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WyWires Red Headphone Cable

  1. glassmonkey
    WyWires Red HD600: well-built, tangle free cable with a deep black background and big soundstage
    Written by glassmonkey
    Published Nov 4, 2016
    Pros - Big soundstage, silent background, excellent clarity, oval design eliminates tangles, heavy duty durable construction, light weight, good connectors
    Cons - Utilitarian looks


    Thanks Alex Sventitsky, founder of WyWires, for providing this sample in return for my honest opinion.


    This is a first for me. I’ve never reviewed a cable. It feels a little daunting. With a cable there are no specs to look at, no scientific reports to prove that one material works better than another for audio production. There are some consensuses about constructing to physically counter electro-magnetic interferences, and general agreement that better wire should be used. The world of cables is rife with potential for bias. There are no measurements marketed with cables, for the most part, and what we hear is so indecipherable even by people in the know, that we can’t be sure that what we are hearing isn’t some sort of marketing magic. Sometimes it feels like we are hunting for the last unicorn—only the ‘audiophile’ hero and others sensitive enough can see its magnificent horn, but Mommy Fortuna can make anybody think that a scraggly old lion is a dangerous Chimera through her guile. Hopefully the cable isn’t an old snake, like the wyrm Ourobouros in The Last Unicorn.
    Cable reviews are very prone to bias. When we buy a cable, usually all we have is the company’s description. This means that we have the potential to impart the sound that the company says will be produced on the cable. Additionally, if differences in sound are due to amplitude, we may interpret a cable as being more dynamic, when really it just turns the volume up.
    My approach to this review will be to compare all cables with the same headphone playing out of the same source with the same tracks picked for different purposes, all volume matched. By the end we’ll see if I could tell the difference, and whether I believe the cable deserves the premium price and hype.
    I’ve previously did a comparison of cables from Toxic Cables for the HD600, I’ve described it in my spoiler below. It is important to note that the comparison made there was in an uncontrolled environment without volume matching, so my conviction to hearing a difference between cables may be biased. I also own a balanced cable for my HD600 made with OFC copper and low capacitance in a flat litz braid. I haven’t heard any differences except volume differences on that cable from the HD650 cable my used HD600 came with. That said, I do believe that cables can make a difference.
    Like most sensible people I started falling in love with music as a child. My first portable audio device was a Sony Walkman (the cassette kind) that I got when I was 10 years old (24 years ago).  I listened with the cheap Sony on ears that came with the Walkman until I bought a Koss CD boombox and started listening to UAF College Radio and 103.9 (alternative rock at the time) in Fairbanks, Alaska. I once listened to Louie, Louie for 3 days straight, and I’m not insane—did you know there is a Spanish gospel version of Louie, Louie?
    Like political tastes and tastes in friends, my musical tastes evolved through association and then rebellion and experimentation. From the songs of my father (The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, ZZ Top), to the songs of my peers (Dr. Dre, Green Day, Nirvana, Weezer), my tastes evolved, expanded and exploded into the polyglot love that is my current musical tapestry. Like a Hieronymous Bosch mural, my tastes can be weird and wonderful: dreamy Japanese garble pop, 8 bit chiptune landscapes percolated with meows, queer punk, Scandinavian black metal; or they can be more main-stream with minglings of Latin guitar, Miles Davis trumpet, and banks of strings and percussion in the Mariinsky Orchestra. Mostly my audio drink of choice is a rich stout pint of heady classic rock and indie/alternative from my musical infancy and identity formation (the 90s). Come as you are, indeed. Beyond the weird, the wonderful, the interesting and accepted, I’m a big fan of intelligent hip-hop artists like Macklemore, Metermaids, Kendrick Lamar, Sage Francis and Aesop Rock. I even dabble in some country from time to time, with First Aid Kit and the man in black making cameos in my canals.
