Sean Casey, Founder of Zu Audio, demonstrated Zu’s new Druid Mk. VI loudspeaker at the home of Phil Ressler, in Woodland Hills, California.  Phil, a true SET amplifier devotee and one of the most knowledgeable about tubes audiophiles I have ever encountered, is a long-time client of Sean’s, owning Definitions and Druids for the past 14 years.  Phil hosted this private event for Sean.

It was a real pleasure to spend some quality time with Sean.  Sean is a very charming and entertaining mix of cool, outdoorsy, Utah hipster; boyish excitability; and deep technical audio knowledge.  He is the rare designer who makes audio geekdom fun!  (My test is:  “Is this audio designer fun enough and normal enough to introduce to my non-audiophile wife?”  Sean definitely passes the test.)

The new Druid Mk. VI literally is all new, with a new full-range driver, a new tweeter and a new cabinet construction.  The two most important ways in which the new speaker improves upon the Druid Mk. V appear to me to be the new full-range driver and the new cabinet.  The new cabinet, according to the Zu Audio website, “is a wood cored fiber reinforced composite complete with full filleting.”  Sean told us that the new cabinet is lighter in weight than the prior design, but is significantly more rigid.

The build quality of the Druid Mk. VI appears to be very high.  Look closely at the perfect machining of the metal base!

The vinyl replay components in Phil's Druid system (Phil has two complete analog playback systems, one in the living room and one in the dining room) include a vintage Luxman PD-444 direct drive turntable with an Ortofon Meister Silver SPU.  The turntable has been modified by replacing the sprung and foam-damped factory feet with one pound brass cones, threaded for leveling, and resting on Aurios media bearings.  The Luxman has two tonearms installed:  Victor models UA-7082 and  UA-7045.  The SPU rides on the UA-7082 tonearm.  The SPU is connected to an M2Tech Joplin Mk. 2 analog-to-digital converter ("ADC") which in turn is connected to an M2Tech Young Mk. 3 digital-to-analog converter ("DAC").  Both are powered by the M2Tech Van der Graaf linear power supply.  The Joplin Mk. 2 ADC and the Young Mk. 3 DAC together perform the phono preampfification. In this setup RIAA equalization is performed in the digital domain.  (Phil kindly provided me the model names and technical details of these digital components.)  The line preamplifier is a Melody Pure Black 101, and Audion Black Shadow mono amplifiers with 845 power triodes drive the Druids.  All cables are by Zu.  There is a JohnBlue super-tweeter atop each Druid; it is an experimental addition.  

It is sacrilegious to me to digitize a phono signal, but I have to admit that the M2Tech A-D-A sounded inexplicably non-digital.  (We did not do a direct comparison to an all-analog signal chain, however, so this impression is not terribly valid.)  Sean told Phil that he thinks he would not have been able to guess we were listening to an A-D-A signal.  I know I would not have been able to guess!

I have heard Definitions Mk. IVs three times at friends’ homes, and other Zu Audio speakers at various audio shows.  I understand why Zu speakers have a devoted and passionate, if not large, following.  The Zu sound is, to my ears, rich and full-bodied with natural and realistic tone.  (“Tonally dense” is how my friend in the English countryside with Definition Mk. IVs driven by NAT Audio SE2SE 211 amplifiers likes to put it.)

But, candidly, for some reason, I always found the sound to be a bit rough or ragged -- raucous and lively sounding, but not sophisticated sounding.  I think this is why Zu speakers have a reputation for making classic rock-type music come alive.  I have always liked the rich tonality of the speakers, but I felt there was some lack of smoothness which turned me off a bit.

The new full-range driver, or the combination of the new full-range driver and the stiffer cabinet, has solved completely this issue for me.  My single strong impression of the new Druid Mk. VI was that it sounds smoother than any Zu Audio loudspeaker I have heard before.  That slight rough or ragged sounding issue I had is gone.

The Druid Mk. VI also sounded more dynamic than the other smaller Zu speakers I have heard.   The new speaker rocks out just as much as the prior model, but now that slight rough edge has been smoothed out, leaving a more natural and convincing presentation.

Sean said this new full-range driver will replace the full-range driver currently in all prior models.   So, for example, the next iteration of the Definition model will utilize this new driver.  I think this new driver will make the next iteration of the Definition a very competitive loudspeaker to a broader market segment.

Thanks very much to Phil, his charming wife, Frances, and Sean for a very fun and interesting evening!

Ron Resnick
Mono and Stereo Senior Contributing Reviewer

Zu Audio Druid Mk. VI Specifications:

Druid Mk.VI is a fifty inch (130cm) tall, seven inch (18cm) deep, floor standing loudspeaker system with a footprint of 12–3/4 inches (32.5cm) square. It’s a high efficiency and high power handling design and features our ten inch (26cm) full-range nanotech driver augmented by a Radian based driven tweeter assembly.

The price starts at $9,999.

Zu Audio
3350 S 1500 W
Ogden, UT 84401
(801) 627-1040