Zellaton: The End of My Speaker Journey

vinyl_mike

Well-Known Member
Jun 17, 2012
18
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918

Background

As a lifelong audiophile and part-time audio reviewer, I have been fortunate to own, review, and audition, many of the top high-end systems. To further my passion, I was fortunate to be able to build a dedicated listening room. With an Acoustic Sciences custom designed listening space, my only consideration was the sound, not visual aesthetics. The room was built using the ASC IsoWall System with Tube Traps to provide maximum flexibility and easy tuning for any future speaker. For addition room details: https://6moons.com/audioreviews/theroom/1.html


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My speaker journey began with electrostatics, touching on many brands and technologies, then progressing deeply into the Wilson ecosystem, ending with the Alexandria X-2 Series 2. While not perfect by any means, when meticulously set up in a well-designed room, they provided me exceptional enjoyment. I believed that my lifelong speaker journey had ended. Boy, was I wrong.

Visiting the Munich audio show can be overwhelming in its size and scope. Fortunately, many of the ultra-high and systems are exhibited in adjacent large 20’ x 40’ atrium rooms. Although their construction and glass make them less than ideal, they are significantly larger than the typical hotel room, with space to add room treatments. The beauty of this layout allows the ability to compare some of the world’s finest systems side-by-side.

Generally, most systems were good, with some excellent. Then I came to the Zellaton room showcasing their Reference Speaker. I was immediately blown away. The room disappeared, the speakers disappeared, and Dean Martin materialized in a focused 3D space. Coherent, tonally correct, with jaw dropping realism. With the Zellaton sound as a new baseline, I went back to all the major rooms. In my opinion, none approached Zellaton. Six times over two days I visited the Zellaton room for extended listening. For my ears and my tastes, Zellaton was head-and-shoulders above the rest. This was the first speaker that was unequivocally and materially better than my Wilson Alexandria’s in every respect.

It is here at Munich that I met Gideon Schwartz, owner of Audio Arts, and the North American importer for Zellaton. We began ongoing discussions, and it became clear that Gideon is, first and foremost, passionate about the music – not just the technical specs. Over the years I have developed very specific listening objectives and have used these as a filter for my system development. I credit Gideon 's knowledge and experience in understanding my priorities and tailoring the installation and ancillary equipment to meet my goals.

Flash forward three years, through Covid and global supply chain issues, my new Zellaton Statements arrived. At 700 pounds each, it took a crew of eight and a skid loader to get them to the basement. Let me assure you, the wait was worth it.

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The Statements


Visually stunning, like a beautiful and exquisite work of art. The mirror finish is the deepest, richest piano finish imaginable. The outrigger feet are finished to Rolls Royce standards. Their attention to detail is obsessive.

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At 6 foot tall and 700 lbs. each, the Statements with their unique angles, are far less imposing than one might imagine. They utilize a complex cabinet, open in the rear, designed with multiple layers, and massively braced to minimize vibrations, verified by a Laser Doppler vibrometer.


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Clearly, a major key to the Zellaton sound is their unique proprietary speakers. With almost 100 years of R&D, the drivers in the Statements and the other models in their Klassik line are handmade with multilayer foam and an aluminum coating thinner than a human hair. Baked for weeks, their inherent design eliminates phase shift and produces an ideal impulse response. With the foam composed most of air, the result is an extraordinarily lightweight and rigid driver with the tweeter diaphragm weighing only .18 grams. Each driver is manufactured using the same aluminum coated foam process, and together they integrate with a seamless “electrostatic-like” coherence. The effect is startling.

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The Sound


The first impression is their remarkable “in the room” realism. Zellatons have an uncanny, and in my opinion, unmatched ability to present the convincing illusion of real performers in the room. You get the unmistakable feeling that there is less between you and the music. The resolution is detailed yet natural. With the right recording the performer appears and exists naturally in a realistic 3D space.

The music is not just presented, it flows naturally capturing its “soul.” Turn the lights down, close your eyes, and the performance just appears in the room. With the right music, the speakers disappear, the walls recede, and you are left with the musical event. The music is alive and exciting.

The design and uniformity of the individual drivers produces a purity that I have not heard since the early Quad ESL. For those of you who remember the Quad, imagine them scaling to a full range system, with unlimited dynamics, a fully integrated low-end capable of pressurizing a large listening room, while maintaining their remarkable transparency and liquidity.

Interestingly, the midrange driver is almost full range with a response from 100hz to 8k, covering the majority of the listening range. With no crossovers or phase issues, this undoubtedly contributes to seamless presentation and exquisite midrange realism.

