For quite some time prior to this review of the new sILENzIO über cables from Danish manufacturer ZenSati, I had been using as part of my reference system the superb flagship Seraphim cables. These unusual cable designs of multiple air-suspended twisted gold plated solid core conductors were resoundingly neutral, nourishingly musical, beautifully assembled and ‘bling’ enough to fit into the most beautiful high-end system contexts (and yes, to many enthusiasts the cosmetic aspect is actually quite important, especially at the price point). Up until that point, the Seraphim cables were ZenSati’s top-level offering while sILENzIO, now an independent line of über cables, was but a twinkle in company Founder Mark Johansen’s third eye. Fast-forward a couple of years and right now, after several months within my reference rig where they often managed to dislocate my jaw, I give you sILENzIO…
Silence is Golden
So, having enjoyed tremendous commercial success and media acclaim across the board, where to next for the creative and inspired ZenSati Founder Mark Johansen? Expansion of the ZenSati product lines became the immediate target with the aim of offering further value at the entry level while also expanding horizons at the high-end. The former was more than thoroughly dealt with via the recently-released, and extremely promising, Zorro line of cables. The latter now sees the sILENzIO (yes, that’s the word configuration…) range, which lands smack in the ultra-high-end space, with the line offering a complete loom from source to loudspeakers.
The full cable loom (including substantial USB and digital cables bigger than the thickest speaker cables) which was sent for review is not only physically commanding but also beautifully styled and constructed. And yet, as I visualise sILENzIO while writing, both those terms seem understatements. Your first experience with the cables upon receiving them would be the presentation… oh, not just of the cables themselves, oh no, but of the packaging too. A large black piano finish wooden case – with black velvet lining, no less – houses each individual cable; the heavily-stencilled gold ‘sILENzIO’ logo taking up almost the full width of the top cover. These glamorous supermodels proudly announce their top hierarchy in the catwalk of über cables.
Open sesame and the jewellery inside greets with a powerful impression of luxury. The brilliant golden jackets, the metal logo-embossed dress trims (scratch-protected with tight-fitting plastic sleeves), the connector quality, etc. So, given the visual delights, the reputation of the parent company and the lofty price point, sILENzIO promises performance.
What does all this overt flamboyance have to do with sonic quality? Fair question. Despite the fact that, as will be discussed later in the review, some aspects of the styling may also influence sound quality, the sILENzIO product package enjoys the benefits of good artistic design. As an analogy, you could liken it to paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a top-level Lamborghini, or Ferrari, then feasting your eyes on the flowing, organic lines, the velour and high-grade leather trims throughout the interior, the carbon fibre, steel and brushed aluminium accents, etc. It’s to be expected in a product that aims at the very best in its class. It’s a luxury item. With a price ticket to match.
The materials choice, connector quality, finish and flawless construction applied to sILENzIO will find pride of place along with the most deeply-patterned veneers, the glossiest of piano finishes, the most skilfully machined and luxuriously brushed aluminium… it proudly boasts its intent with an unapologetic stance. But sILENzIO is not just about physical exquisiteness; it’s also about care and intelligence in design as far as the transfer of musical information from A-to-B.
On that last point. Some audio enthusiasts may question these expensive cables’ function. Their viewpoint is likely to be that electrons are carried, and arrive, in the same way whether by an entry level straightforward copper-based cable or via extravagant designs such as sILENzIO’s or any number of very high-end marques’. That may be so in terms of signal transmission from A-to-B, but let me tell you right now that, in terms of the music that ultimately projects from your speakers, sILENzIO is on an elevated level way beyond the mere norm. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
Johansen has chosen the excellent top-level connectors from Japan’s Furutech for the AC and XLRs. The RCAs, which are among the best I’ve used as far as quality and consistency in terms of grip around the socket (not too loose, not too tight but just right Goldilocks), are custom ZenSati designs as used in Seraphim. While some components may be sourced from around the world, the sILENzIO cables are hand-made by ZenSati technicians in Denmark.
While Johansen will not divulge too much in terms of the actual construction of the sILENzIO cables, he did reveal information on the cable make-up. The bespoke “Fine-Litz” conductor configuration makes for an overall large gauge/diameter. Copper conductors with silver shield are used in a specific air dielectric topology. The distance between conductor runs and the desire to maintain the air dielectric makes for a large and stiff cable.
