Hapa Audio Haiku Aerogel RCA Cable Review

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WGH

Hapa Audio Haiku Aerogel RCA Cable Review
« on: 20 Sep 2022, 07:14 pm »
Hapa Audio Haiku Aerogel RCA and AerØ Ag Aerogel USB Cable Review







I want to thank Jason for the opportunity to be one of the first to listen and review the new Hapa Haiku RCA interconnect cables. It has been fun. There will be more reviews coming, Eric has the cables now and then coming up our Tucson Audiophile Group has a listening session planned for Saturday, Oct. 1st at another member’s house with a system using custom electronics powering Nola speakers.

At first, I had no idea how these cables sound, or even if they have a sound. The Haiku are the closest thing to having no cables I have ever heard.

It took a week to understand what these cables can do and how my electronics and software interact. The change in sound is not subtle, but what is affecting the sound can take a while to figure out. Just because the system sounds better doesn’t mean the new component isn't compensating for something out of whack upstream that, in the long term, will come back to bite you.

My current wires are the Hapa Aero USB (1st Gen), Hapa Quiescence Silver and the rare Hapa Quiescence GS Gold Silver interconnects. Electronics include the Holo Audio May KTE DAC, AVA Vision SET 400 amp, and the AVA Fet Valve CFR preamp with NOS Mullard 12AT7 and Genelex 12AU7 tubes. Speakers are the venerable Salk HT2-TL and a REL Gibraltar G2 sub.

The demo wire package Jason sent included 2 pair of Haiku RCA interconnects and the Aero Ag USB. Instead of trying out each cable individually, I put everything in all at once, no sense fooling around. The first thing I noticed was an increase in space, the sound field expanded and deepened. All Hapa cables excel in space and the Haiku does not disappoint. Individual instruments are easy to locate, the sound isn’t hyper detailed but naturally presented. Low level sounds like echoes are clearly resolved.

The second thing I noticed was the effortless clarity of the highs. Bells and triangles shimmered with overtones, the RAAL tweeters loved the way the Haiku highs went up and on forever. The highs are never spotlighted, these cable are very well balanced, the sound is as close to lifelike as possible. The bass, as with all Hapa cables, is subterranean when call for, I detected no change in the quantity or quality of super low 20 - 30 Hz bass. 

Over time I noticed that lyrics were easier to understand. My current cables are no slouches but the Haiku are able to resolve nuances hidden in the mix. The difference is subtle, it will only be noticed if you know the music and your system well.

After a couple of days getting acclimated to the new sound and letting the cables settle in I started switching out cables and that did not go so well. Because the Haiku are so clear and neutral any deviation from perfection is easily heard. The Quiescence Silver became coarse compared to the smooth, effortless extended highs of the Haiku. The Quiescence Gold Silver added a bloom that the neutral Haiku doesn't have.

What that means is that you might have to go all-in with Haiku with at least 2 pair: Source to preamp and preamp to amp. The Aero Ag USB then completes the loom.
 

44.1 kHz

Here is where music reproduction gets interesting. Whether you stream or play digital music stored on a server, a music player has to be used. I use JRiver, everyone has his or her favorite.

Now, is the Holo Audio May KTE neutral in non-oversampling mode? I have no idea. The DAC is well reviewed with an A+ rating in the latest Stereophile Recommended Components issue. I like it too, nothing flashy or fancy or hey-look-at-me, it just plays music, always sounding natural.

Using my original Hapa interconnects, 44.1 kHz in NOS mode music can sound spatially flat with squashed ambience around and behind the instruments. Highs are somewhat limited, like they fade out prematurely, like there is a thin blanket over the sound.

The Hapa Haiku makes 44.1 kHz listenable again, even enjoyable. The JRiver player has a happy little mid-bass bump, it has PRaT. Dance music like Pavrov Stelar’s “Moonlight Love Affair" energizes the room with tight punchy bass. The room echo and applause at the beginning of the excellent new “Graham Nash: Live” album puts you in the room. The album has excellent bass too, an A+ recording.

