Zu Soul Supreme Recap -- Owners, what are your preferred system pairings with them?


I'll save a long backstory, but in short I've got the Zu Soul Supremes and I absolutely love them for what they do, at least in my relatively small (13x15x9) listening room.  I've had them a couple years as a follow-on to previous Zu speakers (Unions and Cubes, which I still own).  Those followed some vintage Altec horns (16 ohm Valencias and 19s)--which I love, but love the Zus more for daily listening.  Sean recommended the Supremes over the Druids at the time for the size of my listening room, although I suspect the Druids would have been as good or better regardless.

My interest is to hear from other Zu Soul Supreme owners...not may posts in this forum from owners that I can find.  I'd prefer to focus this discussion on the Soul Supremes, as there is a lot of great info already on the Druids and Definitions (which I assume are more prevalent in the wild), even though I'm sure have a ton of overlap in system synergy.

So...

What system components are you finding to be great/phenomenal matches to the Soul Supremes, what have you compared them to, and what hasn't worked as well?   Anyone running them with what you consider to be really high-end gear?  I'm super curious to see how far these speakers can go before a speaker upgrade makes way more sense.

Jay
Eb572754 d579 4694 ba53 56462ff17761Ag insider logo xs@2xparsons
I'll start with my amp findings to date.

From best match found so far (top) to good match (bottom):

1) Primaluna Dialog Premium HP integrated with great preamp bypassing the PL pre-section, KT150s as output tubes--you can read my posts elsewhere on A-gon on my thoughts on this combo
2 tie) Simaudio Moon i-7 integrated (bypassed with same great pre-amp)--very, very close second and best SS matchup--I was a little surprised this handled all aspects even slightly better than the SIT-2 below (perhaps I shouldn't be surprised since the current version of this amp is like $12K)--maybe the tiniest "etch" and maybe "brightness" on really the top end like trumpets and some female vocals that still probably puts this just barely in 2nd for me;  maybe also a slight bit more congestion in complicated passages;  shockingly good tube-like midrange for SS
2 tie) Simaudio Moon i-7 integrated (as integrated)--the pre-section in this is stellar, and to be honest, probably not distinguishable when used just as an amp with a really good pre-amp--hence maybe the best value of all I've owned?  Still just prefer the PL HP, however
4) First Watt SIT-2 (with same great pre-amp)--very close to #s 1, 2 and 3, but a little too short on decay and "balls" at higher SPL--see my comparisons in other A-gon posts

-quality gap-

5) PL Premium HP integrated with KT150s (as integrated)--very, very good, but I think the pre-amp section could be improved (maybe with a tube-roll?)

-quality gap-

6) PL Premium HP integrated with KT120s (as integrated) -- upgrade to KT150s (better than 88s but not as good as 150s)
7) PL Premium HP integrated with KT88s (as integrated) -- upgrade to KT150s (skip the 120s)
8) McIntosh MHA100 Headphone Amp using it's speaker output--shockingly good--never tried it as just an amp, though--not sure I can bypass the pre-section
9) Transcendent OTL Mini Beast with great pre-amp (would have liked a second to bridge and use as monoblocks--may try to find a second before I sell the first...might move up the list as mono's)
10) Primaluna Premium Dialog 2 integrated with KT88s -- probably better if I bypassed it's pre-section but I haven't taken the time to run it that way since finding that combo on it's bigger brother, the HP
11) Nelson Pass Amp Camp amp build--neat little solid state amp, but runs insanely hot and ultimately didn't do it for me
12) Transcendent OTL SE--good but not as ballsy as it's bigger brother the Mini Beast

OK, that's a quick, unscientific run down based on my system, my room, the amps I own and have access to, and my opinion only.  In short, I could easily live and love the top 4 combos, but ultimately choose the tube solution with a great SS pre-amp over the two top solid states, which both had slight long-term downsides for me (the slightest listener fatigue on the SimAudio and the slightest lack of decay on the SIT-2).  I'm being VERY picky here, and feel fortunate to be able to own so many great amps that I can move around.

To note, I'm using a Truth solid state pre-amp from Ed Shilling of the Horn Shoppe--will post my pre-amp comparisons later here.  Also, the addition of a phenomenal headphone section makes #1 PL/Truth the clear winner for me.

For now.  There's 3-4 amps I'd love to hear but haven't had the chance that I suspect will give the top ones here a run on these speakers, but at a cost.

Hey Parsons, tbh I think Soul Supremes and Druids should pair well with the same amps as they use the same drivers - Defs are a bit different as they are tougher to drive. I have heard a zillion amps with Zu, so this is my experience.

For SS:
FirstWatt F7 - I've had the SIT-1 and SIT-2 in my system, but just heard the F7 and thought it was great at the LA Audio Show. I think the rumors are this is the best FW amp now
Valvet class A monos
McIntosh - all of them are good, though the quad balanced amps are best
DarTZeel - a lot of scratch though

For Tube:
Quad ii Classics (which would probably be my choice)
845-based amps such as Audion, Sophia Electric, etc.
Mastersound SEP EL34 integrated 

I am not a 300B fan, so can't help in that direction. With Zu, I tended to prefer P/P over SET but that's personal preference. I generally don't like SET bass.

