Stephen over at Custom-IEM.com has been kind enough to let me audition the "Thor" cable by Beat Audio. This is Thor's review of the Thor cable. (Yes, we do indeed have matching names).
With regards to the whole "does cables affect the sound of an IEM" I would like to clarify my opinion. I'm one of the people who believes cables are not just for looks and ergonomics but may and will alter the sound of the IEM used. I'm not talking a complete change of the signature but small differences that may or may not be noticeable to everyone and may or may not be to the users liking. I also do find that while some cables don't affect say the JH16 much others have a much more drastic effect on the sound.
Equipment used for the review:
MacBook Pro -> Yulong D100 -> FLAC (100% and some 24/96) converted to ALAC -> JH16
iPhone 4 -> TWag V2 LOD -> Arrow 4G -> FLAC (100% and some 24/96) converted to ALAC -> JH16
Note: While I eventually plan on adding my thoughts on the cable combined with my Heir Audio 8.A and TF10 reshell I won't be doing so yet, as I do not feel I have spent enough time with the CIEMs in question to be able to share an informed opinion. I do hope I get to have the cable around long enough to do so.
The "Thor" cable is manufactured by Beat Audio. It's one of their current "Elite" models meaning that it is among the top of their product line. It retails for $399 and can be configured with a variety of sockets such as JH/UM, TF10, IE8, SE535, EX1000 and others. Should you need a socket not listed on the website, there's always the ability to contact Stephen to clarify whether using a specific socket would be possible. The default length of the cable is 1.2 meters which is the equivalent of a bit more than 47 inches and custom lengths appear to be available upon request. Finally, the cable uses a mini ViaBlue 3.5mm connector by default.
Here is the direct link to the product on Custom-IEM.com
While on the subject of Custom-IEM.com I'd like to say that Stephen is an excellent guy and has been answering my mails promptly at all times of the day even on weekends. I have not done business with Stephen before, but I gather from several UM threads that most people are more than happy to place their business with him again. I hate to sound like a commercial, but I just thought I'd give my credits to Stephen.
Not much information regarding cable materials were to be found on the website and when I asked Stephen about this I got the following response: "Beat Audio do not believe in the material of the cable to reflect the sound. But obviously the material is high quality and high purity. Material information is often misleading, and customers should not make judgement on sound based on material, but the sound they hear instead."
While I do believe Stephen is making a valid point regarding the fact that many potential customers would disregard a silver cable if they associate copper cables with automatically being more to their liking, it could also result in people not wanting to take a dive into a $399 cable without knowing anything about it. I've never encountered any place where I could actually audition aftermarket cables which is something most potential buyers would prefer to be able to do before they commit to a product. While cable materials won't tell you exactly what the specific cable will be like, many consider knowing whether a cable is made from say silver or copper to give them a hint as to what it will be like.
Project86 covered this matter as well in his review on the "Cronus" and "Supreme Rose" cables, which can be found here.
Getting back to the cable in question I'll refer to the photos that can be found below. However, what I would like to mention is the fact that rather than using memory wire to keep the cable in place the cable jacket is "bend" in place. This allows for a much more comfortable experience as I was never too fond of memory wire but at the same time have never been able to stand cables that do not stay in place around my ears. Also worth mentioning is the look of the y-splitter and the part of the cable just above the pins, which are all done in a seductive copper/orangey piece of metal.
While I hate to admit it, the looks of cables matter to me. Given the fact that I am able to customize my custom in-ears with most companies makes them unique and allows for them to look just how I want them to. When you've finally gotten an IEM that you find to be looking just perfect having a boring old Westone-style cable can be a bit annoying. In this regard I do find the "Thor" cable very beautiful and extravagant with all the attention paid to the details.
While I haven't had this cable for long, I do get the impression that the build quality is top notch and that this will last a lifetime if treated well. The jacket around the cable seems very durable and is made of some kind of rubber with a bit of a gooey and durable feel to it. The cable is quite flexible and not nearly as stiff as I feared initially.
Compared to a stock Westone-style cable this does not tangle quite as easily and again, the idea of the pre-shaped cable that stays in place rather than the traditional memory wire is just genious - a very elegant solution indeed.
As I've stated above these are merely my thoughts on the cable when used with the JH16s.
The day I received the cable was unfortuneately a busy day for me. I had to go pick up some books at a fellow students house, I had to do some shopping and finally I had to go down to have my ear mold impressions taken only to return later and do some serious marathon reading. I hated the idea of not getting to listen to the cable straight away, so I decided to quickly just hook it up to my JH16's, into my iPhone and leave the house to run all the annoying errands that keeps one from getting to sit back, relax and enjoy the music.
I had barely finished walking down the stairs when I found myself impressed with what I found to be a bit of an added warmth to the sound. The JH16s have always been quite bright to me so this really suited them well. Obviously, I didn't think too much of it considering I was running the whole thing out of an iPhone and not really paying all that much attention to details so I figured it was probably just placebo.
When I finally had some time to listen, I decided to do a little A/B'ing with a stock Westone cable. To my surprise the added warmth a bit more body to the sub-bass as well as slightly more forward mids were still evident. I was also noticing a more 3-dimensional sound, which is where the JH16's really lack in my opinion. Not willing to rush to any conclusions, I had my girlfriend help me blind test the cable a few times and sure enough, I was able to pinpoint whether I was using the Westone or the Beat Audio Thor.
A/B'ing to some of my favorite songs, I found the added 3-dimensionality of the Beat Audio Thor to really show itself with acoustic tracks as well as on a few songs by The Raveonettes I felt like listening to again, and their excessive use of reverb suddenly sounded a whole lot better.
While these aren't huge differences, they're still prominent enough to make me reach for the Beat Audio Thor way more often that I reach for any of my other cables at the moment.
Obviously, $399 is quite a lot of money - especially for a cable. While I found there was certainly a gain on several levels using the Beat Audio Thor, it isn't the first upgrade I would recommend. But once you feel you have the source, amp and CIEMs you want to be with, then this beautiful cable will certainly help you make the most of it. Don't get me wrong, I definitely find it to be an upgrade, but the fact that cables will bring small improvements makes it less of a priority than say a nice source. But once you have that, do go ahead and see if you're able to have a listen with this cable and I'm sure you'll end up loving it just as much as I do. The added 3-dimensionality and warmth makes the JH16s sound much more coherent in my opinion so for me this cable is definitely a keeper and very easy to enjoy. Heck, I'd buy it for the looks and great ergonomics alone!
Edited by Staal - 5/1/12 at 12:35pm