[Discontinued. R.I.P. 2008–2013]
Cover of Stereophile, October 2009!
Exceptional Value Award —TONEAudio
Stereophile 2010 Recommended Components
"Zu Audio's Essence speaker breaks almost every high-end design rule and sounds all the better for it!" —Home Entertainment 2010
"The Zu Essence is a big speaker, with a really big sound, fully capable of rocking out like few high-end speakers anywhere near its price can." —Audiophiliac / CNET 2010
"In a hi-fi world largely populated by loudspeakers that stick pretty close to the marketplace stereotype, it's always interesting and challenging to come across something that is very different and which quite deliberately flouts normal loudspeaker design conventions, such as these Zu Essence loudspeaker." —Hi-Fi Choice 2010 "★ ★ ★ ★"
"Of course, the midrange, which has always been a strong suit for Zu speakers, came through with the dynamics and clarity that first caught my attention years ago, so pardon me if I don't go into much more detail than that. Overall, it is clear to me that this speaker system is a winner and delivers the goods in a delightful, effective and fun way." —Stereotimes 2010
"...the Zu Essence is the second greatest value you can buy today." —6moons.com 2010
"The Zu Essence is not a hair-shirt product, in which regard alone it has surpassed at least half the high-efficiency loudspeakers in the domestic marketplace. Inasmuch as it's among the more affordable choices—exponentially, in some cases—it has surpassed many of the rest. The Essence is something of a milestone." —Art Dudley, Stereophile 2009
"The Zu Essence speakers will transport you to an extremely enjoyable place that few speakers can. I'd say the name is very appropriate." —TONEAudio 2009
"This gets us to an inevitable while sobering conclusion: the Zu Essence gets squarely right what many far more expensive speakers fail to even consider." —6moons.com
Zu Essence is engineered from the ground up to set the standard for what is possible from an affordable high fidelity loudspeaker that fits comfortably in mainstream homes and apartments. And like all Zu products Essence is built around the critical human voice (A1, 55Hz, through A6 and all the possible harmonics, to approximately 10kHz). Serving this critical region of tone is Zu's 4th generation 10" [26cm] paper coned full-range driver which is specifically engineered for the Essence platform. And to carry all the burnish and harmonic structure of instruments and content, Zu integrates a sophisticated high efficiency ribbon tweeter. Marry the ribbon and Zu's highly developed high efficiency 10" full-range driver to the first Zu design to fully implement Zu-Griewe acoustic technology and witness the transformation of sound—a new level of realism and fidelity of playback—difficult to describe but effortlessly heard. This is true high-end audio performance from a hand-crafted speaker that fits in any room and costs less than a middling phono cartridge in today's audiophile market.
Please download the price list for options.
Zu Essence Quick Specs
HxWxD: 49 x 12 x 12" [125 x 30.5 x 30.5cm]
Footprint: 12-1/2 x 12-1/2" [32 x 32cm]
Weight: 67 pounds [30kg]
Efficiency: 97dB 1W/1m
Impedance: 12 ohm
Power Amp Range: 4—300 watt
Download SPECS for additional detail.
We started with the challenge to upgrade Druid, the original Zu loudspeaker The research and development project that produced the Zu Essence loudspeaker began with intent to create a "Super Druid" upgrade to the original Zu Druid loudspeaker and fill a price gap between that speaker and our then pinnacle Definition model. Some Druid customers challenged us to make a less fussy Druid (its adjustable floor-to-base gap tried the patience of some) with more extended bass that would sound linear in a greater variety of rooms. They asked for extended, more transparent top end and less directionality. Essentially, bargain lovers wanted as much of what we offered in Definition at half the price or less, and without Definition's sonic scale so it would work in smaller rooms. Yet they wanted Druid's simple form: single full-range driver augmented by a single super tweeter in a crossoverless design, within Zu's trademark 12 x 12" [31 x 31cm] footprint bearing a slim obelisk.
