ISN SC4 - Reviews
Pros: Very attractive, Well built hand made, soft, supple, no cord noise, premium connectors, Y slitter, chin slider , terminations, Chin slider that actually works. Grateful that there are no ear guides. Why do they exist?!
Cons: Wish I had more of these.
I would like to thank ISN audio and Penon for the review sample. These can be purchased here. The ISN SC4 was provided for the purpose of a review. These are my thoughts about the newest iem cables from ISN.
I have to admit, it is a bit difficult to review cables. How do you go about rating a cable? It can look as flashy and as nice as the designers make it but for me looks are tertiary to form function and most importantly how it has an effect on your in ears. It is all about the sound for me and why would we as consumers spend money to get a cable that is not an actual upgrade right? Truth be told I have had a few cables that I spent money on that was a bit of a let down as it wasn’t what I thought it would be nor did I get the same effects on the sonics of my favorite earphone that was promised by the manufacturer. With that being said, let's take a good look at these well designed cables.

ISN SC4 is the newest cable from the prolific cable maker ISN. Owning my share of iems and aftermarket cables, I am all about optimizing the sonics of my favorite earphones and I don’t want to spend a lot to do it. I have a general rule about upgraded cables. I try not to use cables that cost as much as the earphones. I know there are cables that promise the stars when it comes to enhancing your in ears but cost is always a factor when we are talking about nicer cables in the market. I feel ISN is at the forefront of well received well designed cables that don’t break the bank. I now have the entire ISN cable collection and use all of them to the best effect and I can say you are most definitely going to get what you paid for in their designs. With their latest creation it is yet another prime example of value for the money in cable land.

Cable talk 101:
In general copper based cables leans toward a natural balance and warmth to the sonics which is the main type of cables you see on just about everything audio related. Silver is all about transparency detail and imaging. Combining the two elements gets you something in between. SPC or silver coated copper cables rule the common types of cables made by aftermarket cable manufacturers and the idea there is to coat the copper cored cable with silver to enhance the ability of the copper.

Then there are the hybrid types that physically mix the two elements to somehow mix the properties of the two elements to combine the abilities of both. Most hybrids are really more or less for looks. I have no way of testing actual silver content of hybrid cables but let's just say I have my doubts that they are using real silver at times. That saying you get what you pay for applies but in general just from my own experience with too many aftermarket cables than I am willing to admit. It is the $25-$70 price range of cables that offers the best value in general. Anything over this price range in cables has to have something a bit extra for the cost to be warranted.

So what is the difference between SPC and a hybrid? Not much. In fact one can argue the real hybrid is actually the silver coated designs. Purity comes into play as the higher end cables tout some higher purity claiming that this higher purity makes a difference. Making a difference or not I suppose that is a good way to justify a higher cost. But here we are with a cable that is not cheap but on the other hand in comparison to other boutique cable makers that sell comparable designs, is much more affordable. Onto the cable itself.

The ISN SC4 stands for one part Silver and another Crystal Copper in 4 strands. The cable itself is handmade twisted from 4 cores of a pure silver cable that has an inlay of crystal copper strands. This design is a bit unique among hybrid cable designs because instead of using 2 cores of copper and 2 cores of silver which most hybrid cables are composed of. Each core itself has both parts twisted together, seems to be more silver content than copper based on just looking at it. The end results?. You truly get the best of both worlds here. Testing the cable on ISNs own H40 shows exactly how the cable affects the sound of a given earphone it is attached to. My primary test method for the cables is using an earphone with the stock cable and then switching that out with the aftermarket cable I am testing. Sound was observed with the same tracks played in its entirety.
The results? The ISN H40 now sounds even more higher end than the stock cable will allow it to sound. The sound difference was immediate and not subtle. ISN SC4 now gives the H40 even better imaging. Cleaner crisper more shimmery treble. Bass still retains its ability with this cable but now has better detailed sound with a slight expansion of sound overall. Going from the stock cable to the ISN SC4 and back it is clearly different and for the better. And betterment of the sound is what these cables are all about. I know sound science dude will cringe with this statement but your measurements are not gonna change how I am perceiving the sound after this cable. The ISN H40 out of the box has a great full bodied sound but now has some better technicalities and it was due to this cable. With the combination of the H40 and the SC4 this brings the price total to $300 or so.

So is it worth it? Heck yes! Cus as much as I like the stock H40 sounds, now it sounds even more higher end and it was due to this cable. It now easily competes with others in the $300-$500 range of earphones and it was already knocking on the doors of such earphones but now I can argue it is a bit better than some in the price range. If a cable can do that then to me it is a clear win.
I have gotten some inquiries about some cables that I have recommended in the past and some don’t like a bulky heavier type of cable for example ISNs own C-16. While not really heavy is most definitely bulky. The ISN SC4 has no issues with weight or bulkiness. It only has 4 cores, zero cable noise, soft and supple. The connectors, strain relief and terminations are of the highest quality and the workmanship comes through with a stunning look to the cable.

Some observations using some of my other earphones.

Compared to the stock cable, the ISN SC4 brings a more spacious sound, better details from bass to treble. The ISN SC4 clearly shows better overall resolution to the sonics. This pairing is superb on the FDX1. Very natural in tone the expansion of stage is welcomed on this phone. While I would say the stock cable is decent enough. There is a clear jump in detail retrieval due to the upgrade in the cables.

Finally one of my favorites. My Andromeda S. So here is an interesting observation. The cables I had on the AndroS happens to be even a higher end cable. It is a headfi favorite the 175 Electro acoutsi cables. These are almost double the price of the ISN SC4. So how did the much cheaper SC4 do?
To my surprise when I switched from one cable to the other. I had to go back and forth several times to notice any type of real difference but sonically both these cables I have to say are very comparable. The 175 cable has a very slight edge in stage but it is hard to hear any real appreciable difference. Both shows great details and enhances imaging with a blacker background. This is very surprising to me because everyone that owns a set of these electro acousti cables will tell you just how good these cables are but to my ears there is not much in the way of differences here. In fact I would go as far as to say your actually better off getting the SC4 and saving that extra $80 or so. The 175 cable is 8 core silver and UPOCC copper mixed hybrid cable that are easily worth the price to get a pair but this being the first time I have really compared the ISN SC4 to that cable. This shows me clearly at what level these cables are at when it comes to enhancing the sonics on an earphone.

In the end. Is your cable you spent your hard earned money on an actual upgrade for your earphones? If you can honestly say yes they are then to me it was worth spending the money on a set. I have no doubts the ISN SC4 is such a cable and is on the level of one of the communities favorites. I know you will appreciate the build and sonic enhancements that the cables will provide. As always thanks for reading and happy listening always.
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