Zu Audio Dominance Speaker

Zu Audio is well known for relatively affordable high-performance speakers, so it came as a bit of a surprise to see—and hear—a new, high-priced flagship from the Utah-based company at CES (actually, T.H.E. Show) last January. The Dominance raises the bar for Zu and gives other ultra-high-end speakers a run for their money.

Standing over five feet tall and weighing 350 pounds, the Dominance starts with three 10-inch paper-cone drivers described as being "nanotech-impregnated" (whatever that means) with smaller, coincident "whizzer" cones activated by the same voice coil. Each of these drivers is mounted at one end of its own cylindrical subenclosure called a ZuRG cartridge, a rear-loading system based on a motorcycle muffler designed by Ron Griewe, late editor of Cycle World magazine (hence the "RG" in this technology's designation). Amazingly, the frequency range of these drivers extends from 30Hz to 12kHz!

Sitting at the base is a 15-inch, down-firing subwoofer, while the highs are handled by two 3-inch, horn-loaded, ring-radiator tweeters mounted above and below the full-range drivers, forming a fully time- and phase-aligned vertical array. The end result is an overall frequency range from 14Hz to 20kHz with an astounding sensitivity of 101dB/W/m. And unlike most other speakers, this one has no internal crossover—on the back are three sets of binding posts for the subwoofer, full-range drivers, and tweeters.

So how much, you ask? $40,000/pair. Of course, that's not so much when you consider the six-figure price of many other speakers I've featured here, but don't forget outboard crossovers and three separate amps per speaker, which will add considerably to the overall cost of the system.

After hearing the Dominance in Las Vegas last January, Stereophile editor John Atkinson reported, "For the dem, the subwoofer was powered by a Pass Labs XA30.5 but the main drive-units were driven by a 1.5Wpc Yamamoto SET amp. Yup, just 1.5W, but the Dominances still managed to fill the room with sound. Lows were tight and extended; imaging was tangible; jump factor was startling; but I couldn't get away from a touch of character in the mid-treble imparted by those whizzer cones."