Preview: Zu Definition Mk 3 and Mk 4

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by Danny Kaey on September 28 '11

Screen Shot 2011 09 28 at 4 51 50 PM

Ssssshhh… chances are you heard it here first: real-world HiFi house Zu Audio is launching not one, but two (!) new reference speakers at this year's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. Hit the hyperlink and prepare to be amazed!
"Hey Sean, are you guys launching anything new at Rocky Mountain this year?" … My curious mind wanted to know. Moments later my inbox has Sean's email with two PDF attachments. For some time there had been rumours of Zu launching a follow-up to their longtime smash hit Definition Mk II, which still is one of my all time favorite full range speakers. Since my review some years ago they Def 2's as I call them, have continued to provide that oh so great full range Zu sound with all the review gear that's passed through casa K.

You may well imagine my great surprise then when I opened up said PDF attachments to find not only one new Definition, but two launching at this year's Denver show. What's the scoop?

According to Sean, "We could have just launched the new from ground up Definition Mk.IV into the market, but what we’ve learned with its development is that a number of its features can be retro-fitted, at the factory, into original Definition cabinets, specifically new full-range nano drivers, Event cable harness and new sub’ amplifier and tuning, together with substantial internal cabinet modifications to increase structural rigidity and reduce cabinet noise. These modifications sum up to a transformation of all previous Definition models—the performance improvements on a Definition Mk.II, for example, are so advanced as to be worthy of a new model, hence Definition Mk.III it is!"

Hence, with one stroke of pure genius, Sean and team managed to upend quite a few new fall introductions. The most clever part of this coy ploy is that no one is left out of the fun. Have an existing Definition Mk II? No problem, send in your old model and a check for $3500 (plus shipping and additional applicable charges for boxes, etc.) and out comes a new Definition Mk 3 (fancy a color change? no problem, as Zu will be able to refinish the speakers to whatever color you fancy, for an additional cost of course). Want to skip that part and get the full on Mk 4 treatment? That's cool too, the Mk 4 has remained at Zu's previous Definition price point of $12.5k. Super Bonus? If you send in your old pair of Defs, Zu will only charge you $8500 for a brand spankin' new pair of Mk 4s. How cool is that?

So what's new? "We remove all the old electronics and replace them with a completely new assembly that allows servicing of electronics to be done in the field. All electronics are now housed in a machined from 1/4 aluminum plate, rack style assembly, that fits in the same spot (post cabinet mods) as the old Definition’s input plate. Electronics are much more dynamic, super quiet, efficient and highly adjustable to let you really dial in deep bass and your room."

• Machined faceplate with Definition Mk.III notation and fitted with machined electronics chassis mounted to back of plate.
• Electronics case and faceplate feature state-of-the-art, indexed, quick disconnects (Zu B3 via Neutrik ‘speakON’ 8-pole interface) for all connections making quick swap out in the event electronics service is needed in the future.
• Hypex UcD 400 watt fifth generation amplification (UcD DS4.0v5).
• User-tunable deep base response via five 3/4” knobs on input plate: Volume // Low-pass Filter // PEQ Gain // PEQ Frequency // Phase
• Custom, dead quiet, Hypex TR109 toroidal transformer.
• Replacement of old harness assemblies with Event.
• Zu B3 indexed interface via speakON 8-pole connection (Zu convention), the same found on the original Druid back in 2001 and returning on Definition Mk.IV and Mk.III. Lower contact resistance, minimum degradation to signal and power transmission due to B3 E&M disruption; and they are quick and easy to connect, without ever having to worry if you have the phase wrong.
• Send your Zu cables back for free Zu B3 via speakON 8-pole speaker end retermination.
• speakON 8-pole (Zu B3 convention) to standard 5-way binding posts available for those not using Zu cable.

If that doesn't sound enticing enough to spend $3500 on, I don't know what would. Heck, you practically get an all new speaker that will sound better, play boulder and go deeper than just about anything else on the market (at or anywhere near that price point). But wait. That's only the beginning, 'cause we are only speaking of the Def 3. One notch up, let's call it Def 4, is reserved for maximum Maxell. Nirvana on steroids I call it. Regardless, Def 4 was built to kill, nay, obliterate the competition. Jettisoning the 4 barrel carbs, er woofers on the back for a single 12" 22lbs monster unit (per side), adding significantly upgraded cabinetry and an altogether superior tweeter and you have yourself a slayer. Bumble Bee ain't got nothing on this guy. The price for this much fun? $12500. If Def 4 can deliver based on the bill of goods sold, this will indeed be the high-end audio bargain, just like the original Definition and all subsequent models where.

For now we only have Zu's reputation to go on, though Rocky Mountain isn't all that far away. Stay tuned.