Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (2023)

Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (1)

Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (2)

Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (3)

Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (4)

Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (5)

Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (6)

Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (7)

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Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (11)

August 2013
Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (12)Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (13)

Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker
Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics.
Review By Rick Becker

Young riders dressed in darkclothing dart about the urban industrial landscape on 883's and Forty EightSportsters in a Harley Davidson promotional video. My mind pans left into the Zuwebsite where black and white photos of young dudes click in and out; segue to avideo of the making of a speaker in their dusty shops. Of course Zu Audio Unionspeaker is there and noticed it only cost $3000 for what appeared to be quite animpressive speaker. Looking back at the pics, at least the guy in the spraybooth wears a mask to protect his lungs. Both Harley and Zu Audio are fiercelyAmerican, one an elderly icon and the other just a teenager. Both keenlyfocused on what they are doing and insistent on doing it their way with theirown vision of moving forward while seeking to recapture the thrill andexcitement of the past. Music used to be more central to our culture, more fun,and Zu is using modern technology to bring that past into the present.

I'm old enough to be the father of most of theseguys. Maybe that's why my first attempts to get review samples of their speakersdidn't work out. Nor were my encounters with their rooms at shows alwaysexhilarating. But sometimes they were and it was clear they were into somethingunique. Having been that young once, I understood the meaning of 101dB/W/mefficiency. Not once, but twiceAltec Voice of the Theaters dominated my living room, only to be given upbecause I was damaging my ears driving them too loud with 1970's vintage Pioneersolid state gear. Motorcyclist, head banger; been there, done that. A largepainting of me standing on the salt flats in Utah, reminiscent of the cover ofJohn Lee Hooker's Endless Boogie(1971), each a legacy from my first marriage, hangs in the family room. Decadeslater I discovered the High End and low powered tube gear. I could hardlybelieve there was that much music hidden in the grooves.

It was the six watt per channel Triode Lab EL84TTintegrated amplifier that led me back to Zu Audio once again. As fate would haveit, they had just announced the new Zu Audio Union speaker with coaxialsuper-tweeter and a 10" full range driver. After a delicate exchange of emailsthey made a commitment, but production delays put off the arrival until rightbefore the Montreal show. Three weeks of writing the show report, followed bythe furniture trade show, followed by the writing of the Triode Lab review andfinally the Unions were very nicely broken in.

TheSet Up
I started with the Zu Audio Union speakers inmy usual speaker position which had served most of the speakers I've reviewedquite well. This didn't work, so I angled them in toward the listening chairslightly which brought the midrange more forward and strengthened the treble.But the soundstage seldom extended wider than the speakers in thisconfiguration. Ultimately, I found greatest satisfaction by bringing thespeakers closer together than normal by about 6" total, and aiming them straightahead. The Unions were not as wide dispersion as most of the speakers I'vereviewed. Since my side walls are far to the left and right of each speaker, Itypically experience very wide and deep soundscapes. Here I achieved areasonably wide soundscape with the Zu and the EL84TT, allowing me to make moredefinitive evaluations of the Triode Lab amp. One evening, when I surrenderedthe listening chair to my friend Tom and sat in the recliner to his right, thesoundscape immediately collapsed. The music continued to come forth with all itsdynamics and clarity from the speaker directly in front of me, but it felt anawful lot like mono. In the centered listening chair I was free to adjust myposture without negatively impacting the stereo imaging and at no time did Ifeel like my head had to be held by the proverbial vice. But people off to theside will not experience the soundscape that many audiophiles prize…at leastnot with this amp.

