Spendor S8e Vs Zu Druid Cayin Vs Wyred ST-250

I have had both the Spendor S8e and Zu Druids in my system and the fortune to have them both at the same time. Associated equipment is a Joule LA150MKII tube preamp and a Cayin A88T tube amp which also got swapped out for audition purposes with a Wyred 4 Sound ST-250 tube preamp and then later a SET Almarro 318A integrated. I do not claim to be a seasoned audiophile, nor am I up on all the buzz words for describing music, but I am a critical listener and I know when I hear music that I really like.

The Spendors have been favorite speakers to date, having bested by my ears and preferences in sound, some Dynaudio and Dali Floorstanders I owned several years back.

When I recently received my Zu Druids speakers I could barely stand to listen to them. They were terrible. The sound changed dramatically as the Zu Druids broke in. A winter shipment and one month storage in the garage may have partially nullified the factory break in. They went from absolutely terrible to indredably beautiful over time.

After breakin, I decided that I liked the overall sound of the Zu Druids a little better than the Spendors - although they both bring allot to the table and both have some limitations.

They main deciding factor for prefering the Zu Druids over the Spendors is that they seemed to impart a more dynamic, open and rich sound. The Spendors sounded a little restrained in comparison to me. The Zu Druids in comparison seemed to impart more richness and emotion to the music and seemed allot faster than the Spendors and came up to speed musically at lower volume levels than the Spendors (which I still like very much).

The Zu Druids, although high efficiency speakers, still have very respectable bass. The Spendors went much deeper in the sub bass region. The Zu Druids bass sounded very rich in the midrange and tapered off a little starting at around 80 db gradually down to 40Z where they became noticably lacking. However, my subwoofer easily picked up the slack as the bass was only lacking in the lower end of the sub frequencies. The Spendors seemed more tonally accurate and slightly clearer than the tubier sounding Zu Druids, however, the sound of the Zu Druids trumped that with a lusher sound that imparted much more emotion and information with the music to me - particularly with vocals and guitar.

I had opportunity to audition a Wyred 4 Sound ST-250. It is one of the best sounding solid state amps I have heard. It has detail without harshness and is not dull either. It has a rich midrange and analog sound, yet is more accurate and has less noise than tube amps. However, to me, it did not offer the full richness of a live performance like a tube amp like my Cayin can. Nor does any other solid state amp by me preferences have that 3 dimensional quality of the sound. However, with the Joule tube preamp feeding in to it, the Wyred 4 sound amp sounded remarkably good - and by my memory it bested my Musical Fidelity Nu Vista amp that I owned years ago as the Wyred seemed less fatiging and more analog sounding. I know of several people who like a hybrid tube pre with a solid state amp who gave up their tube amps for the Wyred. Considering the great price of the Wyred, less maintenace issues and the cost of tubes, and how respectably close it comes to the sound of a tube amp, it remains a tempting tube amp alternative and a wonderful first choice for a solid state amp.

The Wyred 4 Sound ST-250 sounded wonderful with my Spendors and plenty powerful. However, with the warmer sounding Zu Druid speakers the net sound seemed a little too soft to me. Interestingly, at the same preamp setting, my 45 Watt push pull tube Cayin played slightly louder than the Wyred 4 sound at the same setting. The Cayin has allot of iron and is a heavy amp and may be higher current I imagine. However, a friend of mine powers some demanding speakers very well with the Wyred.

Curiously, on balance, my Cayin sounded best with warmer SED KT88 tubes with the Spendors. The Cayin sounded better to me with the slightly sharper and more defined Genalex Gold Lion tubes with the warmer more tuby sounding Zu Druid speakers. Since the Zu Druids sound a little tubier and warmer than the Spendors, they benefited from being brought under control by the more defined Genalex Gold Lions.

The SET Almarro easily drove the Zu Druids. I only needed to turn the volume up to around 10 oclock to get loud music in a medium large living room. However, it was too much of a good thing for me as the net result seemed too soft and ill defined by my ears. A little too much defining etch was lost in some singers voices to me with the combination.

So, I decided to sell the lovely Spendor floorstanders and keep the Zu Druids. I cannot say the Zu Druids are superior to the Spendor S8e speakers. Just different and preferred by me for the reasons mentioned.

From my experience, if you like quick speakers which impart a very rich and open sound, you may find as I have that the Zu Druid speakers are absolutely beautiful keepers.
Very interesting, i am considering the Zu Essence, upgrading from Klipsch RF-7, anyone familiar with Klipsch and the Essence?
By the way, my 45 Watt per channel Cayin A88T did not sound very good in Triode mode with the Spendor S8e's by my ears - so I always used the Cayin in ultralinear mode. However, with the Zu Druids, triode mode with the Cayin sounds great (as does ultralinear) . Perhaps, the triode mode underpowered the more demanding Spendor speakers.
When I put in some zippier 6SL7 Mullards in tandem with a warm and rich RCA VT 231 (6SL7) tubes into my Almarro 318B, the sounded opened up dramatically and sounds great with my Zu Druid speakers. There is allot to be said for tube rolling and the Almarro 318B (and Cayin) is very reactive to rolling tubes in the pre section.

Although the Almarro 318B doesn't quit have the same soundstage, imaging, and power of the Cayin A88T, it also doesn't have that slight upper midrange sharpness that I noticed occasionally with some female singers who have etched voices with the Cayin. What the Almarro has over the Cayin is near perfect midrange timbre with vocals and instruments, though the Cayin was no slouch there either. The Almarro imaging and sounstage is good however. While the Almarro was a little more layed back than the Cayin, it pulled ahead with singers and instrumentals and the Cayin pulled ahead with detail and imaging while still strong in the midrange area.

Which amp to choose is strightly a matter of preferences and priority. If you play allot of rock or simply like an open and clear tube sound, the Cayin may be a winner for you. Or, if you like more layed back very tubey sound with delicate yet good highs or if you fatigue easily or listen to classical, the Almarro may the winner.

These are two very different amps - which have the commonality of being two of the best amps for my preferences that I have heard. As with all amps, you have to choose the one with the least compromises for your preferences in sound. Personally, I think I would like both in my system if I had the money and space.