INTRODUCTION: A couple of months back, I had a chance to compare a few IEM upgrade cables and, I realized a good upgrade cable could unlock the real potential of an IEM. Even before I ordered my Empire Ears Zeus Custom IEM, I was sure I wanted an upgrade cable to go with it. After all, I had read that Zeus scales higher with a good cable.
After some research I decided to buy a cable from Effect Audio. Jack helped me get in touch with Suyang and Eric of Effect Audio, who assisted me with my purchase. Eric was very responsive to my emails and was kind to offer a discount on the purchase in exchange for an honest review. After some online research and, a few email exchanges with Eric, I decided to get the Leonidas.
THE COMPANY AND THE CABLE: Effect Audio is a cable manufacturer located in Singapore. Their product catalog includes a line-up of IEMs & Headphones Upgrade Cables, Interconnect Cables, Accessories and a few IEMs. Apart from the sound aspect, their products are also known for the looks and build quality. http://www.effectaudio.com/
I will be referring to the Leonidas as “Leo” for the rest of the review.
BUILD QUALITY AND LOOKS: Score: 9/10 Leo is built really well and looks amazing. To read more on the physical details of the cable, I have shared some physical impressions of the cable on the Effect Audio thread here:
COMFORT AND HANDLING: Score: 9/10 Leo is flexible and has almost zero cable memory. There is a wire sleeving at the IEM end to provide the over-ear shape and there is no memory wire. All this combined, makes Leo a very comfortable and a easy-to-handle cable.
MICROPHONICS: Score: 9/10 Almost zero microphonics from the cable portion below the Y splitter. There is some minimal microphonics above the Y splitter.
SOUND IMPRESSIONS: Score: 9/10 For the sound impressions; - I will be pairing it with my Zeus-XIV-ADEL Custom IEM - I will be comparing it with the stock cable that came with my EE Zeus - I will using the Chord Mojo as the source
TONALITY AND SIGNATURE: Leo, overall has a neutral tone without emphasizing any frequency segment. The note thickness is neither thick nor lean. The stock cable has a warm and smooth sound, while Leo has a cleaner and textured sound.
Starting with the low frequencies, Leo's bass is neutral, tight, and well defined. In comparison, bass on the stock cable is warm and slightly loose. The better definition and the lack of warmth on the Leo, allows for better bass texture. Bass decay is quicker on the Leo, while the notes linger a bit longer on the stock cable.
Leo has clear and uncolored mids, sometimes venturing the territory of dryness. The stock cable, because of its warmth, has a slight veil over the mids. The notes on the stock cable, have more body in comparison to the Leo. Leo presents a transparent midrange and brings out more details in the mids.
The treble on the stock cable is neutral for the most part with a bit of sparkle. While Leo’s treble is also neutral, it leans on the natural and smooth side of neutral. Treble extension is better on the Leo. Simply in terms of overall quality, Leo’s treble is better. But there are times, when I do enjoy the sparkly treble on the stock cable. Leo’s treble, does not tend to sibilance. The stock cable borderlines sibilance, occasionally.
RESOLUTION, TRANSPARENCY AND PRECISION: In line with good definitions and treble extension, Leo is a high resolution cable that carries high level of transparency and precision. The high transparency and precision brings out more details and accuracy to the presentation. In comparison, the stock cable sounds colored and lacks precision.
SOUNDSTAGE, INSTRUMENTS AND PRESENTATION: Leo has a slightly better soundstage width than the stock cable, but it pulls clearly ahead, when it comes to stage depth and height and presents a more 3-Dimensional space. Because of the lack of warmth from bass or any coloration, Leo’s stage is cleaner and airier.
The cleaner stage on the Leo provides better separation. As a result of better depth, Leo has better layering of instruments. That combined with the precision results in a more accurate imaging. The presentation distance of the stock cable can be considered neutral in placement, while Leo’s presentation in comparison, is placed slightly away from the listener.
PAIRING: Please be aware that, all the above stated impressions are based on the pairing with the Zeus-XIV-ADEL IEM. The result may vary with other IEMs. Being a neutral cable, Leo should pair well with a wide variety of IEMs.
