Capital Audiofest 2017: Zu Audio

The Music Lover’s Respite

Everyone, or so it seems, digs the Zu Audio room. Why? Well, it may have to do with the fact that it’s the least audiophile-like room at any high-end show. It’s always a refreshing mix of that company’s march-to-the-beat-of-a-different-drummer speakers, and the ambiance of something between a party and a mixing studio. Sure, the dual turntables playing into a sweet-looking Rupert Neve mixing console were eye candy enough, but the real stars of the show were speakers: a pair each of the brand new Druid Mk. 6 ($10,000) and my fave Omen Dirty Weekends ($995), both driven by a pair of Nelson Pass’ First Watt SIT-1 monoblock amps (alas, no longer available).

Did I mention that it’s probably the one room at the show where a request of Diana Krall crooning torch ballads might just get you a dirty look? Their music of choice? Well, that’s a thing. Dirty, grungy, raw, and oh so interesting. The kind of stuff my kids listen to through ear buds, the full glory of which they are totally missing. I have no idea what comprised most of their playlist during the multiple trips I made to the room, but the music was always cool and interesting. Definitely the kind of tunes I need to check out when not wearing my audiophile hat.

The sound was pretty much what one would expect: big and room-filling, and it was a large room. Zus are dynamic and play loud without distortion. Given their cool look, they might well be the perfect party speakers. Head Zu-man Sean Casey was kind enough to let me hear both pairs in sequence driven by the SIT-1 amps. I totally got into the gritty power of the Dirty Weekends, which sounded amazingly good for $995, but I could definitely hear not only the greater efficiency of the Druids, but also their cleaner, more resolving character. I still find it amazing that both sets of speakers could easily fill that cavernous room with huge sound, even when driven by the little 10 watt per channel First Watt amps. Sean commented that the amps were merely idling.

Oh, and here’s my little secret: my Zu Dirty Weekends don’t just rock the house, but they also sound amazingly intimate and satisfying to the soul in my much smaller listening room when barely driven at sane bedtime volumes.

Gotta love Zu!