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Zu Modern Console debuts at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach 2014

  • THE_Show_Newport_2014It’s the worst kept secret of the US hi-fi show scene that if Zu Audio are exhibiting then their room will be the best place by a country mile to hear different/cool/far-out demo music. Where else would you hear a Bassnectar cut follow Robert Fripp? Answer: nowhere. You can even take your own vinyl and they’ll happily spin it, no matter how esoteric the choice.

    In Irvine this year, the whole team is here to handle music choices and field tech questions: Sean Casey, Gerrit Koer and Chuck Williams. Casey’s wife and kids screen-print t-shirts off in the side room, demand for which is heavy. The vibe is more focussed than the initial chaos might suggest. Casey is the consummate professional, running with an egalitarian approach to room attendees: zero pandering to reviewers no matter how prominent they might be.


    Revolution not evolution. Centred against the rear wall is the Zu Modern Console No. 1 (US$7800). Retro styling pitches it into households where the aesthetic compromise of traditional component racks and loudspeakers isn’t an option. The Zu promo blurb name-checks Bauhaus and American Mid-Century Modern but what I see – borrowing from the Inspiral Carpets – is cool as f#ck. It’s a sideboard that makes beautiful music.

    The Modern Console No. 1 is furniture first, sound system second. Not that the latter is a compromise in the hands of Casey and co. First into the design go a pair of transverse-mounted Nanotech 10″ full-rangers (based on those found in the Soul floorstanders). Next, the bottom section houses a downward-firing Submission subwoofer. Third: Zu keep cabinet resonances to a minimum by floating the top half (that houses a turntable, electronics and left/right drivers) above the lower sub-section with magnetic levitation. This prevents the mechanical energy of the sub from transferring to the upper housing.


    Of course, Zu being Zu, they couldn’t just debut the Modern Console No. 1 and be done with it. Oh no. For the first day at least, the console played centre channel and subwoofer in a 5.1 surround setup of 4 x Soul Supreme (US$4500+/pair). WHY? 1) Because it’s Zu Audio and 2) because they can.

    Further information: Zu Audio | Press release on Audiogon

    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. I enjoyed the ZU room in SF last year and have always liked how they do business, however my ultra favorite room in SF was the Audio Note room. The system there was mind boggling well sounding and mind bending expensive.

      Have fun in Newport and while you are there, try to get to the pier in San Clemente- it’s just nice!

    2. I ran into John in the Zu room lounging on the couch on the balcony. He was high as a kite, just glowing, grinning from ear to ear, from his whirlwind global audio tour. I always look forward to seeing John at the shows. He’s very sharp and quick witted, extremely observant and he has a very pragmatic vibe about him that can help bring me down to earth after being in the ultra high end rooms.
      I love the Zu tribe. Walking into their room is like walking into an old friends house. I own a pair of Soul MKII’s, bright blue with custom goldish-bronze speaker surround rings and gold sparkles in the top coat. I stopped by their factory for a tour and they helped me design the look. They sound as awesome as they look. The Soul Supremes, from what I heard in different rooms and systems of course, are slightly more refined and smooth, slightly greater bass extension and refinement, and the biggest difference, as John mentioned, being in the treble. Just quick initial observations.
      Once you enter into the Zu Universe there’s no getting out, you’re in for life.

      • High as a kite, eh? That, Sir, was what jet lag looks like. 🙂 Thanks for the kind words though. Was indeed a whirlwind tour and incredibly good fun.

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