Effect Audio Cleopatra


No DD, no DICE
Effect Audio Cleopatra – The Silver Seductress
Pros: Premium build quality and packaging using luxury materials
Excellent ergonomics with negligible microphonics
Interesting balance of warmth with midbass lift and open, detailed treble
A smooth, supple sound, look and feel
Good value for the price
Cons: Midbass lift won't suit all IEMs, and can mask some sub-bass rumble
4.4mm gold-plated plug doesn't quite match the overall aesthetic
No cleaning cloth included for the mirror case (I'm nit-picking!)
Effect Audio needs no introduction in the world of bespoke IEM cables. Founded by Sy (Zou Su Yang) in 2009, EA quickly became one of Singapore’s go-to companies for custom cables, and remains so to this day.

I’ve personally had limited experience of EA’s products to date, the Ares II – which I received as the stock cable with the Empire Ears Legend X – was technically my introduction to the brand, but Cleopatra is my first exposure to the type of cable that put Sy on the map as an innovator and groundbreaker.


The pitch

Cleopatra forms part of EA’s Heritage Series, second only to the company’s Hall of Fame ‘Summit-Fi’ cables. It’s an unmistakably well-made, precision-engineered, high-end cable, made with pure silver wire and a plethora of technologies EA considers its own. But unlike traditional silver cables, Cleo’s claim to fame is that the effect it has on sound is nothing like the bright, cool, shimmery cables that silver is often known for.

Instead, Cleopatra is a smooth seductress, infusing my IEMs with subtle warmth, but retaining the sparkle and open treble of a pure silver conductor. While I’ll get into specific tonal characteristics and pairings later, it’s fair to say that, like its namesake, Cleopatra is beautiful, soft, and oh so easy on the eye.


Like jewellery

If you’re anything like me, buying a high-end audio cable is as much about the look and feel as it is about the sound. With Cleo, however, you’re getting more than that. This becomes immediately apparent as soon as you hold the oversized box in your hands and feel the sheer weight of the packaging. The dark grey exterior features a slide-out section, with Cleopatra screen printed in clear white on the top half, and the Effect Audio logo embossed on the pull-out ‘drawer’ at the bottom.

Sliding out the bottom section reveals a velour-covered lid, below which sits one of the most elegant cases I’ve seen on any audio product, let alone an IEM cable. Like a fine piece of jewellery befitting a queen, Cleopatra is housed inside a solid, heavy-set box of carved stainless steel, hand-polished to a perfect mirror finish with a small, etched EA logo on the lid.

For a minute I completely forgot what I had in front me, and simply lost myself in the reflections of this orb-like object, as if it were some strange artefact gleaned from a visiting spaceship. Hesitating, I realised that touching any part of this glorious edifice would smear it with fingerprints, but, eventually, I just had to get on with it… (video of me polishing the mirror case for half an hour goes here)


Look, feel and features

Cleopatra takes the silver theme quite literally, with a see-through PVC jacket revealing the fine silver strands, and a custom polished steel Y-splitter that looks like a solid silver nugget. Even the chin slider is mirror-polished. The only part of the cable that looks ‘out of place’ is the 4.4mm Pentaconn-certified plug with its gold-plated finish and black carbon motif (which I suppose you can’t see when in use).

I ordered Cleo with EA’s new multi-connector system, ConX, which comes with matching polished steel housings (though you can select a glossy black option too). This being the Reserve Edition of ConX, EA included a small case with spare gold-plated 2-pin and mmcx screw-on plugs. ConX makes Cleo usable with all my IEMs, and is a highly recommended, inexpensive ($30) add-on to any new EA cable order (see my ConX impressions here).


Compared to the Ares II cable, which I’ve always considered quite stiff, wiry and tangle-prone, Cleopatra’s is finished in EA’s silky smooth UltraFlex PVC jacket that makes it both supple in hand and almost totally tangle-free. Try as I may, I’m yet to see an errant kink anywhere, and however I fold it, Cleo always returns to its svelte original form. Even the moulded ear guides are made of an ultrathin material that almost looks like part of the jacket itself, and disappears when wrapped around my ears.

Speaking of which, Cleo has to be one of the most comfortable cables I’ve had the pleasure of using. The combination of not-too-thick wire and an ultrathin, ultra-supple sheathing means once it’s in place, chances are you’ll soon forget you’re wearing a cable. The combination of the PVC jacket and cleverly designed Y-spit also makes Cleo the least microphonic cable I’ve used to date. No matter how much I rub the cable, against hand or fabric, almost zero friction noise makes it to my ears.

Not only is Cleopatra good-looking, like the feeling of soft, pampered skin, there’s some serious technology beneath the surface too. For starters, the cable itself is made up of four 26AWG gauge, extremely high-grade purity UP-OCC silver wires, Kevlar-reinforced, and arranged in a multi-strand formation based on the Golden Ratio principle. The 7-core wires are made with Litz materials, meaning each individual strand is enamel coated, giving it a larger surface area for signal conduction.

Whether or not you believe that arranging multiple strands of varying thickness wire in a naturally occurring pattern makes any difference whatsoever to how a cable conducts electric signals, you have to admit there’s a certain romanticism behind the idea. What’s not in question is the quality material that went into making this cable, which makes it as much a precious object as it does a utilitarian accessory. If you ask me, that’s exactly what you want if you’re spending the better part of $1000 on a cable.


Sound impressions

Before I start dissecting how I hear Cleopatra, I just want to clarify that I’m not actually hearing Cleopatra at all. It feels silly to even say it, but cables don’t make any sound. Duh, you say, but read enough cable reviews or engage in enough heated cable discussions online, and you’d almost swear they do! But alas, all cables do is move a signal from point A (your amp) to point B (your IEMs or headphones). Yes folks, it’s true, shocking as it may seem, it’s the IEMs you’re hearing, not the cable.

Silliness aside, I’m a firm believer that cables can and do affect how you hear the sound coming from your IEMs. Without getting into a scientific dissection of measurements and whatnot (cable deniers, please feel free to leave the room at this point, if you haven’t already), it stands to reason that if your IEMs sound warmer, cooler, thicker, duller, clearer or punchier, with the only changing variable being the cable, then the change in sound must be coming from…the cable, right? This is especially true if many different people in different parts of the world hear similar changes, right? Otherwise, the power of suggestion and hive-mind placebo must be a serious force to be reckoned with!


But I digress. This is how I hear the actual, audible changes Cleo makes with the IEMs I use:

Tonally, I hear Cleo to have a subtle warming effect on the sound. I believe that’s because it’s affecting the level of midbass, or midbass focus, relative to how the IEMs themselves present midbass. For example, the Sennheiser IE 900 has a more sub-bass-focused presentation, with a linear midbass that Cleo amplifies slightly and, in doing so, changes the balance of how I perceive the bass overall.

To my ears, sub-bass rumble is slightly reduced in favour of a smoother, more organic but less weighty bass profile, so the bass-heavy undertones in Katie Melua’s Red Balloons is not quite as solid and slightly more nimble when listening with Cleo (compared to the IE 900’s stock cable).

I’ve read some impressions that suggest Cleo elevates bass levels quite significantly but compared to the pure copper cables I’m using, the bass elevation is modest, at best, and tending more mid-than-sub-bass, as I described above. That means it’ll affect different IEMs in different ways, depending on the stock or aftermarket cables you’re already using with them.

Switching the Legend X’s Ares II for Cleo, for example, reduces the overall bass saturation, tightening up the bass notes and revealing some additional texture that may be missed with the stock cable in place. Switch out Cleo for a Cardas copper cable, however, and the impact and power of the Legend’s bass is pushed upward without the additional warmth of Cleo’s midbass saturation, tightening the sound further and giving it more slam while opening up the higher frequencies and revealing more detail in the midrange too.

While I don’t find cables affect the midrange frequencies directly, Cleo’s midbass lift adds a smoothness and musicality to the midrange compared to the brighter midrange voicing of the stock cables on both the IE 900 and Legend X, and is also smoother than how I perceive midrange of the new Legend EVO with the Cardas copper cable, albeit at the expense of some vocal detail. Lana Del Rey’s sultry vocals in Yosemite are more whisper soft with Cleo than they are crisp and ever so slightly coarse, but more nuanced, with the Cardas cable.


Where Cleo differs most from the generally warming copper cables I’ve used is in its effect on the treble, which is to say, it doesn’t necessarily brighten it up (as you’d expect of silver), but rather opens it up with the same smoothness it has lower down. As such I’m not hearing any added bite or sharpness to the music, but am hearing a touch more air and definition up top.

