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19 custom IEM/TF10/Shure/IE8 cables reviewed (Effect Pearl, Apollo, & Odin added 3/20/13)

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Multi-aftermarket cables for custom IEMs and TF10 evaluation thread

 

average_joe’s (my google+ page) custom IEM aftermarket cable thread:  Many custom IEMs come with detachable cables, and as I own many custom IEMs that have detachable cables such as the JHA JH16, Rooth LS8, Starkey SA-43, EarSonics EM3 Pro,and Thousand Sound TS842 among others, but there are several aftermarket cables on the market that may improve looks, ergonomics, and possibly sound, not to mention replacement out of necessity if a cable goes bad.  My custom IEM review and resource thread is here.

 

IMG_3011.JPG

 

Cables evaluated:

1) Several stock custom IEM cables

2) Whiplash Audio TWag V2 OM (tested pin compatibility: JHA)

3) Beat Audio Cronus (tested pin compatibility: JHA)

4) Beat Audio Ruby Supreme (tested pin compatibility: JHA)

5) Effect Studio Athena for Ultimate Ears TF10 (tested pin compatibility: TF10)

6) Effect Studio Crystal for Ultimate Ears TF10 (tested pin compatibility: TF10)

7) Jaben ES8 for Ultimate Ears TF10

8) Null Audio Lune for Ultimate Ears TF10

9) Null Audio Arete for Ultimate Ears TF10

10) Chris_Himself cable for JHA, Westone, UE

11) Moon Audio Silver Dragon for JHA, Westone, UE, UM, Rooth, Earsonics

12) Crystal Piccolino for JHA, Westone, UE

13) Double Helix Symbiote IEM cable for JHA, Westone, UE, Rooth, Earsonics, etc

14) Uber Muzik V5f cable for TF10

- AudioSonus UE TF10 cable for TF10

15) Whiplash Audio Hybrid V3

16) Whiplash Audio TWag V3

17) Effect Studio Pearl

18) Effect Studio Apollo

19) Effect Studio Odin

20) Effect Studio Thor Silver

21) Whiplash Audio TWau Reference Gold

22) Whiplash Audio TWag V2 GOLD

 

kenman345's cable thread that lists information about the available aftermarket cables

 

Science of Sound - cables

What is the science behind any possible sound differences between cables?  This Gizmodo article covers the topic in an understandable way, explaining that there is proven physics behind changes in sound.

 

If you want to dive a little deeper you must start by understanding an analog signal, which is a very complex signal composed of different voltages and currents moving at different speeds (frequencies) representing different parts of the audio signal.  If you want to further understand analog signals, you can read here.

 

The slower frequencies (bass) usually have more power than higher frequency signals (midrange and treble) and are therefore affected less from signal degrading factors such as resistance, capacitance, and impedance.  Conversely, fine details have less power than the main note in music so that would be the first thing that is lost.  Also, a primary tone can have harmonics at various levels that are much weaker than the main signal which are easier to affect with degrading factors.

 

As the Gizmodo article mentions, there is resistivity, capacitance, inductance, dielectric, and skin depth can all affect the cable transmission properties.  Resistivity will only change significantly with different material properties, so let’s take a quick look at the differences from TBITECH innovations site (table has been simplified), especially between silver and copper which are used for the various cables tested.

 

Material

Electrical conductivity

Electrical resistivity

(10.E6 Siemens/m)

(10.E-8 Ohm.m)

 

 

 

Silver

62,1

1,6

Copper

58,5

1,7

Gold

44,2

2,3

Aluminium

36,9

2,7

Brass

15,9

6,3

Nickel

14,3

7,0

Tin

8,7

11,5

http://www.tibtech.com/conductivity.php

 

Interpreting the chart, silver has the best electrical conductivity and therefore the least electrical resistivity.  This means that there is less resistance for an amp to push a signal through a wire.  The difference between copper and silver is very small, however I have read many times that silver is brighter than copper, which makes sense as the weaker signals (as mentioned above) pass through easier and at closer to their original power levels even when compared with copper with similar characteristics.  The increase in percent of power of the bass signals will be smaller, giving a perception of a brighter sound.

 

How about the plug?  There are three typical types of plating on a plug, gold, silver, and nickel.  The primary reason for the plating is to protect the conductor from oxidization.  While this will affect the signal transmission as there are dissimilar metals present, leading to capacitance, the amount of increased resistance is small due to the very thin coating usually applied (gold can be deposited as thin as one atom thick).  The biggest issue is the actual material used for the connector as I have seen some cheaper connectors that have used bronze, however in the high end world of connectors I have not seen this.

 

I won’t go into any additional technical details, as I am only intending to make a point that cables are different from an analog signal perspective.  You must decide if you can hear any differences.  It is my belief that humans can distinguish between tiny changes in sound that are hard to measure as proven by people that can echolocate with training, but somewhat difficult to determine the audible differences as human auditory memory of complex sounds is poor, but can be improved with practice.

 

Rating explanation

- Ergonomics: Overall measure of ease of use of the cable in part due to length,  weight, ear hook/memory wire (if any), tangle resistance, feel, and memory effect.  A higher score on a scale of 1 to 10 indicates the cable is easier to.

- Tangle Resistance: How easily the cable tangles after winding and with regular usage.  A higher score on a scale of 1 to 10 indicates that the cable is less prone to tangling.

- Memory Effect: Over time, does the cable remember how it is twisted/bent and will it tend to bend that way even after straightened.  A higher score on a scale of 1 to 10 indicates less memory effect.

- Build Quality: How well is the cable built which includes the plugs, connectors, Y-split, braiding, overcoat, and anything else that makes up the cable.  This is somewhat subjective as I don’t have the opportunity to use the cables for extended periods of time as they are loaners.  A higher score on a scale of 1 to 10 indicates a better built.

Note: Free form pictures are what the cable looks like after taking it out of a case where it was wrapped around 3 fingers before placing in the case.

 

Cables

1) Stock custom IEM twisted cable

Many custom IEMs come with detachable cables.  These cables are usually twisted, lightweight, very flexible, and have great ergonomics.  There are two styles: silver and black.  While both are similar, they do have their differences and many manufacturers sometimes allow the buyer to select between the two styles.  Other than the style, the biggest difference between cables is the memory wire length and shape, making for a somewhat different fit, affecting how the cable stays on the ear, how easy it is to put on/take off, and how well it works with glasses.  Typically, the longer the memory wire the better the cable will stay put, but the more time it takes to put on and take off.

 

Ergonomics is generally very good with stock twisted cables due to the extreme flexibility, light weight, and low amount of memory.  Durability seems average and I have had some of the braiding unravel to an extent, but I can always twist it back to normal.  The thickness of the cables is on the thinner side of the spectrum for the black cables and about average for the silver cables, but both seem durable and without issue.

 

I have noticed usability differences between the silver and black wires, as the black wires use black plastic and the silver wires are clear coated.  In my general experience with both, the black cable seems a little more tangle resistant with less memory effect.  Given a choice I would take black over the initially better looking silver cables.

 

Starkey Connector.JPG EM3 Pro Cable (2).JPG JH16 Cable.JPG X3 Cable.JPG Rooth LS8.JPG EM3 Pro Cable.JPG

Images from left to right: Starkey SA-43 cable, Earsonics EM3 Pro cable, JHA JH16 cable, Kozee Infinity X3 cable, Rooth LS8 cable, silver cable turns green

 

Ergonomics: Depends on the ear hooks/memory wire

Tangle Resistance: ~7 (depends on the cable)

Memory Effect: ~10 (depends on the cable)

Build Quality: Average (depends on the cable)

Options: Depends on the manufacturer; sometimes a choice between either black or silver and different lengths

 

Stock Pin Size Chart (all 4 pins measured):

Cable Size (inches) Size (mm)
Jerry Harvey Audio JH16 0.029 0.75
Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor 0.029 0.75
Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 0.027 0.68
Thousand Sound TS842 0.028 0.72
Rooth LS8 0.029 0.75
Ear Sonics EM3 Pro 0.029 0.74
Starkey SA-43 0.029 0.73
Kozee Infinity X3 0.029 0.75

 

 

1a) Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Cable $40

Why does the UERM cable (and all new UE monitors after September 1, 2010) have their own entry?  Because they are different and IMO better than other stock cables in many ways.  First, the shell connectors fit over a protruding socket for a secure fit with a great angle that works well in my ears.  Next the actual cable uses a very tight braid for the area between the nice looking 3.5mm plug and the Y-split and then after the Y-split the cable uses a very tight twist.  The cable uses 4 wires to avoid issues that can be caused by splitting one wire to two at the Y-split.

 

P1010137.JPG P1000827.JPG P1000953.JPGP1000926.JPG

 

The cable is built like a tank, has no memory, isn't easy to tangle, and ergonomically is very nice.

 

Ergonomics: 10

Tangle Resistance: 9

Memory Effect: 9.5

Build Quality: 10

Works with recessed sockets: No, protruding sockets

Options: 48" or 64"; black or clear

 

2) Whiplash Audio TWag v2 OM  - $325

TWag indicates twisted stranded silver wire (AG is the acronym for silver on the periodic table), and the TWag v2 uses 4 individual wires that are braided from the plug, which is a Oyide 90° plug, and then breaks out to twisted pairs of wire after the Y-split.  The Oyide connector is very solidly constructed and is about as long as a Neutrik 90° plug but with a flat profile which can be good or bad depending on your equipment.  The flat profile will interfere if there are knobs or switches on the plug side of your source, such as the Pico Slim which has a volume knob on one side of the jack and the power switch on the other therefore  when used with the Pico Slim the connector must be at a certain angle.

 

The wires are fairly thick for a custom IEM cable, but not too thick to detract from ergonomics.   No memory wire is used at the IEM connector, but this is not an issue.  The cable did develop some memory of the way they are bent around my ear but didn’t develop memory when wrapping it for storage.  Durability does seem great with the TWag cable as the thick cables and overall design seem like they can take some abuse and I have not encountered any unbraiding in my 6+ months with the cable, unlike stock cables.

 

The cable looks amazing and is a piece of eye candy with quad braid of the main cable and a wooden cable cinch, which is a nice touch.  Combined with the Oyide plug, it draws even more attention to a custom earphone when in public.  However, as copper turns green, silver turns black and my TWag now has a slight black tinge near the plug on all 4 wires going up about an inch, although you have to look for it to see it.

 

TWag freeform.JPG TWag connector.JPG TWag Plug.JPG TWag Y-split.JPG TWag discoloration.JPG TWag w EM3 Pro.JPG

Images from left to right: Free form shape, shell connectors, 3.5mm plug, slider, oxidation, with EM3 Pro

 

TWag with the EM3 Pro: Sonic differences with the TWag cable have been discussed in length, and I have also evaluated the performance of the TWag with my EM3 Pro.  The EM3 Pro has a very thick and rich presentation, sacrificing clarity for ambiance.  With the TWag vs. the stock cable the EM3 Pro improves in clarity, increasing instrument separation and micro-detail of instruments.  This comes with a slightly brighter presentation, larger overall soundstage and faster leading edge.  While I wouldn’t term these changes as large, I would say they greatly affect my enjoyment of the EM3 Pro and make some sources I didn’t think were a good match work for me.

 

TWag with the LS8: Now, moving to the TWag with the LS8, which is the opposite of the EM3 Pro, with a bright, spacious and crystal clear presentation, the TWag cable changed several characteristics.  It improved the treble smoothness, speed, and instrument separation, although less than with the EM3 Pro, but it also changed the soundstage shape to something that didn’t sound as natural of dimensionally accurate.  Because of the negative effect on the soundstage I prefer the stock cable over the TWag with the LS8.

 

TWag with the Infinity X3: Due to the X3 having a clear shell, the TWag cable looked great when attached, but wasn’t a huge step up in usability vs. the stock cable.  Sonically, the X3 has a grain to the sound with an aggressive sound signature and the cable didn’t change the sound much if at all.

