Sean Casey Shows New Zu Audio Druid Mk. VI in California

caesar

Active Member
May 31, 2010
2,933
0
36
#21
Caesar, it's true that Zu will never fully appeal to those listeners who's sole diet is classical, there is just the last bit of transparency missing.

I've worked hard to wring everything I can from my pair, and I enjoy classical more than ever on them.

That's why I'm so happy to hear Ron's report that indeed the one remaining shortcoming in the Zu sound has been successfully addressed w the new model.
Thanks. But do you think they can have their cake and eat it too? Will the new "refined" models appeal to those who like the older models? Will anything be sacrificed?

I think on their website they still sell the older Druid in addition to the new Druid. Other than the economic price discrimination ( a wise practice!), will there be 1 path for the "refined" market segment and another path for the "originalist" segment?
 
Jul 18, 2014
572
8
18
#22
So as the hipsters join the queue and march towards the uncomfortable obscurity of just being old fashioned even the coolest of hipster dudes may ask themselves is there more to this gig than just being cool or hip and spinning the same kind of sounds.

Sean Casey is by now obviously a very experienced speaker designer and maybe having gear that really lends itself to mainly certain types of music must have its downsides for a whole lot of reasons. The worst for me being that gear that excels at a few genres but fails to engage in much else confirms the listeners preferences and can lock us into an unevolving appreciation of music. I’ve added more current r n b and hip hop to my play list of late but am just as engaged as ever by music from most every period and nearly most every style and this is partially because both my Maggies and my Harbeths are good at getting into both the spirit and the context of most everything. Both 20.7s and 40.2s aren’t held back by having a niche attitude to genre and while expressing different spirits both can be equally broadly engaging and musical when setup right.

Did listen to many a Zu back in my not exactly hipster mate’s Zu play period quite a few years back and really liked all the fun of Set triode single ended SS spectrum of amplification that fitted in so beautifully and also got into all that textural density and jump that the Zu bring out... but the rawness! After a while that ever so slightly ragged and unkempt buoyant spirit did fall on its own sword when they were asked to change it up into other kinds of musical moments... Zu amazement did wear out for my mate as well so hats off Marc for taming or sophisticating and getting much more life, love and longevity out of your Zu.

It is great news that Sean Casey is evolving and Zu are adding new qualities to the experience their speakers lead us to, that is good for us music lovers! Viva diversity! Hope the virtues of Zu become more embedded in the range making it more mainstream and accessible and keep that house sound injection of life and vitality but offer a bit more musical range to the trip as well.
 
Last edited:

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,227
11
38
E. England
#23
Initial user reports on the new Druid VI certainly seem to support the notion that the existing DNA of Zu tone density, dynamic shove and immersive verviness has not been sacrificed on the altar of a more sophisticated set of attributes, such as transparency, delicacy and microdynsmics.

Indeed our friendly leader Ron who heard my Zus in depth at the chapel, and remained sceptical on Zu lack of ultimate sophistication despite loving it's tone, texture and dynamics, really feels this new model totally addresses these character flaws.

This certainly matches these independent reports.
 
Jul 18, 2014
572
8
18
#24
It must be hard to tread the tightrope of change without losing the essential identity of the original character. Maybe it will be about leaving some of the range as more trad Zu and expanding the character range throughout the spectrum of his models.

Also loving the term immersive verviness Marc, can I borrow it?
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,227
11
38
E. England
#25
Tao, it's out of copyright, so go ahead.
FWIW, I'm getting into classical a lot more, and I'm honest enough to admit there is a bottleneck to full unfettered enjoyment of this genre on the Zus.
And it comes down to the inability to fully be open and intimate (sorry if that sounds more like a relationship issue being discussed by a councillor LOL).
If Sean has been able to pull off the trick of keeping full engagement heard on rock and blues with a more "interior lit" sound that would benefit classical, he'll be the magic man.
Even then, Zu will never be the go-to brand for classical listeners, but they'll broaden their appeal, and make my whole record collection open up.
 

cjfrbw

Active Member
Apr 20, 2010
2,144
0
36
Pleasanton, CA
#26
I don't think what I heard with the Pass Labs XA25 and the Pass electronics chain was lacking in transparency. My only thought was it was lacking in a nurturing room/treatment environment, where, I think, they would have been much better.

Marc should try to hear them with the XA25 sometime, after a good warmup. I think it would surprise in a positive way.

With the First Watt SIT amps from a previous show, the old Zu's sounded very transparent and separated, so some of this could simply be equipment matching.
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,227
11
38
E. England
#27
Tao, "ragged unkempt buoyant spirit", can I borrow this term myself?
Sounds like some kind of Bohemian actor in an Off Broadway production LOL.

Anyhow, this sums up the fatal attraction of Zu - unbelievably compelling on rock, electric jazz, electronica, a little hazy/obscured/messy on classical/pure acoustic.

It's well known that Zu respond positively to set up and peripherals, and I've gone futher than most in eeking out potential.

A trusted pair of ears is due to visit soon, he's heard them in the bad old days of my harsh previous acoustic, and last year as they were coming together in my new room. Soon, he'll hear them in what I'm confident is the best state they've ever sounded. He runs an exemplary horns/tubes/SOTA digital system, so the Zus have a lot to measure up against.
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,227
11
38
E. England
#28
CJ, I'll certainly investigate that Pass XA25. The reviews look great, 25W into 8 Ohms will be fine for 101dB Zus, even in my 800 sq ft space.
It'll be fascinating to see if that extra quiet and transparency is combined w any shortfall in lower mids/upper bass texture and density (the most common ways even the best SS often fails at in comparison to good SETs).
 
Jul 18, 2014
572
8
18
#29
^^ really great thought on bringing a shade more of the qualities towards a type of transparent clarity in presentation an amp like the Pass XA25 might bring to your setup Marc.

Nice. So when you want to shift to something like classical switch in the Pass. Not such a crazy spend either and to be able to then swap to and from your Nats when season, mood or music ask for it sounds like a fantastic potential direction shift without having the expense of changing speakers and the kinds of big tipping shifts in system needs that swapping the transducers can bring.

My next move was to be to add a high efficiency speaker to the mix here. More probably horn or open baffle rather than box though as the Harbeths cover much of the overlap of qualities of spirit that Zu might bring. Had also considered Al’s Reflectors as well but no matter what the lure of low watt virtue is always on the horizon.

PS I do ragged and unkempt... Broadway, not so much :)
 

caesar

Active Member
May 31, 2010
2,933
0
36
#30
Yeah, I think Zu and Sean are the definition of hipster audiophilia: younger generation who just want good sound in a room and aren't clued in to the creaking shibboleths or cost-hierarchy obsessions of the older guys. He didn't even know who Al Di Meola was at the recent CAS 2018 when I asked him to play my record.

These were the speakers at recent CAS 2018 sans super tweeters. The Zu's are always in some kind of large room with no treatments, and I have always wondered what they would sound like in a more optimized space. I like Sean's imagination in using all kinds of amp chains with them, ranging from Allnic H5000 DHT preamp one year, to First Watt SIT amps in another. Sometimes tubes, sometimes SS. Last year was the Pass Labs XA 30.8, this year was an all-Pass chain with the Pass Labs XA25. The Feynman physics text was a nice touch, sitting on the XA25 without bursting into flame for a Class A design.

Given the limitations of the usual open room environs, I thought the sound with the Pass XA25 was excellent. The XA25 amp is the best Pass Labs sound I have heard to date, and successfully transcend the anti-organic nature of SS without obscuring detail or fundamentals. The combo had tonality, broad imaging, dynamics, etc. etc. and pushed a nice array of my audiophile buttons, anyway.

In the past, I did like the Zu speakers with tubes and the First Watt SIT, but the recent expo was the best yet overall with the XA25.

I notice the host in LA uses the 101D preamp, as well as the 845 tubes, and that must sound great with these speakers as well.
I have heard their entry level model in an SMT room (pretty much taking the room out of the equation), with reference gear.

Outstanding experience, akin to throwing the very best gear at an electrostat - you just get "more better of everything" musical experience. No limits.
 

caesar

Active Member
May 31, 2010
2,933
0
36
#31
Anyone know why they called the company Zu Cable? I am not a cable denier, but I don't get my jollies from cables either. I think I missed them in some RMAFs because the called themselves Zu Cables. Kind of puzzling, considering their astute business strategy.
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,227
11
38
E. England
#32
Caesar, "Cable" because they started off purely as a cable company, and then branched into spkrs (And thence to pick-up carts too).
"Zu" because they wanted a talking point, debate on pronunciation etc.
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,227
11
38
E. England
#33
Tao, I've always been reluctant to run parallel gear, feeling one setup should do it all, or close to it.
But I can't deny the logic of yr suggestion.
There is no reason why my Nat SETs shouldn't major on full transparency, but it may be the ultra quiet and linear SS amp that synergises best w the Zus for acoustic music.
My second opinion from guest is just a few weeks out, he'll confirm or contradict my current take on things.
 

cjfrbw

Active Member
Apr 20, 2010
2,144
0
36
Pleasanton, CA
#34
Tao, I've always been reluctant to run parallel gear, feeling one setup should do it all, or close to it.
But I can't deny the logic of yr suggestion.
There is no reason why my Nat SETs shouldn't major on full transparency, but it may be the ultra quiet and linear SS amp that synergises best w the Zus for acoustic music.
My second opinion from guest is just a few weeks out, he'll confirm or contradict my current take on things.

Mystery Guest: "It's scheiss, all scheiss, I say!" Camera cut stage center to Marc, cringing and weeping on his knees and begging for mercy.
 
Last edited:

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,227
11
38
E. England
#35
CJ, there's an avant garde theatrical piece here, just no-one will pay good money to watch it LOL.
I'm bullish about my sound, but also self analytical to realise where I could be coming up short.
My friend (Blue58) of SGM server and AG Duos fame has a fantastically transparent and open sound, he's the perfect judge to give me perspective.
He's already once given me the thumbs down when he first heard it, and has upped his approval on subsequent visits. His opinion this time I'm most interested in.
 

caesar

Active Member
May 31, 2010
2,933
0
36
#36
Caesar, "Cable" because they started off purely as a cable company, and then branched into spkrs (And thence to pick-up carts too).
"Zu" because they wanted a talking point, debate on pronunciation etc.
Thanks. Interesting they didn't start out with speakers, considering they have achieved a cult following.
 
Jul 18, 2014
572
8
18
#37
Tao, I've always been reluctant to run parallel gear, feeling one setup should do it all, or close to it.
But I can't deny the logic of yr suggestion.
There is no reason why my Nat SETs shouldn't major on full transparency, but it may be the ultra quiet and linear SS amp that synergises best w the Zus for acoustic music.
My second opinion from guest is just a few weeks out, he'll confirm or contradict my current take on things.
Much better than my earlier buy a pair of Apogees as well and steal a room from the missus to get both sides of an equation... a thought that just does not really add up. CJ’s suggestion of what the Pass may bring is clearly potentially a much more elegant and efficient solution to adding some flexibility to make living with one pair of speakers possible.

Nearly every setup is some kind of compromise so the notion that any one system can indeed do it all for us is the kind of convenient delusion that what is close can be the one true destination. Going via the Pass might be a lovely detour whenever you need to appreciate something else along the way. I do believe that all we have is the way rather than any absolutes like destinations.
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,227
11
38
E. England
#38
Oh, Apogees still cross thoughts.
Like when a man dying of thirst in the desert hallucinates about mirages and clear spring water LOL.
I am confident that a pair of modded Duettas off high current high power bulletproof SS would fit my room v well. Abducting the main space for my selfish ends is never going to happen.

So it would be ironic if I went for these low/medium power SS amps Pass XA25 on new Zus, and for the same outlay didn't go modded Apogees and higher power Pass or other SS.
 

caesar

Active Member
May 31, 2010
2,933
0
36
#39
Gentlemen,
So is this single driver really a woofer? and how does it manage to re-create everything up to 10, 11 kHz?

And what is this Griewe business? How does a motorcycle exhaust technology transfer to spellbinding high end audio? And how does it enhance channelling emotion from recording to human, and completely engrossing the human into the musical experience, where all time falls away and one is enjoying music for its own sake? Does anyone understand and can explain in plain English?
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,227
11
38
E. England
#40
Caesar, I can't answer your qs, sorry.
Maybe an email to Sean, or his able deputy Gerrit, will get some answers.
There are disadvantages to boosting a mids driver to cover upper bass-mids-lower treble, including the potential of stridency where mids normally cross over to highs, ie in the 7-12kHz region, and I'm certain this contributes to the main weakness of the Zu presentation, namely some grittiness or lack of smoothness in this region.
It may be that the new driver has ameliorated this, certainly Ron feels the roughness he heard in my room is not replicated on the new Druid VI.
Re Griewe loading, I believe it's a variation of porting where energy is used to boost bass performance and dynamics, getting a putative mids/upper bass driver to eek out extension to under 40Hz in room, where a normal 10" mid driver might only bottom out at 50Hz.
And to get sub 40Hz to be agile and extended, not just a simple spec.