Pros: Excellent build quality / Lots of options / Good customer service / Reasonably priced
Cons: None. Totally serious.
The BTG-Audio Sunrise CIEM Cable
Warning: This sophmoric review was written after repeated viewings of The Big Lebowski, and some may find it annoying. I am the walrus.
The Industry Abides...
We audiophiles (or whatever the hell we are), new to the hobby and old-timers alike, are living in a sort of golden age; the manufacturers have finally caught wind of the lengths people will go to, as in the money we're willing to spend, to put together a system that induces an out of body experience (at least that's what I'm after), and it no longer involves spending 5 figures for a hi-fi system for the home. The quality of portable audio products has reached a point where those who can't afford the home system of their dreams (who are legion) are able and more than willing to plunk down $2,000 or more for a stellar portable setup. A wide array of companies are pining away (and they should be) for a segment that has proven to be anything but tight-fisted, even in a weak economy. Custom-molded in-ear monitors (aka CIEMs) have become an essential component of many a portable setup and more companies have stepped in to satiate this growing market in the last year. A side effect of this spike in the demand for CIEMs is the market for the replaceable cables that come with CIEMs.
Introducing BTG Audio: I like their style.
This brings me to one very small company, BTG Audio, headed by a fella by the name of Brian Goto (he may or may not hate the ******* Eagles, I dunno) who has a simple business plan: Produce a product with great build quality using high quality materials, and leave the rest to word-of-mouth. If you visit his website (http://www.btg-audio.com/) and poke around a bit, you'll find that he has opted not to tout the sound-altering qualities of his cables, in spite of the fact that it would likely result in higher sales. Much has been made of this debate here on head-fi, but Brian makes it abundantly clear where he stands: he does not believe that a perceptible change in sound quality results from using his products, no matter what type of copper is used, silver-plated or otherwise. In keeping with the spirit of his website and Brian's beliefs on this matter (which can be found here: http://www.btg-audio.com/cable-facts), I will not poke the proverbial hornet's nest and just let the debate rage on in the appropriate threads here on head-fi - after all, that's just like everyone's opinion, man.
The Build Quality: Over the line! (in a good way)
Brian sent me a sample of his Sunrise CIEM cable a few weeks back and I was immediately impressed with the build quality. The one I received was terminated with a right-angled Neutrik plug, also covered with black heatshrink with his logo, and had black sheathing below the split that was quite soft and maneuverable. The sheathing leads up to a sturdily-built split, also featuring his logo. When in use, the cable does not have a mind of its own; it does twist a bit, but it was never a nuisance when walking around with my J3 in my chest pocket at work. The stock Westone-style cable is certainly thinner and less noticeable, but the Sunrise has a very robust build that feels like it will be around for the long haul.
What I probably most appreciate about these is the result of a minor problem I've had with my Quads since they were re-shelled; the sockets on the left earpiece leave a 1-2mm gap and simply would not allow the pins of the stock cable to be inserted flush (non-recessed sockets). I didn't bother to send them back to UM to be fixed since I figured it was a minor detail that I could perhaps remedy via a helpful DIYer here on head-fi. When I plugged in the Sunrise, I got a flush connection on that troubled socket. I'm not exactly sure why it "fits right in there" (as the Cowboy said about the Dude), as there is surely a logical explanation for this, but I can't help but put that down as a positive, a sort of happy accident. Lebowski references aside, the custom-made connectors and pins do look very well made and feature a visible strand of memory wire inside the clear earguides to keep them wrapped comfortably around your ears.
The wire used by BTG-Audio in the Sunrise is 30-strand 26 AWG (the guage or thickness) OFC (Oxygen-Free Copper) and is braided in the milloit pattern (in the parlance of our times). He offers a variety of options for the Sunrise and also has other products available on his website. These retail for $78 which is very competitively priced considering the build quality and the price of its competitors. The Sunrise is certainly a product worthy of your attention if you're looking to upgrade your CIEM cables, and especially so if your wallet is still smarting after CIEM purchase itself.
His reputation for making good kit is spreading and has recently led to an affiliation with The Audio Guild aka Q Audio Cables, a nice reward for attention to detail and perhaps also for his refusal to market his wares in a way that contradicts his beliefs about what a cable can and can't do. Okay, it's time for me to get some shuteye, Dude. I'll leave you with a couple more shots of the Sunrise....
Disclaimer: This cable was a loaner and has already been shipped back to BTG Audio. No compensation of any sort was offered by Brian. Sometime after this review, my well-liked Quads were liberated from my possession by an urban achiever on a motorcycle here in the mean streets of Saigon. I should have included my dirty undies...This review was originally written in 2012, so if it seems dated, that's because it is.