When I first switched from the dynamic driver AV123 X-Statik loudspeakers to the zA2.1 I was immediately struck by how much more lifelike vocalists sounded. There was less of a hard leading edge to their voices. Instead of the additive grain and texture of a conventional dynamic driver speaker, the zA2.1s rendered vocals with a more subtle and natural transient attack.
Another obvious difference between the dynamic driver X-Statik speakers and the zA2.1 was how the zA2.1 emphasized rather than minimized differences between recordings. In comparison the X-Statik rendered soundstages and original recorded harmonic balances with a subtle sameness. As I put on recording after recording that I knew well through the zA2.1s I was greeted with more musical information than through any dynamic driver speaker I’ve heard in my system. Also the zA2.1 speakers highlighted the subtle differences between merely good and truly great recordings.
For some audiophiles the primary sonic drawback of electrostatic panel speakers is their lack of dynamic impact. This isn’t the same as dynamic contrast, but rather the lack of “kick you in the gut” lower midrange and upper bass impact. While the zA2.1s aren’t quite as much of a rock and roll animal as my long-term reference Dunlavy SC VI speakers, they are still far less diaphanous than many electrostatic designs I’ve experienced over the years.
If you are the type of audiophile for whom imaging reigns supreme you may be somewhat disappointed at first with the zA2.1’s imaging prowess. Instead of the pinpoint imaging of a mini-monitor, such as the ATC SCM7, the zA2.1s produce a slightly less laterally precise soundstage. But some listeners may well prefer the more three-dimensional and organic soundstage characteristics of the zA2.1. On my own live concert recordings I heard more of the dimensional cues that emphasize the subtler aspects of the recordings’ sonic environment. The differences between the direct sound coming from each instrument and the reflected sound coming from the sides, rear, stage floor, and proscenium were easier to differentiate through the zA2.1 speakers.
Given the zA2.1’s purposefully limited dispersion characteristics I was concerned that the listening window might be small enough to recreate only a “head-in-a vice” sized sweet spot. I’m happy to report that unless you regularly jump up and down while listening the primary listening area was sufficiently large so that no amount of swaying side to side caused any image shifts or harmonic balance changes.
During the first couple of weeks of the audition period I spent a goodly amount of time trying to dial in the zA2.1’s AirLayer side-firing tweeters. Every time, after many minutes of critical listening and adjusting, I ended up turning them off completely. In the western US we have the expression “tits on a bull” to designate something that is completely superfluous. In my room the AirLayer tweeter option qualified for this particular designation. Whenever I heard the additional side-fired output the effect was negative. The soundstage gained some width when the AirLayer driver was active, but at the expense of imaging specificity. I would strongly recommend listening to the zA2.1s both with and without the AirLayer active. You may well decide that you don’t need it. And ordering a pair of zA2.1s without the AirLayer option saves you money.
Almost all audiophiles love the sound of electrostatic speakers. Unfortunately only a small percentage of them have rooms capable of successfully hosting a large planar design. The JansZen zA2.1 speaker offers the joys and sonic advantages of an electrostatic design in a small footprint that will fit into many rooms where even mid-size conventional driver speakers won’t.
With its hybrid design that mates electrostatic tweeter elements with metal dynamic drivers, the zA2.1 captures the magic of a low-distortion electrostatic while still retaining the jump-factor of a more conventional driver design.
Although not inexpensive, the zA2.1 ranks as one of the best I’ve heard in terms of resolution and overall realism. Especially for fans of minimally processed acoustic music, regardless of genre, listening through the zA2.1s is an experience that few other loudspeakers can match. If you can pay the price of entry,
Price: £9,995 per pair
Manufactured by: JansZen
Distributed by: Soundsetup
Tel: +44(0)7941 330654