Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Zellaton Loudspeaker Review (Studio Reference One)

A. The Beginning
Regardless of language, religion, culture and origin, music definitely is a universal language which most people do understand and enjoy it very much. However, there is a big question that most people asked, what sort of equipment to reproduce it faithfully? Most are believed need a good or decent system. Well that is no doubt about it, but how we define a good system? People who are often to see a classical concert, live acoustic or many unplug performance found the experience is less convincing, involving and satisfaction to reproduce it with audio system. This phenomena is very common, thus it makes very long and sometimes lost journey to find the right one.
I have been looking for the holy grail system since long years back, this has been through many ways, such as auditioned many systems from different manufactured and visiting high end audio show for years. Along with the journey, some interesting things finally showed up, i.e, the loudspeaker, which intriguing me the most, why? Because it contains one or more electro acoustic transducers that is convert an electrical audio signal into corresponding sound. The sound characteristic among loudspeakers are clearly audible; such as warmer, tender, detailed, analytic, smooth, etc. 
Since the measurement of loudspeaker is clearly shown that they are the most distorted equipment in every audio chain, therefore choosing the right loudspeaker is one of the most critical decision.
Many technical and non technical factors need to be consider in order to choose the loudspeakers,  such as:
1.  Wife acceptance factors vs Husband insisting factors; 
2.  Speaker size vs room size;
3.  Budget Allocation for the purpose.
Let  say, the aforementioned problems are solved, are we done yet? Well, not as simple as we thought, there is one crucial factor, which is very important namely sound quality (SQ). SQ is the most difficult to measure as this implies frequency response, Total Harmonic Distortion (THD), group delay, etc and further some subjective personal parameters, such as:
1.  Is the loudspeaker able to reproduce clear and articulated human voice?
2.  Is the loudspeaker able to reproduce proportional and coherence tonal balance?
3.  Is the loudspeaker able to give decent, solid staging and 3D imaging?
4.  Is the loudspeaker able to give PRAT (Pace, Rhythm and Timing) and  dynamic of the live performance?
5.  Is the loudspeaker able to give involving and immersing music?
Based on those parameters, I feel blessed that able to audition some of the most known and popular loudspeakers,  whether it is bookshelf, floor standing, also tower one. Here is the list of my personal favorite in alphabetical order:
1.   Altec Voice Of Theater (grand and classy sound);
2.   B8W Matrix 801 (decent sound quality and sweet tonal balance);
3.   Ensemble PA-1 Silver (clear sound and unbelievable imaging and staging);
4.   Infinity IRS V (full spectrum and grand sound);
5.   JBL Paragon (Big sound, very involving one);
6.   Kharma Ceramique 1.0 (very fast transient and top notch dynamic sound);
7.   KEF Reference 104/2 (sweet vocal and decent bass and sparkling highs);
8.   Quad ESL 63 (coherency and transparency, 3D imaging);
9.   Rogers LS3/5a (great vocal and imaging);
     10. Yamaha NS 1000 (sweet and delicate sound quality)
Please note all loudspeakers that I have mentioned and auditioned above were decent one. Each one has its own sound characteristic.

B. The History
In pursuit to find another sonic excellence loudspeaker, I found Zellaton loudspeakers. The first encounter happened in one big international audio show in 2013. That was shockingly experiences, because that was the first time I have heard very organic and very lifelike sound reproduction from loudspeakers. They are very different in its sound reproduction from loudspeakers that I’ve ever heard before. Choir music was presented as if they were there singing directly for me!
The silver cone of Zellaton has unique similarity to Ensemble PA-1 Silver Reference Monitor (auditioned in 90’s). Later after a bit of research, I have found info that  the drivers of Ensemble PA-1 were also provided by Zellaton. The drivers first discovered and patented by Dr Emil Podszus, (their founding father) back in 1932.  
Zellaton has long history tp make their own drivers and they have several patents for its foam sandwich silver diaphragm. The drivers have special characteristic which are very rigid and very stiff but also very lightweight. Those are ideal characteristic to get linear and accurate motion to reproduce the sound. All of their loudspeaker are painstakingly build in house at their own research and development facility in Munich through a long manufacturing processed (leading by Manuel Podszus).

Another interesting key to this speaker are the extraordinary care being taken in matching the drivers. They are also crossover less in order to minimize phase error.  I think the research and development team of Zellaton (lead by Mr Manuel Podzus) have done extraordinary effort to get their homework with flying color! Low distortion, minimum phase error and minimum coloration, thus coherency and harmonic integrity are what we have in their loudspeaker. In short they are simply gives you honest and very revealing musical presentation without coloring the sound quality. 

C. The Close Encounter of The Third Kind
The first impression that I had when listen to the Zellaton loudspeakers in 2013 simply cannot forgotten for a lifetime. It was capable to deliver very solid 3D imaging an extraordinary tonal balance and completely disappeared. The loudspeakers simply drag all audiences in the room into very high quality music. This capability surely took the sound reproduction from good to glorious one.
Since then, its my dream to know and listen more about Zellaton Loudspeakers. Lucky me during Indonesia Highend Audio Show in October 2015,  I met Mr Michael Schwab as The CEO of Zellaton and Mr Yudistira as their official representative in Indonesia. They gave me opportunity to let me listen to my own CD at their first launching ever in Indonesia. 
All of my CD’s which is Mike Oldfield, Vangelis and Enya passed with sparkling color at that moment. Superb tonal balance and imaging of Enya voices from The Zellaton Reference MK2 Series. Unbelievable clarity with sheer dynamic attack in all of the music I have brought into!
After the show I have made several contact with Mr Yudistira and asked whether it is possible to listen and perhaps do a review for my blog. He did not respond in fact only told to wait for months as the listening demo room is going under renovation. Finally by February 2016, my phone suddenly rang and I got invitation to listen and review the whole Zellaton System. Without thinking any longer, I made an appointment, as this opportunity does not come twice especially to close encounter of the third kind with Zellaton!

D.The Music
Music can be divided into different  in many different ways. The artistic nature of music means that these classifications are often subjective and controversial. That is the reason why the recording  for this review comes in many different types and styles ranging from traditional jazz music to classic, psychedelic rock, easy listening, pop, blues, traditional also world music. Interestingly some genres may overlap into one and another.
I have selected recording with rich background that go far beyond the genres themselves. They are all performed  by some genuine musicians that came from various countries.

Any system capable to give the soul and rhythm from those recording then I can guarantee that system could deliver almost any genres of music easily… 

Note:Several auditioned has taken place and took very long around 6 hours each session before this review show up. 

E. The System Equipment
  • Zellaton Studio Reference One
The open cabinet design of Zellaton Studio Reference One is absolutely stellar one. The weight of the loudspeakers is 95Kg and the wooden wall sports about  25-50 mm thickness. This thickness serves to reduce the effects of both internal vibration and external vibrations. Tapping on the cabinet itself indicated some great effort have been done to dampen vibration. 

·         Full range floorstanders speaker system

·         Multilayered matrix braced, open back design

·         Van den Hull internal wiring

·         1 x 7’ (180MM) Widebander driver

·         1 x 9” (223MM) Woofer driver

·         Nominal Impedance 4 Ohms

·         Frequency Response 24-20Khz

·         Sensitivity 86db/1W/m

·         Handcrafted in Germany

·         Dimension 113,7 x 44 x 64,2 cm or 44,8” x 17,3” x25,3”

  • Schnerzinger System Cleaner and Balanced Interconnect and Power Supply            
  • Axiom Turntable
  • Synastec Audio Origo CD Transport
  • Beyond Frontier Audio Tube DAC
  • Beyond  Frontier Audio f/b Power Amplifier (2 x 300 watts Power Amplifier

F.The Review
The Zellaton drivers are definitely very unique, as aforementioned before the famous diaphragm is ultra rigid yet extremely light, no dust cap at all and pure geometric. They have some qualities that really set them apart from any other speaker I have known. They are so marvelous at reproducing the fine detail that tells you which instruments are playing, how they are being played, what studio recording/venue they are playing in, and how well or how poorly they have been recorded. The open cabinet design also intriguing me so much because of the good dipole sound of direct/reflected sound they could give.
The relationship between direct and reflected sound from this loudspeaker gave some orchestral music such as Titanic Music From Motion Picture and Carlos Kleiber - Beethoven Symphonie Nr.5 delivered with huge and grand sound stage where all the macro and micro detaile are captured perfectly and the sonic impact is really stunning!

