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Headphone Cables item created by Zelda, Jul 15, 2016
Pros - excellent workmanship, high quality material, noticeable refinement in sound.
Cons - price, sound improvement varies depending on synergy between different sources and earphones.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was original posted on my blog, and now I would like to share it with all my readers on head-fi.
Manufacturer website: PlusSound Audio.
I did combine X8 and Apollonian+ reviews in one write up since my Intro and Plussound Wires sections, as well as packaging and some design description, are common to both cables. The main difference is in sound analysis section where I talk about individual cables and their pair up with different IEMs/CIEMs.
* click on images to expand.
My general thoughts and personal opinion about replacement cables.
Aftermarket premium replacement cables have been a controversial topic of discussions in many audio communities. There are some who don’t hear a sound improvement and others who consider the improvement to be too subtle to justify the cost. Some are firm believers (myself including) who do actually hear the change in sound, while others talk themselves into believing to validate their purchase. I also ran into a group of people who consider cables as another accessory to personalize the appearance, just like they would with CIEM customization, or those who switch from single ended to balanced and take the opportunity to upgrade to fancier wires. And then you have a group who never tried a replacement cable and formed their opinion based on reading someone else’s rant.
From my personal experience, I do hear and feel the change in a sound, but I'm not able to capture it accurately in measurements. The most obvious change even disbelievers can agree on is that higher purity material will yield a smaller resistivity, better conductivity, and corresponding boost in signal level. Also, various metals have different properties. There is no magic behind it and you’ll get an instant benefit of slightly higher output driving your transducers, something that could be measured. But when I hear a change in bass tonality, tightness, articulation, or I hear more airiness in treble or overall improvement in retrieval of details which feels like a layer of veil is lifted off – this is not easy to capture. Considering we all have a different perception of sound, without supporting measurements some people jump into conclusion and form a “snake oil” opinion, especially when price is taken into consideration.
The intent of this review is not to change anybody’s mind, but rather to share with you what I hear and how I hear it. Perhaps, I can’t fully explain why there is a change in sound, but I do hear it and would like to describe it. What makes sense to me is that I look at the wire as a material with physical properties of resistivity, conductivity, level of purity, etc, which acts as a filter between your source and headphones. Variations of these physical properties will affect the electric signal and result in a sound change, from a subtle to a more noticeable level. Also, I want to talk about the design of these cables, to make people understand why they cost so much, and that you are not dealing with a “coat hanger” wire but rather high grade materials, advanced production techniques, and hours of labor which all add up to a premium cost. Last but not least, the sound improvement of one particular cable is not universal because it will depend on the synergy between your source and your headphones.
Now with introduction out of the way, something I’m planning to include in all of my future dedicated cable write-ups, I will begin with a few words about the Plussound Audio. Founded less than 4 years ago, it’s a relatively young company, but I’m already starting to notice more Head-fi discussions about their cables and I see Christian (the man behind the company) participating in many different threads of that community.
When I contacted him, I received the reply within an hour. When we were discussing about review opportunity – he was very honest and straightforward about his current workload and how long before he can make review cables for me after taking care of his paid customers. I have been in touch with many different cable manufacturers, though have reviewed not as many due to a lot of miscommunication. Custom cables are often made to order, thus do your homework about cable-maker before making the commitment, it’s almost as important as choosing the cable itself.
Regarding the material used in his cables, Plussound offers a number of signature copper, silver, and plated wires described in details here. One thing you going to notice right away is that regardless of the type of metal material, they all feature a Type 6 Litz configuration where wires have 6 enamel-coated groups with multiple strands to decrease electrical anomalies (such as skin and proximity effect causing microphonics), to minimize oxidation (preventing wires turning green), and to improve conductivity (electric signal usually travels on the surface of the wire, thus multiple thin strands will have a better conductivity and a smaller resistivity than a single “coat hanger” wire).
Another important fact is that Plusssound wires are cryogenically treated for strengthening purpose to enhance their reliability and longevity. Furthermore, the wires itself are UP-OCC manufactured, referring to Ultra-Pure Ohno Continuous Casting process developed and patented by Professor Ohno of CIT in Japan. Also, many of Plussound cables feature a custom sleeve between the y-splitter and the plug. When I first saw it in the pictures, I assume it was for decorative purposes until I learned later that it’s a rather advanced multi-dampening system featuring tri-shielding and dual insulation for a better isolation of wires from outside environment and from internal interference all the way down to the plug.
I know that for many people all these buzz words and tech terms doesn't mean too much; after all, the majority will only care about the final performance and the overall appeal. But often people bring up why aftermarket cables cost so much. Without a doubt you have to take into consideration the cost of the pure copper, silver, gold, and the weight of corresponding metals when you are dealing with multi-braided cables. There are also other contributing factors, including manufacturing process (UPOCC), additional treatments (enamel and cryogenic), engineering (custom shielding), labor of braiding and twisting, and choice of different plugs and shell connectors.
