Compare: Salk Sound, Silverline, Tyler, Zu

Reading this forum, I have noticed that speakers from Salk Sound, Silverline, Tyler, and Zu have quite a following. Many audiophiles regard one of these as much better than better-known or advertised brands.

Surprisingly, then, I don't see many attempts to compare them among themselves.

So I would like to invite such an effort: Please compare Salk Sound, Silverline, Tyler, and Zu among themselves (and, for those who have the spirit, also with the British classics now exemplified by ATC, Harbeth, Proac).

I would be interested not only in your listening experience, but also "theoretical thoughts" about design, drivers used, etc.

[I do not want this thread to focus on my system, but if you wish to additionally comment about what may be suitable for me, here it is: Room size 15'x20'. Music: Classical, from solo voice to piano to large orchestral. Listening levels: daytime normal, nights low (city apartment). Clearance from rear wall: about 12-18 inches. Amp 60 w/ch ss. Don't want to to be glued to one sweet spot. WAF is liberal, most speakers with a wood veneer would be accetable.]
silverline makes fine speakers. i would however say that for the kind of music you like.....and a large sweet spot, i would recommend the castle harlech or howard. i'm sure the other lines have their fans, but for big orchestra, the castle would be the best loudspeaker between 2k and 3k new.
I have heard Silverline (in an HT system playing music), Tyler Reference Monitors and Linbrook monitors, and the Salk HT1 and HT3. I'd take the Salk speakers overall, they simply drew me in. The other speakers are all great. I really mean that. You literally do not have a bad choice. But the Salk's really captured me. Their sound was like magic to me. I'm sorry I can't be more specific but I wasn't feeling critical when I listened to them, I just listened. The Tyler Linbrooks were similar but didn't have the same impact on me as the Salk's. I wish I could have heard the Silverline's in a two channel setup as they sounded excellent in the HT scheme. All these speakers do those good audiophile things like detail, soundstaging and imaging and they look great too. Terrific build quality. Maybe the ribbon tweeters in the Salks made the difference. I don't know, they just do it for me. If you are in the Detroit area in late April you should be able to hear the Salks at the Audiokarma Fest. More info on Salk at Lots of input on Tyler right here. By the way I'm not associated with Salk, I just wish I could afford'em. Hope this helps a little.
A lot of good choices there... I liked all of them except ProAc (the floorstanders I heard were way too dark for my tastes, and some detail was missing that I am used to). I would add Spendor also to your list of "Britsh classics." They probably are my favorites from the UK...

As for a "winner," I guess it really comes down to personal tastes. In my case, I would probably narrow it down to the Tylers and the Salks (not to imply that the others aren't also very worthy and merit consideration as well). Woodworking-wise, the Salks have it (absolutely beautiful speakers by all accounts, even as good looking as the Tylers are, I don't think any speakers can compete to my tastes)... Sound-wise the Tyler's midrange and bottom-end were a tad more to my liking (Linbrook Signature System) and I bought them accordingly -- but I really loved the Salks too and can easily recommend them. You really can't lose with those two, IMO. The value for the money on both brands is quite impressive.

Matt and Dave: Both of you seem to be familiar with Salk products. I have a question about that line. The basic Veracity model is HT1, if one can afford it HT3 is clearly the flagship. However, the middle spot is muddled a bit: there is QW, and the new HT2 (not yet on the web site but is a production model). They are identical size, similarly priced.

Do you know these two and how do they compare?

Theoretically, the situation is as follows. QW uses transmission line to go lower. HT2 uses an extra midwoofer, so it is more sensitive, there is less strain on either midwoofer, but their sounds will "interact" for better or worse. HT2 also uses a different tweeter.

Would be curious to know what people think.
Sorry, in my case I can't help you there... I have only heard the HT1s and the HT3s (the HT3s really were the ones I was looking at to go up against the Tyler Linbrook System).

Drseid: What about the Tyler's midrange and bottom end did you like over the Salk HT3?
The bottom end of the Linbrook Signatures extends deeper, and is subjectively "faster," IMO. The midrange was a much closer call... I guess I preferred the Tyler's "voicing," per se with respect to the midrange. Again, I do not mean this in any way to be a backhanded slam against the HT3, as it is a *very* strong performer in its price range. I guess it just comes down to personal preferences at the end of the day.