Ultimate Santana’s Album  especially the song of “Black Magic Woman” and “Samba Pati” from Ultimate Santana were delivered amazingly rough, raw but also rich. As if the Carlo Santana and his guitar convincingly   present in the listening room with his rhythmic, soulful and also beautiful sound with all the band accompaniying his stellar performance.  I cannot believe as I feel listening to his concert instead of recording. WOW…

In Michael Streans Volcano Album especially the Volcano track I could feel the mountain erupted at close distance and the atmosphere seemed to "push" their 3-D soundstage forward from the plane of the speakers. The entire room is shacking and you can feel how the low frequency is moving circular toward the listener. It is an incredible thing from stereo speakers without subwoofers or surround speakers!

Chris Botty trumpet and Paula Cole silky voice really gave me some goose bumps on this system. Very involving and almost mystical one. As if I were there with pure sonic nirvana!

Then Lucky Octavian as one of bright young singer in my country singing a song from another great singer named Broery Marantika. If the system capable to reproduce his warm and tender voice I could say that system is involving one!

Indra Lesmana midi sound were delivered as it is. Full of modern synthesizer and acoustic instrument. The album was one of the interesting Indonesian fusion and sing beautifully in this system.With rhythm and pace that keep your heartbeat dancing together with music.

I love timing and pace that gave me a big big smile when listening to the duet of Eric Bibb’s guiar and Habib Koite Banjo singing Timbuktu. Both of their voice was handled with enviable authority.

Enya Dark Sky Island gave me both micro and macro detail and her music also her depth sopranos voice was one of the best I’ve ever heard from reproduction on any system to date.  Besides her vocal, acoustic instruments such as piano, wood wind and strings are also delicious and liquid.

Tracy Chapman and Jennifer Warnes are well known female singer and both of them are great distinctive female singer that have unique voices that can makes me cry. Just try Tracy Chapman “Baby Can I Hold You” and Jennifer Warnes “The Ballads of Runaway Horse” and you will know what I mean.

Take Dake from Asian Roots and Mamba Percussion. This is the album that I recommending for everyone who like bamboo and percussion instrument. Fast and furious sound with full of weight and power I might said. And Zellaton bites it with accurate timing from song to song!

The honest and top notch linearity of Zellaton speakers allow listening any kind of difficult music without any compression. This can be found in De Pan Flute. You can play the volume up and down without losing the musical integrity or sound compressed.
If you want 3D enveloping and immersing sound, then this system is the right one. Roger Waters Amused to Death, Pink Floyd Dark side of the moon and The Wall were fine example of decent recording being played in decent audio system. It was jaw dropping experience to listen to, very involving and immersing music  

Piano is one of the most difficult instrument to reproduce on any audio system because of its full spectrum frequency response. But  this is not the difficult task with Zellaton. With its ringing piano chords and the gorgeous sweep of pedal and knock on the floor, Keith Jarred The Koln concert and the soulful performance of Manhattan Hifi Jazz Quintet simply amazed me and made me floored. It simply incredible pace, atmosphere and stellar performance.

G. The Epiloque

The Pro’s 
     1.       High resolution sound, articulated vocal;

2.       Harmonic integrity and coherence tonal balance;

3.       3D Sound with incredibly staging and imaging;

4.       Lightning fast transient and dynamic;

5.       Very involving in musical reproduction.
The Con’s 
     1.       Zellaton will reveal anything in the recording including the bad one.

     2.       Its natural and organic sound might not suitable for everyone taste.
After several long auditioned, I can clearly stated that Zellaton loudspeakers have some quality that set them apart from any other loudspeaker I have known. They are so marvelous at reproducing the fine detail that able to tell which instrument are playing, where the recording takes place and show how good or bad the recording are.  

To sum it up Zellaton are made for accurate music reproduction as pure as it is...
Asawendo, April 2016

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