Pros: Transparency, bass, mids, soundstage, price
Cons: The wait
After-market cables are something of an enigma. There are many companies offering many different cables each offering their own distinct sonic flavors. I must admit, I was once something of a cable agnostic. Many reviews I had read flatly stated they heard no difference in their after-market cables and/or the only reasons to even get one are purely aesthetical.
So it wasn't until I picked up an Audez'e LCD2 Rev 2 right here on Head-fi that I even gave the thought of such a purchase any serious consideration. The seller of my beautiful and beloved Rosewoods found himself gravitating more towards his Sennheiser HD 800s, having preferred something of a more neutral and airier sound. He did say to me though that he felt a silver cable would solve any and every issue he ever had with the LCD2 and that I should get a Toxic.
That worked well for me, as I had done quite a bit of business with Frank (that's Mr Toxic Cables to you) before. He's the UK seller for Audio-GD and one of the nicest and most down to earth guys I've met in this hobby. Long story short, I settled on getting a silver cable, the Silver Poison, unsleeved, for my LCD2s.
There are a few reviews out there for the Silver Poison, but nothing quite so in depth specifically for Audez'e cans. I can honestly say the LCD2 Rev 2s are the finest headphones I've ever heard and yet, like Dr Pepper, easily the most misunderstood. For more musings on this, see the FAQ at the end, meanwhile on with the review...
Gear used, as per sig;
Headphones: Audez'e LCD-2 Rev 2 (December 2011)
DAC: Schiit Gungnir (roughly 100 hours burn-in)
Amp: Audio-GD C2.2 replacing the warmish stock burr-brown opamps with two neutral Audio-GD OPA-EARTHs.
Camera: Pentax K-r
This is unquestionably a beautiful cable, with gorgeous Toxic Cables branded wraps on the connecters and viablue jack end. The silver in the cable, while fully exposed, catches the light and visibly shimmers. This actually caused difficulties with getting good pictures, as my camera's flash would inevitably catch it.
The most eye catching aspect of the cable however is the stunning Y-Splitter, polished to almost mirror-status and embossed with the Toxic Cables logo. My Y-Splitter is a proto-type and is actually bigger than the standard and what you would get if you ordered now. That said, it has almost zero weight and as such the cable feels considerably lighter than the Audez'e stock.
I have a long beard and with the Audez'e stock cable, any head movement was audible and unpleasant. From non-bearded testers, the same issue applies with abrasion to the chin. It doesn't help that the Audez'e stock cable has it's Y-Splitter very close to the top and has precious little room for maneuver.
The Silver Poison removes this problem completely, gobs of room from the Y-Splitter to the phones and absolutely no sound from the cable whatsoever. Fantastic.
Ok this is the important part, as far as I'm concerned. Many other cable companies and their supporters make a point of letting you know that (as I stated in the overview) cables should only really be bought for their looks. I disagree with this entirely.
As a consumer and an audiophile, I'm not satisfied with pouring hundreds into a cable if it doesn't drastically improve my own listening experience. If it didn't, then I simply wouldn't buy one. Fortunately Frank rose to the challenge and has designed a wide range of cables with Fidelity in mind, at consumer friendly prices.
Traditionally silver cables provide a brighter, airier sound with the lower end taking a hit. Here, Frank has injected pure gold with mind to add more cushion for the pushin and get all the benefits of a silver cable with none of the drawbacks.
From the very first listen I could confirm he hit the nail on the head, I'm going to cover a few of the ins and outs individually here so bear with me...
Wow. The Silver Poisons bring the LCD2s to a new level of transparency I hadn't experienced outside of top end electrostats.
On further listens, I attributed this to a few things. Firstly the soundstage is considerably wider than the stock, lifting the headphones right off my head. The soundstage adds a little depth, but mostly the improvements are in width. Instruments also seem less on top of each other, something noticeable going from Hifiman to Audez'e and generally far better placed within the soundstage. Also the emphasis on the mid to upper frequencies (more on that later) makes things seem more apparent, when before they seemed dulled.
Overall, compared to stock, the sound is much cleaner and overall more "neutral". The LCD2s are actually, in my opinion, fairly neutral headphones to begin with and this only really emphasizes this aspect.
The stock cables sounds congested in comparison and packs considerably less impact. Impact will be a key word for the rest of this review as the Silver Poisons provide a very forward, yet never fatiguing, listening experience. The sound is cleaner and crisper than stock, particularly in the upper-mids and perhaps as a result I find myself able to hear many more details much easier.
The trade-off for silver cables is the main draw for Audez'es, how does the Silver Poison fare?
Better than I could ever have imagined. A negligible amount of rumble is sacrificed and replaced with pure (here's that word again) impact and authority. The bass is cleaner, much cleaner. Before this review I was of the opinion when comparing the Hifiman HE-500 to the Audez'e LCD2 that the LCD2s had much more extension and quantity of bass, but the HE-500s won out on detail and cleanness/decay. Now the LCD2s have surpassed the HE-500s even on that. Not only do they retain their famous and unrivaled depth, plunging easily to slam home the 10hz beats I threw at it for tests, but it does so in the most amazingly detailed, clean and "tight" way.
