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Gala Performance - Mr Zanden's Cessaro Beta and Zanden suite

Straightly speaking Mr Zanden cannot be regarded as an activist in the AE Forum but every piece that he wrote, it carries with weight and substance. Whenever there were major changes in the AE Showroom such as change in source, speaker, amps, Mr. Zanden is always among the first few to be invited to listen and stamp his endorsement before it goes public ‘hearing’. His seriousness in getting things right and critical listening always make me sweat at my back!!

Last Sat, I had the privilege to visit Mr Zanden’s own system together with my comrade friend Romanovym. It is a full blown Cessaro Beta system driven by a full suite of Zanden electronics among which a legendary pair of power amp specifically tailored made by Yamada San: Model Wilson to recognize Mr Zanden’s support and appreciation of the brand.

The entire system is housed in a not so large listening space which to the majority of audiophile intuitive thinking: Speaker is too large and too close to the listening position. Just 9 feet, Mr Zanden said. I took the advice from Mr Zanden to close my eyes on listening and forget about the physical distance of the speaker.

I was stunned and sweat started getting out from my forehead when the first orchestral music was played. I was put on the 5th row of the concert hearing the entire orchestra playing in front of me. Contrasting the home audition of PT’s Trinity system, Mr Zanden has created a bigger virtual space for the music to breathe. I must admit the acoustics treatment in Mr Zanden’s place is meticulously established like a scientific laboratory. Mr Zanden said, if we remove all the acoustics treatment, there is no way to attain such level of listening experience which I truly agree!! How much have we lost due to acoustics deficiency? I really feel shameful for the tiny effort I have put in this domain.

We listened to a wide variety of music and all were played back flawlessly with stress free dynamics and tuneful colors. Different types of musical instruments have their own rhythms and dynamic headrooms. I know readers of this report would find me crazy or exaggerated, the pair of speaker with 1 meter wide mid bass horn really disappeared even when I listened with eyes opened. One won’t feel there is a point source coming out from the where the drivers are physically located. The soundstage is continuous and filled up without any gaps. One has to listen to believe.

According to Mr Zanden, he is going to host more ‘open day’ to fellow audiophiles to get himself more understood of how he implements such a mega system with mega performance.

My salute to Mr Zanden!! It is really a listening experience that uniquely represents one’s endeavor and attention not just on gears, but on the acoustical integration!

Calling Romanovym to chip in more comments as he preferred to stay longer not wanting to leave on that day!!



  • Marvel bro,

    What you were describing is likely a "gigantic headphone effect" given the physical limitation of the room. The virtual space that you experienced is a direct result of "near field" listening under a horn loaded solution. What is amazing should be the absence of back wall influence behind the listening position. How loud can you play?

    Achieving such with a gigantic speaker in a small room is hell of a job. I can see many resonators in the picture. I am sure Mr Zanden must be a damn expert in utilising them to achieve the seemingly impossible. Mind you that resonators sing together with the music, and it is not orthodoxy room acoustics treatment (stop the room from singing) in the conventional scientific perspective. It is more of a "room coloration" device.

    I respect there are many different routes to reach Rome. For as long as destination is reached, nobody cares the means.
  • And I trust every words you had written. I would very much like to see Mr Zanden to write more in this forum.
  • Mr. Zanden actually looks at the whole flat, not just the listening room, as a big speaker, a big musical instruments, and he did add some cushions behind listener's position to absorb resonance. He even put a lot of such resonators in toilet, kitchen and the doorway outside the main door, as the low frequencies can go through under the doors to those areas. This actually helps create an opera-house like depth and width which makes me feel like being in a real concert hall. This is by far the closest experience to listening orchestral works at Cultural Centre. It's not like the sounds come out from the gears in front of me, but from many positions. The energy distribution is fairly even that no noisy peaks or coarse sounds.
    The volume is high but far from disco-like loudness, so it can easily make one immerse into the music.
  • Voy,
    thanks for your trust! Some of my friends also gave feedback to me if I am hearing a mega headphone effect.

    Regardless of whether it is a true horn experience or a mega headphone effect, I want to pay my utmost respect to Mr Zanden to make possible something we believe is impossible, juggling a pair of mega Beta system in a tiny space which most, myself included, audiophile would readily say: you must be kidding. Isn't it a true spirit of thinking out of the box and pushing the envelop to drive maximum performance?

    Mr Zanden has used those resonators wisely to neutralise the standing waves, reflections, etc, are they neturalising or ringing to create a false perception? I will leave the expert, Mr Zanden to explain.
  • Without any doubt, the way Mr Zanden has implemented this horn solution is 'unconventional' but in my conventional way of assessing the overall performance, the level attained is genuinely remarkable. To those who might have a slightest doubt, please join Mr Zanden in his forthcoming system open day to find the answer by yourself.
  • Last Sat, i had the honour to listen Mr Zanden system. This is really a big thing for me.
    Since i joined AE member only one and a half year, i did my homework to catchup with all the threads here, read though the entire forum and every thread. Mr Zanden would write something from time to time. As Marvel said, it carried weight and substance. i still remembered i bought my simplicity 2 based on Mr Zanden review even i haven't met him at all. And i researched cassero speaker in the website, and found a wood horn beta, and thinking this is the best looking horn for me so far. love the wood finish, end up pointing to a same person, Mr Zanden's horn. And always see his licence plate from time to time but didn't how he looks like. like "賭神". Full of mystery. Finally i met him in last AE show, taught me a little tricks in setting up and suggested me to buy some LP. Like a little fans i did it all.