Leading edges are fast, crisp, and clean, without the slightest edginess. The highs are extended and free of grain, with the tweeter extending to 40khz. Having lived with the somewhat “rougher” tweeter of the Alexandria's, the Zellatons took a little bit of an adjustment. With time it became clear to me that their purity and the lack of distortion actually delivers more high-end detail. What’s missing is any distortion or artificial brightness. For example, whether it is Blood, Sweat and Tears or Miles Davis, trumpets are extended, exciting, and quite real, leaving just the right, balance, and bite. Missing is any added edginess, detail, or artificial enhancement.

As with the highs, the bass is fully integrated and blends seamlessly. The low-end is fast, tight, and controlled, never calling attention to itself outside of the music. But with the right music it will knock your socks off. The opening notes of Donald Fagan’s Morph the Cat is absolutely stunning with its low-end and definition. Compared to the Wilsons, my first reaction was a slightly subdued bass. With further critical listening, it appears that the Wilson’s were activating a specific room mode. Zellaton’s bass while equally deep, is faster, far more integrated, and flows more naturally with the music.

Compared to the Zellatons, the Wilsons did not fully bloom at low levels or with intimate music. With seemingly limitless dynamic range the Zellatons scale effortlessly, with finesse and clarity at all volume levels. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Yo-Yo Ma cello suite or Led Zeppelin, each appear in the appropriate acoustic envelope. While some speakers expand the image size as the volume increases, resulting in twenty-foot-tall singers in your listening room – not so with the Zellatons. They seemingly always maintain correct proportions.

Room placement is flexible in that they can project a more laid-back far-field presentation, or to my tastes, a more immersive perspective with a deeper 3D holographic soundstage. Room positioning has a significant effect on the size and depth of their presentation.

Well, this ends my small introduction into the Zellaton world. However, at this exalted level, describing the sonics, and checking “audiophile boxes” does not begin to tell the full story.

High-end listening is very personal and individual. Different people have different tastes and goals. However, I can clearly state my priorities:

• Emotionally involvement- being pulled into the musical event.
• Holographic 3D immersion - “you are there” presentation.
• The speakers and room disappear.
• Musical purity as opposed to detail for detail’s sake.

With these as a filter, I can unequivocally say that the Zellatons hit it out of the park. For me, I have finally arrived at the end of my lifelong speaker journey.

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Legolas

VIP/Donor
Dec 27, 2015
1,039
381
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France
Wow, what a super system, and a great journey Mike! Thank you for posting it. More folk should look at these high end brands from the EU zones. I remember the room at Munich with the Zellatons, think it was 2019. I also was very impressed by the room.

 

gleeds

Industry Expert
May 29, 2018
746
1,196
235
Mike, your room and dedication to the art of sound is impressive. I'm looking forward to visiting your listening room next time I am on the east coast. Congratulations!

From a dedicated Wilson man that is quite a compliment. No doubt the Zell's are a different experience altogether. I fell hard for Zellaton in Munich this year upon hearing the considerably more affordable but no less sublime Plural Evo's. Of all the expensive speakers lined up and down the hall (Raidho, YG Acoustics, Steinhem's, Marten, Rockport etc.) Only two speakers spoke to my heart and head in a powerful way, the $180k Von Schweikert Ultra 7's and the roughly $79k Plural Evo's.

In full disclosure, after that experience I now own Plural Evo's as my personal speaker powered by WestminsterLab electronics fronted by Lampizator digital (see photo below). Further, I have agreed to help Gideon expand the Zellaton footprint on the west coast so "grains of salt" may apply:)

I'll be saving up for Mike's model after I pay for a vintage Porsche for Deb, my wife in Kermit green! In the meantime, anyone in the west who has interest in what these extraordinary loudspeakers are all about feel free to reach out via PM.

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Holli82

Well-Known Member
Jun 6, 2010
315
328
1,620
Congrats to you! Wonderful system and room. Enjoy!
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 24, 2015
15,872
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Beverly Hills, CA
Congratulations, Mike! Thank you for chronicling your decision process and your journey for us!

I heard the References in Munich in, I think, 2017, and they are indeed amazing!

Do you prefer the Goldmunds or the Tenors on them?
 