I still look uneasy at the cables that cost north of $600 and close to $1k or more, considering there are so many other premium cables in $300-$500 price range. You can also find a more budget friendly cables in $50-$200 price range, but just like with IEMs – some companies offer $200 flagships, others have $500 flagship, and you can go up to $1k-$2k TOTL level noted by diminishing returns. Either way, you have to consider each pair up on a case-by-case basis, and as a matter of fact I reviewed a number of flagship IEMs where I preferred a stock cable over a premium upgrade. Bottom line, you can’t just assume that top of the line cable will improve the sound quality of any pair of earphones or headphones.
Plussound X8 cable.
While majority of cable manufacturers pay little attention to the actual packaging and send the cable in a padded envelope, I was pleasantly surprised to receive Plussound cable inside of a giftbox quality cardboard black box with a magnetic flip cover. It was a nice touch to see a branded logo on the cover top and the sides as well as "Handcrafted in the USA" printed on the front. Inside, the cable and the included adapter were sealed in individual clear plastic bags and foam lining was used for extra cushioning. Also, I found a bonus branded rubber band and Custom Cables card with lots of interesting details about the wires, components, installation instructions, care, and warranty.
I do recommend reading this card because it actually has some useful info, like mentioning about the shell connectors with locking screws relative to L/R position where screws have to face outwards. I didn't read these instructions at first and spent a few minutes scratching my heads looking for L/R marking on the connector housing until I my common sense kicked in since screws facing inward would be rubbing against my skin. Of course, everything is customizable and you have a choice of color labeling or other marking options.
Design ($349 as configured, with a bonus 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter - additional $75).
Unlike Plussound signature design with a sleeve covering bottom portion of the cable wrapped in layers of custom insulation, shielding, and dampening, here you get a chance to see the beauty of 8-wire non-sleeved braiding. Each Type 6 Litz wire is wrapped inside of a clear shielding, revealing the details of copper strands, and the craftsmanship of the braiding technique. A common cable usually has 2 wires going to each shell connector and 4 wires braided/twisted going down to the plug. When you double the amount of these wires, you typically increase the weight and make the cable stiffer. With this updated X8 copper wires cable, Plussound switched to a new Cryo treated 28AWG UPOCC Copper Type 6 Litz wires which are 15% smaller in comparison to their other thicker 26AWG wires, making the braiding more compact and pliable while also reducing the weight.
In terms of a selection of other cable components, I chose 2.5mm TRRS gold plated plug which according to Plussound also received cryo treatment and had a heatshrink cover with a logo for a better grip which you can customize as well (the color) during ordering. The y-splitter capsule and matching chin-slider ring were made from anodized aluminum and received cryo treatment to increase the strength and the durability. The plug and shell connectors supposed to be made from anodized aluminum with cryo treatment as well, but covered in heatshrink which provides a better non-slip grip and extends into a strain relief. Of course, everything is customizable and you have a choice of different types and brands of plugs and shell connectors, regardless if it's in ear monitors or full size headphones.
Besides a very neat 8-wire square braid pattern from y-splitter down to the plug, the 4-wire braid going up to the shells is arranged in a flat pattern which makes it more supple and better suited for over the ear fit. Another interesting design detail - there is no memory wire or a stiff (or soft) earhook heatshrink piece. I'm not quite sure how it was accomplished but there is a pre-shaped flexible bend in the braided part of the cable right after the connector housing - many people with glasses will appreciate it. I already mentioned about the locking screws used as L/R id by making sure they face outwards on corresponding connectors. This makes the id of L/R sides easy in the dark when you feel rather than see the cable. Also, my particular cable came with mmcx standard connectors, and they felt durable and with a secure snap joint.
Since I requested the cable with 2.5mm TRRS balanced termination, in addition to the cable I also received a short straight 2.5mm TRRS to 3.5mm TRS adapter. If you have any DAP with 2.5mm balanced output, I strongly recommend to get balanced terminated cables with an adapter. This way for an additional $75, the cost of these custom adapters, it feels like you are getting a 2nd pair of cables since you can use it either way. Many cable manufactures make adapters by using two separate male and female connectors with a short braided wiring in between. It works, but does add to the length and the weight of the cable and will make it look inconsistent if adapter wires are different from the actual cable. One piece adapter is very compact and self-integrated without any extra wire extension. Just one thing to keep in mind, I would recommend straight adapter if you are dealing with desktop amps and right angled adapter if you are dealing with a DAP.
For this test I used Lotoo PAW Gold (SE only connection) and Opus#1 (SE and BAL) as a source for testing. Prior to testing, I kept the cable on a burn in with ES60 for 100+ hours.
w/Westone ES60 - Going from Westone stock Epic cable to X8, I hear a change with bass becoming tighter and more articulate, even picking up some speed with a little faster attack. I hear mids gaining a little more clarity, like a faint layer of veil was lifted off, and also hear a little more sparkle in treble - no change in perception of the extension, just a bit more crisp. Overall, I hear the sound being tighter and sharper. When comparing X8 by switching to Linum SuperBax, the sound gets smother. X8 gives ES60 a sharper edge and more speed while SuperBax makes it a little smoother and more organic; both have a noticeable improvement in retrieval of details and resolution over a stock Epic cable.
w/Campfire Andromeda - Here the comparison was done going from ALO stock Litz SPC cable to X8 where I hear the sub-bass gets a little deeper with more rumble, but the overall feeling of the bass became smoother and a bit looser, more toward dynamic-like driver performance rather than a faster BA driver sound. I don't hear too much difference in retrieval of details, but overall sound with X8 is a little smoother, warmer, with more body, and also sounds more organic. Also, I hear a little less sparkle in treble. I actually expected this change going from Silver plated copper to a pure copper cable. There was no need to look for a cheap ofc mmcx cable for comparison since I had no doubt X8 will be a noticeable step up.
w/Fidue Sirius - Fidue stock cable comes with 8x SPC wires and by going to 8-core UPOCC pure copper X8 cable I hear bass becoming tighter and more articulate where the dynamic driver performance of this hybrid IEM picked up some speed with a little faster attack. I do hear mids being a little less veiled in comparison, also I hear a slightly better retrieval of details with sound becoming more resolving. The treble now sounds a little more extended and with slightly more airiness. Overall sound got a little sharper and tighter and I sense a faster speed which translates into an improved PRAT. This change I actually didn't expect. I did found X8 pair up with Sirius over its stock cable a little better, but there is no denial that Fidue stock cable looks first class with its locking ring and anything aftermarket can ruin that design flow.
Plussound Apollonian+ cable.
Everything I mentioned in the packaging section of Plussound X8 cable applies to Apollonian+ as well which arrived in a giftbox quality cardboard black box with a magnetic flip cover. Similarly, the cable and the included adapter were sealed in individual clear plastic bags, and foam lining was used for extra cushioning. And included were a rubber band and Custom Cables card with lots of interesting details about the wires, components, installation instructions, care, and warranty info.
Design ($499 as configured with gold plated copper wire, and a bonus 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter for additional $75).
The Apollonian+ cable was pre-configured for the review purpose with 2pin shell connectors and was also terminated with 2.5mm TRRS balanced plug and included with the same 2.5mm TRRS to 3.5mm TRS adapter. Similarly to X8 cable, chin slider and y-splitter were anodized aluminum cryo treated pieces, and the shell connector and the plug also made with anodized aluminum under a cryo treatment wrapped in a heatshrink which provides a better non-slip grip and extends into a strain relief. As expected, everything is customizable and you have a choice of different types and brands of plugs and shell connectors.
But unlike X8, Apollonian+ has Plussound "signature" design with a sleeve covering the portion of the cable between the y-splitter and a plug. My cable was equipped with 4 gold platted copper Type 6 Litz 26AWG conductors shielded in their "standard configuration" which includes dual insulation (with PE and MF), tri-shielding (with copper, carbon, and mylar), and multi-dampening (with cotton) all wrapped in NV customizable (color) sleeve. So what does it all mean? In theory you get a perfect isolation and interference free shielding, but in practice you get a heavier and stiffer cable. Luckily, you are not dealing with 6- or 8-conductors which bulk up the cable. Of course, I did notice the additional weight and the cable was not as flexible as braided X8 design when I wrap it for storage, but using 4-conductors was a good compromise.
Going up from y-splitter to shell connectors you get traditional 2-wire twisted conductors where you can clearly see gold plated copper strands grouped inside of a clear shielding. The shell connectors had the same design with outward facing locking screws, except here you had a standard 2-pin connector. Similarly to X8, there was no memory wire or an earhook heatshrink piece. Instead there was a pre-shaped flexible bend in the twisted part of the cable right after the connector housing for an over ear fit which many people with glasses will appreciate.
For this test I used Lotoo PAW Gold (SE only connection) and Opus#1 (SE and BAL) as a source for testing. Prior to testing, I kept the cable on a burn in with U12 for 100+ hours.
w/64 Audio U12 - While going from a stock OFC cable to Apollonian+, I hear an overall characteristics of the low end to be similar, except for one noticeable difference where I hear a little better control with a better separation from lower mids in comparison to a stock cable. Also, I hear a shade of veil is lifted off the mids, with a little more details especially when it comes to vocals shining with more clarity. Treble sounds close, though I do hear a little better definition and a touch more clarity. Next, I switched from Apollonian+ to TWau cable where I hear the bass tighter and more articulate, mids gaining a little more clarity like yet another layer of the veil was lifted off, and I hear a little more sparkle in treble. I didn't know what to expect in this case, but I guess there is another level of refinement when going from gold-plated copper to gold-plated silver.
w/UM Maestro - Going from stock ofc cable to Apollonian+, I hear the bass getting tighter and more articulate, and even a little faster in speed, but other than that I don't hear a significant change in low end performance (the same sub-bass extension and a similar mid-bass punch). Mids are as clear and detailed between both cables, but I do hear them being a little smoother and having a more natural tonality when using Apollonian+. I actually felt that stock cable made upper mids a bit grainy, while Apollonian+ worked its magic to smooth them out, even making them slightly more transparent. Also, I hear a better definition of treble, with a little more sparkle. The effect of TWau cable upgrade was nearly the same. The only thing I felt uneasy about was the recessed socket of Maestro where 2pin connector of my review cable didn't plug deep enough. It made a good connection without causing any sound cutoffs, but it didn't feel as secure. Obviously, this is a not a showstopper since another type of 2pin connector could be selected when you know which earphone you are planning to use.
w/Noble K10UA - In this case, while going from stock SPC cable to Apollonian+, I only noticed the sound becoming a little brighter and crispier, but overall sound performance was very similar to Noble's stock SPC cable. Perhaps Apollonian+ cable introduced a bit of smoothness to the sound, but I found this difference to be rather subtle. Coincidentally, TWau had a similar "update" results when used with K10UA. This is a good example of where I think Noble did their homework selecting a specific type of cable to bring up the best in the sound of their monitors.
