1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.

    Dismiss Notice

Effect Audio Ares II + Plus Edition IEM cable

Rating:
4.16667/5,
  1. glassmonkey
    Effect Audio Ares II+: Smooth heavy metal shimmer
    Written by glassmonkey
    Published Jun 28, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros: Beautiful, a bit more airy and detailed than stock cable, smoothed some sharper treble on Kaiser Encore, perfect size pins, precise tight bass with good impact, bigger stage than stock

    Cons: chunky, a bit heavy on the ear, paint wears off easily, 2-pin connector shell is glued

    List Price: $219.90

    [​IMG]

    Acknowledgment
    I received the Effect Audio Ares II+ through a giveaway on HeadFi. I was not required or asked to write a review. I wanted to.

    Introduction
    [​IMG]I’ve been aware of Effect Audio for a while. I saw their cable designs around on HeadFi. Like any good custom cable they are always shiny, with shimmering metallic beauty and interwoven links of wire braided like strands of maiden’s hair. I’m not sure you could release Rapunzel with these locks, but throw her a Kaiser Encore and an Opus #3 loaded with music and she just might forget her captivity for a bit.

    Useability: Form & Function
    Cable reviews are mostly about useability, convenience, and aesthetics, to my mind. In my experience, sonic differences between cables are there, but subtle at volume matched levels. I haven’t tried any multi-metal variants yet, but in comparisons later between pure metal (so far as I know) cables I haven’t heard big sonic changes. So in my mind whether a cable is worth buying comes down to the following things:

    • Do you want a balanced connection?
    • Do you find your stock cable boring looking?
    • Are you looking for that last 1% in audio quality that you can squeeze out?
    • Do you have money to burn (for higher priced “luxury” cables)?
    • Are you incompetent with a soldering iron?
    • Are you clumsy with your hands?
    • Can you be bothered to make your own?
    • Is there any value in making your own?
    Maybe the last four questions should really be first, because pure silver and pure copper wire are the best signal transmitters available, and high quality OCC litz wires are not difficult to come by (in my UK market at least). It’s been known since 1885 that gold makes silver far less conductive. This is not to say that the effect cannot be pleasing of making complex alloys, but I think it is more likely that plating or filling with gold is done in very small amounts (less than 1%) that may not have a substantial effect on the sound. In fact, a chemical analysis of a famous Silver/Gold cable found that the cable’s gold amount was far less than claimed, and was closer to being pure silver of a 2N variety. I’ve listened to that cable, it sounds absolutely excellent and I was able to tell the difference with my HD600 between that cable and others in the range without knowing which cables were which (the manufacturer didn’t label the samples). It was the only cable in that range that had gold, so I’ll not make a claim that gold doesn’t effect sound, I just don’t have the evidence to confirm this yet. I think that most of the use of gold in cables is about looks and luxury, and for the most part so are cables.

    [​IMG]

    Value
    That was a bit of an aside, but it comes down to this: if you have the time and capability to make cables, you can do it for similar or lower prices than custom-made cables by companies. I personally wouldn’t do this, and I can tell you why. Consumer rates for wire are expensive. If I want to make a 1.2 meter quad braid wire of a quality similar to Effect Audio’s Ares II+ this is what I have to buy from my suppliers in the UK and the USA:

    Component
    Cost


    1. 5 meters of Cardas 21.5 AWG OCC Litz wire (cost converted from GBP)1
    $53.50

    2. WBT 4% Silver Solder (cost converted from GBP)1
    $34.60

    3. Eidolic 2-pin connectors (model E278PG) (plus VAT)2
    $16.35

    4. Eidolic splitter (ESX4) (plus VAT)2
    $11.75

    5. Eidolic 2.5mm TRRS jack (plus VAT)2
    $14.75

    VAT 3-5
    $8.57

    Shipping 1-2
    $4.35

    Shipping 3-5
    $11.50

    Total
    $155.37


    1HiFiCollective.co.uk; 2Norne Audio

    All of this is assuming that you already have a soldering iron, and sufficient expertise to braid the wire and then solder the ends. This also doesn’t include your labour costs or the difference in quality or sexiness between what you will produce and the professional fit and finish that Effect Audio produces. Since I don’t have soldering expertise, braiding expertise, or a lot of time, buying a cable makes a whole helluva lot more sense. Effect Audio’s costs are surely less than what mine would be, but that is the nature of economies of scale and having the ability to buy wholesale. I don’t begrudge Effect Audio being a successful business, in fact, I’m cheering for them. I consider the price of the Ares II+ very reasonable. Even if I were to get hit with VAT, which may or may not happen, I think the $219.90 price of the Ares II+ is reasonable. The components aren’t cheap, and the labour and overhead costs are totally reasonable.

    Aesthetics
    [​IMG]Here’s the real reason a lot of people buy cables, and it is also one of the reasons that people hear differences between them. A better looking cable sounds better. The same margarine in a square tub doesn’t taste the same as margarine in a round tub. Our visual interpretation colours our total interpretation, this is one reason why people call for blind tests. This is why placebo pills look exactly the same, down to the lettering, as the real thing. This is why when a drug trial tests injections vs pills, people receive sham injections and placebo pills in addition to the real treatment. What you see affects your results in things as serious as how a medicine works to things as trivial as how a cable sounds.