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ashandger

Well-Known Member
Jun 14, 2013
404
173
348
Hello Mike,
Great to have you here and thank you so much for your very detailed report. My wife and I are really looking forward to visiting you at some stage. Even the Plural Evos tick a lot of boxes for me and Myles Astor is getting results with his Evos with Goldmund Telos 1000 amps. Will be VERY interesting to see what Michael Schwab has created with his new Ultra range whenever that is launched....supposed to have been this year but haven't heard anything about that new series yet. Best Regards, Ash
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
14,352
2,476
1,398
Mike,

Fantastic news and congratulations. I remember speaking with Jeff Fischel, the owner of Conrad Johnson, who was absolutely effusive about your Zellaton Statements. Jeff is a highly technical engineer, down to earth and by my few interactions, definitely not prone to marketing hyperbole. He could not say enough good things about Zellaton's reference speakers. I am pretty sure CJ often finds itself in those systems, and I believe in NYC, they often are shown together at the dealer.

I was most intrigued by your (as usual) detailed and articulate descriptions. It is the bass where I was most looking forward to reading...I have my own views of Wilson and the XLF particularly...overall, an excellent and very, very balanced performer. Like everything, it takes time to get the entire system playing together well...that being said, I could imagine from Jeff's description the level of electrostatic clarity and beauty you have.

On the bass, I have to say, I prefer too much than too little. Not right. Not wrong. A preference if I had to choose is to go a little over than under. On the XLFs I use a DD18+ sub below 38hz or so. Not cranked at all and you'd never know...until you turn it off.

Question
How visceral and all-out is the Zellaton bass? I am thinking if we ever ventured into Zellaton territory, I might still seek to use a sub...but the speed of the Zellatons would make that integration harder. It might need to be panel subs like PureLow.
 

vinyl_mike

Well-Known Member
Jun 17, 2012
18
97
918
Congratulations, Mike! Thank you for chronicling your decision process and your journey for us!

I heard the References in Munich in, I think, 2017, and they are indeed amazing!

Do you prefer the Goldmunds or the Tenors on them?
Full disclosure. I have owned Tenors for a long time, dating back to their OTL days. I reviewed the amps, purchased the review samples, and have been a longtime proponent. Even today, I consider them one of the best amps in the world. I tried many amps, and for me the Tenors brought out the best in Wilsons.

The initial Zellaton setup was with the Tenors. Even cold out-of-the-box the Tenor/Zellaton sound was outstanding. I was thrilled.

I enjoy getting honest input into my system. I'm not out to get my ego stroked, nor try to be the smartest person in the room. With that, I pressed Gideon for his input. His position was that “as good as they sounded, and they sound great, with this room and ancillary equipment they could sound better.”

This began my understanding of the synergy between Goldmund and Zellaton. My layman summary is that Zellatons in general, and the Statements in particular, need an ultra-fast, high-bandwidth amp to really “sing” and give the extension, air, and magic that they are capable of. I realize there are many high bandwidth amplifiers out there, but the Goldmund’s bandwidth pushes the response into the three-megahertz region, with a rise time of 400 nanoseconds. For this and other reasons that Gideon mentioned, Zellatons and Goldmund are a match made in heaven. I started out with the 2500s, and when a pair of the 3300s became available I moved up.

To specifically answer your question, the comparison of Tenor and Goldmund with the Statements was fascinating. The Tenors provided a deeper, rich mid and low end. The Goldmunds delivered an improved top-to-bottom seamlessness, more air, high-end extension, and a tighter, faster bass. This might be due to their dampening factor at 600. With the Statements, Goldmund is the match. As with everything in our hobby, synergy is critical.
 

vinyl_mike

Well-Known Member
Jun 17, 2012
18
97
918
Mike,

Fantastic news and congratulations. I remember speaking with Jeff Fischel, the owner of Conrad Johnson, who was absolutely effusive about your Zellaton Statements. Jeff is a highly technical engineer, down to earth and by my few interactions, definitely not prone to marketing hyperbole. He could not say enough good things about Zellaton's reference speakers. I am pretty sure CJ often finds itself in those systems, and I believe in NYC, they often are shown together at the dealer.

I was most intrigued by your (as usual) detailed and articulate descriptions. It is the bass where I was most looking forward to reading...I have my own views of Wilson and the XLF particularly...overall, an excellent and very, very balanced performer. Like everything, it takes time to get the entire system playing together well...that being said, I could imagine from Jeff's description the level of electrostatic clarity and beauty you have.

On the bass, I have to say, I prefer too much than too little. Not right. Not wrong. A preference if I had to choose is to go a little over than under. On the XLFs I use a DD18+ sub below 38hz or so. Not cranked at all and you'd never know...until you turn it off.

