I know, cables are a hot topic. I like to use them to alter the sound, if needed, to a certain degree and to see how a monitor responds to them. As always, cables are not meant to turn the performance around by 180 degrees, but rather enhance certain aspects. My favourite line about that matter is the slogan by Audioquest – “Do no harm”. That’s exactly what a cable should do in my opinion, don’t hurt the signal that goes to your monitors or speakers.
Like with everything in life, there is no all-round solution for everything, and with cables and in-ear monitors it’s the same. You will have a hard time finding one that suits every single monitor of yours. It’s all a matter of mix and match. The below list are some of my cables that I found particularly well performing with the N8.
Effect Audio – Leonidas
The Leonidas is the first cable I ever held in my possession, and for that it will always enjoy a special place in my audio-heart. Paired with the N8, the bass gets a tighter grip with slightly higher resolution. Mids are a tad smoother and overall perform higher resolving with very good micro-detailing capabilities. The Leonidas adds a bit more sparkle to the top end while also enhancing imaging and sound stage dimensions in width.
Effect Audio – Limited Black Edition Leonidas
The Limited Black Edition Leonidas only differs in used components to the regular Leonidas. It uses black barrels and comes with the incredible PSquared plug and Ferrite Guard. If you’re not a believer in cable sound, you probably don’t care much about plug materials either. The LBE Leonidas pairs wonderfully with the N8 and gives it higher resolution and especially a more open stage with impressive layering. Bass again is tighter bound, reaches deeper into sub-bass and gets enhanced resolution. The midrange sounds more transparent and has more air in it. Vocals become a tad more emotional yet still keep their weight and body. Treble is brighter and sparklier. The N8 brings out a wonderful amount of details with the LBE Leonidas.
The PSquared plug previously was exclusive to a very few models of Effect Audio, but they recently have made it available to their entire range. So you can get a regular Leonidas and add this special plug to it, that should get you near to the performance of the LBE Leonidas.
Effect Audio – Ares II (Bespoke 8 wire)
While not being the most portable cable due to its eight-wire nature, the bespoke Ares II offers very nice enhancements in sound. It doesn’t drastically colour the sound of the N8, but elevates its technical performances. The N8 does receive higher resolution and new dimensions in terms of width and depth. It reaches wider and deeper with enhanced layering and imaging. So if you’re a fan of the base-tonality of the N8, but want to push it further in that regard, the bespoke Ares II should be at the very top of your list.
Plussound – X (GPC)
Plussound’s X series is what I consider the pinnacle of portable IEM cables, no other cable so far has beaten it in comfort. Slap it behind your ear and it’s gone. You won’t notice it at all. The GPC X adds a bit of oomph in the low ends and gives the N8 a faster punch. The GPC X is a nicely transparent cable that gives treble a touch of warmth. Overall it’s a very nice pairing with the N8, but it might be too much for someone who’s not into bass-heavy signatures.
Double Helix Cables – Clone Fusion
The Clone Fusion is a very different cable. It uses a wire size of 22 AWG and a mix of pure Copper and Silver. While it does add weight to the low ends, it also adds resolution to the entire frequency range. It brings the bass a little more forward with bigger body. Mids keep their lush appearance, yet are better resolved with nicer texture. Treble shines a little brighter and sound stage goes wider and deeper. Imaging and rendering is taken to the next level. Overall the signature became more dynamic and refined to me.
Labkable – Amethyst
The labkable just recently was reviewed here on Headfonia, and it did surprise me with its high resolution. While I’m not a fan of the looks and build quality, it pairs really well with the N8. The bass gets better controlled, midrange more resolved and airy and treble brighter and more energetic. Sound stage goes wider and a tad deeper. Especially imaging becomes easier achieved.
PW Audio – 1960s (4 wire)
The 1960s elevates the N8 to new levels to me. It stretches the sound stage in a noticeable manner in all dimensions. The N8 gains in resolution, air and transparency. It reaches deeper into sub-bass and higher up top into treble. Midrange to me is higher resolved, vocals are more emotional and instrumental separation is achieved better. Highs are less rich but sparkle brighter than before.
Personal favourites here are the Clone Fusion, 1960s and the LBE Leonidas.
The sound impressions on page three are all done with my reference audio player, the SP1000. For the N8, or any warm monitor for that matter, I always like to use more resolving and neutral sources. Pairing the N8 with a warm source to me usually results in too much warmth for my taste. Don’t let my taste keep you from enjoying it with your source of preference.
Chord Electronics – Hugo2
The Hugo2 is one of my favourite products. Not everyone likes the highly resolving and slightly brighter sound o f it, I love it. The Hugo2 masterfully controls the dynamic driver, gives it more resolution and control, while being dynamic and fun with excellent texture. The midrange is also well resolved with wonderful texture and body. Emotions are found throughout all of what Hugo’s mids have to offer. The sound stage stretches nicely wide and deep. Layering and instrumental separation are done just perfect, with the right amount of air between each instrument. Treble is crisp and clean, extends very wide and is nicely soft to not become sibilant.
Chord Electronics – Mojo
The Mojo adds a certain amount of weight to the low ends, that makes them slightly more relaxed, yet bass is tighter. Mojo is also a source with great resolution, and that is obvious with the N8 too. Its midrange is well resolved with nice transparency. There is good body in each instrument, giving them a natural tone. Lower mids in particular appear thicker with the Mojo. The sound stage does go wide and deep, but is not at the level of the top end gear. Where I find the pairing to struggle a bit is surprisingly the treble. Where high notes are richer with the Hugo2 or SP1000, they don’t convince me as much with the Mojo.
Schiit Audio – Lyr 3 (with Qutest as source)
The Lyr 3 is a fully discrete tube amplifier with impressive output power. It spits full six Watts per channel into 32 Ohms and has an output impedance of only 0.3 Ohms. It is capable of handling much harder to drive headphones than the N8. But to me a hybrid usually tends to improve with higher power. The SP1000, though rated with 4V RMS, does not do the job best. These 4V are actually measured in condition no load, so practically they don’t say much…
The N8 does not pick up any hiss from the Lyr 3, which is surprising because generally a tube amplifier creates at least slight hiss. The N8’s bass is even better textured with higher resolution and control. What stood out to me was the level of layering the Lyr 3 revealed in the N8. While the Lyr 3 is also a lusher sounding amplifier, I don’t feel the pairing to be too much. It’s all very well controlled with great speed and air. The midrange is nicely bodied with good emotions and instruments are separated with care. The sound stage does stretch a noth wider and deeper. Treble is softer compared to the Hugo2 or SP1000.
The last page is about Comparisons and Conclusion