    The Effect Audio Ares II+ is beautiful. The strands in the wires have a gentle vertical alignment. Many Litz wires have more of a horizontal bundling with a kind of striped appearance. The wires in this are definitely different from those found elsewhere. The visual effect is to make the cable look as if it is corrugated, I have no idea what the sonic effect is. On the Ares II+ the entire length of the wires outside of the y-split can be followed, it isn’t lost in the tight coils of your standard Litz wire seen elsewhere.

    [​IMG]

    Beyond this, I note that when I’m wearing the cable in the sun and look down, I see a bit of purple sheen. I’m not sure what causes this effect, but it is a pleasing effect.

    I think that a large part of why people buy aftermarket cables is luxury, and luxury is defined by an item’s appearance and the materials used in it’s construction. Whilst the Effect Audio Ares II+ doesn’t have gold plating or any other elements of that sort, it does exude a luxurious appearance. Those looking for luxury on a budget can be quite happy with the Ares II+.

    [​IMG]

    Ergonomics
    This cable is chunky. When I compare this cable’s total diameter to that of the Double Helix Cables Symbiote SP Elite 8-braid cable (comparison will be in the forthcoming review of that cable), the Ares II+ is thicker before the y-split and has a larger contact area on top of the ear. Both cables are of similar comfort. For me, the comfort isn’t as high as a stock cable. The cables are heavy and the tops of my ears are sensitive. After a few hours listening in a day I have to take a break from the cable as my ears get a bit irritated on top. This is made worse when I have shaggy hair, which I do right now. The cable weight everywhere except the top of the ear is not burdensome, but I’m somewhat eager to compare to a thinner four braid cable.

    [​IMG]
    This is the width of cable that will go on top of the ear. Left to Right: Double Helix Cables Symbiote SP Elite v3 8-braid, Effect Audio Ares II+, Noble Audio Stock cable.
    Build Quality
    The build quality of the construction is solid, but there are a couple material elements that could use improvement (when I got it). The cable is tightly braided with good consistency. Construction is solid and even. The braid does retain some shape from looping for storage. I attempted a quick tug to straighten it out, but it remained wavy—this may be a problem with all such heavy cables. The connectors are solid and attractive. I love the cable slider. It is perfectly sized and its transparency makes it look really unobtrusive. The rubberised material means that it stays in place, which is exactly what you want on a slider above the y-split. The 2.5mm is a good size with a solid base. Not everyone has a Rhodium 2.5mm, and I definitely appreciate it. I also got a right angle adaptor from Effect Audio. It is compact and works very well at preventing jack strain on 3.5mm. I prefer this type of adaptor to straight adaptors. Effect Audio is one of only a couple places I’ve seen that makes these right-angled adaptors.

    I have two primary complaints that cause me to significantly lower the build quality grade:

    • The 2-pin connector covers at the ear are glued, and require some force to remove from the IEM due to snug fit (not a bad thing, these aren’t too big). This led to the left connector cover coming off on my cable. I have to fight with it every time I remove or insert the connector. By being slower and more careful since that happened I’ve avoided it happening on the right, but this isn’t something I should have to do. I think a larger threaded or twist-lock cover is a better design and would prevent what happened with mine while being just as easy to work with.
    • With a threaded design, a bit of locktite on the thread would mean you never have to worry about what happened on mine happening elsewhere. Not printing on this connector would also probably be better if using a threaded cover, as a screw type would lead to inconsistent logo location. I’ve seen other manufacturers use heat-shrink here, which would allow precise location of logos and left/right indicators while also functioning as a strain relief. If using a twist lock design (much like bayonet fix light bulbs common in the UK), then printing could still be on the connector as location of logos and emblems could easily be fixed. I would suggest tougher printing or a using a clear coat after logo printing.
    • The printing on the metal components is not wear resistant. If these weren’t banging around with the sharp metal Noble Encore, this might not be much of a problem, but the Encore has scraped off the lettering on the y-split completely and at the earpieces significantly. These aren’t nearly as pretty to photograph as when I got them.
    [​IMG]
    Note the wear on both connectors. When the R and L go, it will be difficult to put these in the correct earpiece.

    I’ve had conversations with Eric at Effect Audio about the printing, and he has told me that they are now using laser-engraving and have switched producers and upgraded materials on jack plugs—I didn’t ask about the 2-pin connector housings. I’m curious to see if this improves wear characteristics. At this point, the negative elements above force me to significantly lower the build quality grade. Without the pin housing and printing issues, build quality would be a 4.5 for me.

    [​IMG]
    This originally had writing on it, not now. Still attractive and nicely compact.

    Audio quality
    I’ll be basing the sound off of the comparisons I make here. I compared this cable on the Noble Kaiser Encore, with alternative cables being the Effect Audio Excalibur, and the stock cable. All cables were volume matched at ~78dB using white noise and an SPL meter. The source was the Aune M1s (firmware 1.5, aggressive), the IEM was the Noble Kaiser Encore. The table below gives full matching information.

    Cable SE/Balanced Gain Volume ~SPL
    Effect Audio Excalibur Balanced Low 62 78.1
    Effect Audio Aries II+ Balanced Low 62 78.3
    Effect Audio Aries II+
    (Effect Audio 3.5mm adaptor) SE Low 72 78.1
    Stock SE Low 78 78.2

    For useability, the Excalibur is markedly better. This is likely due to the Excalibur having 24 AWG wire instead of the 22 AWG wire on the Ares II+. The thinner wire was more comfortable whilst maintaining a high level of sound quality. The tops of my ears are sensitive, and I get some irritation after having the Ares II+ on my ears for several hours, but I never experienced this with the Excalibur.