Question
How visceral and all-out is the Zellaton bass? I am thinking if we ever ventured into Zellaton territory, I might still seek to use a sub...but the speed of the Zellatons would make that integration harder. It might need to be panel subs like PureLow.


Actually, the low-end response was an initial concern. The lack of brand presence in the media meant few reviews and little online info. I did read one or two comments about a lack of low-end punch; however, hearing the Reference model in Munich put that fear to rest.

My listening room is sealed and optimized for large, full-range speakers, designed for a smooth response. Upon installation, the first tracks that I played were my low-end torture test music. Fagen’s Morph the Cat, Jennifer Warnes Way Down Deep, and others. The room was pressurized, deep, and yes visceral.

As you mentioned, my concern would be the integration of a sub possibly impacting one of the Zellaton’s core design advantages. Every driver is essentially the same, helping to achieve that almost electrostatic integration. Also, I understand that part of the Zellaton “magic” is due to their crossover and phase coherency. I don’t know if mating a sub would muck with these. Maybe a question for Gideon.

Anyway, if you are around the Northeast, let me know and you can come over and hear for yourself.
 

SCAudiophile

Well-Known Member
Sep 11, 2010
1,153
435
1,205
Greer South Carolina (USA)
Congratulations on a wonderful system, room and the Zellaton Reference! I heard that room in Munich 2019 and it was quite amazing,....

An end state speaker choice and system to be certain!
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 24, 2015
15,872
13,049
2,665
Beverly Hills, CA
Full disclosure. I have owned Tenors for a long time, dating back to their OTL days. I reviewed the amps, purchased the review samples, and have been a longtime proponent. Even today, I consider them one of the best amps in the world. I tried many amps, and for me the Tenors brought out the best in Wilsons.

The initial Zellaton setup was with the Tenors. Even cold out-of-the-box the Tenor/Zellaton sound was outstanding. I was thrilled.

I enjoy getting honest input into my system. I'm not out to get my ego stroked, nor try to be the smartest person in the room. With that, I pressed Gideon for his input. His position was that “as good as they sounded, and they sound great, with this room and ancillary equipment they could sound better.”

This began my understanding of the synergy between Goldmund and Zellaton. My layman summary is that Zellatons in general, and the Statements in particular, need an ultra-fast, high-bandwidth amp to really “sing” and give the extension, air, and magic that they are capable of. I realize there are many high bandwidth amplifiers out there, but the Goldmund’s bandwidth pushes the response into the three-megahertz region, with a rise time of 400 nanoseconds. For this and other reasons that Gideon mentioned, Zellatons and Goldmund are a match made in heaven. I started out with the 2500s, and when a pair of the 3300s became available I moved up.

To specifically answer your question, the comparison of Tenor and Goldmund with the Statements was fascinating. The Tenors provided a deeper, rich mid and low end. The Goldmunds delivered an improved top-to-bottom seamlessness, more air, high-end extension, and a tighter, faster bass. This might be due to their dampening factor at 600. With the Statements, Goldmund is the match. As with everything in our hobby, synergy is critical.

Thank you for explaining! That definitely is a fascinating comparison!
 
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LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
14,352
2,476
1,398
Actually, the low-end response was an initial concern. The lack of brand presence in the media meant few reviews and little online info. I did read one or two comments about a lack of low-end punch; however, hearing the Reference model in Munich put that fear to rest.

My listening room is sealed and optimized for large, full-range speakers, designed for a smooth response. Upon installation, the first tracks that I played were my low-end torture test music. Fagen’s Morph the Cat, Jennifer Warnes Way Down Deep, and others. The room was pressurized, deep, and yes visceral.

As you mentioned, my concern would be the integration of a sub possibly impacting one of the Zellaton’s core design advantages. Every driver is essentially the same, helping to achieve that almost electrostatic integration. Also, I understand that part of the Zellaton “magic” is due to their crossover and phase coherency. I don’t know if mating a sub would muck with these. Maybe a question for Gideon.

Anyway, if you are around the Northeast, let me know and you can come over and hear for yourself.
Thank you very much. Definitely would like to hear it and understand more about this speaker.

On your point about Goldmund, your description about their designs has generally been my impression, and I can imagine those strengths have only gotten better as they have continued to hone their designs over the years. I know that Myles Astor (a long-time owner of CJ preamps and amps) moved over to Goldmund only a couple of years ago...and as a fellow long-time CJ preamp owner culminating in CJ GAT 2, we have often compared notes. So in some respects, I am not entirely surprised that he has found something special with Goldmund.
 

dcathro

Well-Known Member
Sep 16, 2016
566
713
228
Melbourne, Australia
Congratulations Mike, they look fantastic.