What ADifference 99dB/W/m Efficiency Makes!
The first watt of any amplifier is the mostimportant one and this is especially true when the efficiency of the speaker is99dB/W/m because the first watt will be playing almost allof your music in typical listening rooms. The six watts of the TriodeLab EL84TT is more than sufficient to drive the exceptionally easy load of theZu Union. As Carl at Triode Lab told me, some of their amplifier customerswith Zu speakers prefer their 2A3 power amplifier (3.5 watts per channel) to300B amps (typically 8 wpc) or EL34 amps with considerably more power. Mylistening room is about 6000 cubic feet with an open doorway to the kitchen anda large opening into the family room, so the room itself is well ported. I didnot want for more than six watts from the Triode Lab amp. Nonetheless, I alsodrove the Union with three other amps: my slightly tweaked Manley Mahimonoblocks (13 wpc in triode, 20 wpc in ultralinear), the new Coincident Turbo845SE integrated amplifier (28 watts per channel with 845 tubes driven by a300B) and my reference Tube Magic M23SE Mk3 monoblocks (18 Watts per channelfrom parallel 300B tubes). From a power standpoint all the latter amps wereoverkill, but the revealing nature of the Unions allowed the differences of theamplifiers to come through. With the volume control in the 12 o'clock positionwith the 6 wpc Triode Lab peaks would reach 100-102 dB at the listening positionabout 8 feet from the drivers. That same amp had an improved sonic signaturewhen two NOS HIT-Ray (Panasonic) EL84 tubes were mated with two of theElectro-Harmonix EL84. The Zu revealed stronger bass, more tonal coloration andthree-dimensionality and greater micro and macro dynamics with the two HIT-Raytubes. The Coincident amp revealed even greater sonic richness as you wouldexpect from an amp that cost more than twice as much as the Triode Lab.

What you need to read into this is that the Zu are veryrevealing of the amplification with which they are paired. This doesn't mean youhave to have the newest, most expensive gear to achieve a rewarding musicallistening experience. My vintage solid state Tandberg 3012A integrated amp with100 wpc, much of it biased into Class A, sounded very nice with it during thebreak-in period. The music was warm and inviting, if not the last word inresolution and soundstaging. The Triode Lab with the EL84 tubes was tight frombottom to top, revealing a slight upward tilt on the treble. That it becameirritating over time turned out to be due to a slowly failing EL84 tube, asituation that was corrected with a matched pair of new tubes. It was alsoa very transparent amplifier with a high degree of focus. The Coincidentamp was similar providing a fuller sound and it also brought down the prominenceof the super tweeter to a more comfortable level.

Can YouHear Me NOW?!!!
Not only does the Union get loud real quickwhen you turn the knob, it is immediately evident that they are extremelytransparent — as if your old speakers were wearing sunglasses by comparison.It also gives you impressive focus — if the rest of your rig can pass that ondown. In fact, installing the Union was not unlike having my cataracts removedwhen the world suddenly got brighter and I went from being very near-sighted tohaving 20/20 vision. Not only is the lead singer in focus, but the back-upsingers at the very back of the stage are now clearly audible for me. It is asif there is a lot more light on the stage that allows you to see and hear everymusician and instrument. And if you also get the speaker positioning in the roomcorrect, you will have pretty close to pinpoint imaging. But mess up the signalwith an inferior cartridge or DAC and you will only get out what you've put in.Not that it will be horrible, but the quality of your rig will have to rise to avery high level to surpass the ability of these speakers. This means that youcan start with these moderately priced speakers and upgrade with whatever tubeor solid state gear you fancy over the next decade or two before you feelcompelled to swap out the Unions. You can't say that about a lot of speakers outthere — most of them will limit your choice of amplifier at the very least.Many people try and fix a problem with new speakers when what really needsimprovement is the gear upstream.

The other most obvious characteristic of the Union is theirdynamic capability. Take a rim shot or pluck an electric guitar string with apick. They've got attack. Evenpianos have balls when played with ferocity. Xylophones? Not so much. Combinehigh efficiency with outstanding attack and you should have outstanding dynamicrange. And you do, once you get the volume up into the broad sweet spot withmusical peaks reaching the 85 to 100 dB range. Lower the volume to late nightlistening levels and the dynamic range obviously compresses as it does with mostdynamic speakers. But hey, you know where the fun is. And the decay? It must bejust about right because it didn't come to my attention as being too short ortoo long. And as I've learned from Paul McGowan's blog, it is the attack thatdetermines the timbre of the note and the Union gets it very, very right. Forthe most part I would say the Union is capable of excellent tonal coloration ifyou've got an amplifier that can do it justice. For the one exception I have torely upon my friend Tom who listens to a lot of classical music. He noted somecongestion in the treble with demanding orchestral music, particularly with highviolin notes. If large scale classical music is a major item on your menu, youmight want to check this out before committing. I had no problem with rock, jazzor electronic music in this regard, except with the prominence of the treblewhen using the Triode Lab EL84TT with its extended high frequency response. Evenstring quartet sounded great, until the violins went for the high notes wherethey sounded a bit like they had steel strings, but only in a narrow highfrequency window. Since most tube amps roll off the high end slightly, thisshould not be a problem. If you have an amp that is bright on top, you may wantto pay attention to the output of the super-tweeter.

Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (16)

The10" full range driver is the principal feature of the Union. It is good for 45Hz to 12 kHz and like the full range (or nearly so) drivers of some otheroutstanding speakers, it is powered directly by the amplifier without acrossover. The transparency of such crossover-less designs is usuallyoutstanding, and the Zu Union is the most transparent of all that I can recallfrom memory. This driver is able to resolve midrange lyrics that escape mostother loudspeakers with dynamic drivers regardlessof price. Other designers have implemented nearly full-range designsby pushing the woofer down to around 200Hz and below and the tweeter up above7-8 kHz with great success, but Zu has stretched the envelope even further withthe Union. And to create a point-source design, they have mounted the supertweeter concentrically with the 10" driver, rather than mounting it on thebaffle as they have done with the lower-price Omen or their higher price models(other than the Soul). The result is a coherency that is conspicuous only byvirtue of the frequency limitations of the driver itself.

The bass goes down to 45 Hz and it is tight, tuneful andtransparent all the way there. But what makes it better than most is that itfalls off quickly with grace, not groping for another few Hz and muddying thebass by trying to be more than it is. This bodes well for those of you who feelcompelled to add subwoofers as you can continue to run the Union full range andbring the sub in at a low level. Apartment dwellers and those with children whogo to sleep early will probably be perfectly happy with the Union just the wayit is. As I looked at the frequency response graph on their website, I waspuzzled by the bass extension below 40 Hz which did not correlate with what Iwas hearing. Sean Casey, the main man at Zu, explained to me that they taketheir measurements "in room" and that lower hump in bass response representsroom reinforced response. I was probably not getting this result because in mypositioning, the front baffle was 64" from the wall behind it and since it is ona very long wall, there are no meaningful corners to reinforce the bass. In asmaller room with real corners, you will quite likely experience more mid-bassresponse than I did.

SubwoofersTo The Rescue?
Bass addicts should be warned that you willneed quality subwoofers to match the speed and clarity of the Union. The ZuUndertone at $2500 is a downward firing acoustic suspension subwoofer that wouldtake only a small leap of faith to purchase, given what I've heard from theUnion. True bass-heads will want two of these to really bring out the ambientroom tone of live recordings, which brings the system price up into the $8000range — a point where you might want to consider a pair of larger Zu speakers.Separate subwoofers, however, will allow for optimum placement for bassreproduction that would otherwise be compromised by using larger full-rangespeakers. A single sub will get you music deep down, but a pair will more likelygive you a sense of being in the same room as the musicians. You get to choose,of course, but don't think you can get by with a cheap subwoofer.

Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (17)

Iresurrected a pair of prototype Tekton Design subs with concentric 11" drivers— the rear driver in a sealed box, the front driver mounted on an extendedopen baffle in free air. They are driven by an internal 200 watt BASH amplifierand the signal was delivered from the speaker terminals of the Coincident Turbo845SE integrated amplifier (review forthcoming). The initial result was quitedisappointing until I added Boston Audio TunePlates beneath the spikes of thesubwoofer. The TunePlates tightened up the focus of the subs, whose spikes werenot sharp enough to penetrate the carpet and dig into the flake board below.This brought the speed and clarity of the subs fairly close to the Unions and Iwas able to cross over nicely at 50 Hz with the subs placed just outside theUnions. While the Unions were really good without the subs, I felt there was aslight upward tilt to their frequency response. In reality, it was just theabsence of lower bass to balance out the high extension of the super tweeter.Had the super tweeter been rolled off around 15 kHz, I probably wouldn't havehad the perception of an elevated high end. And if you are in a room with realcorners, and the Unions are placed a little closer to the front wall to takeadvantage of the room reinforcement of the bass, you will probably be just finewith the Union alone. But man, it was really sweet to have the full-rangeextension afforded by the subs. When I added the subs it shifted my attentionmore squarely on the midrange and I had little or no quibbles with the treble.The downside was the additional clutter of two big boxes with their attendantpower and speaker cables that made it more awkward to load the CDs and LPs in myrig. The trade-offs in life never cease.

Another point that needs emphasis is that with the highefficiency of the Zu Union speaker, you will get great bass even with lowpowered SET amplifiers. The EL84 tubes of the 6 wpc Triode Lab EL84TT integratedamp I recently reviewed are very tight and resolving at the frequency extremes.The more costly Coincident Turbo 845SE integrated and the Tube Magic monoblocks(which use 300B tubes) had a fuller sound that gave added majesty to themid-bass.You need a high quality amp to get the very best out of theUnion, but not a high powered one. The speakers will let you know when you'vegot the right amp (as well as everything else upstream).

Therewas a lot written about the ZuGriewe technology on the website but it still didn'tmake a lot of sense to me so I called Sean for clarification. He explained thatthe ZuGriewe system was really a combination of several different approaches tointernal resonance damping. Ron Griewe, a former editor of Cycle World magazineand motorcycle guru inspired Sean to incorporate some of Ron's ideas intospeaker design. The Zu are ported out the bottom of the cabinet through fourslots running almost from spike to spike near the outer edge of the cabinet.Each slot is tapered from 0.5" at one end to 0.25" at the other. Inside, at thetop, around the driver is wrapped a thick layer of what looked like looselypacked felt. Down the center of the cabinet sits a pyramid shaped tower ofpolyurethane open cell foam. The theory being that, like a motorcycle muffler,the acoustic energy travels down the center of the enclosure and this is whereyou want to place your absorptive material to reduce the energy within, not onthe side panels. The foam converts the sound to heat and very little acousticenergy escapes through the slots at the bottom though I noticed greatervibration at the bottom edges of the cabinet than on the sides.

Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (18)

The result isthat the back side of the speaker cone sees very little internal noise andconsequently, almost all of the musical energy radiates forward from the outerface of the driver, unlike with most other ported systems where the bass isaugmented by music coming from the port at a slight time delay. Furthermore, theporting system of the ZuGriewe system is tuned over a larger frequency rangethan typical speaker ports which operate over an octave or less. It alsoincreases the efficiency of the bass — a claim that is verified by theexcellent results achieved with even very low powered tube amplification.

What It SoundsLike
To this point I had been using amplifiers thatwere also in house for review, hence changing two components at the same time.There is a reason reviewers have a reference system and ultimately I returned tomy reference set up that included the world class Coincident Statement preampand the more obscure but equally outstanding Tube Magic monoblocks. I reallywasn't prepared for the results, since I had found greater transparency andfocus with the Triode Lab EL84TT integrated and even more so with the CoincidentTurbo 845SE integrated than what my reference system was capable of giving me upuntil this time. The inclusion of the M23SE MK3 monoblocks with their parallel300B design putting out 18 watts per channel propelled the Zu Unions up yetanother level. The music became even smoother and the soundscape more preciselydefined and more frequently it broadened beyond the width of the speakers. Thesuper tweeter became even better integrated into the full range driver, losingthe upward tilt altogether. But I have to restrain myself from going all outwith superlatives because good as it was, it still gave up the music and roomtone that lies below the 40 to 45 Hz level. The dynamics and transparency —the two outstanding features of the Union — did not change so much from theother amps, but with the increase in focus and more holographic imaging combinedwith the increase in smoothness and tonal accuracy it made it easier to believeyou were listening to real musicians in real space.

