Zu Audio is a serious tribe of ‘philes out of Ogden, Utah led by founder Sean Casey on a sustained campaign to keep hi-fi firmly in the hands of those passionate about the pursuit of engaging, lifelike and musical sound.
To quote Sean:
“When an innovation and tangible products-based company loses its “hands-on” connection with the thing it makes – choosing to maximize margin instead of product performance – originality is lost and the product debased.”
An ethos I wholeheartedly ascribe to.
Zu make lovely, highly-regarded, hand-built speakers, cables and modified phono cartridges (Zu Denon DL-103 anyone?).
Their high-efficiency speaker designs like the Zu Omen MK II have always made me picture myself kicking back in a chair, relaxing and hearing them paired with a flea-powered SET amp being fed some delicious, acoustic instrument-based vinyl.
That didn’t happen on Saturday night of T.H.E. Show in Newport Beach this year.
There was no sitting down, relaxing or acoustic music happening when I showed up, instead I had the smokey rasp of Malachi Kenney’s voice yelling in one ear, and the roar of the crowd of about 25 people jammed into the Zu Audio room at the Irvine Hotel in the other.
Michael Mercer had what sounded like Skrillex pumping the room and the wall of sound of percussion, vocals and synth seemed to alter reality in the small space.
The kit consisted of the Zu Omen MK II loudspeaker ($1,800 US pair), loomed up with Zu Event MK II cables, Pass Labs 60.8 amplifiers, K&K Maxed Out phono stages, RND 5060 mixer, a Groovetracer tricked-out Rega RP6, Luxman PD-444 fitted with a Rega RB-700 arm and Zu/DL-103 MK II cartridges for pickup duty.
It’s truly something to see anybody mix with a Luxman and RP6, but when the scratching started, shit got real in a hurry. Security made their presence known pretty much immediately, and none of the offers of free beer seemed to dissuade them from shutting down the party tout suite.
Luckily, I had been given a rather large bottle of high-test, homemade limoncello earlier in the evening courtesy of Anton and Mike in the NFS (Not For Sale) room, so several of us took the party down to the lounge and continued to imbibe.
Zu Audio make outstanding gear, what I heard that night was proof that the Omen MK II can definitely rock, and maintain composure at rave-level SPLs, but the Zu Audio crew can also party, and are hands-down some of the loveliest people I had a chance to connect with in Newport Beach.