The Hapa Haiku is wonderful playing 44.1 kHz with JRiver, the soundstage opens up, instruments have their own space, the highs are alive. That said, the Haiku is simply stunning playing hi-res.


384 - 768 kHz Oversampling

I use a custom made music server with HQPlayer to upsample all PCM. HQPlayer enables the user to tweak the sound like a FPGA DAC (PS Audio DirectStream), but instead of a few built in settings HQPlayer has 30 digital algorithms and 15 dither settings.

I posted an in-depth review of the Holo May/HQPlayer combo:
https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=182724.msg1919415#msg1919415

384 kHz oversampling is the sweet spot for me, even though the Holo May does go higher, the music starts loosing stuff like imaging and bass. I probably would have a hard time with an A-B comparison between 384 and 768 kHz but today 384 kHz feels better. I may change my mind tomorrow; it depends on the recording, that's how digital rolls over here.

It is easy to pick out the difference between 44.1 kHz and 384/768 kHz. Images become 3-D, the soundstage expands and highs are lifelike. Triangles and bells extend up toward infinity and then naturally decay without any attenuation. Holo Audio cables are known for their huge, expanded soundstage, the Haiku take this to another level, all the while remaining natural, like the room was always there but lesser cables never let you hear it. Low level detail is enhanced because now noise-shaping has the room to move noise to non-audible frequencies. HQPlayer makes the bass tighter with less overhang compared to JRiver. Similar sounding instruments are easier to identify. Once you experience it, you never want to go back to 44.1 kHz, which starts sounding mid-fi by comparison.


DSD256

I did quite a few combinations of the different Hapa cables I have on hand. DSD256 eliminated a few variables: both JRiver and HQPlayer have DSD passthrough, in theory the 1-bit signal isn’t touched, there are slight differences between players but nothing worth mentioning.

I listened to a compilation I made of the free 2L DSD downloads available on their website, 17 sample tracks, 7.23 GB. All songs are full length and there is not a clunker in the bunch. 2L picked the best track from each album, each one is recorded using state-of-the-art equipment and techniques and range from DSD256 to DSD64.
http://www.2l.no/hires/index.html?



The first three tracks are perfect for cable comparisons, all are DSD256 and recorded in churches with a huge reverberant field around the performers.




Innocense - Hoff Ensemble – Polarity album







Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor - Christian Grøvlen - BACH – Inside Polyphony album







Arnesen: MAGNIFICAT 4. Et misericordia - Nidarosdomens jentekor & TrondheimSolistene




The differences I heard between the Quiescence and Haiku remained consistent with the Haiku always presenting a larger, true representation of the recording space.

I haven’t mentioned the Aero Ag USB but all the attributes of the Haiku are also present in the Aero. I consistently heard a larger soundstage compared to my 1st Gen Aero USB. Tonally I thought they are similar.

Anand wrote an excellent Aero Ag USB review
https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=183027.msg1923417#msg1923417


System Synergy



I needed to listen to a lot of music for a week, switching between JRiver and HQPlayer, Quiescence and Haiku, the original Aero and Aero Ag USB, PCM and DSD to parse out the subtle but important differences of the new Hapa cable lineup.

At first the sound was dominated by the pristine, clear highs and wide, deep soundstage. Instruments and voices were placed inside the soundstage like a 3-D movie, fun stuff.

Our audio group had a listening session where we compared an Odyssey Kismet amp to a AVA Vision SET 400. I noticed a difference in bass and imaging and completely missed that the Kismet was brighter, highs were tipped up compared to the AVA amp. Once the difference was mentioned it became obvious.

The same laser focus phenomenon happened with the Haiku. It took a while before I stopped focusing on one aspect and finally begin to hear other differences. Deep subwoofer bass was exactly the same but higher up into the bass, above 35 Hz, there was a slight attenuation compared to the Quiescence cables. The change in bass wasn’t noticeable most of the time, the music had to have strong content in that region. The Parov Stelar album "Moonlight Love Affair" is dance music with a big beat, the bass should hit you in the chest. The album is well recorded so the bass is tight too. The Haiku just didn’t hit as hard, the bass was still there in spades, deep and tight but the punch was lighter. My REL Gibraltar sub has a digital display and remote control so I increased the crossover from 32 Hz to 36 Hz and increased the volume 6 dB and then bass was close to the Quiescence cables.