    My sonic preferences tend towards a balanced or neutral sound, though I’ll admit to liking a little boosted bass or treble from time to time. If I have to choose between warm and bright, I’ll choose bright almost every time. A few screechy high notes are preferable to me than a foggy unfocused bass guitar. As my tastes are eclectic, and a day of listening can involve frequent shifts in my sonic scenery, I don’t generally want headphones that try to paint my horizons in their own hues. I need headphones that get out of the way, or provide benign or beneficial modifications. I desire graceful lifts like an ice-dancing pairs’ carved arc, not heaving lifts like a man mountain deadlift.
    My last hearing test with an audiologist was a long time ago and under strange circumstances. However, I have heard tones all the way down to 10hz and all the way up to 23Khz using headphones in my collection. Either my headphones tend to have a hole in frequency at 18kHz or my hearing does, because I never seem to hear it. I’m sensitive to peaky treble, and treble fatigue, even when I can’t hear what might be causing it. I do enjoy smooth extended treble. I like deep tight bass and impactful drums, and dislike upper mid-bass emphasis.  I like my vocals crisp, so stay away from Josh Tillman’s voice you nasty upper mid-bass hump.  I like air in the stage, not just cues to distance and height, but the feeling of air moving around and through instruments. Soundstage shouldn’t be just about hearing, I need to feel it. I listen at volume levels that others consider loud (78 to 82 dB), but I just set it to where the dynamics peak. I’m not here to shatter my eardrums. I like them just how they are.
    I generally don’t believe in using EQ, not even for inexpensive headphones, especially in reviews. I won’t claim that I haven’t done it, but I generally try to avoid it.
    I believe that burn-in can make a difference, but I also acknowledge that there isn’t any measurement that appears to give conclusive proof that burn-in exists. I trust my ears, fully acknowledging that my brain may fill in expected details, may colour my interpretation, or may be subject to its own settling period with a headphone. In my experience, burn-in effects are not as large as proponents of burn-in tend to advertise. I’ve also noted that using white/pink/brown noise, I almost never observe changes beyond 24 hours of burn in. When people tell you that you shouldn’t listen to your headphones until they have 200 hours on them, I think these people need to be ignored. No matter what, you should be listening to your headphones at different stages, right out of the box and at intervals. How can someone observe a difference without baseline observations and follow up observations to measure change trajectories? If you really want to be serious about controlling for effect, you need volume matching, source matching, and tip/pad matching.
    I’m a firm believer that cables can make a difference, but I don’t think they always do. When I tried out Toxic Cables line, they were in a bunch of baggies at the Cambridge 2015 HeadFi meet without any labels tell me what I was listening to. The cheapest looking one was the one I liked the best. I was excited that I wouldn’t have to spend much to improve my sound. It turned out that the cheapest looking one was the Silver/Gold top of the line cable. I’ve heard the difference that USB cables can make, from upgrading from the crappy cable that came with my Geek Out 1000 to a Supra USB, and then again when upgrading to the LH Labs Lightspeed 2G with the iUSB3.0. When I picked up a cheap shielded power lead from Mains Cables R Us to replace my standard kettle lead on my integrated amplifier, I heard more crunchy and clearer treble. I switched the leads with my wife blinded and she heard the same difference. I didn’t tell her what I heard and let her describe it herself. But cables don’t always make a difference. When I switched from my standard HD650 cable to a custom balanced cable (Custom Cans UK, very affordable), the sound stayed exactly the same when hooked up via a top tier (custom made by my local wire wizard, Dillan, out of  silver/gold Neotech wire) 4-pin XLR to 6.3mm converter. Balanced mode made a difference in clarity and blackness of background—this indicates that the amp was the deciding influence, not the cable. Your mileage may vary and you may not hear a difference, but I have.

