Pros: Each cable has its own sonic virtues, well made and great ergonomics
Cons: Choosing the right cable for oneself :)
ALO Audio Tinsel, Litz And Reference 8 IEM Cables Impressions And Review
iBasso Audio DX200, Campfire Audio Andromeda and Reference 8 Balanced.
ALO Audio Tinsel, Litz and Reference 8 IEM cables
impressions and review
Head pie has reviewed the Campfire Audio Jupiter, Andromeda, Nova, Dorado, Vega and Lyra ii earphones. Each comes with a stock Litz cable. Please use the search box to find the reviews.
Also see our interview with Campfire Audio:
From clockwise left:
we have the stock Litz cable, the Tinsel (original stock) and the Reference 8 cable.
The cables come in a variety of options which are different for each of the three cables.
Some general options are:
3.5mm stereo, 2.5mm TRRS balanced or 4.4mm (Sony) jacks.
MMCX or Two pin (custom).
iBasso DX200 and Campfire Audio Vega
ALO Reference 8 cable
Comes in 3.5mm stereo, 2.5mm TRRS balanced or 4.4mm (Sony) jacks.
MMCX or Two pin (custom).
$299 - $319.
Campfire audio Andromeda
Description from the ALO Audio website:
The Reference 8 IEM Cable is a true high fidelity earphone cable.
Four high purity silver-plated copper (SXC) conductors combined with four OCC copper conductors in FEP jackets deliver full bodied musicality and fine inner detail to recordings.
It also has the fun and easy to listen to sound signature of all of our ALO audio cables.
The terminations are subtly marked with to indicate Right (Red) or Left (Blue) making it easy to use in on the go applications.
The signature cable geometry combined with the durable FEP jacket work together to keep microphonics to a minimum while still delivering great sound quality.
The FEP jacket will also keep the conductors safe from oxidation that is commonly found in many earphone cables.
While oxidation doesn’t negatively affect the sonic quality of the cable, keeping it out ensures your cable will stay looking great for years.
ALO Audio Reference 8 cables.
From top left MMCX/3.5mm, two pin/2.5mm balanced and MMCX/2.5mm balanced.
ALO Audio Reference 8 cable (MMCX)
ALO Audio Reference 8 cable (Two pin)
ALO Audio Reference 8 cables (Single end 3.5mm and balanced 2.5mm).
ALO Audio Reference 8 2.5mm balanced, two pin connector.
ALO Audio Reference 8, Balanced 2.5mm, MMCX.
ALO Audio 3.5mm single ended, MMCX
Opus#1, Reference 8 balanced and Campfire Audio Andromeda.
iBasso DX200, Reference 8 two pin balanced 2.5mm, Jomo 6R.
Reference 8 cable, Campfire Audio Dorado.
Comes in 3.5mm stereo, 2.5mm TRRS balanced or 4.4mm (Sony) jacks.
$149 - $169.
CEntrance DACportable, Campfire Audio Dorado and ALO Audio stock Litz cable
Litz wire cable for all Campfire Audio earphones.
MADE OF INDIVIDUALLY ENAMELED STRANDS OF SILVER PLATED COPPER.
FOUR CONDUCTORS ARE PROTECTED WITH A DURABLE MEDICAL GRADE PVC JACKET.
EXTREMELY FLEXIBLE AND RESISTANT TO OXIDATION.
OVER MOLDED 3.5MM (1/8″) STEREO PLUG AND BERYLLIUM COPPER MMCX CONNECTORS.
THE CUSTOM BERYLLIUM COPPER MMCX CONNECTORS ARE A HUGE STEP-UP FOR OUR MMCX CONNECTORS GIVING THEM 100X THE RATED PULL LIFE OF A STANDARD MMCX CONNECTOR.
A LONGER LIFE CONNECTOR MEANS A BETTER CONNECTION FOR THE LIFE OF YOUR CABLE AND YOUR EARPHONE.
ALO Audio Litz cable 2.5mm (balanced).
iBasso DX200, Campfire Audio Vega and ALO Audio Stock Litz.
iBasso DX200, Campfire Audio Jupiter, stock Litz cable, ALO Audio Continental V5 and ALO Audio SXC 8 mini to mini interconnect cable.
Cozoy REI, Campfire Audio Vega and stock ALO Audio Litz cable.
Campfire Audio Andromeda and ALO Audio Litz cable
Campfire Audio Nova and ALO Audio Litz cable.
Campfire Audio Dorado and ALO Audio Litz cable
Shozy Alien Gold dap and Campfire Audio Vega and ALO Audio Litz cable
Early testing with Ops#1 dap, Hifiman MegaMini, Shozy Alien gold and the CEntrance Hifi-Skyn.