I also noticed that pianos sounded less sonorous on the 2L DSD256 sample tracks. Once you hear the difference, you can't unhear it. JRiver with it's happy little bass bump sounded great with the Haiku cables. JRiver's default setting converts DSD to PCM so even the 2L DSD256 piano tracks will sound perfect with Haiku cables if your DAC doesn't do native DSD.

Phat tube electronics, speakers with a typical 40 Hz bump or placed too close to the front wall will all sound magical with the Haiku cables.

But I like how HQPlayer upsampling plays music, it doesn’t have the happy bass bump, the sound is tighter, more 3-D with clearer highs than the JRiver player and it is adjustable. Changing the filters and upsampling rate can get the sound very close to what the Haiku does. The room sound is still big but not as big as with the Haiku, which is what I will miss. Tonally however, I prefer how the Quiescence sounds in my system plus I don’t have to change the sub levels between stereo and home theater. There is a synergy with the original Aero USB, Quiescence silver and Quiescence Gold Silver, the slight coarseness disappears, music is always enjoyable and never disappoints.

In a Follow-Up article in the Oct. 2022 Stereophile, Jim Austin wrote:
    “Lately, I’ve been thinking again about a concept I've thought about on and off for years: first impressions of a product versus lingering, meaningful differences.
     "We’ve all had the experience: Replace a familiar component with a new one, let it warm up, then listen. You hear differences, often dramatic ones. (Not always though: a couple of years ago, I compared two DACs of similar price and design, switching back and forth between them, and could hear no difference at all)
     "What’s interesting is that some of the differences seem obvious and important at first-that they are impossible to overlook-become less important with time”


That is where I am at the moment, the Hapa cables I own are excellent, the Haiku cables do some things different (and better), but I don’t always listen in the sweet spot so I have to pick the cables that sound good all the time, on every recording, everywhere in the house.

If I was to buy only one cable right now, it would be the Aero Ag USB. It resolves more space, naturally.

The Haiku cables really should be paired with the Aero Ag USB, one compliments the other. Without the Aero Ag USB you will only hear 66% of what the Haiku has to offer. Two pair of Haiku cables plus the Aero Ag USB will increase your musical enjoyment to 100%.

Wayne



 
« Last Edit: 20 Sep 2022, 10:09 pm by WGH »

Pez

Re: Hapa Audio Haiku Aerogel RCA Cable Review
« Reply #1 on: 20 Sep 2022, 08:03 pm »
Quote
The Haiku are the closest thing to having no cables I have ever heard.

Wayne- thank you for kicking off the tour! Indeed, Haiku is like a pristine mirror. They will show you EVERY detail. If you have a face like mine with a pristine mirror, you definitely won’t like everything I see.  :lol: Whereas Ember, or QGS (discontinued) do a great job of being detailed they are way more forgiving if you don’t have the cleanest most insanely excellent gear.

Thanks for the well written and very informative review.  :thumb:

poseidonsvoice

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Re: Hapa Audio Haiku Aerogel RCA Cable Review
« Reply #2 on: 21 Sep 2022, 02:18 am »
It’s really too bad that this forum doesn’t have a “like” button as this review deserves it and then some. It’s exceptionally well written. Thanks Wayne for your sharing your thoughts.

Best,
Anand.

mresseguie

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Re: Hapa Audio Haiku Aerogel RCA Cable Review
« Reply #3 on: 21 Sep 2022, 03:40 am »
It’s really too bad that this forum doesn’t have a “like” button as this review deserves it and then some. It’s exceptionally well written. Thanks Wayne for your sharing your thoughts.

Best,
Anand.

Agreed! My 'like': +1  :thumb:

Wayne, this is a very well written review. As one of the lucky few to be a part of this tour, I very much look forward to hearing these cables in my system.

Michael
« Last Edit: 23 Sep 2022, 02:53 pm by mresseguie »