Effect Audio Cleopatra

General Information

Cleopatra
  • 26 AWG
  • Selected UP-OCC Pure Silver
  • Golden Ratio Dispersion Multi-Sized Stranded
  • Woven Kevlar infused Septuplet Core Bundle Litz
  • Individually Enameled Strands
  • Superior PSquared / P-EA plugs
  • EA UltraFlexi Jacket
  • Price: US$699
Cleo.jpg

Latest reviews

Pros: Highly detailed and resolving cable that maintains a smooth sound, analogue bass, reveals treble without introducing peaks, looks, build quality, wonderful looking metal case
Cons: Price, pairings give different results
Effect Audio Cleopatra

Disclaimer
I would like to thank Effect Audio for providing me with the Cleopatra cable in exchange for my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favourable review.

Cleopatra
  • 26 AWG
  • Selected UP-OCC Pure Silver
  • Golden Ratio Dispersion Multi-Sized Stranded
  • Woven Kevlar infused Septuplet Core Bundle Litz
  • Individually Enameled Strands
  • Superior PSquared / P-EA plugs
  • EA UltraFlexi Jacket
  • Price: US$699

Links:
https://www.effectaudio.com
https://www.facebook.com/effectaudiosg

Preamble
This year is a very special year for Effect Audio, as the Singapore-based company will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary (2009-2019). In those ten years they have worked their way into the forefront of aftermarket cable design. Cables are still a somewhat controversial issue among audiophiles, but based on my own experience they can make a significant difference once you find the right synergy between the IEMs, the source and the cable. In my opinion synergy trumps the price-point of the cable, although I will at the same time admit that Effect Audio's Leonidas II is probably my favourite cable of all those I have heard and, yes, it does not exactly come cheap. Still, if I wanted to be sensible I would not have become an audiophile in the first place.

The thing I love so much about Effect Audio is that they have different tiers of cables such as their Premium cables that have been their starting point for anyone interested in aftermarket cables. This has now been complimented by the arrival of a more affordable cable called the Origin that has been offered through a trade-up program. My first aftermarket cable was actually a prototype of the Origin and I always kept telling Effect Audio that they should release it because of how nice it was, so it was great to see that finally happened. My favourite tier however is the Heritage series of cables. I wrote about this series in my review of Lionheart and it is the series where Effect Audio experiment with much more than just the conductor material. It gets really innovative and is nothing like a simple "slap on an exotic material and bump up the price" like some cynics might suggest. This is something that Cleopatra illustrates quite nicely, as it is a pure silver cable and yet it is nothing like the stereotype "silver cable sound". Effect Audio clearly did something special here. So let's have a closer look at what Effect Audio have been able to achieve with a classic cable material as a core, topped with a dash of innovation and a sprinkle (or more) of bling.

Unboxing
When the parcel with Cleopatra arrived at my doorstep I was rather surprised by the hefty weight of it and for a moment I was worried that they had jokingly packed a brick instead of the cable. But no, I opened up the parcel and there was the familiar black box I knew from the bespoke cables, Lionheart and Leonidas II (although the latter had a different colour). However, there was still the weight and I wondered what would be revealed once the sleeve was removed. I quickly removed it and opened the cover to... Wow! There it was. I have seen some nice cases, but the mirror-polished case that was revealed really trumped them all. Not only was it very pretty, it was really solid (hence the weight) and I immediately thought it would sit well as a decorative item on a table in one of those magazine-style living rooms. But like magazine-style living rooms, the case does need a lot of polishing to keep off the fingerprints. "You can look, but don't touch." To heck with that! I'm opening it up and getting my hands on that cable! Ooh, look shiny... *drools all over it*

Leave it to Effect Audio to make things pretty damn pretty.

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Build quality and ergonomics
The cable itself is another gorgeous affair and I always yearn for a macro-lens every time I get cables like this in because I just can't do the cable justice with my current photography gear. The wires have a sort of silk-like texture and Effect Audio came up with the prettiest and shiniest y-split I have ever seen. The termination (a 2.5mm balanced PSquared plug) and the connectors (2-pin) I have seen before and it all works together very well. The build quality is great and I have not had issues with the covers of the connectors coming loose, which was the only point of criticism I have had with Effect Audio cables in the past.

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The ergonomics are again top notch and is among the very best I have tried. The cable is extremely supple and does not tangle in any way when I store it. I wear glasses and even then it feels like the cable just disappears when I use it. I actually had to check this very closely, but there are heat shrinks covering the cable near the connectors to form the ear guides, but they are damn near invisible and you wouldn't know they were there unless you were specifically looking for them. Well, at least that was the case with me. I know I can be an idiot at times, but this is impressively impressive. (Yes, I too am sensing a theme of repetition here. I guess shiny things do that to me.)

Source and IEMs
All listening was done with the Cowon Plenue 2, a neutral DAP, from the balanced out. Because synergy is very important with cable pairings, I tried a number of different IEMs. As they are my daily drivers, the main impressions I give here were made with the Empire Ears Phantom and I will give more succinct impressions of additional pairings further down.

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Presentation
Cleopatra has been a difficult cable for me to pin down and I think Effect Audio did well to give it a female name, because it feels like everything it does is with a feminine touch. Where my Phantom paired with Leonidas II was bold and exciting, the pairing with Cleopatra is delicate and it takes longer to fully appreciate. At first the pairing felt too bright, but the more time I gave it, the more I started to appreciate the way Cleopatra toned down the thick and bold naturalness of the Phantom to something almost understated, but not quite. As I was doing other things and just casually listening I felt increasingly compelled to move with the music, getting more and more lost into the way the notes flowed. I could just sense Cleopatra taking her time to seduce me. Definitely a feminine touch there.

Cleopatra expands the stage of the Phantom by quite a margin and reduces some of the warmth so that the stage feels cleaner and more airy. However, it is not done like I am used to and Cleopatra seems to manage two things that are diametrically opposed, it improves detail retrieval and resolution noticeably and yet also achieves a silky smoothness to the overall signature. I don't know how Effect Audio managed this, but it is what kept me coming back to the pairing with my Phantom even though I initially felt it was too bright. It isn't really, the Phantom sound less warm, but not bright. The smoothness is as enticing as a warm blanket on a cold day... just not warm... Does it make sense? I don't even quite know, but it is what Cleopatra does.

Bass
Cleopatra of course reduces some of the warmth of the Phantom's bass, but it is not at the price of bass performance. Just the warmth is reduced a little and in return the bass gets more detailed and textured, while adding a bit more sub-bass extension as well. It is that curious nature of the Cleopatra again, where I would say the bass becomes more analogue sounding and yet the cable as such does not add a lot of warmth, quite the opposite. So the double bass in Caro Emerald's acoustic version of Back it Up (one of my favourite tracks with the Phantom) sits a little further back and yet has a delicious texture to it and so much detail comes through. I do feel that some of the excitement is lost compared to the stock Ares II, where the warmth adds to the musicality of the Phantom. With Cleopatra that musicality is reduced a little and the performance takes on a more refined feel. Dinner jackets at the ready gentleman! I can just see myself sitting at the table in a luxury club enjoying the live performance of Caro in front of me. Not a jazz club, but more a supper club.

Mids
Speaking of Caro... Those vocals! The Phantom have excellent vocals and I have heard them even better with cables such as Leonidas II, but the pairing with Cleopatra seems to surpass everything I have heard so far. I don't have Leonidas II with me anymore for a direct comparison, but I would not be surprised if I would prefer Cleopatra. It does seem to come at the cost of some of the weight that male vocals usually have with the Phantom and the throatiness that is typical of the heavier male vocals. In choral pieces male vocals are a bit less authoritative than I am used to. They still have a clear enough presence and one can argue that the balance is more equal like this. Since I mostly listen to female vocals, I really enjoy the result anyway and could not be more pleased.

Of course I always enjoy listening to Beethoven with my Phantom and the pairing with Cleopatra works very well. There is again a bit less exuberance and more refinement that works very well for classical music. The mids stay very natural with a lovely fullness to the instruments, but separation and layering feels better here with more details that are coming through. Yet there is that smoothness and notes flow with the typical liquidity I have come to know and love from Effect Audio's Heritage series cables.

Treble
In my opinion the Phantom get a little more treble sparkle when paired with Cleopatra, but it is not due to a specific treble lift, rather (I suspect) more to do with the reduction in the overall warmth of the signature that allows the treble to come through more clearly and cleanly. The treble loses some of the sweetness that I am familiar with and instead brightens a little. If I would give it a colour the treble usually feels like it has a hint of gold, where with Cleopatra it becomes more silvery. Not sure if that imagery helps in any way to get an idea of what Cleopatra does, but I often associate colours with sounds (yes, I am weird) and the silvery image sort of worked with the whole silver-theme we have going with Cleopatra. Still, even though it might be a brighter sounding treble, I think it does not come through a specific lift and instead is coming from the Phantom's own treble lift. Much like with the Leonidas II I think it means that someone who owns the Phantom and is looking to tame that treble peak a bit will be better off looking at other options. I generally have no issues here and quite enjoy the extra sparkle Cleopatra reveals, but it can at times come a little close to my treble sensitivity as well. This is one of the reasons why I might not feel this pairing is the optimal one for my preferences.

Pairings
-64 Audio U12t (M20)-
I generally find that the U12t can do with a bit more warmth and enjoy them mainly paired with Lionheart, so I was not expecting that the pairing with Cleopatra would work for my preferences, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. The pairing results in a more authoritative low end that more than compensates for the lack of warmth in the rest of the signature. The mids of the U12t sound clear and detailed, and while I might like maybe a hint more fullness to the instruments, it is quite natural. Vocals get a bit of a boost too, but I think the benefit is again stronger for female vocals then for male vocals. The Tia treble of the U12t gets revealed by Cleopatra and there the result is really very nice. There is a very natural and clear sparkle there without any noticeable peaks and so, contrary to the Phantom, I feel this pairing works very well for the treble. The overall result is brighter.... uh, less warm than I would like, but very smooth, detailed and still a joy to listen to. Seems like a great choice for people who consider the Phantom too fluffy and warm, but still would like a smooth signature with outstanding technical characteristics.

-64 Audio Tia Trio-
This is a really nice pairing, in my opinion. Cleopatra cleans the Trio a little bit and consistent with what I found with other pairings it reduces some of the warmth of the bass, while giving it that analogue quality and more detail at the same time. The bass extends a little deeper and gets more sub-bass growl, while the reduced warmth cleans up the mids. The mids end up sounding cleaner and clearer and I feel vocals are also a little clearer. Sometimes I find that female vocals can get a touch more brightness to them and felt that the U12t pairing performed a little better here. Much like with the U12t it seems that Cleopatra also reveals the excellent Tia treble of the Trio. There is more sparkle and I find that with rock music such as the Foo Fighters, cymbals come through more clearly. Again Cleopatra does not introduce or accentuate any treble peaks, it just reveals what is there more clearly. The overall sound is cleaner and more detailed, while taking on a wonderfully smooth character that feels like it should contradict the added level of detail, but doesn't.

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Conclusions
The Effect Audio Cleopatra is probably the most special cable I have tried to date. Not in the "OMG I am blown away"-type of special, but more in terms of presenting a character that seems to differ quite a lot from what I am used to. Because of that I genuinely feel like I have not been able to get the most out of this cable just yet, as the IEMs I have tried synergised well, but not as superbly as some of the other pairings I have tried (eg. my Phantom with Leonidas II, or the Vision Ears VE5 with Lionheart). I strongly suspect that had I a larger number of IEMs to try out, I would have found a synergy that was absolutely outstanding. Cleopatra is simply that special and a cable that I feel will appeal to many people. Cleopatra is a wonderfully clear, detailed and highly resolving cable with an analogue bass, super smooth mids and the ability to reveal treble without introducing any peaks. Build quality is excellent and it looks incredible.
ezekiel77
ezekiel77
You're on a roll!
Dionysus
Dionysus
Nice Write up.

Comments

Cleopatra 4 wire, Astell&Kern SE100, Empire Ears Valkyrie...

Enhanced sub bass rumble is clean and layered...mid bass has good thump...Sound stage open up and becomes wayyyy more coherent... Black background, and a refined smoothness that transitions from the upper mids into the high effortlessly, lots of air... Sounds smooth, elegant, and beautiful...
 
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