I'm the latest person to review these cables on the epic winter 2021 Tucson tour. I've had the cables for a little over two weeks and have been listening to them in various combinations throughout the entire period.
Listening has been to a variety of genres, and a few cuts have featured more prominently during A/B comparisons:
Fleet Foxes - Tiger Mountain Peasant Song (Fleet Foxes)
Bon Iver - Re: Stacks (For Emma)
Grimes - Delete Forever (Miss Anthropocene)
Grimes - Violence (Miss Anthropocene)
Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Strange Form of Life (The Letting Go)
Califone - Wingbone (Heron King Blues)
Cat Power - (Jukebox) - especially the first five songs
Sarah Chang - Le quattro stagioni (Vivaldi: The Four Seasons)
Alexandre Tharaud - Suite bergamasque, CD 82, L. 75: III. Clair de lune (Debussy)
20' wide by 25' long, sloping 9-11ft ceiling
Speakers approx. 4ft from front wall, spaced approx 8ft apart, main listening seat approx 10ft from the speaker plane
- Zu Omen Dirty Weekends (tweaked with Miflex caps, bypassed by Duelund tinned copper bypass caps)
- AV123 MFW subwoofer with Mark Seaton's much superior 700 watt drop-in replacement amp
- Odyssey Kismet stereo amp (tweaked with Furutech fuses on the board and the input inlet)
- Don Sachs preamp (older generation that has been brought up to the latest updates, except no relay switching, and still has the gain adjustments; also have swapped both sets of output capacitors - one set has VCap 2.2uF ODAM caps bypassed with Duelund tinned copper, the other set has Miflex copper foil 1.5uF bypassed with Duelund tinned copper)
- dB Audio Tranqulity SE DAC (updated to Eric's latest highest mods as of August 2018, including Jupiter copper foil output caps and Furutech power inlet and RCA's)
- Source: Sonore UltraRendu, exclusively streaming Qobuz (powered by an Uptone Audio LPS 1.2 power supply)
- Network: Buffalo BS-GS 2008 switch (powered by LPS 1.2 power supply); standard Centurylink commercial modem/router (powered by Vinnie Rossi ultracapacitor power supply); all ethernet cabling Blue Jeans 6a
- Power Topology: main system on dedicated line; all network components + UltraRendu running on separate power line from main system
- Power Conditioning: Highly tweaked Core Power Technologies balanced power transformer, all system outlets Furutech NCF, all power cabling Cerious Technologies Matrix with Furutech NCF connectors
- Signal Cabling: Cerious Technologies Matrix speaker cables; DIY Zenwave D3 IC's (wire sourced from Dave, and geometry same as Zenwave D3, but using KLEI Absolute Harmony connectors to save some money vs the standard WBT connectors)
- A few corner bass traps in the room to help with bass resonances
Apologies for the mess, but I take the bar exam in two weeks, and I've been a ball of stress studying since before Christmas. All listening has occurred in the midst of this stress, as a form of decompression in fairly short 30 minute sessions scattered here and there.
Here's what came in the grab-bag that arrived at my door two weeks ago:
- two sets of Hapa Breathe S
- one set of Hapa Quiescence S
- one set of Hapa Quiescence GS
- one set of Zenwave silver ribbon ICs
I also have an extra set of Zenwave D4 from circa 2015, just after Dave started using the WBT connectors, but before he added the fancy carbon fiber dampers and before he added any shielding.
Combined with my standard DIY Zenwave D3's, the above comprised the landscape of comparisons.
Alright, here are my rankings along a range of sound characteristics:
1) Quiescence S
2) Quiescence GS
3) Zenwave silver ribbons
4) Zenwave older D4's
5) DIY Zenwave D3's
6) Breathe S
1) Breathe S
2) DIY Zenwave D3's
3) Zenwave silver ribbons
4) Quiescence GS
5) older Zenwave D4's
6) Quiescence S
Immediacy/Forwardness of Soundstage (reverse order for more toward mid-hall presentation and more relaxed overall sound):
1) DIY Zenwave D3's
2) older Zenwave D4's
3) Zenwave silver ribbons
4) tie between Quiescence GS + S
5) Breathe S
And here are some more narrative thoughts about each cable:
1) Breathe S - On the first evening when I tried each cable in a variety of combinations, the Breathe S were my favorite. It took a few more listening sessions to hear everything the Quiescence were bringing to the table. But the combination of relaxed sound and detail on the Breathe S were very impressive on first listen. But over time, in comparison with other cables, I started to hear how the nice appealing warmth and relaxed sound was actually a result of a bit of bloat and a bit less detail coming through. If you have a bright system, these will tame that for sure. They have a very merciful character, and still let a lot of detail through, and especially have a great coherent and deep soundstage.