I asked Johansen to provide some further background:
The sILENzIO uses wide gauge and is very heavy, yes. The reason is that sILENzIO is full of copper and silver for the shield, and the conductors too. The correct dimension of dielectric is a part of the concept. All sILENzIO are fully shielded. The IC, Digital and USB are shielded with braid to keep them as flexible as possible.
sILENzIO's Mark Johansen charming snakes
I wanted to know what Johansen was aiming to improve from the already excellent Seraphim cables and also wanted some insight into the workings at ZenSati:
I realised a few things on the ZenSati Seraphim could be improved. Even though ZenSati Seraphim is an extremely good cable series, I thought could get the background to be even quieter. With sILENzIO’s design I found that target was reachable. There was also a specific need and demand for shielded cables in some extreme setups. That’s why I invested to produce the sILENzIO line. A sILENzIO power cord takes just under one day to assemble and building it in Denmark is a very expensive endeavour. So what we do is, we collect and coordinate the orders and optimise the production. A set of sILENzIO speaker cables can take up to two days to assemble. All assembling, packing and shipping is in Denmark. We have asked our distributors what they thought if we moved production to east Europe or even Asia but this is a big ‘No Go’. The philosophy is that it is Danish ideas, design, concept and assembly. We do have suppliers around the world, as many famous brands in our business have. I collaborate with different engineers, depending on the project and product. All are ZenSati ApS. We do also have non-disclosure agreements with our suppliers and their engineers. The main ideas, philosophy and final decisions have always been coming from myself.
I use live music for my ultimate testing. I have always activated my imagination on how the real instrument or voice in a piece of music or song sounds. It’ not easy. You have to maintain your reference constantly and that’s why I go to concerts, the opera, jazz clubs, when friends are playing or singing. I also listen to my reference music on different systems with different cabling to confirm I’m on the right track and how that connects to my emotions. ZenSati stands for (Zen) “Strong Knowledge” and (Sati) for “Truthfulness”. And that is so for me.
The Sounds of Silence
Installing the full sILENzIO loom takes some pre-thought and may even necessitate some rearranging of your component configuration and distance from the nearest wall. These cables are physically large and quite stiff – it’s in the nature of the design. Most unyielding of all are the AC cables, of which I needed several to power my entire system. This meant angling and directing the heavy AC cables through loops and wide arcs and weighing down lightweight components such as the Totaldac d1-core dual power supplies, lest they be suspended in mid-air. To a lesser extent, some acrobatics were required to guide the interconnecting cables (including a digital cable carrying S/PDIF signal from transport to DAC) from components spread across two SGR Signature racks while the speaker cables were easily-enough guided on a long arc from Gryphon’s Antileon EVO to the Wilson Alexia Series 2. Unless you’re a reviewer or a compulsive gear swapper, you’ll only need to go through this exercise once. Thank Goodness.
The cables had been run-in by the affable George Fracchia proprietor of ZenSati Australia who, of course, distributes sILENzIO cables. Once the system was fired-up and music flowed, from the very first track on, all that muscle- and cable-flexing athleticism was immediately forgotten. Here I had a sonic presentation that has been unmatched by any cable loom I’ve tested, reviewed or owned in all my years of reviewing professionally. I’ll go on to describe specific performance aspects attributed to my music selections but, to start off with, I’d like to comment on my immediate impression regarding the sILENzIO cables as conduits of ultra-purity, tonal neutrality and resolute transparency.
Playing acoustic instruments instigated a rather radical re-evaluation of the importance of cable design and its interplay within the context of a highly-resolving system. Piano, acoustic guitars and percussion instruments – and any other unamplified instrumental recording – gained a heightened sense of authenticity. In my well-balanced system (now more than ever with the mix of gear at hand) the physicality and solidity of these instruments was stunning. I’m talking oodles of detail, micro-dynamics that revealed all manner of nuance and a timbrel faithfulness and presence that turned every long into-the-wee-hours listening session into pure enjoyment (once seated, in the early stages of auditioning, I found it difficult to tear myself away from the music being reproduced via this sILENzIO-tied system).
