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Reviewer: Paul Candy
Source: Eastern Electric Minimax CD player with NOS Philips Miniwatt 6DJ8s, Pro-Ject 1 Xpression turntable w/Ortofon 540 Mk II cartridge, Pro-Ject RPM 5 turntable w/Ortofon Rondo Red cartridge [in for review]
Preamp/Integrated: Manley Labs Stingray, Audio Zone AMP-1, JAS Audio Array 2.1 [in for review], Manley Labs Shrimp Preamplifier [in for review], Pro-Ject Tube Box phono stage
Amp: Manley Labs Mahi monoblocks [in for review]
Speakers: Green Mountain Audio Callisto (on sand filled Skylan stands), REL Q108 Mk II subwoofer
Cables: Zu Libtec speaker cable and Gedde interconnects [on loan for this review], Audience Maestro interconnects and speaker cables
Power Cables: Zu Birth [on loan for this review], GutWire Power Clef 2, Power Clef SE, Audience powerChord
Stands: Premier three-tier, filled with sand
Powerline conditioning: BPT Pure Power Center w/Wattgate 381 outlets w/ Bybee Quantum Purifiers and ERS cloth, Blue Circle BC86 MkII Power Line Pillow, GutWire MaxCon
Sundry accessories: Grado SR-60 headphones, Pro-Ject Speed Box, Gingko Audio Cloud 11 platform, Skylan isolation platforms [in for review], Grand Prix Audio APEX footers, Isoclean fuses, Walker Audio SST contact enhancer, Walker Audio Ultra Vivid, GutWire Notepads and SoundPads, HAL-O Tube Dampers, Herbie's Way Excellent Turntable Mat, Herbie's Grungebuster2 CD Mat, dedicated AC line with Wattgate 381 outlet, Echo Busters acoustic room treatments
Room size: 11x18x8, short wall setup, hardwood floors with large area rug
Review Component Retail: Tone $1795/pr, Birth power cable $149/6', Gedde interconnect $199/1m/pr, Libtec speaker cable $649/2m/pr
1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of a sect.
|Schools of thought regarding loudspeaker design are a lot like religion. They're all after the same goal -- salvation, seven virgins or a harp on a cloud -- but they all go about it in different ways and one is no more right than the other. Like religion, members of one faith can take an extremist interpretation and become violently opposed to adherents of other belief systems. However, instead of car bombs and drive-by shootings, pen and keyboard are the weapons of choice for audiophile zealots.
Case in point? The recent online posts regarding Zu's loudspeaker design methodology, predominantly by those who've never heard their speakers. Some say they can't possibly sound good because certain measurements published several years ago say so. Others whine that the basic design ignores current doctrine regarding proper speaker design. Depends what you're measuring and how you set up the test, doesn't it?
How do a bunch of graphs correlate to emotional enjoyment (or lack thereof) for the end user? Some folks are so narrow-minded and stuck in their beliefs, they refuse to accept yet alone contemplate that there could be disparate ways to achieving the same ends. It doesn't stop at speakers either. Tubes vs. solid-state, push-pull vs. SET, subjective vs. objective, Stereophile vs. TAS. Sectarian squabbles all.
Of course, I shouldn't talk. I have publicly pitched my tent in front of the church of 1st order time/phase coherence and have been fairly critical of just about every other modern speaker design. For me, time-coherent speakers are more revealing of the musical intent. However, I have restrained myself from wanton acts of violence and abuse. Rather than characterize those who ignore the importance of time/phase coherence as blasphemers and in need of guidance or the tender ministrations of the Inquisition to find true salvation, I recognize they are after the same goal as I but choose to follow a different path. And that's okay.
This completely spontaneous navel gazing brings me to another point. I think many readers take everything we reviewers say far too seriously. Are we somehow the clergy or hierarchy of the aforementioned schools of audio thought? Do we possess special insights or gifts that are denied them? They can't purchase a component unless the High Priests have blessed it.
|Unfortunately, there are a few reviewers who believe that gossip/gospel as well. Moi? I'm no different than you. I'm just a pilgrim on the road to the audiophile Mecca. I love music and the associated equipment. I just happen to write about it. For me, this whole venture is more or less a journey. As with any long voyage, there will be wrong turns, dead ends, amazing sights and sounds. And perhaps I'll learn a thing or two in the process. Perhaps some destinations won't turn out as envisioned, others perhaps greater than anticipated. Either way, my gig is to simply share my experiences. You draw your own conclusions and find your own path.
On to today's subject, the Zu Cable Tones. In the last couple of months, I have received more email and even phone calls about these speakers than with any other component I've been know to harbor thus far. The buzz and interest on Zu is quite something. Our editor has fallen hard for these unique speakers, having worked his way up the line to the flagship Definition Pros. I wondered if the smaller and less expensive Tone possessed similar magic as its bigger brethren.
My first-hand encounter with Zu Cable was at this past year's RMAF in Denver. The Druids were on active display in at least two rooms as I recall and I thought that they sounded remarkably dynamic and yes, even fun - but without the dreaded shout that seems to plague many wide-band designs. I had a good long chat with Zu's Sean Casey who, along with partner Adam Decaria, is far younger than most of the vendors I usually meet. Perhaps it's their youth that gives them their pioneering spirit and drive to flip the bird to conventional thinking and do something fresh and even radical.