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Headphone Cables item created by Bugbok, May 7, 2011
Pros - Great design, ergonomics & customer service
Cons - On the pricey side
I bought the Q Audio French Silk balanced cable for my Audeze LCD-3's mainly because of the ergonomics and cool design/look over the stock cables. When running balanced, I doubted I would hear much sonic difference if at all since you automatically already get some built in noise rejection and better dynamics just by running balanced mode, not to mention more power. Mainly I just wanted a nicer cable than the ones that came with my LCD-3's, although the stock ones are really not bad at all actually.
These cables make the headphones feel a bit lighter, almost as if no cable is there-really nice They have a really cool retro look to them as well and the build quality seems excellent with an industry-standard Neutrik 4-pin XLR connector. Steve uses litz stranded weaved copper cabling and while it may just be in my mind, I think the sound is smoother when using these cables. Vocals seem slightly less strident and more silky smooth for example.
I was able to order the cable in a custom size (8ft) which is perfect for my space/usage. I also purchased a male 1/4 to femail 4-pin XLR adapter from Steve so I can use this same cable plugged into a 1/4" jack. The adapter matches the cable and uses a short bit of the same weaved wiring in between the connectors, quite nice.
While on the pricey side, my feeling is that these cables are worth it if you're looking for a cable upgrade but may not be if you are fine with the build quality and sound of your stock cable. This is a bit like a luxury item but the better ergonomics, design and sound are all tops, as is the customer service by Steve Eddy, who I believe hand builds these cables himself.
Pros - Gorgeous, Clarity, Soft as a plushy.
Cons - Doesn't come with bumper sticker.
When my 3 meter headphone cable from Q Audio Cables arrived in the mail and I opened it I was surprised to find just how lightweight the cable felt as I held it in my hand. Lighter and more flexible than any cable I have ever experienced. Replacing the Audeze stock cable with the Q proved to be the ultimate in ergonomic enhancement. No longer did I feel like I had a small hose running from my head down my chest through the air to my rig like a cable on a suspension bridge. Well, at least thats what the stock cable felt like once I replaced it with the softer more flexible Q cable. Ergonomically the Q disappears when you use it. You simply do not realize it is on your LCD's while you are listening to music. You can place it anyway you want and it will stay there and not become an insistent intrusion on your listening experience. The Q is worth it just for that pleasure alone.
But pleasant and practical ergonomics is just a side benefit that comes with the cable, the real value is the impressive sonic performance of the cable itself. I was not expecting any noticeable improvement in sonic quality with my LCDs by switching out the stock cable and I was very surprised and impressed when I did. The first attribute that I noticed right away was the overall CLARITY of the signal the Q delivers to the LCD. Upgrading to the Q cable allows the LCD to be more of what it already is. The stock cable is definitely holding the LCD back acting in many ways as a filter on the signal. After 2 days of burn in and then 3 more days of comparison I found the stock cable to be smearing the finer detail within the music. The stock cable was adding a small amount of congestion and a bit of hardness to the more dynamic passages, especially in the upper region, low level detail was slightly soft and a bit more defocused, and a veil was impeding the overall transparency of the music.
The artifacts created by the stock cable are not so readily apparent until you insert the Q into the sonic equation. With the Q there is more transparency to the music at hand, everything in the sonic presentation is cleaner and clearer and adds up to the one word that kept coming to mind, Clarity. This clarity brings improvements in all areas of reproduction for the LCD to prove its Ortho stuff. Detail is more precise and has better separation but it is not analytical, edged or artificial, it's simply clean, transparent, smooth and cohesive. Because the detail is more clearly defined and presented, smaller, softer low level inner detail gives the soundfield a deeper sense of depth and dimension, this creates better definition overall in the context of the soundfield and leads to better imaging. Rendering of the smallest detail is a delight with the Q, they are exciting to discover, bringing you closer to the music. One of the improvements the r.2 has over the r.1 I feel is its ability to better layer the detail in the soundfield and it does an even finer job using the Q cable. It is even easier to hear into the space of the sound field in a recording.
The Q opens up the soundstage, the clarity of the detail allows for more air around the instruments, there is more of a palpable feel to them and an increased realism. There is more precise tighter imaging and more ambient detail. It is as if the Q is simply getting out of the way of the overall signal and letting it pass unimpeded whereas the stock cable is to some degree adding a filtering signature to the signal.
The Q exhibits excellent control over dynamic passages, transients hold together with no break up or restriction, whereas with the stock cable congestion seems to be the outcome of some type of dynamic restriction, more often in the upper region. High energy transients with the Q are portrayed with a clean effortless deliverance. Cymbals have a shimmer that is clean, solid, and finely detailed adding to their realism, whereas the stock cable portrays a softer less defined type of detail which for me robs a little bit of the excitement and realism. There is no sense of the slight smearing of the detail with the Q as there seems to be with the stock cable. Chimes, shakers, bells, cymbals are all more realistic and vibrant, again due to that little bit of extra detail coming through.
With the Q I found instruments such as drums to have more dynamic impact. More tightness to their surface, this being the outcome of the very clarity of detail the Q allows the LCD's to receive. The black background in which the musical setting is presented seems blacker now with the Q than the stock cable. Voices come out of the background and seem more realistic and solid. Piano is rendered with clearer transients and cleaner harmonic detail and control. Bass has a bit more dynamic definition and palpable sense than the stock cable with a bit more detail and a touch less bloat. Some may think the less bloat description to mean less bass. It does not. The bass is not negatively effected, if anything it is a bit cleaner.
The LCD's are even more exciting now with the Q cable than they were before with the stock cable. Some of the differences I experienced between the two cables are noticeable right away and some are less noticeable but become more apparent and more finely substantial as you listen and experience the Q cable with time. For instance the clarity of the cable is noticeable right way, it leads to the discovery of all the other benefits the Q has to offer the LCD. Increased transparency, a more open soundstage, better layering, more realism from the cleaner less veiled more finely defined detail. It is a discovery of better, cleaner, signal transfer that continues on as you play more of the tunes you are familiar with and with each tune your appreciation will grow. That is what happened with me. The more I listen the more the smallest improvements became apparent and began to add up into a more exciting experience.
With the Q Cable you get better ergonomics over the stock cable and you will extend the LCD experience to another level of refinement.