Review: Multiple IEM Cables (Nobunaga Labs, Forza Audio Works, Toxic Cables, Effect Audio, Atlas Cables)

This will be 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, I always try to write honest reviews. 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 and my Inearz P350 custom monitors.


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