A while ago, I bought some DIY cabling from Los Angeles-based plusSound Audio and loved the immediacy of their customer service. Being a native Angelino, I also wanted to support SoCal businesses as well, so I decided to check out their Exo series cable.
plusSound Audio specializes as a bespoke, handmade, full-service boutique cable service, and the Exo is one of six different cable series offered by plusSound, along with the Dionysian, the Apollonian, the Echo, the Poetic, and the X8 (as well as an upcoming X6 that I know little to nothing about) — each of which are available for IEM cables, headphone cables, interconnects, and more. The Exo is the “bare” cable, with no nylon sheathing, while the other cable series have varying degrees of sheathing on them, save for the X8 and X6, which are cables that use specialty braids over the usual round or flat braid (plusSound lets you choose during the ordering process), with an additional plethora of other options as well.
CABLE MATERIAL, ERGONOMICS, BUILD QUALITY & AESTHETICS
The Exo cable is a four-conductor, round (Milloit) braid 7N (well, technically 6N+, since measurement machines have trouble assessing metallurgic purity over 99.99998%) UP-OCC stranded copper cable. While I thought the strand count (10-ct) was slightly low, it didn’t seem to affect sound negatively in any way, so, whatever. Those that are concerned with the strand count can take solace in the fact that copper is not the only material offered; there are numerous other (more exotic) options. Of course, these other cable materials will come at a price, but it’s nice to see that they offer so many variants. I personally like either just pure copper or pure silver (without gold); hopefully, they’ll replace the current copper cable with one that’s higher in strand count, if only for durability and redundancy’s sake, rather than for any sonic benefits.
While the cable gauge is 28 AWG, the LLD-PE (linear low-density polyethylene) sleeving is quite thick — the OD feels more like a 24, 25AWG cable; I imagine that they ordered it in this thickness because the dielectric properties of LLD-PE aren’t quite as good as PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene, a.k.a. Teflon) in the same thickness. Why not PTFE sleeving then? Well, PTFE insulation is much more microphonic than polyethylene (linear or cross-linked).
Despite the OD being thicker than that of a typical wire at 28AWG, it didn’t feel unwieldy at all. In fact, it was quite flexible, and had a minimal amount of memory, less than my BTG-Audio Sunrise cable. I would not hesitate to use this cable indoors or out.
Build quality is really quite impressive; whether it’s the termination, the Y-split, or the pins, plusSound builds the Exo cable like a tank. Everything is secured down and doesn’t seem like anything would break unless someone lets loose on it with a hammer.
plusSound equips IEM cable terminations with the excellent Viablue T6s (small) 3.5mm plugs by default; customers can choose between Oyaide plugs, 6.3mm plugs, balanced Kobiconn (RSA/ALO), balanced Hirose 6-pin (iBasso), and others as well.
The pins are nice and tight; some aftermarket pins, while not loose, don’t quite have the same tension. They seem to use the full-width 0.78mm pins, with an additional round-barreled shroud for reinforcement.
As rock solid as the build quality is, however, the liberal use of black heat shrink does detract from the overall aesthetics just a bit. The neck slider wasn’t a looker and was a bit loose; I’d recommend people putting in the extra $3 for a wooden bead instead. The heat shrink constituting the strain relief at the 3.5mm termination had plusSound‘s logo imprinted, but was lacking a bit of resolution compared to what I’ve seen from other companies. The pins, with their round barrel and additional heat shrink reinforcement, may possibly never break, but they look a bit obtrusive and get long in the tooth pretty quickly. In its defense, I just personally prefer less use of heat shrink in my stuff; there was absolutely nothing about the worksmanship of the cable that detracted from the aesthetics (i.e. excess glue, jagged edges, etc.).
I don’t like to comment too much on sound, since I believe it’s a matter of personal preference; however, I will say that the “sound” of the Exo copper cable is what it “should” be, meaning that it’s a clean, honest sound that doesn’t suffer from EM interference or self-inductance. Nothing sounds muddy, and the ends are well-extended — indicators that plusSound did a great job with the braiding and soldering, to go along with a cable made from high-quality materials.
Is plusSound‘s OCC copper necessarily better than the Mogami OFC of my BTG Sunrise? Theory says yes, perception says “I don’t know.” If I had to make a statement, I’d say that the BTG Sunrise has more of a “solid” sound, while the plusSound Exo sounds a teeny bit more transparent, but it could also be my mind playing tricks on me. There are so many minute factors to cables, from the insulation material, to the braid consistency, and the type of solder used that may possibly alter sound in a cable. I don’t try to tease all those things apart. At $99, it doesn’t really matter, either (since a BTG Sunrise cable configured with a Viablue plug and no sleeving is at $93, making the two very similar in price).
I found the Exo copper cable from plusSound Audio to be great in terms of build quality, ergonomics, and price. I’m a bit of a stickler for aesthetics, so I did feel that the Exo had a little bit to work on in the heat shrink department, but I’m sure plusSound has been making improvements. The paramount advantage to plusSound is that it is truly a one-stop shop for anyone’s cabling needs. plusSound headquarters may be a ways off from Melrose Avenue and Rodeo Drive, but it makes them no less of a made-to-order, specialty shop when it comes to audio.
[Original Review is posted from: http://cymbacavum.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/plussound-audio-exo-cable-hollywood-boutique/]