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November 2014
Superior Audio Equipment Review
World Premiere!
Zugspitz Triumph Loudspeakers
Delicacy preserved by using a crossoverless, highly efficient wideband driver.
Review By Clive Meakins

 

Zugspitz Triumph Loudspeakers  We all deserve some pampering and making life easy for ourselves from time to time. The wise ones amongst us will already practice this philosophy. If you are like me – unwise – your audio obsession with perfection takes you to places such as using a calibrated microphone and room measurement software to help set up DSP room correction. This can be great and I mean really great but most sane people would say; Stop! What's your problem with speakers you can simply plunk down in a room, move around a little to optimize their sound and then just get on with the pleasure of listening? My alter ego won and I resolved to find some "normal" speakers to try in a couple of my rooms. The simplicity of not needing to spend time setting up room correction is very liberating for an OCD type such as myself, roll on the therapy!

The speakers in question hail from Germany; Andreas Paul is the proprietor of Zugspitz, the manufacturer of the speakers. Andreas offers a series of vinyl, tube amplifiers and speakers which are tailored to his ideals for finish and sound. The Zugspitz speakers I auditioned are built to an exacting level of finish, the final finish can be chosen by the customer; creativity is allowable and even encouraged. I've seen photos of a set of speakers with driftwood or maybe just rough wood baffles; they must look quite something in a seaside setting or perhaps as a statement in an ultra-modern slick room. Traditional German handcrafted woodwork is the order of the day; from what I've seen of the finishes available I find they support the claim of Andreas Paul to offer products which are amongst the finest available.

I classified the Zugspitz Triumph as "normal" speakers but in truth they are anything but that. Their normality for me comes from their being fully passive speakers. The Triumphs use a 12" wideband driver which is horn loaded for the bass; from measurement I found they go down to around 35 Hz in-room. The wideband driver is crossoverless and is extensively treated to allow it to perform up to 8 kHz without breakup while it naturally rolls-off. The direct connection of the amplifier to the wideband driver is ideal and the benefits of this are most audible. The tweeter is a dipole domed unit which sits on top of the main enclosure in its own moveable pod. The Triumph speakers are loosely based on the BastanisWildhorn. I say "loosely based" as Robert Bastani designed specific modifications for the Zugspitz drivers, tweeter crossover. The striking cabinet is unique to Zugspitz too along with options to customize the cabinets to your personal taste. The speakers are an 8 ohm load with efficiency being 100dB/W/m. This is your opportunity to use a low-wattage high quality amplifier. I used a few; a 300B SE monoblocks, EL84 SE, Valvet E1r solid-state SE monoblocks and Temple Audio T-amp monoblocks.

Zugspitz Triumph LoudspeakersThe Zugspitz Triumph combine very high efficiency via a crossoverless 12" wideband driver with powerful bass performance via floor–firing horns. As floor-firing horns go these speakers are relatively compact, indeed they are a mid-sized floor-stander when judged by normal standards. This will come as a great comfort to those used to trying to accommodate massive bass horns as well as maintaining a marriage at the same time! According to Robert Bastani developing the Zugspitz Triumph wideband driver has been his greatest design challenge to date. Combining very high efficiency wideband drivers for mid-range excellence with clean and dynamic bass from backloaded horn cabinets I'm told looked to be an unlikely task when he started work on this project. Floor-firing bass horns will react differently and in a more forgiving manner than traditional speakers making room coupling less hit and miss, at least that's the theory. Robert Bastani explained that the virtual horn mouth is defined by the free floor space so this varies in size depending on room size. In small rooms the speakers produce less bass and with bigger rooms you get more bass, which is just what's needed.

Now for some vital statistics; the Triumphs weigh in at 77 lbs. each, measure 43" high, 15" deep and 14.5" wide. The cabinets are fabricated from Birch Ply which clearly is of high quality, I could not spot any voids between the exposed edges of the plies. The fit and finish of the cabinets is very good with the edges being very smooth and clean. Finally we have the finish of the baffles. These are very striking in the flesh. Even the female members of my family loved the looks of these speakers. There's a range of finishes you can specify so you can be inventive and find what suits your room.

