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Zealth Audio ZAL36T Loudspeaker Review

The Back Story

Doug is a pastor, so I think he is more predisposed to interesting background stories than I am. And thus, while going over our finds, likes, and dislikes at CES 2011, Doug mentioned there was a homeless guy here showing off his speakers. Homeless on a top floor of the Venetian, seriously? That sounds compelling. But what do the speakers sound like? Before telling me his impressions about their sound, Doug gave me the back ground story on Kevin. Kevin Nelson is homeless. He makes his way around the San Diego area keeping his gear at a friend’s home. He has been working on speaker designs since getting out of high school year ago, and the current speakers, being shown at CES, are the culmination of about 20 years of dreaming and tweaking. I can see why this grabbed Doug’s attention, but I was waiting for the catch. I don’t think Doug would waste my time if the speakers sounded awful, even though his taste are fairly different than mine, he does have a well trained ear. So, how do they sound, I kept asking. But the story kept getting richer. I think being a pastor teaches one to be a good story teller, because Doug dropped the bomb when he said that each speaker played both channels and they had a huge planar like sound. And they only cost $890. Hook, line, sinker, I was hooked. I had to hear this. So by day four, after finally finding the room in the chaos that is the upper floors of the Venetian Hotel during CES, I sat there with my wife for a couple minutes stunned. Were both speakers really playing both left and right channel, how was this possible, why wasn’t it a big mess of sounds? I quickly made plans to demo these speakers at my place.

The Zealth loudspeaker can be set up in three ways. One can run both channels from a single speaker, or run solely the left and right channels in the standard way, or run both channels out of each speaker. If you run the speakers in their most complex mode, each playing both channels, you want the tweeter on outer sides. You wire it up so the standard left/right channels are coming out of the lower baffle and the switched channels on the upper baffle. It is best to have them about 10 feet apart with a slight toe in. I also believe the higher your ceiling the better these will sound. Less reflection off the ceiling.

The lower baffle houses a 8” poly paper ribbed woofer and a 5” poly sealed back mid. The upper baffle has a 6.5” poly paper ribbed woofer with a 1” silk tweeter. There are four crossovers in each speaker all at different values to keep phaze alignment.

Set Up and Associated Equipment

In my smaller room I was only able to set the speakers about 7 feet apart and I have a 7 and a half foot ceiling. Right off the bat that restricted my ability to fully test these speakers. I can’t raise my ceiling and the needed abortion material on the ceiling was a no go. So I did something a little slick.

I used the Electrocompaniet PI-2 100W amplifier to drive the speaker for the first week. What I got was light, open, and well detailed sound. The imaging was having issues though. My room was in the way, and I didn’t have a way to deal with it. So instead of using a single amplifier I used two. I used the Electrocompaniet PC-1 CD Player that has both XLR and RCA outs, I ran the RCA into the PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium to control the upper baffle’s driver and tweeter volume level, and the XLR into the Electrocompaniet PI-1 amplifier to control the lower baffle . I’d find the point where both amplifiers were at the same level in volume, than turn the PrimaLuna down just a nudge. Now, I know what you thinking. I’m kind of cheating right. Well, yes and now. First off, I know that most likely not just anyone will have $5000 worth of amplifiers on had to drive a $890 speaker. And yes, I both understand and except this criticism of this write up. But that doesn’t mean this is pointless – there is something to be gained from my experience. What I want you to take away from this is the possibility of these speakers and if you have the ability to review these in an environment different than mine, I want you to call Kevin and work out getting a pair for review. I think these speakers are worth your time, ear, and if you are in the sub $1000 speaker market, have a 10 foot ceiling, and you want an engulfing sound that is fun and detailed, you need to try these.

The Sound

So how did they sound with my amplifier tweaks, surprisingly damn good. What they excelled at was staging and openness. I have to completely agree with Doug, they do possess a planar like quality. On Kind of Blue by Miles Davis the saxophones that are panned into the left and right channels lacked any since of beaming like they do off so many sub $1000 speakers. The drums panned on the right didn’t sound like they were coming out of box. The accompanying piano was life sized and saxophone, and Mile’s trumpet in the middle sounded spatially like a planar would portray. They had life, depth, and a real wall of sound quality. The bottom end, though not as deep as one might like for a speaker with a 8” woofer, no port on these babies, was clean, tight and didn’t have any booming shelf. The sound was cohesive but not in a way that you’d understand if you’ve never heard a planar. The level of detail was completely on pair with competitors in a sub $1000 speaker but the midrange had a vast openness to it. The Zealth’s are like facing a wall of sound and being consumed by it. Complete escapism.

I had to give the speaker back before I had a chance to try them in standard mode or just as a single speaker. But if anyone has had a chance to run them in either of these fashions please use the comment box below to let us know your thoughts.

Overall I’m stunned at the marvel of these speakers and their price point. Sure at this price point there are a lot of gives and takes. But these speakers do an amazing job at casing a three dimensional stage, a balanced sound, a fair amount of detail and flesh to the music, and overall a good time listening to them. Please contact Kevin if you are interested in hearing these speakers or owning a pair yourself.

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  • I know more then you know says:

    I found out that these speakers are using the cheepest drives known to mankind. How can you beleive that this speaker is an amazing sounding speaker when the drivers are litterly 9.00 each for the woofer and about 3.50 for the tweeter.

    I build speakers as well and I would never use the driver in these speakers. I have looked over the specs of all the drivers and the 1st thing to look out for and is a tell tail sign of JUNK is the foam surround. Since when does any real reputable speaker especially one designed for home theater or high end audio use a woofer thats got foam rubber for a surround. That went out in the 70′s when they relise its rots out 1st and your shit out of luck.

    The cabenits is well made Ill say that. MDF construction COOl any good speaker is made like that so no supprise there.But if your goign to pay close to 900.00 bucks for speakers they batter not have 9.00 woofers…Is that how he derives at the price….Just add 100.00 bucks per cost of the driver to make a 900% profit….WOW…..Hes got what? 2 sheets of MDF in there at 24.00 a sheet…..The vinal finish, 10.00 It costs what 95.00 bucks to build a pair of these. The vynal covers the joints as I can see one clearly at the top edge of the speaker….for 900.00 I better not see any of that. I build speakers and finish them with paint. Every joint is in plain sight and you cant see any obvious shoddy workmanship……I want a room next year at CES and Ill show you some realspeakers….Not to mention Im not demoing them with a P.O.S. not even entry level Kenwood receiver.Come on man you at a high end room at CES with equipement that was garbage from the second it rolled off the assembly line tryignto tell me these are high end….This whole endever has to be a joke on audiophiles!

  • Sound "imaging" really isnt imaging your being fooled says:

    Um……Can you say MONO…..Thats whats happening…..Run L/R to the bottom cabinet then the reversed channel to the top??????WTF

    SO lets say I look at the speaker on the left of the room…..I have say a Left channel signal to the bottom, Im supposed to run the right channel to the top? And vise a versa to the other speaker……

    Conclusion: Stereo seperation is goign from the top to the bottom of the speakers …Land R on the left of the room R/L on the right of the room……Basicly MONO at the end of the day other then the fact that the channel seperation is then going diagnal accross a room. I would think you would get a sence of OUT OF PHASE sound, thats were they are getting thew planar sound from I think….its really out of phasing not palnar sound.
    OR
    am I suppose to run L and R both to the bottom cabinet? which is MONO then. ( the wording above is not clear at all) the woofer would have to be a DVC then and I would then think there are 3 bindign pposts on the rear of the speaker…..so assuming L/R to bottom and L or R to the top of the cab depending on speaker positioning……all you have is stereo w/ mono……May just sound like Stereo with a mono sub in a stereo set up w/ subwoofer situation….It would fill a room evenly since you have full range soundon at both times from the bottom of the cab but stereo sep. adding some ombiance from the top of the cab.

    I’d take my tower speakers in stereo with my two 10\ subs any day of the week. ( tower on the left with a sub next to it, tower on the right with a sub next to it )…….MONO subs and stereo full range L/R rolled off at 80Hz where the subs come in…….

    Everybody is an engineer though these days so have fun boyz…..

  • Kevin Nelson says:

    Well I know the person responsible for this comment.
    I was going to go into detail about his false statements.
    I will say that the ZAL36T Loudspeakers were reviewed by Adam Labarge with Audio Review
    He had my speakers for about two weeks.
    I now have two certificates from the Patent and Trademark office for Zealth Audio Loudspeakers.
    I have been to the CES Show which i was invited to and was given the room at the Venetian Hotel 30th floor room 330 at no cost to me.
    I am in the Vision Magazine/CES and in the Connected Home Magazine from Austrailia.
    I have been on TV several times.
    The ZAL36T Loudspeakers are now in their first stages for medical research and will be further tested next month.

    Now I could go on and on but I would say that this isn’t all bad for two dollar speaker designed by a Homeless Veteran.

    So before you go bashing other Loudspeaker designers you might want to get your facts straight.

    Kevin Nelson
    Zealth Audio
    480-652-9834
    http://www.zealthaudio.com

  • Brad d'Alessio says:

    To the first two people that posted: wow, your comments are very harsh, especially given that you have not ever heard these speakers.

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