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naggots

Manley Mahis & Zu Druids review....ish

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After Having my last pair of speakers for 18yrs.....Trevor Lees Supertowers, with the odd mod to crossovers and internal wiring as well as Tweeter and woofer foam replacements. I decided to change. The sound was good but not engaging anymore......you know how it goes!

In came Zu Druids Mk4/08 which I modded to greatly improve the treble & 2 Mini Methods for stereo subs. The sound was spectacular by comparison. Not so much with detail and air and all the HiFi stuff but with that LIVE performance feel and in room slam.

But still the sound was sterile and not engaging.

In came the Manley Mahis......I changed the input EH 12AT7 for some Brimar cv4033 1961 blackplates from Tubemonger (much better)

I listen to Blues mainly, reasonably loud 80-90db and I have never experienced music in a home that can almost match a live performance until now. The Mahi's switched to Triode and min feedback are truly amazing in this area... Buddy Guy is in the room and playing his guts out....Soundstage and presence galore with the guitar leaping out from the speakers. Quite different to the ARC VT50 I had for years. The ARC was more recessed with soundstage, pushing the guitar behind the speakers. Bass with the 4 x 6550s was tighter and deeper than the EL84s but the latter excels in mids. The treble is so smooth and fluid in contrast to lean and slightly harsh and ultimately fatiguing.

The biggest difference is My wife, she now wants me to turn it up......or she now doesn't mind the music being on at all!

I've experimented with all the Mahi's settings and I found Triode with minimum feedback to be the best for acoustic, blues etc at this setting I guess I have around 10 watts into my 12ohm speaker load. The Mahi's being optimized for 5 ohm loads and rated at 14w at this setting. Ultralinear with standard feedback will give me around 35w. This setting seems to be best for general party, pop, dance style music. Everything is cleaner and tighter with only a slight loss in the triode magic. Max feedback sounds subdued and brittle......similar to the ARC which interestingly had 8.5db feedback, the Mahi's have 3db on min, 6db std and 10db max.

I guess the Druids and Mini Methods have the final say in how the music sounds but the differences between these Amps is what really made the speaker come alive.

Not sure how relevant this review will be to anyone but I thought I'd share my experiences anyway.

Associated gear

Trevor Lees Audio Positive Vibrations Valve pre amp (8x163 Mullard).

Wadia 170i with Channel Islands Audio VDA2/VAC1 dac combo connected with Cardas Neutral Ref digital IC's. 80gb Ipod with WAV music.

Zu Druid Mk4/08 + Mundorf/Duelund Hi Pass upgrades. 2 x ZU Mini Method subs.

Thorens 160mk2 Modified.

Zu Libtec and Varial IC'c

Similar products

Audio Research VT50.

Rotel RCD975.

Trevor Lees Audio Supertowers.

various IC's and speaker cables over the years from Kimber, Goertz, DH labs, Cardas, Stereovox, OCC silver Neotech

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Hi naggots,

Thanks for the write up :(

I owned a pair of Druid IV's up until very recently and find myself agreeing with many of your comments. Could never quite come to terms with the treble on them, which was too recessed for my tastes. And, yes, they're not about air and detail...but what they do well, they do very well indeed.

It's interesting that you find the Manley in triode mode with no NFB to be the best setting. I tried a number of amps with mine, but the one to beat (by a loooong way) was a Weston Acoustics Time Machine. 300B SET (9w/ch) with (you guessed it) no negative feedback. They do come alive with the right amp; can sound lifeless (sterile, as you say) with the wrong one.

Unfortunately those 9 watts weren't quite enough to satisfy my headbanging side :) Neither was the Druids' bass quite enough for me; they rolled off below 70Hz in my room. Twin Mini-Methods are no doubt a big help in that regard.

Perhaps I should have tried a Manley in ultralinear...I might still have the Zu's :P

Cheers, Dave.

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You're dead on the Druids alone really suffer from lack of low end, 2 Minis fills them in perfectly and seamlessly, quite amazing really.

I spoke to Earle a while ago about an amp........before my VT50.....small world! 0 feedback is the go, however for electronic dance music the UL and std feedback is definitely better

I modded the Mk4/08 tweeters by replacing the Kimber Kap and Mills resistor with Mundorf silver in Oil caps and Duelund resistors of the same value, as the new products were 4 times larger than the old I used Duelund 0.5 silver foil in oil soaked silk hookup wire for the -ve. The treble is really good now, extended and smooth with far more presence than before. Zu use Mundorf SIO's in their Def2 and Presence speakers and all the reviews say these have better treble than the Druids......which is why I went ahead......and for $200 what did I have to lose.

Having said that though the treble detail of my old Supertowers with their Focal inverted dome tweets was a bit better than these Druids are now but they were harsh at times.....you cant have it all.......and I prefer the dynamics and energy the Druids display, AC/DC on vinyl, full volume, rattles the windows next door:cool:

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I've owned Zu Druids with a Method sub for two years now. I've found that they image better than anything I've ever owned. Currently using Quad Classic II-forty amps with a Manley 300B Neoclassic preamp. Interesting that the Manley gear and the Zus seem to be so compatible.

Most of the valves have been changed in both the preamp and the amps. Big difference from stock tubes.

You might find that the Zu Ibis rather than the Libtec speaker cables would also give you a significant improvement. You won't have to wonder and think twice whether or not there is a difference. Those Zu boys make good wire and speakers.

Have you tried their power cords? They are back selling the Boks on ebay. They are outstanding value for the money.

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Thanks for sharing your review. I certainly liked the Druids when I heard them.

Great you have had such an improvement.

Cheers

tricka

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I havnt tried power cords yet, the minis came with Zu births. I will look look for some boks. I'm thinking of trying a Monarchy DIP between Wadia dock and Dac.

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An update if anyone is interested.

I upgraded the MK4/08 drivers to the new Soul Superfly HO FRDs and Tweeters (with 600 hrs factory burn in). Had to change the Duelund resistor to 10ohms from 12. The Mundorf silver oil caps stayed the same 1uf.

Also did some cabinet mods with advice from Sean at ZU, sound damped the cabinets with SoundPaint, added bracing and Griewe loaded with an open cell foam wedge.

The new drivers have a lot more punch and attack, treble is brighter and more focused but never harsh, bass has improved from the Druids so the mini methods are turned down a notch now. 16 ohms and 101db now....compared to 12omhs and 101db, the new drivers play louder so suspect the older ones were nearer 98db as in the new Zu Omens which use the same FRD but different phase plug.

The dynamic scale is amazing, I find music without it lifeless now, the Live music feel and presence is addictive.

$600 worth of upgrades has given me a much improved speaker which according to Sean is 98% Soul Superfly standard now.....without the hassle of shipping/selling/buying etc.

I also tried the new Mission ICs with a Zu promotion deal $98 a set, to me they were better than the Gedes and Varial mk3....which I sold for more! a first to actually make money on a HiFi deal!!!! Sean said to stick with the Libtech as the Druids are wired with it internally.

I made my own power cords using some shielded high quality 1.5mm 3 core instrument cable and clipsal heavy duty plugs. the new cords go to the mini methods whilst the Zu birth are used on the DAC and Pre-amp. Not sure if i noticed much difference with this tweak tho.

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I installed 2 x 120 pabst fans at the rear of the cabinet to be used for my dancing classes and run them with 6v so they are slow and quiet. the Mahi's remain cool to touch even after hours of use.

Edited by kurtdaniel

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Guest Muon

You got a thumbs up from the wife?

That's gotta mean more than anything else in this hobby :)

Nice gear mate :P

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I bought them as a package on AGon when I was working in the USA. The owner sent them to Zu for a check up, Zu packed them for me and I arranged shipping to Oz. $3500 all up I couldn't go wrong.

Happy wife = happy life :P

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I ended up selling the wadia and ci dac and buying a 2011 Mac mini, jkmk3 and Metrum octave. Much much better digital front end now. More detail wider soundstage and no listening fatigue...... Plus I can see all my photos of the family on the big screen!!!

I upgraded my "pos vibes" Trevor Lees pre amp to his new one...... Very nice indeed.

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Guest Muon

Nice changes on the front end, and the wife is happy too..............can't ask for more than that :)

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Wow naggots....thats awesome.

Well done on pursuing the sound you like in such a dedicated way.

I think I can just imagine what the sound is like. Brilliant.

The only thing I think of to improve your experience although your probably doing it is a trial of using an Apple player like Fidelia to up-sample using a minimal pre-ringing filter - http://www.audiofile-engineering.com/support/helpdesk/index.php?pg=kb.page&id=106

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Ive been using Bitperfect and Audirvana plus so far but will try Fidelia and minimal pre ringing filter. Thanks. Im also trying the JKDAC32 and will send it around in early Feb

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An update if anyone is interested. 

 

A couple years ago, 2014-15, I was offered some upgrades from Zu

 

I replaced the amps in the mini methods with the new Zu Hypex amps. Incredible difference in bass quality and way more tweakable controls. Really simple diy. 

 

I also updated the Druids with the MK5 FRDs and Radian tweeter assembly with the Clarity cap tweeter network. Some extra acoustic foam was added behind the FRD. The new tweeter is massive, it's heavier and about the same diameter as the magnet on the 10" FRD!!! The tweeter lens compresses the front baffle to stiffen it up. I had to sand off some sound paint I'd added in an earlier upgrade for the tweeter/cabinet sandwich to work. 

 

With some emails from Sean, I changed the bottom plinth and added a 6mm AL plate sandwiched to the plinth with 1mm insertion rubber. The griewe wedge now sits on the AL plate with radial ports similar to the MK5 setup.  

 

Sean also gave me the impedance plot for the MK5 FRD. I then gave this plot to Earle and he wound some magic into a Topaz KT120, centering the transformers on 12ohms as most of the FRD performance is in that region. 42 watts of class A goodness and around 4 negative feedback. 

 

My Mac mini still lives on but it now feeds a Klein SE dac......

 

They Music coming from this setup is alive now. Vocal power and presence startles you. Bass is tight and fast. The Radian tweeter is amazing at displaying all the detail and air without harshness. Huge soundstage now. The overall change in sound is staggering........I'm pretty happy about it. 

 

The new Druid mk6, while still using the same FRD and Radian tweeter, has a completely changed cabinet setup, using composite materials and different driver mounting structures...... it also gone up in price by $5k........ 

 

All up my upgrades cost $1200, not bad for 2x Bass amps, Radian tweeters and machined lenses, 10" FRDs and acoustic materials. 

 

 

Edited by naggots

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Great read. I’ve ordered a set of DefMKII with the radian upgrade - hopefully arriving by Xmas. Very happy to hear the radian is worth it!

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How did they go?

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Well.........updated the Klein SE to a Grob Dac plus Curious USB........with the same Mac Mini and Audirvana. Began Dabbling in Vinyl with a Thorens TD147 Jubilee and Shure 97Xe set up by Duc (RIP) plus a Schiit Mani/Swagman LPSU. Will be looking for another Phono stage soon but at the moment it offers good bang for the buck. 

 

Vinyl soundstage is totally different, more detail with L&R speakers firing off with various instruments....... it’s fantastic.  Not quite the slam or tightness of the digital side tho.  The Grob dac is a large step up from the Klein SE,  totally fluid and engaging.  I’m guessing it doesn’t get much better unless far greater sums of money are spent. Happy days. The Zus and Topaz never fail to amaze with their attack, soundstage and jump factor. I’m rolling valves thru the Topaz and am noticing changes with Rectiiers. 

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On 15/05/2018 at 4:20 AM, naggots said:

How did they go?

Well - however I'm struggling with getting reliable amplification onto them. Between humming valve amps and new (secondhand) amp dying within 5 mins of getting it home, all I've had to run them on is my Pioneer AVR.

 

That said, they still sound good.

 

If the amp under repair doesn't suit, I'll be looking seriously at a Weston..

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Wow, frustrating. Fingers crossed it works out. No hum at all with the Topaz or the Manley Mahis I had before. I did get some hum with the Schiit Mani..... but I replugged in all the cables and it went away, not sure if it’s a loose socket in the Mani?  My ICs are Zu events so doubt it’s them but you never know. 

 

Do they have bass amps built in?

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16 hours ago, naggots said:

Wow, frustrating. Fingers crossed it works out. No hum at all with the Topaz or the Manley Mahis I had before. I did get some hum with the Schiit Mani..... but I replugged in all the cables and it went away, not sure if it’s a loose socket in the Mani?  My ICs are Zu events so doubt it’s them but you never know. 

 

Do they have bass amps built in?

Yea - very. The 845 valve amps sounded awesome on them, just couldn't live with the hum. Tried alot of things, including feeding them with a PSAudio P10 to no avail. Good to hear you solved your's easily.

 

No bass amps - they are basically the Definition spec in a Def box without the subs.

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