Aftermarket Headphone Cables: The Review

Disclaimer: All cables were sent as review samples. Neither of the companies are site advertisers and Mike doesn’t sell any of these in his stores.

 

“Wait what? A Cable Review?”

Some or believers and some clearly are not. If you’re part of the last category that insists I should use a cloth hanger as a cable and you’re not open to other beliefs, you better stop reading now as this review is not the one for you. I do not want the comments section to turn into a fight between both camps. However if you do believe cables can change the sound or you’re open to other opinions, you might want to keep reading.

Back in the days when I didn’t have as much experience with gear I wasn’t a real believer in cables. But after all these years of listening to a lot of different gear my opinion on the impact of cables on sound has changed. I do believe that in order to correctly judge a cable you have to know your music, headphone and amplifier perfectly, if not you won’t be able to isolate the changes made by the cable.

As more and more people started asking us about aftermarket cables I decided to do a review of two cable companies. The reviewed cables all have an Audez’e and Sennheiser HD650 termination, that way I can also use them on the Hifiman He-500 with my adapters. I have to say reviewing cables isn’t the easiest of jobs.

What Companies were selected?

The last few years, cable companies have been coming up everywhere and consumers have dozens of companies to choose from. In the end I selected one European company: Forza Audioworks and one Asian company: Effect Audio.

Effect Audio: Was founded in 2009 and they are located in Singapore

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Forza Audioworks: Has been on the market for several years and is located in Poland

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I do own several other cables made by other companies in the USA (like ALO, Norne, etc) but it’s impossible to review them all.

Shortcuts:

Page 2: Effect Audio Thor Copper OCC SPC

Page 3: Forza AudioWorks Claire Hybrid HPC

Page 4: Effect Audio Thor Silver OCC

Page 5: Forza AudioWorks Noir Hybrid HPC

Page 6: Effect Audio Thor OCC SPC

Page 7: Forza AudioWorks Hybrid Series IEM

Page 8: Final Words + Discounts!

Review one on the next page

Aftermarket Headphone Cables: The Review
3.5 (70%) 6 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. Coming from a musical family he's always been interested in good sound. Unlike his family members the only musical instruments he plays are amps and DACs. He loves playing with old tubes and discovering new products while staying faithful to the good old Sennheiser HD650.

26 Comments

  • Reply June 4, 2014

    Marc

    Great review, Lieven!!

    I wouldn’t say that I’m a cable believer but that’s only because I haven’t heard any boutique aftermarket cables. The one aspect of cables I do find interesting is how they could vary in sound not just through cable material but even through cable geometry such as being made into a litz, solid core, and/or braided strands.

    Common belief to the threads and articles I’ve been reading is that solid core and cables that utilize litz should be the best sonically and I think this is the closest aspect to cable material that still has objective evidence to it. I’d like to think that differences in cable material only show little to no differences in measurements as there is more than the common measurement procedures needed to notice its effects. Then again, when should measurements ever be the sole factor in judging sound.

    What are your beliefs regarding cable geometry and things like “Skin Effect?”

    • Reply June 4, 2014

      24bit

      There are no measurement devices that can show you how vast the sound stage is, how much separation between instruments their is, how light or effortless the headphone sounds, how much bass weight there is, what the texture of the lows, mids or highs might be, what the shape of the sound stage might be…these are some qualities that are often attributed to change with cable swapping.

      Dollarstore and Gas Station interconnects or mic cables sound like trash. This is an overpriced hobby, just as most specialized hobbies tend to be. Sports cars can cost $500,000 but can’t be taken off road or often used for long trips, totally outperformed by the $15,000 used car. Cable wire manufacturing plants create their wires in different purities, but even the highest grade wires are produced for pennies on the dollar. Those plants sell to a reseller or middle man, who sells to a distributor, who then sells to a specialized audiophile cable making company who sticks the wire inside their own companies housings of various designs and materials. I think the difference between extremely low grade wiring and normal consumer grade ( maybe even up to $99 entry level aftermarket cables ) is extremely apparent. But, the difference between those $99 entry level cables to high end is almost non existent. Although, I admit that I believe Cryotreatment alters the chemistry of audio gear for the better. No real proof beyond my ears on that, but why is it that my stock HE500 cable sounds this way, and a spare stock cable that is identical that was cryotreated sounds noticeable more clear?

      Would love someone to measure cryo treated cables against themselves in stock untreated forms on the same headphone, just curious how that would pan out and if its really the cable or if perhaps the treatment altered the connections or adapters or the cable that resulted in more efficient voltage transfer.

