Zaph Audio 5.2 DIY Speaker Review

by admin
Summary

The Zaph Audio 5.2s are one of my favorite speakers. They’re the cheapest pair ($240 for parts + wood) of speakers I’d consider to be serious audiophile-grade speakers, and I have a hard time finding any major flaws with the speakers. Somehow, these speakers manage to reproduce a clinically flat and balanced frequency response while retaining their high fidelity characteristics.

Build Notes
Pretty straightforward. I’d build a ported version instead of sealed, and you might want to consider putting a front firing port if you have minimal space between the wall.

On a completed unrelated note, the cones look amazing. They look like the nose of a stealth airplane.

Sound

Everything I review is compared to the sound signature of these speakers because of how flat and balanced they are. Thanks to the Zaph speakers, I have a very comfortable baseline on what I consider neutral.

Bass – Bass extension is audible if you listen for it, but you definitely need a separate sub for enjoyment. In the four seasons track during testing, there was no depth or texture added from the bassists due to the lack of low end.

Mids – The mids sound amazing. The smoothness in the voice reproduction is simply stunning. Throw on some Amy Winehouse or Diana Krall, and hours will fly by.

Highs – These are some serious tweeters for how cheap they are $25-30. The highs are crisp and fast, and I like them almost as much as my ribbon tweeters that cost twice the price. I’d consider these the bare minimum for audiophile-grade tweeters. Listening to impressive jazz drummers is a joy when listening to these tweeters.

Soundstage – Depths is solid, and it makes these speakers very musical compared to lifeless studio monitors. I’d mix on these over my Tannoys that cost more because they sound that much better in terms of depth and how flat they are; however, this argument is highly personal preference on what kind of sound signature an individual likes to mix with.

I love these speakers, and it’s tough to find a major con when listening to these speakers. Sure, the tweeters can be maybe 10-20% smoother if you pay twice as much for higher end tweeters, but for how much they cost, it’s ridiculous how good this thing sounds.  The next noticeable step up happens if you build his SR71s, which I’d consider serious high-end speakers, but they cost twice as much and take up a lot more space.

Music section
Giorgio by Moroder – Daft Punk
  • 00:00 – 00:36 – The depth in his voice was immediately noticeable. Bass extension is barely audible, and background chatter barely comes out.
  • 00:36 – 1:08 – Bass extension exists, but it’s barely audible. His voice is well balanced with all the other instruments with a lot of depth, and treble is tight and noticeably crisp. Soundstage depth quality is good, and separation is solid, allowing you to pick out any instrument.
  • 6:58 – 7:30 – These tweeters perform really well for how cheap they are. Highs are very crisp, fast, and filled with details. Bass extension is present, fast, and reasonably tight and actually decent here. The record spins are crisps and the sound is balanced with decent separation all around.
Tom Sawyer – Rush
  • 00:00 – 00:50 – Highs continue to perform well, and the sound is very neutral across the board with vocals and highs all portrayed equally. Separation is good, but I wouldn’t describe it as huge.
Come Away with Me – Norah Jones
  • 00:00 -1:00 – Her voice quality has a ton of depth, making it very pleasant to listen to. These drivers are sonically amazing. Background instruments sound balanced and separation allows you to focus in on them, but they don’t overwhelm her voice line.
Four seasons L’estate III Presto – Vivaldi (Pavel)
  • 00:00 – 00:44 Violin attacks are sharp and fast, but lower strings don’t quite come out well enough.
  • 00:45 -1:04 Pavel’s aggressiveness does come through pretty well, with attacks sounding nice and sharp.
  • 1:05 – 1:20 While the instruments are balanced, the missing low-end extension is obvious here.
Count Bubba – Gordon Goodwin
  • 00:00 – 00:41 First thing you notice is how balanced and neutral everything sounds. While I wish there was slightly more separation, you can still pick out all the individual parts. Highs continue to perform well.
  • 1:10 – 1:39 This section also sounds balanced and neutral. I love the smooth and balanced reproduction of all the sections here.
Closing thoughts
If I could only one pair of speakers, I’d keep these. They’re addicting to listen to, and it blows my mind how clean these speakers sound; however, note that most people do not want completely flat speakers, so I’d seriously consider what type of sound you like before you end up building these. Even when I listen to the SR71s and come back to listen to these, I’m more than happy with these speakers, especially given how much they cost and their relatively small size.

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