 

Here is a PM comment from a well respected head-fi member that borrowed my TWag cable for use with his Westone ES5: “I love the TWAg w/ the ES5 tbh.  I was hoping it would be the last piece of the puzzle to enhance the treble and clarity even further and balance out the bass a bit.  Definitely the missing link I was hoping they would be.  That extra Nth degree of perfection.”

 

with SA-43: The TWag fits the SA-43 nicely and looks great with the clear colored shell.  Sonically the treble is accentuated and brought forward while the overall clarity is increased a bit, although not by a large margin.  The treble quality retains its high level of smoothness along with detail giving very good results.  The soundstage really isn't changed, which isn't a bad thing as the SA-43 soundstage is great.  Detail levels are improved a bit both in ease of hearing the details and marginally to the recreation of micro-details.  Dynamics are slightly improved with lower end sources.

 

with JH16: With a perfect fit the TWag is a great match looks and fit wise with the JH16.  Sonically the overall presentation gets filled out both in note thickness and in soundstage depth.  While the note thickness change is minor, it makes a noticeable difference for long term enjoyment and adding a liquidity and richness to the sound.  The biggest improvement however is the depth of the soundstage which I found relatively on the shallow side when compared with other similarly priced custom IEMs.  The changes aren't huge, but with spacious tracks the improvement is noteworthy and brings the performance about on par with the stock LS8.

 

with UERM: Fit is fine with the UERM protruding sockets, although not quite as nice as the stock cable fit.  Sonically the TWag adds ambiance to the presentation and adds noticeable improvements to instrument separation and clarity.  It does this while adding to the bright, leaner sound (for a custom IEM at this level) which can be a turn off as it accentuates the already accentuated parts of the UERM frequency spectrum.  Although the treble quality is improved with the TWag.

 

 

with EM4: The TWag fits the recessed sockets of the EM4 very securely and match well with the EM4.  The TWag cable brightens the EM4, adds speed, detail, bass weight, and impact to the sound.  With the TWag well mastered tracks exhibit more detail, but the sound becomes more analytical, and poorly mastered tracks sound worse due to the imperfections being brought out.  Essentially, the TWag pushes the sound of the EM4 closer to that of the JH16.  Inverting the polarity of the TWag (note the dot location of the EM4 cable; the TWag shares the polarity) pulls back the midrange and keeps the treble closer to stock, but the sound is just slightly off.

 

with 8.A (vs. Magnus 1): The TWag doesn’t fit the 8.A too tightly, so a slight flattening of the pins and/or bending of the pins will create a more secure fit.  Note I am comparing the TWag with the Magnus 1 cable from Heir Audio.  The TWag adds brightness, some added detail and refinement within the soundstage, which can have a good deal more depth with spacious tracks.  However, there is less bass emphasis and the bass control is a good deal worse with poor mastered tracks.  The performance continues through the rest of the spectrum, as bad tracks give bad results while well mastered tracks reap small benefits.  Bass is punchier and in general more well defined with the Magnus 1, but the TWag will brighten the presentation for better or worse.

 

Summary: The TWag cable is a nice looking cable with very good ergonomics, a great look, great build quality, and a large price tag.  Depending on the sound signature of the paired IEM, the TWag can add clarity and add refinement to the sound leading to more musical enjoyment and better pairing with lower end sources.  Combine that with all the options and the TWag cable is a strong contender in the aftermarket cable world.

 

Ergonomics: 8

Tangle Resistance: 5

Memory Effect: 8

Build Quality: 10

Price: $325

Options: connectors – ViaBlue 3.5mm, Oyaide Straight 3.5MM ($30), Oyaide Right Angle 3.5MM ($30), CryoParts Custom Cryo'd XLRs ($30), Furutech XLR ($80), CryoParts Custom Carbon 1/4" ($30), Switchcraft Right Angle 3.5MM ($15), Protector Balanced, 6Pin iBasso ($15); Cable length – 48 inches, 64 inches ($50); wire type - TWag v2 Eclipse (black), TWag v2 Clear, TWSpc (-$26), TWcu (-$50)

 

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3) Beat Audio Cronus - $289.00

The Cronus is a thick all black cable that used to be the Beat Auido flagship, however it is not 2nd in the line below the new flagship Oslo cable (the Oslo, and Hera are available with a balanced connector for the Protector and SR-71B).  The plug on the Cronus I auditioned was terminated with a ViaBlue 3.5mm plug and the shell connectors are relatively large with a beveled end for use with recessed sockets.  They don't use memory wire but have a permanently curved plastic ear guide that conforms to your ear which works well with my ears.  Even though the cable is thick and coated, it is still flexible.

 

Cronus freeform.JPG Cronus connectors.JPG Cronus plug.JPG Cronus Y-split.JPG Cronus w LS8.JPG Cronus w SA-43.JPG

Images from left to right: free form, ear guides, 3.5mm connector, Y-split, with Rooth LS8, with Starkey SA-43

 

Cronus with LS8 and SA-43: I tried the cable with my Rooth LS8 and Starkey SA-43.  The pins are slightly larger in diameter than the stock pins of both which did two things: it formed a very tight bond with the jack and it loosed the shell contacts slightly.  Therefore, since the Cronus is a loaner I have decided not to do serious A/Bing to save stretching my pins in the jacks any more than they already have been stretched.

 

Cronus with EM3 Pro: I did try the Cronus on the EM3 Pro which did fit well and did not cause a problem with the stock cable or TWag cable after use possibly due to the socket being recessed and helping to hold the cables in place.  My source was the HUD-MX1 with OPA1611 op amp installed via FLAC and mp3 files through Winamp.  In comparison with the stock cable, the Cronus clears up the top end and results in a smoother presentation overall (I thought the EM3 Pro already smooth) while bringing additional clarity and resolution.  The differences when A/Bing is readily apparent to my ears in the smoothness and treble presentation.  For example, the ticking at the beginning of Epica Indigo was not well defined with the stock cable, but it was very articulate with the Cronus cable!

 

Although I could not compare the TWag with the Cronus since my TWag is on loan, from memory they both perform differently.  The Cronus didn’t seem to increase imaging or change the soundstage in any way while the TWag did.  Now that the Cronus has been sent back I can’t do a direct comparison.

 

Summary: The Cronus cable is surprisingly agile given the thickness and is pleasant to use, however it did retain memory of the wrapping which caused it to want to coil.  Overall the cable offer nice elegance and sonic improvement to go along with the looks and very good tangle resistance.  While priced high, the Cronus is a nice aftermarket cable for those that want elegance, stellar build quality, and something that will add refinement to the sound of their custom IEMs.  You can read Project86's thread here.

 

Ergonomics: 7

Tangle Resistance: 8

Memory Effect: 6

Build Quality: 10

Price: $289

Options: Shell connector - UM, JH, UE, TF10, IE8, SE535, or other; socket connection - flat or recessed; audio jack – Beat Audio 3.5mm, ViaBlue 3.5mm, Protector/SR-71B balanced

 

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4) Beat Audio Supreme Rose - $99.00

The Supreme Rose draws oohs and aahs with a great designer look.  Part of the Supreme series which comes in various colors, the Supreme Rose is ruby red and black that is intertwined and then single color after they Y-split.  So, aside from the eye candy aspects, how does feel and is it worth the $100 over the stock cable?  First, the 3.5 mm connector is a Sennheiser straight plug that is aesthetically pleasing and the cable and the shell connectors are good looking, although rather large.

 

Ergonomically the Supreme rose is above average in terms of overall ease of use.  The cable doesn’t have the flexibility of a stock twisted cable but the build quality seems much better for the long term.  There is some memory effect with the cable after having if coiled in a case, but it isn’t too bad.  Tangling, while not impossible, is better than the majority of cables I have used throughout the years.

 

Rose Freeform.JPG Rose w JH162.JPG Rose plug2.JPG Rose Y-split3.JPG Rose w SA-43.JPG Rose w EM3 Pro.JPG

Images from left to right: free form, ear hooks, 3.5mm plug, Y-Split, with SA-43, with EM3 Pro

 

Supreme Rose with the EM3 Pro: Comparing with the stock cable for the EM3 Pro didn’t result in much audible difference.  What I did detect was a little wider but flatter soundstage and a little more clarity, but lower in magnitude compared with the Cronus or TWag cable.  Again, with the ticking at the beginning of Epica – Indio (as mentioned in the Crouns review) there was improvement in the ability to make out the fine details in the song, but not nearly as large. 

 

Supreme Rose with the JH16: Due to time restrictions I only A/Bed one song with the JH16 (Anedio D1 as a source): Eric Clapton - Layla.  The biggest change was in his voice as the Rose smoothed a slight edge I didn't know was there until I compared the two.

                                                       

The changes with the Supreme Rose are not in the order of those experienced with the TWag or Cronus cables, but are there as an added bonus to the great looks.  For the price, the Supreme series is a viable choice if you are looking for a great look, good ergonomics, and possibly a little better sound quality.

 

Summary: The Supreme Rose not only looks amazing, is ergonomically pleasing in general operation, and built to last, but it does offer some sonic benefits over stock cables at a very reasonable price.  The Supreme series is easy to recommend if you need to replace your stock cable and should be given strong consideration if you want to upgrade with something flashier!  You can read Project86's thread here.

 

Ergonomics: 6

Tangle Resistance: 7

Memory Effect: 6

Build Quality: 9

Price: $99

Options: Shell connector - UM, JH, UE, TF10, IE8, SE535, or other; socket connection - flat or recessed; audio jack – Yarbo, Beat Audio 3.5mm, right angled Neutrik; different colors are available in different “supreme” variations.

 

Additional Pictures, Supreme - Rhyme:

P1000735.JPG P1000738.JPG P1000740.JPG P1000741.JPG

 

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5) Effect Studio Athena V1.1 - $79.90

The Athena uses silver stranded wire and come in 3 versions, quad braided (Athena V1.1), 6 wire braided (Athena), and 8 wire braided (Athena V1.2); I have the V1.1.  The Athena looks great in person with good construction and ergonomics.  The weakest part of the build quality is the IEM connectors which are encased in heat shrink, not molded plastic like the other cables I have.  A long/short pin confiruation is used to indicate polarity with the XXX pin indicating positive.  but encased in heat shrink with a long pin indicating polarity.  However, they do seem like they will last if taken care of.  Pin compatibility is for UE connectors, so they only work with my Thousand Sound TS842 and my universal TF10.  The internal wire is stranded silver, so the price for stranded silver is excellent.

 

Athena freeform.JPG Athena plug.JPG Athena Y-split.JPG Athena w TS842.JPG UE Connector Style.JPG

Images from left to right: free form, 3.5mm plug, Y-split, with TS842, stock, Crystal, and Athena with TF10 and TS842

 

Athena with TS842: Using the Athena with the TS842, which has an edge to it when compared with custom IEMs that cost significantly more, resulted in a smoother and more refined sound overall.  The characteristics across the mids and treble improved by smoothing out the presentation while improving imaging and detail.  Using the 801->Pico Slim as a source, currently my most detailed setup, the improvement was very good, pushing the performance of the TS842 closer to the higher priced competitors, however still not reaching their levels.  The detail differences between  the 801->Pico Slim and HUD for example were more noticeable with the Athena cable.  Frequency response didn’t change much, but the bass was quicker with a better leading edge resulting in more impact and the overall, but the treble was still as prevalent as with the stock cable.

 

Athena with TF10: Using the Athena cable with the TF10 resulted in an improvement, but the improvements weren’t as large as with the TS842.  The TS842 is better overall in detail, transparency, soundstage, size, and many other factors and appears to have more headroom for improvements.  None-the-less, the overall clarity improved as did bass impact and the treble was cleaned up.  There were arguably no changes in the midrange presentation.

 

Summary: The Athena cable is a nice looking and very functional cable with a great affordability and readily apparent sonic benefit for the TS842 and some benefit to the TF10.  However, build quality isn’t stellar but the cable does seem like it will be at least as durable as a stock cable, but more than likely better.  If you have a TF10 style connector for a custom IEM the Athena is a great value!