Let me just state however that these are in no way cold sounding. Rumble is still present in gobs when called for and all the more so does this bass now pack a punch. The bass hits much, much harder than on the stock, bassheads delight.
The mids, particularly the upper-mids, leap forward here. They are still so silky smooth, a hallmark of Audez'e headphones, but just noticeably more prominent in the music. Not just louder, but clearer, particularly vocals. Where the stock cable can sound congested the Silver Poison sounds wide open with plenty of air and space.
It seems to me that in particular this cable would be a good fit for an Audez'e LCD-3 where the upper mids are recessed in comparison to that of the LCD-2. The difference over stock is literally stunning.
Again, like the mids, the treble is elevated up a notch. As it started below the bass and mids to begin with, it still doesn't end up anywere near their level.
That said, there is a noticeable improvement. More air and space up top combined with almost an edge of brightness, closer to having sparkle than I ever imagined I'd get with an Audez'e headphone and of course, closer to sibilence as well. Thankfully it never fully gets that close and over time the sound settles down. The sharpness of the initial tests faded away after time, what Frank described as burn in, I don't know how but I can attest that in some way it holds true.
If I were to describe the Silver Poison's treble on the LCD2s I'd call it Goldilocks Treble. Detail, microdetail, clarity and impact are as close to perfect without fatigue as I've experienced. This is the reason any Audez'e owner should seriously consider a Toxic Cable as with it, the headphone is so incredibly balanced it even impresses where it once lagged behind before, classical.
This track has incredible mid-range "bloom" as I describe it, muddiness is inherent and makes it incredibly difficult to pick out the individual instruments. Presumably this comes as a result of too much reverb when it's being remastered.
The stock Audez'e cable does not take well to this at all, failing to bring the piano notes forward enough to make them audible above the "bloom". The Silver Poison on the other hand does a far better job with the less congested soundstage and more prominent mids making it all sound cleaner and more defined.
Drums, guitar strings, vocals and synth all in one. The stock Audeze's have wonderfully deep rumble throughout, but struggle on the vocals which sound distant. The Silver Poisons have some kind of tsunami effect going on, causing each drum hit to slam much much harder, the bass was so impactful I had to adjust the volume downward to compensate, compared to the stock. Vocals are forward and much less distant, the tune really comes together. This does however cement my opinion that the Silver Poison is really not a cable if you want a laid back sound signature.
I heard this live and it blew my mind. Obviously musical reproduction will never match a live orchestra, but there's much to be said for the LCD2s ability to recreate the experience. The stock cable here really misses the air and speed up top for the opening half, but sounds so lush and lovely when the soloist starts singing, it's so intimate you could close your eyes and she's right in front of you. In comparison, the Silver Poison brings shimmer and that little bit of quickness/PRaT that was seemingly missing to begin with. For the vocal part of the song, it's less intimate but not any less smooth and compensates with a wonderfully widened soundstage, bringing me back to the auditorium I heard the very same woman sing the very same song. Tears.
The Silver Poison is, in my opinion, an end game cable at a budget premium for Audez'e headphones. £145 for a 6 foot silver cable with gold injected is a steal compared to the competition, who arguably don't provide the results that Frank does.
This is not, however, a one size fits all cable. Those looking for a more laid back, lush and relaxing sound sig but with the same level of transparency should look to one of Toxic's copper cables. Those looking for more bass and less upper-mids emphasis should look to one of Toxic's new gold cables. If you're somewhere in between, then this is the cable for you. A Silver Poison cable'd Audez'e packs a serious punch, reaching down off the charts with head-rattling thump in the bass, sending shivers down the spine with clean and detailed mids and providing that little bit of excitement that was always missing in the treble.
Regardless, Frank has now made me a believer and if you're on the fence like I was, I urge you to seriously consider giving him the chance to do the same for you.
~Doesn't the Silver Poison detract from the "Audez'e sound"?~
Not at all. What is the Audez'e sound? They themselves market the LCD2 and LCD3 as studio monitors, in that regard alone the Silver Poison provides a superior soundstage, more defined instrument separation, clearer and cleaner mids and highs, a more powerful bass and generally a more transparent listen all across the board.
~But I like Darker headphones, can't I have that but with more transparency and less congestion?~
Sure! Check out Frank's copper cables, his new Black Widow cable will give you exactly that.
~What about other cable companies?~
By all means, though be aware that not many can match the bang for your buck that Toxic can. Many others are more expensive and actually provide a lower grade wire for the cable.
~What about the LCD-3?~
Lucky git. I haven't had any experience (yet) with the LCD3 but I feel the Silver Poison would make a good fit, if not even better than with the LCD2. The emphasis on upper mids should help the recession that has been reported and the awesome power of bass will make the best even better.