Bookshelf Speakers

Zu Audio Druid Mk 4/08 Speakers

ARTICLE INDEX

The Sound

Given the extensive factory break-in (and the fact these speakers have been played before) I was able to begin listening immediately. Very seldom do the first few seconds of listening to a new component leave me open mouthed. The aliveness and realism of the Druids are nothing short of amazing, and exceed any loudspeaker I have ever heard. High sensitivity loudspeakers are known for spectacular dynamics, which make the music sound "alive," but the Druids deliver this quality turned up to eleven. The Druids have the expected macrodynamics that provide punch and drive, but even more important to the realistic presentation of the musical event are the microdynamics. The subtle changes in loudness from moment to moment are, in my opinion, the key to delivering realistic sound. Not timbre, or frequency extension or soundstaging, but dynamics. The wide dynamic range of the Druids allowed them to play very loud with no audible compression or confusion. Not to the same level as the megabuck Triad Platinums I listened to a while ago, but still plenty loud, and with very little drive power required. My normal Gallo Reference 3.1s sounded relatively flat and two-dimensional by comparison. In addition, the collection of unique sounds presented in the soundstage by the Druids were tonally and dynamically smoothed together by the Gallos.

This superior dynamic presentation was most noticeable in the midrange, and was likely due to the Zu audio wideband crossoverless driver. Adding to the wideband driver's performance was the crystal clear supertweeter. While the top end did not seem as extended as that of the Gallos, the smoothness and precision delivered by the Druid top end won the day. As in the midrange, the Druids were able to separate and reveal the details of instruments in the soundstage without any blending. When compared to the Gallos on the same recording, the Druids were able to pull into focus sounds that were there with the Gallos, but blended into the surroundings. It's not that the Druids made the sound compartmentalized, either. Everything sounded perfectly natural and realistic, just with more resolution.

Soundstaging was a wash, or just a bit behind the Gallos. The Reference 3.1s throw a soundstage in my room significantly wider than the speakers, with no sign at all that the speakers are there. The Druids also were able to disappear, but the soundstage was more severely truncated at the loudspeaker. This was likely a result of the strong toe-in, but this was necessary to maintain imaging performance. The Gallo tweeter has a particularly wide power pattern of 120 degrees, compared with the Zu tweeter's 30-degree power pattern, allowing for a strong central image with no toe-in. The Druid soundstage was behind the plane of the speakers, which gives a sense of a much larger soundstage. This is particularly desirable if you listen in a small room. In addition, the tall Druid cabinets with top mounded wideband driver present a very tall soundstage, particularly when compared to the short Gallos.

Bass performance was excellent for a speaker with a limited low end. The bass was excellent down to the last octave, with the wide dynamic range and dynamic performance providing plenty of punch. Tonality was also very good, with the aliveness of the midrange continuing down to the low end (where, admittedly it does not matter as much). The bottom octave was simply gone, as it should be with a limited low end. This is where the Gallos really were superior to the Druids. The Gallos, with their second voice coil driven, go all the way down to about 25 Hz in my room with no roll-off, and are only a few dB down at 20 Hz. The extra power and oomph delivered here is particularly noticeable on the electronic music I listen to so much. My new (but old) favorite, Fluke's 1997 release Risotto, really craves that last octave. It sounded wonderful on the Druids, but really did not deliver without the bass.

Other genres were not so challenged. Particularly on acoustic jazz, like Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, the Druids kicked the Gallos all over the listening room. When that last octave didn't play a big role, the sheer aliveness of the Druids recreated something that sounded more real and visceral that anything else I've heard in my room. Even with the spatially narrower soundstage, the realness was unmatched.

The only complaint I had was a small midrange timbre issue, at least to my ears. Some midrange sounds near 500 Hz or so sounded a little fuzzy. At first I thought this was due to a cabinet resonance, but that would also tend to blend and confuse the sound in that spectral region. I heard none of this, but the individual instruments were a bit more warm and round than I was expecting. Timbre is one of the most individual and subjective qualities of a loudspeaker, so I can't really say that what I heard was any more right or wrong than anything else, but I call them as I hear them. Your interpretation may very well be different.