Drseid: (1) I think Tyler uses dome and Salk ribbon tweeters. Did you feel any difference in the high end due to this? There have been suggestions here that ribbons are closer to electrostatic sound and image/soundstage better than domes, for just one example. (2) What else was your personal short list before finally choosing the Tylers? Did you get a chance to compare Tyler with Silverline and Zu as well?
Dave, do you have the 1 or 2 piece Linbrook Sig. system?
I have the Salk Veracity HT'3 speakers and love them. I can't comment on the Linbrook but the ribbin tweeters in the Salk HT3 and fantastic. If you want futher information on the QW from salk follow this link
Drseid: (1) I think Tyler uses dome and Salk ribbon tweeters. Did you feel any difference in the high end due to this?

DRS: Not really... I like both tweeters about the same quite frankly. The Millenium dome used by the Linbrooks is one of the best on the market IMO, and holds its own to any ribbon tweeter I have heard.

(2) What else was your personal short list before finally choosing the Tylers?

DRS: Von Schwekert DB99 mkII (excellent all-around performer and highly recommended), Dali Helicon 800 (also quite good and recommended, but a bit pricey, IMO). Ayon Butterfly (tremendous midrange and superb balance, but a hair light on the bottom end)...

Did you get a chance to compare Tyler with Silverline and Zu as well?

DRS: Silverline yes, Zu no. Quite frankly I did not even hear *of* Zu until long after my Tyler purchase. Silverline I have heard of and like... I just liked some others a bit more (again, personal preferences -- not to imply others won't feel differently).

Dave, do you have the 1 or 2 piece Linbrook Sig. system?

DRS: I have the two piece.

I would guess there are two reasons why you are not hearing about Zu. One is the fact that wood veneer is not an option with Zu. And secondly, nothing which has a crossover in the vocal range will compare. Check out the reviews of the Definition and the Druid on and look at the many pictures to determine whether Zu will pass the visual test. There is no question about sonic superiority. If you need further help, you may email me.
Macrojack: "nothing which has a crossover in the vocal range will compare".

What frequencies qualify as vocal range? Do Salk, Tyler, Silverline etc. have a problem there?

Which speakers have you compared Zu's against and which one was superior outside vocals?

I must say Zu's look a little less attractive. But if a speaker has the best sound, we can get over its looks.
In one of my systems, Zu Druids replaced Silverline speakers, and I had heard the entire Silverline range before making that change. The Silverline speakers each are voiced and hence while there is a family semblance in sound up and down the line, the model-to-model variations are considerable and deliberate. Until I bought my Zu Druids and then also Zu Definitions, I considered Silverline exceptional dynamic driver speakers, with excellent transient consistency, natural tone with good continuity between the drivers, and capable of focused, coherent presentation.

After hearing Zu, all that changed and I couldn't possibly go back to them or any other conventional multi-way speaker with crossovers in the meat of the music.

It's hard to appreciate until you hear the difference, but getting a full-range driver with a signal not passing through a crossover, in a design that avoids the shout and frequency anomalies of prior FRD high efficiency designs, lays bare how much a crossover mangles sound. Also how poorly even well-matched quality drivers mate in terms of tone and uniformity of transient behavior. Zu puts no crossover in the path of the signal from 38 Hz - 12kHz, and of course the main driver is dynamically uniform in its transient behavior through that range. In the Druid, the FRD rolls off naturally and the supertweeter rolls in on a high-pass filter. On the Defintion, the FRDs roll off naturally on the bottom and the active sub-bass array is rolled in on a low pass filter, while the supertweeter rolls in on a simpler network than the Druid. Now, by comparison, even excellent Silverline speakers sound choked, dynamically disjointed, faux-fidelity, untonal and spatially incorrect by comparison.

Every other conventional multi-way speaker suffers the same comparison. It's a one-way street. Once you make the transition to Zu and assimilate the holistic delivery of a music signal through a tonally natural FRD, you cannot go back. You can only move forward when you find something that retains the phase-coherent, frequency accurate, high sensitivity, sparky aliveness of Zu and makes it more accurate and natural still. I haven't heard that from anyone else yet.

So, I can't say about Salk and Tyler. But if they have crossovers in the midrange, where Zu has none, I'd have little hope. On the other hand, if you never hear Zu, the right Silverline will seem to make beautiful music in energetic fashion.

Salk has an owner's forum at It may be a good place to get help. Maybe someone lives near you with a pair. They have a list of owner's that will allow you to audition them in a sticky I believe.

I've never heard them but people who's opinion's I respect own them and speak very highly of them. To replace the VMPS RM 40's they owned and I do own with the Salk's is quite a compliment I can assure you.
In looking at the Salk site, I couldn't find any specs, i.e. sensitivity ratings, etc. However, in the attached thread from the Audiocircle, the owner is recommending at least 80 watts (ss) for his monitor model (or 40 tube watts). Given your amp, this may not be the best choice for your situation.

I own the Tyler monitors in a room the same size as yours and power them with a 40 watt tube amp. I currently have mine placed about 15 inches from the back wall, 18 inches from the site wall, and toed in about 10 degrees. For critical listening I slide my chair to the sweetspot, but off axis listening still presents a decent soundstage. The combo works fine - excellent in fact - but I would not want any less power. It is not uncommon for me to have to set the volume control at the 11-12 o'clock position, which tells me I could use a little more power. At 60 ss watts, you would probably be OK.

The Silverlines are generally more efficient and would be a good choice, as would the Zu's. Of course, the Salk's are GORGEOUS speakers and may be worth upgrading the amp if you have to! :)
I'm with Phil. I don't have his depth of experience and I haven't heard any of the speakers you mention. I only comment, as the XO/multidriver problems I hear in every other speaker of that type exhibits the same maladies Phil describes. As the other choices are all of that ilk, I'd be surprised if they somehow escape the problems that really seem to be guaranteed.
I have to wonder why so few people seem to "get" that a crossover is a source of problems in speaker design. Every legitimate speaker manufacturer would stop using crossovers in their speakers if they had a better way to provide full bandwidth. It is the lack of a driver that will adequately provide 20hz to 20khz reproduction that causes designers to divide the signal and distribute pieces of it to specialized drivers called woofers, tweeters, etc. A substantial component of the speaker design challenge lies in the task of compensating for the damage done by your crossover and the minimalization of its impact. Zu has created "in house" a driver which very ably provides performance from 40 hz to 12 khz. This is closer to the theoretical ideal than anyone has ever come before and it represents a turning point, a breakthrough, in speaker design.
Simple physics are behind this. "No crossover" is the best crossover. Speakers which incorporate a crossover network have an inherent handicap.
Macrojack, I think Zu's are almost too transparent sounding for some people and are use to crossover correction cause most rooms sound horrible, but the zu's in the correct acoustic environment just like any speaker in a good environment acoustically would prove some superiority if you can A-B them against something. I have found the only way to prove this to anyone in design is to directly hear it yourself, and be able to A-B test against something that is in question. Like I found with an upgraded Crossover in my friends pair of speakers they sound excellent in his room and far better than the stock crossovers, and we really believed that there is really nothing worth changing or getting better.. .Okay we were wrong cause when you head to head the Zu's in that room everything becomes apparently clear that even the 700.00 worth of crossover is not gonna compete with Zero crossover, its tuff to prove to anyone however.
Geez, fellas. I'm "in the club" and I agree with you about the Zu sonic, i.e. I prefer it to all others I've heard.

BUT, we all have different ears. There's no way that everyone will prefer Zu speakers, even on long-term auditions. I do not think they are perfect, but their compromises are more palatable to me than other speakers I've heard.
I keep hearing people talk about comparisons between Zu and other speakers. You seem to agree with me that there really is no comparison.
The best efforts at hiding the splices in the audio signal all fall short of not cutting it up in the first place. It's really, really that simple. No magic, no gimmick, no nonsense.
Microjack, Undertow: IMHO while it may be frustrating in certain situations it is basically healthy that serious audiophiles are not easily convinced by purely theoretical arguments as to why something will not work or is superior to all else. We have all seen it before, industry ads have always thrown such claims at us. So it i not unreasonable that people should wait for A/B comparisons, at least reports of such comparisons. And I say this as someone who loves theoretical thinking and discussions myself.