    On looks, both the Ares II+ and the Excalibur are stunning, but the Excalibur takes it to a whole new level. The micro-coiling of the Litz wire in the delicate sheathing, and the easy twirling of the cable has a visual and tactile evocativeness akin to a diamond dust encrusted silver chain. It positively shimmers, I feel like a hip-hop superstar rocking bling 20 times my paygrade. The cable is a piece of art. It isn’t just a headphone cable, it is jewelry, and a statement piece at that. The warm copper and chunkier presentation of the Ares II+ are not nearly as arresting to the senses—visual or tactile.

    For sound, differences are very subtle. I listened in a volume matched comparison, but without having duplicate IEMs for switching, the time between switches, due to unattaching and re-attaching cables, makes it so I can’t guarantee the veracity of my hearing. What I hear is just as likely to be bias due to the more refined looks of the Excalibur as real difference—we hear with all our senses, and our eyes can bias us. With that huuuuuuge caveat, this is what I think I hear: the Excalibur is a bit more open, while also having slightly more immediate mids. Both have open sounds, but the Excalibur may be slightly more so. On Where is My Mind the female backing vocal soars a bit higher. The Excalibur sounds a tiny bit more precise, while the Ares II+ is a bit smoother. Both are excellent. It took me several back and forth switches and several tracks to really feel out the differences between the cables. Tracks I used: Pixies – Where is My Mind, Fleetwood Mac – Dreams, Eagles – Hotel California, Rebecca Pidgeon – Spanish Harlem.

    Stock Noble Cable
    The stock Noble cable has the standard 4-wire twisted pair set-up you see on many stock cables (Noble, Unique Melody, Ultimate Ears, RHA C series, Vibro Labs, to name some I’ve used). I’m not sure what material the cable is made out of, but it is probably decent quality. Because there are four wires, it would be easy to make this cable available in balanced varieties. Noble has not done this. Ultimate Ears does offer their stock cable with a 2.5mm balanced termination. Unique Melody should and Noble should do the same. They may even have their cables made by the same shop in China. I bet the order would be easy.

    Comparatively, the Ares II+ looks more swish and has a lot more terminations available. When we go to sound, the Aries II+ has fuller body and smoother treble. The stock cable is more strident on the treble peaks in Kraftwerk’s Kometenmelodie 2. The soundstage also has more height, width, and instrument separation. I think more metal makes a difference here. This test was in single-ended out of the Aune M1s, switching to balanced had the same result.

    Switching to the binaural Chesky Records recording of Macy Gray – I Tried, notes are noticeably tighter on the Ares II+. This is especially noticeable in the stand-up bass, which sounds a bit dull on the stock cable compared to the Ares II+. Those big bass notes are much more incisive on the Ares II+. The width, and depth of the soundstage is also substantially boosted. The sound has more subtlety with the Ares II+ allowing small imaging details to pop much more precisely.

    After two tracks, it is clear that there are definite sonic advantages to an upgrade to the Ares II+. I don’t need to do any more testing, as the difference is that clear. Even used with a single-ended adaptor on the Aune M1s the advantage was clear in volume matched comparisons. Sound just flows more freely and openly with a bigger stage, better note definition, and less strident treble on treble intensive tracks.

    Specifications
    Specifications
    List price
    $219.90
    Length 4 ft (customisable)
    Wire 22 AWG OCC Litz copper (Litz configuration not defined, purity of copper not specified), Proprietary Multi-Size Stranded design within single encapsulation, quad braid is standard (8 braid bespoke only)
    Insulation material Not specified, listed as same as Leonidas
    Earphone connectors 2-pin CIEM, ATH, FitEar (Right Angle), FitEar (Straight), JH24, JH24 with Bass Control, MMCX, Sennheiser IE
    Jacks 3.5mm TRRS (Straight, Gold), 3.5mm TRS (Right Angle, Gold), 2.5mm TRRS (Straight, Gold), 2.5mm TRRS (Straight, Rhodium), 3.5mm TRS (Straight, Rhodium), 4.4mm TRRRS (Straight, Gold), RSA/ALO Kobicon
    Y-Split Carbon Fibre Mini, Carbon Fibre Rugged (Big), Musicians (heatshrink)
    Optional Accessories 2.5mm TRRS to 3.5mm TRS $50 (Right Angle), 2.5mm TRRS to 4.4mm TRRRS $70 (Straight)

    Conclusions
    The Effect Audio Ares II+ is big and beautiful with a clearly improved sound over the Noble stock cable, which is generally well-regarded. If you have a look around you’ll find plenty of reviews where folks end up going back to Noble’s stock cable after looking at other aftermarket cables. I wouldn’t do that with the Effect Audio Ares II+. I would miss the bigger stage, better note definition, and more precise imaging. The value is excellent at $219.90, as demonstrated by the cost breakdown of what it would take me to make something similar. I’m never going back again.
      lafeuill and ehjie like this.
  2. ryanjsoo
    A Thesis on Custom Cables and Subjective Audio Improvements
    Written by ryanjsoo
    Published Jan 1, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Visually striking/Nice metal terminations/OEM connectors/Highly customizable/Consistent sound quality improvements/Supple/Comfortable
    Cons - No strain reliefs/Mid-forward sound limits versatility/Thick and heavy/Can compromise seal on certain earphone designs/Questionable value
    Introductions –

    I’m not going to lie, my first impression of custom cables always comes down to their aesthetic; bespoke cables are just so visually pleasing, especially EffectAudio’s latest cables which include their custom CF connectors. Humans are inherently drawn to the elaborate, lustrous myriads of silver, gold and copper, and these cables seem almost like jewellery compared to the stock, opaque sheathed cables provided by manufacturers. But beyond looks, sound is definitely levied as the biggest aspect of the custom cable “experience” and also happens to be the most controversial. In my experiences, cables do make a difference, but it’s not the day and night difference some would have you believe and cable upgrades are ultimately not cost effective. It doesn’t help that many custom cables are simply unwieldy and ergonomically subpar.