It has been awhile since I posted a dedicated cable review, and typically include a cable pair-up section in all of my flagship IEM/CIEM write ups. In here, while talking about the new Plussound Audio cables, I also wanted to take the opportunity to share a few of my thoughts about cables in general. It's hard to have an objective opinion about sound improvement when upgrading the cable because we are not talking about a sound signature change or anything that drastic, but rather a level of refinement which has a subjective perception.
That's exactly what Plussound cable offers, a refinement of sound which going to vary depending on the pair up between different sources and the chosen headphone/earphone. Plussound cables are priced above budget alternatives but not as high as some fancy exotic cables. When you factor in their build quality, selection of the fine materials, engineering behind the cable assembly, and a dedicated support, you will see more value to justify the price. Regarding the sound improvement, don't expect miracles, but in my opinion you can never go wrong with a pure copper cable upgrade, and I was very impressed with X8 cables, both in terms of the look and the performance. 8-conductor braided cables are usually stiff and bulky, while X8 feels light and has a comfortable fit. Apollonian+ pair up might be a bit tricky since with a few selective IEMs used in my testing the improvement wasn't consistent, but this has nothing to do with a cable but rather with a synergy of my earphones under the test. Either way, I had a very good experience dealing with Christian and his Plussound Audio, and look forward to continue testing and featuring his cables in my upcoming IEM/CIEM reviews.
Pros - Design
Cons - Price
PlusSound X8 Gold-plated Silver + Copper | http://plussoundaudio.com/customcables/inearmonitor.html
About: (from the site)
X8 Series Custom Cable:
"Popular 8-wire cable for maximum sound quality and performance."
Our X8 series doubles the wires, sound, and build of our Exo by using EIGHT high quality custom designed UPOCC stranded wires with durable and flexible polyethylene outer insulation which are braided to provide better quality sound while reducing low range and interference noises. Most unique feature is the option of creating hybrids - combining two different wires with different sound qualities, making this is the ideal solution for finding the perfect sound you have been looking for. Selecting Type 6 Litz wires will prevent electrical anomalies such as skin effect and proximity effect, in addition to preventing oxidation by applying a special enamel coating to individually insulate every strand for long lasting sound quality and appearance. The multiple proprietary dampening cores function to reduce vibration - keeping conductivity constant throughout for the best quality sound. All wires are cryogenically treated to strengthen the structure of the wires for maximum durability and performance. Constructed with the highest quality components make this the very best performing and quality interchangeable cable on the market.
Overall Length: 4 ft / 48 in / 1219.2 mm / 121.92 cm
Wire Size: 26 American Wire Gauge (AWG)
Wire Type: UP-OCC
Wire Construction: Type 6 Litz
Estimated Build Time: 20 Business Days / 4 Weeks
Gold-plated Hybrid Wiring:
First of its kind wire featuring 50% 24K gold plated silver and 50% 24K gold plated copper wires bundled in enamel-coated groups inside for decreasing electrical anomalies (i.e. skin and proximity effect) but prevents oxidation to maintain same appearance after very long use, increases durability greatly, and sound quality improvements through its configuration. A semi-conductive material is added at the core of each strand group (total of 7 cores), to retain round shape while staying on the surface of the conductor, reducing mechanical vibration in the process. Utilizing PE insulation for flexibility and durability and wires are cryogenically treated for long lasting, enhanced sound quality. It transmits electric signals faster than ever with much less distortion and electrical resistance. Along with no crystal boundaries and molecular junctions, these advantages makes it the most advanced wire available for audio.
We offer a variety of cable stopper designs, built from the ground up. Lightweight, compact, and durable. Available in two configurations:
- Housing has been sized accordingly to work specifically for our custom cables.
- Made our of CNC machined anodized aluminum.
- Added 3-layer design for sleek appearance and improved durability.
- Dual gold screws hidden inside for keeping cable from moving.
- Every component of splitter is cryogenically treated BEFORE it is assembled for optimal durability.
Cryo Treated CIEM
- High conductive pure gold plated copper pins.
- All new heat resistant PEEK insulation for optimal durability.
- Special screw design to prevent connector and shell from ever coming off due to repeated insertion and removal.
- Shell is made of thick black aluminum, allowing clean signal flow and preventing RFI/EMI.
- Every component of plug is cryogenically treated BEFORE it is assembled for optimal durability and sound.
- High quality base metal for better conductivity.
- New screw design.
