Three Zillion Sheep cables, three different sound signatures. I was scratching my head a little on how Wagnus achieved that with what amounted to the exact same wire and geometry in each cable but Toru refused to reveal the secret receipt behind each one to achieve their respective sound signatures. Fair enough.
What is abundantly clear and a continuing theme among all 3 of these 4-wire cables is the level of dynamic range which is equal to some of the best similarly priced 8-wire or high AWG 4-wire cables in the market today.
At no point did they sound compressed or lacking in range compared to the likes of the two 8-wire 26AWG cables that we compared them with from Effect Audio and PLUSSOUND, the Leonidas II Octa, and the Tri-Silver X8.
On the high level, the Zillion Sheep NU-1 is the most balanced cable and perhaps my favorite of the three with the monitors I tested throughout this review process. The synergy was perhaps the more intimate of the three cables in terms of staging expansiveness but it was definitely the most immersive and dynamic sounding of the bunch.
It has a strong mid-bass punch, a bit more lower-mids presence, and a nice physical weight to vocals where the paired monitor allows it. I honestly could not find a monitor that did not sound engaging with the NU-1.
The Zillion Sheep NU-2 pulls both the top and bottom back a little and pushed the mids further forward, particularly vocals. There is a lot more staging manipulation going on with this cable and will definitely suit those who put a good singer’s voice ahead of most everything else.
Now that doesn’t mean it’s entirely mid-centric and intimate with little else happening around it. This is more of a hall-like experience with the instruments positioned quite a bit further back from the vocal but still a quite clear-sounding presentation.
The final cable, the Zillion Sheep NU-3 actually took me a while to get to grips with because its strengths do not come into play unless you have the right tracks to that tease out those areas. The NU-3 is all about the sub-bass response and treble shimmer and works really well with synthwave and tracks with a heavy emphasis on ambient soundscapes.
You might not hear that sub-bass extension until you get a track that tickles the FR sub-50Hz or have a monitor with an excellent sub-bass response but when you do then it sounds like a grandiose woofer positioned a few meters away from you.
In turn, the mids are a little airier than the other two, not quite as focused but with a bit of sweetness on vocals drawn from a shimmery refined treble tone it likes to tease out of capable monitors, more so than NU-1 and NU-2.
None of the Zillion Sheep cables exhibit a dry timbre or a typically analytical overtone to any of the monitors they were paired to. All three have that core SPC characteristic which is some nice warmth and girth on the low-end and a smooth performing midrange.
What I did find though that each cable brought some subtle and more pronounced changes to the emphasis in those regions which in turn brought some slight changes to the coloration of each monitor.
The Zillion Sheep NU-1 was the punchiest of the 3 cables with the strongest fundamental for lower-pitched instruments and the most vibrant and full-bodied of the 3 midrange performances.
The timbre here had the best balance of the three and the most accurate harmonic balance also. Nothing felt out of place with our tested monitors with a very natural sounding performance.
The Zillion Sheep NU-2 felt a little more relaxed than the NU-1 and though in every paired test the vocal position came to the fore it did not sound quite as weighty as the NU-1, particularly with the midrange.
That is not to say the timbre was thin or cold in tone, but rather, it was very smooth sounding with some light warmth to my ear but just it lacked a bit of weight from a more subdued low-end presence. The low-end did have some warmth but didn’t convey the same power and dynamism as the NU-1 mid-bass punch or the NU-3 sub-bass expansiveness.
The Zillion Sheep NU-3’s timbre was perhaps the most contrasting of the three cables with our tested monitors. It’s the cable that does the best with darker or smoother-sounding monitors if you want to tease a little bit more treble presence.
The midrange timbre here is on the sweet side with a little uptick in odd harmonics but again, like the NU-2, the midrange note weight is not as physical as the NU-1.
What I found with our test monitors, particularly with dynamic driver variants such as the Odin and Sultan, was some excellent extension and sub-bass presence when called upon but not necessarily the same punch and weight upwards and through the lower mids.
That means higher register notes such as percussion and soprano vocals took on a slightly more ethereal airy tone or benefitting from some refined treble sparkle giving them a bit more contrast than either the NU-1 or the NU2.
All three will give you varying staging performances with the NU-2 perhaps the most manipulated of the range. The Zillion Sheep NU-1 is perhaps the most linear of the three cables and in a way the most transparent and least colored in terms of pairings.
Compared to the other two cables, the staging is a shade more intimate with not quite the same extreme end emphasis on treble and sub-bass as the NU-3 and definitely not the same forward ‘beyond all else’ imaging of the vocals.
That is not to say its vocals lack presence, if anything, the NU-1’s sheer physicality, and punch signature make it the most gripping and immersive of soundstages of the 3 reviewed cables.
You do get a stronger sense of being “in amongst it” or close to the stage with the NU-1 whereas the other two cables, I felt a lot of the imaging pushed the listener back and away from the stage a bit more. I also personally felt it has the best dynamic range of the three overall with our test monitors which contributed greatly to that generally lively staging presence.
The Zillion Sheep NU-2 really changes things up with both the bass response up to around 1k on most monitors as well as the top-end sounding more relaxed and the presence region coming strongly to the fore as a result.
Any monitor with a good midrange is going to accentuate the strengths of the NU-2’s more niche vocal presence bias in its imaging. Monitors such as the Elysium and its excellent midrange dynamic driver will give you an easy demo of the NU-2 vocal first imaging quality.
The Zillion Sheep NU-3 plays to the extremes, with more sub-bass presence than either the NU- and NU2 and more forward upper-treble energy with our paired monitors.
Neither seems to bleed too much into the mids so quite often I found the midrange of the NU-3 to be a little on the lighter ethereal side compared to the more physical NU-1 and not quite as vocal prominent as the NU-2. Any perception of vocal clarity comes more from the higher contrasting overtone and an above-average sense of space around them.
Depth is excellent on the NU-3, but it took me a little bit of time to appreciate that. It is not an always-on physical tone with monitors such as the MEST MKII. Truth be told, in my comparison with the Satin Audio Zeus, I felt the Zeus was the more powerful of the two.
However, once I started listening to some truly gut-wrenching bass-heavy tracks the NU-3 started showing off a stronger sub-bass presence right at the lowest level. This is not a forward sub-bass image though. Picture it more like a huge subwoofer sitting inside a huge arena meaning it’s grandiose in size rather than intimate and aggressive.
The Zillion Sheep NU-1 will play well with just about every monitor out there. If you want just one of the three and you have an eclectic mix of monitors then the balance and dynamism of NU-1 are going to impress you the quickest out of the box.
For example, the NU-1 and 64 Audio U18s synergy sounded just right for my tastes. The other two cables seem to offer something a little more relaxed or niche sounding, be it the NU-2’s vocal focus or the greater emphasis at both ends of the spectrum from the NU-3.
The NU-1, on the other hand, had a lot more ‘drive’ about it, perhaps a little more physicality through the mids than the other two cables. The U18s energy levels went up a notch across the board and it sounded the most alive of the three pairings.
What the Zillion Sheep NU-2 does well is to tease out those vocals and bring them to the fore without making them too rich and sluggish sounding. That sort of presentation works very well for monitors with mids magic sauce such as the Vision Ear’s Elysium. That midrange dynamic driver has excellent synergy with the enhanced vocal presence of the NU-2.
And quite how do you get the best out of the Zillion Sheep NU-3’s heftier sub-bass and contrasting pristine shimmer on the treble? Personally, I found the Noble Audio Sultan and the MEST MKII to perform very well here with the NU-3.
The MEST MKII’s sub-bass response was pleasingly grander sounding with the NU-3 than the Satin Audio Zeus which I previously described as being a powerful sounding performer. Whereas the treble clarity paired very nicely and gave an air of sweetness to the otherwise rich-sounding Sultan midrange as well as ensuring that nice level of PRaT from its dynamic driver.