|Reviewer: John Potis
Digital source: Pioneer DV-535 DVD player feeding the Bel Canto DAC2
Analog Source: Sota Jewel, Sumiko Premier FT3, Micro Benz MC Silver, Bryston BP-1.5 phono stage
Preamp: Herron Audio VTSP-1A
Power Amp: Art Audio Carissa, Symphony II [for review], Herron Audio M150 & Bryston 7B-ST monoblocks
Speakers: Silverline Audio Sonata Series II, Magnepan MG 1.6QR, Silverline Audio Bolero [for review], Duevel Bella Luna Diamante [for review], Thiel CS 2.4 [for review] and Rethm The Third [for review]
Cables: JPS Labs Superconductor interconnects and speaker wire, DH Labs D-75 digital interconnect, JPS Power AC, Digital AC and Kaptivator power cords
Powerline conditioning: Audio Magic Stealth
Sundry accessories: Vibrapod Isolators
Room size: 12' by 16' with 9' ceiling. Speakers set up on long wall in quasi Audio Physic orientation
Review component retail: $99 for the Version 1, $299 for the Ultra-1
The very first time I became aware of ZCable's Z-Sleeves, I recoiled at the ridiculous nature of their claims. I thought I had finally heard the most preposterous claims for snake oil I'd likely ever encounter. The contention was that all you had to do was thread your cables through the sleeves, fire up your system, let it play for 24 hours and miraculous things would occur. Reality check: Don't bother listening for any changes for 24 hours - it took that long for the system to adjust itself to the sleeves. And since it takes the same amount of time to hear the system revert back to normal after you remove the sleeves, don't listen for any immediate changes then either. It was the ultimate claim! It was the perfectly evasive and ridiculous response to those who insist on the old double-blind A/B/X test of legitimacy. Don't even bother trying to A/B these things. They don't work that way. Ha ha. What a scam. Or so I thought.
|But then the darned things started to crop up in the oddest of places. When Srajan reviewed the Balanced Power Technologies BP 3.5 Signature Ultra Isolator conditioner and declared it the best he'd ever heard and also popped the top to expose a Z-Sleeve prominently installed, I started to wonder. Obviously, others who should know better were not finding the Z-Sleeves completely implausible. So when the Zzzs became available for review, I decided to catch some.
Another reason for my piqued interest? I live in a house saturated with all kinds of spurious airborne debris. Pick up the phone on the second floor and listen to your favorite radio station. I'm serious!
The design of ZCable's Z-Sleeves really incorporates three different technologies.
There is a synergy of design here. ZCable's special use of ERS increases the storage capacity of the Z-Sleeve to hold more magnetism. The ZGC design increases the ERS' ability to collect EMI/RFI. The higher shielding/rejection levels of our Ref1 and Ultra1 Z-Sleeve designs represent increased ability to collect, store and diffuse EMI/RFI.
It's important to note that a Z-Sleeve is more than just a shielding device. Instead, it organizes and purifies the signal. There is a simple test to demonstrate this. Take two otherwise identical speaker cables, one 10 ft long, the other 20. Hook them up and play a mono signal. Listen. The shorter speaker cable should be slightly better. Now put 2 Ultra1 Z-Sleeves on the longer cable near the speaker. If the Z-Sleeve were only a shield, you'd be merely shielding the cable's last 16 inches, ie. the length of the actual sleeve. The shorter speaker cable should still sound slightly better. Well, it won't. The longer speaker cable with 2 Ultra1 Z-Sleeves will sound noticeably better. It will sound less distorted, more natural, less synthetic and more tonally coherent. That's because the Z-Sleeve is a passive signal and power line conditioner.