Zu Essence vs Devore Nine vs Maggies

Greetings all! I currently have some Dynaudio 52Se monitors with a REL R-205 sub and am looking for something with the same or better quality sound, yet a deeper, richer, more engrossing sound. I've considered the Contour series floorstanders, but haven't heard them.

My room is 15x25 with a vaulted ceiling 8-10ft. Speaker placement is on the long wall on the short side of the ceiling. I run a Sony ES CD source to a Rogue Perseus tube preamp with a Quad 909 SS power amp. I'd like to spend $1000-3000 (used, preferably).

I've auditioned the Magnepan 1.6R and loved them quite a bit. I've also heard the ProAc Response D2, Dali Helicon, and Devore Super 8. Honestly, I really like the Magnepan, especially for the price. I also really liked the Dali, but it's too much and the Devore Nine killed the Super 8 to me, but again is a little pricey. After much reading, I think the Zu Essence might be what I want and at a great price now, $3500.

So... has anyone heard the new Essence and compared it to the Devore Nine? Also, would my setup be too much for such sensitive speakers? I like everything from jazz trios to arena rock. For that amazing encompassing "live", rich sound, with clear detailed highs and nice lows, can I beat the Maggies? To be fair, I had a whole week to audition them at home while all the others were at dealers.

Thanks in advance, Dave, Austin, TX
I had always wanted to hear the 909 with my Maggie 1.6's (when I had them) it has the current dumping design that seems like a perfect match for them.

fwiw I imagine the amp would not match as well with the Zu though they are certainly in the league with the Maggies I am sure.
Maggie 1.6'a are a stone bargain, no doubt. I used them for five or six years
with great pleasure. In the end though, I tired of their fussy nature about
amplification. They need an amp with lots of current and I think it's real easy to
spend what you save on speakers trying to find a good amp to drive them. There
are a number of less expensive amps with the power to make them work, but
refined solid state amps that are nuanced aren't cheap. Something like the
Devore or Zu will offer you many more options for good amplification at lesser
price points. I'd also characterize the 1.6qr's lows are adequate but nothing
outstanding. Maggies are also visually intrusive, which may or may not be a
factor for you.

Since you like Maggies and you're in Austin, here's something to chew on.

The smaller Maggie (MMG) runs app. $600, direct from Magnepan with a 60 day return policy. Coupled with a good subwoofer (or 2) and controller, these little panels can be terrific. As it happens, the excellent Rythmik subwoofers are sold direct by Rythmik (also w/ a return policy), located in Austin. You could order a pair of Maggies and try them out w/the Rythmiks. If it doesn't work for you, returning the stuff (particularly the subs) is simplified.

As to controllers: I use the Velodyne SMS-1 controller @$450, (ocassionally set up with MMGs). I think it's a pretty amazing device, but many report that the $700 SMS/Audyssey controller is superior. Both allow digital room correction of the subs which IME will likely produce bass performance superior to any non-corrected speaker at any price. Depending on how low the MMGs go in your room, you might let them just roll off naturally and "snug-up" the sub below them - an approach many purists prefer.

OTOH, you may want to think about actively rolling off the bass from the MMGs. If so, budget another $300 (or more) for an active high cut unit, since the high cut in the Velodyne is both inflexible and digital. It converts the signal for DRC processing via an ADC and then back to analog. For me, this is fine for the sub's signal, not so fine for the main signal path. If you choose the SMS/Audyssey controller, it has no built in x-over and will require an outboard unit, anyway.

I actively roll my mains with the NHT x-2. The benefit is that you can choose any crossover point you want. Since the worst room issues are often around 80hz, you can cross a little higher and send these frequencies to the subs. That way you can use the DRC in the sub controller to address those issues. BTW, I've found via direct A-B comparison that the X-2 (the only intrusion between your amp and the MMGs) is completely inaudible to me. However, I'd be the first to acknowledge that this doesn't mean it will be inaudible to everyone. As always, YMMV.

