Tongan Labs F6 vs Zu Audio Omen Dirty Weekend Mk.II

Sadly, I can't figure out how to edit the title to "Tonian Labs" and somehow my spellcheck screwed this up. I also realized there’s no way to post images in these forums, so I simply attached an 8 second YouTube video just to show those who may be curious what the speakers look like. We used a couple of different amplifiers for our comparison and I thought it would be interesting to share how these two nice speakers compared.

A couple of times out of the year, Zu Audio sells the Mk.II for just $999, so my friend Luigi acquired a pair in walnut finish. This added $400 extra in price but in the grand scheme, this is still a nice deal. I’ve heard this term called a "fun speaker". More on that later.

Luigi and I recently attended the LA Audio show in Long Beach California just a couple of weeks ago. I first went into the open vendor section which is a large hall where they sell records and such. When I walked in, I heard an amazing sound coming from the corner. When I walked over, it was Tony Minasian selling his CD’s. He was playing one of them called Drums & Bells

When I heard this, I literally dropped my jaw in disbelief. I said I’ll take all three discs for $50. I couldn’t believe the sound coming from these little bookshelf speakers and these recordings and I was just glued to this booth. Out came the most intricate, dynamic details in music. I swear I have never heard any recording in my life that sounds like this in fact I played this CD in all the rooms and I don’t even recall a single room I played it in where the vendors themselves and the audiophiles listening to it didn’t ask where it came from. Every person that heard it asked... where did you get this? I said...... Tonian Labs booth on the 2nd floor.

After going to every room I could and playing the Drums & Bells CD, I still could not stop coming back to these little Tonian Labs F6 speakers. They were just so fast with every detail in the music. It’s difficult to describe in words. They’re just simply amazing speakers. They’re $2500 a pair and they use a 1" dome tweeter and a 6" woofer with a little port in the back. They’re 90db efficient and 8 ohm’s. I managed acquire the F6’s speakers to try them at my friend Luigi’s.

I then set them up at his place and invited my close good friend John Hawk who’s an instructor at CalArts and recording engineer himself and teaches video. Hawk also invented the HawkBucker guitar pickup. He has a good appreciation for recordings and sound which is sometimes a tough combo. So, after going back and forth between these two speakers, there’s some pretty big differences between the Zu MkII and Tonian Labs F6. The Zu’s are 97db efficient, so I had to adjust the volume down a bit when comparing.

We played several music genras from jazz to classical and rock. The Zu’s have really good bass extension and are ported at the bottom but they don’t sound as refined or as smooth as the F6 and ironically miss a bit in the midrange. The Zu sound more like a speaker you crank up and play loud at a party. They are really a bargain, but you don’t quite get all the intricate and dynamic details in the music like you do in the Tonian Lab F6. The F6 is a smaller speaker of course, so there’s less bass but in all fairness we could have achieved more bass with the F6 by simply placing the it closer to the wall where the Zu’s were.

All of us took turns sitting at the center to have a listen and no matter what music we played, the F6’s prevailed with spine tingling clarity. Symbols and drums simply sounded breathtaking in the F6’s. It was like the Picasso of sound. Every single one of us overwhelmingly agreed that the Tonian Labs F6 stole the night and eventually we all just ended up listening to the F6’s all night long till 1:30am.

I get what others mean about the term "fun speakers" and perhaps the Zu’s are the kind of speaker you play at a party. The sound is just a little bit rough around the corners IMO. They’re beautiful to look at though and it does’t take much to drive them. I was just a bit surprised that the mids were not as present in the Zu’s. Anyway, there you have it.

Happy listening,

I have been a big fan of Tony's speakers for some time. I owned the TL-D1s a while back and used them in my exhibit room at THE SHOW Las Vegas with a 45 SET amp. His speakers have always sounded very lively with excellent timbre. Like you I was also at the event in Long Beach and heard the little bookshelf speakers. I was pretty amazed and kept coming back to listen to them over and over.

You might also recall he wasn't using anything special to play the music. An old Marantz CD player and inexpensive NAD integrated. I have always been amazed at how Tony sets up his systems at shows using mid-fi components, yet gets amazing sound from whatever speakers he is using. I bought all 3 CDs as well and they sounded great on my system at home, but I can't help but recall how amazing those little bookshelf speakers were.
Looks, and sounds, like Tony's got another winner of a speaker. The tone and timbre from the video was wonderful so I can only imagine what they sound like live.

All the best,
I agree with your assessment of Zu speakers.
I owned a pair of Union and Omen Bookshelves. They were very capable, but lacked a certain refinement that my Vandy's provide (Treo's and VLR).
I think they are very good at their price point, and that is probably why they sell so well.
Geez...the youtube video is only a few seconds long!
Yea, Tony uses a simple $750 NAD integrated and it sounds as good as anything else I've heard, its crazy. Makes me wonder what I'm doing with a my tube amps haha. The man's a genius. Interestingly, he recommends the Denon PMA-1600NE and specifically this model. He indicated that it had some unique internals.
Yes, I’m really sorry I didn’t video longer. I took a good number of pictures in the hopes that I could figure out how to attach them, then I learned that audiogon doesn’t grant a way to post images. I’ll see if I can post them on a site to link to. Here we go.
Did the Zus have the Clarity Cap upgrades, curios? 

By the way, I'm a huge fan of Tony's speakers

Slightly off-topic: It may sound a bit anal, but it really annoys the hell out of me that the 3 CDs are packed differently. 1st CD thick digipak, 2nd CD thinner digipak, 3rd CD jewel case. I know it’s the content that matters, but I wished the packaging would be consistent.
No clarity cap upgrades as far as I know.