Set up alternating with equal toe-in
, A/Bs between Druid V and VI meant all of moving one couch seat over and reseating cables accordingly. Zu's SpeakOns made that super easy. Aside from off-white versus ivory lacquers and dissimilar trim rings, other frontal changes were 3cm greater width for the VI; its revised plinth; and its inset lower tweeter horn. Druid V has the latter protrude and higher. Even the wave guide profile differed. Sonically the VI had worked out my standing criticism of the V. Think opacity in the upper midrange, lower treble. Compared to dedicated 5" drivers just doing vocal duties up to ~2kHz and perhaps down to 100Hz, Zu's beefy 10.3" do-it-all lost resolution. I always thought that to be the unavoidable but fair price to pay for its intense tonefulness and big-driver dynamic attitude. Now the VI proved Zu's core driver platform capable of bridging the gap in the wider presence region where it was faster, more open and resolved plus possessed of greater transient smack. That word is perfect because it starts with a sharp 's' and ends in a hard 'ck'. Even in colloquial German it is Schmackes. This more explosive brisk element made for better separation and higher retrieval of harmonics across that bandwidth. Druid VI acted faster and also a bit more forward or present. By contrast, we'd call Druid V mellower, softer and not as alert or keen.


Because the upper harmonics of low sounds fall smack into this widebander's upper register too, the increase of resolution and snap likewise affected the low registers in general. Snarl and wiriness tightened up. Bass had grippier articulation. Something for nothing then? All gain, zero loss? That should depend on loyalties. 21st century high-resolution types will hear Druid VI as more modern to better fit their expectations. Mid 20th-century types who felt drawn to Druid V precisely because it never played that game with total zeal could view the new shift as the wrong direction. It's a matter of degrees, personal bias and sonic identities. To my ears and earlier criticism, I thought of Druid VI as the younger, quicker and fitter version. It had the sharper vision and a bit less body fat. And I could clearly appreciate Sean sweating this makeover to insure that Druid VI didn't do a Jason Bourne to forget its identity.


Current Druid V owners with a penchant for Zu-type music would hear the difference, look at the surcharge and decline. Fence sitters who always felt attracted but never 100% convinced because their diet includes Baroque, string quartets and opera would hear the same difference, call it their missing link and finally get off that fence. It's stated a bit cavalier to make the key point.


To illustrate it in more words, let's revisit KIH #37, a submission I wrote for my ongoing column at Darko.audio. "Audiophilia has its own form of political correctness. Big midranges have fallen out of favour. 5.25/6.5" two-ways are far more common than a Heco Direkt or Zu Druid whose 10" mid/woofers mate to horn-loaded or compression tweeters to appear like last century's big-bore Hemi throwbacks when gas was cheap. The most obvious reason against hifi hemis is a prevailing preference for smaller speakers; or at least smaller-looking boxes which disguise their cubic volumes behind narrow baffles. Essentially they rotate the Dreiklang/Druid concept by 90° on a lazy Susan. What was wide goes narrow, what was shallow goes deep. This rotation doesn't eliminate the need for LF displacement. It simply multi-parallels small woofers which either fit the narrower baffles; or locates them in a force-cancelling array on either side as Joachim Gerhardt pioneered at Audio Physics.


"Having reviewed the 2-way Heco Direkt and Aperture Kalya 8" two-way monitor whilst owning and loving Druid V, I hold an opinion on the difference 'unnecessarily' bigger drivers make. I wrote unnecessarily because it's not about bandwidth. Today's long-throw drivers optimized by software-modeled ports needn't be huge to go low and loud. To go low per se doesn't require big diameters. Just so there's a difference in textures and sensation. Call it tone and shove. Increasing a mid's Ø is ultimately limited by its need to meet a tweeter. Typically that's a 1" dome which can't go too low so the mid/woofer has to go up instead. Still, a number of 'vintage' 10-inch or even 12-inch two-way towers like the below Tannoy demonstrated how seamless a meet can be achieved even if often not with run-of-the-mill drivers.
1" hornloaded tweeter, 8" midrange, 15" woofer = Heco Dreiklang

"Comparing our Druid's 10.3" widebander to the 6" ceramic mid/woofer in our Albedo Audio Aptica two-way tower loaded by transmission line, bandwidth is surprisingly comparable. With tailwind from correct setup and proper amplification, it's in fact the Aptica which can outreach the Zu on raw extension. But covering equivalent bandwidth with very different weaponry makes decisive differences to the listening experience. Here it even includes a big change in efficiency (85dB vs. ~96dB).


"A big sonic offset is the behaviour in the power zone of the upper bass. It's related to what musicians call the engine room of a band. It's the beat'n'bass makers of percussion and stringed bass which generate a groove's energy and propulsion above which harmonies and melody occur. Here the greater cone area of big woofers or mid/woofers moves more air and does so from a single point. That translates into greater visceral punch. And that runs our engine room at higher RPM as it were. That's obviously less noted with string quartets which feature no percussion to begin with and which normally use their cello on the bow, not as a plucked shrunken Jazz upright. But play any modern music which assembles around and above a drum kit and electric bass and the difference of a bigger woofer is self-evident.


"Again, it's not about reach but the element of shove, rhythmic vigour and more kinetic impact. The second element of the bigger-is-different recipe is tone density. That figures all the way up through the midband until the tweeter takes over. An 8/10" mid/woofer sounds chunkier, chewier and more robust than a 5.25/6" or even smaller equivalent. Of course there's a price to pay. It's in the wider presence region where most tweeters hand over that the advantages of smaller mids assert themselves. The lucidity, resolution and insight into that range is where small drivers routinely pull ahead. It's tit for tat. Speakers like Zu move more air to enhance tonal solidity; they can go very loud and shift rapidly for good dynamic contrast; and they give good musical charge because they're strong in the power region. To me, speakers which excel in the upper bass and lower midrange with punch and impact and which on tone play it beefier are the bigger emotional triggers. Speakers that excel at air and maxed-out presence region detail with shiny treble put me in a more observational mood. Listening then becomes more of a seeing than feeling thing. That visual perspective revolves around soundstage precision, micro detail and top-down illumination. The feeling perspective is a bottom-up thing centred on punchy time keeping and big robust tone..."

If to you, automotive lacquers belong on the curb or in the garage, a Druid in wood veneer offers an attractive alternative.

Now we can appreciate how Druid VI's alterations didn't impact the credo of the 'unnecessarily' big driver with its very desirable qualities of tone density, chunkiness and dynamic output. That's because it still uses that signature 10.3" cone. On speed, separation and detail retrieval, it and the inner whizzer simply refined their upper bandwidth behaviour to more closely approximate that of smaller modern drivers. To answer how the whizzer/Radian transition compares to a standard midrange/tweeter affair, we'll look at our 2-way Italian transmission lines for contrast.