Cons: Can be too neutral sounding for some, kinda plain looking
Vybe Audio HP-1 Headphone Cable
A few months ago, at the Official San Francisco 2015 Head-Fi Meet, Vybe Audio debuted a new series of headphone cables. As I gave their cables a cursory examination, I found them to be severely lacking.
None of the wires were dipped in fairy tears, nor did the cable employ a novel and patent-pending geometry. They didn’t even bother to use unicorn hair as a dielectric. And of course, they didn’t have any pixie dust in their solder. Heck, I’d even bet that there are only trace amounts of snake oil - at best.
What the **** kind of half-assed cable was this?!
And then, there’s the name of the cable itself - it’s called the HP-1.
Really? REALLY? How am I supposed to know how good this thing sounds without the context provided by a pantheon of gods?
As I quietly and surreptitiously attempted to leave their booth, I was caught by one of their reps:
“Would you like to try it out, and possibly review our cable?”
Say no, say no, say no.
I can’t believe I’m even talking about how a cable looks. In fact, why do audiophiles even care about how a cable looks? It’s absolutely insane because, ideally, no one should ever pay attention to how cables look. And yet, I have friends that do exactly that. So for all of you guys that need to show off these things, here you go:
The entire cable is black, except for the bits that have to be metal for conduction purposes. For my cable-fanatic friends, conduction is how the little bits and pieces of your music magically move from one piece of equipment to the next.
The bulk of the cable is relatively flat. It’s not a flat ribbon cable, but it’s definitely not generically-round, which helps keep the cable from twisting.
Sheathed in a dense but soft nylon weave, the HP-1 suggests lasting durability while being surprisingly supple and flexible. And other than a small segment of heatshrink, there are no stiff points or kinks.
Terminated at both ends by Furutech connectors, the HP-1 seems all business. My particular review unit is terminated in 1/4” TRS at one end for maximum versatility, and mini-XLRs at the other end for Audeze headphones: an LCD-X in my case.
I’m actually very impressed with HP-1 in terms of materials and construction. It’s durable, flexible, and uses quality connectors - leaving very little to be desired.
Stello DA100 Signature
Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon
Nordost Blue Heaven power and USB cabling
Nordost Heimdall interconnects
Compared to Audeze’s stock offering, Vybe Audio’s HP-1 consistently presents me with a more balanced rendition of everything played through it. Most notably, it tempers the mid-range and upper mid-range hump inherent to the LCD-X. In addition, it also seems to impart a fluid and lush quality to the mid-range as well. In fact, I get a rather distinct impression that HP-1 was tuned by someone who loves vinyl, as it just sounds less “digital” than Audeze’s stock cable. Tracks where this was most evident include “Out of Reach” by Gabrielle, "La Vie En Rose” by way of Petula Clark, and 이밤의 끝을 잡고 from Solid.
In more detailed listening, the HP-1 also provided me with a richer and more textured bass presentation - without increasing or bloating the bass response. This was especially true with the drum work in “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by way of Lick The Tins, “Something Stupid” by Frank and Nancy Sinatra, and Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” Yes, I listen to Taylor Swift, get over it.
And finally, I found the HP-1 offered me better channel separation and imaging. Vocals and instruments gained focus, and were decidedly less diffuse. This last improvement was more subtle than the rest, but very much appreciated, as I’ve always found Audeze’s stock cable to be a bit muddy at times.
If you’re not into after-market cables, nothing I say here is going to make a difference to you. But if you are into after-market cables, then I would simply say that the HP-1 is like a Cardas Clear, at only a third of the price… and that says it all. Very highly recommended.
• 26 AWG 7N OCC Stranded Copper Conductors (cryo-treated)
• 75 strands per conductor for 26 AWG
• Flexible, durable, more musical sounding PE insulation
• Black conductor insulation
• Gold or rhodium plated phosphor bronze 2.5mm TRRS, 3.5mm, or 6.3mm plugs with black anodized aluminum, knurled barrel, all parts of plugs are cryo-treated prior to assembly
• Solder tabs, tips, and body of plugs are surface plated with gold or rhodium
• Extended jack on 3.5mm plugs for easier connection with devices in cases
• High-performance Cardas QuadEutectic solder construction for all joints
• Vibration-resistant Nylon multifilament sleeving
• Cryo-treated aluminum Y-splitter (available in black or silver)
• 4.5’ standard length, other lengths available