Full Loom Cable Evaluations: Zenwave Audio

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Full Loom Cable Evaluations: Zenwave Audio
« on: 5 Aug 2015, 04:37 am »
Zenave Audio : http://zenwaveaudio.com 
Cables Reviewed: D3 RCA (1m), D4 RCA/ XLR/SP/DIF (1m), PL Power Cables (1m), SL series Speeker Cables (6')

First off, a huge thanks to Dave at Zeneave Audio (Dave's Cables). He sent us a  great assortment of his cables to audition and play with. We had the cables  for  quite a few weeks and had a great time  auditioning them.
All the  Zenwave cables we tested with the exception of the D4 IC's came in under $1K. 

The 2 systems we've  been auditioning the Zenwave Audio cables in are as follows:

My System:
  • Modded Jolida JD302 CRC (caps/resistors/dioodes upgraded, NOS Amperex ECC83 pre tubes/Mullard CV4024 driver tubes, Canada Fuller EL34G power tubes)
  • Grant Fidelity Tube DAC 11 (Mullard A-frame 6DJ8)
  • GR Research OB7 (upgraded c/o's & M130X woofer upgrade)
  • GR research  dual OB 12" direct-servo controlled subs (H-frame)  / ch
  • PI Audio Mini Buss
  • Marigo Ultara 5 power cords (1M), Real World Acoustics IC's (1m), DIY  speaker cables (4 conductor solid core  high quality copper 4.5’)
  • DIY absorption panels at 1st reflection points, DIY poly diffusers behind OB7's
  • Room Size: 18.5’ x 12’ x 7.5’

Don's system:
  • Bryston 14BSST2 Amp
  • K&K RAKK DAC MKIV (Dueland caps)
  • Berkley USB Alpha USB-> SP/DIF re-clocker
  • Piega P10 Speakers
  • PI Audio USB cable (1.5m)
  • PI Audio UberBuss
  • Various Onda Power cords & XLR  IC's, nickel plated copper speaker cables

I have been interested in the D3 RCA IC's from Zenwave Audio for quite some time so I began this audition by installing the D3 RCA's between my DAC and  amp.   After some listening,  an improvement in  layering and separation between  instruments was noted.  Not dramatic improvements over the  Real World Acoustics IC's I've been using  but definitely a step up, I'd say a more open, more accurately  defined image was created. The RWA's have plenty of detail as do the D3's, but things are a bit more compressed towards the center and you don't quite get the same layering effect that the D3's provide.  I also noticed vocals  being slightly clearer and more focused.  The D3's are what I'd call somewhat forward, definitely not laid back at all but not fatiguing. Additionally, the wonderful tone of these IC's will surely bring a smile to any listeners face

Next I added the PL power cable terminated with the Furutech FI50 connectors between the DAC and the PI Audio MiniBuss. The cable took the place of a Marigo Audio Labs  Ultra 5 cord.  The PL14/FI50 cable added  more "flow" to the music. It became livelier with a bit more snap. I can't report any difference in  background noise using this (or even both) cable. Since adding the PI MiniBuss to my system, the background is about as black as I've heard so I am not  surprised here.  However, there did seem t be an increase in low level detail and dynamics, both of which can be improved by less back ground noise so I suppose  less background noise that wasn't obvious could possibly have been the reason or contributed  to it.. Figured using the 2nd PL14 with Neotech connectors  couldn't hurt  so  I connected it to the amp even though Dave normally recommends his 11ga cables for this application.  The combined effect of the 2 PL's seems to have enhanced the above noted  liveliness , I guess it could again be described as an improvement in dynamics. The Marigo Ultra 5's I use on both the DAC and amp are good cables, the differences I'm hearing are not night/day but after listening to quite a few albums, I think I do prefer  the PL's.  Upon switching back and forth a few times,  I'd say the Ultra 5's sound a bit  flatter, possibly just a touch less dynamic and possibly not quite as open  With the PL's in the system, I found myself  tapping / drumming along with the music  much more frequently, it's a more engaging environment when using the Zaenwave power cords. Something else worth mentioning here, while my Marigo U5's are not horrible to work with, some cables are just plain  BEASTS and can initiate quite a wrestling match when trying to route them throughout your setup.   The PL's have NO  such tendencies and are a dream to deal with. They are constructed with Dave's exclusive 14 gauge UPOCC copper litz wire, available with  Neothch UPOCC copper plugs (the wall plug is gold plated, the IEC plug is Rhodium plated) or the world renowned Furutech FI-50's.  They are available  in standard 4' or 6' lengths (custom lengths are also available) in either 14 or 11 ga.

On to the 6' pair of SL series speaker cables that Dave included in the demo package. The SL cables are made from Neotech’s UPOCC copper litz wire and are available with various connector options, see the Zenwave site for details.  I  normally run a  pair of DIY speaker cables made from 16 ga solid core OCC copper that Danny Richie sells  Each DIY  cable is a 4 conductor braid and terminated with Electracable  Tube Connector male ends.
I would love to report that things continued along as they had been with the D3's and PL  power cords, but unfortunately, this was where I  ran into a bit of an issue. After pulling the  DIY cables and connecting the SL series cables, there  was a definite increase in detail that was very evident while listening to strings, it was especially evident with acoustic guitar.   More defined and detailed, the  resonance of the strings and the sounds made by the artists finger movements on the strings were much more apparent..  But strangely enough, at the same time the cables seemed laid back  and  didn't have the top end "sparkle"  that   my cables do.  I listened to them for several hours before re-installing the DIY cables. Right away  the missing "shimmer/sparkle" retunred and the  sound stage  became more forward. The image was back in the room as opposed to the pushed back stage that was being  presented with the Sl's.
I contacted Dave about this and he informed me that my experience is  NOT typical of these cables .  Yes, the detail is a trait of the cables but the impression of being laid back  with a somewhat  flat top end is not.  However, he did know what  I was talking about, this has been a bit of an issue with a very limited number of speakers, < 5% to date. In these few cases,  the SMC line is apparently the solution.  The SMC line is made with multiple strands of 24 gauge UPOCC coppe and is typically intended for  lower efficiency, multi-way  speaker designs. While  I wouldn't consider my  GR Research OB7's lower efficiency speaker(91-92db 1w/1m), they do use a 3 way parallel network. We did not have a pair of the SMC series cables on hand so  I can't comment  on them.  We did use the SL cables in Don's system , you can read  about the results further along in this review.

So,  the last cable for me to  throw into the mix in my system is the D4 RCA.  We were sitting here listening  to the system with  the D3 and pair of PL14's when we decided to throw in the  D4's. This was clearly a better cable.  Even with my modest DAC/amp, the D4  brings in a lot more detail and it does so without being harsh or abrasive in any way. Very open, incredible definition, and again, that wonderful, rich tone (maybe lack of added tone? ) heard with the D3's. It is somewhat forward, maybe a bit more so than the D3,  and brings everything  into the room but does so in a manner that I never found overpowering or being  "too much".   Not quite sure how Dave has done it, but even with all the extra detail and definition, this cable allows for a smoother, more accurate, and yet more musical listening experience.   I love what this cable does

I found the D4's do everything the D3's do  but they take the  D3's characteristics to another level. It is not surprising  the 2 cables share similar characteristics, they both use a custom Neotech UPOCC Silver / Gold Alloy (exclusive to Dave)  as their signal wire. The differences  are the ground wire and the  connectors. The D3 uses Neotech's 18 gauge UPOCC copper with teflon insulation as the ground wire and is terminated with the Furutech FP-101(G) with special filament-spring type center pin.  The D4's ground wire is made from the  Neotech UPOCC silver with teflon insulation (6 x 26 gauge wires per cable) and connected to your  gear via Mundorf/WTB Nexgen with silver/gold alloy and platinum plating WBT 0102 RCA plugs (see Dave's commenbts below).  The XLR versions use the same wire configurations as above but the D3's use Furutech FP-700 Series plugs with gold plating while the D4's  come standard with Furutech FP-600 CF-600 (see Dave's comments below) Series with gold plated female and rhodium plated male sections. All these IC's incorporate  Dave's  newly improved strain relief  system  and are wrapped in an outer cotton jacket that provides extra damping.

