Speaker Pairing - First Watt F8

Entering into 2024 with a mid-term (12 month ) plan to add a set of new speakers to my system.  I have the time to do the research and as geography permits to listen to a narrowed down list of choices - would like to consider three finalists.  

My system consists of the First Watt F8, Modwright LS 100 preamp, Aurender N200, Schitt Yggy LIM, ClearAudio Concept with MCRU power supply & AT- ART9XI cartridge and Modwright PH 9.0 phono stage.  Speakers are the Zu DW6 Supreme.  I plan on repurposing these speakers to a separate system.  I find the Zu's to be easy to listen to and a sound that I would describe as warm, clean and able to punch.  I would like to take it up a notch and have a more detailed speaker thats in line with my other components.  

Listen to mainly jazz, female vocals ( think Melody Gardot, Madeline Peyroux, etc), R&B and Indie. Large room thats a combination great room/ kitchen/bar  thats 23' by 27' with 10 ft ceilings. Furniture, rugs, island etc with the speakers on a back wall and 12' apart.  

In an article by Herb Reichert in Stereophile, Herb asked Nelson Pass what speakers could most effectively be driven by the F8.  Nelson goes on to say the F8 excels with efficient speakers ( 90 db & above ) that have good dynamics and an impedance above 8 ohms.  The article also has Herb stating that in his experience choosing a speaker with high impedance and a benign phase characteristic is more important than high sensitivity.   Maybe someone can help me out with what is meant by "benign phase characteristic" ? 

Lastly, budget is in the neighborhood of $7.5K and certainly would entertain lightly used preowned speakers.  On my beginning list to further research at this time are the Zu Soul 6, Living Voice Avatar 4, Devore O 93 and Volti Razz.  

Net is that I would really appreciate your thoughts on the above.  Thanks in advance!  


@norust - from your list above, I’d pick the Volti Razz for your FW F8. That’s my .02 cents. Also, a comment from stereophile recently on impedence with Razz, fwiw. Lots of others out there you could check out, but this is a good example. I agree with the pick impedance vs. sensitivity thoughts and comments though - on that note... Getting the right speakers for your F8 will make a difference.Best of Luck on your search.

Stereophile Quote December 2023:

"Although the Razz’s nominal impedance is specified as 6 ohms, the magnitude (fig.1, solid trace) rarely drops below 8 ohms. The average impedance is around 12 ohms, though there is a minimum value of 4.1 ohms at 100Hz".



So you listen to jazz and female vocals but you have a speaker without a proper midrange....ok, I tend to be dramatic...and maybe I'm a bit oldschool but I'm a big believer in 3 way and 4 way speakers with a a well designed crossover.  

Just thought I'd throw that out there for you to consider since you're at a point where you can make the change.


@carlsbad2  .... I don't have an issue with a bit of drama or you being oldschool :)

As I mentioned my speakers sound pretty good with the music I am listening to now and if 3 or 4 way speakers open up the soundstage with my set up, I will certainly pay attention!  Might you have a speaker suggestion in mind for me to consider?  Also will add that the Zu speakers were my first purchase a few years back and were initially powered by an entry level integrated Rotel amp.  The rest of my gear was added over time with listening and increased knowledge.  I certainly realize I can up my speaker game :) 

@decooney - thanks for the article link on the Razz.  I have communicated with Gregg at Volti and he has been helpful.  Since I am in the southeast, I plan on making a roadtrip to TN to hear his speakers in the next 6 months.  

@norust decooney - thanks for the article link on the Razz. I have communicated with Gregg at Volti and he has been helpful. Since I am in the southeast, I plan on making a roadtrip to TN to hear his speakers in the next 6 months.


Sure.  I’m coming from a different side of the fence - from the BorderPatro vantage point some - and noticed these a few years back. Each time a show occurs, TriodeWireLabs, BorderPatrol, and Greg at Volti pair up. Visitor feedback is usually very positive. Also comments about a particular type of sound I keep eyes and ears out for with amps, dacs, and speakers fwtw.

This brought my own attention for some friends I was helping with Klipsch, and started wondering what Gary was doing differently with his Volti Razz and Rival speaker offerings. While they are not a candidate for my current setup, or room, a few colleagues bouncing back and forth with different higher & lower power amps, might be interested in these too. Please report back on your site visit findings later, here, if you think of it. Thanks.

Guttenberg uses an F7 with Cornwall IVs and has had some Devore Speakers in his system. Id go Cornwall, but if sticking within the three mentioned, I’d vote Volti. The Devore might also be a nice fit but you’ve got a really room to fill, and I think that would struggle a bit. Same with the Living Voice, they are both significantly less sensitive then the horn designs.

My "List" is totally open - I just mentioned three that I was somewhat familiar with at this time.  

I would think Cornwall IV’s. As I’m reading your post I’m checking off boxes with each sentence. I’ve had very good results with lower power Pass amp, XA25 and Cornwall’s I think they are a fantastic combination, so much so I was thinking of getting an F8 myself as I regrettably let my XA25 go a couple years ago. 

