Effect Audio Lionheart

Rating:
5/5,
  1. Wyville
    Effect Audio Lionheart - A Maestro of Harmony
    Written by Wyville
    Published Jan 26, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Outstanding harmony, natural timbre, clarity, vocals, sweet treble, ergonomics, build quality, price/performance for TOTL
    Cons - Still an expensive upgrade
    Effect Audio Lionheart

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

    Effect Audio Lionheart
    • Gauge: 26 AWG
    • Geometry : 7 Multi-Bundled
    • Materials: EA Gold Plated Copper/EA Silver Plated Copper
    • Insulation : EA UltraFlexi
    • Carbon Fibre termination and mini Y-split
    • Connector type: 2-pin/CIEM
    • Termination type: PSquared 2.5mm TRRS (balanced)
    • Price: US$499.90

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

    Preamble
    Effect Audio is a boutique cable company based in Singapore that has made a name for itself with cables ranging from their excellent value, entry-level Ares II, to their eye-wateringly expensive flagship Horus, topped off with virtually unlimited bespoke options that will cater to the needs of even the most discerning "cablephile". I have really enjoyed getting to know their products by reviewing the copper Ares II (Link) and the silver/copper hybrid Eros II (Link), both part of Effect Audio's Premium Series. Before writing my Eros II review I spoke with Eric Chong, Effect Audio's Marketing Manager and all-round nice guy, to learn more about the company and aftermarket cables in general. Eric explained to me Effect Audio's line up, which consists of their Premium Series, the Heritage Series and the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was brought into existence for their most ambitious cable to date, Horus, as well as to create a place for their local limited edition cables. What peaked my interest the most though was the difference between the Premium and the Heritage Series. Where the Premium Series offers genuinely premium cables, even the entry level Ares II is a clear testament to that, the Heritage Series builds on that with more experimental R&D. Heritage Series cables, Eric explained, focus more on secondary elements such as dynamics, imaging and tonality. As I explained in the introduction to my Eros II review, I feel these elements are very important for classical music where the emotion of a piece is presented through the tonality of instruments, their position within the image and how well they harmonise. Much of my motivation as an audiophile stems from trying to find the right balance and the right presentation for classical music. So when Eric offered me the opportunity to review another one of their cables, the choice was easy... It had to be Lionheart. If the Heritage Series could truly do as Eric claimed, then I wanted to put that to the test. Then I wanted to be swept away by Beethoven, feel the alluring clarity of Elin Manahan-Thomas singing Hildegard and loose myself in the delicate twinkles of the Nutcracker. That was my challenge to Eric and being a great sport, he agreed. For this review I did not just want to rely on my Custom Art Ei.3, so I brought in a heavyweight, the Vision Ears VE5, to help me see just what Effect Audio have achieved with Lionheart.

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    Packaging
    Usually I am not very concerned with the packaging that an item comes in. I have poor impulse control and just like that unwrapping Christmas presents is a high-throughput affair for me (no re-using that wrapping paper!), so too do I want to get to the good bit ASAP when I get new gear in. I give my greatest compliments to everyone at Effect Audio who was involved in creating the packaging for Lionheart because you have managed a presentation that actually stopped me in my tracks to admire it. Granted, it lasted only a minute or so because... well... Lionheart, but that is a very impressive achievement!

    Lionheart comes in an elegant black box that is accessed by removing the sleeve and opening a flap to reveal a card with details on the PSquared plug (more on that later) and a very nice black leather pouch that has embossed on it in Golden letters 'Lionheart' and the number of the cable. The presentation states in no uncertain terms that this is a luxury product and that this particular cable was made just for you. It is the essence of boutique. So captivated was I by the opening up of this elegant box, that it took me nearly a week to realise that there was an interesting bit of background story about Lionheart on the back of the sleeve. Poor impulse control indeed!

    Build quality
    At its core Lionheart is a copper cable, but Effect Audio like to think out-of-the-box for their Heritage Series cables and so this particular copper was especially selected for Lionheart. Some of the individual strands that make up each wire were plated with the same silver used for Leonidas, while others were plated with the gold used for Mars. The effect this creates is very pretty to look at, something that is further enhanced with the familiar quality components used by Effect Audio. One component though is less familiar, as for the termination Effect Audio teamed up with Oyaide to create a Palladium/Platinum plug called PSquared, to push performance even further.