 

Ergonomics: 6

Tangle Resistance: 6

Memory Effect: 6

Build Quality: 5

Options: Colors – gold or orange; memory wire ($5); Pailiccs straight plug

 

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6) Effect Studio Crystal - $34.90

Before I received the entry level Effect Audio Crystal cable I thought it looked amazing in pictures and since I know several people that want a low priced cable to replace their stock TF10 cable, the Crystal seemed like it may be a great choice.  The braiding and look are impressive in person, but in use the Crystal cable had some issues.  First, the connector for the IEM shell is a little on the large side and isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as the rest of the cable, and the biggest issue I had with the cable is the memory effect and the cable did have more than its fair share of tangles.  The issues stem from the flat braiding, so if the cable is twisted the wrong way it is problematic.  Over time I did learn how to best use the Crystal cable which allowed me to raise the ergonomics score to 4/10. 

 

Build quality seems good for the most part except for IEM shell connector, which is not molded plastic but heat shrink.  While I don’t think this will be a long term durability issue, it isn’t as sturdy as molded plastic jacks.  The actual cable is a little on the stiffer side, so it isn’t as flexible as others.  The Neutrik plug is sturdily attached with good strain relief.  The Crystal cable was made for a TF10 and the TS842 pins are slightly larger resulting in a somewhat lose fit, however I was able to use the Crystal with the TS842 for sound testing.

 

Crystal freeform.JPG Crystal Plug.JPG Crystal w TF10.JPG Crystal Y-split2.JPG

From left to right: free form, 3.5mm plug, shell connector with TF10, Y-split

 

Crystal with the TS842: Performing listening tests against the TS842 stock cable, the crystal cable changed the sound slightly as well in a different way vs. the Athena.  The sound was “cleaned up,” adding a little clarity and some added speed in the bass region.  The bass increase in bass speed resulted in more bass impact while changing the tonal characteristics a little toward the bass presentation.  A little bit of the treble edge was removed on some of the tracks where it was more noticeable, although I could consider the change very small.  The improved clarity didn’t result in much of a change in the imaging, but instrument separation and micro-detail was easier to hear.  

 

Summary: There are tradeoffs with the low priced Crystal cable as you will get a better looking cable but the ergonomics aren’t up to par with a stock twisted cable.  However, they are close to a TF10 cable.  The biggest issue with the Crystal cable is the memory effect and twisting due to the flat braid of less flexible wire.  For the price you aren't going to get the best ergonomics, you get great looks and possibly some small sonic improvements.

 

Ergonomics: 4

Tangle Resistance: 3

Memory Effect: 2

Build Quality: 5

Options: Multi-color ($5); memory wire ($5); Pailiccs straight plug

 

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7) Jaben ES8 - $38 (2 for 1 special while supplies last)

The ES8 is a replacement cable for the UE Triple.fi 10 that uses a 3 wire twisted design similar to the standard black custom IEM cable.  Stock TF10 cables are not very ergonomically friendly and therefore many people look to upgrade from the stock cable.  Build quality of the cable seems to be OK as the connectors and plug seem durable, the memory wire is done well, but the wire twisting is not very tight, especially above the Y-split.  This leads to a less than quality look and the cable is more prone to catch on something than a well twisted cable.  The lack of tightness may also lead to premature unraveling, but I have not experienced this in my usage to date.  And if it does unravel it is usually easy to twist back into form.

 

P1000584.JPG IMG_4331.JPG IMG_4326.JPG IMG_4327.JPG P1000585.JPG P1000591.JPG P1000589.JPG IMG_4332.JPG

Pictures (from left to right): ES8 cable; Y-split and plug; free form; picture showing the loose twisting/braiding; with TF10; with TS842; connected to the TS842; cable comparison between the SE 5-way cable (top) and ES8 cable (bottom)

 

Upon inspection of my 2 UE cables, both that came with TF10s, the iv version has recessed sockets and the regular version does not.  The ES8 cable does have recessed sockets which do fit the TF10 much better than non-recessed sockets.

 

ES8 with TF10: From a sound quality perspective I found no discernable difference between the stock TF10 cable and the ES8 cable.  From a usability standpoint the ES8 cable is ergonomically much better due to the flexibility and lack of a memory effect/spring effect.

 

ES8 with TS842: The ES8 does fit the TS842, but the pin length is relatively short since the shell plug pins are recessed.  Even thought the pins are recessed the cable seems stable and did not come lose or come off during use over several days.  The stock TS842 cable is similar to a stock TF10 cable but does sound better, and without the recessed pins.  Sound quality wise the ES8 sounds about the same as the stock TS842 cable, although there may or may not be a slight improvement in the treble smoothness with the ES8 cable.  Ergonomically the ES8 is a big step up IMO.

 

Summary: From a price/ergonomic standpoint the ES8 cable is a nice, affordable replacement cable for a TF10 or a custom like the TS842, although the recessed jacks do present a potential issue.

 

Ergonomics: 7

Tangle Resistance: 6

Memory Effect: 1

Build Quality: 5

Options: None

 

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8) Null Audio Lune series $128.40 USD

Null Audio is a household name for cables on head-fi so it is only natural to test some of their cables and Kevin agreed to send me the Lune and Arete to review.  The review sample Lune is fully enclosed in a nylon sleeve from connector to connector over silver wire.  Construction is of a high quality with solid pins and the nice smaller than I have seen Viablue 3.5mm connectors; the biggest build quality nit-pick I have is the Y-split, which is heat shrink over a plastic tube that covers the actual split.  It appears solid but I have seen nicer designs.  There is a piece of heat shrink tube after the Y-split for a cable slider.

 

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Pictures (left to right): Cable 3.5mm plug, Y-split, & shell connectors; free form; with JH16; with TS842; with SA-43; with TF10; with customized TF10 (used for sound testing; sockets are shallow); example of a kink

 

With the TF10 I found absolutely nothing wrong with the ergonomics, however with custom IEMs the shape of the ear guide isn't ideal and is at a non-standard angle as it is bent sideways but it still works (Null Audio informed me that you can use a hair dryer to gently heat the ear guide and reshape it, and make sure to not heat the connector).  This cable is for a TF10, so this really isn't an issue, however you can flatten the pins ever so slightly with pliers which will make the cable stay put in larger sockets but eliminate TF10 compatibility.  The cable is extremely flexible with no memory effect and very light weight making for a very good cable experience.  The biggest usability issue with the Lune is that it can kink, as the cable will sometimes wrap around and if pulled form a permanent kink.  It is worth noting that I have spent countless hours over my life untangling headphone cables and the Lune is pretty much immune to tangling. 

 

with TF10: Fit with the TF10 is very tight and although the shell plugs on the Lune don’t cover the part of the connector for recessed pins, it is not coming loose (sockets of the reshelled TF10 used for testing are very shallow).  Use with the TF10 is a vast improvement over the stock cable in usability and the cable has a nice look and feel.  Compared with the stock cable the Lune brings the mids more forward and cleans up the entire spectrum, smoothing the edges of the treble and improving the deep bass performance to go along with a little better clarity.  Overall the Lune is a winner with the TF10 in form, fit, and function (sound).

 

with SA-43: I thought I would try a custom IEM even though the Lune is made for the TF10.  The cable is slightly loose with the SA-43, but still stays put well enough for this testing and may for light use if you bend the cable pins, but a shell did come off during extended use.  When A/Bing with the stock cable, the biggest improvement was with the width of the presentation, however the midrange becomes more forward changing the definition of the space resulting in what sounds like incorrect placement to my ears. 

 

with JH16: The fit is slightly tighter than with the SA-43, which may be because I stretched the SA-43 sockets with the Cronus.  Anyways, the Lune is usable with the JH16 form a fit perspective and more than likely would not come off during use, especially if you bent the pins.  As with the other IEMs, the Lune brings the mids more forward, but at the same time the overall soundstage is slightly flattened.  I didn’t notice any additional changes in the sound.  For the reasonable price and ergonomics, the Lune can be used if you want a more mid-forward presentation at a reasonable price.

 

Summary: The Lune has the best ergonomics of any cable I have used; combine that with great build quality and no memory effect to go along with improved sound with the TF10, which it was designed to be used with.  The only usage issue I had was possible kinking, but that is easily avoidable.  The cable also comes with a Shure connector option, but I have not tested the Lune with Shure IEMs since I don't own any.  Benefits with custom IEMs are marginal and dependent on the model, however Null Audio makes other cables that are designed for custom IEMs.  Overall, it is hard to beat the Lune as a TF10 upgrade cable.

 

Ergonomics: 10

Tangle Resistance: 10

Memory Effect: 9.5

Build Quality: 9

Works with recessed sockets: No

Options: Connector shell plug: TF10, Shure, or Livewire T1; 3.5mm plug: Viablue (straight), Neutrik (right angle); Nylon sleeve, yes or no (-$7.07 USD)

 

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9) Null Audio Arete $82 USD

Not yet released at the time of writing, the Arete cable uses a premium grade OFC wire with a small Viablue straight plug and nylon overbraid up to the Y-split where it then uses black twisted wire.   There is a piece of heat shrink tube after the Y-split for a cable slider.  Ear guides made from shaped plastic keep the Arete in place and work quite well with a TF10 (Null Audio informed me that you can use a hair dryer to gently heat the ear guide and reshape it, and make sure to not heat the connector).  Look, feel, and ergonomics are good, but a step below the Lune since the twisted cable above the Y-split does tangle more than the Lune, although it isn't too bad but any tangling is more than the Lune since it doesn't tangle.  I highly recommend requesting the nylon sleeve if you order the Arete.

 

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Images (left to right): Arete cable; Cable 3.5mm plug, Y-spit, & shell connectors; free form; with TF10; with reshelled TF10; with TS842l with JH16

 

The weakest part of the cable is after the Y-split as the twists weren’t the tightest and did untwist.  In use the cable is very light and ergonomically pleasing, but not quite as good as the Lune with the overbraid after the Y-split.  Overall the cable is very good for the price and a joy to use and can be used with other custom IEMs with larger sockets by flattening the pins ever so slightly with pliers.

 

with TF10: Ergonomically the Arete is far superior to the stock cable and fits perfectly (sockets of the reshelled TF10 used for testing are very shallow).  Sonically I was surprised by the improvement with the Arete cable; the mids are slightly pulled forward, the bass is more defined, deeper, and punchier, and there is overall better clarity to go along with a more focused and airy/spacious presentation due to better imaging.  The differences aren’t night and day, but they are very noticeable to my ears; with the Arete cable the TF10 is more competitive in the world of high end universals.  The combo of sound and ergonomics for the price are extremely impressive.

 

with TS842: The fit with the TS842 is tight and the cable stays put.  Sound wise the Arete cable pulls the TS842 mids forward although the bass is somewhat tamed.  The stock cable has slightly smoother treble and a slightly wider presentation with a more laid back overall sound.  One of the results of the Arete cable is the TS842 sound signature is more coherent across the frequency spectrum.  While there are some minor sonic improvements, this is more of a different sound than an improvement IMO, although ergonomically the improvement is huge. 

 

with EM3 Pro: While it doesn’t stay in the recessed socket, the pins are long enough to use with the EM3 Pro for a quick test.  I decided to do this just for the results with detachable cable custom IEMs that have a darker signature and may fit.  The soundstage space improved quite a bit including the imaging, instrument separation, and instrument placement.  Clarity is improved as well and if it fit, this would be a very good combo, especially for the price.

 

with JH16: As with the Lune, the Arete works with the JH16, although the pins aren't as snug as the stock cable.  Sonically the Arete brings the mids of the JH16 more forward compared with the stock cable but also adds a bit of smoothness and refinement to the sound as well as additional air.  If you are looking for a slightly more mid-forward presentation from your JH16, the Arete will deliver while improving other aspects of the sound and not flattening the sound as the Lune does.

 

Comparing the Arete with the Lune using the TF10: The Arete cable gives a more spacious and concise/focused presentation than the Lune cable, which may or may not sound a little more bass heavy.  The Lune is more mid-forward than the Arete, but overall I hear the Arete cable as technically better, but more laid back yet with better clarity.