It was a Friday night at this point coming up on midnight, butI summoned enough energy to hook up the Tekton subs in preparation for Tomcoming over the next night. I dared not listen to a single song, fearing what Iknew would happen since Saturday is an important day at work. It's always funwhen Tom comes over because he brings with him a different palate of music thatgives me fresh insight beyond what my own reference music affords. We startedout with his compilation CD with stuff like Tower of Power's "Diggin on JamesBrown", some Tito Puente, Jennifer Warnes singing Leonard Cohen's "First We TakeManhattan", Clifford Jordan from Live atEthel's on Mapleshade, one of Todd Garfunkel's recordings of newtango music from the group Sera una Noche, and moved on to some LPs includingSonny Rollins' Way Out West andfrom Count Basie, 88 Basie Street as well as a direct-to-disc LP and someclassical stuff. I also dug up some really clean live recordings from the AmericanFolk Blues Festival '70, some Chinese drum music from Yim Hok-Man,and from John Marks' Glass Bead Gamea string quartet piece from Zoltan Kodaly and from his PipesRhode Island CD, Howell's "Master Talllis's Testament" with somemonstrously low organ notes that sounded as real as the organ recital I attendedrecently at my 45th college reunion.

We were all over the map. And we both loved what we heard,save for Tom's apprehension about their suitability for classical music. Heregularly attends concerts with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (12throw, center), whereas for me, that is a rare occasion. Adding the subs broughtthe system to full range by anybody's standard although I have heard much moreexpensive subwoofers that might provide more subtlety in the lowest bass.Quantity was not an issue here. The subs brought the tonal balance to even keelallowing the music to supersede the equipment and draw me in to the music —sometimes even the venue of themusic. Incredulously, I give this evaluation from the recliner besidethe official listening chair. With the TubeMagic monoblocks the soundscape didnot collapse to the speaker in front of me, though it did lean heavily in thatdirection. When I sometimes swapped seats with Tom everything fell into perfectperspective. On a good recording the orchestra would be perfectly laid out, leftto right and front to back. Furthermore, the tweeter seemed more properlybalanced once the bass was extended and the midrange was more accuratelycentered between the bass and treble. Overall, it was pretty close to BeingThere. The piano sounded like a real piano. I could hear the hammers hitting thestrings.

Parachutes,My Love, Could Carry Us Higher. (BarbaraGuest)
Thisold poem emerges from my subconscious like the gnarled roots of the old mapletree in my side yard bursting through the grass. Long ago I typed it out on apiece of paper and carried it in my wallet throughout the '70s until finally, itdisintegrated. I didn't have much discretionary income in those days andlikewise, people who can afford a $3000 pair of speakers are not likely to drivethem with $15,000 worth of pre and power amps. The more affordable Triode Labsintegrated (or something even less expensive) are a more likely choice. Afterreading my review of the EL84TT, Carl Ng offered to send me their 2A3 ClassicMk2 stereo power amp ($2888 CDN). It had arrived that same day and while Tomlistened to classical music I cut open the box and inserted the tubes. It uses apair of Sino 2A3C (a new variant of the 2A3) from Guiguang, rumored to be asister company of the more widely known Shuguang, and it is favored by Carl forits sound, fit, looks and price. It looks like a 2/3 scale version of a 300B —larger than you might expect for its 3.5 Watt output.

Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (19)

The rectifier tube is aNOS Mullard GZ32 favored by many, but easily replaced thanks to Triode Lab'sunique "Uni-fy rectifier stage" to tune the amp to your preference. And the 6SN7tubes are OTK Military Grade which is the cheapest 6SN7 you can buy butaccurate, neutral and laid back. The amp is Class A with an auto-bias circuitand unusually, it is AC heated by preference. Triode Lab also makes a hot rodded2A3-S special edition for $3888 CDN with premium transformers and a chassis thatwill likely satisfy your desire for audio jewelry. The S version is for theconnoisseur who not only likes to roll tubes, but roll amplifiers as well.