    Of course it is great to make a good-looking cable, and Lionheart looks like a piece of jewellery, but that is useless if the end product is flimsy or an ergonomic nightmare. Happily neither is the case here. Lionheart has the same excellent built quality I have come to know from other Effect Audio cables and the ergonomics are even slightly improved. It was one of the first things I asked Eric about after receiving Lionheart because it felt slightly different and a little more supple, something that Eric explained was due to a different internal structure.

    My only minor nit-pick was that the slider was too loose. It seems the sliders are quite variable because the Ares II and Eros II I reviewed were great, my own Ares II is a little too tight and this one is a little too loose. This might be something Effect Audio can look at, and in my experience they probably will. When Effect Audio noticed some confusion due to the absence of left and right markers on the connectors, they clearly took that feedback to heart because this Lionheart (and all other cables) now has clear "L" and "R" markers on the inside of the connectors.

    Overall I feel that with Lionheart Effect Audio have created a beautiful cable that will stand up well to intensive use and is very comfortable even after several hours of continuous listening.

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    Source
    All listening was done from the balanced out of my AK70 with the Custom Art Ei.3 and Vision Ears VE5.

    Presentation
    So if Eric was right about the Heritage Series performing especially well in secondary elements, then this section should be the most important one, as those elements determine the overall presentation. Does Lionheart perform well here? The smile on my face when I first listened to Lionheart said it all. Yes, yes it does perform very well.

    Lionheart has a warm, very natural and clear tonality, which with my Ei.3 results in an incredibly well balanced signature. With the VE5 Lionheart adds a bit of warmth and again results in a wonderfully balanced and natural sound. In fact, 'natural' is what Lionheart seems to excel at, as even with the Rhapsodio Saturn, where the pairing with Lionheart did not work very well in my opinion, it still resulted in a strikingly natural tone. The clarity and ability to resolve detail and texture that Lionheart brings is nothing to be sniffed at either. I had no idea my Ei.3 could perform this well, and it is oh so very smooth. Effect Audio does this type of smoothness well in general, but Lionheart again excels at it. I have described Ares II as turning my Ei.3 from a woolly smoothness to a honey-like smoothness and Lionheart takes this a step further to flow smooth like a crystal clear, summer-warm stream. Notes flow through the image, rather than sit in it.

    This is a point where Lionheart does something very special and that I have come across a few times as being described by the term "liquid". The way notes harmonise is incredible. When listening to Beethoven's Missa Solemnis I was struck by how well the voices harmonised and how the piece flowed from one voice to another. The image is very stable and positional information comes through clearly, but it is uncanny how with Lionheart emphasis is always there where it needs to be and how naturally a solo voice or instrument rises above the rest. Lionheart is thoroughly musical.

    Bass
    While Lionheart is a warm cable, the bass is very well controlled. The bass section in classical music is placed pretty much how I would ideally like to see it, which is perhaps fractionally more forward than strictly neutral to add a little bit of warmth. It is, again, very natural sounding and the decay seems a little longer in the way you would expect a bass note from, say, a double bass to have that nice thick resonance. When not needed the bass gets out of the way nearly completely and adds just a hint of sweetness to the overall signature. I particularly enjoyed the pairing with my Ei.3 for jazz by Caro Emerald, where the double bass sat perfectly in the image of the acoustic version of "liquid lunch" and had a lovely texture to it. With the VE5 the added warmth really helped those to become more musical, as I will illustrate later with a section about Beethoven's 5th symphony.

    Switching to my favourite down-tempo EDM, the more neutral balance gives the bass a bit more air and detail. It sounds lighter and more agile, although sub-bass impact is still there. The bass, compared to my Ares II, is more dynamic and ebbs and flows along with the music, the mid/upper-bass darkening the stage when needed and getting out of the way when emphasis is higher up. It works very well for this type of EDM and makes it livelier. Rather than providing a brain massage with a deep and dark bass, it brightens my mood with its dynamics.