CONCLUSION: I would like to thank Eric for the discount on my purchase and, the opportunity to review the Leonidas cable. The level of sound improvement that Leonidas adds to my Zeus is pretty significant. At $800, the cable is not cheap but, to me it is The Whole Package Cable, because it not only improves the sound quality, but scores very well on the comfort and build aspects. If you are in the market for an ergonomic cable with the aforementioned sound characteristics, Leo is a solid choice and an easy recommendation.
Pros: Natural and quite neutral sound, Premium build quality
Cons: Y splitter might be a little less heavy
The Effect Audio is a Singapore brand that is known by some famous aftermarket cables. They offer Ares and Thor series headphone/IEM cables as well as Piccolino Ultimate and Eros Reference units. In addition, there is Mars cable from Premium series and finally the Leonidas from Heritage class. In the accessory section of the Effect Audio website, there is a rich product range including some mini interconnects, digital cables, and connector options. As it can be seen in the website, the Effect Audio has started to collaborate with custom in ear monitor makers such as Cosmic Ears, Empire Ears, Vision Ears, and Custom Art.
The Effect Audio has a very responsive and helpful customer service. I have been in contact with their marketing manager Eric Chong and he replied my mails quite fast. In addition, Effect Audio has many dealers worldwide such as Jaben in Indonesia, AV One and Music Sanctuary in Singapore, Crystal Sound Audio in Hong Kong, Munkong Gadget in Thailand and Just 4 Ear in China. Also the Effect Audio representatives can be visited in their Headquarters by appointment.
Build Quality and Accessories:
The Effect Audio utilizes four silver/gold conductors, Mundorf gold solder and Litz woven technique in the production of the Leonidas. The reviewed cable has traditional 2 pin connectors, but it is possible to order the Leonidas with almost all types of pins used in the industry.
The reviewed Leonidas has a special 3.5 mm straight plug and Y splitter that seems quite premium. In the Effect Audio ordering page, there are also 3.5mm angled, 2.5 mm balanced and RSA type plugs. The cable doesn't have a stiff memory wire part. Which in fact is not necessary, since the conductors are flexible enough to take the shape.
The Leonidas is quite flexible. It is very easy to wrap and use it outdoors. It comes with a leather case that looks very cool and this combination gives a premium feeling to customers. In sum, Effect Audio provides one of the best looking packages that I have ever seen in this hobby.
The Leonidas sounds natural and can be considered as neutral in terms of the quantity balance, with the exception of its little fullness in low and mid frequencies. It doesn't put any frequency significantly forward compared to the stock cable and it also reduces the stress on the presentation.
Both cables have similar amount of sub-bas, but the Leonidas provides better texture and it hits from a more distant area in the stage. It has a little more quantity in mid-bass region, but the Leonidas provides a better resolution and a more refined mid-bass presentation. In comparison, the stock cable sounds colder, while the Leonidas is more emotional rather than warmer.
The midrange position is similar in both cables, but Leonidas sounds a bit bolder and has provides more body in the lower harmonic range. In this regard, the Leonidas takes the advantage in the tonality, while the stock cable sounds slightly leaner. In addition, the average note thickness is better on the Leonidas with a more effortless mid-range presentation. In upper midrange, the Leonidas is slightly smoother and the stock cable tends to sibilance more.
Both cables have similar amount of treble, but the Leonidas sounds more natural and smoother. In this regard, the Leonidas is a very good alternative to already bright sounding IEMs. In accordance with the depth advantage, the Leonidas’ treble creates more spacious stage compared to the stock cable. Also, the Leonidas keeps up the detailed presentation in a smoother way.
The Leonidas doesn't change overall stage width, but it has a deeper presentation and it locates the background slightly more distant than the stock cable. The Leonidas has clearer and cleaner spaces around instruments and that results in a little better instrument separation compared to the stock cable.
Note: The stock cable used in this review is the Lear’s C2 cable.
The Effect Audio Leonidas sounds natural and slightly neutral. It doesn't color the overall presentation much and keeps up a detailed note releasing. As for the craftsmanship, it is really good and the Leonidas is one of the best-looking cables that I have ever seen. I would highly recommend it to the audience who are looking for a cable that doesn't brighten a specific frequency. Lastly, the Leonidas is priced at 799 USD.
Please check the link below for more information about Effect Audio Leonidas: