Speaker Stories

    The Dirty Weekend is Over

    Issue 153

    I never considered it my place to push or review products. Any component I’ve ever talked about has been in the vein of, “Hey, it works for me; maybe you’ll like it too.” But my Zu Audio speakers are a bit different. Unfortunately, I’m now free to heap praise on them after a sad announcement from Zu Audio informing us that their iconic entry-level Omen Dirty Weekend (DW for short) loudspeaker has been discontinued after eleven successful years.

    The DW Mk. 1 started as way to reuse surplus and refurbished drivers from trade-ins, and eventually evolved into the sought-after Mk. II with upgraded drivers and parts. It became simultaneously a best-kept secret, a cult favorite, and one of the greatest audio bargains out there. Built a few times a year and selling-out immediately, DWs didn’t need mass-marketing campaigns. Word of mouth, customer testimonials, and the well-imagined Zu Audio website were enough to pique the interests of budget-minded audiophiles like myself. And if you’ve been to the Zu room at an audio show, you already know their best sales strategy was demoing their speakers with energetic, loud, hip music like many of us listen to at home.

    Despite encountering some of the usual skepticism around imperfect measurements, bad reviews, and whether they can be used for serious jazz and classical music, this company has a way of grabbing on to new customers who never want to part ways. I’ve also often read that one either loves or hates Zu speakers, but isn’t that the case with any brand? My DWs are in my living room, where I spend nearly every waking moment. The left channel is less than two meters from me as I write this. I better love them, both their sound and design, or I made a huge blunder. A speaker is not something to be lukewarm about.

    I don’t remember how I stumbled upon Zu Audio – maybe in Stereophile – but I’m positive the name caught my eye because I figured it was a German brand. The German word “zu” means “to,” “for,” “into,” or “too” in English. Upon studying their website and learning more about the company, I felt an affinity with Zu’s philosophy and their young crew of seven in Utah. No matter the origin of the name, which I still don’t know, I was dying to get rid of my cheap little Wharfedales and get back to efficient American floorstanders. For the no-brainer price of $999 per pair, I was willing to wait a few weeks until they were assembled and broken-in. Compared to the quality of other stuff on the market, these speakers were heads above the rest. Although they’re not exactly like my three-way speakers from high school, the DWs still have the vibe I remember from the old days, a 50-lb. wooden rectangle that cranks.

    Zu Audio Omen Dirty Weekend loudspeakers.

    Zu Audio Omen Dirty Weekend loudspeakers.

     

    Once I hooked them up, I never considered upgrading to the full-scale Omen II at twice the price, and I was not alone. People were so enthusiastic about the Dirty Weekends that I started a Facebook group for Zu fans in 2018. One of my surveys showed that nearly 50 percent of members owned the entry-level Dirty Weekend, compared to all other Zu models. Some group members were indeed interested in upgrading, but it didn’t seem pressing because the DWs delivered so much for the money. The speaker might have been intended to offer a taste of what Zu could do, yet it delivered most of the menu – alas, without putting more pre-owned DWs into circulation for auditioning and perhaps without selling Zu’s more-expensive models.

    Meanwhile, orders kept rolling in for the limited build dates of Dirty Weekends. The Facebook group was loaded with messages from excited new Zu converts counting down to the next DW sale or delivery date. COVID-19 stimulus checks flooded the market, boosting sales of home entertainment products across America. Depending upon the amount of your check, it could have also covered a custom paint job or upgraded capacitors in a new set of DWs. Nevertheless, by late 2020, consumers started seeing shortages and delays. Some Zu buyers waited extra weeks and then months for their Dirty Weekends to arrive, and others are still waiting patiently into 2022 to receive the last sets of these beloved speakers.

    Though more recent customers paid $1,199 for their DWs, it still was not enough to turn a profit after factoring the cost of parts, labor, and all associated shipping. Despite the accusations of hoaxes, deep state manipulation, and corporate greed, supply chain problems are real. Raw materials are scarcer and more expensive as worldwide production and distribution issues further exacerbate domestic shipping delays. Unless one is directly involved with commerce, it might be easy to believe conspiracy theories around price increases and scarcity. I’d rather believe Zu Audio’s Sean Casey, Founder/Industrialist-Propagandist (his official job title), and Gerrit Koer, Anti-Conformist and Go-to-Guy (his official job title), over any armchair economist or bunker podcaster.

    “We’ve learned that in the prevailing labor and supplies environment, Zu cannot profitably build and sell a Zu-quality speaker at the Omen Dirty Weekend price. At best it’s been a break-even proposition, but if we are really honest with ourselves about the true costs of the promotion, it’s a money-loser, which of course we cannot sustain.”

    Dirty Weekend in blue finish.

    Dirty Weekend in blue finish.

     

    The more significant point is that Zu chose to discontinue a popular item instead of compromising quality – like so many companies had done long before the pandemic. Zu could have contracted with a multi-brand factory, where Zu badges are slapped onto plastic speakers and sold at a healthier profit, or made them just bad enough to ensure upgrades. They could have also launched a souped-up version of the DW and charged more by adding a bunch of meaningless bells and whistles. It would be easy to do just by repeating the words “proprietary” and “trademark technology,” and mentioning lots of esoteric materials in the spec sheet – precisely why I avoided big-box store speakers in favor of Zu.

