After the interview at Audioshop I got acquainted with the setup Mr Ratilainen had built. I had bravely asked him to set up the best system he had, but his individualism shone already here. Despite of my request he decided to create an audio system that included his favourite speakers and also had a balanced price / quality relationship. Although the system was a bit different than I expected it did not matter to me at all. I still was very curious to what might have been waiting.
Setup and placing the speakers
Naturally the speakers were Zu Druids strengthened by a Zu Method subwoofer. The front end consisted of the Sugden CD 21 CD player and the Melody AP 22 integrated tube amplifier. The whole thing was topped off by Zu Varial interconnects, Zu Ibis speaker cables and a Black Noise power filter. The listening room was over 50 square meters and had partial acoustic treatment. The sidewalls were very long, 13 meters! So, the front floor was only a hint over 4 meters and the distance between the speaker and the listener was a bit longer than the distance between the speakers. Tommi informed me of the fact that it is very important to have the right front end equipment for the Zu Druid speakers because of their nature. That is why he wanted them to be evaluated in the Audioshop’s listening room. Well, I can only agree with him and give my highest respects for this kind of care.
We began the session by playing the host’s favourite music samples which gave me a couple of positive surprises both regarding music and sound. Tommi played several records from Finish artists with enjoyable results before he showed that audiophile recordings can sound very good as well. After those samples I had to write down some great Finnish artists: Tuomo, Pekka Sariola, Jukka Gustavsson (a musician from the early Wigwam!) and finally Nightwish. The new Nightwish CD is blamed for the overly prominent compression and limitation. I have easily noticed that in my system some songs will cause listening tiredness especially during long listening sessions. When this record was played through this Zu Druid system the results were much more acceptable. So, Tommi showed what he wanted to: this system made it possible to play a very wide repertoire of mixings and masterings! Although the sound of the Nightwish CD was not as impressive and accurate as what I’ve heard in my listening room, the benefits of the Zu Druid system were obvious. This had to be verified with my own test CDs as well.
It was time to dig up my more than traditional test CD’s. I listened to a couple of songs from each test CD (Pink Floyd: The Wall Live, Frank Marino: Live, George Duke: After Hours, Diana Krall: Love Scenes, Respighi: Belkis, Queen of Sheba) and all of them gave good results. Actually the depth and height of the sonic picture were very impressive especially when taking into account the size of the speakers. After having some experiences of the somewhat lightweight bottom end of Zu speakers I noticed that in the Audioshop’s stonewall rounded listening room the results were much better. The Zu Druids will certainly like massive walls! The subwoofer naturally gave an extra bass extension but it was certainly not a must in this listening room.
Typically the sound was very coherent and warmish but never too forgiving for my taste. I listened to the samples much longer than I had planned and naturally that was a good sign. Although this system did not deliver very best results in any separate areas, it surely could satisfy as a whole. I would bet that many enthusiasts who are looking for an entry level High-End system or a system that creates a sound that particularly feeds feelings, will find this suitable for them.
I was convinced by my new listening experience. Even though I have a reference system worth over 80.000€ in my listening room, I must admit, that there still is something it can’t do. My system is very merciless and reveals for example (too easily?) all the defects in masterings of compact discs. Because of that several more or less “stupidly” mastered CDs have become almost unlistenable, but when playing high quality recordings the listening pleasure is overwhelming. On the contrary, the Zu Druid system at Audioshop offered a very swinging sonic meal in almost every case, without being too harshly dependent on the sound quality of the source. I’m sure there still is space for a new kind of approach in audio enthusiasm. I’m sure there is still space for a new kind of approach in audio equipment development as well. This is the target which I believe Zu seeks. The feelings are most important when listening to music!