2) Quiescence S - My first impression that first night of listening was that these things were detail champs, but pretty thin sounding and ultimately not very musical. That was, until I combined them with the Quiescence GS. So, these Quiescence IC's are incredibly detailed. Not in any kind of bright way, but in that hearing every kind of "plankton" in the recording kind of way. You want to hear air, space between instruments, every nuance of harmonic present in the recording? Check. You want to eliminate any sense of bass bloat? Check. You want to completely eliminate any semblance of silibance not on the recording? Check. They're so so revealing that you really won't hear what they're capable of unless you have a full loom of them. Any time I used one of them in combination with any other of the cables on hand, the detail magic just wasn't there. But when I had both in the system, I'm sorry - it was just a whole new ballgame of detail.
3) Quiescence GS - It's hard to say exactly whether the GS is at the same level of detail as the Quiescence S. My gut is telling me the Quiescence S beats the GS by a hair on detail. But the GS has a nice touch of warmth (as I've come to expect from having some gold in the system). I mean, they're clearly in the same ballpark of detail, but the GS is that bit warmer and more realistic tone-wise in my opinion. I couldn't live with a system of Quiescence S in this system. They're too lean in this system. But could I live with a full loom of GS? Maybe. They're still pretty lean, but have just that touch of warmth and tone that could work long-term if I had two sets. Alternatively, the best combination I heard in terms of detail and warm, realistic tone was the GS combined with the Zenwave silver ribbon.
4) Zenwave silver ribbon - these guys were surprisingly warm for being a full silver design. They had great detail, but just not quite in the same league as the Quiescence cables. Even in combination with one of the Quiescence cables, I just didn't get that complete magical detail realism as when I had both sets of Quiescence in the system. But the Zenwave had a lot more organic realism of tone than either of the Quiescence, and almost in the same league of microdetail.
5) DIY Zenwave D3 vs Breathe S - these were closer to competition for each other than any of the above. I ended up finding the DIY D3's to be cleaner, clearer, a bit more up-front presentation vs the Breathe S's more mid-hall presentation, but generally a more refined sound than the Breathe S. The Breathe S were good, but there was a veil there compared with the DIY D3. The D3 shared the same kind of warm character as the Breathe S, and in some ways were not as relaxed, but I think a lot of that more relaxed sound of the Breathe S was due to the bit of veil compared with the DIY D3.
6) older Zenwave D4 - these have a very precise sound, with instruments perhaps the most cleanly delineated of any of the cables. But they didn't have the same level of detail as the Zenwave silver ribbons, which in turn were a bit less detailed than the Quiescence cables. The D4 had a bit less bloat even than the DIY D3, but the D3 were pretty close. So, D4 were a touch more refined, but a bit less relaxed than the DIY D3. Ultimately, I prefer the DIY D3 for long-term listening pleasure in this system.
Alright, to wrap this thing up, please keep in mind that none of the above is mean to indicate my thoughts about any objective strengths or weaknesses of the above cables. They are all really nice cables, and so much of cable listening comes down to system synergies and listening preferences. I've learned over the years listening to the other systems of guys in our Tucson group here that there can be vastly different perceptions of sound from the same listening experience. Please keep that in mind.
Overall, having tried my fair share of cables over the years, including a variety of commercial and DIY designs, having loved the Zenwave stuff throughout the mid-2010's, then tried a bunch of other stuff, and come back to the DIY Zenwave D3's over the past year and a half, I think all these cables are really special stuff. They're all in the upper crust of cable performance, IMO. The above is my best effort to tease out RELATIVE
differences between each of these cables to the best of my system's and my ears' abilities. I hope this might be helpful to anyone trying to make an educated and informed choice about which of these to try.