Zu Essence features Zu's Zu-Griewe technology, a driver/cabinet/room acoustic impedance architecture. The technology was developed by Ron Griewe and Sean Casey, with its beginnings developed for motorcycle / automotive engine exhaust systems for improving power output through pulse and pressure management within an increased bandwidth (wider power band). Fully incorporating Zu-Griewe acoustic technology into a Druid-style speaker required us to abandon Druid's distinctive monolithic form in favor of a full 12 x 12" column. We eliminated the need to painstakingly adjust the base-to-floor air gap in Druid by mounting Essence on a fixed-gap double plinth. The Zu full-range driver was reworked with a and slightly stiffer, slightly heavier cone, with a completely redesigned phase plug for more linear management of high frequencies and broader dispersion from the directly coupled to voice coil inner cone. That left the question of what to do to improve the performance above 10kHz. So far, these improvements over Druid came at only moderate increases in cost. We wanted this to be an affordable loudspeaker that set a new benchmark in performance-per-dollar in high-end audio loudspeakers, so the top-end improvements had to come on a budget. Enter TB. Ribbon tweeters are fast, extended, revealing and capable of exquisite aural subtlety, but in the past they've been expensive and difficult to successfully integrate with most cone speakers. But our interest in the advantages of ribbon super tweeters goes back years and we're plugged in to new developments. When we were exploring alternatives for this last bit of the "Super Druid" design, we discovered a new ribbon tweeter, which is excellent, value-priced and possessed characteristics that made it a great candidate for seamless integration with the Zu full-range driver. When we were done with the design, prototypes built, tested and listened to, we knew we had something more than a Super Druid. We had in one speaker, smack in the middle of our line, the very Essence of Zu.
True tone, real bass and explosive dynamics for "HD" music reproduction on reasonable
Essence has the tone purity that's trademark of Druid's simplicity, with none of that speaker's consciously-chosen limitations in scale nor its minor colorations accepted for economic considerations. Essence will not deliver the ultimate scale and explosive power of Definition, but its true 30Hz bass extension and excellent horizontal dispersion make it as useful for uncompromised home theater in HT 7.1, 5.1 or 2.0 systems as well as audiophile stereo systems. Essence delivers inimitable intimacy for solo voice or violin, with the convincing emotion only possible with our full-range driver's extraordinary tone density, while jumping to life for jazz, all forms of rock, blues, country, folk... or the challenging power of a full symphony orchestra, still able to descend with pleasure to the dark and intimate side of all forms of sincere music. Zu Essence will also bring the fully bombastic theater experience to dynamic Blu-Ray soundtracks. And Essence will do all of this even with modest amplifiers.
In a market where many loudspeaker makers think nothing of charging you a hundred Benjamins for speakers that have special strengths and glaring weaknesses, and that further drain your wallet by requiring exclusively exotic, premium amplification, Zu puts true high-end audio performance in your home for about a third that. And the amplifier-friendly impedance of Essence along with its super power efficiency opens the whole wide world of amplification to you. From a $100 eBay-sourced '70s classic Marantz receiver to a tweaker's delight four watts per channel triode tube amp, to the latest solid state behemoth, and anything in between, Essence will sound good, get your feet tapping (occasionally your whole body) and take maximum advantage of what you wire to them.
For music lovers of every technical era
Essence is simply complete in form and quality of sound. Order your pair of Essence today, with full no questions asked 60 days return privilege. Pull the stuff you really listen to from the depths of your CD, LP or download music collection, and let the Essence work its magic. Essence is the speaker that will amaze and delight the most bleeding-edge computer audio evangelist, vinyl bottle head vigilante and silver-disc bits-spinner equally. If you love music in your own home, alive with all the passion the artist originally recorded, get Essence today.
"All of us at Zu are super excited about the Essence; it truly does embody all that we have been reaching for these past years. It will convincingly playback everything we throw at it—the stuff we love, from big power music like Wagner and Zakk Wylde, to the super complex, explosive and phrased. It reveals all the sweet angelic yet spicy timbre of Bjork, and the blood and guts emotion of Joe Strummer and Lucinda Williams, or the twisted and cold realities of Edward Ka-Spel. Yeah, it does nuance, light 'n shadow, and dynamic contrast like we have never heard from anything remotely close to this size and price. There's nothing hyped or Technicolored in its playback either, what goes in is what comes out, be it raw, bombastic, animated, dirty, hi-fi , funk, ambient, or whatever. I dig this loudspeaker!" —Sean Casey, founder, Zu Audio
Essence loudspeakers are factory burned-in for at least 160 hours, while this is not full burn-in it gets them well on their way and conditions them to sound awesome within a week or two. Nevertheless, If at first you find Essence restrained and a bit conservative, especially if they were shipped in the winter months, relax, they will come around.... As they play they will open up and and transform from reserved to engaging. If you have questions on burn-in please see our FAQ section.