Do you have preamp, amp, sources, speakers, all from different manufacturers? Would you easily be swayed by an ad offering an all-in-one design where manufacturer has matched everything eliminating any "interface" problems encountered in component audio?

Zu does seem interesting but like everyone else, it will have to prove itself in true A/B comparisons. I appreciate Phil's comments re Zu vs Silverline. I hope others will be able to post comparisons with Tyler, Salk, Linkowitz, etc., as well. People own these speakers and Zu offers in-home trial, so there is reason to hope.

i did read somewhere that Zu is working on newer models. Nothing surprising about that, but I'd be curious to see what comes out. In mu humble and distant opinion, the jump from Druid (2800) to Definition (9000?) is too big, they need a model in between, maybe just one or two subwoofers instead of four?

Another thing is, just because somebody designs a good driver doesn't make they experts and arbiters of everything else. Inventors and enterpreneurs often make and pay for this mistake. People have wives, social life, furniture, decor tastes, and there is no reason why Zu should not have accommodated those in cabinet finishes. I can understand speaker design, but it is offputting to see abrupt changes without technical need and where designer really has no special expertise anyway. Frankly, it is nothing short of breathtakingly stupid marketing to offer "racing stripes" but not common wood veneers.

BTW, how are those cabinets and colors? Zu's website never gives any decent and clear shots, just a vague mist of words. Hello Zu, if I wanted English poetry, I can get much better for much less, and unless you are planning to ship those lakes and mountains and clouds and fog with your speakers, how about just clear detailed and revealing shots of the cabinets? :)
Actually I said nothing about the Zu being superior to anything just for clarification, but they sound far less constrained vs. what I have heard and the real point of my post was simply it is impossible to really get a grasp or opinion unless you do a direct A-B in the same room thats all, and I find A-B with anything from cables to Tubes to amps the only way to really see what you like better. Thats all, cause I am not ganging up on crossovers at all, just saying there are some apparent differences in my comparisons, and there are excellent speakers out there with good crossovers too, especially Active systems.
Aktchi, Again my above comments are from my simple experiance, but not absolute of course.. And by the way the cabinets are very good, finish is of car quality, now why only paint, well I think they are leaning toward a more industrial use for a listener, not necessarily decor concerns, and also are more in the young hot rod style, And beyond that you better call up wilson audio on this one first cause they have been selling only Paint finish at multiple thousands far above the cost of Zu's finishing for like 20 years plus I believe, so its not unheard of, Merlin and Meadowlark were and may still be like this as well.
My custom red cabinets are gorgeous. Sean told me it's tough to get customers' speakers into the photo studio, as once they're done the customers want them immediately!

He is aware of the issue but is also a very busy man. I will try to get some photos taken, but they are really pretty.
Only fantasizing, but the thought just crossed my mind, wouldn't it be nice if Zu could have Tyler or Salk build their cabinets for them...

After numerous conversations about the paint vs. veneers with Adam at Zu, Here is the summary.

Zu has a design goal of offering the most bang for the buck at given price points. Som exotic veneers can add too much to the price and move the product out of the targeted price range. On a side note, if they are not as skilled with working with veneers, they would have to hire an expert to provide the quality finish that the product deserves.

Their paint is quite fine, and looks great.
Miklorsmith: LOL, I am thinking, these guys must be geniuses a la Mozart or Einstein, who were almost retarded outside their immediate expertise (in this case, driver design)! Could you please point to Sean that someone looking at the picture of a cabinet from far away doesn't care what's inside it. He don't need pictures of finished and functioning speakers. Can't they just paint one side panel and get that into studio?
Check out this link:
You'll find plenty of good photos and a very worthwhile review.
If you don't like the looks of Zu, cross them off your list and keep looking. If the best sound is your goal, you are on the right track.
I can assure you that the cabinet materials, the paint and the appearance are all well considered and carefully selected elements of a very successful speaker design. Where Zu is lacking is in marketing but that is their problem not yours now that you have been made aware of them.
Ton 1313: Even if they have chosen offer only paint, I hope they will soon put a few good photos of what a painted panel looks like.

Macrojack: I have read the 6moon review. Interestingly they are equlayy gung ho about a Gallo model which is priced similarly to Druids. The red of Zu's iis striking but not my thing. Most people who want to order a trial pair might like a few clear photos to help them choose between black and what Zu call "Tokyo Forest".

I'll wait to see what Zu does next. Like many revolutionary designs, theirs too may take a couple model cycles to stabilize.

In the meantime, moving away from Zu a little...Has anybody here actually compared Tylers and Salks side by side?
That would be quite interesting indeed if someone has...

I think finding someone who has heard both Tyler and Salk side by side is going to be difficult as Tyler is a very small brand and Salk even smaller still, not to mention they are both mail order direct brands.

I suppose there could be an owner that owns both brands (as they kind of appeal to the same kind of target clientele) but again, it is probably going to be hard to find them if they exist. Who knows though, *I* may want to buy the HT-1s for my bedroom system someday, so maybe I'll be the first. :-)

On Zu finishes: My Druids are gloss red. They were bought used and had been updated by the factory to near MkIV status. Sean says they're "Mk 3.5" by virtue of having the current supertweeter with the prior gen FRD, and a slightly different expression of the Griewe model. Point is, they were painted early in Zu's life. They have a little orange peel and Zu's panel sanding precision wasn't quite what it is today. Nevertheless, they meet with enthusiastic approval from even finicky people who are accustomed to veneered speakers.

My Definitions were ordered new, in custom automotive finish. The blue speakers in one of the Six Moons photographs are mine. They are a Maserati color, Blue Nettuno, duplicated in DuPont Chroma. Even these speakers do not quite match what Zu is capable of today with their new paint booth, and they are all-but-glass in their surface finish. They are uniformly regarded as more gorgeous still than my Druids.

The factory offers their satin finishes as standard prices. They upcharge for standard gloss with has some orange peel similar to mass-market cars. A little further upcharge gets standard gloss with a little hand-cutting to reduce the orange peel. Then the top upcharge is for a fully cut finish like glass.

Honestly, the Zu design aesthetic is almost unimaginable in woodgrain. It would seem visually dissonant to me. A friend of mine just ordered black gloss, going into a home with mainstream wood finishes on furniture and fixtures. And they will look fully compatible. Given the phenolic jacket in the cabinet construction, paint is the logical finish and I believe most people will find it interesting and compatible to a wide range of decors, if they give it a chance.

and I bought the Druids. The Salks sounded very good, but lacked the jump factor of the Druids - really explosive dynamics on music like electric blues, and electronica. On classical I think there was less difference. Overall, for $1200 less, the Druids were a great bargain. The Salks had beautiful woodworking, but the sound of the Druids cliched the deal for me.
Dave: You are right, and I myself don't expect to commonly find people who have A/B'd thinly distributed brands like Tyler, Salk, and Zu. The scenario I had in mind was that someone owns one and tries out another, or maybe local audiophiles meet and arrange a comparison. Something like that. Your input is always appreciated.

And just as I was writing these words, Ait's post tells me of his Zu/Salk experience...

Phil: Thanks for the detailed feedback. You are one of the very few people in this forum who continue to inform people about Zu, but without the fanatical edge of some "Road to Damascus" converts---I have received chiding emails like "now that I have told you about Zu, why even bother with other names?", and telling me I am being "confrontational" if I remain curious about Tyler/Salk, or want Zu to offered wider cabinet options. So, your patient input is greatly appreciated.

Ait: Thank you for your post. From the prices mentioned I assume you compared Zu Druids with Salk HT-3. How and where did you make this comparison: in different places or was it side by side? If latter, did you own HT-3's before ordering Druids? Was there not much to choose between them on classical music (except price)? Did you try any music in which HT-3's greater bass extention would have mattered? In your past speaker hunts, have you ever heard Tylers as well? [You can see that having met someone who knows about more than one speaker, I am feeling greedy. :-)]

