Effect Audio started in 2009, making aftermarket cables for enthusiasts. They went international in 2011, selling their custom creations via eBay as well as their own website. By 2013 they are one of the more well known options and have amassed a collection of positive reviews around HeadFi and other places. Effect primarily deals with cable upgrades for IEMs but has recently expanded into full size models such as Sennheiser and Audeze. I've been curious about them but never had a chance to work them into my busy schedule. Until now.
Effect has a range of IEM cable options. Currently, their lowest priced model is the Crystal cable which sells for a mere $50. Their highest model at the moment is the Odin which sells for $199. From $50 to $200 with many stops in between, it seems clear that Effect is interested in capturing the budget market rather than playing in the stratospheric range where the cable costs more than the IEM itself.
I confess to being slightly confused by the model lineup: Effect lists their new Thor IEM cable as being their "flagship product". It comes in two variations - UPOCC cryo treated Silver Plated Copper for $129, or UPOCC cryo treated Silver for $189. That's fine and dandy but remember the Odin at $199? Seems like the most expensive model would tend to earn "flagship" status. In the North mythology, Odin is the greatest and the oldest of the Æsir and Thor is his most noteworthy son. As strong as Thor is, Odin remains the top dog. So I'm not clear on how the Effect Audio pantheon really shakes out. Whatever the case, the focus here is on the Thor cable in two different variations.
The first cable I got from Effect is the Thor OCC SPC for IEMs. I got mine in "Westone 4R" style so it works with all my custom IEMs (some of which are actually from Westone, while others are from various different brands). Other connectivity options include Sennheiser IE8, Shure SE535, and Ultimate Ears TF10. Termination is a 1/8" plug from Oyaide in either straight or right angle. The price is $129 regardless of options, it comes in a 1.2 meter length, and is available only in silver color.
The other cable I got is the Thor OCC Silver headphone cable. This one is available for most popular headphones including Audeze LCD-2 and LCD-3, HiFiMAN HE-series (works with all of them), Sennheiser HD580/600/650, and Sennheiser HD800 (which costs $50 extra due to the expensive connectors). Termination is in the same Oyaide 1/8" plug and it comes with a 1/4" adapter. Length is 1.5 meters and sleeving is available for an extra $30. I ended up getting the Audeze model to use with my LCD-2, which sells for $219 plus the $30 sleeving for a total of $249.
Both types - IEM and headphone cables - seem to use the same construction. It's a quad-braid design which is very flexible, more so than most any of the aftermarket cables I've tried. I don't know if the full-size cables are of a thicker gauge than the IEM cables, since my Audeze cable has the sleeving which blocks my view of the action. The sleeving is very nice though - individually wrapped for each strand in an ultra-soft "shoelace" material, similar to what you'd see from other brands like Norse or Q Audio.
Right off the bat, I was impressed with the Effect cables as far as their flexibility. The Thor IEM cable I'd say was more flexible and easy to manage than any of my others from Beat Audio, Toxic Cables, and 93 East, though still not quite as pliable as the Heir Audio Magnus cable (but it was close). The build seemed in line with my 93 East Stage93 cable or my Toxic Cables SPC Viper, both of which I consider to be excellent cables.
The Thor Audeze cable was even more flexible - I've never had my hands on the Q Audio stuff so maybe they achieve this same level of flexibility, but it's really quite remarkable. With the cotton sleeve looking like a shoelace, it seems as if I could actually tie it in a knot without much resistance. Not that I want to try that, but that's how flexible it is. One suggestion I have for Effect is to offer a larger selection of terminations for these headphone cables. IEMs are fine with 1/8" jacks but I usually want a big 1/4" jack on my full size headphones. Nothing wrong with the Oyaide 1/8" plug but I think people would like a wider selection, including balanced options.
As for listening: I don't like to go into huge detail about sonic signatures of cables. It's no fun to sit there analyzing them in that way, and even less fun to read about. So I'll keep this relatively simple and brief.
For the Thor IEM cable, I compared it mainly to the Toxic Cables SPC Viper. Both use OCC silver plated copper. The Viper sells for around $180 based on today's exchange rate, so it's the more expensive cable overall. In comparison, the Thor is more flexible and easy to deal with. But to be fair my Viper is a prototype model in a thicker gauge. The regular version should come closer to the flexibility of the Thor but probably still doesn't quite match it. Both are very nice and seem durable enough to last for actual portable use.
For sound signature, the Viper seems to have a bit of a midrange glow to it. Not an extreme coloration - it's very subtle. I also notice superior bass extension and fullness in the deepest low frequency range. This is compared to the standard Westone or Heir or Unique Melody cable that ships stock with most CIEMs. In comparison, the Thor sounded pretty similar in quality but different in the specifics, with a slightly less noticeable midrange boost and more of a focus on the lows. As always with cables, this is a subtle touch of character rather than an "in your face" new sound signature.
I tended to prefer the Thor paired with neutral or thinner sounding CIEMs - the Frogbeats C4 was a good match, and the Heir 4.A, and especially the original Cosmic Ears BA4. The BA4 in particular paired exceptionally well with the SPC Thor, benefiting from the extra low end clarity and grunt. The Viper was a better match for different IEMs which need no assistance in the bass department. That would be the Heir Audio 6.A LE, the 1964 Ears V3, and the Lear LCM-5 among others. Overall I'd say the Toxic Cables Viper is the slightly better sounding cable but not by a huge margin. Considering the price difference, and the fact that Toxic Cables is in my experience one of the best brands around, it's pretty impressive that the Thor can approach it for less money.
By selling cables for big headphones rather than "just" IEMs, Effect Audio places themselves among a whole new level of competitors. There are just so many brands out there making headphone cables, from big names like Cardas to small companies that only a HeadFier might know about. Some of these have launched IEM cables or plan to do so in the near future, but I'd still say there are more brands catering to full size headphones. At $249 for the OCC Silver version with sleeving, the Effect Thor doesn't really qualify as a budget choice, but neither does it seem too extravagantly priced.
I used the Thor OCC Silver with my Audeze LCD-2. I've got the latest version in bamboo and I normally use a Charleston Cable Company Auric Ohno cable with it, or else the stock balanced cable. Charleston has switched gears and no longer offers the Auric Ohno as their top model, having replaced it with a supposedly equivalent proprietary UP OCC material. The Charleston cable, at $280, is just a bit more expensive than the Thor.
The Thor did exactly what I had hoped for with the LCD-2 - it slightly extend the treble response without going overboard, and improved soundstage by a small but noticeable amount. And guess what? That's exactly what my Charleston cable also does. Interesting, because one is pure silver and the other is copper with no silver. I'm still not convinced that any particular material always sounds a certain way - it has more to do with quality than any one particular ingredient. But I think some people would be surprised to hear these two cables, with very different designs and construction, performing so similarly. The stock Audeze cable is no longer terrible (I hated the early cable they used which was extremely thick and stiff) and I definitely wouldn't recommend a $250 cable as an absolutely necessary add-on. The Effect Audio Thor is better suited for people who already have a reasonably nice setup and want to extract the last bit of performance from it.
The Effect Audio Thor cables are nice. Real nice. If flexibility is very important to you, they could be some of the best cables out there. In terms of sonics, both the Silver and the SPC are competitive within their respective price ranges. Effect has been around for a while and seems to have built up a respectable reputation for service and quality. And the Thor cables, despite their reasonable price tags, don't feel out of place in my rather expensive system. If you're in the market for a cable upgrade, definitely give Effect Audio a good look.
No memory wire - just a thin layer of clear plastic wrap:
Notice the custom "Effect" labeled connectors, which appear to work with flush or
recessed sockets. Also see how the cable takes shape even without memory wire,
after just a few uses. It's very comfortable:
Custom Y-split and simple clear slider - no wooden choker on these:
I got the angles Oyaide plug:
SPC Thor next to 93SPEC silver cable from 93 East:
They look pretty similar:
With Beat Audio Cronus, which takes a very different approach:
With puny stock cable (which is already turning green):
Next to Toxic Cables Viper - notice how the Viper can't quite coil up as easily:
Next to 93PC from 93 East, which is (obviously) copper and a lot thicker too:
Thor Silver Audeze cable:
Mini-XLR plugs look like Rean brand but don't have a label:
Next to Charleston Cable Company Auric Ohno:
Notice how the Thor can make a tight curve, while the Auric Ohno is unable to bend
in the same way - this was as tight of a curve as it could hold, while the Thor could
have bent more if I wanted: