Zu Audio and amplifier/room requirements

amplifiers, receivers and loudspeakers
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Zu Audio and amplifier/room requirements

Post by mvno_subscriber » 18 Jun 2019 08:02

Hi,

I've been given an opportunity to get a pair of Zu Audio Soul Supreme for a very reasonable price. I love the looks of them (and Wife agrees!), so I thought about swapping the pair of active speakers (Dynaudio BM12A) I have had for the past 7 years and go for amplifier + passive speakers.

To get an impression I sneaked out to one of my favorite shops to have a listen to Omen Mk II to get a feel of the "Zu sound". They connected it to an MBL C21 (which is a rather expensive amp in my budget) -- and it sounded horrible. No bass, fragmented treble, distortion en mass. When I tried to play some piano on it the sound literally fell apart (as if the speaker s**t itself :shock: ).

So I thought ok, maybe the amp+speaker combo or something was wrong. Shop staff didn't offer any explanation (those with knowhow don't work there as often anymore, sadly). So a week later I arrived again and asked if I could listen on another amp. This time, they hooked it up in another room with a Luxman L-550AX MK2 - also a respectable box.

This time, it sounded better, but the treble was a bit harsh/unbalanced and the sound lacked sublte positioning (i.e. you could hear it coming from the speakers and not somewhere in the middle). Also, it changed drastically whether I was sitting or standing, to a very high degree.

I did notice that they were on rather tall spikes on hardwood floors (the bass port is in the bottom, so that should have something to say I guess), so whether it was that or the room or a combo -- I don't know.

So I guess my question boils down to this: How sensitive are Zu speakers to which amp you connect it to? The Soul Supremes I'm looking at are 16 ohms -- not sure how much it matters, remember I've only had experience with active speakers, but the Zu's specs do seem to be a bit unconventional.

Also: How sensitive are they to the room around them?

The Dynaudios I have now have a really nice, tight bass and I love their sound (I'm pretty accustomed to them as well I guess). However they are nearfield monitors, and I'm very curious as to what wonders I didn't know I was missing :lol: Then again, I'm terrified that I need to be 100% sure and have super correct matching amp, positioning and room correction unless I want everything to be a muddy hell. The music I listen to are all over the place: classical, jazz, rock, metal, EDM/trance, Italodisco etc, plus I do 78s so the occasional Foxtrot/crooner and early electrical classical recordings as well. I mention this because I have no idea how forgiving my current speakers are.

Any helping hand would be greatly appreciated!



My current stereo specs (in case they matter):
TT: Pimped Rega P3 (subplatter upgrades, feet, counterweight etc), Ania MC cartidge
RIAA: ASR Mini Exclusive HV
DAC/Pre: Benchmark DAC1 HDR
Power conditioning: Torus TOT MAX

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Re: Zu Audio and amplifier/room requirements

Post by rewfew » 18 Jun 2019 15:57

I have some Dynaudio speakers that I built from plans years ago. No doubt the bass is good, and overall good performing. Those Zu Audio speakers are not appreciated by everyone in the high end spectrum. As noted here by scrolling down through to high efficiency speakers, specifically, Whizzer cones. He mentions close to worst sound of the audio show. http://www.troelsgravesen.dk/MUNICH-2016.htm
He does not have an affinity for whizzer cone technology. Nor do I. But I like high sensitivity speakers. I'd trust your ears as you've given them a more than equitable opportunity to come through for you. That's an awful lot of moolah for something that some may say needs this or that special combination to sound enchanting.

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Re: Zu Audio and amplifier/room requirements

Post by Agrippa » 19 Jun 2019 01:46

I detest whizzer cones. I've heard a good few speakers using them (10 or 12 maybe), a few of them competent DIY jobs and the rest commercial, and they've all been pretty awful to my ears. Doesn't matter how good the bass is or how lush the midrange, when the treble does it's best to fry your ears.

I'm puzzled by Gravesen's opinion of the Tannoy Canterburys though, as those are some of the best-sounding speakers I know. Not to mention pretty much the opposite in character to anything incorporating whizzer cones. Still, I guess the room may just have been spectactularly bad, which strangely enough happens time and time again in HiFi shows.

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Re: Zu Audio and amplifier/room requirements

Post by rewfew » 19 Jun 2019 16:31

It perplexes me these little single driver speakers like Lowther have such a following. And whizzer cones seem a prescription for uncontrolled high frequency. Flapping in the breeze, attached at one end only. Crossovers can be a problem sonically, but not as much I'd think as a mechanical dysfunction that can't be ameliorated electronically or physically. Anyway, Gravesen went to the trouble of testing one of them with predictable conclusions. Too many problems.
http://www.troelsgravesen.dk/Lowther.htm
I remember whizzer cones from ugly sounding cheap car speakers. Brings out the saying, 'can't get a silk purse out of a sow's ear'. No matter what the cost.

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Re: Zu Audio and amplifier/room requirements

Post by Agrippa » 20 Jun 2019 02:27

For those not bothering to read the above link, here is the salient part (no permission sought, but I trust Mr. Gravesen won't mind) and the essential problem with all whizzer cones (that I've heard):
The problem with these Lowthers is that the overall response raises some 10-15 dB above the upper bass/lower midrange/middle midrange where most fundamentals are found, thus we have a fairly bright sound. You may play some music with a calm intro and think this doesn't sound bad at all, but then some solo guitar sets in, a sax, a clarinet or female vocal and it immediately appears something is seriously wrong. Anything with some energy in the 1-3 kHz range is just way out of proportion.
Not that this can't be compensated for, but why the hell would you want to use a driver which has to be wrenched into shape by aggressive equalization when vastly better drivers abound?

Beats me.

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Re: Zu Audio and amplifier/room requirements

Post by pivot » 20 Jun 2019 02:49

Google up some reviews with measurements.

Here is one: http://noaudiophile.com/Zu/

Not exactly great measuring speakers. Perhaps with a particular low powered tube amp and listening off axis.....maybe....or maybe not.

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Re: Zu Audio and amplifier/room requirements

Post by rewfew » 20 Jun 2019 18:08

That they are given a passing grade by Stereophile gives reinforcement to the notion of their reviewing integrity and lack of ethics. They fawn all over the model that perplexed the original poster. The reviewer of noaudiophile.com tells it like it is. I like his reviews.

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Re: Zu Audio and amplifier/room requirements

Post by pivot » 20 Jun 2019 22:22

If you look at the test results from Stereophile they do not test well either.

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Re: Zu Audio and amplifier/room requirements

Post by rewfew » 23 Jun 2019 22:39

This inquiry interests me in respect to the audio community and it's followers whom hold sway with what makes a product get a following. It seems that this product follows a path not unlike Andersen's, Emperor's New Clothes. It takes some rooting around to find anything detrimental said of it. As it gets uniform reviewer's blessings in the prominent audio outlets. Then the talk on audio forums seem to pickup on this praise. Like mass hypnosis. There are far too few knowledgeable reviewers that are not independent of the audio establishment's profit motive. But in lieu of that, if you can go out somewhere and experience something first hand. Trust your impression if the Emperor's clothes lay bear what's beneath all the hype.

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Re: Zu Audio and amplifier/room requirements

Post by mvno_subscriber » 25 Jun 2019 09:05

For the record, I ended up not buying the Soul Supreme. They sounded better than the Omen MK2, but the same flaws were prevalent, and the treble hurt, even when playing on the most compatible tube gear.

Instead, after a couple of listening sessions and testing different speakers, I ended up falling in love, and for a little extra I secured myself a pair of used Focal Kanta 2. Ironically (or perhaps fittingly), the treble was what sold me!

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