Advice to Zu: Please consider a model with one subwoofer. Most people cannot afford Definitions (4 subwoofers) but would like some bass extention rather than none. Can you sell Druids at 2400 and this new model at 2800? :)
The first line of my above post was cut off somehow, but yes, I heard both the Salk HT3 and the Zu Druid. Unfortunately, this was not side by side in the same room, but was on the same afternoon with the same music selections. The Salk was kindly demo'd by a current owner, while the Druids were heard at a local dealer's house. Since I'm not a classical afficionado, I feel less qualified to judge that aspect of the performance, and maybe they sounded similar because that's not really my cup of tea, music-wise. One thing's for sure, though, the Druids beat the Salks when it came to electric blues and rock - the sound was much more immediate and tight with the Druids. One other interesting fact, my Druids are now 5 months old and they continue to get better as they break in - better means more details, and even more lifelike sound. The main drivers on the Druid are very tightly suspended, and do sound a little congested at first, but the only way I noticed it was when they continued to get better with age.
The Druid's bass is surprisingly strong, and may be adequate for many people, but I run mine with a sealed 15" DIY subwoofer based on the Dayton 15" DVC driver - I do not cross over to the Druids, but instead run the Druids flat out and roll in the sub below 45 Hz so as not to ruin the crossoverless magic. Using a sub lets me position the Druids optimally for imaging and soundstage (both stunning) while not having to worry about reinforcing the last octave via room tuning.
My Druids are capable of deafening sound levels using 2 100 Watt monoblock amps, but never lose their grip even when the SPL reaches painful levels, quite inpressive, really. They could easily be driven by 10 Watt amps if you so choose.
Fast pace music with lots of midrange energy like Rock definatly fall a bit flat with Zu's on the first run thrus, they do sound a bit congested untill they open up, this could take months, maybe thats why Zu will give you an extended 90 return if asked... But then its a very raw open sound. So I kinda think good crossover speakers sound more correct or coherant from initial impression many times and this is where people do not get to experiance the open sound immediatly of the Zu, Kinda like hearing horn speakers that shout a little and don't sound conventionally smooth at first to people. So I think the best thing maybe to do is order Zu's first a month or so after getting the Zu's order the salk or Tyler's and at least you will have 30 days to run head to head before having to make a decision and return something. This will always be a problem with audio brands not carried in any stores conventionally.
Ait: Many thanks for your comparative review of Druids and HT-3. Greatly appreciated - even if our musical tastes differ. :)
I have had the Druids now for six months and would like to add my 2c to the conversation. I am coming out of Usher 8871, which can lay claim to be being among the class leaders in looks, glorious 3/4" thick real wood cabinetry polished so the seams cannot be felt at all, swooping curves with nary a straight line but for the baffle. In addition, they are no slouch in the sound department and I enjoyed the time I had with them. But I needed to try high-eff, crossoverless sound and when the Druid appeared on the horizon, I had to bite.

Let's get the sound issue out of the way first... as I do not have the talent to wax poetic about audio like some people here (cough-Phil-cough) let me just say that all you read is true. I love the sound. Even the bass is satisfying without a sub if you set it up right, but I am using a REL Strata II crossed over very low, as I already owned and love that sub. The speakers really need tubes to show their best and I wasted some time with SS before I went to tubes... during that time I was not sure I'd keep them. The speed, transparency and delicacy they exhibit remind me of the speakers I had prior to the Ushers... Magnepan 3.6. But none of that Maggie fuss, plenty of growl, attack and boogie factor when you ask them to jump.

Going from the high-end furniture finish of the Ushers, I was concerned about the WAF, particularly as she loved the look of the Ushers. But she is totally cool with them, even in our traditional living room (they are satin black). Because of their slim box, they do not dominate in the depth plane, giving them a much smaller physical presence than the Ushers, even though height and width are very close. I have also seen them in a red satin finish (autumn?) and that also looked very nice, although I prefer the black in my space. To the extent it is possible to be fond of an inanimate object, I am fond of them.

Considering, I am quite grateful to the Zu visual design team, as I am not sure I could live with the gawky, gangly, sometimes ugly look of other hi-eff speakers... no names mentioned as no offense meant. The Druids have a stylish elegance that is balanced just right IMO. I like them better than the Defs even (for looks I mean, have not heard the Defs).

Oh btw, just joshing Phil; your advice and experience have proved invaluable to me and many others... my warmest thanks.
Kck: Although Ushers were not on my list, it is always good to hear form someone who can make any direct comparison. Also reassuring to hear your comments on Zi cabinets.