    [​IMG]

    EffectAudio Thor Copper


    EffectAudio definitely opened my eyes with the Apollo, it wasn’t a sound upgrade to my ears, any differences were incredibly subtle, even non-existent; but ergonomically, the cable was among the best. It was when I moved up to the Thor silver that the sound differences became more pronounced, in what way? I can’t go into too much detail, it’s been a few years since I last used it. Unfortunately, whilst the Thor did sound appreciably better, ergonomically, it was a mixed bag. The cable was springy and a bit stiff, it transmitted a lot of microphonic noise and weighed down the earphones. With the new Ares II line-up, EffectAudio seek to provide a happy medium between both cables, combining the suppleness of a stock manufacturer cable with the sonic benefits of the Thor. Since I have difficulties justifying this article as a review, I will instead present this as my thesis on custom cables using the EffectAudio Ares II+ as an example.

     

    Disclaimer –

    I would like to thank the staff at EffectAudio very much for their generous cable giveaway from which I received the cable completely free of cost. There is no monetary incentive for any positive comments and I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my audio evaluations.

     

    About Me – Some background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases

    I generally prefer a slight v-shape to my sound, but still closer to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity, but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound such as that on the X10`s. I prefer a more neutral midrange within a relatively tight tolerance, but I`m probably more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I`m not particularly treble sensitive and can tolerate large amounts without fatigue, though too much ruins the enjoyment. If I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review I will note that and describe the sound changes.

    Read More

     

    My experiences and thoughts on cable upgrades –

    [​IMG]

    When I first purchased my Westone W30’s, I almost immediately switched from the stock Westone cable to a UE900 remote cable, the remote functionality was simply more convenient and the stock Westone MFI cable was pretty junky. It took a considerable amount of time, about 2 months for me to notice any sound changes as it never really occurred to me that the cable was affecting the sound in any way. I actually only noticed the sound differences when I switched back to the Westone cable, not immediately, but I found I wasn’t the earphones quite as much. After a few days, I switched back to the UE900 cable and spotted the differences; I noticed that the sound had become slightly brighter, slightly more open but also a little more granular? I’m not quite sure how to describe the high-frequency changes, but high notes had become a little crunchier. So even these stock manufacturer cables have their own signatures, some working better with certain earphones. While not a transformative difference, a difference was there to be found and I’m certain it wasn’t due to placebo since cables weren’t even on my mind when I was listening to the W30; I simply found the brighter sound with the UE900 cable more suited towards my preferences and the darker sound of the stock cable less pleasing.

    [​IMG]

    Now, the differences weren’t large, I’ll put emphasis on that, they’re ultimately about as small as that between good sources, maybe even less so. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t spend $300 on a cable for a $400 earphone, I would rather buy a $700 earphone, but for a $1000 earphone, that $300 cable suddenly isn’t such a crazy idea. Unfortunately, the ie800 is the only earphone I have around that price and its cable isn’t fully detachable, so for the sake of this article, I’ll be examining the differences between the stock and Ares II+ through 4 variously priced earphones. At the lower end I’ll be testing the $100 (AUD) Shure SE215, in the middle, the $200 Westone Adventure Alpha, and at the high end, the very accomplished $400 Oriveti Primacy and New Primacy. With these various earphones at several key performance/price brackets, I hope to illuminate the effectiveness of cable upgrades and evaluate the Ares II+ in a more objective manner.

     

    Design –

    [​IMG]

    Of course, sound is not the only reason why one would buy an aftermarket custom cable, there are several other factors, and how much custom cables appeal to you will similarly rely on your satisfaction with the stock cable of your current earphone. In the Shure’s case, the stock cable is beefy and strong but also terribly heavy, quite microphonic and the thick memory wire has never settled well with me. My first custom cable, the EffectAudio Apollo, was mainly an ergonomic upgrade; it was much, much thinner, lighter and the heat shrink ear guides were a huge improvement over Shure’s memory wire system. This is especially pertinent since I frequently used them for running, the stock Shure cable was unmanageable, whilst the Apollo almost disappeared.

    [​IMG]

    Apollo – Ares II+


    The Westones tell a similar story. Though the stock cable is far thinner and lighter than the Shure cable, almost as light as the Apollo in fact, it is also scratchy, prone to tangling and incredibly microphonic. While the larger MMCX connectors on the EffectAudio cables are not the best match to the slim ports of Westone iems, the ergonomic benefits of these cables cannot be denied. The Ares II+ is similarly quite ergonomic. It is a very thick, very heavy cable, but just as the enormous Sennheiser HD800’s can achieve comfort, the Ares II+ achieves an ergonomic fitment through its masterful design.

