen and brilliance for saturation and chewiness. The Zu also requires less tonal compensation from preceding electronics and was significantly more sensitive to go louder on less signal voltage.
It also avoided any tonal upshifts when the going accelerated. Take "The Rod" by the World Quintet. It unites power-stomp piano, Klezmer clarinet and flute, rollicking percussion and assorted raunchy brasses in the melée/swingé 4'28" bridge. No matter how I cranked the SPL, nothing turned top-heavy or too close to a nerve. No splash and tinkles in the piano's upper hammered keys, no shouts in the careening blackwood's high registers, no undue insistence on those of the paralleled flute. The power range of the keyboard, upright and kick drum too had more crunch and punch than over Nenuphar.
If Cube's Nenuphar v2 is a perfected version of Lowther's original aesthetic, the Zu Soul 6 is a very dialed take on the Klipsch/JBL ethos which attempts to bring into our home live PA sound. Zu's special accomplishment is what my experience with multiple Druids and original Definition hears as a new connection to the high-brow classical chamber-music sector. For a speaker groomed to rock hard, Soul 6 is surprisingly adept at playing to the artsy audi(o)ence. Being a specialized brawler doesn't at all interfere with putting on tails and looking sharp. That applies to detail retrieval and very keen imaging with excellent depth perspective plus very crisp timing. Where Soul 6 loads up extra is tone density, corporeal weight, dynamic gumption and impact. Cue up anything wispy, fragile and breathy. See it transformed into something more robust and solid. If your library contains beaucoup bright and très thin recordings which you adore for the music but barely tolerate for the sound, be prepared to see tolerance turn forgetfulness when greater fun intrudes. Here Soul 6 diverges from much audiophilia. It also rewrites the book on '100dB expectations' for midrange brightness. For me and in three different rooms, it really wasn't fussy, cerebral or complicated but good-natured, dependable and pretty much unflappable. It also was very astute about parlaying upstream hardware shuffles.
Then it packs rather more sophistication than its profile would predict. It's why MkII skipped straight to VI. Of course it still looks like a Zu, talks like a Zu, walks like one. But it injects unexpected finesse. It's how we privately refer to our Bengal cat. For all his amazing sweetness, friendliness, ever-ready purr and constant eye contact, Chai Baba looks like no barn or alley tom you ever saw. With his green eyes and authentic leopard coat on a Siamese body, he looks like… well, a Gucci cat. In its filled-grain teal coat, I thought much the same of Soul 6. That too went well beyond classic appearances. Unlike Sean Casey, I haven't heard all their models. But from the lot I did review over many years, I can appreciate why he calls this his best yet. It's probably the most keenly balanced and also most resolved. That should make it the least polarizing to audiophiles so the one which the greatest number can get behind. Here it's key to separate myth from facts. In large part Zu created their own punk myth with their show demos when those still were a thing. They reveled in an anti-establishment attitude which paid less attention to tweaked setup and repertoire familiarity. If this approach bypassed the typical showgoer to perhaps excommunicate the brand from hifi's hardcore insider church, that was self-inflicted. In truth, Zu loudspeakers always played whatever you liked. That included the stuff Stereophile's gonzo writer Corey Greenberg called fit only for old goats. With Soul 6, I listened to Sœur Marie Keyrouz doing Byzantine madrigals and hymns, Sabine Meyer's Schubert Octet with the Quatuor Modigliani.
Whilst that won't ever be Zu's core audience, it's about time outliers and perennial naysayers gave the brand its proper due. In my book, Soul VI is the perfect opportunity to get converted; or at the very least have one's stubborn assumptions overwritten by actually current facts. Should you want similar sound in a different form factor for more coin, I can't be certain how close you'd get but one of John DeVore's broad-shouldered shallow big two-ways might belong on your list? Should your musical tastes track John Darko's, you might already sign on his 'Speaker of 2021' line and consider this Six your new Soul mate. As for me, once elevated properly to get its big coax's center closer at ear height—I do think that as shown above, this driver sits too low by about its own diameter—Soul Six has been my favorite Zu yet.
Sean Casey's early comments: "Speed read last night, enjoyed and excited to read again this weekend. Riser height 26cm then? You say and we'll build. Can do other color than the black spatter if you like. The Soul do look nice in the TV space, height working with the window and all. Thank you for your time and for your care. Excited to read in full when I'm not distracted."