    So i went and thought i would spend a decent 2 hours there listen to his wonderful system, ending up i spent 4 hours listening without notice time. This is tell a lot of his system.
    No wonder Mr Zanden could spend 9 hours listening non stop.

    When i bell his door belt, first thing i noticed was a low volume yet very clear and crisp radio board cast coming out even with the door closed. Interesting!
    After i got inside, i feel very calm and quite atmosphere. just radio but very 3d at the front door. Then i told Mr Zanden about it. He quick demo with clapping hand from dinner room to Hifi area. The room acoustic were amazing. All the sound reflection was just right. lively.

    Then i listened to the radio at the "king" spot while Mr Zanden was introducing his system and prepared some cd. Damn! why the Radio sound so good. like you are looking real person talking in front of you. Then he told the highest level is listening to radio......... we didn't go further on that. i don't want to buy a radio. hahaha.
    But the radio broad cast was really good, seriously.

    We started with CD, some orchestra. LIVE LIVE LIVE. Like i was sitting at the fifth row from the stage. Speaker disappear, even a huge beautiful horn in front of me. when one close your eye, we dislocated from the reality and transport to a visual concert hall. Amazing
    We listened full range of music. i am not a fan of classical but i listened almost one two hour, Mr Zanden as a DJ on classical music. He changed my perspective on Horn school of thought. As i wrote before, i thought horn is for "old people" since their ear are getting less sensitive, need strong favour, until i met Choku. Change my perspective. But his horn + zanden system was very lively and warm. i immersed with music without talk much about the system. The bass just right, everything was well balanced.
    Then i requested to play some songs that i have back home so i have a reference to my system. He played " We got request, you look good to me". i surrendered. the Din Din sound linger for long time and the cello texture sound so "right" Cause it will easier become fat in the beginning. all the string can perform clearly without any blur. then i checked the CD thought this is some sort of first print or West german version etc. No, just a normal version. Then Mr Zanden told me this is the strength of horn that no other speaker can reproduce like this "real". then he played Koji Tamaki. i melted. and some more very good recording CD. The speaker really disappeared. We really didn't talk much about gears for the whole time. cause we listened to solely music. Just mentioned that they were full set of Zanden system. But we did talk about the new horn vs his older model horn. i really think this horn sound very human and analog. I use film vs new digital photos as a example to explain this. Old films have a touch of human and we focus on the composition and messages to judge whether it is a good pictures or not. but in digital era, all photos are analysis how sharp is it and we zoom in 100% to analysis how good a lens is. However, we understand the world need to move on. Anyway, really changed my impression on Horn. Cassero horn are really good.

    Then LP session,equally impressive. But CD is not losing to LP in Mr zanden case. just LP have a rather relax and better mood in nature. After one song by one song, until the security rang the bell and want me to move my car. that ended my listening session, but almost 4 hours go.

    This was really a ear opening experience. No one can imagine a huge horn can disappear and dislocate a person into a real concert hall environment with the given limitation in space, although his living room is not small in the first place. And everything is so well balanced. Really learn a lot of a real master. Thank you again for inviting me.

  • Kahw,

    I enjoy reading your write up. I equally respect and admire the spirit and knowledge of Mr Zanden tremendously.

    I want to better explain from a technical perspective of horn speakers.

    First of all, horn is not about adding favor for old people. The "favor" comes from the inability to maintain "time alignment" in short distance. As a result, some recordings are reproduced exceedingly well given the speed and presence. Some are not, but you don't know why, are because of "time alignment" issue. Most of the time it is the speed of the lower bass cannot match with the upper session. As a result, you feel something wrong.

    In the case of Mr Zanden, because he is using Beta, has perfect time alignment from 130hz all the way to 40,000hz because everything is "front loaded" over a wide frequency range. Under 130hz, it cannot maintain time alignment because his subwoofers are backed loaded horn. Douglas's Universe, has front loaded configuration from the subwoofer all the way to the super tweeter. But the size is gigantic! That is the perfect horn speakers, best time aligned horn I have ever experienced at AE super show in July.

    In AE showroom, the Carmen's lower bass is not loaded by horn BUT the subwoofer is FRONT LOADED. But the 16" bass is doing a great job to alleviate the time alignment issue in this section because of the volume radiate by this driver.

    That is why you experienced "naturalness" - a direct result of time alignment above 130hz to as far as the super tweeter can achieve.

    For conventional speakers of whatever sort you are using, including my Tidal Sunray, will never have the transient response, energy free of compression , and the presence of Cessaro horn even though our speakers may have better time alignment amongst drivers configurated in our speakers.

    Then this is where "preference" comes into the equation.

    I hope you understand what I meant.

  • edited November 2015
    If I have the space, I will go for Douglas Universe system. I have no second thought at all. After tremendous exposure to Cessaro Horn all these years, I am getting used to compression-free energy transmission at ease.

    I cannot deny how "shitty" are those ceramic drivers of my speakers from the perspective of "mechanical resonances" when volume starts going up. For inexperienced listener like myself 10 years ago, I had mistaken sharper than normal leading edges and crispy treble as transparency.

    And I have become someone who prefer listening at louder volume when it comes to rock and electronics.

  • Kahw,

    If you sit very very far away from the horn speakers enough, it will be always time-aligned. This is also a fact that you should know.

    If you sit real close, the speakers must be time aligned over a very wide range to render naturalness

    This is physics.
  • Thanks Raymond!
    i am thinking about this all the time after visited.
    compression- free energy transmission. yes!
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