    Mids
    This is where Lionheart really shines. I love vocals and my Ei.3 are quite good there, whereas the VE5 are of course renowned for their outstanding vocal performance. Pair either with Lionheart and vocals become alluring, in the case of the VE5 even absolutely stunning. Listening to soprano Elin Manahan-Thomas sing Hildegard of Bingen is a real treat with the VE5 and Lionheart adds a certain sweetness to that crystal clear voice and defines it more clearly against the background. The result, as I said, is absolutely stunning. With larger choral pieces such as Missa Solemnis I get a real sense of the width of the stage and how the choir is positioned. From the bass vocals on the right, to the sopranos on the left, the transition from one to the other is rendered with authority. It is clear, well defined and in perfect harmony.

    For instruments the air and clarity added by Lionheart, and its ability to retrieve detail and texture makes a big difference in distinguishing between different interpretations of the same symphony. I have several versions of Beethoven's 3rd, Eroica, and the difference between modern and period instruments is now more clearly heard. Period instruments provide a more organic and layered sound, whereas modern instruments sound more defined, there is strength there that is fast flowing and precise. In both cases it is incredibly engaging and musical thanks to the cohesion of Lionheart.

    It is of course not just about classical music, with my Ei.3 everything else sounds natural, detailed and musical, whether it is rock, jazz, blues or EDM. With the VE5 the pairing is more complex because of those being quite specialist IEMs and I will address that in more detail in my upcoming VE5 review.

    Treble
    The treble with Lionheart is very much to my liking. It is more extended and has a slight lift to add air, clarity and sparkle, but there is a hint of sweetness there that results in a wonderfully delicate tone. In the Nutcracker's "dance of the sugar plum fairy" the celeste, a type of keyboard instrument that makes this tune so instantly recognisable, sounds wonderfully delicate and sparkly. In fact, the Nutcracker as a whole is presented with the strongest emotions I have heard so far and the treble is absolutely key in creating those.

    There is also a great amount of detail in the treble. My Ei.3 have always struggled with violins, especially at the higher notes, but with Lionheart the strings are more clearly defined, they have improved texture and the playing techniques come through much better. However, Lionheart manages this while staying as smooth as I have ever heard it. Even when I go to those sections of my music where sibilance can occur naturally, such as a soprano pushing for the high note, it falls well short of any sharpness or harshness. It is both the most exciting and the most comfortable treble I have heard to date.

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    Beethoven's 5th
    To get a sense of the improvement Lionheart brings to the overall image, I went to one of Beethoven's most popular pieces, his 5th symphony with that instantly recognisable opening... Ta-da-da-dummm... Okay, that probably does not work writing it down, but Google it and you will certainly know. I selected John Eliot Gardiner's interpretation because it is fast, 108 bpm, and uses period instruments to add more layers and emotion to the piece, which is highly appropriate for a piece reflecting Beethoven's revolutionary ideas.

    Starting with my Ei.3 and Ares II (my daily drivers) I am treated to the familiar intimate, warm-natural sound that is just a little too smooth. As a consequence lighter sections reflecting the positive sides of the revolution, such as hope and brotherhood, are not presented with the same emotion as Beethoven's powerful statement of his ideals (those key opening four notes). Switching to Lionheart opens up the stage, the bass section is pushed back and there is much better balance. Instruments get a wonderful tonality and the harmony between them is rather special. The emphasis always seems to be on exactly the right instrument at the right time. So now when the revolution marches, the brass instruments come through powerfully and the violins can rise above the rest to add tempo through quick techniques. Hope and brotherhood are expressed as clearly as the ideals. It creates a wonderful sense of anticipation and drama as the third movement, the march into revolutionary battle, transitions into the fourth where there is an outburst of emotion... "la liberté!" Freedom has been achieved!

    Turning to the VE5 I was very curious to see how these would present the piece. I knew from a previous demo that the VE5 have a presentation that balances between analytical and musical. There is no excess or drama with the VE5. They do emotion (very well!), but not exuberance. To my ears they have a slightly brighter than natural tonality, offer lost of detail in string sections and the bass section is placed further back although still capable. By comparison with the Ei.3 and Lionheart there is some loss of drama with the VE5 and the revolution appears to have become a "matter of fact" rather than fiercely emotional. Switching to Lionheart adds this emotion while maintaining the VE5's character. If the VE5 were slightly towards the analytical, then Lionheart pushes them squarely into the musical. The VE5 become warmer, instruments get a great natural tonality, the overall balance seems spot on for my taste and that outstanding harmony is once again there. Now the revolution is emotional! The ideals are set with authority in those key opening notes, there is finesse as Beethoven expresses faith in humanity, you can feel the unified sense of purpose and the explosion of exuberance to celebrate freedom. It is all there in the music and is expressed beautifully by the instruments. Eric, I think you have met my challenge comfortably!

    Conclusions
    So did Lionheart live up to expectation? The answer is a resounding "yes". Lionheart is a warm and very natural sounding cable with great clarity, detail and the ability to present music with a special kind of harmony between instruments and vocals. At a time that TOTL cables have gone beyond the $1,500 mark, I feel that Lionheart offers TOTL performance at a fraction of the price. It is still an expensive upgrade, but if you have TOTL IEMs, it is certainly worth considering pairing them with Lionheart.
  2. twister6
    Do the math, it’s Psquare!!!
    Written by twister6
    Published Jul 29, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - high quality hybrid wire design, excellent workmanship, flexible and lightweight, unique sound characteristics.
    Cons - price, sound improvement varies depending on pair up, additional cost of Psquare connector.



    The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was originally posted on my blog, and now I would like to share it with all my readers on Head-fi.

    Regarding the star rating of this review, I find it to be not an easy task with cables because it depends on a pair up with different IEMs. For me it hit the sweet spot with a number of monitors that I have in my daily rotation, thus I rated it high. But instead of focusing on a star rating, please read what I have to say about its pair up with different IEMs and corresponding comparison with other cables. And please keep in mind, this review is about how I hear the sound changes and the fine tuning of the sound introduced by Lionheart cable, a purely subjective opinion.

    Manufacturer website: EA Lionheart, available on MusicTeck.




    Preamble.

    Aftermarket premium replacement cables have been a controversial topic of discussions in many audio communities. There are some who don’t hear a sound improvement and others who consider the improvement to be too subtle to justify the cost. Some are firm believers (myself including) and do hear the change in sound, while others talk themselves into believing to validate their purchase. I also ran into a group of people who consider cables as another accessory to personalize the appearance, just like if they would with CIEM customization, or those who switch from single ended to balanced and take the opportunity to upgrade to fancier wires. And then you have a group who never tried a replacement cable and formed their opinion based on reading someone else’s rant.

    From my personal experience, I do hear the change in a sound, but I'm not able to capture it accurately in measurements. The most obvious change even disbelievers can agree on is based on principals of physics where higher purity material will yield a smaller resistivity, better conductivity, fewer losses, and corresponding boost in signal level. Various metals have different properties. There is no magic behind it and you’ll get an instant benefit of a slightly boosted output, improving the efficiency of your headphones, something that could be measured. Also, doubling the number of conductors will lower the overall resistance of the cable. But when I hear a change in a bass texture and articulation, or more airiness in treble, or overall improvement in retrieval of details which feels like a layer of veil is lifted off – this is not easy to capture in measurements. Considering we all have a different perception of sound, without supporting measurements some people jump into conclusion and form a “snake oil” opinion, especially when price is taken into consideration.

    The intent of this review is not to change anybody’s mind, but rather to share with you what I hear and how I hear it. Perhaps, I can’t fully explain why there is a change in sound, but I do hear it and would like to describe it. What makes sense to me is that I look at the wire as a material with physical properties of resistivity, conductivity, level of purity, etc, which acts as a filter between your source and headphones. Variations of these physical properties will affect the conductivity of electric signal and will result in a sound change, from a subtle to a more noticeable level. Also, I want to bring up the design of these cables, to make people aware why they cost so much, and that you are not dealing with a “coat hanger” wire but rather high grade materials, advanced production techniques, and hours of labor which all add up to a premium cost. Finally, the sound improvement of one specific cable is not universal because it will depend on the synergy between your source and your headphones.

    * I use this preamble with all of my cable reviews.

    Intro.

    My first encounter with Effect Audio cables was last year when I had the opportunity to review their Thor II+ pure silver cable which changed my mind about typical cable stereotypes, like assuming that pure copper going to make the sound "warmer" while pure silver will make it "brighter". With premium cables, it's not always black'n'white because there is a gray area where every manufacturer has their own secret sauce when cooking cables with different wire "ingredients". Everything from the wire geometry, to different manufacturing processes, mixing and combining different materials, and choosing connectors - all can potentially affect the sound. I'm not here to argue and certainly not going to preach that $500 cable will make your IEM sound $500 better. Besides the point that we have different hearing level and ear sensitivity to hear sound changes the same, I always consider a cable to be part of diminishing returns. I tested and reviewed many cables, and to my ears never heard a night'n'day drastic change, but I have heard a noticeable fine-tuning of the sound.

    For example, Thor II+ demonstrated that pure silver can also improve the bass, making this cable a permanent companion of Earsonic’s last year flagship S-EM9, based on my sound preference. Or just recently, until I discovered Lionheart, Ares II demonstrated how it can improve the bass while keeping resolution and transparency of the sound when paired up with 64audio latest U18 flagship. I was curious what Lionheart is going to bring to the table, especially with all the latest talk about its Psquare connector, so I was excited about the opportunity to test this new EA cable. What I didn't expect that EA was so confident about the power of Psquare, they sent me 2 identical Lionheart cable demos with the only difference of one having a "standard" Rhodium 3.5mm TRS connector while the other one being equipped with an upgraded Psquare (Palladium-Platinum) 3.5mm TRS connector. That was a fun test which I’m going to talk about further in the review.

    Of course, you can't wrap up the Intro without talking about the company and the people behind it. As I already mentioned in my Thor II+ review, Effect Audio was founded in 2009 by Zou Suyang, an electrical engineering student while still at school, who invested a lot of time doing research, testing, and development of various prototypes to come up with a solution to upgrade stock cables of the popular earphones. His hard work and workmanship skills were quickly recognized as he turned this into a business, and with a growing demand, he shifted his focus from basic cables to premium ones. Another key member of the team is Eric Chong, who's behind EA Marketing and also the face of the company at numerous worldwide audio shows. So, what makes Lionheart special and is Psquare a real thing or just another marketing hype? Let’s find out!

    Unboxing & Accessories.

    All EA cables usually arrive inside of a small sturdy cardboard white box with a company logo on the top and a foam cutout inside to keep the cable secure during the shipment. Lionheart was no exception, and it also comes with a small leather case pouch which is roomy enough for a cable and a pair of IEMs – a nice touch. The leather pouch I received had Lionheart Demo printed on it, while obviously, the final product is not going to have “demo” label.

    The cable I received arrived with 3.5mm TRS single ended connector since Psquare 2.5mm BAL connectors are in high demand with extra waiting time. I typically suggest to get 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter accessory when you’re ordering a balanced 2.5mm cable, but if you are going with Psquare 2.5mm connector I’m not so sure if it’s a good idea. With a sound change I hear between Rhodium and Psquare connectors, I think getting 2.5mm Psquare with a regular 3.5mm adapter could negate the improvement. Thus, if you are going with Psquare, decide on the source and the corresponding headphone jack you are planning to use before placing the order.

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    Design.

    When Effect Audio started to work on this new cable design, their main goal was to make a premium affordable cable. EA decided to combine wires from two of their flagships, Mars from Premium series and Leonidas from Heritage series. As a result, you have a 4 conductor design where every wire is a hybrid with a multi-bundled (7) Litz woven of Silver plated copper (from Leonidas) and Gold plated copper (from Mars) strands, including UltraFlex insulation. Basically, the emphasis of this design was on a specific copper material which EA refers to as “a core catalyst” for Lionheart.

    Even so this cable combines wire strands from two different series, Lionheart is listed under Heritage series, which is known for a more pliable wire design. That was the first thing I noticed, in comparison to Thor II+, Lionheart being only 26awg gauge cable, very flexible, light, and with a smaller and lighter y-splitter. Starting with a connector, the review unit arrived with Oyaide 3.5mm TRS Psquare (a rare Palladium Platinum connector), but you can choose from many different options, including Psquare in both 3.5mm TRS and 2.5mm TRRS (either one is $50 additional option), 3.5mm or 2.5mm Rhodium plated connector (I got this one for review comparison as well), and other connectors in 3.5mm TRS, 3.5mm TRRS, 2.5mm TRRS, 4.4mm, and RSA.

    The matching y-splitter had the aluminum finish with a carbon fiber insert, like on the connector plug, and a chin-slider which is a clear plastic piece with enough friction to slide easily, but not too loose. Going up to earpiece connectors, you have a pre-shaped clear earhook without annoying memory wire; glad to see more manufacturer implement it now. The connector housing has a slim aluminum cylindric shell with EA logo pointing outward so you know which side is left and which one right, and with earhook pointing one way you don’t have to worry about flipping polarity of pins when attaching to IEM shell connector socket. Here, EA offers every connector option from 2pin, mmcx, fitear, ATH, UE, and even JH with bass control.

    It's a very nice looking design with a transparent cable sleeve to see the details of the wires (very easy to distinguish which strand is silver plated and which one is gold plated). Also, pliable and very comfortable without memory effect or microphonics effect. The left/right sides of the cable after the splitter are twisted, but going down to the termination plug you have a semi-tight neat 4-conductor braiding. Furthermore, the cable was very comfortable to wear, and I found it to be lighter and more comfortable than Thor II+ since it was thinner and not weighting down as much. Thor II+ is still comfortable, but I prefer to wear it less on the go, while Lionheart is more mobile.

    Another thing to keep in mind, thinner wire means less material which results in lower cost. This explains the “affordable” aspect of Lionheart pricing relative to other premium series cables with higher gauge wires, and also using only copper based plated wires without mixing more expensive silver based wires.

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    The fit.

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    Connector comparison.

    If the cable review, in general, wasn’t controversial enough, here I’m going to add more oil (no pun intended for the fans of “snake oil” term) to the fire by talking about the termination plug, the cable connector which goes to your audio source. I learned my lesson not to speculate about the sound based on a wire type, the same way how I won’t draw a conclusion about the sound sig just by looking at FR graph. I only trust my ears, the tool I’m quite familiar and comfortable with. Thus, when I review a cable, I compare it to other cables with the same pair of IEMs and describe what I hear. But, when someone tells me “this connector going to affect the sound” – I can’t just take their word for it.

    As I mentioned before, EA was so confident in sound improvement of Psquare connector, they sent me two identical demo cables with the only difference of Rhodium-plated vs Palladium-Platinum Oyaide connectors. I’m a cable believer, but sometimes you have to draw the line somewhere, and I was very skeptical about it. After all, this is a cable review, not connector review, but the constant mentioning of Psquare got my attention, and I decided to be open minded about it. Both cables went through approximately 120hrs of burn in, connected to DAPs playing random audio in the loop with some new IEMs on burn in.

    Using LPG and Plenue 2 as my sources, and comparing Lionheart Psquare vs Rhodium with U18, TIA Fourte, W900, and SEM9, I noticed that Psquare improved the soundstage by making it wider; no changes in depth of the sound but the perception of the width became more expanded. Also, I hear a little more rumble in sub-bass and a little brighter tonality in upper mids/lower treble with improved airiness and a touch more sparkle. In general, I noticed with warmer and neutral tuned IEMs the sound became a bit more resolving, while with some brighter tuned iems the sound remained as resolving and transparent, but upper frequencies started to sound a little harsher.

    In summary, to my ears Lionheart cable with Psquare vs Rhodium connectors improves the perception of soundstage width, and I also hear the improvement in sub-bass rumble and texture, while upper frequencies become a little more revealing with more airiness between the layers of the sound. There is no change in sound level, and I used Veritas coupler to verify it before and after the burn in and between Rhodium and Psquare connectors, though without any noticeable “visual” differences. Maybe I don't see it in measurements, but I can hear it with my own ears when switching between the cables/connectors. Coincidentally, all three of these noble metals (Rhodium, Palladium, and Platinum) are part of Platinum Metal Group in Periodic table, but they do vary in properties where Palladium and Platinum are very close to each other while Rhodium is set apart when it comes to resistivity and conductivity. The Psquare connector has green spacer rings.

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    Sound analysis.

    For the following sound analysis, I focused on a handful of high end IEMs where I compared how Lionheart Psquare stacks up against other premium cables I typically use with those monitors. I was using Plenue 2 as my source because it’s neutral. Also, I used EA 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter with other cables if they were balanced, so I would use only single ended output of Plenue 2. Everything was volume matched during comparison.

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    U18: Lionheart vs 1960 4wire - despite 4wire being the king of soundstage expansion, in this pair up I hear soundstage width being a little wider with Lion. In terms of overall tonality, Lionheart makes sound smoother, more analog, a little laid back while still keeping its resolution and transparency, while 4wire sharpens the sound, makes it more revealing, more analytical, and a little colder in tonality. It's really up to a personal taste depending on sound preference.

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    W900, Lionheart vs 1960 4wire - besides a little wider soundstage with Lion, I'm actually not hearing too much of a significant difference in this comparison.

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    TIA Fourte, Lionheart vs 1960 2wire - soundstage width improvement is noticeable. While Lion has a noticeable improvement in sound over the stock SPC cable (more texture in bass and more sparkle in the top end), in the pair up with 2wire the upper mids/treble are pulled a little back to make sound signature more balanced, while also taking an edge off the brighter tonality. If you want a more vivid micro-detailed sound, go with Lion, but if you want a more balanced revealing tonality, I prefer 2wire in this pair up.

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    K10UA, Lionheart vs stock OFC - wider soundstage, bass is tighter and more articulate, mids are a little smoother, more organic, yet still as revealing with an excellent retrieval of details. K10UA is always a challenge when it comes to replacement cables, because they either make sound too warm or too bright. In this pair-up with Lion, the refinement was just perfect. It was a surprise for me because I expected Lion to make sound brighter, but instead it made it more natural.

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    U12, Lionheart vs Ref8 – I hear a soundstage width improvement and the bass is more articulate and with a little better control. Also, Lionheart brings up upper mids a little more forward and makes them a little brighter, just enough to give sound more clarity.

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    S-EM9, Lionheart vs Thor II+ - I hear a wider soundstage, a little tighter bass, and a more revealing mids. It wasn’t a night’n’day difference, and I actually like both of the cables with S-EM9. I probably will continue using Thor II+ with S-EM9, but Lion does offer a level of refinement.

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    RE2000, Lionheart vs stock - soundstage is very similar, RE2k has a wide staging to begin with, so even the “magic” of Psquare didn’t make that much of a difference. The overall signature becomes more balanced with a noticeable difference in upper mids and lower treble where you have a little more body and slightly smoother and more natural tonality. I was afraid Lion will make RE sound harsh, but surprisingly it made upper frequencies sound a little more natural and even smoother.

    Conclusion.

    Most of the C/IEMs are sold with cables, either if it’s a cheap basic OFC wire or an upgraded SPC or maybe a bundled cable from another manufacturer. If you are already happy with a sound, that's all that matters. And sometimes the upgrade doesn't make sense if a cable cost as much or more than IEM itself. But when you get into TOTL flagships, with an average price of anywhere between $1k-$2k, people's priorities change and they look for summit-fi DAPs to improve the sound of their source, explore different eartips (w/universal shell design) to improve the seal, and as a last resort – look into cables to fine tune the sound. If you invested a grand or two into a flagship and it arrived with a stock $10 OFC cable, wouldn't you be wondering if you can scale up its performance to the next level? That's where a cable upgrade can help, but it all depends on its pair up with earphones and the source. In some cases you will hear a more noticeable difference, while in others it could be very subtle. And if you don't believe in cables, hopefully you stopped reading this review after the Preamble.

    Lionheart cable is unique because it takes a pure copper as its core material with a baseline sound improvement, and enhances some wires with a gold plating and others with a silver plating (plating is more efficient due to "skin" effect where the current density is larger near the surface of the conductor). To my ears, this hybrid design with GPC and SPC wires results in not only the refinement of sub-bass rumble along with a tighter and more articulate bass, but also the refinement of upper mids with improvement in layering and separation, and more airiness and sparkle in treble. On top of that, I also hear a soundstage improvement when switching to Psquare connector which combines a rare Palladium and Platinum noble metals. This improvement is not universal and will not have the same effect on every IEM; for example, I preferred Lionheart Psquare pair-up with U18 over TIA Fourte due to their individual signatures. But once you find that perfect combo, you will realize that even a small micro-tuning change introduced by a cable, such as Lionheart, can have a bigger effect on hitting that sweet spot of the sound you were looking for. I was happy with U18 and its stock SPC cable, though found fine-tuning with Ares II to hit closer to my sweet spot, but not until I switched to Lionheart Psquare that I realized this was the exact sound I have been looking for all along. And keep in mind, cable is not about drastic sound changes, but fine tuning the sound!
  3. MrOTL
    Return to the classics! 4.4 Turn up!
    Written by MrOTL
    Published Feb 5, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Classy appearance,
    Comfort fitting,
    Reliable terminal (Official Pentagonn),
    Unique bass characteristic,
    Clear treble
    Cons - Easily scratched,
    Little bit tricky matching,
    Small carrying case
    [​IMG]



    EffectAudio LionHeart upgrade cable, its package is made of black matt paper materials and included with a black leather carrying case and black colored card of guarantee. The guarantee card assures of using official Pentagonn 4.4mm balanced terminal. EffectAudio recently aligned with Japanese company ‘DICS’ which produces Pentagonn terminals, so that they are now one of companies can use Official Pentagonn terminals.