I'll chime in, as I own Superflys.  I was using FirstWatt amps for a few years (F3/M2), but I'm using a vintage Sansui AU-666 now.  I'm doing a very un-audiophile thing... I bumped up the floor gap on the Superflys to about an inch and I leave the loudness button on at all volume levels.  

Talk about a party... you get the Fender stack dynamics that Zu talks about in their marketing spiel and great tone from the vintage amp.  Bass does not sound bloated at all, it sounds like a decent subwoofer is in the system.  Clarity and resolution is a step down from the FW amps but to my ears the tradeoff is worth it.
Great stuff, thank you both.

I'm coincidentally considering trying an 845 set amp.  Quad II Classics are also a great suggestion...will read up more on those.

I really want to love the First Watt stuff...someone has suggested I need to pair it with a really really good tube preamp rather than SS.  I tried it with an ARC LS-28...the pre had 100 hours on it and I think(?) was broken in, but still didn't totally sing for me with any of the 3 amps I tried.  I know a ton of people love them.  

As for the Sansui--totally awesome.  My Zu Cubes are in a third system with a Marantz 2365 and there are times where I want to listen to that combo more than some of my other stuff.
Atma-Sphere M60 would pair well.
parsons - you might look at the Melody AN845 integrated. I forgot to list that one.


I have the Omen Def mk2's with Radian upgrade. I use a Decware SET with a complement of Winged "C" tubes.  Very good tone, texture and bass. 
I bought a pair of Thoress 845 SET monos...very, very nice.  Waiting on some NOS replacement driver tubes before I declare full victory and move it to my #1 (to date), but they sound totally awesome with the mismatched ones that came with it already, so pretty sure it's a shoe-in, despite my long love affair with the Prima Luna/KT150s.

Would still like to try/hear direct comparisons to:

Atma-Sphere Novacrons
Atma-Sphere M60s
Audion Black Shadows
Decware SET (last_lemming, good call, read great things)
Linear Tube Audio ZOTL40 MKII
Melody AN845 (and compare to my Thoresses!)

I would also like to try a 300B SET (like the Audion Golden Nights)...but from reading alone, with my love of the KT150 tube characteristics over less powerful ones in that line (down to the EL34), I expect I might not enjoy the 300B as much as the 845.  I know that's controversial to some.  (That's why I said I'd like to hear one.)


"Hey Parsons, tbh I think Soul Supremes and Druids should pair well with the same amps as they use the same drivers - Defs are a bit different as they are tougher to drive. I have heard a zillion amps with Zu, so this is my experience."

Yes, per Sean Casey, they use the same drivers and everything just different form and footprint (and price)

OK, so I bought a Melody AN845 and the MicroZotl pre-amp/1w amp with NOS tubes and the external power supply.  Both sound fantastic.  The MicroZotl as a pre with the Thoress 845 monos is superb--better than the MicroZotl as an intergrated, but I'm shocked at how good the MicroZotl is on it's own with just its 1w.  I'm going to roll some more tubes, then I'll put some thoughts together as to my new rankings.  The Atma-Sphere MP-1 is still in for its tune up...when back we can run some more pre and amp combos as well.
Since I would have wanted to see this list before I went on my amp quest (I'm still on it), I'll post my updated list...a year later from the last list.  

If anyone is driving Zu Druid 6s or Zu Soul Supremes, here is my prioritized/ranked list.  I would expect this list to be the same for Definition 4s or Druid 5s, although I don't own either of those two sets of speakers--but they share enough DNA with my 2 sets that I would predict their alignment.

Here’s my stack rank of amps to date, from best match-up to not-as-phenomenal:

1.  Decware Taboo III and Atma-Sphere MP-1 (HUGE surprise to me, but it's incredible)
2.  Audion Golden Dream I’s with upgraded caps, Atma-Sphere MP-1
3.  Thoress 845 monos, Atma-Sphere MP-1
4.  Linear Tube Audio MicroZOTL2, Atma-Sphere MP-1
5.  Linear Tube Audio MicroZOTL2, as integrated

-quality gap-

6.  Melody 845 integrated
7.  Primaluna Dialog Premium HP integrated with great preamp bypassing the PL pre-section, KT150s as output tubes--you can read my posts elsewhere on A-gon on my thoughts on this combo
8 tie.  Simaudio Moon i-7 integrated (bypassed with same great pre-amp)--very, very close second and best SS matchup--I was a little surprised this handled all aspects even slightly better than the SIT-2 below (perhaps I shouldn't be surprised since the current version of this amp is like $12K)--maybe the tiniest "etch" and maybe "brightness" on really the top end like trumpets and some female vocals that still probably puts this just barely in 2nd for me;  maybe also a slight bit more congestion in complicated passages;  shockingly good tube-like midrange for SS
8 tie. Simaudio Moon i-7 integrated (as integrated)--the pre-section in this is stellar, and to be honest, probably not distinguishable when used just as an amp with a really good pre-amp--hence maybe the best value of all I've owned?  Still just prefer the PL HP, however
10.  First Watt SIT-2 (with same great pre-amp)--very close to #s 7, 8s and 9, but a little too short on decay and "balls" at higher SPL--see my comparisons in other A-gon posts

-quality gap-

11.  PL Premium HP integrated with KT150s (as integrated)--very, very good, but I think the pre-amp section could be improved (maybe with a tube-roll?)