- Solder tabs, tips, and body are surface plated with gold or rhodium.
- Housing has been replaced with black anodized aluminum, allowing clean signal flow and preventing RFI/EMI.
- Extended jack for easier connection with devices that have cases.
- Heat resistant insulator, separated contact layout, and 6.5mm exit hole for better quality sound and build.
- Embossed design for better grip of inserting and removing plug.
- Every component of plug is cryogenically treated BEFORE it is assembled for optimal durability and sound.
This review is intended to provide information for research purposes only. It does not advice, nor constitute any solicitation or endorsement for any purchase. Any purchase you make is done at your own risk and full discretion. Please be informed that impression written in this review is relatively subjective. Sound impression was obtained based upon what I hear, using Aune M1s digital audio player, Unique Melody MASON 2 universal in-ear monitor, and its default stock cable. Please keep in mind, that your impression and usage experience may vary. The PlusSound X8 Gold-plated Silver + Copper cable was purchased by me as a part of my personal collection. I am not affiliated with PlusSound Audio. All rights reserved.
The PlusSound X8 Gold-plated Silver + Copper (GPSC), is composed and built with 8 wires which are woven together in a neatly braided round pattern. It has quite a mesmerizing uniform pattern and colours.
Which remind me of:
There are three patterns available for the main body of the X8 model; Square, Round, and Flat. And two braiding patterns after the splitter, for the left and right part; Round, and Flat. All customizable in the website's customization page.
The 8 wires are made out of 4 gold-plated silver, and 4 copper; type 6 litz, 26 AWG wires. They are split by a cool-to-the-touch anodized aluminium splitter. The cable that I have, comes with a rubber-like plastic slider to help secure on the head. You can customize yours when ordering, with a selection of wooden and aluminium sliders beside plastic.
This cable may seem a bit bulky, but it actually is lighter than it looks. Even though it has 8 wires, it's approximately only two or three times heavier than stock cable. Furthermore, this cable doesn't have memory wiring, and microphonics.
One of the downside of the X8 I've discovered, is its unsuitability for use on the go. Due to its rather unwieldy body, the X8 isn't very fit to be used walking or in a mobile environment. Also, the X8 GPSC sadly, is not the most affordable cable at $999. That being said, a difference in cable material or model selection from the website could help.
Connectors on the X8 GPSC cable (i.e. the 2-pin and 3.5-mm jack) are applied very securely. The X8 that I have uses double heatshrinks to help minimize bends and movements between the cable and connectors.
Overall, the X8 GPSC cable quality is superb. After using it for many hours, for more than a couple of weeks, the cable remains spotlessly immaculate. It never feel flimsy. And there hasn't been any form of oxidation or coloration in the wiring so far.
Switching from the stock cable, the first thing I feel I noticed the cable provides a quieter background. Further improvisation of signal quality can also be felt from the slight increase in resolution of sound. This in turn aid in creating a seemingly (?) clearer and more focused imaging.
Soundstage presentation feels cleaner, and airier. Each musical notes feels more defined. Instruments also feels like they produce a slightly more articulate sound.
The brightness from the lighting of this cable I imagine creates a unique sense of transparency. It maybe is not a very clear cold analytical form of lighting, but perhaps a rather warm subtle one.
The X8 GPSC cable I think (?) helps balance and smooth peaks throughout the upper frequency, making listening felt less fatiguing than with the stock cable. I may be wrong, but to me I felt like it furnishes a more pleasant sound presentation.
In the lows, mid-bass notes feels a little denser, and more resolute. The impact of the punch feels deep, and tighter. Sub-bass decay feels a bit slower, and more natural than with stock cable.
In the midrange, the sound feels like it gains a bit more warmth, and clarity. Texture of each notes I hear or perhaps imagine sound full, weighty, and better-defined. It may be lush, and more resolving compared to the stock cable.
Additionally, the upper-frequency quite possibly have an increase in density in each of their notes, I'm not sure . Giving vocals that air of warm breath, so to speak according to my subjective perception.
Pros - Smooth, natural tonality
Cons - 8-braided version's price might be high, and cable is a bit stiffer
I would like to thank Christian from plusSound for providing the X8 GPC in return for my honest opinion.
PlusSound started making cables around 2012, and has consistently been growing since then. Ater rapidly making their name for high quality cables, they successfully collaborated with Unique Melody to provide upscale stock cables within a few months of their conception. PlusSound slowly started expanding there workforce, allowing them to reach a wider audience through a network of distributors. Not long after, they started looking forward to new lines of development, resulting in the well-received Cloud Nine amplifier, and more recently their 3D printed earplugs. From what I understand, there not leaving it there, but will continue to expand their horizon in 2017 with even more products. But for now, we’ll focus on one of their cables: their gold-plated copper cable, a smooth sounding cable with a very natural tonality.
plusSound X8 Gold-Plated Copper
Alloy: Gold-plated copper
Conductors: 8 braid
Construction: Litz construction
MRSP: $825 (4-braid = $400)
PlusSound delivers the cable in a stylish matte black box with the recognizable plusSound logo. Inside the box, you’ll find the cable comfortably seated on a foam bed for protection. Besides the cable, there’s a greeting card with product information and a plusSound band for stacking dac/amps.