Total budget for a pair of 12" subs, NHT x-2, Velodyne SMS-1 and Maggie MMGs is app. $3K, add another $250 for the SMS/Audyssey. As I noted, I have used this exact set-up. Since the sub controller can remove the most audible room to room variations (those below 150hz), I can pretty much assure you terrific results.

Good Luck

Go for the Zu... 60 day return your out shipping only if don't like them for the 2 months time. Any amp will drive them fine, they are far less finicky about high or low power, and have a very high impedance like 16 or 12 ohm so no problem there.

I think you would have to hear them in your room to really get a verdict. Obviously they are getting great reviews so they are no slouch. I owned the upper line Def 2's, which were more finicky due to being a 6 ohm speaker and having separate amplification for the subs. I had to sell a house and lost my dedicated room and these speakers required large space. These new essence are a better package for the price especially with the new Ribbon tweeter's...

The Zu's have extreme dynamics and soundstage, some say its too BIG! I love being in that live surrounded enriched sound field just as you state. The Zu's should do that no problem, and from my understanding the new essence are extremely placement friendly so should not take much to get the setup working well in your room in several different speaker positions.

Most other dynamic drive speakers accept horns sound flat compared to the Zu's, they also have no passive parts on them in the critical bass and midrange driver, straight thru no crossover. They are very natural and dynamic with nice full shades of tone that lack in other more steril models. Oh and 10 watts will sound like 1000 watts on them!

Good luck
Wow, lots of good thoughts, guys. Thanks!

Marty, I've heard the MMG on the exact setup as mine and it was impressive. I only heard for an evening. I had a week to audition the 1.6 in my space and liked them so much more. Haven't heard of Rhythmik, but I'm sure my REL is good enough. Thanks for the ideas - been thinking about room correction for awhile.

Everyone, the 909 does well with the Maggies (as well as the Theta my buddy runs on them - they are his speakers I borrowed). He runs them biamped though and he said that makes a marked difference. So yes, visual size of the speakers and possible need for a second amp (plus cables) don't make it ideal. Likewise, the need to possibly trade out the 909 for a low-watt SET or other amp for the Zu might be an issue. Neither seem perfect, but I was wondering a general preference. Seems tied, which is good. I can go either way. Will definitely audition the Zus!
If you like the Maggie 1.6 you should consider the Eminent Tech LFT-8s. They are planars too, but with a well integrated bass driver. And I've heard that bass is much better than the 1.6s. And still well integrated with the planar drivers. I've compared them to the MMGs and the MMGs sound rather horrible in comparison. Anyway, you might google them. Whoops, just noticed you have your speakers on the long wall. Not sure you'd be able to get the speakers out far enough in to the room with only 15' to play with. Not sure I'd go with planars with that setup.
the eminent techs are classics all well, as are the newform 630's......so many speakers, so little time.jaybo
I had the Zu Essence for while. They are very dynamic and can play all kinds of music including stuff like Pink Floyd with authority. I ultimately found that I was not engaged like I've been with other speakers. I like a speaker that can make music seductive or entrancing. Perhaps it was the room but I really feel like it had something to do with the ribbon tweeter.

The Nines are slightly smaller sounding than the Essence but more engaging and IMO much better. The Nines are just a bit on the warm side of neutral but do not lack any clarity or detail. Higher quality build and finish.

I heard the Maggies, I think 3.6, at a dealer once and was impressed with what I heard but they lacked impact. Could have been the tube amp, but it seems people like subs with these.

All of these are good so try to listen for yourself. We all obviously hear differently and have different preferences.
What the maggies do, can not be had from the rest. You will not regret it. Cheers.
What amp did you use with the Essence and how long did you try them ?

What other speaker/amp combos do you find engaging ?