We put the CD into forward, listened for a brief moment,looked at each other and simultaneously broke out into laughter. This is a seriouslygood amplifier in spite of its humble appearance. The top end isrolled off. The presentation is dark, being centered on the lower midrange witha full, sumptuous bass. Attack is good, decay is long, midrange focus is verygood and the holographic music grabs your gut and pulls you right into thecollective soul of the performers. Forget about a subwoofer. With the highsrolled off and the ripe mid-bass you don't miss the lowest octave because you'reso emotionally engrossed in the music. In fact, if I wasn't so indoctrinated inthe philosophy of the so-called high-end audio, I could call this an end gameand move on to another hobby called high fidelity all the while enjoying themusic. Should I put this paragraph to rap music? No wonder Carl tells me alot of his customers with Zu speakers own this amp. These could be the 3.5 mostimportant watts on the planet. And if not these watts, I'd be tempted to ante upfor the 2A3-S. (Can you hear me now, Carl?)Combined with the transparency, dynamics and focus of the Zu Union, you get allthe pace, rhythm, timing and timbre that's on the recording. You ask about theChinese Drum cut? It barely required more than the first watt yet the Triode Labdelivered as much slam and more delicious timbre than I've ever heard from thispiece. Tom went home about 11 pm and I fell into bed at 2 am after "just onemore song".

Looking Good
I've always maintained that the visual designof gear destined for the home plays a role in the decision making process —for some people more than others and often at a subconscious level. This wouldbe especially true for speakers, more so than electronics. The style of most, ifnot all of the Zu speakers is dictated to a large degree by their use ofhigh-density comp60-HDF (fiberboard) with real wood veneer applied at the lumbermill where it can be applied with high pressure for a more permanent, securebond. This requires exacting manufacturing in the Zu shop and also precludes theuse of curved surfaces, a case of form following choice of material, I suppose.Models are differentiated by the assortment of drivers and a slight taperingfrom the floor upward in some cases. The form is mid-20th centurymodern although careful selection of wood stain or gloss paint and optionalanodizing of the driver's ring can result in a look that could be at home in anydécor except traditional or country. Since contemporary and transitionalstyling is dominant and growing stronger in the 21st century, I'd saythey have the right look at the right time for most folks. In selecting a reviewsample I agonized over what I personally liked best — the "kid in a candy shop"syndrome. Ultimately I requested the honey walnut stain with the standard silverring driver which is one of their most popular combinations. There are lots ofother combinations I could live with ranging from sophisticated to pop art butagain, you get to choose.

Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (20)

Theother major factor in the design is the ZuGriewe acoustic technology whichdictates a tall slender design with a rather square footprint. This allows thespeaker to have a minimal visual presence in the room, though this can certainlybe offset by your choice of stain or paint if you wish to make them moreprominent. In spite of the high placement of the driver, with the overall heightbeing about 37" (with spikes), it doesn't seem to require outriggers foradditional stability. (It comes with both rounded feet and carpet piercingspikes that allow for tilting the tower backward a bit. I simulated accidentallybumping into them as might happen at a party and they were reasonably stable butthey can be taken down if seriously tackled. The single coincident driverarrangement gives the Union a very clean, understandable look that was very easyto live with and attractive enough not to become boring. The fit and finish areof a high standard and it does indeed look like it will last a hundred years asthey claim.

Valve Value
At $3000 the Zu Audio Union speaker cost just afew dollars more than my first serious loudspeaker when I joined this hobby backin the early 1990s. Back then it was a scary purchase, being three times what Ihad spent on my previous speaker nearly twenty years prior to that. But speakerdesign has made enormous strides over the past four decades. At $3000 the ZuUnion speaker may be close to entry level in price, but it is very close to thebest sounding speakers when paired with first class electronics. After ourlistening session mentioned above, my friend Tom wrote back:

"In terms of value, I wastrying to think about other speakers that I've heard that I think can comparewith the combination of the Zus and the Tekton subs. The Coincident TotalVictory might be a contender. I remember that they sounded quite magical on mySonny Rollins LP, and I think that was with your CAT preamp, the Mahis, and theunmodified Linn with the Clearaudio cartridge. Other than that, I think thatyou'd have to go to the level of the Wilson Sashas, the Magico S5s, and the MBL116s, all about $28k. You can probably come up with your own list. I think thatit's an interesting exercise that highlights the value of the Zus."