Centrance DACportable and Campfire Audio Lyra ii with ALO Audio Litz cable
Shozy Alien Gold and Campfire Audio Lyra ii with ALO Audio Litz cable.
Campfire Audio Vega, Dorado and Lyra ii with ALO Audio Litz cable (stock).
ALO Audio Tinsel cable.
The ALO Audio Tinsel was the original Campfire Audio stock cable, this has now been replaced by the ALO Audio Litz cable.
It comes in 3.5mm TRRS, 3.5mm (right angled), 2.5mm TRRS balanced or (mini balanced) Kobiconn.
MMCX (over mold), MMCX or Two pin (custom right angle).
From the left is the Campfire Audio Andromeda with ALO Audio Litz cable, the Campfire Audio Nova with ALO Audio Litz cable and the Campfire Audio Jupiter with the then stock Tinsel cable (The Jupiter originally came with a 3.5mm and a 2.5mm) pictured here with the Opus#1 dap.
*Description from the ALO Audio website:
HIGH PURITY SILVER-PLATED COPPER TINSEL WIRE IN FEP JACKETS DELIVER PROVIDE LOW MICROPHONIC PERFORMANCE IN ON-THE-GO APPLICATIONS.
FEP IS SIMILAR TO TEFLON, IS HIGHLY CHEMICALLY RESISTANT, SWEAT AND WATER PROOF, HIGHLY TRANSPARENT, RESISTANT TO SUNLIGHT UV AND EXTREMELY DURABLE.
MOST IEM CABLES USE A CHEAP PVC JACKET THAT IS SOFTER AND NOT RESISTANT TO SWEAT AND OILS RESULTING IN GREENING OF THE WIRE.
THE FEP JACKET WILL KEEP THE CONDUCTORS SAFE FROM OXIDATION THAT IS COMMONLY FOUND IN MANY EARPHONE CABLES.
WHILE OXIDATION DOESN’T NEGATIVELY AFFECT THE SONIC QUALITY OF THE CABLE, KEEPING IT OUT ENSURES YOUR CABLE WILL STAY LOOKING GREAT FOR YEARS.
ADDITIONALLY THE DIELECTRIC CONSTANT OF FEP IS FAR BETTER THAN PVC RESULTING IN A SUPERIOR SONIC IMPROVEMENT.
The ALO Audio Tinsel cable and Campfire Audio Jupiter.
The testing and general impressions
No one said it was going to be easy.
I had several reviews to get through before Christmas and New Years of 2016 and the ALO Audio cable comparisons were relegated to early 2017. Conditions of work, a new born baby and other exciting and also every day life going ons meant that this particular set of reviews was slightly delayed.
I was able to answer some peoples queries via messaging, usually concerning the ALO Audio Litz cable versus the Reference 8 cable.
It seemed like a mountain. One cable and one set of IEMs, ok. That would be easy. But here I had 6 MMCX (3 SE and 3 Balanced, 2 Tinsel, 2 Litz and 2 Reference 8) and one two pin cable to listen to, receive impressions and write a general review.
How to do it?
I knew I would have to use several IEMs to get a variety of sound signatures, which would mean three cables and each time one set of IEMs quickly switching about.
This meant I had to buy a headphone switcher box to at least make part of the job easier and more efficient.
I have got a lot of enjoyment out of listening to these cables but the thought of the business of comparing them was like an unscaled mountain and honestly filled me with dread.
Not to mention the probable incoming comments of `cables don`t make a different, idiot!`.
Then theres the matter of sources. I wanted to know If there was a consistent sound signature between different sources when i used the cables. The headphone switcher box seemed the best solution.
Also I would have to use the same tracks with each listening session, use a SPL meter to make sure the volume level was the same or close enough across the daps etc...
...All the while having three cables and one IEM each time that i would have to physically disconnect and reconnect quickly to next cable whilst taking notes and trying to keep my aural memory consistent and intact.
It wasn`t an easy task and my busy life in early 2017 prevented me from fully embarking on this mission much to my stress and also relief at forestalling the inevitable.
But enough of my troubles both external and internal, what you the reader wants is results!
In the photos you can see the general set up and some of the IEMs I used. I used mostly Campfire Audio IEMs but also the iBasso IT03 and the Pai Audio MR3 to mix it up.
I skipped the Reference 8 two pin for now and will later do a two pin cable shoot out (As I don`t have the two pin Tinsel or two pin Litz to compare).
All tracks played were FLAC 16/44. As you can see from the photos after I used the SPL to try and match the volumes as best as I could I would quickly with nimble fingers stab at the players play buttons and try to get them to start playing the track at the same time.
The headphones switcher is a LineP. I swapped out the stock connector cables for 3 ALO Audio SXC 8 mini to mini interconnects to spruce it up.
In the photo above you can see the Campfire Audio Dorado connected.
later I switched to JVC Spiral Dot tips and used these on all the IEMs for consistency.
As many tip rollers know, tips can significantly change the sound signature.
The Advanced AcousticWerkes W330U and Jomo6R which are two pin IEMs.
We will revisit them in later two pin cbale reviews.
This is not an exact art, dependent on my poor ears, the endless swapping about, the tracks I used, my choice of daps and dacs and IEMs. But hopefully I can offer something helpful to you, the reader.
Long story short for the TLDR, thanks for the pretty pictures crowd.
Tinsel -Thin in the low end, extended highs, vocals forward, clear and clarity.
Litz - Full sound, low and high end focussed, slightly recessed mids, great vocals
Reference 8 - Fuller. Solid bass, present mids, sweet and clear highs, vocals well balanced with the music.
Thats the big picture, ...my guess is most people that are reading are wondering to themselves `Should I get the Reference 8 cable for Campfire Audio IEMs?`.
And that particular crowd requires details and not just the big picture.
What are the differences between the cables?
Are they significant differences?
Does each IEM favor a certain cable out of the three?
Should I buy the Reference 8?
What should I choose, the single end or the balanced version?
Are there any sonic differences between the IEMs with the cables, or is there a general pattern?
Do different cables favor certain dap signatures? (lets call them warm, neutral or bright for simplicities sake).
(Unintentionally mislaid) Early testing notes. An interlude:
Dap unknown. Flowery word salad.
Campfire Audio - An IEM a day.
ALO Audio Reference 8 cable.
After saturating myself in the lusciousness of detail and sound stage that is the Andromeda and drowning myself in the depths of the Vegas deep and fast bass I thought it was time to revisit the other neglected Campfire Audio IEMs before I embark on a series of comparisons between the ALO Audio cables. (Tinsel, Litz and Vega).
I started with the Jupiter as it was the first I received and became sadly sidelined as my love affair with the Andromeda blossomed and bloomed.
What can I say, I was wowed. When I first reviewed the CA Jupiter it came with two Tinsel cables (SE and Balanced) using the Reference 8 cable certainly adds more to the overall body, brings up the mids - (which was one aspect I originally thought was a bit lacking), excellent detail and super smooth with at times extended highs and deep, clear bass.
The next day i brought out the Nova in keeping with the original styling. This being more at the lower to mid price point of the CA family (although one can now pick up B-Spec Jupiters for about the same price as a new Nova).
When I first received the Nova it was in tandem with the Andromeda, which was a bit unfair for the Nova.
It is more noticeable on the bass and mids, soundstage is still good, not as extensive and wide and high as the Jupiter and Andromeda.
Not as musical or dynamic, not to say it is a soluch at all with two drivers versus 4 and 5 some obvious differences in detail and extension are to be noticed.
It still has great clarity and is a worthy purchase, a warmish IEMin some ways with a wee sparkle on top.
On with the serious testing. And the swapping of cables, switching of earphones shells and grinding and gnashing of teeth.
As mentioned earlier and as you can see in the photos I used a variety of sources and have melded the results.
Notes are in short form in the hope that a conclusive pattern may emerge.
Single ended 3.5mm testing:
Pai Audio MR3. Retail US$200.
Tinsel: Vocals froward, lighter, more highs focussed, not much mids, distant lows.
Litz: Even overall, rich, dynamic, lows present, nice vocals, smooth, full.
Reference 8: Even sound, great dynamic range, vocals and mids.
iBasso IT03. Retail US$250.
Using the stock short wide bore tips. Stock cable, Full, good vocals, pumping bass.
Tinsel: Even, flat, dynamic.
Litz: Even, slightly richer, more mids, more powerful and fuller sound.
Reference 8: More even, musical and vocals. Full overall the sound spectrum, the bass and mids are dynamic. Retains the IT03 V shape to a degree.
Campfire Audio Andromeda. Retail US$1,099 (Look for B-Stock deals).
Tinsel: Medium to large sound stage. Good dynamics, fairly even, more extension in the highs, more tame, vocals forward, still great clarity.
Litz: Lows and vocals stand out, more low end, mid high end, low and highs focussed. Great clarity.
Reference 8: Even and balanced sound, fantastic lows, mids and highs. It sounds like I am getting the whole dynamic range at a great resolution. The Andromeda loves the Reference 8.
Campfire Audio Vega. Retail US$1,299.
Tinsel: Slightly V shaped because of the Vegas bass (Which tightens and decreases slightly after 250 hours+), `pleasant`, highs with a hint of smooth and rounded bass, nice clean clarity, minimal mids, top end ie highs focussed.
Litz: More even overall, vocals forward, bass, highs and great vocals, nice and clear, Vega doesnt alway need lots of mid action to shine.
Reference 8: More even sound overall, Great clarity..and mids!, music is brought up more to the vocal level, full and dynamic, Great range, overall better with a wider range.
Vega is good with the Litz or great with the Reference 8. imho.
Campfire Audio Lyra ii. Retail US$699.
Tinsel: Good, even sound. The Lyra ii has a XXx sound signature), Vocals still a (little) forward.
Litz: Nice, warm, almost like the ATH-ESW9, liquid-y.
Reference 8: It even has a beautiful synergy with an ipod, nice range, seems to prefer a bright source plus the Reference 8.
Campfire Audio Nova. Retail US$499.
Tinsel: Changes the signature, great clarity, full sound (Nova signature is XXx).
Litz: Nice balance, still not much mids, dynamic.
Reference 8: Full overall, less treble due to the Novas signature, even sound, wall of sound.
Conclusion re: Nova, its a matter of taste.
Campfire Audio Dorado: Retail US$999.
Tinsel: Simple, vocals, laid back, great simple sound, not full or dynamic, clarity.
Litz: Fuller, wider, richer.
Reference 8: Overall richer, fuller, more width and height. Deeper.
The balanced tests mirrored the results of the SE to various degrees.
The balanced outputs generally had more power output, more control, wider sound stage and resolution.
Tinsel: More airy, spacious sense due to the emphasis on the highs, focus on vocals, less low end, more sparkly up top, fairly even.
Litz: Lovely clarity and clearness, smooth vocals, less mids than the Reference 8, nice full low end, more fuller and controlled, wider and deeper than the Tinsel in balanced. Lows, vocals and highs.
Reference 8: Fantastic all enveloping sound, spacious, great resolution, covers all the axis height, depth and width, a nice meeting point where the distant and close details operate in tandem, 3D effect, excellent separation and a large sound stage.
Overview and conclusions
All the ALO Audio cables are of high quality parts and performance.
After long analytical listening I can see why ALO Audio and Campfire Audio moved from the Tinsel cable to Litz cable for use as the stock cable for Campfire Audio IEMs.
It is not to say that the Tinsel cable is a slouch at all, just a different flavor and sound signature. The Litz offers more low end which gives it more of a sense of fullness of sound and power.
The Reference 8 ups the ante by increasing the sound stage, improving on the overall timbre, bringing up the mids and offering a more 3D experience, all enveloping and constant in the height, width and depth areas.
With the Litz cable 3.5mm now offered with all Campfire Audio IEMs as the stock cable the obvious question for most would be whether to go Litz balanced or Reference 8 balanced.
Each cable has its own virtues depending on the IEM it is to be paired with and the dap used. if one has a dap with balanced out then its a simple choice to go balanced.
Now we have many daps of varying power, output and performance.
Therefore results may vary dap to dap.
At a 1ohms output impedance or less the individual signature of the various cables will be more noticeable and prominent.
Also the more powerful the amp section of a dap will also make a difference, and of course low end daps are already hobbled to a degree.
Then there is a choice of warm, neutral or bright dap - which will also affect the result.
I would choose a high end TOTL, neutral dap, with a powerful amp section and an output impedance of less than 1 ohm.
Tips from silicone to foam, small, medium or large bore can more than often significantly change a sound signature drastically also.
Many factors come into play and that oft used word synergy comes into play.
No doubt our ears and hearing ability also play a part, the quality of the music files also play a part.
I have done my best to give a basic summary of the subtle yet definite differences between the ALO Audio Tinsel, Litz and Reference 8 cables.
For many the choice to by another cable, often blindly is a risk. For the price one could also buy another earphone or a cheap dap. Not an easy choice when parting with ones precious cash.
For those wanting to squeeze more performance out of their high end earphones I recommend shopping around for the right cable for the sonic signature you are after.
My first experience with IEM cable swapping was the TF10 from stock to Null Audio and I certainly noticed the difference in fit and sound. Earlier I had various ipod LODs and found that each offered something different.
In closing my results are written in the testing section, sometimes I prefer the Litz but more often than not I find myself reaching for the balanced Reference 8 cable.
ALO Audio cables: Beautifully made with a fantastic sound.
Opus#1 Dap and Campfire Audio Lyra ii
ifi Micro iDSD BL, ALO Audio interconnect, ALO Audio Continental V5 and Campfire Audio Andromeda.
Thank you to ALO Audio for sending Head pie the ALO Audio cables for comparison and review