Thank you .
Yes, Bjesien, I was going to ask the very same question--Saki, you beat me to it!
I use a VAC Avatar SE with NOS Bugle Boy tubes. I'm very familiar with this amp and don't think it was the culprit. I also tried a little 10 watt or so Luxman tube integrated.

I hesitate to say what I find engaging at the 3-5k price range because so many sacrifices have to be made. It depends upon your priorities. I personally would look at used Verity, Devore, Harbeth, Reynaud. These companies to my ears have maintained what I find important to make a speaker engaging at the pricepoint.

Hope this answers the questions.
Post removed 
I have heard all three speakers at length and these go in very different directions sonically. I know I could only live with one in the long term, one for a short flirt and one not at all.

Some of this depends on taste, some on listening habits, some of this on tolerance. Given your description of your taste, I would recommend Maggies as well, even though they would not be my first choice out of the three.

It pays sometimes to just live with it and see; if only to develop your tastes...
Post removed 

Let me guess the order.

Devore (long term)
Maggie (short flirt)
Zu (not at all)

How did I do?

I recently auditioned a wide variety of speakers, including Zu and Devore, in tandem with Leben and Luxman tube electronics.

Both speakers are really wonderful, but have different sound signatures.

I thought that, hands down, the Devores sounded better in "naturally" recreating a wide variety of music genres--very neutral sounding (and little recessed). More like an English speaker around well-defined mid-range sounds. You could put these next to Harbeth and Spendor. The tubes did not make them overally warm.

The Zus tend to color the music with this "lively" veil: you definitely feel the soundstage and dynamics--great with jazz combos, female vocals, simple rock music--very bright and defined highs and decent sustain and attack. Very efficient--make low powered tubes come alive.

Both have world class finishes. I think the figured cherry on the Devores is stunning. Zu's white pearl finish has the drool factor.

Maggies are great, but suffer from being power hungry and difficult to set up in small to medium rooms. Zu and Devore plays with an entirely different set of less powerful electronics, 15 to 100 watts, and would sound great in nearfield situations..
Post removed 
Tvad, The speaker you need to hear is the Gemme's. Any of them. They're exactly what your looking.
All, thanks for the posts!

Still sounds like for the sound and the money that the Maggies are the way to go. I'd still like to audition the Zu, but lots of you seem to like the Devore Nine better and having heard them I was very impressed. Also seems like the $5-10k retail range is where most "box" speakers start to get really good.

Still wondering about placement issues. I can really only safely place them a max of 36" into the room.

Thanks for the input and discussion. Keep it coming.

Tvad, always like your input on the Forum.

Philefreak, the Gemmes look great. New to me. Very cool!
If you can only come out 36", I don't believe Maggies will work as well as they should or can. They need more room. It would be such a waste. My planars are 5 and a half feet out in to the room and sound like crap any closer. Your dimensions are similar to mine but you have the speakers on the long (wrong) wall. Speaker selection is so critical to a good system. Matching to amp. And matching to the room size, dimensions and speaker placement. Get the best speaker for your room constraints, not the speaker you like best.
"Get the best speaker for your room constraints, not the speaker you like best".

Now there is some good advice !

Happy tunes.
I acquired a pair of Zu Essence speakers a couple weeks ago. I am still dialing them into the room, and I believe they are still breaking in, but the level of output in the high frequencies can be adjusted by degree of tow in and the distance from the listener. This seems to match the comments made in Stereophile where John Atkinson indicated that if the tweeters face the listener, the treble output is way too high, which I agree with. He also said the highs were rolled off in Art Dudley's listening room. I find you can reduce the treble output by aiming the tweeter away from the listening position. Increasing the distance of the speaker from the listener also reduces the high frequency output, as well as increasing the size of the soundstage. I believe you can probably adjust the speakers for the level of high frequency output that you want. I personally find them to be quite engaging due to the rich tone, high dynamics, and enveloping sound stage.
Awesome input everyone.