Elgar Cello Concerto as interpreted by Du Pré under Sir John Barbirolli with the London Symphony Orchestra was pure delight. By the way, this almost unplayable LP was brought back to life recently – as was much of my collection – via Vinyl Record Cleaning’s ESP system. Now, with sILENzIO in place, bow on string and the utter accuracy of the tone of the cello were recreated to a level I had not experienced before. It’s that extra 0.1 percent (my nonsensical figure just for illustration purposes…) over other excellent cables that is subtle yet totally noticeable and on-going enjoyable. Du Pré’s playing technique, her instrument’s colour and the textural content of wood, string/gut and rosin possessed a clarity and crisp detail that was astounding while never straying into any form of brightness. So well captured and now reproduced, the hollowness of the cello’s internal cavity rang with deep wood resonances unheard prior.
Nuanced guitar techniques as displayed by Phil Keagy throughout his Acoustic Sketches album were a revelation. The sILENzIO cables provided all the subtlety in Keagy’s plucking while extending his instrument’s harmonics and providing that sense of ‘body’, of image density. There was exemplary decay and ‘air’ around the notes. The transient attack of fingers on strings was mesmerising and, in fact, that ‘speed’ of rhythm applies throughout the frequency range. Again, the realness of the reproduction is state-of-the-art. It’s a spooky presence thing; you suddenly realise that sILENzIO allows your system to give… more. It’s yet another small step closer to the real thing.
If you own Bruce Cockburn’s sublime The Charity of Night, do yourself a favour and re-examine the last number “Strange Waters”. As the track opens, a slow-building percussive crescendo emanates from the very far corners of a massive soundstage (height, depth and width), slowly approaches the plane of the speakers and then washes over you with tremendous dynamism, punch and depth. And as the guitar solo kicks in mid-way, sILENzIO allows the communication and the build-up of this emotive composition in a way that totally immerses. Again, this was evidence of sILENzIO’s power to translate electrons into music that provides tremendous pleasure and connects emotionally.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a cable with a clearer, more extended and bell-like top-end. Sure, there’ll be cables – even comparatively inexpensive ones – that will give you treble clarity but few will provide the vitality, separation and crispness at hand here. Cymbals are just delightful, sweet and accurately placed in terms of height and image depth (drum kits are usually towards the rear of the stage, after all) and won’t be artificially projected forward in the manner presented by lesser cables.
No matter what, sILENzIO is about neutrality, verisimilitude and absolute faithfulness to the recording. In every, and I mean every area of performance, the sILENzIO loom improved the music experience. Again, it allows your electronics and speakers to project a clearer, sweeter and purer top-end, a tighter and more nuanced bass, dynamic quickness, a wider, taller, deeper soundstage, more fulsome images, etc. In situ within your high-end system, sILENzIO cables authenticate and endorse the musicians’ intent. Full stop.
Realism, clarity and neutrality. Truth. Those are music’s building blocks. Only the very best components (and yes at this level, cables should be considered components) are able to honour those qualities. And sILENzIO cables do so. With this cable design, one of such purity and which places zero-perceptible encumbrance on the signal, you’re hearing the entirety of the system, perhaps for the very first time. And what follows, all things being equal, is pure music. That’s the mark of a truly great cable design.
So while I’ve written about the sonic aspects that developed from using sILENzIO, including the all-important realness of the entire presentation, it’s the sheer totality of enjoyment the sILENzIO cables have permitted, within the context of my system, that I’ve found the single most alluring quality of this magnificent cable design.
The idea of purchasing near AU$200K worth of cable loom is something that some may need getting their head around. It would for me, even if I could afford them. But if you’re lucky enough to be shopping for cables at this level, and if you seek products among the very best the category can offer, you would be committing seppuku were you to bypass sILENzIO. As far as cables go, I cannot think of a better way to honour your electronics and loudspeakers then to incorporate the sILENzIO loom.
So, while other cable designs I’ve carefully auditioned, or had in-house, have come very close to equalling it, the sILENzIO loom achieves the very highest status within my cable universe experience. sILENzIO is, unquestionably, joins the industry’s leaders in audio signal transmission.
I’ll shout it from the rooftops… you’ll hear anything but sILENzIO from me.
sILENzIO Cable Loom
Price: Interconnect AU$22,000, Digital AU$18,000, USB AU$19,000, Power AU$25,000, Speaker AU$52,000
Warranty: Two Years
+61 413 007 440
Kirkevej 27, Blistrup
+45 2992 2979