|Acoustic Zen Adagio Loudspeakers|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Monday, 01 December 2008|
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Acoustic Zen has long been known within the audiophile community as a manufacturer of premium audio cables. My local brick and mortar hi-fi store has been touting the virtues of Acoustic Zen’s cables for many years. At CES, I had a candid, off-the-record conversation with an executive for one of the ultra-high end audio electronics companies who extolled the virtues of Acoustic Zen’s Adagio speakers, a new offering from the cable company. With trusted industry insiders singing the praises of this relatively small manufacturer, I was anxious to see if the Acoustic Zen Adagios were truly world class speakers.
I arranged for a review pair of the Adagio speakers, as well as three Adagio, Jr. speakers for center channel and surround duties. The Adagio retails for $4,300 and is a medium-sized floor-standing speaker measuring 48 inches tall, 13 inches deep and nine inches wide, weighing 78 pounds. The Adagio, Jr. is a large stand-mounted speaker measuring 23 inches high and weighing in at 38 pounds. Visually the Adagio, Jr. appears to be the top half of the full-sized Adagio without the large opening for the transmission line. The Adagio, Jr. features a rear-mounted port instead of the front-firing transmission line. My review samples were finished with a beautiful burled walnut veneer; other finishes are available. The cabinets are constructed out of MDF with curves, tapering to a narrower rear panel. The curved and non-parallel sides reduce internal reflections. The fit and finish on all of the speakers was outstanding and easily the equal of speakers costing twice the price of the Adagios.
The Adagios and the Adagio, Juniors feature identical driver complements, a pair of six-and-one-half-inch cones flanking a one-and-a-half-inch circular ribbon tweeter in a classic D’Appolito array. Acoustic Zen takes great pride in the Adagio’s unique drivers, which are described in more detail below. Both midrange woofers are mounted on slightly angled baffles, which increase the effective thickness of the cabinet to approximately two inches, while helping to time and phase-align the drivers. The full-size Adagios use a transmission line to maximize bass performance, whereas the Adagio, Juniors are ported. Despite their size differential, the overall frequency responses are quite similar. The Adagio, Junior’s stated frequency response is 35Hz to 25kHz, whereas the full-size speaker reaches down to 30Hz. This is quite amazing, considering that these lower frequencies are achieved with a pair of relatively small six-and-a-half-inch cones. Both speakers feature a nominal impedance of six ohms and a sensitivity of 89 dB/1W/1m.
So far, the Adagio’s components sound like those of typical speakers, but upon closer examination, they differ from the norm. The six-and-one-half-inch midrange woofers are ceramic impregnated fabric cones that are specially built in Germany just for Acoustic Zen. The unique design of the driver extends beyond the exotic material. Acoustic Zen promotes the drivers as being “under-hung,” meaning they have short voice coils that operate in a long magnetic gap. This design is said to greatly reduce distortion by up to 95 percent over traditional designs. The under-hung design is also used by other high-end speaker manufacturers, such as THIEL. The midrange woofers integrate with the ribbon tweeter via a steep 18dB per octave, third-order crossover at 3kHz. The steep crossover is required in order to achieve linearity of response and impedance desired. The one-and-a-half-inch tweeter was designed by Acoustic Zen’s Robert Lee and features a diaphragm made out of a .01-millimeter layer of kapton that covers 95 percent of the aluminum conductors. Kapton was chosen because it remains thermally stable to minimize distortion and maximize linearity. Neodymium magnets are used for all drivers. The speakers have a single set of binding posts, as all internal wiring is Acoustic Zen’s own Satori cabling. It would cost many thousands of dollars to bi-wire with better quality cables.
Robert Lee was kind enough to personally deliver the speakers to my house and assist with their set-up. The Adagios were placed eight feet apart from each other and three feet from the front wall. Toe-in was approximately 15 degrees. The Adagio, Juniors were placed on Acoustic Zen’s own stands. The stands are made out of wood and are attractively finished in black. The stand for the center channel speaker came with custom-made hard rubber pieces that followed the curves of the Adagio, Juniors’ side panels. This allowed the speaker to be placed on its side and angled to the proper height. The center channel was placed approximately two feet from the front wall, equidistant from the main front speakers, arranged horizontally and angled up slightly, placing the drivers on axis with the primary listening position. The rear speakers were positioned vertically on the Acoustic Zen stands, approximately two feet from the rear wall and six feet apart.
I connected the Adagios to my two-channel system, which consists of Conrad Johnson’s CT5 tubed pre-amplifier driving Halcro’s excellent DM38 amplifier. The source I used for all critical listening was a Classe CDP-202. Power conditioning was provided by Equi=Tech. All audio cables were Kimber Select, with Kimber Select KS-3035 speaker cables running to the Adagios. Power cables were by Kimber Palladian.
The surround system consists of Marantz’s new AV8003 and MM8003, Halcro’s EC800 DVD player and a Sony PS3 for Blu-ray duties. All the components were connected with Kimber audio and video cables. Speaker cables were Kimber’s venerable 8TCs. I ran the system both with and without MartinLogan’s Descent subwoofer. I configured the processor to run all channels full range. Critical listening was done with the Audyssey room correction turned off.
Lastly, the Adagios require a lot of time to break in. What I first heard through these speakers was nothing like what I heard after they were broken in. While this is important with all speakers, it is particularly crucial to make sure the particular samples you are listening to are thoroughly broken to before making any purchasing decisions. I found that the majority of the break-in was accomplished in about 100 hours, but the speakers continued to improve slightly until they had a little over 200 hours on them.