Anyone who follows the feed here at Audio-Head regularly knows that I love a good A/B comparison in audio. There have been several occasions where it was attempted at audio shows (like the one that took place this weekend in Chicago), but this type of demonstration is by far an anomaly within the hifi circuit. One of the classic allures is to do it with hard-to-pin-down options, like cables. Zu Audio and Kimble Kable decided to indulge the masses with this lure, in their room on the 11th floor of AXPONA this year. The setup was a pretty rigorous one – and pretty fun.
The new news out of the Zu camp (and on active display in the demo) is the Dirty Weekend X ($699/each) . The “X” is a slightly smaller take on the Utah-based company’s popular Zu DW 6 entry-level speaker. It is presented as more of standmount than something that would likely fit on any bookshelf, but now a front port replaces the more typical “Zu-Griewe acoustic impedance room adaptive system” from the DW6 line. The former does allow for less required breathing room behind the speaker, with the latter being a downward relief that requires a little space allowance below the DW6 speaker cabinet.
The subject of the A/B was indeed two different looms of Kimber’s design, the PBJ series (8PR speaker cable with PBJ interconnect) and the higher-end Carbon line (Carbon interconnect and Carbon 18 speaker cable). To give attendees the most fair comparison between the two, several steps were taken to insure the most balanced presentation for each. A Neve 5060 console was utilized and fed to power amp that was hidden behind a screen. A emmLabs DA2 was used to decode the digital signal, and four Zu Dirty Weekend X were stacked carefully on top of each other to allow for quick A/B switching between the two feeds. The two pairs of Zu Dirty Weekend X were allowed the same amount of burn in time and consideration pre show as well.
The results left people talking more often than not when they left the room. I was able to spend a little time out in the hallway to quietly observe the conversations as people exited the listening space. As is often the case with these type of executions, many people had strong opinions on the matter, but quite a few people agreed the changes were small but noticeable. Now weather those changes were indeed better is likely a more hotly debated subject, but nonetheless, I feel the process is an entertaining one for a show, and gives attendees a chance to further their own knowledge base through careful listening.
The sound through both looms was tight with surprising bass extension for the relative size of the speaker, although Zu’s founder Sean Casey does have a certain amount of love for full range drivers that just boogey. The rest of the spectrum showcased a careful recreation of the 1s and 0s, along with the good sensibilities in tone that Zu Audio speakers are known for.
The new Zu Audio Dirty Weekend X will hit the market May 1st of this year.