    [​IMG]

    The heat shrink ear-guides are perfectly formed for almost every over-ear monitor style earphone, they don’t flick over the ears and comfortably conform without the pressure induced by comparable memory wire systems. The cable is also incredibly supple for its size, much more so than any of the stock cables I have on hand and EffectAudio’s own Thor Copper (though the design may have since changed). It is similarly compliant as the exemplary 8-Core cable on the New Primacy however, the Ares II+ doesn’t have the same rubbery texture, it is smooth and doesn’t catch on clothes at all. Suyang is employing varying gauges of copper wire to achieve a nuanced sound and the transparent sheathing allows the buyer to view the lustrous copper strands intertwining along the length of the cable, it really is a striking visual experience. While I can’t confirm whether this really makes a sonic difference, I can say that over my two months of usage, I have not experienced any discoloration of the transparent outer sheath nor oxidation of the copper inside.

    [​IMG]I usually judge the compliance of a cable on its ability to coil and the Ares II+ is one of the only cables that will retains its shape when coiled over 4 fingers. And where the Apollo and Thor were a little rough around the edges, the Ares II+ is a much more complete product. Of course, EffectAudio’s earlier cables themselves were attractive, but no-one would mistake their plastic terminations for pre-moulded oem components. The Ares II+ is now using custom metal and carbon-fibre EffectAudio jacks and y-splits. They are absolutely striking, polished in looks but also retaining that industrial DIY vibe sought after by audiophiles going down the custom route. The y-split also has a nice plastic chin slider though the cable is already very resistant to microphonics.

    [​IMG]

    It’s worth noting that EffectAudio use OEM earphone connectors as well. For example, their MMCX connector is actually an official Shure component resulting in reliable audio transmission. That being said, I do feel like manufacturers have really tightened up the tolerances on their MMCX connectors, my SE535 used to be very intermittent both with the stock cable and EffectAudio Thor, but all of my more modern MMCX earphones have been rock solid, even the SE215.

    [​IMG]

    The connectors are quite large, but suit the thicker cable well, the jack also has adequate protrusion to fit in even the bulkiest of smartphone cases. I would have liked to see some sort of strain relief on the cable, but EffectAudio have assured that all terminations have adequate internal reinforcement and such a thick cable is less susceptible to stress than thinner cables anyway. The thick cable and metal connectors do weight the cable down at times, it is most definitely not suitable for exercise but does well for home listening and general commute. On the more finicky Oriveti Primacy, the cable can compromise the seal and stability, but on the deeper fitting Westones and Shures, the cable hardly affects fitment at all and increases wearing comfort.

    [​IMG]

    So overall, the level of finish really is remarkable for a custom cable; each side is exactly the same length, the two pieces of heat shrink that wrap around your ears are both perfectly matched and the transparent sheathing allows the buyer to admire Suyang’s innovative multi-gauge wire setup.

     

    Comparisons & Sound Analysis –

    Before reading EffectAudio’s excerpt on the sonic benefits of the ARES II+, I did a little listening of my own to kind of gain some unbiased subjective impressions. Honestly, my impressions did line up with Suyang’s claims (although they are very vague) and did I see pretty consistent sound changes among all of my MMCX earphones. Suyang states that the Ares II+ produces:

    “Immersive and alluring, intimate vocals, visceral bass punch, while removing that veil in the highs… Offering more balance, more treble extension and more vocals allure.”

    In my two months of testing, I found that the Ares II+ provided a more textured, defined bass response and a more forward midrange with more clarity. Treble is least affected though it still receives notable if less immediately discernible changes. Higher treble notes are brought slightly more forward in the mix and I do generally hear a more forward sense of detail as well (though this could also be a result of the increased midrange clarity produced by this cable). Overall, it is a great match to darker earphones, opening up the sound and tightening up the bass, these more congested earphones tend to sound more separated and airy when paired with the Ares II+. Brighter earphones experience similar increases in sound quality, ie. Increased bass definition, detail and separation, though I do not necessarily agree with the tonal changes which can often ere on over-brightness, but more on that below.

     

    Shure Se215 ($100) –

    [​IMG]

    I personally think it is ridiculous to even consider spending almost $300 on a cable for a ~$100 earphone, and I think the vast majority of readers out there will agree. For instance, the $400 New Primacy is a far better sounding earphone than the SE215 equipped with Ares II+, even the marginally more expensive Westone Alpha sounds better (both stock). Instead, you can take this as an example of the extent of the sound changes that cables can produce.

    The SE215 fits into that darker category of earphones, they have a forward, bloated bass response and recessed upper mids. The treble response is relatively neutral but rolls off quite quickly, sapping the sound of detail and that sense of openness that you experience from higher end earphones. They have brilliant ergonomics ruined by an overly bulky, rigid stock cable; it’s really no wonder why people are in such a hurry to replace it. I’ve been using the SE215 with the Effect Audio Apollo for several years now and the Ares II+ is just as ergonomic since the stable fitment of the Shure’s counteracts the cable’s heavy weight. Despite this, the cable is much more comfortable and supple than the stock cable, it is also far more flexible than the springy Apollo.

    The sound changes are also very positive. From bottom to top, bass remains forward and full, but also more impactful and less tubby, there is more definition as a result. Mids are still recessed but to a lesser extent and the earphones sound more balanced overall. Lower mids remain similar, maybe slightly less warm and upper mids no longer sounds so recessed and veiled though female vocals still sound slightly truncated. The high end also sounds considerably more open and airy, the cable doesn’t alleviate the high-end roll-off but does well to bring the higher details that are already there to the fore. I definitely prefer the sound of the Shure’s with the Ares II+ but the outright sound quality (not tonality or balance) still does not match that of the slightly more expensive Westone Alphas (stock cable), the Westones still provide a more textured, extended listen.