I think it depends a lot on what you're looking for in the sound characteristics and what you're listening patterns are. My experience is that horns, like Klipsch, can sound amazing and have a very wide sweet spot but that they don't image as well as a standard driver speaker. The "liveness" is very appealing and fun to listen to. I have a dream of a second syst that's SET and horns. For me though, I love a detailed soundstage and while I definitely lean musical in sound, I also like a fair bit of detail. For all these reasons I'm not a horn guy but then that leaves you in a difficult space because you have quite a room to fill. I know the Devore's are definitely designed to run with low wattage but I'm not sure you'll fill that giant room. 

I'd encourage you to take a different approach. I always learned that you build a system around the speakers. It's clear that you love your first watt amp but if argue what you love is it with your current Zu speakers. If you want to meaningfully upgrade your system find the pairing speakers you absolutely love and then go from there. Don't limit yourself to what you can drive with your first watt. If needed, sell that too and get something that can drive the speakers you love. 

I have Vandersteen Quatros. I heard them and fell in love with them. Over the 8 or so years I've had them I've rebuilt my entire system around them. Every time I make an upgrade I just hear more of what I love about my speakers. I'm aware Im not answering your question, just providing an alternate approach. 

rmdmoore makes some great points.

I have a pair of Cornwalls in a room about the size of yours with similar intent. They are big speakers! And they do a terrific job of filling that room with energy and wonderful sound.

A couple of weeks ago, I swapped out the Cornwalls for O/93s. The Devores sounded great, but they lacked the...jump of the Cornwalls. I'm not talking about volume. I like the sensation of being "in" the sound, and the Cornwalls do that better in this bigger room, a room in which I have music playing a great deal of the time, not because I'm doing "serious listening," but because I like it.

The O/93s are fantastic speakers. They have detail that the Cornwalls just don't (for me), and I love nothing better than plopping myself down in front of them.

I like a lot of the stuff you like. I'm Zu-curious, particularly for the Soul 6. Volti looks very interesting. I think if you've got room for a big speaker, I'd look at a Cornwall or something similar (Volti?). This opinion is worth what you paid for it. And I never mentioned my low-level envy for your F8.

I guess I have to ask this question. "are you working to a better sound or do you just want to try new speakers?" 

+1 Volti Razz. Sounded dynamic and transparent at 2 different audio shows.

Happy Razz owner here! Complete agree with @decooney ​​​​@kennyc 

If you do go and visit Greg at his place you will not be disappointed. I pray you enjoy the visit as much as I did. Easily my top most memorable HiFi experience. 

To @doyle3433 - nice, that would be a real treat and experience in the journey to be able to go onsite, and sit with the designer-creator of special speakers - and even listen to them on a well orchestrated setup [away from a show setting - if possible]. We don’t often get to do this in our industry. I’ve always enjoyed meeting and learning from other designers, and their different approaches. 

I’d highly recommend doing this for anyone who can go do it. And, if you buy the speakers, and like them, it can be a memorable experience you’ll never forget.

Appreciate all the input to date.  Helpful and food for thought .....

A couple of points - 

  • re room size - yes, the room is large but I have limited space on a back wall either side of the fireplace for speaker placement.  There would be no way that I could put a speaker the size of the Cornwall IV's into this space.  Width is the issue - not height or depth.  The Volti Razz would fit.  
  • @timkrone and @rmdmoore - I see your points and agree with most.  I do listen to music in this room all the time as its a main gathering point and not a listening room.  I would love to have available the speakers ( Vandersteen, Devore, Klipsch ) you all have to listen to in my system!  I will continue to build my system around the F8 and Modwright components and wish to add a new set of speakers that will compliment these fine components.  
  •  @sounds_real_audio - to your question I would answer I am working to improve the sound and not simply wanting to swap speakers.  
  • I am keeping the Zu's and moving them to another room and will be using a Rotel A14 to drive them.  As I stated these are a solid speaker and they make me happy. My original purchase a few years back in starting my system was the Zu DW 6's and the Rotel.  

Sure, a horn loaded speaker with an impedance of 8 ohms or above. In terms of value you can not beat Klipsch Cornwalls. 

Hornings would make a great combo. I pair my Hornings with a FW SIT-3 and Frankenstein 300b mono blocks. The sound is so lifelike and natural especially with Jazz and female vocals. 

The F8 would drive them with ease.

norust, I read  you are from the Southeast. If you are going to visit Greg at Volti Audio. You should definitely check out Colin at Gestalt Audio in Nashville. He has Horning speakers and Wolf Von Langa speakers. The WVL Son speakers would be a good match too!

He has a good ear and a really nice guy!

@snopro - I will definitely be in Nashville and will check out the Horning and WVL Son speakers at Gestalt Audio.  Many thanks for the heads up!