Great that you have found your end game.

Would love to know more about the design, are the Xover filters shallow or steep, what is the magnet technology and what is special about the cabinet design.
 

vinyl_mike

Well-Known Member
Jun 17, 2012
18
97
918
Thank you very much. Definitely would like to hear it and understand more about this speaker.

On your point about Goldmund, your description about their designs has generally been my impression, and I can imagine those strengths have only gotten better as they have continued to hone their designs over the years. I know that Myles Astor (a long-time owner of CJ preamps and amps) moved over to Goldmund only a couple of years ago...and as a fellow long-time CJ preamp owner culminating in CJ GAT 2, we have often compared notes. So in some respects, I am not entirely surprised that he has found something special with Goldmund.
I’ve talked to Myles about Zellaton and Goldmund. Like Myles, for most of my life I had tubes somewhere in my equipment chain. For me, tubes made the sound more real and involving. So, this is a big change for me. Myles will be visiting my room in a few weeks, and it should be interesting getting his take on the Statements.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
14,352
2,476
1,398
I’ve talked to Myles about Zellaton and Goldmund. Like Myles, for most of my life I had tubes somewhere in my equipment chain. For me, tubes made the sound more real and involving. So, this is a big change for me. Myles will be visiting my room in a few weeks, and it should be interesting getting his take on the Statements.
Thank you. While he and I have never met, Myles and I have written at length over years about CJ, so please send him my regards.

Meanwhile, I have to say having watched your videos and read your work on your system for many years, I find your move to Goldmund fascinating.

Personally, I started out with CJ all-tubes many many years ago, learning about ARC and Shindo and Zanden. I then started appreciating 'elements' in powerful amplification, particularly Goldmund, and also Gryphon...and ended up migrating towards a long-term hybrid CJ preamps/Gryphon SS amp system which literally stayed the same pairing other than each CJ and Gryphon upgrading to subsequent models over a 10-12 year period.

But I never imagined I would go pure SS on amplification...always holding fast to the CJ preamps. I even explore other tubed preamps: Zanden,, Shindo, etc. And now, I find myself now with a completely SS amplification system in Robert Koda. Interestingly, I do NOT think about RK as some kind of 'best of both worlds'...instead, I just feel that Robert has designed something that gets me far closer to music than I have ever heard before. I do not think in terms of warm or organic (though I can)...I simply just enjoy listening to music more...and particularly enjoy that the differences between how music was recorded on jazz albums or orchestral works, or soundtracks or electronica is vastly more apparent now than ever before...which is also part of the enjoyment I get in listening to recorded albums (probably the audiophile side of me). So it is greater insights into sound that effectively create greater insights into the music itself.

I heard Robert's preamp first...and it just gave me even more music than the mighty CJ GAT 2...and I was hooked. And then later came the matching monos which have outpaced the mighty Gryphon Mephisto. And so now I am totally SS amplification for the first time since 1999.
 
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joey_v

Well-Known Member
Nov 30, 2015
245
184
273
I’ve talked to Myles about Zellaton and Goldmund. Like Myles, for most of my life I had tubes somewhere in my equipment chain. For me, tubes made the sound more real and involving. So, this is a big change for me. Myles will be visiting my room in a few weeks, and it should be interesting getting his take on the Statements.
I look forward to his thoughts

You should make another YouTube video for me (us)
 

Carlos269

Well-Known Member
Mar 21, 2012
1,436
1,144
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I look forward to his thoughts

You should make another YouTube video for me (us)

I would also like to hear a glimpse of how great this system sounds. It is my observation that these speakers retain the same inherent character in their sound no matter what electronics they are paired with. Based on my experience, I attribute their sound more to the Duelund components used in their crossover than to the drivers themselves. As Mike alluded to in his write up, they produce a very smooth sound that is solid and well defined. While this sound comes across as “refined”, ultimate detail and resolution is not their strong suit as Mike commented. I feel the same way about the sound of the Goldmund amplifiers that I own. It will be interesting to hear a glimpse of the sound that Mike is getting from his system through a YouTube video of the system. This system I think sounds in stark contrast to the “modern” sound that you typically hear from so many systems these days, but not everyone is a fan of the “laidback” presentation. Look forward to Mike sharing a video of his system playing some music for us to hear.
 
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