We've  had some great listening sessions up at my buddy Don's over the past few weeks as well. He'll be posting his impressions as well so I'll just give a quick summary of what I heard up at his place.
We tried some full loom sessions with the ZenWave cables and found the following setup to work the best: a single D4 XLR as the digital cable between the Berkley USB Alpha and his K&K RakkDac which also functions as his pre and the D4 RCA's from the  K&K to the Bryston 14BSST2. Noe, this is a quote from Dave's comments below "The D4 cables (both RCA and XLR) were designed using aspects of high frequency cable design and their characteristic impedance is very close to AES or S/PDIF standards. So they do work exceptionally well for digital data transmission as well as for analog applications." 
We  used the  SL series speaker cables and both PL-14 power cords ( I know  the  PL14 isn't really recommend for the amps but as with my system,  we decided to give it a go anyway as we had the 2nd cord here) .  We used the FI50 terminated cord on the K&K Pre/DAC and finally, the Neotech terminated cord was used to power the amp.  We should have tried it the other way as well but honestly, it just  didn't enter our  minds that afternoon.

I was so impressed, the results were absolutely amazing.  So much detail and pin point accuracy  without losing any of the musicality We had done some previous listening with various Zenwave cables in different configurations on Don's system and we had been impressed but this particular  setup was magic in my opinion.    I thought the entire presentation was significantly better. Both of us felt everything was faster,  I described it as "the system just seemed to have more pep or zip, things seem more lively". Recognize those  comments  ?   It was very similar to what I noticed in my system only it was more apparent to me in Don's   The detail and precision was also  more noticeable with Don's gear. In numerous tracks we listened to, we both were hearing details and instrument definition we had never heard  previously.  The clarity and low level detail  is impressive.  Listening to "Jazz at the Pawnshop", the realism of the venue and the patrons was  incredibly real, you felt  like you were  RIGHT in the room. ! 

We had another fellow there for a bit who wasn't  an "audio fanatic"  but who does enjoy his music. We swapped out  the D4 XLR being used as a digital  to another  XLR digital cable (one that we have really found to be a great cable , a name should be coming soon in a full loom audition of their cables) for him to quickly compare . We did not mention any names nor any expectations to him, we just wanted a "blind" impression..  He felt  the D4 XLR used as a digital cable  provided a richer, fuller sound and preferred it. I'd agree with that but at the same time,  I'd also say  the D4 XLR used as a digital cable provided more detail and definition. I also  found the D4 to be a bit more forward  which I  really like. As stated above, it brings the  music  "into the room" further and does so without being  in your face.  Everything  in the music had it's own space clearly defined, lots of little  subtleties that are obviously meant to be heard became more audible and the  presentation was enhanced   I thought it was extremely musical even with all the extra detail  this configuration  offered.
 Did I mention I  LOVED this setup  ?  Wow !!

  Ok, it all sounds "peachy"  right ?  Well, hold on,  there are a few things to  be aware of.  In a system that is already on the bright and / or forward side, these cables could  be a bit much. Many of the things I found to be positive about the  cables could possibly push certain systems to the point where they become fatiguing. I did not experience this at all but I could see it being a concern with some setups. There are also folks who prefer a slightly laid back  presentation and  if this is  your preference, these may not work for you.  Zenwave does offer many other cable solutions,  if you prefer that slightly laid back or a warmer sound, a phone call may be in order. Also, as you move up the  line, these cables become more detailed and precise which  can also mean they become less forgiving, just something else to be aware of.   I actually  was worried  the D4 might be too much for my  gear but both Don and myself heard an improvement over the D3
We all hear things  a bit differently and as we all know, there is no  one cable for everyone or for every system, kind of why they make 100+ flavours of ice cream right ?

All  the Zenwave Cables come with a 30 day money back guarantee so if you are after a new  cable or even a  complete cable package, you do not need to worry about  getting stuck with something that doesn't compliment your system or your listening preferences.  On top of that, AFAIK, Dave still has his cable tours going so you can contact him, get your name on the list and actually try all these cables with your gear in your home  It doesn't get much better than that ! Visit the Zenwave Audio circle for more details regarding the tours.