    Its carrying case is designed with slightly glossy thick black leather and seems very classy. However, it can only storage one single Lionheart cable because of small space. Many usually prefer to a upgrade-cable and an earphone put into case together. So, it is not really practical to use for carrying to outside except for long period storage.




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    Wires twisted in gold and silver, transparent insulators on top of them, and pink coloring in subtle from a distance. No one would tell this cable is not sophisticated. The terminal, Y-splitter and connectors are covered with CNC-machined aluminum housings in high standard, with EffectAudio logo engraved on, making the luxury feel stronger.


    Lionheart is made with UP-OCC gold-plated copper wires (EAGold Plated Copper) and UP-OCC silver copper wires (EASilver Plated Copper) together. Recently, a lot of earphone custom cables have been produced as Hybrid method in which twists materials with two different characteristic wires. However, they usually do not design products like LionHeart. Effect Audio has a differentiating strategy for earphone cables.





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    Specs
    Connector: MMCX
    Terminal: 4.4mm Blanced Pentagonn (Official)
    Conductor: EAGold Plated Copper & EASilver Plated Copper
    Insulator: EA UltraFlexi

    Package
    LionHeart Upgrade-cable
    4.4mm Pentagonn Guarantee card
    Carrying leather case

    Website
    https://www.effectaudio.com/iem-heritage-series/lionheart-preorder.html


    The Heritage Series, LionHeart upgrade-cable is aiming for a musically completed sound than a numerically perfect. Especially, its sound-signature characteristic can be found by the changes in the treble. Around 7kHz is intentionally emphasized, making the hi-hat performance and female vocals sound airier and elastic. This helps to easily tell inner details of playing the piano and scrapping off the snare drum with a brush in the beginning of a song 'Angela' of 'Falado de Amor' album labelled in japan 2003 by 'Stefano Bollani Trio' without any masking effect.



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    There is a deep in the lower midrange, so that the soundstage is little bit expanded, and vocals seems to sound one step forward because of hearing midrange and treble except lower midrange clearer, with earphones which focuses on mid and bass’ harmonics. The harmonics emanating from the middle bass emit strongly in a dark tone, giving the powder a feeling of scattering in the air. This gives the fun of a unique saxophone’s harmonics from a song “Syeeda's Song Flute” by “John Coltrane” that sounds like ringing in listener’s head.





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    LionHeart is well suited for products which have heavy midrange and bass, and calm treble. This doesn’t mean the lack of high frequencies, is about have a polite ton treble with welly sufficient dynamic range. Most systems employing 4,4 mm balanced terminals tend to expand the dynamic range of low frequencies, so even with a little overdamped upper-bass, there is less-masking or no severe distortion. However, please pay attention to matching with gears having the balanced output, due to performing unstable and awkward when the midrange performance is poor.







    Claimer

    I am Bigheadfiler. Yes. I am Big Head guy reviewer from South-Korea. My first language is Korean and I am still learning how to write in English. Please understand if see any missing sentences or words. All of the contents are written and taken by me. Thank you.

    The Cable is offered by ‘EffectAudio’. The content of the review has been written without any restriction because the authors' freedom is respected.
      fiascogarcia likes this.
  4. Kaisendon
    The Roar of Ages
    Written by Kaisendon
    Published Jun 2, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Cable geometry is beautiful and sound shatters boundary between premium prices and godly performance.
    Cons - Aesthetics are so gorgeous it makes you a walking target for thieves.
    The Lionheart, presumably inspired by the story of King Richard the Lionheart, is one of Effect Audio's greatest creations. This creation lives up to its name where its generosity shares a sound beyond its asking price. This beast stands at the pinnacle of the animal kingdom and audio industry as its ferocious sound ushers in a new age for the Audio industry.

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