This is more apparent in IEMs that have a relaxed mid-to-upper treble emphasis, like Legend X and EVO, with less influence on the already sparkly IE 900, for example. Jethro Tull’s instrumental intro to The Waking Edgehas a touch more bite and ‘ping’ to it with the Legend X than it does with the stock Ares II, but it’s not through added harshness but rather more space for the instruments to breathe. How Cleo manages this juggling act while raising the temperature on the lows is something only Sy can tell us.

I’m not going to claim I hear any mind-bending technical improvements with my IEMs using Cleo, rather, that their technical abilities are highlighted (or downplayed) consistently with the subtle tonal shifts Cleo introduces. The more open treble does add to the sense of space in the soundscape, but that’s countered by the somewhat warmer midbass and smoother midrange. As such, I’d say Cleo isn’t going to magically expand the soundstage of your IEMs, but you might find it slightly easier to discern fine details in the music, especially in the upper midrange and treble.


Select pairings**

Sennheiser IE 900 vs stock cable
. I hear a slight reduction in sub-bass weight and a slightly lifted midbass, which does change the overall bass presentation, integrating it more into the mix. Mids, especially lower mids, are rendered smoother, but the open treble does highlight the occasional treble peak that creeps into poorly or brightly recorded music with this IEM, more so than the stock cable. Overall I hear the IE 900 to have a smoother sound with Cleo, dialing down its inherent liveliness a notch or two.

Empire Ears Legend X vs stock cable. I hear a slight elevation of bass (possibly both sub- and midbass, but more evident in the midbass). This raises the overall perception of the bass, but doesn’t come at the cost of details, which are brought slightly forward by the more linear, extended treble response. The smoothness I heard with the IE 900 repeats here, and the Legend X’s already organic mids take on a more earthy tone as a result. This is a great pairing if you want to keep the Legend X’s legendary bass boost without smothering the rest of the frequency range and actually cleaning up the upper registers a touch more than stock.

Empire Ears EVO vs stock cable. Oddly I’m not hearing the same level of bass elevation using Cleo with EVO, and if anything the bass impact is either shifted slightly or reduced somewhat compared to the stock Genesis cable. This could be because the effect is skewed by the Weapon X bone conduction driver, but overall I’d say Cleo smoothens the EVO’s sound and takes a bit off its edginess but at the cost of some bass slam and impact and definition.

**All testing was done with a HiBy R8 in high-gain Turbo mode using the 4.4mm headphone output.


Closing thoughts

Cleopatra is a simply sublime silver cable that defies what most of us have come to associate with silver cables. Instead of pushing detail with a brighter, more forward treble tonality and/or a reduction and tightening of the bass frequencies, Cleo pleasantly surprises by adding a subtle warmth and deft smoothness without any loss of detail or clarity (with my IEMs anyway).

Depending on the IEM you pair it with, you can generally expect a healthy midbass bump and perhaps a touch of sub-bass elevation, which will present differently depending on how your IEMs present the bass in the first place. It also filters out some graininess in the midrange, possibly from the added warmth, but just as likely from the clever combination of rich, pure materials and ‘secret design sauce’ used in its construction.

I’ve resisted making too many subjective comments about the positives or negatives these changes have on my personal IEMs because, as we know, everyone hears these IEMs differently. What I will say without pause is that from a purely aesthetic, build quality and ergonomic perspective, Cleopatra takes pride of place among the very best luxury cables I’ve used.

It’s not too thick (though an Octa version is available for those that enjoy hosepipe cables), not too thin, with almost no microphonics. It’s also silky smooth and supple, making it virtually tangle-free, and takes full advantage of the high-purity silver in its core for a premium look and feel.

If you want a silver cable that behaves more like copper but without the occasional ‘copper veil’, or simply want a high-end cable for your high-end IEMs that won’t simultaneously break the bank with a daft multi-kilobuck pricetag or finger-thick aesthetics, I’d put Cleo at or near the top of your list.

Nice review and probably the best description ever of what a cable does and doesn't do


Headphoneus Supremus
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

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.

  • 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


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.

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.




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.



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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

-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.


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.
You're on a roll!
Nice Write up.