Zu Druid IV

Zu DruidMade in Ogden, Utah the Zu Druid is one of the more interesting floorstanding loudspeakers that I have come across. This, the 2006-vintage fourth generation version, is a particular favourite. The one-and-a-half way speaker has a full-range drive unit along with a super tweeter, tailored so there is no need for a crossover. Quoted impedance is 12 ohms, (8 ohms minimum) and an ultra high sensitivity of 101dB. Frequency response is quoted as 35Hz-25kHz and power handling is 300W. In other words, this is an excellent loudspeaker for tube amplifier users.

At its core is the Zu260FR-G2 full-range driver, largish at 260mm and with a 25g moving mass, natural fibre cone assembly and cast frame, precision machined motor and pole assembly. The matching Zu-T1 supertweeter uses a split-shelf (12kHz/15kHz) high-pass filter to mate it to the main driver, and is made from a machined aluminium billet. The cabinet uses proprietary Griewe driver loading, claimed to offer wideband cone damping, proper control of rear acoustic energy and minimal low-frequency time delay. Zu B3 cable is used internally, silver alloy terminated using a solderless cold forged method.

The tall (1,270x280x160mm) cabinet is 20mm thick MDF wood core with a laminated phenolic composite skin. Two sets of screw-in spikes are provided for levelling and placement, one for carpet and the other for wooden flooring. Each speaker weighs a not inconsiderable 28kg. Two finishes were offered, Black Satin and Tokyo Frost, with custom paint finishes at a price premium. Round the back are Cardas binding posts using pure unplayed copper. Overall build is done to a good standard for a speaker that retailed in the UK for £2,395 in 2006.

The Druid is basically a single drive unit design that’s been given the best possible chance in life, thanks to the supertweeter and excellent overall attention to detail. The benefits of this are the wonderfully open, seamless sound thanks to the lack of a crossover – and the associated headaches of integrating additional drivers. The midband especially is deliciously fluid and even; it’s excellent in the time domain yet is superb tonally too. The downside is that it doesn’t do low bass, and lacks enough physical presence to be a truly universal loudspeaker. It’s no muscle-man of a loudspeaker, rather more of a ballet dancer; bass is wonderfully dextrous and fluid, and this makes listening a joy.

The other facet of the Druid is its wonderful efficiency; it gives you the chance to fire up a really good tube amplifier and reap the benefits of such a design. That light drive unit is super fast and detailed, and gives an extremely open window on the music. There’s a hint of milky coloration – but it’s certainly no worse than you’d hear from equivalently priced B&W speakers of that era; it’s down to the cone material rather than the cabinet. Treble is good, but not superb; other speakers with ribbon tweeters do better and it lacks a little lustre – yet it’s beautifully timed and integrates brilliantly with the overall sound.

This is a highly involving speaker to listen to – its inherently fine musical timing and timbre are the key attributes, yet it scores far higher across the range than you’d expect from a single driver design. Something of a quirky classic, if you’re a tube amplifier kind of person then this is well worth investigating.

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