    I consider myself lucky that I got a pair of Dirty Weekends – one of my better audio decisions. After three years of listening, I am still enjoying them. Sure, if I won the lottery and had a dedicated audio room, I would love to own Zu Definitions (now up to Mk. IV status with the Series 6 announced for spring 2022), sort of a monster version of the DW with built-in subwoofers weighing in at 150 lbs. and $8,450 each. Not that it matters, but my upgrade window is long-gone. However, the one-year trade-in policy remains in effect for new buyers, and fortunately, there will still be occasional DWs available to other budget-minded audiophiles. I hope people still manage to get a pair – even as a secondary party set – because Dirty Weekends are so much fun, and loud, realistic, and good-looking. To anyone else who intended to get a new set in the unpredictable future, remember what George Harrison sang, “all things must pass.” Whether it’s good or bad, nothing lasts forever, especially a great audio bargain.

    11 comments on “The Dirty Weekend is Over”

    1. Nice article. I thought i was on the wrong website when i saw the picture. See you back on Facebook and as soon as the spouse leaves i can listen some more.

      1. Ha, thank you. I’m in Facebook jail for another 25 hours due to a miscontrued comment about a Broadway show, but yes, I will see you over there.

    2. I’ve had a pair for a couple of years and use them in a secondary system. Very fun speakers…they can be finicky about getting that port height right, but once you lock it in, you are rewarded. I don’t understand why they just don’t raise the price to a point where it is profitable to them. For me, they certainly can compete with speakers more than their selling price. It’s a shame to see them go.

    3. Tom,

      Nice article. I bought a pair of electric blue dirty weekend Omens about 8 years ago, and still use them with my PrimaLuna tube setup, mostly for LP playback. At the point when I got them, the DW’s were using the 10-inch drivers from Zu Druids (at that point, Zu’s top-of-the-line loudspeaker) that had been traded in for upgraded replacement drivers. A couple of years ago, I upgraded the tweeters to the Eminence drivers that are used in current production Omens and also upgraded to the Clarity caps. I also ended up getting a single DW Omen bookshelf loudspeaker with matching drivers, and use it in a 3-channel setup when listening to classic RCA LSC’s and Mercury Living Presence titles that were recorded in 3-channel sound.

      With proper amplification — they love tubes, but also respond well to Class A and even Class D amps — the Omen DW’s sing like nothing else. Even with the extra cash put into upgraded caps and tweets, they’re still among the best buys in high end audio. I understand Zu’s reluctance to continue to promote a loudspeaker that they can’t make a profit on, but I also feel sorry for the listeners who’ll lose out on the opportunity to experience perfection for a fraction of the price.

      Tom

    4. Finally, another cool guy named Tom! I agree that the DW sounds wonderful with a variety of amps: I had both a Class D and Class A running on them, and I must say I prefer the latter.

      I don’t think I ever knew about 3-channel recordings. I have a vague recollection of old Klipschhorn users adding a Cornwall along the long wall when the corners were far apart, but that’s about it.

      With all the planned obsolescence, I think it’s great when companies build a product that can be upgraded.

      Thank you for your input.

    5. After looking at the first picture of what I assume is your system, have ever considered going with the junior member of Klipsch’s still Hope, Arkansas manufactured Heritage line? The idea of a Rogue spouting Heresy appeals to my sense of whimsy.

      “Born in the U.S.A. . .” — The Boss

    6. Ha, those are all stock photos, but it was the set-up I had last year: Rogue Sphinx V2 + DWs. Now, I have a Rogers 65 V1 class A amp. I am a big fan of the Heritage line and would love to run some Heresys, Cornwalls, or Scalas with my current amp, but the latest Heresys are up to $3200/pair – and that’s not happening anytime soon. If I came into $3K, I would probably get the Zu Undertone subwoofer.

    7. Hello Tom. Perhaps you could start a Christmas Fund as the Heresy IVs are really something. I power them with a class A/B amp and supplement them with a good sub, to be honest. Anyway I could swear Joni Mitchell and James Taylor were in my house, circa 1970, while I was listening from a bedroom up the stairs and around the corner from my front room. How sweet it is, so to speak, from my actual listening chair.

    8. I have not heard the Heresy’s in a while, but I was at RMAF a few years back and got to audition the Forte and La Scala, the latter was AMAZING. My uncle had a set of 1970s Klipschhorns and I would love to hear the new version of those.

      1. Those beasts are over 200 pounds these days. I first joined forces with my brother in the late 70s to put together a good system. It was after hearing the Klipschhorns in our local dealer. An a Cappella version of After the Gold Rush by Prelude was incredible. Yamaha separates. DUAL turntable and DCM Time windows tapped our budget though. Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell were in high rotation. Good times.

    Leave a Reply

    Also From This Issue

    Octave Records Releases The Moon Leans In by Singer/Songwriter Thom LaFond

    Octave Records’ newest release is The Moon Leans In by…

    Back to My Reel-to-Reel Roots, Part Six: Rock On (or Not)

    After the last issue’s epic coverage of the Beatles’ Get…

    Reeling ‘Em In

    Simple design, good sound: A Dynaco Mark III mono power…

    AES Show Fall 2021 Highlights, Part Three

    In the fourth quarter of 2021, the Audio Engineering Society…
    Subscribe to Copper Magazine and never miss an issue.

    Stop by for a tour:
    Mon-Fri, 8:30am-5pm MST

    4865 Sterling Dr.
    Boulder, CO 80301
    1-800-PSAUDIO

    Join the hi-fi family

    Stop by for a tour:
    4865 Sterling Dr.
    Boulder, CO 80301

    Join the hi-fi family

    linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram