Review: Multiple IEM Cables

This will an ongoing project that will be updated with new cables as and when I get them. I know a lot of people don’t believe in cable differences, but I personally believe in cables making a small difference, there are also ergonomic benefits from aftermarket cables. Cables are about synergy with the headphones you have too, and finding the right pairing is essential.

Disclaimer: These cables were sent from the manufacturers for review, no incentive was given to write a favourable review. All opinions expressed are my own subjective findings. The Toxic Cables one is made by me from materials I purchased from Toxic Cables.

All these cables are being used with my Audio Opus #2 DAP / Objective2 amp and my Inearz P350 custom monitors / 64 Audio U6 / Noble Sage



Effect Audio Eros II

UPOCC Litz Copper / Silver Hybrid - 26awg
https://www.effectaudio.com/iem-premium-series/eros-ii.html


Packaging, Build quality and Ergonomics:
The Eros II comes in an excellent little white box, with the company logo on the front. The cable is carefully wound around a foam insert. The box is very simple but elegant, I like it.

The cable is very well built, as is to be expected from most custom cable companies.  The 2.5mm balanced jack is sturdy, but there is no strain relief on that end. The cable has a tight round 4 core braid, a slim y-split but again no strain relief. You get a section of molded cable that acts as memory wire, without the metal insert, which is excellent and the 2-pin connectors look great. All the connectors and the y-split have the Effect audio label on them which is a nice touch, and the cable feels well built, even with the lack of strain relief.

Ergonomics are truly excellent, I thought the cable was going to be slightly stiff by the looks of it, but once it is in your hands it really is very supple, with an almost rubbery texture. This means cable noise is minimal, and it is a very comfortable cable to use. The memory wire is excellent as it doesn’t use the convention stiff piece of wire. Overall no ergonomic issues, Effect cables are possibly the most comfortable cables I have used.



Sound:
The Eros II is a special cable, it is special in the way that is will pair wonderfully with pretty much any IEM out there and sound excellent. Interestingly Effect have decided to use the copper strands for the positive signal and the silver strands for the negative. This creates a cable that is extremly well textured and layered, one that has warmth and body down low, yet also crystal clear highs.

The Eros II is a beautifully balanced cable, that does not aim to change the sound of your IEM's in general, what is does is open up the sound and allow you to hear details more clearly.

It is smooth, refined and enjoyable, it widens the soundstage and creates a better sense of air and space between notes and instruments. It is crystal clear not smoothing over details, yet it is not harsh in its portrayal. When using the Eros II it gets out of the way and allows you to enjoy the IEM's you are using with better depth and layering.

If you are looking for warmer lows, or brighter highs from a cable, the Eros II is not it. But if you like the sound of your IEM's and want to improve the sound and bring it up another level in refinement, separation and layering the Eros II is superb.



Lavricables Reference

4 cores of AWG28 (0.33mm ⌀) solid silver 6N purity wire


Packaging, Build Quality, and Ergonomics:
The Reference cable comes in a nice little velvet pouch; there is no other packaging to speak of. Lavricables are very well priced and less on packaging means more savings to the end user, I am not that bothered about the lack of fancy retail box.

The cable is very well built, the braid is very even and the connectors are all very well put together, the connectors cannot be opened, they are sealed with glue. The y-split is a simple piece of heatshrink and there is a chin slider, included are some light and flexible rubber ear guides. The cable has good strain relief, with an extra strand of wire internally where there is more stress to help prevent the cable from breaking. Overall I really like the build of the cable, and providing you don’t stress it much it should last a long time.

Ergonomics are not this cables strength, but that is because it uses a single strand of solid pure silver cable so you expect it to be a little stiff and also to transmit noise. It is not as bad as I was expecting, but it does retain its shape if coiled for any length of time and is a little noisy when it hits against things. The ear guides help lower the noise, but I prefer to use the cable without them.



Sound:
To start off with the Reference cable does not sound thin, the bass does not disappear but what happens is really impressive. The bass becomes tighter, more responsive but still full bodied and articulate. This is not a cable that is thin or harsh; the lows still slam and punch with excellent power, body and extension.

The midrange becomes sharper with finer details being easier to pick out, there is extra air around notes and the sound is less congested in faster passages. Electric guitars in rock music have a sharper edge and become a bit more aggressive and crisp.

The highs gain some extra presence and seem to extend a little more effortlessly, however there is not even a hint of glare or harshness. There is a better sense of air up top with slightly more natural tonality.


This cable does not totally transform the sound of your IEM’s, but it pairs best with IEM’s that have a slightly warmer sound. This cable tightens up the lows, adds additional air to the whole sound and there is improved separation and definition. The treble gets a slight boost without any harshness, if you could get this sound from a stranded cable, it would be high up in my list of recommendations. 

This cable is a more up front, energetic and engaging yet still airy, it is not a lush laid back sounding cable so careful pairing is key. Lavricables offer some excellent sounding cables, at very reasonable prices, but they are best suited to home systems where you won’t be moving around a lot.




Effect Audio Ares II

UPOCC Litz Copper 26awg, 2.5mm balanced
https://www.effectaudio.com/upgrade-cables/iem-cables/iem-premium-series/ares-ii.html





Packaging, Build quality and Ergonomics:
The Ares II comes in an excellent little white box, with the company logo on the front. The cable is carefully wound around a foam insert. The box is very simple but elegant, I like it.

The cable is very well built, as is to be expected from most custom cable companies.  The 2.5mm balanced jack is sturdy, but there is no strain relief on that end. The cable has a tight round 4 core braid, a slim y-split but again no strain relief. You get a section of molded cable that acts as memory wire, without the metal insert, which is excellent and the 2-pin connectors look great. All the connectors and the y-split have the Effect audio label on them which is a nice touch, and the cable feels well built, even with the lack of strain relief.

Ergonomics are truly excellent, I thought the cable was going to be slightly stiff by the looks of it, but once it is in your hands it really is very supple, with an almost rubbery texture. This means cable noise is minimal, and it is a very comfortable cable to use. The memory wire is excellent as it doesn’t use the convention stiff piece of wire. Overall no ergonomic issues, it is possibly the most comfortable cable I have used.




Sound:
The Effect Ares II is really an excellent cable, it slight goes against the norm of a warm and lush sound for copper. It actually has quite a neutral sound with excellent impact and dynamics, but with a bit of added upper mid/lower treble presence. This really adds some extra air and sparkle to the sound of your IEM’s.

It almost sounds like a good silver plated cable, but without any lack of body, the lows are full and extend with ease, the mids are more natural and then the extra presence up top makes for a very fun listening experience.

Details are more prominent, but the soundstage is a little limited. This cable has the excellent properties of a good copper cable with good body and impact, but then it also adds more sparkle. It might not be the most natural sounding cable, or the most refined, but it really does bring some welcome changes.

Cables are all about synergy, and this cable would match a headphone that is neutral to slightly dark, as it adds some sparkle without taking away excellent bass response. For the asking price, this is possibly one of the best upgrade cables, if not the best. 


Atlas Cables Zeno IEM

OCC Copper, 3.5mm Single Ended Jack


Packaging, Build Quality and Ergonomics:
The Zeno IEM comes in a very nice Atlas cables box, on the side it has boxes for the relevant connectors, and they are hand crossed off showing the configuration of the cable inside. On the back you have some information about Atlas Cables and also the name of who made the cable, you can register the cable online for a 5 year warranty which is an added bonus. Inside the box you get a little manual about how to look after your cable, they also recommend cable burn-in and explain why.

The cable is very well built with solid connections on each end, a small metal y-split (no chin slider, but the split is quite high up compared to other cables), the bottom half is sleeved in fabric, my only issue is the branded heatshrink on the 3.5mm jack is long and stiff.

The ergonomics are good, the bottom sleeved section is flexible and soft, the 3.5mm jack is fairly big and has a large section of stiff heatshrink which on an IEM cable I would have preferred to be shorter, the top section of the cable is soft rubber, and the connectors do not have any memory wire. I prefer the cables to come out at an angle from the 2-pin connector as they fit behind your ear better this way, but adding a little heatshrink is very easy (as per the photos). Not quite as ergonomic as some of the softer, braided cables out there, but it’s still a very nice cable to use.



Sound:
When I first listened I was not overly impressed, I thought it sounded a little bloated and compressed. Now I am not a huge believer in cable burn-in but I left the cable playing, and used the cable for a while too, and it has really grown on me, to the point it is possibly my favourite cable I have at the moment.

This is a very pure copper cable that does not aim to change the sound of your IEM’s in a big way like some silver cables do, what it does do however is offer a higher resolution sound with a wider less congested soundstage, tighter lows and airier sound. The mids come across with added clarity and layering; the highs whilst far from bright, gain a little extra detail.

This cable has no hint of any kind of artificial tone, it is very organic and natural providing more linear bass response, and a very wide and coherent sound, with excellent dynamics and control.



I would consider this cable to be a more neutral sounding cable with added resolution and a wider soundstage, the separation and air around instruments is increased and this cable will pair well with most IEM’s.


Nobunaga Labs Medusa:

Silver Plated Copper, 8 strands.


Packaging, Build and Ergonomics:
The Medusa comes in a fairly plain, clear plastic box, you can find the model name on the front and information (in Japanese) on the back of the box. It also has a polarity picture on the back, nothing special here.

The build overall is good, the flat braid looks great, the y-split has a chin slider, but the jack lacks strain relief. I can see this being a weak point over time (should be easy enough to add some 3:1 heatshrink). Apart from that I cannot see any issues.

Ergonomics are hit and miss, the flat braid is good, the cable is thin, but the sheathing is stiff and transmits a lot of cable noise. I find the cable noise is what really lets this cable down, I don’t think I’ve experienced a cable that is as noisy as this.

On a personal preference note, I don’t like memory wire, these come with it but it’s easy to remove which slightly helps with the cable noise but does not fix it.




Sound:
The Medusa stays true to the common consensus on SPC cables, it increases the air and clarity, and tightens up the bass a little. I find that this cable brings out a little extra sparkle in the highs, and the bass isn’t as full. The bass becomes tighter, and more controlled, but this does come at a slight cost of slightly artificial timbre.

Kick drums hit with less body, and vocals come across with a little less warmth than the stock cable. This cable does a great job of cleaning up the sound a little and bringing out added sparkle, it also adds a little width to the soundstage.


Now I would say this is a brighter sounding cable vs stock, so it will pair better with warmer sounding IEM’s. 


Forza Audio Works Hybrid:

4 strands of 26AWG cryo 7N UPOCC copper + UPOCC silver


Packaging, Build Quality, Ergonomics:
Packaging is great, a small card box full of wood shavings, holds a fabric pouch with the cable inside. A very attractive package, with a warranty card also included. The packaging helps protect the cable during shipping, and gives a premium feel when you open the parcel.

Build quality is flawless, the braid is very even, the heat shrink very neat and a lovely, low profile carbon fibre y-split. It has a small piece of heat-shrink that acts as a chin slider, which is very handy.

Ergonomics are excellent, it has the right balance between durability and flexibility. I Find it very comfortable to use for daily usage without getting in the way or feeling too heavy. It also coils nicely, and isn't too bulky to fit in a small storage case. I find angled connectors at the CIEM end to be very comfortable, it helps guide the cable behind the ear without uncomfortable memory wire.
This cable does not emit cable noise, at least in my testing it didn't.




Sound:
This cable brings out a tiny bit more space and air in my P350, which when used with the stock cable are quite warm and relaxed. This cable makes them a little more lively and engaging without making them sound too bright or analytical.

There is a little extra presence in the treble, with smoother, more refined lows. The lows are better separated and articulate, being also more precise.

Essentially this cable keeps the stock sound, and just adds a little more air and separation, better control and just a hint of extra presence in the treble.


Plussound Apollonian+

UPOCC Type 6 Litz


Packaging, Build Quality and Ergonomics:
The cable comes very neatly packaged in a small card box with plusSound printed on it, the cable comes in a sealed bag and included in the packaging is a plusSound branded amp strap which is a nice little accessory. I don't think much needs to be said about the packaging, it does its job of protecting the cable during shipping and looks good.

Build quality is what a lot of people buy aftermarket cables for, and this is no exception. The cable is superbly built with a sturdy Rhodium plated 3.5mm jack (with suitable strain relief) which will fit most phone cases too. The y-split is aluminium which is nice and lightweight, below the y-split the cable is sheathed in very soft sheathing. The IEM connectors are covered in branded  heat-shrink (the logo  faces outside to differentiate between L and R) and expertly finished, the top part of the cable is un-sheathed and has no memory wire (which I prefer) it does have a heat-shrink chin slider which is good. Everything feels built to last, and I cannot see failure of any part of this cable being a problem.

This cable is quite thick and heavy, but it is still usable for portable usage. I find the weight helps keep the bare cable behind your ears, and there isn't too much weight as to cause any discomfort, but for everyday commuting I would pick maybe a lighter cable. I really like to look and feel of this cable though, just not the most practical if you move about a lot. Depends on your usage really.




Sound:
The first thing I notice with the compared to stock is slightly warmer lows, but they are also slightly more articulate and separate. It gives a subtle boost and makes my monitors sound a little fuller which depending on your IEM's is a good thing. I think my monitors don't need the boost in the lows, but bass guitars really shine on them now with the little boost, you can really distinguish them easily with this cable.

Next difference would be a slight boost in the treble extension, It's not as noticeable as the lows, but the highs sound a little better now as they have a little bit more sparkle. Also improved is the soundstage, they are still intimate sounding (the nature of the IEM's I have) but everything sounds a little more separate without being detached, they actually sound even more coherent with a slightly wider soundstage.

This cable is slightly fuller than the stock one, and would pair well with more neutral/bright IEM's.


Comments

  1. Before I buy a cable, I buy a better set of earphones. More economic considering the zero return from a cable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That makes sense, you should only invest in a cable if you know what kind of improvement you are after, and have a pair of IEM's you really enjoy.

      Delete

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