Overall, I am extremely impressed with what I heard from the Zenwave Cables in our systems, especially when using the full  loom in Don's system .  All of the cables  worked exceptionally well together and really  brought the systems to life.  The detail, separation, and definition  of  EVERYTHING was incredible and the tone was spot on (possibly a bit warmer in my system as opposed to Don's) .  In Don's system, these characteristics were even more apparent, I assume  due to the higher  quality front end and amp.  Again, there were no issues with the  SL speaker cables being laid back when driving Don's Piega P10's, they sounded  fantastic.
Aside from the few possible concerns listed earlier, I think  a good majority of listeners will be truly amazed at the detail, accuracy, deep  open sound-stage, and wonderful natural tone presented in a  lively , slightly forward  manner by the Zenwave cables.

One final word and this is directed to Dave himself but I feel it'sorth posting publically as it could affect "you" as a customer. I  wanted to commend you on your willingness to give people the opportunity to try your cables and  be sure that what they are purchasing is what works best for them in their systems. I wish  all audio manufactures/dealers were so eager to help  and make sure their customers end up happy.  I also love the fact that you have been  very transparent regarding the general construction of your cables, are willing to share  helpful information with  DIY'ers, and probably most importantly,  your commitment to customer service. All top notch man

Some of the artists/albums we’ll be using for the evaluations:
  • Bob James / David Sanborne  -  Double Vision
  • Diana Krall    Love Scenes
  • Doug MacLeod  -  There's a Time
  • Eric Clapton   -   Unplugged
  • Fourplay  -  Fourplay
  • Gaye Delorme  -  Blue Wave Sessions
  • Govi  -  Guitar Odyssey
  • Hubert Sumlin  -  Blues Guitar Boss
  • Jazz at the Pawnshop
  • Katie Melua  -  Piece by Piece
  • Lee Ritenour  -  Wes Bound
  • Matt Andersen  -  Leve From the Phoenix
  • Steely Dan  -  Aja
  • Steely Dan  -  Gaucho
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan  -  Couldn't Stand the Weather


Full Loom Review Intro
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Full Loom Review: Arkana Physical Research (grey loom)
« Last Edit: 14 Feb 2016, 09:03 am by Captainhemo »


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Re: Full Loom Cable Evaluations: Zenwave Audio
« Reply #1 on: 5 Aug 2015, 08:44 pm »
Jay, thanks so much for taking the time to write this excellent review!  :thumb: 

I agree with your assessments, anytime people can hear more of the music without adding harshness I am happy to have accomplished my goal.   :D   

And it is true the SL cables are not necessarily one-size-fits-all (nothing is though, right? :)), they were designed with single drivers in mind but can be used on conventional speakers as long as they play nicely with the crossovers. They always do fine with 1st order xos but sometimes higher order xos have issues with the litz wire used. The SMC cables are often better suited to less efficient multi-way designs.

Just a few corrections below, all stuff that needs to be updated on my website... Jay got the information right in his review.  :green:

-The D4 cables (both RCA and XLR) were designed using aspects of high frequency cable design and their characteristic impedance is very close to AES or S/PDIF standards. So they do work exceptionally well for digital data transmission as well as for analog applications.

-The D4 XLR now comes with the CF-600 series XLR plugs instead of the FP-600 series. The CF series has the stainless steel/carbon fiber bodies that control vibration and they do make for a noticeable upgrade over the FP series XLR plugs.

-The D4 RCA now comes with the WBT 0102 RCA plugs instead of the Mundorf version, the 0102s have much more robust metal bodies and a slightly clearer sound, although the differences are very minor. They are very close to the same plug. Jay and Don reviewed the earlier version with the Mundorf plugs.


Re: Full Loom Cable Evaluations: Zenwave Audio
« Reply #2 on: 6 Aug 2015, 02:10 pm »
  A great review of the Zenware Audio full loom cables Jay.  Very well written and informative.  Good job.  :thumb: