Frank from Toxic Cables has been kind enough to let me audition his 8-wire hybrid IEM cable. My ears were pleased, however, my wallet was not as I ended up liking the cable so much that I had to buy it. Much like the one released by Whiplash this cable is also a hybrid cable benefiting from both copper and silver wire.
Considering how much I’ve been enjoying both the “Scorpion” and the “Silver Poison” cables I’m very excited to get the opportunity to share my thoughts on the new 8-wire hybrid with you guys.
About Toxic Cables
Toxic Cables has been getting a lot of attention lately as more and more people have been buying and posting about their products. While Toxic Cables appears to have been in business for quite some time producing cables for various high-end full-size headphones it was only recently they got into the IEM cable market. Frank/Kabelmeister owns the company (and he’s a real nice guy by the way) and the cables he makes are nothing short of gorgeous.
You can check out the company website over at http://toxic-cables.co.uk/
I don’t believe the website has been updated with all the IEM cables but if you shoot Kabelmeister a PM or ask in the Toxic Cables appreciation thread I’m sure you’ll be able to find all the information you need about the materials and pricing.
Other than the new 8-wire hybrid Toxic Cables also offer the “Silver Poison” which is pure stranded OCC silver with a small percentage of gold, the “Viper” which is 26AWG or 24AWG (both are available) Stranded silver plated OCC copper and the “Scorpion” which is 26AWG or 24AWG (both are available) Stranded OCC Copper.
Toxic Cables offer a variety of terminations such as TRRS, iBasso, Oyaide rhodium (RA and straight), Oyaide gold (RA and straight) and many more.
Just like the other cables I have from Toxic Cables rather than using memory wire this cable utilizes a "pre-bent" part of the cable that keeps the cable in place snuggly around the ear. I much prefer this to the standard piece of wire stuffed in there, which can be quite a hassle to deal with.
Also definitely worth mentioning is that this cable comes with a straight rhodium Oyaide plug as "standard" (with no extra fee)
Ergonomics aren’t as superb as they are with aftermarket cables such as the TWag V2, which is still one of the most flexible of the aftermarket cables I have tried. This is obviously due to the cable being a bit more thick which obviously cannot be avoided having 8-wires in there. However, it’s nowhere near as stiff as the 8-wire hybrid model from Whiplash Audio. In my review of the WA 8-wire I stated that it could however easily be used in a portable setup, and that is obviously the case here as well. I’ve been using the Toxic Cables 8-wire hybrid out and about quite often and it has never annoyed me to do so.
The cable has quite a generous length and measures 52” from the tip of the jack to the pins that go into the sockets in the CIEM. I believe the standard is around 48”.
The connectors are gold and look a lot like the ones used by Beat Audio. I don’t think these will be able to fit CIEMs with recessed sockets although I have not been able to check as none of my IEMs have those. I’m not sure why it’s made this way considering how the rest of the Toxic Cables IEM cables I’ve seen have clear or black overmolded connectors that will fit recessed sockets. Frank/Kabelmeister might be able to explain or elaborate on the matter.
Finally the photos probably speak for themselves. This cable is a true beauty and the copper and silver wires go very well together. It looks very luxurious indeed.
Listening for differences when A/B'ing between two cables has it's obvious elements of pointlessness. I know there are quite a few cable skeptics out there and proving that cables make a noticeable difference would be quite tricky if not impossible. Despite the fact that I have been A/B'ing with other cables I always know which one I am using which might obviously cause a placebo effect to some extent. Therefore, take my thoughts on the sound with the JH16 with a grain of salt - I find differences to be present and I'm sure others will too - despite the fact that they may indeed be psychological for the most part. Either way, as long as it sounds better to my ears I usually find various stuff to be worth paying for.
I've been doing my listening with my JH16 using the following setups:
FLAC --> Yulong D100 (fed via optical) --> JH16 with the 8-wire hybrid cable
FLAC --> iPhone 4 --> JH 16 with the 8-wire hybrid cable
FLAC --> AudioQuest Dragonfly --> JH16 with the 8-wire hybrid cable
Compared to the stock cable I find the change quite substantial. I’m experiencing an increased level of detail across pretty much the entire sonic spectrum. People usually say that silver will benefit towards increased clarity and to my ears that is the case as well. The music suddenly feels more clear and 3-dimensional yet at the same time more engaging. As I covered in my review of the WA 8-wire the JH16 often gets bashed for its limited soundstage compared to the competition and as I’ve always agreed I do find this improvement to be very valuable and quite the game changer.
The sound becomes smoother to my ears taking the top off the JH16s tendency to force instrument separation and instead becoming more coherent across the entire spectrum. Whether one likes this more “organic” approach is obviously a matter of taste but I do find it very suiting. The WA 8-wire does sort of the same thing but in a different way and I’ll be covering that later in my comparison. What I did notice is that the highs seem to be smoothed out making them less sibilant without forcing a bit of darkness upon the entire sound presentation like the WA 8-wire tends to do.
As for the lows, I’m hearing an increase in depth though not much in thickness. For someone like me, that’s great! I have always been a big fan of the fast and somewhat analytical (yet obviously boosted) bass of the JH16. The depth adds a bit of realism without making the whole thing too smooth and without taking a way the boosted bass feeling that made me love my 16s in the first place. I do get the impression that the bass extension is improved upon by removing a bit of the mid-bass though again without changing the character of the JH16, which is quite unique to my ears.
I feel like I need to mention this again and again to avoid any confusion: expensive" IEM-cables should not be your first upgrade when dealing with custom in-ear monitors. If I had $500 to upgrade for, I would pick up a good portable amp, a good DAP or a good desktop DAC rather than a cable. But once you've got a source & amp you're satisfied with then I feel a cable might be the next natural upgrade.
Up until now I’ve considered the Whiplash 8-wire the most exciting and pleasant cable to listen with and while it’s still quite the gem I do feel it’s been dethroned by the Toxic Cables 8-wire in my book. While this may obviously be a matter of preference the Toxic 8-wire comes closer to the sound I am looking for - others might very well think otherwise and I do encourage any input from you guys. Still, like the Whiplash 8-wire won’t make your JH5 sound like a JH16 neither will the Toxic 8-wire – and with a retail price of £250 a cable like this certainly isn’t cheap – quite the contrary. Let’s be honest, you could pick up a set of lovely “budget” custom in-ear monitors for that price. But if you’ve figured out your entire portable or stationary setup – found the DAC, AMP and IEMs you’re going to use and are satisfied with yet still feel the need to play around with upgrades then I can wholeheartedly recommend the Toxic Cables 8-wire. While I do feel that the Silver Poison (which I will also be reviewing soon as I’ve owned it for quite some time) represents much better value at its price point I don’t see it actually competing with the 8-wire. The 8-wire is obviously better sounding (to my ears) but definitely not twice as good. If you’re simply in the market for an exciting cable there are obviously better options out there value-wise such as the much appreciated Silver Poison but if you want the best and have the cash to spend I don’t see any way around ordering an Toxic Cables 8-wire for yourself – and sadly figuring this out will have my wallet crying for a while.
The Toxic Cables 8-wire compared to the Whiplash Audio 8-wire
While both of these cables are 8-wire models using a mixture of silver and copper wires and have a lot in common they’re also quite different in some areas.
They both add quite a bit of clarity and detail that might be caused by the silver as well as an “added body” that might be caused by the copper. However with the Whiplash 8-wire utilizing the TWag V2 wire which to my ears sounds quite bright and thin it can feel like it “makes up” for this by having the copper contribute towards a darker sound where as the Toxic 8-wire adds a bit of smoothness without darkening the sound presentation. I personally prefer the brighter presentation of the Toxic 8-wire and I’m pleased to find out that it’s possible to deal with the at times sibilant nature of the JH16 without having to darken the sound.
The Toxic 8-Wire does very well with electronica and many of my favorites with female vocals really does benefit from this. While I wasn’t often bothered by the darkness of the Whiplash 8-wire (we’re not talking a lot here) I did find that it could remove some of the joy from some female vocals. The Toxic 8-wire really helps bring forward the vocal expression of vocals which is a great force dealing with electronic beats built around vocals.
The Whiplash 8-wire added a bit of thickness to the lows, which the Toxic 8-wire does not. I do however find that the Toxic 8-wire adds more depth than the Whiplash 8-wire.
I feel like I should mention the ergonomics again just to summarize: the Toxic 8-wire is less stiff than the Whiplash 8-wire making it easier to use on the go as well as at home although it might not make much of a difference at the desktop. Whether you prefer the pre-bent cable or the “standard” memory wire solution is obviously up to you – personally I prefer the pre-bent solution. Also worth noting is the fact that the Whiplash 8-wire is quite big around the ears meaning it takes a bit of fiddling to place correctly – though it’s not much of an issue (at least not for me) once it’s there. However, the Toxic 8-wire really does win from an ergonomic standpoint. The one only thing that really "bothers" me (and that's probably exaggerating it) is that I find the Whiplash 8-wire to be better looking with it's darker colours - but obviously that would also be a matter of preference.
As they’re both great in their own way it really does come down to preference. I personally prefer the Toxic 8-wire and the way it smoothens out without darkening and adds a bit of depth and realism to the boosted bass of the JH16 as well as the improved ergonomics in terms of thickness and stiffness. Others - especially JH16 users complaining about the bright nature of the monitor - or just fans of a darker sound might benefit more from the Whiplash hybrid cable.
The cable came in this classy box.
Amp-straps included! If I recall correctly you can choose between
a variety of colours. I have quite a few laying around and I plan
on doing a give away soon if anyone needs a fancy amp-strap.
Excuse the photo quality - I am by no means a skilled photographer.
This photo certainly does not do the cable justice.
Here are the gold connectors I mentioned in the review.
Here's the y-slider. Nice and discrete.
Edited by Staal - 10/29/12 at 5:28am