 

Summary: The Arete is not only cheaper than the Lune, but sonically I find it superior, not only with the TF10, but when paired with custom IEMs.  Ergonomics are almost on par with the Lune, but if an overbraid is used after the Y-split it would also achieve the same perfect 10 score.  The Arete is great from a cost/performance perspective.

 

Ergonomics: 9

Tangle Resistance: 8

Memory Effect: 9.5

Build Quality: 7

Works with recessed sockets: No

Options: TBD

 

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10) Chris_Himself's Cable $75 + shipping

I first saw the Chris_Himself (CH)cables by accident and with a little more research found that Chris (and Ted) make silver cables at low prices with an amazing warranty, and Chris is also very nice and responsive!  Ted put a had written note in with the cable explaining the cable pin orientation, a nice touch (red is right ground, blue is let ground among other things).  The cable looks good, but isn't quite the eye candy that some of the others are, although the wooden Y-split and cable cinch are classy.  Chris will ship anywhere. 

 

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Images (from left to right, click on image to enlarge): cable; cable un-tied; free-form; 3.5mm jack; Y-split and cable cinch; shell connectors; with UERM; with UERM; with JH16

 

Ergonomically the cable isn't the best as it uses solid core silver wire that is noticeably stiffer than stranded wire, but is usable.  The stiffer wire results in a memory effect and the cable doesn't just fall to where you would expect it to go as the stock cables do.  With much less flexibility than all the other cables I have tried to date the cable can be unwieldy at times and has more microphonics than other cables during movement.  However, when properly bending the memory wire into place, which is more difficult than is typical due to the very stiff memory wire, the microphonics go away.  It is more difficult to get the memory wire to conform to the ear as I had to over-bend the memory wire, but it is necessary to get a good fit due to the microphonics.  This is a case where a little longer bit of memory wire would be nice. 

 

Another ergonomic issue is kinking, which is not necessarily more prevalent than other cables, but possible due to the stiffness if the wire retains a shape, as it will, and then you straighten the cable.  However, due to the memory effect and stiffness the cable is very tangle resistant.  With all that said, the CH cable is user friendly enough for daily use, especially at a desk and light walking.  Build quality looks good and Chris told me he builds them to last since he can't afford to replace them at the prices he sells at.  Ted will repair the cables if something should fail, but of course this only covers the workmanship and not rouch use.  

 

Before any testing I did burn the cable in for about 300+ hours.  During my testing I did encounter an intermittent failure on the right channel near the shell connector, seemingly in the cable area covered by the memory wire.  Chris will repair the cable after I send it back to him and I think this may be more the solid core wire than the build quality.  This is something I experienced when I worked with solid core silver wire, which is a random break in the wire every once in a great while.  This isn't common, but more common than with stranded wire (although I have had many people contact me because their stock/aftermarket cables have had issues), so it didn't take the build quality score down too much.  I will get the cable repaired and test longer term to see if I can repeat the issue.

 

with SA-43: The cable fits the SA-43 pins well, is very secure, and doesn't easily come out.  Sonically space and instrument placement improve with the CH cable vs. the stock cable resulting in higher definition of the already good recreation of space.  Clarity is also increased as is treble presence resulting in a more refined sound with more apparent detail.  Bass is more powerful and enhanced as well and the sound and overall the sound is a little more punchy and dynamic, adding a nice touch to the more neutral sound with the stock cable. A nice upgrade strengthening some of the SA-43 attributes while keeping the strengths intact.

 

with JH16: The cable fits very well and looks great with the JH16.  Sonically the JH16 is taken to another level of refinement and the soundstage space improves in proportion, recreating a more 3D space, which is the biggest weakness of the JH16 in my opinion.  The changes have a trickledown effect improving the realism, clarity, instrument placement and instrument separation.  Highly recommended for any JH16 owner that doesn’t want to spend a lot.

 

with LS8: Unfortunately the connectors don't fit in the recessed sockets.

 

with EM3 Pro: Unfortunately the connectors don't fit in the recessed sockets.

 

with UERM: The cable fits the UERM fine and won't fall off even though the sockets are extended vs. flush.  Sonically the CH cable has a brighter and even more analytical presentation than the stock cable as well as expanding the soundstage and adding clarity to the already clear presentation.  Bass is more impactful and improves the texturing, treble is slightly smoother with more apparent micro-detail to go along with a small bump in dynamics.  While the changes themselves aren't large, the overall affect when switching back to the stock cable leaves me wanting the CH cable even though it is brighter.  The sound signature can be bothersome to me with brighter songs when using the CH cable, but overall it is still difficult for me to go back to the stock cable as the overall presentation is more refined and realistic.

 

with TF10 Reshell: The pins don't fit all the way into the sockets in the Kozee reshell, but the fit is secure.  Sonically the TF10 improves dramatically with a more 3D presentation, better clarity, and an overall more refined and smoother sound.  The midrange is brought to a more forward position, more than likely because the added soundstage depth.  Switching back to the stock cable is a huge disappointment, but with the CH cable the TF10 actually takes a step up the performance ladder and stops me from wanting to take the TF10 out of my ears after a few seconds of listening.

 

with Infinity X3: The fit is the same as with the Kozee TF10 reshell, the pins don't go in all the way but the fit is secure.  As far as the sound goes, the changes aren't all that large here with a slight increase in the depth of the presentation and a bit of added clarity and smoothness. 

 

with wx i9pro: The pins are a little looser than that of the stock cable, so the fit isn't all that secure.  Of course you can use pliers to expand the pins and get them to stay.  The stock cable uses FST, so this is more than a difference in cable quality.  And with the stock cable the i9pro does sound more spacious and more alive than the CH cable.  The CH cable does have a more traditional flatter presentation and the i9pro is brightened with better instrument separation and the detail levels are taken up a notch, but at the expense of the spacious and dynamic presentation the FST gives. This might be a cable to try with the i9pro to get a different sound.

 

with aud 5X: Fit with the CH cable is extremely tight and will not come off in use as the cable is a little difficult to change for my testing even though the pins don't go in all the way.  Sonically, as with most other IEMs the CH cable offers a noticeable difference with a larger space and a little more treble presence.  The larger space results in more instrument separation, clarity, and apparent detail.  Overall the presentation is improved and refined, again boosting performance.

 

Summary: One of the best sounding cables I have heard at a very affordable price and synergizes well with most of the custom IEMs I have paired it with.  But the ergonomics make this cable one of my least favorite to use.  Chris is very nice, responsive and the warranty seems pretty good with Ted repairing the cables if anything happens.  I did have an issue with this cable, but per Chris that is not normal.  For this price and performance, if you can deal with the stiff wire, you may want to get 2 so you can have a backup just in case!

 

Ergonomics: 5

Tangle Resistance: 9

Memory Effect: 3

Build Quality: 7 (was 9.5 until I had the issue)

Works with recessed sockets: No

Options: Chris will work with you

 

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11) Moon Audio Silver Dragon V1 IEM Cable $175

The Silver Dragon (SD) looks different than all of my other custom IEM cables in that it uses a dual cable system where each channel is in a separate jacket. The dual cables are molded together below the Y-split and separated (of course) above the Y-split.  The cable is fairly thick and has a slight stiffness to it.  It isn't the most flexible cable, but it also doesn't tangle easily nor does it have much memory. The shell connectors are molded and fit in recessed sockets.

 

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Images (from left to right, click for larger picture): free-form; plug, Y-split, shell connectors; plug, Y-split, shell connectors; with EM3 Pro; with UERM; with JH16; with LS8

 

Ergonomics are good due to the lack of memory and tangling, however the lower flexibility doesn't allow the cable to disappear in use as much as some of the other cables.  Above the Y-split the cable has a seam where the cable was once joined, however this seam is smooth and not an issue at all.  The Y-split itself is small and has heat shrink over it.  Overall the SD is nice to use and the molded plugs appear well constructed and compact.  Build quality looks excellent.

 

with JH16: The pins fit perfectly with no need to be concerned about the shell coming off.  When A/Bing with the stock cable, the first thing I noticed was additional warmth and bass weight the SD cable added to the sound.  This difference, while not huge, is due to the bass with the SD cable is presented in a more forward way, as is the rest of the frequency spectrum.  Because the presentation is more forward and the depth remains about the same, the overall presentation is more 3D while retaining and even adding a bit to the width.  Harshness in less than perfect recordings is smoother leading to go along with better clarity, however there isn't much improvement in instrument separation.

 

with UERM: Fit is secure with the UERM as any other aftermarket cable I have come across, but not as secure as with the stock cable.  Sonically the SD adds a bit of spaciousness to an already spacious presentation while smoothing out the treble a bit.  Even though the SD smoothes the treble, it is also has a little more brightness which results in a more revealing treble, good or bad.  While the combination is a slight improvement on most tracks, the changes are relatively small.

 

with SA-43: Fit is similar to the stock cable and offers good security.  The SA-43 has a great soundstage and the SD cable builds on that as well as adding a bit more punch and brightness to the SA-43.  The clarity is ticked up a notch, but not by much.  All of these things are welcome and unlike with other cables the SD doesn't affect the ambiance portrayal of the SA-43.  Overall this is a good combination that will add more life to the neutral presentation of the SA-43.

 

with LS8: The fit is just as good as with the stock cable in the recessed socket.  The first thing that hit me was the improved bass thump to go along with better dynamics for the already dynamic LS8.  The volume seems a bit louder overall with the SD cable.  The overall presentation is more spacious by a bit without changing the proportions.  However, the ambiance that is recreated with the stock cable is reduced with the SD, taking away from the realism of the performance.  While I do like the improvements the SD cable makes, there is a tradeoff.

 

with EM3 Pro: The fit is just as good as with the stock cable in the recessed socket.  Bass is improved with the SD cable but not much else is changed.  There is a bit better clarity, especially in vocals, but the ambiance the EM3 Pro recreates is reduced resulting in a less natural presentation.  The SD cable does seem to bring the presentation more into "focus," not unlike focusing a camera lens.  The EM3 Pro has a slightly recessed upper midrange and the SD cable does help bring the upper mids more in line with the rest of the frequencies.  While there are improvements, the overall sound doesn't change all that much and I don't think this is as good of a match as some other cable options.

 

with Infinity X3: The cable fits just like the stock cable, which is secure in the slightly protruding socket.  The SD improves the soundstage of the X3 in all directions, giving it a wider presentation with more depth.  The dynamics are tamed a bit with less overall impact and punch, but still plenty to go around, making the sound with the stock cable seem overdone.  The improvement is impressive, adding to the instrument separation, giving the X3 better clarity, and greatly reducing the grain of the midrange and treble.  This is the best pairing with the X3 I have heard to date.

                

with reshelled TF10: The reshell was made with a Westone style socket so the pins fit fine.  The cable makes a very large difference with the TF10, adding space, bass depth and punch, and clarity.  The overall presentation is more laid back and spacious with a good amount of depth added to the presentation.  There is an impressive improvement with the SD for my reshelled TF10, making the overall sound significantly more enjoyable over the stock cable.

 

with i9pro: Fit is similar to the stock cable, both of which are not extremely secure in the i9pro sockets.  The sound is different between the stock cable with FST and the SD cable as is to be expected.  The spacious presentation of the stock cable is surprisingly not too far off from that of the SD cable, more than likely because the strength of the SD cable is the improvement of the soundstage size and depth, however the FST does add more overall projection to the soundstage.  The stock cable has more bass impact but less clarity and the sound isn't quite as precise.  I prefer the stock cable with the FST technology, but the SD cable presentation is a nice alternative.

 

with aud-5X: The cable fits the 5X like a glove.  Sonically the Silver Dragon adds additional space to the presentation improving instrument separation and spacing between instruments.  Bass punch is improved a bit as is transparency.  Overall the sound is more engaging and sounds more open.

 

with Alclair Reference: The Silver Dragon fits well into the recessed socket of the Alclair Reference.  Sonically, the SD cable improves the bass quantity and depth, dynamics, and spaciousness while bringing the bass a bit more forward.  Fast, bass heavy music sounds much more exciting with the SD cable.  With other music, such as acoustic, there are minor changes including a slightly better clarity and focus as well as a slight shift forward of the midrange.  Depending on what you listen to, the cable either makes the Reference more dynamics and exciting, or offers only a quite small improvement.

 

Summary: The Silver Dragon cable expands the space of presentations both in width and in depth while other changes are dependent on the custom IEM used with the cable.  Some custom IEMs such as the JH16, SA-43, and Infinity X3 benefit without a doubt, but others have tradeoffs.  Ergonomically the cable is top notch and appears to be built to last.  Overall the Silver Dragon cable can be a great addition to a portable system when matched well.

 

Ergonomics: 8

Tangle Resistance: 10

Memory Effect:  8.5

Build Quality: 10

Works with recessed sockets: Yes

Options: Length: 48", 64" (+$15), 80" (+$30); Connection type: JHA/Westone/UE, Livewires (+$10); Connector type: right angle mini plug (premolded), Oyaide straight (+$10), Oyaide right angled 1/8" mini plug (+$10), RSA Protector/SR71B (+$10), mini 4 pin male XLR for adapter system (+$10), iBasso hirose connector (+$20), dual 3 pin male XLR (+$30), dual 3 pin female XLR (+$30), Furutech Rhodium plated XLRs (+$125)

 

NOTE: Beware of fakes!

 

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12) Crystal Piccolino (Jaben cables) - $800+

 

The Piccolino cable uses a silver core with a gold outer fill with a single smooth outer jacket.  The cable looks nice and feels nice and ergonomically is very good, offering exceptional tangle resistance.  It is a little on the stiffer side compared with stock cables, but nothing that will really affect cable ergonomics.  There is very little memory effect and the cable is easy to use.  Unfortunately the shell pins won't work with recessed socket custom IEMs.  Build quality appears to be top notch.  The cable I received had the outer jacket on which can be removed for portable use greatly increasing the flexibility.  

 

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Pictures (from left to right): cable; free-form; plug, Y-split, cable cinch; with UERM; with JH16

 

with JH16: Fit of the pins is fine and the cable looks very nice paired with the JH16, especially with my titanium artwork.  A/Bing with the stock cable, the sound seems to lose some height to the presentation with the Piccolino while the mids are pulled more forward.  The upper mid peak is accentuated and actually sounds rougher with the Piccolino .  Overall this is more of a sidestep or even a slight downgrade with the JH16.

 

with UERM: The cable fits the UERM well with no issues and a secure fit.  The UERM sound is thickened and moves from analytical to more of a liquid sound.  As with the JH16 there is a boost in the upper midrange, however this boost fits well with the UERM frequency response.  This gives the Piccolino a little more forward presentation but also brings more detail to the forefront.  The liquidity helps smooth the rougher, analytical treble presentation I hear with the UERM.  Overall the sound is improved to my ears with a more liquid sound with a little more upfront presentation while not losing any of the good qualities of the UERM.  This is the best combination I have heard with the UERM as it adds just the right elements to the UERM without  taking anything away.

 

with SA-43: The fit is as secure as the stock cable.  Sonically the Piccolino adds to the upper midrange vs. the stock cable and accentuates the Ss in lyrics.  The overall presentation is brought more forward treble to the SA-43, but it also makes it harsher.  With the more forward presentation and added upper mids the sense of space is slightly diminished.  Add to that a slight decrease in the sub-bass and I would say the synergy isn't great.

 

with reshelled TF10: Why not, a $99 IEM reshelled for another $90 with a cable that is 3.5 times the price (best case)!  Fit is fine.  This cable does help the TF10 and makes it sound a good deal better with a more mid-forward sound, actually the TF10 sounds mid-forward with the cable!  Bass is more impactful and the overall balance is much improved.  Also the depth of the presentation improves giving an overall sound a big boost.

 

with wx i9pro: Fit is fine and on par with the stock cable.  I did want to test this cable with the i9pro due to the dynamic driver and see what magic, if any, there was.  Since the stock cable has FST technology it is not really easy to compare apples to apples.  The first two things I noticed was the stock cable has more bass and more space than the Piccolino cable, but that is the case for other aftermarket cables with the i9pro.  The i9pro did sound better than the TF10 with the Piccolino , which I tested just prior to the i9pro.  Overall I prefer the stock cable.

 

with aud-5x: Fits as secure as the stock cable.  The treble is smoothed a bit, there is a bit more space, instrument separation, and definition of the presentation in space resulting in better clarity.  However the differences are relatively small. 

 

Summary: The Piccolino cable is not a great match with most of the custom IEMs I tested it with except for the UERM.  That is unfortunate since it really is ergonomically nice, although it does have a very high price tag.  With the UERM it transforms the sound from that of an analytical reference monitor with treble that is on the harsh side to my ears with anything but very well mastered tracks (in comparison with other high end custom IEMS) to a musical beast that keeps the strengths and fixes the issues I have with the UERM.  I really can't recommend this cable for anything other than the UERM, and at the price it really is up to you if you want to spend a grand total equal to a much more expensive custom IEM, or the price of two custom IEMs.  However, if you do have an opportunity to try this cable with a UERM, I highly recommend doing so!

 

Ergonomics: 9

Tangle Resistance: 10

Memory Effect: 9.5

Build Quality: 10

Works with recessed sockets: no

Options: 

 

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13) Double Helix Symbiote IEM cable - $225

 

Double Helix has a strong following on head-fi and Peter is a very nice and funny guy.  The Symbiote is a change from many of the other high end cables I have reviewed as cryo treated OCC copper is used vs. silver.  The individual wires in the cable are 24 gauge making the Symbiote the thickest cable I have tested.  How does copper compare with the silver in an aftermarket cable from an audio standpoint?  Before we get there, the cable is well made with a very good look and nice braid between the Y-split and 3.5mm plug and twisted wire from the Y-Split to the shell connectors.  The Y-split is formed with heat shrink with tubing for a cable cinch.  The 3.5mm plug is of the Valab copper/rhodium/carbon fiber type and very nice, although not for minimalists.

 

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Pictures (from left to right): Symbiote cable with accessories; free form; Y-split and cable cinch; cable with NT6

 

 

Ergonomically the Symbiote is very good as it doesn’t tangle, but it does wrap around itself a bit which would could result in kinking if pulled tight, although it is probably not likely due to the thickness of the cable.  There is very little memory effect and the cable isn’t all that springy which is a great combination.  Even though the Symbiote uses a larger gauge, it isn’t too heavy, but doesn’t quite disappear like some other smaller cables.  All in all this is one very nice cable to use.

 

The shell connectors are longer than the stock shell connectors on all my stock cables which, other than changing the look, doesn't have much impact otherwise for my ears.

 

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Pictures (left to right): Rooth LS8 stock cable and Symbiote; comparison of shell connectors: Silver Dragon on top, Symbiote on bottom

 

with SA-43: Fits as well as the stock cable.  Compared with the stock cable, the biggest differences are that the presentation is brought a little more forward and deep bass impact and weight is increased.  This gives the Symbiote a sense that it is slightly louder along with less emphasis on the treble.  Clarity and instrument separation are also improved, but the differences are somewhat dependent on the source with the better sources showing less improvement.  Overall soundstage size is the same as the stock cable. 

 

with JH16: Fits as well as the stock cable.  Compared with the stock cable, the midrange is brought closer and there seems to be a slight veil with the Symbiote cable.  Wait, what?  OK, let's try a different source (from the D1 to the 801).  Same thing but to a lesser extent (the D1 has better clarity than the 801).  The more laid back presentation with the stock cable is slightly more spacious in width and also has more treble emphasis, however the Symbiote does have better treble smoothness and a slight bit more depth.  The differences really aren't large and more of a preference.

 

with UERM: While the pins fit the sockets fine, the length of the shell connectors combined with the protruding pins makes for a very long area before bending over your ears.  Compared with the stock cable the Symbiote tames the treble a bit while smoothing it out and making some of the unpleasant tracks more pleasant, although there is an ever so slight bit less detail.  The Symbiote sounds more 3D and holographic and has better deep bass definition and impact.  Overall the Symbiote adjusted the frequency response in way that compliments the UERM, at least to my taste, but isn't a large improvement technically, but improvement nonetheless. 

 

with LS8: Fits well, but is slightly looser than the stock cable in the recessed sockets.  Compared with the stock cable, the bass impact is a good deal better and more dynamic to go along with a little less treble emphasis.  This shift in frequency response and bass response make the LS8 even more punchy than with the stock cable.  The soundstage isn't improved with the LS8, similar to many other cables, as the space is ever so slightly smaller in width but there is an added depth from a more mid-forwardness to the Symbiote.  There is improvement here, and many aftermarket cables don't see to work well with the LS8.

 

with NT6: Fits as well as the stock cable.  Compared with the stock cable the sound is more spacious yet having a more forward presentation at the same time.  There is more bass authority and less treble that is slightly smoother.  Overall the changes are not large, but I think the Symbiote cable adds to the sound of the NT6.

 

with reshelled TF10: Fit is for Westone cables and the pins for a TF10 will be too small, however this cable fit my reshelled TF10 fine.  This cable synergizes well with the TF10 as it brings the midrange more forward and adds missing depth to the presentation, clearing everything up.  There are minimal improvements to the smoothness of the treble as well as overall bass presentation and depth.

 

with aud-5X: Fits as well as the stock cable.  Compared with the stock cable, the Symbiote adds a bit more mid-forwardness to the sound, but not too much and clears up the soundstage and slightly improves the clarity as well as bass texture.  While the differences aren't huge, they are improvements that incrementally help with an overall more realistic sound.

 

with i9pro: Fits as well as the stock cable.  Compared with the stock cable with FST technology the Symbiote cable doesn't sound as spacious or as focused.  The bass is similar and there is more treble with the Symbiote, but the midrange is brought a bit more forward.  Due to the smaller space the overall presentation is more constrained.

 

Summary: If you are looking for a nice improvement in the look and ergonomics of your cable the Symbiote cable will get you there.  Sonically, the Symbiote gave me different sonic traits than the silver cables I have tested, resulting in a sound closer to stock, not adding brightness and additional space that silver cable can add.  Adding the Symbiote cable to your portable rig will surely grab the attention of many when you venture out in public!

 

Ergonomics: 9

Tangle Resistance: 9

Memory Effect: 10

Build Quality: 10

Works with recessed sockets: Yes

Options: Color - Classic clear Nucleotide, transparent black; Length - 3' extension cable ($79), headphone type - JH/UE/Westone, Livewires (Fidelity), Shure 435/535; termination - 4-pin mini XLR (for use with DHC adapters), DHC custom black aluminum 1/4", DHC custom black aluminum 1/8", Pelican/Toucan 6-pin balanced (+$25), Neutrik 3-pin XLR, Neutrik 4-pin XLR, RSA SR71b/Protector connector (+$15), Switchcraft right angle miniplug (+$20), Valab tellurium copper/carbon fiber 3 pin XLRs (+$60), Viablue miniplug (+$25)

 

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14) Audiohub Uber Muzik V5f ($150 SGD) $120

 

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Pictures (left to right); free form; plug and Y-split; shell connectors; with TF10; with UERM; with JH16

 

The Audiohub is one of the many shops in Singapore that specializes in products for the audio enthusiast.  The V5f cable is their new IEM cable and this particular version is made to fit the TF10.  The entire cable has black heat shrink over it with a very large and sturdy Y-split that is sealed on both ends with epoxy.  Under the heat shrink, the cable past the Y-split is extremely tightly twisted.  The 3.5mm connector is an extremely nice looking connector with a design I have not seen before.  Above the Y-split there is a cable cinch from red heat shrink, the only real color on the cable.  The shell connectors are made for a TF10 and there is a very thin piece of wire that acts as the memory wire.

 

This cable has been well used as it was the demo unit for a while and it appears to be built to stand up to abuse.  Ergonomically the cable isn't the easiest to use due to the memory effect and will not fully straighten when using it.  This presents a problem with the not so stiff memory wire as the cable didn't want to sit against my ears and there was some cable noise, however it wasn't all that bad.  The biggest issue was that the cable would not say flat against my body and has a chance of catching on objects that stick out.

 

with TF10: The fit is as secure as the stock cable.  The first thing I noticed sonically was the bass response improved noticeably with more punch and depth.  The overall presentation is a little wider and the midrange is pulled a little forward, but the depth of the presentation is about the same.  One thing that does improve a good deal is the level of detail, as nuances become more apparent to go with a small bump to the brightness which amplifies the harshness of the TF10 treble on some tracks to my ears.  Overall this is a nice combination, especially if you want to increase the detail and bass punch.

 

with TS842: The fit is not as secure as the stock cable due to the plugs being made for the TF10, but it still fits.  The volume difference is easily discernable between the stock cable and the V5f, with more bass punch, a smoother sound, and a wider and deeper soundstage.   Details are easier to hear, and while there is a bit more brightness, as stated, the presentation is smoother.  Another thing the V5f cable does well with the TS842 is add to the cohesion of the presentation, lowering the differences between the presentation style of the dynamic bass driver and the mid/treble driver.  This is a very good pairing.

 

with SA-43: The fit is not very secure as the sockets are slightly larger than that of the cable pins and the pins are recessed.  Sonically the V5f cable doesn't match all that well with the SA-43.  Bass is reduced, especially deep bass, the soundstage is slightly smaller, and there is a tonal shift that doesn't sound as natural as the stock cable.  Not a good match.

 

with JH16: The fit is not very secure as the sockets are slightly larger than that of the cable pins and the pins are recessed.  Sonically the V5f cable adds dynamics to the JH16 with more bass punch and body as well as adding some depth to the presentation.  The overall presentation is smoothed out while not losing detail, but actually adding to the clarity and apparent detail.  This is a good match.

 

with UERM: The fit is better than with other custom IEMs due to the protruding sockets, but not a perfectly secure solution.  Sonically the V5f adds a dimensionality to the presentation that adds realism as well as dynamics.  When switching back to the stock cable the sound was a bit on the dull side in comparison to when the V5f cable was attached.  Tonally the presentation doesn't have quite the brightness which results in a more forgiving sound, however the smoothness difference is minimal, however it is easier to make out details in the music with the V5f cable.  If you can get the V5f cable terminated for the UERM, this isn't a bad combo for the price.

 

with aud-5X: The fit is not very secure as the sockets are slightly larger than that of the cable pins and the pins are recessed.  The V5f cable adds a little more dynamics, volume, and clarity to the aud-5X. 

 

Summary: The V5f cable is the latest from Uber Muzik and has a place in the aftermarket cable spectrum with its ability to increase the level of perceived detail while adding dynamics and some spaciousness to the presentation of most custom IEMs I tested it with.  The TF10 connectors didn't allow for use with my recessed socket CIEMs and the pins didn't make for the best connections.  Ergonomically the V5f cable is not the most friendly due to the stiffness and memory effect so it doesn't fall into place but will stick out away from the body, but on the other hand it does seem to be built to last.

 

Ergonomics: 4

Tangle Resistance: 9

Memory Effect: 3

Build Quality: 10

Works with recessed sockets: No (EM3 Pro, EM4, LS8)

Options: Ask Louis from the Audio Hub

 

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Whiplash Audio Hybrid V3 and TWag V3

 

Note from the manufacturer:  About 20 months ago, I starting thinking about how to improve the already popular "TWag" lineup. My first goal was to better the key performance characteristics of the cables.  After a few attempts, I realized I was changing the characteristics, but not improving the product and I didn't see it as a v2 to v3 accomplishment. Since my hybrid design started to get better recognition, I almost gave up on developing the v3 products since the cost was adding up.  Then I decided to change the gauge from 26awg to 24.5awg which added 55% more strands, equal to 55% more physical metal, and the results were promising. With the new gauge wire, I then started working toward changing the characteristics to what I had envisioned.  Once I had finally succeeded, I then made a v3 copper with the same 24.5awg with similarly impressive results for both the 4 conductor TWcu cables and 8 conductor hybrid cables. 

 

While a lot of time and money was invested in the new v3 cables, I wanted to keep pricing as close as possible, and was able to lower the price on the v2 cables.  The TWag v2 cable is now available at a lower cost with the same great performance.  I will be offering both TWag v2 eclipse and luminous with the addition of my new TWag v3 24.5awg OCC silver eclipse and TWcu v3 OCC copper!!! 

 

 

15) Whiplash Audio TWag Hybrid V3 $550

 

 

700 700 700 700 700 700

Pictures (left to right); free form; plug, Y-split, and shell connectors; TWag V3 and Hybrid V3; with Rooth LS8; with UE IERM; with JHA JH16

 

The first thing I thought when I laid eyes on the Whiplash Audio Hybrid V3 cable was “wow!”  The cable is thick and the color scheme is rich looking.  While the Double Helix cable is thick, the Hybrid is larger overall due to more individual, albeit smaller gauge wires.  There are four each of silver and copper wires which make it a hybrid.  The silver wires are the same as the TWag while the copper wires are the same as the TWcu, and both types are 24.5 gauge.  Since I have a pre-production unit, it came with a straight plug, but the production version will have all available options.  Clear heat shrink is used for the Y-split allowing the cable to maintain its great looks and keeps the Y-Split clean and streamlined.  The wooden cable cinch both works well and looks good as it matches the color scheme of the Hybrid cable.  The shell connectors are beefy, with a heatshrink over memory wire and the wire end of the shell connector.  Due to the pre-formed memory wire construction, adjustments can be made for different ear shape/CIEM design, but the memory wire can’t be flipped to adjust for CIEMs that have the negative socket on the upper part of the shell.  The cable appears to have an extremely high build quality.

 

Ergonomics are good, especially considering the size of the cable, but due to the larger size, it isn’t as easy to use as a think stock cable.  However, I didn’t have any issue using it on the go.  While it doesn’t have memory effect, it does have the propensity to keep its twists from when it is wrapped, but it is easy to twist it back the opposite way and remove the twists.  Microphonics are low, but it is not the most silent cable I have.  For the size, it is very ergonomic!

 

UE PRM: The Hybrid cable fits securely on the PRM’s protruding sockets.  If you plan on getting the Hybrid for the PRM, Craig can put the positive pin in the correct orientation* and should have access to the UE style connector.  Sonically, the Hybrid cable has a bit more forward and slightly higher presentation while still adding a bit of space to the overall presentation.  The slightly closer presentation helps to articulate details within the already very good soundstage.  With the Hybrid cable, the sound is more engaging from a smoother yet more dynamic sound combined with a more enveloping sound.  Bass is quite similar, although there is a slight bit less but more detailed and well controlled bass with the Hybrid cable.  Although the changes seem subtle at first, they all add up to make the PRM more musical and enjoyable.

 

UE IERM: The Hybrid cable fits securely on the IERM’s protruding sockets.  If you plan on getting the Hybrid for the IERM, Craig can put the positive pin in the correct orientation* and should have access to the UE style connector. The Hybrid cable pulls the IERM sound closer forward while retaining the space.  The Hybrid cable doesn’t change much with the IERM, and unfortunately while it does improve the often harsh treble, it doesn’t improve it all that much while making it a bit more prominent.  Overall, the presentation is a bit more focused, clean, and clear, but the changes come with a caveat if the IERM treble bothers you.

 

SE 5-way: The 5-way has recessed silicon sockets and while the left channel fit perfectly, the right channel would come loose due to the size of the recessed socket and the heat shrink over the shell connector.  This made it impossible to A/B the cables.

 

SA-43: The Hybrid cable fits on the SA-43 as well as the stock cable; however, the polarity is switched*.  Sonic changes include the way the midrange is presented, bringing it a bit more forward while adding a brightness yet still preserving the spacious presentation.  Bass is a bit more dynamic and impactful, but the quantity remains about the same.  Within the soundstage, the background sounds become improved in the articulation with a better focus and more amplitude.  Live sounds a bit more “live” and natural sounds a bit more “natural’ with the Hybrid cable.  If you want a slightly brighter tone and a little less laid-back presentation, the Hybrid cable will give you that along with an overall improvement in technical presentation. 

 

JH16: The Hybrid fits the same as the stock cable and is secure.  Sonically, the Hybrid is a step up from the stock cable in many ways, with an increased depth of presentation and better instrument separation giving well mastered acoustic music more realism and life.  The presentation has better focus resulting in a cleaner and more effortless sound.  Sub-bass is significantly increased yet still very clean with the Hybrid cable.  Songs with a lot of deep bass sound like different songs compared with the stock cable due to the extra oomph.  While the Hybrid increases the sub-bass more than any aftermarket cable I have tried with the JH16, the presentation is still clean yet full.  The midrange is slightly more forward, but there really isn’t any change to the treble quantity, however the quality is improved.  Benefits to the midrange include increased instrument separation and depth of the presentation, making it easier to hear harmonics, soft notes, and background sounds.  The treble is also smoother and more musical due to a more natural sounding decay.  Overall, the Hybrid makes some great improvements to the JH16, especially if you want to increase the sub-bass and improve the overall sound quality.  

 

LS8: The Hybrid cable fits similarly to the stock cable within the recessed sockets of the LS8.  One of the few cables that improve the LS8, the Hybrid cable gives a better focus to the presentation while adding an impressive amount of spatial depth.  The Hybrid cable makes the LS8 sound more dynamic and convincing with a very natural presentation in part by taming and smoothing the treble. The midrange positioning changes more with each track when using the Hybrid vs. stock, which is a very good thing.  Details are more articulated and easier to hear, but in a very natural way.  The sub-bass is increased by a bit, but not like the JH16 or NT-6 pro.  Overall, the presentation is improved with small changes that all add up to an improved listening experience.

 

EM4: The Hybrid cable fits similarly to the stock cable within the recessed sockets of the EM4; however, the polarity is switched*.  The Hybrid cleans up the EM4 from top to bottom, tightening the bass slightly while adding a bit of impact and quantity, clearing up the midrange a bit, and smoothing the treble, all resulting in a more liquid presentation that retains the detail and improves articulation.  One of the weaker traits of the EM4 is the coherence, and the Hybrid cable helps improve that trait.  The cable also helps make the EM4 sound more effortless and dynamic while adding some additional depth to the presentation, although not quite as much improvement as other CIEMs used to test the cable.  Overall, the Hybrid V3 does provide worthwhile improvements to the EM4.

 

8.A: The Hybrid cable fits securely just like the Heir Magnus 1 cable, which came with my 8.A.  Sonically, the Hybrid improves upon the already good Magnus 1 cable by offering a clearer, cleaner sound with better focus, imaging, and coherence.  The 8.A can be a bit on the thicker side in comparison with many of my other CIEMs, but the Hybrid cable clears things up a bit, brings the presentation a slight bit more forward, and adds a nice amount of additional soundstage size and space.  Within that space, the Hybrid cable improves instrument separation and imaging.  Contrary to the NT-6 pro and JH16 pairing, the bass is actually slightly more polite with the Hybrid cable, yet more detailed and refined.  Using the Hybrid cable with the 8.A vs. the Magnus 1 is like going looking through a camera lens that is slightly out of focus, but you don’t realize it until it improves giving a worthwhile change.

 

NT-6: The Hybrid fits the NT-6 well, although the plug is slightly protruding and the sockets of the stock cables are slightly recessed, but I am still confident the Hybrid will hold up.  Compared with the Hidition upgrade cable, the microphonics are much better and ergonomics are slightly better with the Hybrid.  The Hybrid cable changes the sound in many positive ways, smoothing out and lowering the treble presence while increasing the sub-bass slightly resulting in a more natural and balanced sound to my ears.  Everything is articulated better with the Hybrid and the already clean and clear presentation is cleaned up even more resulting in better resolution and detail, but with an even more musical presentation.  The NT-6 pro still retains its neutral presentation and I would still call it reference with the Hybrid, but it is more enjoyable.  Spatially the Hybrid doesn’t change much with most tracks, but with more spacious tracks, the Hybrid recreates a deeper soundstage.  Instrument separation is better as is the recreation of a blacker background and the space between instruments.  The biggest problem with the cable is that the imperfections within my tracks are more noticeable even though the Hidition upgrade cable is a bit brighter and colder sounding.  The Hybrid improves the overall sound not only from an enjoyment perspective but also by improving the NT-6 as a reference monitor.  This is an excellent pairing I can’t recommend enough! 

 

NT-6 pro: The Hybrid fits the NT-6 well, although the plug is slightly protruding and the sockets of the stock cables are slightly recessed, but I am still confident the Hybrid will hold up.  Compared with the Hidition upgrade cable, the microphonics are much better and ergonomics are slightly better with the Hybrid.  In similar fashion to how the Hybrid performed with the bass enhanced JH16, the sub-bass of the NT-6 pro was amplified, really showing weight and authority down low.  It does so while cleaning up the sound, adding clarity and articulation.  The overall presentation is a bit more laid back and spacious than the Hidition upgrade cable and the upper midrange/treble is slightly less present with the Hybrid cable.  Both cables have a smooth presentation, but with better clarity and better balance between the midrange and treble vocals/midrange instruments sound more realistic and detailed with the Hybrid cable.  Overall, the Hybrid improves the strong point of the NT-6 pro, clarity while emphasizing sub-bass and giving a more natural balance from top to bottom adding even more realism to vocals.

 

* The bottom socket of the CIEM shell is the positive channel vs. the traditional top socket.  Normally, the memory wire would need to be bent the opposite way, but due to the stiffness and pre-formed shape, I wasn’t able to reverse the bend.  I wore the cable without it going over my ear, and since the CIEMs fit perfectly in my ears, they didn’t come loose.  If you want the Hybrid cable for a CIEM with a positive socket on the bottom (UE, Starkey, Earsonics), ask Craig to have the memory wire orientation reversed.

 

Summary: With a rock solid build quality, very good ergonomics, especially considering the size of the cable, and a fantastic look, the Whiplash Hybrid cable is a real contender.  Add the sonic improvements and you have a winner by knockout!   Providing a different sound than the TWag cables, the Hybrid V3 is warmer and very musical compared with what initially seems like subtle changes in contrast to the brighter, more open and airy sound from the TWag.  The Hybrid retains much of the sound signature of the original cable configuration making differences seem subtle.  But, subtle they are not when you switch from the Hybrid back to the stock cable and wonder what happened to the clean, clear, musical sound you were hearing. 

 

While the Hybrid cable didn’t perform the same with all CIEMs I tested, it did significantly improve every CIEM compared with the stock cable, and some of my bass enhanced CIEMs performed like never before in the bass department, making me think they had excellently controlled dynamic bass drivers!  I found that when the Hybrid cable was paired with a brighter CIEM, the presentation became more effortless, natural, and balanced while improving the performance technically.  As with most aftermarket cables, the Hybrid V3 improves with both high end sources, and makes lower end sources sound a good deal better.  The Hybrid V3 cable is a fantastic cable and I highly recommend it!

 

Ergonomics: 8.5

Tangle Resistance: 9

Memory Effect: 9

Build Quality: 10

Works with recessed sockets: Yes (EM4, LS8, etc.)

Options: see product page

 

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16) Whiplash Audio TWag V3 $325

 

 

400 400 400 400 400 400 400

Pictures (left to right); free form; plug, Y-split, and shell connectors of TWag V2 (top) and V3 (bottom); Y-Split and cable cinch; TWag V3 (left) and TWag V2 (right); Compared with the Silver Dragon; with UE IERM; with Rooth LS8

 

 

The Whiplash Audio TWag V3 cable increases the size of the wires vs. the TWag V2 slightly while improving the ergonomics of the cable.  The cable is made from four stranded 24.5 gauge stranded silver cables.  The Y-split is made from heat shrink and is very unobtrusive and the cable cinch is made from wood and looks and works well.  Between the plug and the Y-Split, the four wires are braided together and after the Y-Split they are twisted pairs.  The memory wire is pre-formed and while it can be adjusted, the amount of possible adjustment is limited.  This does not affect fit for me as the cable bends enough for my ears and I don’t foresee issue with other ear sizes, but it can’t be switched with CIEMs that have opposite polarity.  Build quality, as will all the Whiplash cables I have is very high quality.

 

In use the TWag V3 doesn’t quite disappear, but it doesn’t bring attention to itself and I would have to look to see if the V3 or stock cable is connected.  The ergonomics are actually better than the TWag V2, even with the larger wire gauge, and the build quality is very high.  The V3 is more ergonomic because the cable seems to have less memory and is more supple and less prone to tangling with no microphonics.  There isn’t much to say as the V3 is a pleasure to use and looks great!  See the Hybrid V3 cable above for a note from the manufacturer.

 

JH16:  The TWag V3 cable fits just like the stock cable.  Sonically, the first thing I noticed was the brighter and more spacious sound from the V3 cable vs. the stock cable.  The V3 cable cleans up the presentation offering better clarity and a smoother yet more detailed presentation that is more enjoyable than the stock cable, even if you don’t care for the extra bit of treble.  Switching back to the stock cable is somewhat painful when you are used to the clean, clear, and 3D presentation from the TWag.  Spatially, the overall presentation is pushed back a bit.  In the bass region the V3 provides more headroom while at the same time recreating more detail within the already detailed bass region.  The overall sum of the improvements is an impressive improvement across the frequency spectrum as well as an improvement to the presentation space; highly recommended combination.

 

EM4: The TWag V3 cable fits similarly to the stock cable within the recessed sockets of the EM4; however, the polarity is switched*.  Sonically, the V3 cable moves the midrange slightly forward but adds additional depth to the presentation resulting in a larger and more airy sound and a larger overall soundstage.  Due to the larger overall soundstage, the bass with the V3 isn’t quite as pronounced but is better controlled and more detailed.  Transparency and coherence are improved with the V3 cable.  If you don’t mind the lower bass focus, the TWag V3 cable makes some nice improvement to the EM4.

 

UE IERM: The Hybrid cable fits securely on the IERM’s protruding sockets.  If you plan on getting the TWag for the IERM, Craig can put the positive pin in the correct orientation* and should have access to the UE style connector. Sonically, the TWag V3 improves the dynamics, instrument separation, and overall sense of power and dynamics.  However, the sound is brighter and a bit warmer, not that those changes are usually bad.  However, with the IERM, the treble (at least on my set) is already hot, so the added brightness and accentuation of the details makes less than perfect mastering sound even worse.  If you have issues with the IERM treble, I would stay away from the V3, but if it is OK, the V3 improves some of the finer points, increasing the performance of the IERM.

 

LS8: The TWag V3 fits the recessed sockets of the LS8 securely.  Sonically, the stock cable has a slightly more laid back sound that is less engaging than the V3 cable, which improves the clarity and depth of the presentation giving a more enveloping and immersive listening experience.  Bass is more prominent and very well controlled and detailed.   Articulation of each note is better with the V3 due to better instrument separation within a deeper soundstage.  While harsh treble in a recording isn’t bad on the LS8, the V3 cable smooth’s the presentation without losing detail, improving the experience.  Many cables don’t improve the LS8, however the TWag V3 certainly does with changes that improve the immersive experience of the LS8 while improving the overall sound quality.

 

SE 5-way: While the left channel fits fine, the right channel had some issues similar to the Hybrid cable, but not quite as bad.  I was able to do some limited comparisons.  While the 5-way treble is smooth and extended, the TWag V3 improved the treble quality while cleaning up the presentation a bit with a slightly brighter presentation.  Bass was slightly tighter.  If the shell connectors fit and the cable will stay put, the TWag V3 is a nice match.

 

8.A: The TWag V3 cable fits as securely as the stock cable.  Sonically the TWag V3 adds a bit of spaciousness to the already spacious 8.A, especially in the soundstage depth.  The bass is brought a bit more forward and in doing so becomes more prominent, but still very controlled with better definition.  The midrange and treble are a bit more forward as well, with more prominent treble.  The upper midrange prominence is also increased which does lead to hints of sibilance.  Overall the presentation is cleaner with better instrument separation, but due to the upper midrange increase leading to hints of sibilance, the changes won’t be considered an improvement for everyone.

 

SA-43: The Hybrid cable fits on the SA-43 as well as the stock cable; however, the polarity is switched*.  The impressive space of the SA-43 is improved with the TWag V3 cable with a slight bump forward in the presentation.  Bass is tighter and goes a bit deeper and the treble is more prominent.  The SA-43 sounds more coherent with the V3 cable and details are easier to hear while retaining the smoothness of the original sound.  The subtle changes result in a very nice cumulative overall improvement making the already musical SA-43 even more so while improving some of the weaknesses and building on the strengths.  This is a nice pairing.

 

* The bottom socket of the CIEM shell is the positive channel vs. the traditional top socket.  Normally, the memory wire would need to be bent the opposite way, but due to the stiffness and pre-formed shape, I wasn’t able to reverse the bend.  I wore the cable without it going over my ear, and since the CIEMs fit perfectly in my ears, they didn’t come loose.  If you want the Hybrid cable for a CIEM with a positive socket on the bottom (UE, Starkey, Earsonics), ask Craig to have the memory wire orientation reversed.

 

Summary: The TWag V3 is a very nice cable in many ways with great looks, very good ergonomics, and solid sonic performance that improves most CIEMs.  Typical sonic changes include a bit of added brightness and slightly more forward midrange as a result of adding depth to the presentation, giving a more 3D presentation.  Clarity, focus, and instrument separation are all better increasing the articulation and ability to hear the little details.  Dynamics are also improved and bass is tightened up.  Overall, the TWag V3 is as ergonomic as the V2 even though the wires are a larger gauge, and the sonic improvements are a step up. 

 

Ergonomics: 9.5

Tangle Resistance: 9.5

Memory Effect: 10

Build Quality: 10

Works with recessed sockets: Yes (EM4, LS8, etc.)

Options: see product page

 

 

 

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17) Effect Studio [Pearl Ver.2] Upgrade Cable for UE/Shure ($69.90) or TF10 ($59.90)

 

 

 

Pearl, free form; Pearl and UE900 stock cable

 

I reviewed two Effect Studio cables previously, and while they looked amazing in photos and great in person, they didn’t score high primarily due to ergonomics.  Effect Studio revamped their lineup and contacted me to see if I was interested in trying their new cables.  I received the Pearl V2 with Shure connectors that also fit Sensaphonics and Ultimate Ears UE900s.  The cable looks great, terminated in a Phalic 3.5mm connector that uses several staggered layers of heat shrink creating a nice strain relief, a sleeve covering the braided wire up to the Y-split with a robust Y-split made from hard plastic, and the shape prevents strain points.  Two pairs of twisted wires exit the Y-split with molded heat shrink that forms flexible ear hooks just before the over molded shell connectors.  The wire used is 24 AWG Silver plated OFC with 30+ strands per wire.

 

The Pearl has a very solid feel to it with excellent fit and finish except where the 3.5mm plug meets the heat shrink as the cable is partially visible, but it doesn’t look like this will cause any issues and may just be an issue with this particular unit.  Considering the wires have 30+ strands, the Pearl is surprisingly stiff, which affects tangle resistance, memory effect, microphonics, and overall ergonomics.  After storing the Pearl in a case for a while, the cable didn’t want to straighten out and kept rolling back up.  Depending on usage, this can either be annoying or similar to a self-shortening cable.  A gentle pull will get rid of the loops, but they do come back easily.  Microphonics are another issue when walking or moving around, but it wasn’t too bad sitting at a desk with a desktop source.

 

Paired with the UE900: The connector is a bit tighter than the stock UE900 connector, which holds the shell in place better than stock.  It is harder to install and remove.  I had two UE900s so I could easily perform A/Bing of the stock UE cable and the Pearl V2.  The Pearl V2 had a more spacious and laid-back presentation with better clarity, instrument separation, and dynamics, all leading to a more involving sound.  The sonic improvements are more than minimal.

 

Summary: The Pearl isn’t the most ergonomic cable out there, nor is it silent, but if you plan to use it sitting relatively calmly, it will work well and offers a great price for performance ratio.  Sonically, the improvement to the UE900 was significant enough to recommend the Pearl as a replacement, depending on your tolerance for the ergonomic issues.  The Pearl is a step up from the Crystal cable I previously reviewed.

 

Ergonomics: 3

Tangle Resistance: 4

Memory Effect: 1

Microphonics: 2

Build Quality: 9.5

Works with recessed sockets: N/A

Options: 3.5mm jack options - Pailiccs, Sennheiser Silver, Sennheiser Black, Yarbo, Neutrik RA, Oyaide (+$10), Oyaide RA (+$10); shell connectors – TF10 (UE5Pro/ TF10/ Universal two pin connector), custom IEMs (Westone ES4, ES3, JH Audio, UE Custom), Shure (Shure SE215/315/425/535, UE900, Sensaphonics); colors – black, white, blue

 

---------------------

 

18) Effect Studio [Apollo] Advanced upgrade Cable for UE/Shure ($88)

 

 

   

Effect Studio packaging; Y-split, plug, and shell connectors; free form; with old Effect Studio Crystal cable

 

I reviewed two Effect Studio cables previously, and while they looked amazing in photos and great in person, they didn’t score high primarily due to ergonomics.  Effect Studio revamped their lineup and contacted me to see if I was interested in trying their new cables.  The Apollo cable I received has connectors that fit Shure, Sensaphonics, and the Ultimate Ears UE900, among others.  The Apollo is the least flashy of the three cables I received from Effect Studio, but it still looks nice.  The wire used is Silver plated .99999 OFC with 8 braided wires that have a clear jacket.  The 3.5mm jack is made by Yarbo and give a sense of quality, especially when the strain relief consisting of several staggered layers of heat shrink is taken into account.  The Y-split is hard plastic with a design that doesn’t create any strain points, and the right and left cables consist of 4 wires braided and in a clear cable jacket.   Molded heat shrink forms flexible ear hooks just before the over molded, high quality shell connectors.  The size should be fine for just about any ear size, and it took me less time and stayed in place better than the stock UE900 cable which uses memory wire.  The cable is very thin, about half the thickness of the stock UE900 cable. 

 

Ergonomically, the cable performance is excellent.  It doesn’t have memory, microphonics are minimal and lower than the stock UE900 cable, and the cable is super light-weight and thin, yet since it is very well made I didn’t get a sense that the cable would break or wear out faster than other cables.  There is a slight amount of memory as the cable retains some “waves,” although this doesn’t affect performance.  Once rolled up, the cable is springy and does not tangle very easily, and when it does it is usually because the over-the-ear molded area catches.  Overall, the Apollo is a joy to use.

 

Paired with the UE900: The connector is a bit tighter than the stock UE900 connector, which holds the shell in place better than stock.  It is harder to install and remove.  I had two UE900s so I could easily perform A/Bing.  Comparing the two, vocals are slightly more forward with the stock cable in comparison with the slightly more spacious presentation with the Apollo.  Detail levels are also a hair higher with the Apollo due in part to better instrument separation; however the stock cable has a more coherent presentation.  The Apollo cable is a nice alternative if you want less microphonics and/or a bit more spacious and laid back sound.

 

Summary: The Apollo is an ergonomic dream; thin, light, flexible, tangle resistant, all resulting in excellent performance.  Looks are good and fit and finish is top notch.   Changes to the sound with the UE900 were small but palpable.  I can recommend the Apollo cable as a nice choice for those looking for a very ergonomic, well-built cable that is very small, and considering the price, it is also a great value.

 

Ergonomics: 10

Tangle Resistance: 9.5

Memory Effect: 9.5

Microphonics: 8.5

Build Quality: 10

Works with recessed sockets: N/A

Options: 3.5mm jack options - Pailiccs, Sennheiser Silver, Sennheiser Black, Yarbo, Neutrik RA, Oyaide (+$10), Oyaide RA (+$10); shell connectors – TF10 (UE5Pro/ TF10/ Universal two pin connector), custom IEMs (Westone ES4, ES3, JH Audio, UE Custom), Shure (Shure SE215/315/425/535, UE900, Sensaphonics)

 

---------------------

 

19) Effect Studio Odin AKA Top Upgrade Cable for UE/Shure/Westone/JH Audio/UE Custom/IE8 ($170)

 

 

  

 

Odin cable with TF10; free form; shell connectors and plug; plug and Y-split; shell connectors

 

I reviewed two Effect Studio cables previously, and while they looked amazing in photos and great in person, they didn’t score high primarily due to ergonomics.  Effect Studio revamped their lineup and contacted me to see if I was interested in trying their new cables.  I received the Odin with shell connectors for the TF10.  The cable uses 24 AWG Silver plated .9999999 OCC with FEP Mono-Filament and Spaced FEP Insulation single core wire.  A Odin uses a Oyaide 3.5mm plug, which looks very elegant, with a strain relief made from several staggered layers of heat shrink, which is robust, good looking, and functional.  The cable between the 3.5mm plug and Y-split is twisted and coated, keeping the twists tight and in place.  The Y-split is made from hard plastic and is well designed, without any stress points.  There is a cable cinch on the Odin made from heat shrink.  Above the Y-Split, a coated cable is used, and near the over molded shell connector heat shrink is formed to keep the cable in place during over-the-ear wear.  The cable reminds me of the Crystal Piccolino cable.

 

In use, the cable has decent flexibility, no microphonics, and stays in place well.  The cable does retain some waves from being wound up, but nothing serious.  The Odin has an average amount of tangle resistance and a higher than average amount of memory, however the memory doesn’t affect the cable detrimentally.  Above the Y-split, the cable is a bit stiffer than the other two provided cables.  Fit and finish are excellent 

 

Paired with the TF10: Compared with the stock cable, the Odin fits more securely.  Ergonomics are quite a bit better with the Odin and the curvature of the ear mold fit much better and was easier to put on in comparison with the stock cable.  Sonically, the Odin improves the sound by adding more space and depth to the presentation while offering more instrument placement.  Overall the sound is a bit brighter, but at the same time smoother while articulating detail better.  The combination of improvements results in a more realistic sound.  This is a worthwhile upgrade to the TF10.

 

Summary: The Odin has a lot of competition and offers good ergonomics and a great look.  Unfortunately, since the Odin came with a TF10 connector I couldn’t perform sonic comparisons with other custom IEM cables I own, although the performance with the TF10 indicates the Odin will be an upgrade sonically.

 

Ergonomics: 7.5

Tangle Resistance: 5

Memory Effect: 3.5

Microphonics: 10

Build Quality: 10

Works with recessed sockets: No

Options: 3.5mm plug - Oyaide, Oyaide RA, Pailiccs, Sennheiser Silver, Sennheiser Black, Yarbo, Neutrik RA; shell connector - UE Universal; Shure SE535; Westone ES4, ES3; JH Audio; UE Custom; Sennheiser IE8

 

20) Effect Studio Thor Silver

21) Whiplash Audio TWau Reference Gold

22) Whiplash Audio TWag V2 GOLD


Edited by average_joe - 8/3/14 at 11:18pm
post #2 of 641

Awesome work my friend! You've peaked piqued my interest, and I'll give it a full read through as soon as my JH16's arrive. As always, looking forward to your continued efforts. smile.gif


Edited by i2ehan - 7/31/11 at 3:33pm
post #3 of 641
Quote:
Originally Posted by i2ehan View Post

Awesome work my friend! You've piqued my interest, and I'll give it a full read through as soon as my JH16's arrive. As always, looking forward to your continued efforts. smile.gif


FTFY

 

post #4 of 641

popcorn.gif

post #5 of 641

Thank you, Joe, for reviewing the Cronus and the Supreme cables!~

post #6 of 641
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by UniqueMelody View Post

Thank you, Joe, for reviewing the Cronus and the Supreme cables!~


It was my pleasure, they are very nice cables and will make most people pretty happy!  The Silver Sonic cable is on sale and I received a PM asking about how that compares with the other two Beat Audio cables; any insight?

post #7 of 641

nice write up as usual joe.  i usually go with the TWag.  i hope the haters stay out of this thread... but you know they wont. 

post #8 of 641

I love that Beat Audio Supreme Rose cable, so beautiful! Do they make one that will work with the UM3X RC?


Edited by BattleBrat - 8/1/11 at 9:34am
post #9 of 641
Quote:
Originally Posted by BattleBrat View Post

I love that Beat Audio Supreme Rose cable, so beautiful! Do they make one that will work with the UM3X RC?



Isn't that just the standard Westone cable like they use with their customs? If so, the Beat Audio cables will work fine with them (I use the Supreme Rose cable with Westone AC2 and ES3X). It is the same termination as JH or UM uses.

 

Also, in case it wasn't clear enough in my review or this post: The Supreme cables are all the same internally except for the more expensive Supreme Pro. They just have different colors. 

post #10 of 641

The silver sonic will be a cable that's placed between the supreme and cronus. 
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by average_joe View Post


It was my pleasure, they are very nice cables and will make most people pretty happy!  The Silver Sonic cable is on sale and I received a PM asking about how that compares with the other two Beat Audio cables; any insight?



 

post #11 of 641

http://www.custom-iem.com/ibasso-to-sr71bprotector-interconnector-p-660.html

 

The item above is our new iBasso to SR-71B/protector interconnector from Beat Audio. 

post #12 of 641
Thread Starter 

Good stuff!  Is a specific wire used, such as the wire in the Oslo or some other Beat Audio cable?

post #13 of 641

The interconnector uses the Hera MKII wire, same wire as the cable for HE500/HE6 cable.

 

http://www.custom-iem.com/hera-mkii-for-hifiman-he6he500-%E2%80%93-beat-audio-earphone-cable-p-659.html

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by average_joe View Post

Good stuff!  Is a specific wire used, such as the wire in the Oslo or some other Beat Audio cable?


 

 

post #14 of 641

Thanks for this review, Joe.  Which of these yo you think will stand the test of time as far as durability against failure?  I'm not rough on my equipment, but I use it all day every day.  The stock cables seem to last a few months, 5-7 at BEST before developing faults/just going bad.  I've just sent my Whiplash TWag OM back because one channel died completely (so I may never see it again).  Looking for a replacement.

 

I love(d) the TWag OM.  Matched the JH13's well.  Nice open sound stage, very clear.  The feel of the cable was amazing.  fairly flexible, easy enough to coil but the coil wants to spring quickly, so it needs to be held/wrapped/etc. when not in use.  The quad braid is cool.  The Oyide right angle is a great looking plug but the plating on the contacts does wear quickly and create tracks in the plug.  The plug, as Joe said, can get in the way with some equipment.  I find that it gets in the way with the RSA Predator (flips the input/USB switch reliably).  It's better on The Shadow, but still hangs over the edge.  The OM plugs on this cable are nicer than the stock plugs.  They feel and look more sturdy.  It was very easy to get used to lack of memory wire, I think I prefer that now.  Moving down the cable, the wood slider is a nice touch.  It does the job well and with the rest of the cable, looks great.  The holes could be a bit larger though, it's a bit stiff feeding the cable through to adjust it.  It looks like Craig has changed the slider on the newest ones, which might be better.  I like how the Y is simple braid -> twist and clear shrink wrap.  That seems a lot more simple and more durable than the blocks of rubber and plastic (stock) that fall apart.  Fair is fair: the right channel had been slightly faulty for a few months, then it just up and died one day.  Similar to the Whiplash LOD I have (cuts in and out) so it seems to be common for their cables.  

 

Overall, I really liked the TWag OM cable for the 6 months before it died.  

post #15 of 641
Thread Starter 

I really don't know which will last longer, I guess it depends on the usage.  The Beat Audio cable does seem very well made, but then I thought the TWag cable was as well.  The Cronus does have a jacket over the cable which could lead to more durability, but you never know until you try.

 

Beat audio offers a 3 month warranty where they will pay for shipping, but will still warrant the cable after that as long as it is reparable.  You must ship the cable back and pay for return shipping.  The TWag cable has a 1 year warranty so you should be able to get warranty service.  Both Stephen from Beat Audio and Craig from Whiplash Audio are great guys and very responsive and helpful.

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