Zugspitz Triumph Loudspeakers

The dipole tweeters are very nicely done, free-standing and sitting on stainless steel supports isolated via small o-rings. The tweeter wiring plugs into the top of the speaker cabinets. The rear of the tweeter enclosures are covered with the same black material as is used over the 12 inch wideband drivers. The tweeters are horn-loaded to the front and are very well finished indeed. The tweeters being free-standing allow you locate them left, center or right on the baffle. Locating them slightly outboard adds space to the soundscape. This is a useful tweak which most speakers do not permit.

Zugspitz Triumph Loudspeakers

I found positioning the speakers easy, as they are not especially fussy and integrated well with the rooms I tried them in. They worked surprisingly well in a room with a 7 foot high ceiling, I had thought this would be their Achilles heel. There's a lot to be said for avoiding speakers which go down very low e.g. 20 Hz, if you have smallish rooms, the 35 Hz reach of the Triumphs strikes a good balance. In the UK room dimensions are often around 16 feet to 21 feet in length and width around 12 feet to 15 feet. Very low bass in such situations will often cause grief as it'll likely sound poor without room correction.

 

The Sound
Initial impressions count for quite a lot as does long-term listening. I find initially it's easy to spot areas where the sound differs from what I'm familiar with but I need to temper this with long-term listening as like most of us I become accustomed to a sound after a while. It is long-term listening pleasure that's ultimately critical and loudspeakers coupled with room interaction have a massive part to play here. My immediate impression was that resolution was very good, almost to the point of headphone levels, the sound was surprisingly intimate. I found the mid-range to be fast and articulate with a very live and realistic sound. Vocals, strings and saxophone in particular stood out as being extremely natural. The naturalness of the sound was helped in no small way by the smoothness of the mid-range, for this level of detail I would have expected the occasional hint of "too much truth" to come through; it didn't.

My usual speakers which are open baffle exude great depth; this is hardly surprising as sound emanates from both front and rear of the baffles. The Triumphs can't quite match this trick but make up for this with what I can only describe a tremendously natural sounding presence. The mid-range does manage share an important quality with open baffle speakers, a lack of boxiness. With so many box speakers I hear the box singing along with the music. The Triumphs manage to totally avoid this foible. Without boxiness to cloud the sound I found the mid-range to be incredibly lucid and life-like, the open sound and "in the room" nature of the mid-range is really rather special, especially for a box speaker. I found that bass frequencies were surprisingly constant around the various rooms I placed these speakers. By this, I mean that as moving around the rooms I wasn't traveling between massive nulls and resonant peaks. In other words room coupling was good. One room had quite a troublesome 50Hz room mode but to be fair this was caused by the room being almost square, the laws of physics apply and the usual hi-fi advice to avoid square rooms is very salient. In another room I found the bass more typical, not as good as the DSP room corrected bass I'm very familiar with. Bass from the Triumphs was lithe and well developed.

Treble is excellent and totally governed by the quality of the recording and rest of the system in use. With the crossover areas between wideband and tweeter occurring at 8 kHz it is out of harm's way, the treble being shared between wideband and tweeter works very well, indeed it's hard to fault it. If there is sparkle to the music you get it, there's no artificial brightness or problematic harshness. Any vocal sibilance is deftly handled, it's not covered up and it is rendered in a natural manner. Soaring female vocal and trumpets had me worried but I was needlessly concerned, rarely am I so much at ease with such a detailed and live sound.

 

The Market
Zugspitz Triumph LoudspeakersThere is little dount that the Zugspitz Triumphs are a luxury high-end purchase, though in terms of cost they are at the lower end of the high fidelity price spectrum. You can travel to Zugspitz in Germany to audition them. Alternatively, if you are not located in Germany you can contact a Bastanis dealer to arrange to hear the Wildhorns which will give you a good idea of how the Triumph will sound. Please bear in mind the Triumphs incorporate various improvements versus the Wildhorns. Zugspitz does ship internationally, so getting speakers to your home is not an issue.

So, what exactly is the likely market is for these specialized, and very interesting, speakers? The most important thing to appreciate is that they sound fabulous, live and alive, plus very natural to boot! Should these speakers suit your sonic taste you will likely find their being passively driven, very high efficiency, ease of placement and stunning looks are a virtually unique combination. The Triumphs suggest, but don't demand, low-wattage amplifiers. There are options to personalize cabinet finish and it's possible to be very creative here. The finish of the speakers is high quality in a craftsman-like, hand-built manner. Each one is lovingly created and not just rolling off a fully automated production line by the thousand. Buyers of the Triumphs are likely to be as particular about the cabinet design fitting with their décor as they are the resulting sound. Zugspitz will likely be a treasure trove for such buyers as Andreas Paul offers full systems, which match the individuality and quality of his Zugspitz Triumph. Taking looks and sound together, I have to say I find these speakers are a "triumph" and very special indeed. The price for the standard finish is €12,500, and all things considered the price is reasonable given what it is possible to pay for other high-end speakers. Connoisseurs will surely luxuriate in the looks and sound quality.

 

Final Thoughts
All the music I fed the Triumphs with was reproduced with aplomb. Vocals and instruments alike are incredibly lifelike and placed precisely within a large virtual stage. Complex orchestral passages (yes even I do classical) are relaxed with clear musical structure and stable imaging whether it's with quiet passages or at high levels with massive dynamics. This level of performance probably results from delicacy being preserved by the crossoverless highly efficient wideband drivers coupled the fabulous dynamics of horn bass. The Zugspitz Triumph are relaxed yet dynamic, reproducing music with seemingly a total absence of compression. Vocals and instruments are free of coloration and highs are delightfully extended. I found the bass to resemble what I hear from very large horn speakers which display tremendous resolution and dynamics but here we have the benefit sensibly sized speakers that work in normal rooms and normal listening positions. My lasting impression is of the speakers sounding very natural and alive, even vivacious. They reproduce a lot of detail but not in a way that is at all forced, which is why they sound so natural.

 

Music Used During Review
I lived with the Triumphs for a couple of months so they received a broad diet of music. To give you a flavor some of the music from my early listening sessions, these included:

St Germain - Tourist
Chet Atkins & Mark Knoffler – Neck and Neck
Diana Krall – Temptation and Love Me Like A Man being favorite tests of mine
Gerry Mulligan and Thelonious Monk - Mulligan meets Monk
Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto – Live at Carnegie Hall
Canonball Adderley – Sophisticated Swing
The Beatles – Sgt Peppers (mono, of course)
Goldfrapp – Seventh Tree, Supernature
Alison Krauss & Union Station – Live
Bonnie Raitt – The Lost Broadcast
Creedence Clearwater Revival – in particular their rendition of I Heard It Through The Grapevine

 

Specifications
Type: Two- way high efficiency speaker
Tweeter: 1" Dipole horn-tweeter
Midrange/Woofer: 12" Wideband driver, 
Design: Crossoverless and horn-loaded bass
Frequency Response: 35 Hz to 23 kHz
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Sensitivity: 100dB/W/1m
Dimensions: 43" x 14.5 x 15" (WxWxD)
Weight: 77 lbs.
Price €12,500 for Zugspitz Triumph in Europe with custom handcrafted cabinets
$14,000 for Bastanis Wildhorn in United States with custom handcrafted cabinets

 

Company Information
Zugspitz - Klang in Vollendung
Brinkstraße 2
49196 Bad Laer
Germany

Website: www.Zugspitz-Klang.de

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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