ZU Audio Essence


Floorstanding loudspeakers

They look like ordinary rectangular blocks, something you would expect. But wait - what is the strange thing in the middle of the driver? Dva obyčejné kvádry na čtvercové podstavě, ani zezadu nic extra zajímavého, ale počkat… co tam dělá ten podivný hliníkový nástavec na reproduktoru? A proč ten reproduktor vypadá tak divně? And why is there no reflex port? And what is ZU???

Function and form

Ease of use

The main driver in the Essence is a large 195mm wide-band cone that covers the range from 30Hz to 10kHz. A 95mm waveguide, that embraces the central  aluminum piece of the driver, should help pressurize the room and increase efficiency of the whole assembly in a circular horn fashion.

Highs are handled by a transformer-coupled ribbon tweeter that is the only driver filtered via the cross-over (2nd order). The main driver is connected directly to speaker binding posts that were provided by Cardas. The terminals actually consist of a small metal plate that is pressed towards its counterpiece - quite unusual and very different from the omnipresent WBT standard. If you have a banana terminated set of speaker cables then you may have an issue to reliably connect them to the ZU.

The enclosure is a combination of MDF and Baltic birch ply. Between the main enclosure and the plinth of the speaker there is an air gap that is a kind of vent for the ZU's nternal bass-loading system, the ZuRG. It is a tall, foam-like pyramid inside the cabinet that widens from top to bottom and ends by the air gap. Such a design should eliminate turbulent behaviour and standing waves, as well as it controls acoustic impedance of the enclosures.

Bass management


The Zu Audio Essence are not bass shy speakers - despite their slim silhouette they really can pressurize the room. The bass was fast, well contoured and physical. Herbie Hancock's piano was realistically portrayed including its pedals, so were the saxes of Blazing Redheads (Reference recordings) that I could feel deep in my stomach. The good bass fundament is very vital for human voices that do not have major energy in the lowest octaves but  without low-end extension they become thin, colourless and one dimensional.

Clarity & delicacy


The ribbon tweeter of the Essence is very natural and open, as if the sound was coming from no apparent source. With my eyes closed I could see sizzling cymbals in front of me and I could follow the circular movements of a brush on them. Still, to get such a natural illusion it requires careful placement of the speakers and the listener. If I sat too close the highs were too prominent and upfront, if I sat too far, they dissapeared. The ribbon tweeter is mounted unusually low to the top from the ground and it has limited dispersion capabilities in the vertical plane so it is really essential to find a sweet spot with the Essence. I can imagine that in some domestic conditions it will not be possible to find the right set up at all due to existing furnishings, dimensions etc. The good thing is that in the horizontal plane the Essence can provide optimum listening field for more than one listener which will be great in home cinema installations.

Tonal accuracy

Temporal resolution

For classical music lovers or for those who listen to richly orchestrated acoustic genres the Zu Audio Essence may ot be the right speaker. I could sense a bit of compression and loss of resolution with increasing volumes. Thus the Essence will appeal to the listeners that prefer low to moderate listening levels and more intimate music genres - acoustic jazz and female vocals, for example, were fantastic as they benefited from the open treble presentation and the speaker's high sensitivity. Thus one can use watt-shy amplifiers like SETs to get the maximum result.

Spatial resolution

Soundstage width
Soundstage depth

Provided that the ritual of the finding a sweet spot was successful, the Essence can throw fantastic soundstage. In the lateral (left to right) plane the delineation of instruments and interprets was magical, the focus was rock solid with the sound not travelling between the speakers. The Zu's were among those few speakers that could project the sounds that were beyond the speakers. The depth was a bit deeper than necessary, the Essence gave me a prespective of auditorium rather than the front row. Like with most other speakers they benefited from sufficient room around them - I would not recommend to squeeze them between the wall and your seating in a small apartment below 20sqm. 

Price as reviewed:135 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

Interaudio, Komárno, +421 905 884 677, Slovenská republika

Associated components

  • Sources: Audiomat Maestro Référence AL1 (power supply), D1 (CD transport) and 24/192 DAC (D/A converter Maestro Référence)
  • Amplifiers: Audiomat Récital
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Nordost Valhalla, Audiomat (DAC)



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