    Vital Statistics (specs from manufacturers and distributors)

    When we look at cables generally all we have to go on before purchase is what the manufacturer tells us. From WyWires website:
    I’d like a bit more detail about this method, as described I think this could be done two ways: The piece of music is described and the players to identify are identified before the music sample is played, or the music sample is played and then questions are asked about the performers. If the method is the first, I find this an acceptable method. In the second method, there is a lot of potential for introducing bias. The interviewer can lead the interviewee to the conclusions they wish.
    One thing that is necessary for this method to be valid is repeat observations. Even with the same track, there can be variance from observation to observation, especially after you’ve noted something different in the recording. I’ve repeatedly had the experience that there is something revealed in a track I love by a better headphone than I’ve been using. However, now that I know it is there, I’ll better hear it on future listens with inferior headphones. Training your brain matters.
    The WyWires FAQ has some more information for your perusal. I recommend browsing with an open mind. Of note, the warranty on personal audio products is one year. Multichannel products have five years of warranty coverage. WyWires also has an PDF that kind of says why many cable claims are a load of malarkey, also. You can check that out here.

    Form & Function

    The WyWires Red HD600 balanced cable came in a length of 1.52m (5ft), which is the standard length for their headphone cables. You can get longer lengths made for more money. It’s a handmade cable, so of course longer lengths are possible.
    Most custom cables are visibly braided. The argument for this is that it cancels out various noise that might infect your audio chain—I have no idea if this is true, but braiding sure does look pretty. The appearance of the WyWires red, by comparison, is much more utilitarian. If there is braiding, it's concealed.
    WyWiresHD600BalancedCable-1.jpg WyWiresHD600BalancedCable-2.jpg WyWiresHD600BalancedCable-3.jpg

    The shape of the nylon outer layer is interesting, and very thoughtful. Most cables use round or flat flexible arrangements, which I find do next to nothing to prevent tangles. The WyWires Red cable prevents tangling in two ways: the shape of the cable is a pointed oval, this means that there is an edge along the centre plane not unlike a double edged sword; second the cable, while flexible, is not so flexible that it easily folds in on itself. The effect of the first factor is to make it so when one part of the cable touches another part, it maintains separation—the outer part is too firm to allow tangling. The stiffness of the cable prevents loops from forming. There is one negative to this design, the cable does not wrap up small. Even though the cable is short, it will need some space for transport, no standard figure 8 loops for this cable.
    The connectors used on the cable are all good quality, and the fit and finish is to a high standard. It is definitely better than my two other cables I own on appearance.

    Audio quality


    I have three cables for my HD600: the cable that comes stock with the HD650, a cable I bought from Custom Cans UK, and the WyWires Red.
    I started my comparisons comparing the stock HD650 cable and the WyWires Red. The with both hooked up to my Airist Audio Heron 5 headphone amplifier and my DX50 as the source (not a good source for the Heron). After several tracks, it was apparent that the Red had a bit more dimension and depth to the presentation, with noticeably more height to the sound stage. With the stock cable vanquished, I moved on to the Custom Cans balanced cable.
    For this comparison I used the balanced headphone out of the HiFiMAN SuperMini, which does a spectacular job in balanced—not worth the price for single-ended playback. The SuperMini has plenty of power on tap for the HD600. To my surprise, the SPL meter showed me that the cheaper Custom Cans cable had a higher SPL measurement at the same volume. The reason that this is surprising is that in all the tracks that I listened to, the Red sounded louder, clearer, and with bigger dimensions to the stage. The background is totally silent on the Red and I found myself picking out vinyl noise on my Tori Amos – Silent All These Years rip that I wasn’t picking out on the Custom Cans cable. The sound was more dynamic and engaging without being edgy or coloured sounding. The bass from the Red had more texture and body. The mids had a more live feel to them, vocals just pop in your face like candy and coke, which coke is up to you. Note edges are more natural, and drum hits are more snappy and precise.
    From the wonderfully entertaining folks at the Good Mythical Morning youtube channel​



    To my surprise and delight, the WyWires Red made a noticeable difference over the stock cable and my Custom Cans cable. The WyWires red expands the dimensions of the sound stage in all directions, with the most impressive gains in stage height. The background is totally silent on the Red, which allows notes to snap, crackle, and pop into childlike euphoric crescendos of excess amygdala activity deep in the primitive folds of the brain—that’s where bliss lives. It’s good. It’s really good.
    Apparently you could get this on a t-shirt at some point, spiffy.​

    I highly recommend it. Whether it’s worth $299 for American-made natural musical enhancement, is up to you, but this thing works. Rock hard. I’m going to go have some children’s cereal now, because…
  2. Takeanidea
    On the smooth side of neutral - is your HE-6 edgy? Get to a dealer and see whether the Red can smooth the tortured brows of this magnificent headphone
    Written by Takeanidea
    Published Oct 1, 2016
    Pros - Has less harshness than the stock cable. Another tool in the taming of the HE-6s 1K edginess without losing too much of the music
    Cons - Stock cables have a tendency to sound more vibrant than these
    With thanks to @alexsv of WyWires and @ejong7 my esteemed friend and headfier extraordinaire, I have the privilege of bringing to the UK the WyWires Red Headphone Cable. I have been sent these all the way from the USA in return for a review on this here very forum for headphone crazies.

    The Red Headphone Cables are made in a standard 5 feet length, the price for them is $299. Dealers have them available for in home trials. All top headphones with detachable cables can be catered for. The ethos of WyWires? My take on the company is no frills  high purity braided unshielded copper wrapped in organic cotton. Made by hand not by a high volume cable machine. Sourced materials as much as possible from the USA. Made in the USA. The Red Headphone has been designed as a low impedance cable. It has been made to do one thing- to beat the bejesus out of stock headphone cable.
    The Testing
    Has been done over a few months. For the proper comparison between these and stock I threw the following into the mix:
    3.5 mm to RCA hand made DIY Van Damme cable (Mojo to Mini Beast)
    StarTech 0.6 foot OTG cable (Motorola G4 to Mojo)
    Speaker tap to balanced 10 feet DIY Van Damme Black series Tour grade cable , lovingly crafted by our very UK based @dill3000 (Mini Beast to HE-6)
    Stock HiFiMan braided copper balanced headphone cable
    WyWires Red Headphone Cable
    All this was connected between the Android smartphone Motorola Moto G4 , a Chord Mojo Dac/Amp and a DIY built First Watt F5 Power Amp (again built and modded by @dill3000)
    The Findings
    I powered up Onkyo HF player which instantly recognised the Mojo was connected and listened over and over and over again to
    The Light , my favourite track from Immortalised , the 2015 released from Disturbed. My tastes range from Metal to Folk. The harshness and rawness and sheer power and punch of this band  and this track are a good way to look for the classic teble edginess commonly noted about the HiFiMan HE-6.
    I have modded my HE-6s by taking the dust protectors off, and apart from the cabling @dill3000 and my brother has made for me that is as far as I want to go at the moment . There is some harshness there still but too much work reducing that can well end up in losing some of the magic that made me fall in love with these headphones in the first place.
    The red cables are bringing to the table their own slice of magic. They have taken some of the edge off the 1k frequency spectrum without me needing to EQ this downwards as I would had I been using my Macbook and Audivarna to evaluate. The lower end has a little more emphasis and possibly the fraction of treble edge has brought the soundstage in slightly, there is more of a linear feel to the music, in that it doesn't feel that the music is being stretched artificially.
    The stock cable still has much to like. There is a liveleness , an untamed wildness to the sound that I love in the HE-6s when they are being pushed to these levels by a huge amazing amp like the First Watt. There is undoubtedly that edge to the peaks in the music. Obviously such excesses can be coped with for a quick burst of metal power like this, believe me after a few hours this can wear the fittest trimmest of ears.
    @alexsv I see your vision and I think herein you have created a bright tangle free tough cable that is anything but bright in it's performance. A Ferrari body around a Bentley Mulsanne Turbo is what we have here, and it is none the worse for it at all.
    1. alexsv
      Thank you Takeanidea for taking the time to write this. Just so all know, we don't have global coverage with dealers yet. If there is no dealer in your are, feel free to contact us directly. We offer a 30 day happiness guarantee.
      alexsv, Oct 1, 2016
    2. Lohb
      OFC or OCC ?
      Lohb, Oct 2, 2016
    3. Takeanidea
      WyWires use ultra high purity copper organic cotton and teflon . They don't go for fancy techniques like OCC which they state are made by a handful of manufacturers and then presumably sold on to cable companies who wrap it in their own materials. Which sounds like we're being conned by quite a few companies selling OCC as if it was their very own. In their opinion the OCC process brings nothing to the sound quality that cannot be brought by ultra high purity copper.The PDF on the website explains that since the patent in 1986 OCC has not been taken on by other industries that would arguably benefit from ultra high end manufacturing processes.
      Takeanidea, Oct 2, 2016