In terms of transparency and jump factor, the Union might eventop these esteemed speakers. In terms of ultimate refinement it comes up alittle short, probably because of the minor resonance of the cabinet, but thedifference is small enough that poor set-up skills or unfortunate roomdimensions could easily reverse the outcome. Whether you get it right or notcould be a $25,000 gamble. The issue of suitability for classical music may belinked to the Union coming up a little short in ultimate refinement. As much asTom liked the Unions with other material, it did not come close to hisexperience of live music at the RPO, which rules them out of contention for hisnext purchase. As good as the ZuGriewe tuning is in the Union, the cabinet isstill rather light weight in comparison with the Coincident, Wilson and Magicomentioned above, or my reference Kharma speaker. With those speakers the musiccompletely gets out of the box. With the Union, some of it seems to get trippedup. Or maybe the issue is asking the 10" driver to handle the music all the wayup to 12 kHz, something that could cause Tom to complain about the violinstrings sounding steely. In my house, classical music is rarely heard and operais banned. Oh, I may have a token Pavarotti LP somewhere, I suppose. Foreverything else, the Union provided a transparent window that let the music jumpright through. If you have the courage to spend a little less for your speakerand a little more for a good tube amp, the Union is an incredibly good value.

I've skipped over technical discussion of the Zu driver andtheir relationship with Eminence, a major pro audio speaker manufacturer. Norhave I mentioned their proprietary cable design, also used in the internalwiring of the speaker. It is so proprietary I have nothing to say about it savethat it's copper and apparently it does a lot of things very right. Combingthrough their website I came to appreciate that Sean Casey and Zu are a lot moresteeped in science than their casual presentations at audio shows suggest.It also documents the significant technical evolution of this relativelyyoung company which bodes well for their future. Consider their websiterecommended reading, for sure.

As The SunSets Over The Bonneville Salt Flats...
Peoplewith lots of money and top shelf electronics will probably snub their noses atthis $3000 speaker. Those who are emerging from the weight of college loans willsee it as a beacon of hope. The Union is a chameleon that will rock you withdown and dirty electronics at the start of your musical mystery tour and leadyou step by step as you upgrade your other gear and educate your ear. With theaddition of quality subwoofers and finer electronics they become a true fullrange speaker capable of challenging the most revered names in the industry inmany parameters. Even without subs, with their 99dB/W/m efficiency they are amagnet for low powered tube amps that will set you up for a musical experiencethat will reach you at both a cognitive and emotional level. With theiroutstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics the Union took me closer tothe live event than any speaker in this price range has a right to do. Everyaudiophile should have the experience of hearing their music without compressionfor at least one period in their lifetime. For me, the Union is like a return tothe Voice of the Theater but at a much higher level — one that recalibrates myconcept of fun and rejuvenates the joy of music. I've left a lot unsaid aboutthem, but the sun is setting and it's time to fire up the amps. There are athousand LPs I'd love to hear through these speakers.

Zu Audio Union Loudspeaker Outstanding transparency and uncompressed dynamics. Review By Rick Becker (21)

Type: High sensitivity loudspeaker
Driver Complement: ZuCX/ND-8, 10.3” full-range nanotech driver and ASD 1001 tweeter
Frequency Response: 45 Hz to 22 kHz
Component Tolerances: Better than 0.5% driver pair matching, 0.1% on all other components
Sensitivity: 99dB/W/m
Impedance: 8 Ohm, nominal full bandwidth
Connection: Five-way binding posts
Cabinet: North American made high-density comp60-HDF composite, real wood veneer
Warranty: 5 years limited on cabinet and drivers.
Price: $3000

Company Information
Zu Audio
Ogden Commercial Industrial Park
3350 South 1500 West
Ogden, Utah, 84401

Voice: (801) 627-1040
E-mail: info@zuaudio.com
Website: www.ZuAudio.com

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Job: Legacy Representative

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Introduction: My name is Merrill Bechtelar CPA, I am a clean, agreeable, glorious, magnificent, witty, enchanting, comfortable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.