Zu Essence mini review
Had the opportunity to get a pair of Essence 'speakers into my living room for a week long listen. Here are some thoughts.
Visual appearance: Quite ordinary looking, being ‘brown and square’ as wifey said. Druid is more unusual and contemporary looking and fit into rooms better.
The overriding initial impression of the Essence is of a tipped-up presentation. You are hit square on with a mass of detail. Coming from an upgraded Druid I have been listening to for the past 4 years (~2 years upgraded) the dynamic highs reach much further into the room. The longer, lasting impression however is one of loss of overall cohesion and balance.
A connection can be felt with the highs on a sort of sonic resonance level with the inner ear which is uncomfortable. This for want of a better word ringing, radiates from the ear down the Eustachian tube, into the back of the jaw and into the nasal pharynx of the sides of the nose. Prolonged listening at moderate volume brought on a tension type headache.
The central presentation ability is very impressive. Even at low volume levels the centre image is firm, fixed and full, albeit a little thin. On simple uncomplicated recordings, such as soft female vocal/minimalist jazz, this imaging is very striking. However, on longer listening it becomes apparent the highs are disconnected with the mids. As the highs are disproportionately projected, the mids are left behind, further back in the presentation, which separates the whole, thinning vocals and disjointing the cohesiveness of the music. There is not the relaxed ease and sheer musical flow of the Druid. When you relax your ear and attempt to soften the sound together, and look for the music, there is an overall dullness to the sound. The music suffers as a result as the mids seem quite constrained in comparison with the rest, and ultimately the sound seems as if it’s being forced through a conduit somehow strangling the music at the throat. This sounds harsh comment, and for a ‘speaker I was so wanting to like. You can’t quite lose yourself in the music, just as you’re settling in to the music, something jumps out and jars you out of the moment. It’s as if the ‘speaker is too jumped up like a overzealous excited youth.
One has to sum the Essence Druid comparison in comparing it to the 'HiFi 'Speaker vs. Music 'Speaker' issue. Druids are without doubt concerned with extracting the musical guts of a recording, regardless of its quality. Essence in comparison sounds like it's been designed to impress reviewers and 'HiFi fans'... exactly the kind of people who would have failed to understand the Druids.