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Zu Audio speakers - impressions?


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There might be a newer thread (the ones I found here all date to 2011 or earlier) but the search function here at CA feels that "Zu" is too short a search term :)

 

Anyone own or extensively auditioned Zu speakers? If so, which ones? They all seem to use the same main cone but apparently different internals so it can be difficult to understand the differences and what exactly you are getting at the various price points (at least IMO). What in your opinion are their rivals (IOW, what other manufacturer(s) have similar sound).

 

Just trying to get a handle on them...

Hey MQA, if it is not all $voodoo$, show us the math!

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You HAVE to hear them for yourself. They have a massive cult following. Sean Casey the owner of Zu is one of the badest ass people in audio. Awesome dude. Personally, I don't like their speakers though. They're just not me but as I said many many people dig 'em.

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My buddy has Zu Druids mk. V and it is the best sounding system I've ever heard. He has worked very closely with Phil and Sean for optimal component matching. That is really the key with Zu speakers- they need to be paired with the right amps. This is critical to them sounding jaw dropping or not. In addition, they expose the sound of upstream components more than most speakers due to their high sensitivity and crossover less design.

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Some of the most polarizing things in audio. Some folks love them. Others are convinced they are the worst sounding speakers in the history of audio, sometimes without even having heard a pair. Write something good or bad about Zu speakers and the firestorm is overwhelming. Makes objective vs subjective, pcm vs dsd, or "bits are bits" discussions seem civil. I have a pair of Zu Omens and I like them. One of the older reviews say Zu speakers tend to be mid-range centric. That has some validity. Probably explains why I like HiFiMan RE0 iems, and planar headphones too.

I'd agree that component matching is crucial to get Zu speakers to sound their best. High sensitivity can make them sound really good with flea-powered tube amps or Nelson Pass First Watt amps.

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Is it true that these kinds of speakers don't have crossovers? If so, would they benefit from having their response curve smoothed out with DSP? Would a DSP-adjusted speaker with no crossovers be better than a typical active speaker?

 

No crossover, just a resistor or something in line to the tweeter. I have no idea about the rest of your question.

No electron left behind.

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IIRC, the "woofer" is run full range, and there is a capacitor as a crossover for the tweeter.

No crossover, just a resistor or something in line to the tweeter. I have no idea about the rest of your question.

Forrest:

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The Druids are awesome speakers! I have loved Zu speakers since I heard them locally, have not gone back to anything else since.

 

What would you compare them to? In other words, what other speakers on the market would the "Zu sound" come closest to, in your opinion?

Hey MQA, if it is not all $voodoo$, show us the math!

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Some of the most polarizing things in audio. Some folks love them. Others are convinced they are the worst sounding speakers in the history of audio, sometimes without even having heard a pair. Write something good or bad about Zu speakers and the firestorm is overwhelming. Makes objective vs subjective, pcm vs dsd, or "bits are bits" discussions seem civil. I have a pair of Zu Omens and I like them. One of the older reviews say Zu speakers tend to be mid-range centric. That has some validity. Probably explains why I like HiFiMan RE0 iems, and planar headphones too.

I'd agree that component matching is crucial to get Zu speakers to sound their best. High sensitivity can make them sound really good with flea-powered tube amps or Nelson Pass First Watt amps.

 

Would you say then that the "Zu sound" might be best compared to Magnepan and similar ribbon/electrostatic speakers?

Hey MQA, if it is not all $voodoo$, show us the math!

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Would you say then that the "Zu sound" might be best compared to Magnepan and similar ribbon/electrostatic speakers?

 

I have heard several pair. Not at all like a planar, ribbon, panel, or electrostatic sound. Very dynamic. Seemed to have uneven frequency response. With the simple crossover listening height is critical for balance.

There are two open baffle speaker lines that use what looks like the same drivers. Both are also a love/hate situation. Running a 10, 12, or 15 inch driver full range is a trade off.

These are big and heavy speakers.

 

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I think they all do. Some are coincident and in others it is separate unit(super tweeter?) and a whizzer cone. I've never heard them.

Yeah, thats probably it. I knew the woofer was run full range, not all their speakers have a separate tweeter.

Forrest:

Win10 i9 9900KS/GTX1060 HQPlayer4>Win10 NAA

DSD>Pavel's DSC2.6>Bent Audio TAP>

Parasound JC1>"Naked" Quad ESL63/Tannoy PS350B subs<100Hz

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Would you say then that the "Zu sound" might be best compared to Magnepan and similar ribbon/electrostatic speakers?

 

Adding my $0.02 here- the Zu's do not sound anything at all like Magnepans. They remind me of AR3's to be honest. really nice sound one can easily fall in love with.

 

The higher up the line you go, the more and more technical they sound to me.

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What would you compare them to? In other words, what other speakers on the market would the "Zu sound" come closest to, in your opinion?

 

To me, they sound like music, not speakers. Extremely dynamic, component matching is important, but they sound great with a lot of things. The Druid MKVs are very revealing speakers, they will highlight flaws in your system. I have my system listed in my profile if you're curious what a user of the Zu speakers is using. The imaging (sound staging) is amazing. They love to make beautiful tuneful, full, rich, sound, can do it delicately or powerfully, or both. To me they sound pretty natural.

No electron left behind.

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Adding my $0.02 here- the Zu's do not sound anything at all like Magnepans. They remind me of AR3's to be honest. really nice sound one can easily fall in love with.

 

The higher up the line you go, the more and more technical they sound to me.

 

Definitely not Magnepans. I have heard a LOT of those living here in MN.

No electron left behind.

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Thanks for the input guys. The "sounds like" game helps me at least. the Zu sound is due to their single main driver handling a wide frequency range design, high sensitivity - what appears to be an "old school" sound. Someone up stream said their frequency response is "uneven", which is noted in every review I have read. Again this seems "old school" to me in that most speakers on the market this day tend toward (to varying degrees) the "neutral" or "flat" side of things. Amongst all this, they are also "reveling" certainly in the mid range, and amplifier sensitive. I mean none of this as a criticism or endorsement, I am just trying to get to a "Zu sound in 100 words or less" summary...

Hey MQA, if it is not all $voodoo$, show us the math!

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the Zu sound is due to their single main driver handling a wide frequency range design, high sensitivity - what appears to be an "old school" sound. Someone up stream said their frequency response is "uneven", which is noted in every review I have read.

 

The lack of a crossover for the main driver gives the transparency and detail. This is the strength of single driver designs.

I have not heard a Zu speaker recently. The quality of the drivers looks to have been upgraded.

 

The sound from the earlier models was not what people are describing. The best things I can recommend is go listen. Then write a description.

The drivers are no longer "wide range" Eminence guitar models. I think they are special order unique to Zu.

 

2012 Mac Mini, i5 - 2.5 GHz, 16 GB RAM. SSD,  PM/PV software, Focusrite Clarett 4Pre 4 channel interface. Daysequerra M4.0X Broadcast monitor., My_Ref Evolution rev a , Klipsch La Scala II, Blue Sky Sub 12

Clarett used as ADC for vinyl rips.

Corning Optical Thunderbolt cable used to connect computer to 4Pre. Dac fed by iFi iPower and Noise Trapper isolation transformer. 

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I've owned, spent time with, and auditioned many, many speakers in my time in audio. A little less than two years ago, I purchased a pair of Zu Druid Mk4 08's and couldn't be happier. I wouldn't trade them for any speakers under $6k (the price of the Druid Mark V's). And I would take the Mark V's over anything $10k or under. Of course, key elements of this are system dependent. However, if you are using SET amps, there is, in my opinion, nothing that can rival the right pair of Zu's short of massive, mega dollar, super high efficiency speakers.

 

As noted above, you absolutely do need to get them set up correctly. Also, as noted above, Sean Casey is a GREAT guy, and one of the truly helpful people in audio. Also, Zu offers a very nice home trial period for their speakers, which truly eliminates risk.

 

JC

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I had Druid's (not sure what version) and Essence. Strength was rock (nice energy and swing) but not the ultimate in tone (especially acoustic instruments) or in detail. I ended up ultimately moving to a speaker with a 12" PHY driver which was a clear step up (In fairness it also cost a lot more).

 

If you listen to mostly rock I think Zu's are pretty good (especially with tube amps). If you listen to a lot of jazz or classical I'd recommend one of the Audio Note kits ($3K - $4K including cabinets).

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