      • Reply June 4, 2014

        dalethorn

        A lot of properties like soundstage can be impacted strongly by other properties. You may have the perfect sound one day, then needing to replace a component (DAC, amp, etc.), your favorite sound is negatively impacted and you can’t get it back, even trying six other components. You may have gotten used to an exaggerated property, then when all that’s available are normal components, disappointment can happen. That’s why it’s important to try a lot of different things and aim for “good” in your price range, rather than aiming for perfection.

        • Reply June 6, 2014

          Marc

          I agree. Synergy can create magic in a system but can also turn a system into shit (and not that good kind).

      • Reply June 4, 2014

        L.

        In the beginning I had 1€ interconnects. Then I switched to the same length hand made ones from Audio GD (about 30USD a pair) and the sound, and my world, opened up.

      • Reply June 6, 2014

        Marc

        This is exactly my point!! There are tons of people claiming cables have no effect even without hearing them and these people claim that cables have no altered response seen through measurements. The standard measurement procedures are still lacking in totally and completely defining sound, Measurements can be seen as a basis before buying things but I don’t think people should see it as a religion.

    • Reply June 4, 2014

      L.

      Hi Marc, Thank you first of all.

      I don’t get along too well with measurements. I’m not against them but the ear hears more than the numbers can say. Now I don’t know if the geometry has a specific impact. All I know is that different cables sound different, so yes probably each and every single aspect of a cable impacts the sound.

  • Reply June 4, 2014

    EraserXIV

    Wow. Those coupon codes ran out fast.

    • Reply June 4, 2014

      L.

      Sorry man :/

  • Reply June 5, 2014

    Geek707

    Why would every cable tested sound better than stock? Leaving the IEMs out of this because I have no experience there, we have three headphone manufactures, one a very old and very experienced company, the other two, company’s that aims their products at the high end market. Yet somehow no matter what cable was tried it was better than stock.
    There is also the return on the dollars spent. Spending $400 on cables for a HD650 is not going to make it a HD700 or HD800. Same is true for the LCD-2. The $450 spent for the TOTL cable is much better spent on upgrading the phones. Even assuming that cables can change the sound of a system, (which I have never heard, or seen science to explain why) even cable believers have to admit the change is very small. Just read the second paragraph of this review. Spend you money on something that will make a difference you can see on a graph, and you don’t need golden ears to hear. Cables should never cost a significant percentage of you total system, and should be the last thing you add as a final tweek.
    The very pretty custom woven copper cable that I got with my HD800 did sound very different than the stock. The right channel was silent…

  • Reply June 5, 2014

    meh

    the way i see Cable is like EQ
    Cans – The house
    Amp/Dac – Furniture/Accessories
    Cable – Finishing touch

    and not all the time u need the cable, while most of the time u already get the perfect sound signature on Amp/Dac help

    but i do love more people starting to believe more in this, not just a straight “no”

    • Reply June 5, 2014

      ohm image

      I’m the sort that buys cables if they feel good. A number of stock cables (earphone cables especially) have horrible ergonomics or exhibit too much touch noise. A nice supple cable, that’s what I want.

      • Reply June 13, 2014

        Patrick

        Agree ohm, I use mostly cables which are a bit expensiver (10-15$) than the normal audio cables from the manufacturer, because they have a way better handling and a great length (2-5m or more if it’s needed – deleycon, kabeldirect etc.).

        But cables over 100$/£ is just to much for me. Anyway thanks for your review L. was great to see your opinion based on personal base – Greetz

        • Reply June 13, 2014

          L.

          Thanks. Another option is making your own cables. Have you seen our DIY article on that?

          • Reply June 13, 2014

            Patrick

            No not yet, thanks for mentioning this L. – Greetz

      • Reply September 16, 2014

        rob

        My Effect cable feels stiffer as hell, but i love the way it rounded out the harshness of the stock UE TF10’s. smoother kids and way better bass definition.

        • Reply September 16, 2014

          Headfonia_L.

          I agree. Love the Effect Thor’s sound but once you get used to the ergonomics of the Linum cables, you’ll be sold.

  • Reply September 16, 2014

    rob

    I use the same “UPOCC SPC (Silver Plated Copper). The base core used in UPOCC is 7N purity” Effect audio cable on my UETF10’s. It’s a single ended type but i i love it.
    L: What difference’s did you hear between the Cosmic Ears (i assume Linum) cable and this cable? I have the same CE’s coming to me.

    • Reply September 16, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      Well there are 3 different Linum Cables, it depends which one you listen to. The linums however are all very clear and detailed and won’t push the bass and add body as much as the Effect cables do.

  • Reply January 28, 2015

    Ddaktiv

    Great review! I’ve been using effect’s cables and their service is really excellent aside from quality and speed.

  • Reply August 13, 2016

    Nuno B

    Hello Lieven, great review. Have you ended up buying the LCD-XC and tested these cables with it? Which one did you prefer the most and why? Thanks.

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