Build & Design
With its 8 wires, there’s no denying the GPC is a full-sized cable that you’ll feel, and others will notice. I'm not sure if people usually don't notice the large customs and cables I wear when walking around, but with the GPC I got a few remarks. Nothing negative, just basically acknowledging its existence. 'Huh, fancy cable'.
The beige brown wires are on the thicker side, so in the full glory of its 8 wires configuration its among the larger cables I own. For someone coming off a stock OFC it might be a significant difference, although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I'm accustomed to upgrade cables and personally enjoy a quality 8-braid in looks and size, so I don’t mind its presence. Despite its thicker size, the cable remains flexible and has good ergonomics for practical use. It doesn’t pass on microphonics during portable use except when rubbing on hard surfaces, but nothing out of the ordinary for an upgrade cable. Overall, while the cable might be heavier than usual, in remains easy in its use.
The wires are braided together tightly in a cube braid, the craftsmanship is very good. The connectors and splitter are all in a matching matte black. The GPC comes with plusSound’s own gold-plated jack with golden screws, finished off with the plusSound name and logo. The splitter is a similar matte black color with golden screws. It’s somewhat sober compared to the wooden or metal splitters other brands use, but there’s also a certain elegance to the simplicity. The cable is finished off with matching connectors with golden screws on the outside, and the PS logo on the inside.
The GPC has a smooth midcentric tonality, with a focus on tonal accuracy. While the tonality is on the warmer side, the cable doesn’t sound overly warm. It’s an inherent warmth in the midrange that gives it a natural sound, rather than a warm atmosphere due to an enhanced mid-bass presentation. Compared to a stock OFC copper cable, the GPC has slightly more body in the midrange, and a transparent upper midrange. The midrange has greater resolution, resulting in better definition and air around individual notes. As such, notes aren’t overly colored or thicker than neutral. More importantly, the mid-bass isn’t overly warm and very well controlled. This results in a clean stage and accordingly, very good separation. This makes for a detailed yet smooth presentation. While the GPC doesn't necessarily affect the width of the stage, it offers nice depth to the presentation.
While there are more expensive cables that might offer a higher resolution, the GPC’s focus is on tonality, and dare I say - it outperforms most of those in this regard. This is where the GPC excels: by simply having a very natural presentation, with an accurate instrument tonality.
The GPC has a relatively neutral bass in overall quantity, leaning slightly towards north of neutral, specifically its mid-bass. There’s slightly more mid-bass compared to sub-bass, resulting in a warm and softer tone, rather than emphasizing a deep or punchy bass. This results in a natural, lifelike bass; an instrumental bass, rather than a hard-hitting punchy bass suitable for electronic music. As such, bass lines are mostly characterized by a satisfying tone and definition. In addition, the GPC offers a nicely resolved mid-bass, with good control. This isn’t an overly warm mid-bass, which benefits the airiness of the stage. Similarly, the sub-bass quantity is not enhanced, but tighter in its definition and positioning.
The GPC shines in the midrange. Not by coloring the signature with warmth or size, but by sounding natural, smooth, and accurate. This is a midrange that has just the right amount of warmth and density to sound natural. The midrange isn’t as forward and warm as something like SilverFi’s IEM-R2, but at the same time it doesn’t impose its signature on the iem as much. It might not be as emotional, but it provides a more uncolored sound, which can equally be seen as an advantage. There’s an inherent warmth to the midrange that not only adds smoothness to the sound, but aids in recreating an emotional vocal reproduction. The lower midrange has enough presence, but isn’t overly forward. Similarly, the upper midrange sounds clear and beautiful, without overpowering the lower and center midrange. The tonal balance throughout the lower to upper midrange is simply very good. Accordingly, the midrange sounds natural, but also quite clean and airy.
The vocal presentation is smooth, with a nice bit of body and density, making the GPC my preferred cable of choice for iems that already excel here like Zeus or the 8.2. Similarly, the upper midrange can be considered uncolored, but transparent. This adds a nice bit of realism, a natural form of clarity, rather than an artificially brightened upper midrange. Cables like Labkable’s Samurai III or the Rhapsodio Golden add a bit of brightness here that gives it more clarity, though sacrificing on naturalness and accuracy. While I’ll use something like that to listen to electronic music with the S-EM9 or NT6pro, the GPC has a tone that brings the best out of instruments from an audiophile perspective, by sounding accurate.
The GPC offers a smooth treble presentation, an essential finish for its natural presentation that fits very will in the complete picture. While the treble isn’t laidback altogether, it has a warmer tone that sounds tonally accurate. Snare drums or cymbals can easily sound too bright, especially with iems that might have a brighter treble like the NT6pro or Samba. While a brighter treble can improve the note articulation, a warmer, smoother treble will sound more coherent, bringing the music together rather than dissecting it in tiny pieces.
Rhapsodio Golden ($700)
The Golden has a warm V-shaped signature, a combination of thick notes with a brighter signature that creates a distinct, euphoric type of sound. Compared to the GPC it has a more forward bass presentation, with an enhanced sub- and upper bass presence. This gives it a thicker note recreation, as well as richer lower harmonics. However, it reduces the stage airiness, while its imaging is less precise. It sounds a bit messier compared to the cleaner and more neutral sounding GPC. The GPC has a slightly warm midrange, with an uncolored but clear-sounding upper midrange. Despite the thicker notes, the Golden’s midrange is less warm, and its upper midrange is brighter. Similarly, the upper treble region is brighter. The Golden offers a high level of clarity, but the upper treble can sound sharp with already bright iems. This works very well for pop and electronic music, really making synthetic melodies shine. But it is obviously colored, especially compared to the smoother and more natural sounding GPC. The GPC’s treble is articulate, smoother, with a warmer and more natural tonality. The Golden and GPC: pop art versus contemporary.
Labkable Samurai III ($875)
The Samurai has less bass quantity, specifically its mid-bass. This gives it a more spacious feel, even thought the stage dimensions are roughly similar. The Samurai’s stage might be slightly wider and the GPC’s deeper, but the Samurai’s stage appears as cleaner. Its bass hits are leaner, with less impact than the rounder and warmer sounding GPC. Both cables share a similar thickness in the midrange, but where the GPC sounds purer and more natural, the Samurai adds a bit of brightness to the upper midrange, though not to the same extent as the Golden. This is reflected in the treble, where the Samurai’s is a bit brighter, while remaining smooth. As the GPC, it is articulate, though not overly prominent. Taken together, the GPC has a fuller bass presentation combined with a more natural midrange, while the Samurai combines a leaner bass with an airier stage and slightly brighter midrange.
When I first started listening to the GPC, I wasn’t necessarily wowed by it, at least directly. It doesn’t impress with a larger soundstage, or a more detailed upper midrange. However, I kept coming back to it. At first because I was still in obligatory listening phase since I’d eventually have to write about it. But then it just started becoming my go-to cable. Especially if I didn’t want to alter a smooth or warmer iem’s signature too much, but simply get the most out of it. And it remains one of my most used cables. The X8 GPC can be seen as a counterpart to something like the recently reviewed Pandora, which offers a higher resolution, but a less natural sound. As such, they each have their specialty and use.
The GPC offers a solid upgrade in performance, a cleaner stage and better extension, but really sets itself apart when it comes to tonality. This is just a very natural sounding cable, without overly coloring the sound. It can either pair well with midcentric iems, my main use, or to make a brighter iem smoother. I can imagine its 8-wire version being a bit too much in terms of size, ergonomics, and price, but there’s always the 4-wire at half the price. Cables remain expensive either way, but if you’re looking for an improvement in performance while retaining an accurate tone and natural sound, plusSound’s GPC comes highly recommended.
Pros - Excellent build quality; beautiful design; gorgeous midrange and euphoric vocals; many customization options
Cons - Might be too laid-back sounding for some; can be missing some impact with certain instruments; not cheap
REVIEW: plusSound X8 IEM Cable - A Beautiful Silky Sound
Price: Starting from U$D 350
Warranty: 1 year
Design & Build Quality:
As its number suggests, the X8 is the 8-wire IEM cable from plusSound. For the review matter, I received the new "28awg copper type 6 litz wires", which according to plusSound is a bit more compact for better ergonomics than standard 26awg wire and still maintains the same SQ performance. As an 8-wire type it is still a thick cable, but definitely light, nonetheless. I got the most standard version without any extra addition or termination, and yet the build quality is excellent. The 8 strands can be braided in 3 different types, round, flat or square, from the plug to the Y-split, and then round or flat for the R and L sides. The one I got is the 'square' type and flat for R/L. I think it's the first 'square' shaped cable I've seen, and it definitely looks gorgeous as the rest of the cable. The cable has a soft pink color theme, nothing flashy but smooth and discreet. The straight plug is large and well relieved by the heatshrink tube ). The Y-split is made of anodized aluminum, very solid, light in weight but a bit large. The cable slider is missing in mine, but should be very similar to the Y-split. At the upper part, the standard 2-pin connectors shells are made of anodized aluminum too and also covered with heatshrinks. The R and L sides are easy to difference between each other as the metal part should be facing outside. There's no memory-wire.
Fit, Comfort and Microphonics:
Being square shaped, the lower part of the X8 cable (from plug to y-split) is very soft and doesn't have any memory effect. The upper R/L part is less friendly, at least in this flat braid style as it is not as easy to shape, but still soft enough. Not a serious issue, but I'd rather suggest the round type for the R/L part, or at least the addition of a memory wire to help the cable stay fixed around the ears. Despite being an 8-wire, the newer 28awg version is very light, indeed. Microphonics is nonexistent.
The plusSound X8 offers a different presentation when compared to some other IEM cables I've recently tried. Some of them offer improvements in terms of dynamics, extension, stage dimensions, enhance the low or high ends, or boost clarity and detail. While the X8 also shows some differences in those regards, it's mainly focused in presenting a more delicate and smoother sound.
