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Because my pair of Druids had been purchased rather than submitted for review, I had not dared ask for the usual deliver-in-fully-broken-in condition whereby I otherwise accept formal review assignments (incidentally, I must insist on that not because I'm a hard-ass but because I'd literally be out of commission for weeks - I don't have a dedicated break-in room). So for the first time in a long time, I had to deal with break-in issues like everyone else. Off into the video system they went to loosen their tight musculature on the Bel Canto system there. Being fed with 360 watts of balanced/bridged eVo power didn't cause any hiccups. Rather, the Druids took it all in stride, pounding out requisite movie mayhem in a manner that completely rattled the chain on the handle-'em-careful preconceptions which certain single-driver speakers routinely prompt by way of hushed advance notice.

And the Druids definitely require break-in. You hear it as a lack of detail and an unwillingness to come alive at lower volumes. However, there are no nasties to endure, no Lowther shout, no horn honk, no metal-cone breakups. Everything's orderly from the get-go, nothing's out of place. It's simply a thin blanket that overlays proceedings until what I assume is the suspension (surround and spider) reach their proper compliance.

The blanket now has lifted. Gone with the wind and I do give a damn. I'm not sure whether I'm completely off the hook yet but things sound so bloody good already that I'm herewith giving those readers a brief update who seem to be most antsy to see this particular review concluded.

I shall reserve blow-by-blow descriptions for later when I have exhausted far more ancillary combinations including the Red Wine Audio Custom Clari-T presently on the UPS truck to Taos. However, here's the gist of what I know so far: The Zu Druid is unlike any other single-driver crossover-less speaker I've heard yet. All of those had certain issues or shadow sides which required tolerating, accepting or overlooking to enjoy their specific strengths. In other words, none of them could be recommended without qualifications. That's not to say they couldn't be recommended. Far from it. But it always went along the route of pointing out to a love-sick young man just about to marry a lady twenty years his senior that common sense had to warn him of a few things (the likelihood that she was going to die decades earlier than him merely the most obvious one of those). No 1001 nights for those love birds.

The marriage of Druid to average music lover -- as well as how their custom drivers are married to each other and their enclosure -- requires no such parental disentanglers. There's nothing here that smacks of compromise. Quite the opposite. If there are frequency domain aberrations, I can't tell. Even if your hearing was far superior to mine, I'm willing to bet you wouldn't detect any peakiness no matter how hard your preconceptions had you try. What plagues the Fostex, Lowther and Jordan designs I've heard is completely absent in the Druids - a rising upper midrange. Fugheddaboudid!

In -- cheap seat -- concert with that common peakiness is usually a lack of weight and extension in the bass to exasperate this crucial imbalance. Likely by virtue of its 10.3" driver, the Druid is good to a solid 40Hz - and I don't mean good for a speaker of its kind but good, period. There's life below 40 but it rolls off. That's nothing to be ashamed of. Most 2-way speakers even far in excess of the Druids' $2,800/pr price tag do. For all intents and purposes, you really must think of these Zus as you would of Merlins - not full-range in the true meaning of the strict book but full-range for most music and thus completely legit without the ministrations of a subwoofer.

In fact, one of the most surprising attributes of the Druids is how gutsy, fleshy and full-bodied they are. They're the polar opposite of zippy, lean and fast-but-bony. Naturally, they're dynamic as hell but in combination with their warm tonality, they don't come off as malnourished speed freaks (or the kind of body Nazis jockeys and free climbers need to be to keep their weight to an minimum and strength to a maximum).

Rhythmic precision and the separation of transient from subsequent events are terrific and what you expect from a crossover-less design. Again because of their meaty mien, this exactitude never telegraphs incisiveness at the expense of body. Bass even from 2 x 300Bs per channel is wonderfully articulated and free from fuzziness and that resonant ringy quality that a lot of backloaded horns suffer. In fact, the Druids positively dare you to throw your raunchiest fare at them as though to mock "we were designed by younger guys who listen to more than just old-goat string quartets".

So they're free of the usual limitations that seem to be part and parcel of the single-driver genre. Even so, why should one consider these Zus over something like, say the older hotrodded Meadowlark Audio Shearwater I once called my own? Like the Shearwater, the Druid is a time-aligned affair, albeit not via a sloped but stepped baffle, the latter incorporated pretty invisibly by mounting the main driver on a spacer ring and hornloading the tweeter. The former brings the big driver forward, the latter recesses the high-frequency little transducer. Very effective, very clever.

Like the Shearwater, the name of the Druid game is coherence and speed. Where the Druid pulls ahead in my book is in dynamic jump factor and tonal density. That last aspect always hampered the Shearwater a bit but could be ameliorated with appropriate electronics along the lines of Rogue Audio gear for example.

Yes, the Druid too cottons to valves but it's equally happy with high-power high-current transistors and won't retaliate with bleaching or whitening out the sound. And unlike true single-driver designs that simply cannot hope to reach
as high as a good conventional tweeter, the Druid doesn't demand that you add one of the available so-called super tweeters. It provides its very own solely for upper harmonic reinforcement above 12kHz.

It isn't until you've spent serious time with these druid dudes that you fully appreciate how brilliant their whole design approach and implementation really is. After all, though finished beyond reproach, they are rather shallow black boxes just like so many other speakers. And although they use drivers you won't see in any other speaker, it's still a basic two-way. Or so a cursory inspection would proclaim, to walk away in search of manly men's speakers that tower over mere mortals, bend the poor floors supporting them and bristle with endlessly paralleled serious hardware.

Keep on walking, ye who are foolish! I'm here to tell you that I currently have a speaker in-house that weighs in at 5 drivers per side and about x 10 the sticker shock. It doesn't even come close to doing the magic which the Druids deliver so nonchalantly at subdued as well as thundering levels. Put bluntly, that other speaker langweilt. That's street German for "it bores". Boring becomes a verb so as to really drive home the point: boredom as activity like 'that sucks': This bores.

The Druids are involving. They portray tonal color, the weight and presence of timbre and the articulation of attacks, all seamlessly
blended and balanced to prevent particular attributes from attracting undue attention at the expense of something else. Did I mention that the Druids thrive on being goosed? They suffer none of the overdrive failures of compression or outright distortion that some of their smaller diameter'd, less efficient full-range driver brethren do. Rock'n'rollers can pound away to their heart's content. Big-scale symphonicos can let the crescendos lift their roofs. The Druids were made to drive all roads regardless of condition or neighborhood. This of course includes background levels. That's the special providence of 101dB sensitivities after all.

Naturally, true low bass is beyond them but Zu's new 2 x 15" Method subwoofer will be all set to rectify that for those who simply must dig as low as 20Hz. With regard to speaker bandwidth, one wise audiophile once admonished his disciples that it's far more important to get right what you do rather than reach beyond your reach and falter. The only limitation I can see thus far is the lack of the fully developed last octave. And to be frank, that's not a real limitation for a <$3,000/pr small floorstander that excels in all other regards. In fact, I'd probably lean in favor of a separate sub for the usual reasons that would counter those who expect the whole enchilada from one cabinet. There's mechanical distortion from high-amplitude low-frequency vibrations migrating through a common cabinet. There's placement issues in the room to get both optimal soundstaging/disappearance and best integration. There's the significant cost of doing 20Hz right in one unified speaker.

Consider this a mere teaser of things to come then. As far as I'm concerned, I'm one grinning camper deliriously happy with his acquisition. The Druids are unfussy about setup, rather omnivorous in their appetites for a highly varied diet both with software and hardware. In short, they're everything their marketing propaganda promised. Muchas gracias to those readers who nudged me in the right direction. You guys -- and gals! -- called it right. I'm glad I listened to you so I can now listen to the Druids to my heart's content.