Bmckenney, any thoughts on determining how to match speakers to your amp, room size, dimensions, and where they can be placed? A link or resource?
Post removed 
I don't know of any resources that discuss what speakers work in what room situations. I believe there are some general rules of thumb that have been discussed in a lot of different threads. There are guidelines where a certain speaker design is best suited for a situation such as near field listening requires near field monitors, which I don't believe applies to you because even though your speakers are on the long wall and you sit relatively close it doesn't really appear to be a near field situation. And there are situations where a speaker is designed for being against the front wall which does not apply to you since your speakers will be about 3 feet out. And there are speakers that are designed to be placed in corners, which does not apply to you either. And there are situations where a speaker type has requirements to be placed well out in to the room to give it room to "breathe" so the dipole reflection effect works off the front wall (like Maggies) and this really rules out a speaker type for you rather than rules it in. I think, but I could be wrong on some points, you really should rule out dipoles as well as speakers designed for corner and near front wall placement. That leaves you a lot of options of I guess what could be called traditional speakers. A lot of monitor style speakers, or smaller floorstanders should work.

And since you will be sitting quite close to the rear wall, you probably should treat that wall for the reflection bouncing off it directly to your ears. I'd allocate some of your budget to that. I used to have a setup where my speakers were on the long wall and I sat right on the rear wall and there was a nasty reflection. To me after determining what speaker design type is good for you room and placement, and getting the speaker placement dialed in (distance from the front wall, distance from speaker to speaker, and toe in), room treatment is next and almost as important as the other two. And in your case that rear wall reflection is a make or break consideration because you could address the first two things but still have poor sound because of the rear wall reflection. If you are concerned with the looks of the acoustic product to go on the rear wall, you might consider getting one of the GIK art panels with your graphic of choice printed on the panel. Very affordable products.


One resource that I can think for getting great information on what speaker type would work for you, and which may validate some of the theories I mentioned above (keep in mind I'm no professional and my suggestions may be wrong), is talking with an industry person. Especially since there isn't a one-stop online resource of this subject that I know of. One person I can think of that could help you understand this subject is Duke from Audio Kinesis. He is a dealer and a speaker manufacturer. Based on what I have observed in many years of being on audio discussion boards he is the person I would reach out to if I wanted to know more about what speakers work in what types of room setups. Even though you might not buy from him in the end, he has a superb reputation for being helpful.
Should throw the Gershman Sonogram into the mix. Have heard all the speakers you mentioned.
The Maggies are great but I don't think your amp will suffice.
The Zu would fit the bill and would be tamed by the Rogue tubed preamp. I think they have a trial period to see how they match your system. Sounded great at the RMAF.
I would see if Gershman or Devore have a trial program.
The Sonograms were one of the better sounds at RMAF 2007.
You could also jump into to a Wyred class D amp for the Maggies and have less expenditure than purchasing speakers. Wyred has a trial period, also.
System matching is very important!
Bmckenney, my room is pretty well treated. I have curtains behind the speakers that cover most of the long wall. The other three walls have DIY panels that help a ton! Even though the floor is laminate, we have a big throw rug, which also helps. The couch is actually 3 feet into the room off the opposite wall from the speakers. I need to post pics to my System profile.

Magnumpi205, thanks for the recommends, I'll look into the Gershman. The Maggies are such a steal that a new amp and bi-amping might be worth it or at least equal the price of a quality floorstander. However, the
I am also curious in the Zu Essence and wonder how they would compare to my current Klipsch RF-7s?
Post removed 
Hey all! Thought I'd let you all know I'm going the Maggie path for now. Actually starting at the MMG because of WAF. Maybe over time she'll let me move up to the 12, 1.6, or 3.6. In the meantime, I'm excited about the ability to tweak slowly. I have one REL, might get another and RTA my room as suggested by Martykl above. I'm also looking at Peter Gunn (Magnestand) mods to the MMG or whichever model I have when that time comes. Life is good!