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REVIEW: JansZen Loudspeaker Co, Ltd zA2.1 Speakers

Model: zA2.1
Category: Speakers
Suggested Retail Price: $7,495
Description: Hybrid electrostatic loudspeakers
Manufacturer URL: JansZen Loudspeaker Co, Ltd
Model Picture: View

Review by M3 lover on November 08, 2013 at 17:30:47
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for the zA2.1

Let me begin with a couple of qualifications. First of all I'm posting in Speakers rather than Planar for two of reasons. Even though this is a hybrid electrostatic (panel), it resembles a conventional cone speaker in ways I'll attempt to explain. Also, I expect more Inmates may read my comments here and I believe this speaker deserves wide exposure.

Second, few of you know little or anything about me. I'm old enough to have been in this hobby for over 40 years. During that time I've owned many types and models of speaker. Just within the planar category that included RTR, Infinity, Acoustat, Martin Logan, and Magnepan. I've also lived with HE rear loaded horns, stand mounted monitors, and larger floor standers, including Duntech Princess for 19 years. Still I'll admit this experience does not make me an expert, but it should suggest I'm not just a "newbie" gushing enthusiasm over some just heard new sound.

But after so many years with the Duntechs the urge for something different finally caught up with me. So I experimented with HE for a couple of years. I enjoyed the clarity, dynamics, and basic connectivity with the performance, but I found the body and weight of live music missing. Next, because I had fond memories of a modest Maggie system I owned many years ago I changed to a pair of newer modified Maggie 1.6s. The open, detailed presentation that floated in front of me was attractive. But, and they had a big one, again I found the weight and body I experience with live music was missing. This surprised me since bass and lower mids were points other owners raved about. Perhaps my room simply was not the best match, although I did try multiple positioning.

Finally, several months ago after some basic research I became interested in the Janszen zA2.1. As fate assisted me our San Diego Music and Audio Guild scheduled a demo of the Janszens in a member's home. That demo produced mixed results. I heard several elements that appealed but the overall presentation felt lacking. Fortunately I made a reservation with David Janszen to bring that demo pair home afterwards for a more critical evaluation. I'm delighted I did.

In the familiar setting of my room with my components and my music they were almost an entirely different speaker. The presented a full frequency response, clarity and detail, very good dynamics, a boxless open soundstage, and most important of all, a connectivity with the music. Over the next week of my extended audition a half dozen audio buddies came by to hear the Janszens. Each one was amazed by their performance which caused much speculation why they now sounded so much better that during David's demonstration. One friend offered the best summary review I've ever heard of any component. He had decades of experience making live recordings, building and modifying equipment, playing piano, and simply listening. After hearing the zA2.1s in my system for about two minutes he turned to me and said, "Just get out your checkbook!"

By that time I had already decided to order my own pair. And here I must mention that David was wonderful to work with in deciding exactly what I wanted to order among his cosmetic options. I settled on natural cherry with brown grills. After a reasonable time for mine to be built and shipped I had them by mid-summer. From there I'll summarize by major impression points to prevent this from becoming a novel.

APPEARANCE - The zA2.1 is smaller in person than expected. The overall modest size of the cabinet helps but the tilt back and sculpted sides to the front baffle must add to this impression. The cherry wood in my pair is beautiful, and as photos on the Janszen site reveal, the wood baffle is surprisingly thick. The look like modest, wooden sculptures which I don't believe would dominate any room, unlike some speakers I've owned.

BURN IN - Yes, they did improve over time but it was nothing major. After about 50 hours I can't say much further was gained. Still, something must be expected for woofer suspension, electrostatic panels, and crossover parts to be exercised and settle in.

DESIGN BENEFITS - Personally I believe David must be either a wizard or a genius. He has created something unlike any speaker I've ever heard. First, contrary to other hybrid speakers I've heard, I cannot find any sonic clue where the crossover occurs between electrostatic and cone, it is absolutely seamless. Next David damps the back wave from the electrostatic mid/tweeter, so it is not a dipole. This makes room placement much easier and avoids the need for placement well out into the room. That along with the size must rate high on the WAF scale. Yet somehow, even without the dipole projection this speaker is very spacious and presents a large and deep soundstage.

As Quad lovers will testify, loud playback levels are not the typical forte for electrostatics. All I'll say here is the Janszens will play back louder than I'd ever care to listen. Then there is the bass. Not only has he blended it so well that it is seamless but the quality and impact from the bass is simply amazing for two 7" drivers per channel. A friend brought over his Phonic RTA and after taking a measurement with pink noise proclaimed it to be as smooth a frequency response as ANY system he has measured, including usable bass response down to 31 Hz.

COMPATIBILITY - As mentioned, the Janszens do not require placement well away from the front wall. After some experimentation they ended up with the top rear corner only 15" from the wall for smoothest in-room response. Of course this may vary with individual rooms. So they can be less obtrusive than many competitors.

That was visual, what about electronically? My experience is limited here but I can offer some suggestions. The amps I've used mostly over the past few years are Parasound JC-1 monoblocs. But they are rated at 400 wpc into 8 ohms and 800 into 4. This is well beyond the Janszen's recommended range of 25 to 150 watts, with a maximum of 250. Needless to say I've been cautious, but I'm also looking for less power that still captures the sonics I now enjoy. David rates efficiency at 87 dB. But in discussions while trying a low powered tube amp he said with the mid and woofer controls set at their maximum values it could be closer 90 dB. That amp is a Cayin push-pull 300B delivering 20 wpc. The mids were warm and wonderful with that amp but the bass, dynamics, and overall musical projection suffered. Part of that may be my room. It is roughly 20' x 17' x 11". But with a split level design this room opens partially into another area so the combined space is around 5,000 cu. ft. So I will continue looking for the best answer between 400 and 20 wpc. The last point on compatibility is the zA2.1 presents a much easier load to the amplifier than most (maybe any) other electrostatic. The nominal impedance rating is 6 ohms with a minimum of 4 ohms and a maximum of only 10 ohms.

LISTENING - Actually not much to add here. Mainly is that I can enjoy any type of music and experience detail, lack of distortions, dynamics, specialty, and essentially a full spectrum response. Most important, I can concentrate and lose myself in the music with any artist I really enjoy. It sounds very good at low levels for casual background listening while I do other things. And it can transport me when I sit down for active listening and set the level as close as I can estimate for a similar live experience.

Product Weakness: Price may not be agreeable for some budgets
Product Strengths: Size, appearance, ease of placement, integrated sound, full range response, dynamic

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: Halo JC-1
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): passive with remote
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Kuzma Stabi/Stogi Reference/various cartridges/JLTi phono, Toshiba CD
Speakers: these are them
Cables/Interconnects: Kimber and custom
Music Used (Genre/Selections): acoustic jazz, classical, soundtracks, classic rock, World Music
Room Size (LxWxH): 20' x 17' x 11'
Room Comments/Treatments: suspended wood floor has additional support, thick wool rug on sidewall, framed acoustic mat on rear wall
Time Period/Length of Audition: three months but who's counting!
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: JansZen Loudspeaker Co, Ltd zA2.1 Speakers - M3 lover 17:30:47 11/08/13 (15)


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