     

    Westone Adventure Alpha ($200) –

    [​IMG]

    The Alphas have quite a dark sound with a recessed midrange on account of their intended usage as a sports earphone. They sound somewhat similar to the Shure SE215 but have an even more tamed treble response and more of a sub/low bass boost rather than a mid/upper bass boost, sounding less tubby as a result. Given that the Ares II+ grants a more forward midrange and more clarity, I found it is a fantastic match to the Alpha. Of course, being a sports earphone, I wouldn’t really recommend buying it with the intention of using it with a custom cable, but if you already have an earphone like this, the Ares II+ will likely give you the same kind of positive results.

    Bass improvements were subtle, the Alpha already has a pretty accomplished bass response even if the tuning is a little forward and muddy. The Ares II+ retains this signature whilst adding more definition and tightness to lower and sub-bass notes. The Westone Alphas actually have a reasonably linear midrange, even if it is recessed. They are less veiled sounding than the Shure’s and the increased midrange presence created by the Ares II+ sound much more pleasing. Both lower and upper mids are brought forward, granting more balance and slightly more clarity. Though treble was still behind in the mix even with the new cable, the high end had more clarity and details became more forward.

    I should also note that the cable was very difficult to install and remove from these earphones due to the design of the housings which only permits very slim MMCX connectors, the Shure style MMCX connectors on the Ares II+ just fit but were so tight that they were unable to rotate and very difficult to remove. Despite this, sound was reliable but I would guess that long term usage with the Westone could damage either the cable or earphones connectors. EffectAudio do provide Westone specific connectors that are slimmer and have that shorter MMCX connector. I feel that the Ares II+ has great synergy with all of Westone’s earphones including the Alpha, W30, W40 and Um 50 Pro since they all have a darker tonal balance.

     

     

    Oriveti Primacy ($400) –

    [​IMG]

    The Primacy is a much more balanced earphone than the Alpha and SE215 though it is still one that has some deviations from neutral. It carries a u-shaped sound that could benefit from increased midrange presence despite already having a slightly brighter tonal tilt. Mids have great quality and lower/sub bass definition and treble roll-off were my biggest complaints.

    When equipping the Ares II+, I immediately noticed more high-end presence, both upper midrange and treble. I did AB extensively with the stock cable to affirm my gut instinct and found that, while subtle in the grand scheme of things (they don’t sound like a different earphone), the high end had definitely opened up more. In particular, female vocals sounded slightly more forward, which was questionable on the already forward sounding Primacy and treble was more prevalent and thus, details sounded more forward, which was more of an upgrade given that the Primacy has a more relaxed treble response. The low end received a few positive changes too. To my ears, lower mids were identical but bass had more definition and was perhaps a little tighter.

    The cable had nice synergy with the Primacy overall, but for my preferences, upper mids became overly forward on certain tracks. Fitment also suffered drastically, the Primacy comes with a very light weight UE900 style cable and the lower fit stability of the Primacy combined with the heavy Ares II+ greatly compromised fit reliability. While I did prefer the sound with the Ares II+, the Primacy became unstable, often losing seal and the heat shrink ear guides on the cable were not tall enough to clear the top of my ears, producing a hotspot over time.

     

     

    Oriveti New Primacy ($400) –

    [​IMG]

    The New Primacy is probably the best earphone to test the sound differences of the Ares II+ since it is extremely neutral, allowing for any deviations in tonality to come to the fore. I do personally prefer a slightly more u-shaped sound, so my experiences with the neutral New Primacy and mid-forward Ares II+ were a little more polarising than with the other earphones. That being said, the New Primacy also experienced the least pronounced changes off all the earphones in this comparison, perhaps the stock cable is already very good, which I can attest to from comparison to the original Primacy cable.

    As expected, the New Primacy sounded cleaner with the Ares II+, it also sounded more detailed. That being said, for the already very clear, slightly mid-forward New Primacy, I actually found the sound to be overly mid forward. I also found the stock cable to provide a more textured bass response than the Ares II+ though this could also be due to the more mid-forward sound of the EffectAudio cable overshadowing the low end. Sub-bass with the Ares II+ sounded fuller but the stock cable sounds bassier overall. Soundstage was noticeably better with the Ares II+ aiding separation as well however for my tastes, the sound was simply too forward.

    So honestly, I would take the sound signature with the stock cable any day even if the quality of the midrange isn’t quite as good and details don`t sound so crisp. I guess this becomes a comment on synergy, either the Effect Audio cable is more transparent than the stock cable or perhaps it is more coloured? Regardless, this cable will not be a definite audio “upgrade” for every earphone nor every listener. In terms of ergonomics, the vastly more stable fitting New Primacy in addition to the slight change in connector angle result in a relatively reliable fitment even with the custom cable. There were times were the thicker custom cable would cause the earphones to seal and the shaping of the heat shrink is still not ideal for this kind of earphone, but comfort remained fantastic with no hotspots forming at the top of my ear. Visually speaking, it’s a pretty striking combo as well!

     

    Summary –

    The Ares II+ doesn’t create detail and extension that is not initially there, but rather brings out the intricacies that get overshadowed due to poor tuning choices. Treble and bass extension, for instance, don’t improve, but any roll-off that was present when stock is less prevalent with Ares II+, resulting in a greater sense of low-end slam and high-end detail and resolution. Buyers also have to take into account that the more expensive Primacy and especially New Primacy likely include better quality stock cables than both the Westones and Shures which is why those earphones actually benefit less and in some cases didn’t benefit at all from the Ares II+.

