Pros: Clean & Transparent Sound, Soundstage Depth and Height, Resolution, Comfort, Build Quality, Looks
A couple of months back, I had a chance to compare a few IEM upgrade cables and, I realized a good upgrade cable could unlock the real potential of an IEM. Even before I ordered my Empire Ears Zeus Custom IEM, I was sure I wanted an upgrade cable to go with it. After all, I had read that Zeus scales higher with a good cable.
After some research I decided to buy a cable from Effect Audio. Jack helped me get in touch with Suyang and Eric of Effect Audio, who assisted me with my purchase. Eric was very responsive to my emails and was kind to offer a discount on the purchase in exchange for an honest review. After some online research and, a few email exchanges with Eric, I decided to get the Leonidas.
THE COMPANY AND THE CABLE:
Effect Audio is a cable manufacturer located in Singapore. Their product catalog includes a line-up of IEMs & Headphones Upgrade Cables, Interconnect Cables, Accessories and a few IEMs. Apart from the sound aspect, their products are also known for the looks and build quality.
Leonidas is the first product from the Heritage series of upgrade cables for IEMs. It is a Litz construction using Pure Silver and Gold Plated Silver Hybrid configuration. It is made using scarce materials and uses a special geometry. Effect Audio team is very proud of the Leonidas cable. The cable retails for $800.
I will be referring to the Leonidas as “Leo” for the rest of the review.
BUILD QUALITY AND LOOKS: Score: 9/10
Leo is built really well and looks amazing. To read more on the physical details of the cable, I have shared some physical impressions of the cable on the Effect Audio thread here:
COMFORT AND HANDLING: Score: 9/10
Leo is flexible and has almost zero cable memory. There is a wire sleeving at the IEM end to provide the over-ear shape and there is no memory wire. All this combined, makes Leo a very comfortable and a easy-to-handle cable.
MICROPHONICS: Score: 9/10
Almost zero microphonics from the cable portion below the Y splitter. There is some minimal microphonics above the Y splitter.
SOUND IMPRESSIONS: Score: 9/10
For the sound impressions;
- I will be pairing it with my Zeus-XIV-ADEL Custom IEM
- I will be comparing it with the stock cable that came with my EE Zeus
- I will using the Chord Mojo as the source
TONALITY AND SIGNATURE:
Leo, overall has a neutral tone without emphasizing any frequency segment. The note thickness is neither thick nor lean. The stock cable has a warm and smooth sound, while Leo has a cleaner and textured sound.
Starting with the low frequencies, Leo's bass is neutral, tight, and well defined. In comparison, bass on the stock cable is warm and slightly loose. The better definition and the lack of warmth on the Leo, allows for better bass texture. Bass decay is quicker on the Leo, while the notes linger a bit longer on the stock cable.
Leo has clear and uncolored mids, sometimes venturing the territory of dryness. The stock cable, because of its warmth, has a slight veil over the mids. The notes on the stock cable, have more body in comparison to the Leo. Leo presents a transparent midrange and brings out more details in the mids.
The treble on the stock cable is neutral for the most part with a bit of sparkle. While Leo’s treble is also neutral, it leans on the natural and smooth side of neutral. Treble extension is better on the Leo. Simply in terms of overall quality, Leo’s treble is better. But there are times, when I do enjoy the sparkly treble on the stock cable. Leo’s treble, does not tend to sibilance. The stock cable borderlines sibilance, occasionally.
RESOLUTION, TRANSPARENCY AND PRECISION:
In line with good definitions and treble extension, Leo is a high resolution cable that carries high level of transparency and precision. The high transparency and precision brings out more details and accuracy to the presentation. In comparison, the stock cable sounds colored and lacks precision.
SOUNDSTAGE, INSTRUMENTS AND PRESENTATION:
Leo has a slightly better soundstage width than the stock cable, but it pulls clearly ahead, when it comes to stage depth and height and presents a more 3-Dimensional space. Because of the lack of warmth from bass or any coloration, Leo’s stage is cleaner and airier.
The cleaner stage on the Leo provides better separation. As a result of better depth, Leo has better layering of instruments. That combined with the precision results in a more accurate imaging. The presentation distance of the stock cable can be considered neutral in placement, while Leo’s presentation in comparison, is placed slightly away from the listener.
Please be aware that, all the above stated impressions are based on the pairing with the Zeus-XIV-ADEL IEM. The result may vary with other IEMs. Being a neutral cable, Leo should pair well with a wide variety of IEMs.
I would like to thank Eric for the discount on my purchase and, the opportunity to review the Leonidas cable. The level of sound improvement that Leonidas adds to my Zeus is pretty significant. At $800, the cable is not cheap but, to me it is The Whole Package Cable, because it not only improves the sound quality, but scores very well on the comfort and build aspects. If you are in the market for an ergonomic cable with the aforementioned sound characteristics, Leo is a solid choice and an easy recommendation.
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