With the X8, the sound is noticeably more laid back with a more natural extension. While there's no roll-off on either of the ends, it might still limit the strength of lows or energy of the highs with certain IEMs, which is well perceived with V-shaped signature IEMs. The sound of the X8 is slightly warmer and fuller, but its principal strength is the silky smoother presentation. It is more refined and better articulated with a more natural texture.
The bass quantity is lower, but exchanged with a nice texture, a bit smaller in body but natural decay, although a bit slower with faster BA sets. Despite the lower amount, sub-bass depth is not affected, just that it's rather softer in impact and tone and takes a step back next to more liquid midrange. For those who like their IEMs strong bass, the X8 may not fit their needs as an upgrade cable in pure quantities, unless they're looking for some extra control and definition.
Similarly, the treble follows the laid-back formula, it is still crispy and doesn't lower the amount of micro-detail, nor limits the extension, but it noticeable less prominent. The X8 may tend to make the details not as forward, but technically they're slightly improved and more naturally presented. While lower highs are well mixed with the upper mids to keep a nice midrange balance, the upper highs, on the other hand, are positioned a half-step behind the whole midrange, which contribute to a smoother and more forgiving/less fatiguing sound. The Null Audio Vitesse cable (4-wire), included as 'stock cable' with the AAW CIEMs, has a much stronger treble energy. The Lear C2, while it can't match the X8 level of refinement, will also bring a more V-shaped sound with a brighter treble. With the X8, guitars are not missing the necessary bite or texture, but cymbal crashes are less lively even with a brighter IEM.
Midrange is where things start to get interesting and are main target of the X8 cable. It is dominant and forward but not overly done, full in texture and sweeter but not thick to give up the smaller details. Also, more natural and realistic in timbre and well spaced. The extra forwardness actually starts in the upper-bass with a very little addition of warmth, and continues up to the upper mids and lowest treble regions which result in a more effortless and engaging midrange. Instruments are a bit affected by the laid-back and relaxed nature of the X8, mainly the lower and upper ones being a bit less emphasized and less energetic. Yet, the greater transparency and midrange smoothness is best shown when it comes to vocals as they simply shine. Seriously, the X8 can make vocals sound excellent. 'Euphoric' would be the best way to describe them; so effortless and extremely immersive and so addicting with a lot of emotion and realism. Smooth as silk and free of harshness regardless the recording.
Lastly, soundstage is very well rounded but doesn't show any strong improvement in terms of dimensions, at least not more than what a good IEM can have through an already wide sounding source. While fast music or electronic genres might be a bit slower than usual, it is quite a good match for classical and most acoustic music, especially for having a natural separation and positioning.
X8 Vs Labkable Pro Series:
The two Labkable cables I've recently reviewed are also an 8-wire type, but braid in a 4-wire form. On the X8, each strand is on itself, which makes it look thicker. Both Labkable Pro cables were impressive in terms of SQ, boosting higher levels of detail and resolution. The Super Nova MKIII excels in pure micro detail while the Silver Galaxy MKII is fuller and has a more solid note presentation. The X8, on the other hand, having some coloration, trades some transparency for a more beautiful and richer midrange, with a slightly warmer and more laid-back overall sound. The sound with the X8 is more engaging and shines in vocals with their sweeter texture and so euphoric presentation. Build quality is great in all of them, and while the plusSound X8 is more expensive, the Labkable are not cheaper either priced around the $300 tag, so the sonic and design differences might be the deciding factor.
Here's the X8 next to Labkable Silver Galaxy MKII (also 8-wire):
The half upper part
Half lower part (from plug to Y-split). While both are 8-wire, you can see the Labkable being more compact with its 4-wire way braid, while the X8 the 8 strands are separated.
X8 Vs Wagnus Moonless:
Wagnus Cable is another contender from the Far East world, this time from Japan. The Wagnus Moonless sound is even more polarizing to the plusSound X8 than the Labkable ones. The Moonless has a much more voluminous bass, mainly in its mid-bass region, with thinner lower mids. The Wagnus also shows some extra energy in the upper mids and lower highs which contribute to form a more V-shaped sound when compared to the more level and smoother midrange focused X8. They both certain emphasis towards female vocals, though the Moonless might get too 'shouty' due the extra upper energy, while the X8 remains smooth as silk every time. Midrange texture is a win for the X8, while the Moonless has a certain more 'fun' factor on it. Design is more 'premium' looking on the plusSound's side, but the smaller/thinner Wagnus cable can be more comfortable around the ear with the added memory-wire and compact design.
Main IEM/CIEMs used for the review: W350, Jomo 4, Lear AE1d
Conclusion and Value:
As usual, recommending any $300+ product is not very easy, even more when referring to just an 'upgrade' as are earphone cables. Nowadays it's possible to buy a very strong and excellent portable audio setup for the same money, that a couple of years ago would have cost a lot more. Nevertheless, the last plusSound X8 addition to the IEM market is a real improvement in terms of sound quality with its striking beautiful and silky sound. Vocals with the X8 are among the best I've heard. The design is pretty awesome as well, with a look just as beautiful as how it sounds.
Again, huge thanks to plusSound for letting me audition this last addition to the X8 series.