    My objective measure of these sound changes came from differences in volume as these are immediately noticeable when comparing between two pieces of equipment. I did notice that the majority of earphones were actually more sensitive with the Ares II+, which probably had an impact on my impressions of more detail and upper midrange presence; louder generally sounds better to most people. On the contrary, the New Primacy was actually slightly less sensitive with the Ares II+, quite strange. So, like many things, it also comes down to where you came from, not necessarily where you’re heading. For instance, I preferred the sound of the Primacy with the Ares II+ over the stock cable more than I preferred the ergonomics of the stock cable over the EffectAudio one; I preferred both the sound quality and ergonomics of the Shure SE215 with the Ares II+ when compared to the stock cable and I actually preferred the stock cable in both ergonomics and sound on the New Primacy over the Ares II+. Was the sound upgrade worth $300 AUD? The answer is ultimately no. The cable rather provided just a little extra for all of these earphones, most of which are already very good sounding earphones in their price range, and the cable upgrade alone was not enough to make the earphone comparable to those in the price range above.

    But on the flipside, I can see how people might be willing to go down this path, even if they don’t have a $1000 earphone. It can also be quite intimidating to let go of your current earphone, however much it may cost, and purchase a higher-end earphone purely based upon the accounts of other users on the net; an earphone whose tonality you may not even enjoy as much as your current earphone which you are comfortable with
    (not everyone has access to retail stores that allow demoing or returns). With custom cables, the buyer can improve the sound quality of their current earphone whilst retaining the same essence. For instance, I’m not a huge fan of the Shure SE846 due to the fitment but I have no issue with the SE535 and enjoy it’s sound quite a lot. So suddenly the SE535 with Thor Copper becomes more viable than the SE846, not only did the cable improve the sound quality, it also improved the ergonomics too; it was the only step up while remaining in my comfort zone. Some could say that the thrill of this hobby is to upgrade and sidegrade until you reach your endgame, but not everyone has that kind of mentality (or budget) and for such consumers, custom cables can be a great way to achieve improvement relatively risk-free, just understand the extent of the improvements you will receive.


    Perhaps a more ambiguous question, some may wonder whether cables make a bigger difference than a source upgrade? To my ears, it’s similar, and it relies heavily on how good your current source is. For instance, the Ares II+ made a bigger difference to the sound quality of my SE215’s than swapping from my HTC 10 to my Oppo HA-2 ($340 AUD). But if I was upgrading from my laptop’s integrated sound card to the Oppo, then the differences would undeniably be larger than those invoked by the cable upgrade. The same goes for stock cables, some of which are vastly better than others. Ironically, the more expensive earphones in this article received smaller benefits. If I had a set of Westone W80’s for instance, the $300 cable would of course, be more justifiable, but also less necessary since the W80 comes with an 8-core ALO Audio custom cable anyway. In the end, it’s called a custom cable, not a cable upgrade as the sound changes are all relative and sound quality is just one facet of the custom cable experience; as far as ergonomics and visual are concerned, the Ares II+ is far more impressive than any stock cable I’ve seen on an earphone under $1000.

     

    Verdict –

    So ultimately, does it really matter whether cables make an objective difference? In my eyes, if the cable has made a subjective transformative difference to you, whether or not it actually affected audio performance in any way, then your purchase was worth it. But problems do arise when newer, less experienced listeners first come to Head-fi or other forums and hear about the amazing effects of cables, spend the majority of their hard earned cash and very possibly walk away unrewarded. It is important to stay grounded about such things, don’t  overstate the effects look into more expensive earphones over cheaper earphones with a custom cable.

    [​IMG]

    But there still remains something charming about this business, so should it be called; the romantic ideal of a single university student hand-making cables from some of the finest materials in the world and eventually blooming into an internationally established business (then providing competitions where people such as myself may experience these efforts first-hand!). So whilst cables are, and probably will be for the foreseeable future, a highly subjective medium; I for one, think that the passion, workmanship and ultimately, end user subjective performance improvements, are all very welcome in the audio community.

    Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please have a look at my blog!

    https://everydaylisteningblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/01/a-thesis-on-custom-cables-and-subjective-audio-improvements/

     

     

     

      noplsestar, Cinder and proedros like this.
  3. sonickarma
    A Classic Treasure Unearthed With Beauty to Astound
    Written by sonickarma
    Published Jul 29, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Lovely mids, punchy bass and nice warm musical signature at a fantastic price
    Cons - Hardly no negative aspects, maybe not for those would love the clinical sound
    I was excited to be approached by world famous cable artisan company 'Effect Audio' and asked me to provide a review of their recently released
    Ares II + Plus Edition IEM cable. 
     
    This cable is part of their excellent Premium Series range of cables.
     
    http://www.effectaudio.com/upgrade-cables/iem-cables/iem-premium-series/plus-edition/ares-ii.html
     

     
     
    The manufacturer cable features and specifications:
     
    1. 22 AWG
    2. UPOCC Litz Copper
    3. Proprietary Multi Size Stranded design within single encapsulation*
    4. Flexible insulation (Same as Leonidas)**
    5. New EA CF connectors and Y-Split

    *Multi-Size Stranded Design within the same encapsulations enables the Ares to achieve distinct highs and details due to the signal transmission speed in thinner cable strands while the thicker size are usually employed for smooth bass and mids. 
     
    **Past experience has taught us that even though sound quality is a critical factor in determining an upgrade cable's worth, the tensile strength and flexibility matters to us too! We are committed not to have anything less than perfect for our consumers. The reworked insulation features high tensile strength and flexibility and while adding as little weight as possible.
     
