Once set up, the prodigious mounting height of Piu's tweeter took an obvious toll. This the stock photos hadn't put into proper perspective. Where Zu's Druid VI for example centre their widebander 110cm off the floor to locate their hornloaded compression tweeter at 88.5cm or below the full-ranger, 8mmaudio's tweeter centred 117cm off the floor; above Zu's already high 10.3 incher. Despite the up/down horn flare's vertical dispersion gain, the tonal balance in our typical low-slung red comfort chairs was demonstrably hooded. Evolving to homo erectus with a taller and straight-backed kitchen chair and sitting at ramrod salute, I managed to nearly get my ears onto these rubber-necking tweeter axes. Now this HF unit proved to be most dynamic in fact, exceptionally resolved and capable of very lengthy fades. Just so, actual output still felt dialled down. This was easily ascertained with familiar material; the sort I always use to track treble energy. If Donatas had deliberately oriented his waveguide to compensate for such a high tweeter, why pursue that in the first place when it clearly fires well above normally seated listeners?

Red chair = regular seat which puts standard tweeters on ear. White stool = taller perch which got my ears to nearly but still not quite this tweeter axis.

Midranges trading places with normal tweeters, Piu presented as neither top-down airy nor bottom-up bassy. It instead radiated outward from the central vocal band. This plainly exceptional midrange with pleated surround is the only one of the three core transducers not to get upgraded in the deluxe option. Listening explained why. A sterling example of what I've previously called big-driver sound, it rolled out a massive charm offensive on fully incarnated tone colours, weighty image density and profoundly dynamic reflexes. The latter actually had me move my chair back. I needed a bit more distance for such displays of very trigger-happy dynamic acceleration. Think man-sized blow dryers aiming directly at you. There be air moving at ya.


Woofers were pointed out to exploit far shorter first reflections. As designed, the ports saw high radiation resistance from immediately hitting the floor. A swaggering track by Senegalese rap duet Daara J showed off ultra-punchy bass attacks and drum-machine impacts like MMA elbow crunches. With the same character as the midband, this sound was all about impact, feistiness and playing it big and bold. How much did the dimmed-down treble contribute to this by way of psychoacoustics where less HF automatically suggest more below? Was this strutting attitude instead simply the core personality of this particular midrange driver? I couldn't turn the treble up to compare and decide. Either way, the compound effect of these choices made for a very beefy delivery that was most happy to take on rollicking material at high SPL and dish it.


Some Baroque piccolo trumpet by Reinhold Friedrich came off just as compelling. In shorter supply on this classical material was the usual venue ambiance. With its earthy very athletic and muscular disposition, Piu wasn't one to aim lights into the farthest nooks and crannies of the soundstage or play air injector. But by then I rather thought all of it very much by design. Everything about the delivery then physical inspection had spoken to very conscious efforts and deliberation. As such, the unusually tall frontal driver array simply had to be the chosen enabler or at least co-contributor for the qualities I've already noted. The ear-height midrange had to be key. With that location taken, Donatas then had to decide whether to put his tweeter too low or too high. We already know what he favoured. Accordingly, I'd move back into our regular red chair and listen as this speaker was clearly meant to be enjoyed: on-axis with that wonderful German hard-hung 6.5" BMS midrange.


As such, much of the presentation reminded me of our Zu Druid, albeit with a more powerful bottom register. Because Donatas' burly 12" Beyma comes in at a high 250Hz and not the usual 100Hz, Piu's midbass had better than Druid-style cone surface, hence the same amazing mule kick at its beck and call whenever material demands that we be hit hard. Meanwhile the high-power treated-cellulose BMS mirrored key aspects of Zu's Eminence platform across the vocal band. That championed equivalent dynamic expressiveness and tonal materialism. Even the deliberately softer treble tracked the Americans. Ditto the high mounting of 8mm midrange and Zu widebander for a generally elevated man-tall soundstage. But Piu's more standardized impedance also meant that amplifiers would deliver full and not half their rated power as they do into Druid's high 16Ω. Just so, anyone needing a capsule takeaway for Piu's sound is well set to think "latter-gen Druid with more bass power" and be in the correct general vicinity. To get further insights from the designer, I asked: "You’ve made unusual design decisions, foremost amongst these the high placement of the midrange and even higher one for the tweeter, then the compensatory vertical orientation of your waveguide with its limited lateral dispersion. What are the reasons and benefits for/of these decisions? In general, what type of sonic profile/voicing did you pursue? Were there commercial speaker precedents you used as a kind of sonic guideline because you enjoyed them? Input on these matters would give readers and prospective buyers a good notion on what you were trying to achieve." If any of my assumptions were erroneous or my results not intended, I wanted to hear from Donatas. As it turned out, we were squarely eye to eye.

Piu maximally tilted forward, two cushions in a chair moved back plus our most lit-up DAC (COS Engineering D1) produced my very best treble without taking away from Piu's other magic.

"My wife and I often visit philharmonic halls to enjoy live classical music which not only pleases us a lot but ensures that I am on the right track as soon as I get back to my lab. Three tools are crucial for any speaker designer: a pair of good ears, a good microphone and an open wild imagination. I totally disagree that any of these three are unimportant and should be struck off the list. There are many great speaker manufacturers I am fond of. It so happens that high-sensitivity large speakers like older JBL or Altec systems to my ears are closest to live sound and even today I admire their attitude toward sound reproduction. They have influenced my work greatly. Getting back to Piu, there are quite a few smart decisions that can describe how its sound was achieved and I will try to explain some of them.


"In our designs, a horn/waveguide is the main tool to control treble energy. Our waveguide's wide vertical dispersion allows us to place the tweeter higher than ear level (or lower) without any loss of treble energy. Our waveguide profile has the downfiring treble portion absorbed by your carpet while the upfiring portion hits the ceiling to avoid the listener in a normal seated position. Our waveguide also limits horizontal dispersion to a desired point, avoiding early sidewall reflections. Short smooth waveguides also add very little mouth diffraction to the sound. Considering this and a very special tweeter made to our specifications by Sica of Italy, we do have a very vivid, informative, precise and dynamic tweeter but one that is also smooth, without any of the harshness that most listeners consider sadly endemic to horns."

Front footers fully shortened, rear footers fully lengthened.

"Another important thing which our controlled treble dispersion accomplishes is that it meets the midrange at the crossover point at the exact same dispersion pattern so there is no seam of discontinuity. Our mid driver is an ultra-low distortion compact but very capable unit made by BMS of Germany. It was chosen from many candidates for being a clear winner on speed, low distortion, very low power compression considering the size, all from a very well-behaved naturally voiced paper cone.


"We tried many mid/hi placement options and ended up with this one as the most enjoyable especially for long listening periods. Our centrally positioned midrange plays low because its movement is only restricted by a stiff mechanical suspension to act as a mechanical high pass where it meets the woofer. You can actually feel some midbass coming out of this small driver. This also we did on purpose, for better integration with the quick Beyma 12" woofer which we modify in-house to our desired specs. We have borrowed Beyma from the pro audio world where high SPL and low distortion are essential and made it better. There are more unconventional solutions, custom parts and crossover tricks which helped us make Piu's sound into one perfect instrument, a system of many small decisions which eventually led to a big enjoyable musical event."