-quality gap-

12.  PL Premium HP integrated with KT120s (as integrated) -- upgrade to KT150s (better than 88s but not as good as 150s)
13.  PL Premium HP integrated with KT88s (as integrated) -- upgrade to KT150s (skip the 120s)
14.  McIntosh MHA100 Headphone Amp using it's speaker output--shockingly good--never tried it as just an amp, though--not sure I can bypass the pre-section
15 tie. Transcendent OTL Mini Beast with great pre-amp (would have liked a second to bridge and use as monoblocks--may try to find a second before I sell the first...might move up the list as mono’s)15 tie. Anthem P2 with great pre-amp
17.  Primaluna Premium Dialog 2 integrated with KT88s -- probably better if I bypassed it's pre-section but I haven't taken the time to run it that way since finding that combo on it's bigger brother, the HP
18.  Nelson Pass Amp Camp amp build--neat little solid state amp, but runs insanely hot and ultimately didn't do it for me
19.  Transcendent OTL SE--good but not as ballsy as it's bigger brother the Mini Beast
How's the Taboo with no preamp, did you try that?
Great question--one I actually thought of myself after I posted the update.

It's very, very solid directly from the Schiit Yggy (latest version).  If I'm honest, it's not giving much up, if anything.  Perhaps a tiny bit of breadth and depth in the sound stage--maybe just a little bit more flat in this regard, but not much, and certainly not "flat"--still massive.  It's dropped just the slightest bit of sparkle on cymbals.  I think the midrange is tending to fall just the slightest bit more centrally in the soundstage, which may be the same point I'm making from the first soundstage comments.  Decay is just the slightest bit reduced, which is lowering the live sound a tiny bit perhaps.

But I'm being very, very nitpicky here.  It still sounds phenomenal.  I can say I don't prefer it to having the MP-1 pre-amp in the mix, but I will say this...if I had access to some of my not-as-excellent preamps to put in to try, I suspect I would only prefer a pre-amp in the mix with the absolute best of them.  It's extremely solid as an integrated.  I would still probably say it's better than the Audions in my system, which is saying a TON.  YMMV.

Two additional data points...I have only heard the Audions and the Taboo III side-by-side with my Druid 6s, and I haven't yet heard the Taboo III with the Soul Supremes.  I won't get to for several more weeks as I'm in process of a long move to a new house.  So I'm only assuming it will have the same synergy with those speakers.

Also, the Taboo III did NOT blow my socks off with my 16 ohn Altec Valencias.  It was good, maybe even great, but not the level of synergy the Taboo seems to have with the Druid 6s.  In fact, I think I can say I still prefer the Melody 845 with the Valencias.
I have the Zu Audio "Soul" speakers not the supremes but I can say they pair very well with the three Decware Amps I have...Zen signature monoblocks at 2.3 wpc, Rachael at about 6 wpc, and the Torii MK IV at 20 wpc.  I like using a CSP3 preamp and more recently have added a ZROCK II to the mix...all Decware products.  Mark. 
I'm digging in on the Decware stuff.  I haven't read too many Zu owners with Decware that weren't very, very satisfied.  From the Decware side, it seems like Steve's design philosophy should align perfectly with Zus, so maybe it shouldn't be a surprise.
Big thumbs up for Nat Audio tube gear from Serbia, on my Zu Definitions 4 spkrs.
70W SE2SE 211s have replaced 35W Audion Black Shadow 845s, plus the Utopia tube pre.
Have never looked back.
Great read - thanks for your feedback on the various amps and combinations.  Nice to read the LTA plays in that league - although reported QC issues prevented me from ordering one.

Did you roll the tubes on the Melody? Pretty important as the stock ones stink.

Fyi- Definitions have a higher power requirement than Druids...


I have rolled the tubes on the Melody a couple of times.  I'm running Elrogs in my Thoress monoblocks and they are the best tubes I've found for those amps, but they seemed to actually be slightly too aggressive in the Melody, oddly.  I got ahold of a new pair of PSVane WE Replica 845s and those are my faves between the 4-5 sets of 845s I own in this Melody amp.  Myself and others posted our thoughts on a number of these 845s in another a-gon thread if interested.  Agree, the Melody branded 845s are not awful, but can be improved upon IMHO.
I am pairing my ZU Omen Mark 2 speakers  with upgraded drivers now 103 ...16 ohm .... they sound very good with my Kenwood KA 8100 integrated Amp.