    Pricing:
    USD$219.90 for most connectors
    Add $20 for FitEar connectors
    Add $50 for JH Audio connectors
     
    Wow!
    The Ares II+ is priced extremely modestly (USD219) and one of the best looking and best value cables out there performing way above the pricing level.
    I seriously thought it could be a miss price!
     
     
    What am I getting:
    Looking at the rather basic understated white cardboard box with a small 'effect audio logo' on top, a sense of being under whelmed sinks in.
     

     
     
    That is until you unveil the hidden treasures inside.
     

     
     
    Like a modern day Howard Carter pulling away the last stone of a tedious excavation and peering inside.
     
    When Carnarvon asked "Can you see anything?"
    Carter replied with the famous words "Yes, wonderful things!"
     

     
     
    Yes this is a wonderful treasure, coiled and infused with magical potential, lying there calling to be caressed and have her voice heard.
     
    Worshiped by the 'tribe of audiophiles' with their precious rigs of hybridised audio tools, soon they will build micro-monuments for her.
     
    The mesmerising flowing undulating strands of organic copper interlink around each other, fighting for dominance of the sun goddess' rays to ignite and sparkle, each demanding more attention than the last.
     
    For the brave tribesmen who are pulled in by the desire to drink and drown in the copper, to be one with the gods and dare to touch the 'manna from heaven' they are rewarded with a soft seductive pleasure of promises and instantly elevated in the tribe for their boldness.
     

     

     
     
    The gods craftsmen have skills that are truly a thing to be admired, as the copper is joined with gold and black carbon fibre of beautiful balanced precision.
     

     

     

     
     
    Connecting to other rare treasures:
     
    The Ares II+ with Rhapsodio RTi2 and AK380CU (FW1.25 - creamy!), both visually and more importantly audibly seem to have a preordained synergy, all created independently but destined for each other.
     

     

     

     

     
     
    So what powers does she posses....
    I thought rather than generally discussing its technicals characteristics I would provide a summary of how it handles some tracks I am very familiar with, after all we love audio because of the music not the technicals!  (I will leave that for the 'binary tribes', usually seen hunting in pairs)
     
     
    Boards of Canada - Reach For The Dead
     

     
     
    Starting with slow tight punching bass with what seems like slow static background air being released, the majestic chords rise up and build with a beautiful 80s esque electronic arpeggio. The pace increases as the epic chord sweeps merge effortlessly in and out of the percussion culminating in wave that rises and phases into an outro leaving you desiring the next chapter. 
     
    As the Ares II+ is ideal for mids and bass, it holds the depth of this track and keeps it expansive wideness as the chords sweep. The change of pace and different track direction is expertly handled with no over colouring or dominated ranges, and the right amount of kick and thickness.
     
    Olafur Arnalds - Only The Winds
     

     
    A single piano key struck expertly for the first 24 seconds with slight airy ambient background and light building chords set the tone of this track, your attention is captured at the beauty and simplicity. A more complex but yet simple piano style is built with the pace and as the bass and rising violins make themselves know around 1.07min mark. The beautiful slow decay clap percussion joins in with the sad yet uplifting violins. By 3.00min just the percussion is gone and you are dropped and lost temporarily waiting to be resurrected by the familiar sweeping chords and crashing echoes of percussion. At 4.23min the sadness dominates and 'Only the Winds' are left for your existence.
     
    The Ares II+ sustains the keys long enough and with perfect depth, the layering and undulating dominance of the instruments are handled expertly, the soul of this track is kept entact and the hope is still there to the end along with the wind.
     
    Bvdub - Another Morning, Another Day
     

     
    This starts with a spacious and intimate, slow pulsing airy intro. It has a perfect depth as it builds to the vocals and piano. The ethereal female vocals are so intimate and close that you cant help but feel connected. As around 5.47min the fast attack bass and percussion slow decays with extended sustains to tease every millisecond of pleasure to your soul. Precise soft sub bass is pulsed out at around 11mins to get your head grooving. 
     
    The Ares II+ perfectly navigates everything in this ocean of audio art, surfing and steering to epic effect riding the crescendos of musicality beyond expectation.
    In fact the whole album - 'A step in the dark' is a perfect match for this cable.
     
    Ended up putting this track on repeat - 'wont you pick me up again' - yes time and time again.
     
    Conclusion:
     
    I honestly can't fault The Ares II+ especially when paired with the Rhapsodio RTi2 for musicality as is pours on lashes of nice and thick syrupy musical goodness. A thing of beauty with little to no microphonics, expertly built and very reasonably priced. Pulling new depth and dimensions from your favourite tracks and keeping musicality at the front of the stage. Warm, comforting and almost a sin to feel this sense of enjoyment. As your friends looks at you head nodding and smiling, they will have no idea what they are missing and you will feel a guilty pleasure with your newfound treasure.
     

     
    I for one bow to the creator!
     

     

     
     
    Note: In the interest of full disclosure these were sent to me from Effect Audio for review.
    Thanks to Effect Audio for letting my try this excellent Cable.
     
    After such a positive experience I am keen to try and review some of their higher end models/new products in the future
      wxkwin, deafdoorknob and proedros like this.
    1. highwind2008
      looks great, seems like a perfect match with the ak380 copper
      highwind2008, Sep 23, 2016
    2. sonickarma
      yep a match made in heaven.  An excellent value cable with great craftmanship
      sonickarma, Oct 18, 2016