I’m not a fan of the Plastics One cable, and my antipathy for it has found encouragement when I replaced it with aftermarket cables I have at home. I generally try to level out warmth with a more clinical and technical cable. My curiosity asked for a pure copper cable first, to see what a good full copper cable could do to the Grace.
Effect Audio – Ares II
I was very surprised when I hooked up Ares II to my Grace, because I heard the sound as cleaner and less veiled, as if a layer of smoke had been removed. Though I did not perceive the sound as that before.
Bass is more defined, with better control and a tighter grip. Mids are smoother and maybe even a tad warmer with sweet vocals. Treble also appears crisper and cleaner to me. The sound stage goes a notch deeper with better layering.
Effect Audio – Leonidas II
The newly introduced Leonidas II is one of the cables that matches with every monitor I’ve tried so far. Leonidas II has replaced the very popular Leonidas cable, which is a favourite of Lieven and yours truly.
Leonidas II reveals more details, gives a bigger venue and adds noticeable resolution to the picture. When it comes to imaging I think Leonidas II is one of the very best cables out there. Every instrument and every note is portrayed clearly in front of a pitch-black background. Each musician is easily separated from the others. Treble extends further and bass reaches deeper. The entire sound is richer, more dynamic and energetic. Midrange is smoother and more organic.
Overall Grace improved quite a bit, with higher accuracy and precision.
PlusSound – X (silver+gold)
The X series cables by PlusSound are by far the best when it comes to portability and comfort. Nothing can beat them. Just recently they have sent me their Silver + Gold version of this series. In combination with the Grace bass reaches deeper, with more emphasis on mid and upper bass. Lower midrange seems a touch leaner and more resolving.
Bass in general sits tighter and is more dynamic with higher impact and punch. Midrange is smoother, while it also enjoys higher resolution. The sound stage dimensions are pretty much the same as before, though layering and imaging seem improved. Treble is a bit crisper and sparkles more.
I recommend using a better cable with Grace, as it really opens up with a quality one. My personal favourite for the Grace would be the Leonidas II cable.
There are a few In Ear Monitors that crave good power to really shine. Most of my ear-time went into the SR15, but also my reference DAP, the SP1000. One of the most popular products in our world is definitely Chord’s Mojo.
I have used the silicone tips for this section.
Astell&Kern – SR15
The SR15 has become my daily driver for the last couple of weeks now. It simply is a lot more portable than the flagship AK player.
The pairing with Grace has a very enjoyable signature with a high PRaT factor. The overall signature is natural and engaging, with a smooth appearance. The SR15 is a slightly warm sounding, yet detail oriented DAP. There are good portions of information brought out via the Grace. The resolution is very nice and the extension is good.
I do enjoy the smooth mids and more forward lower mids here. Especially acoustic music sounds great, though it doesn’t miss out when it comes to electronic genres. Though there is certainly room for improvement when it comes to authority in bass. It’s smooth and relaxed, but it could use more drive and power for some EDM tracks.
Astell&Kern – SP1000 (Solid Steel)
The SP1000 has a neutral to bright signature with some of the very best treble out there. The Grace picks up a high amount of information and displays them well in the room. The imaging is top notch and the same can be said for resolution. The AK SP1000 is definitely the audio player with the biggest sound stage and highest resolution I know.
Bass again is well defined, but misses on drive and thunder. It has nice dynamics and keeps the toes tapping. The SP1000 really shows you what the Grace is capable of in terms of dynamism and resolution. It has excellent layering and separation values.
The midrange is rich and has perfect texture with the right amount of air. The sound comes out as open and precise, where every note is reproduced with accuracy. Upper mids and treble are impressively rich, silky and energetic. Finding harshness in the sound is an impossible mission, as everything is just rounded perfectly.
Chord Electronics – Mojo
The combination Grace x Mojo sounds fabulous. Well layered, expanded and highly resolving. There is good extension on both ends of the spectrum. Musicians are well separated with just the right amount of air between them. The sound stage stretches wide and deep. The background is dark and silent with absolutely no audible hissing.
The sound has a certain engagement in it, to keep the feet tapping. Vocals sound emotional and well proportioned. Bass is full, dynamic and has good texture. Mids are rich, organic with slight warmth and musicality. Treble is well defined, energetic and rich.
The resolution is very nice and so is transparency and instrumental separation. The imaging is achieved easily with the Mojo.
Chord Electronics – Hugo2
I really love the Hugo2. It is everything I want from a good transportable DAC/Amp. It can hold a good charge, powers anything I throw at it and sounds fantastic on top. The Hugo2 is an outstanding device for both headphones and in ear monitors. The digital filter system and cross feed settings work very well, so shaping the sound to your liking is also possible. I have used the reference filter (white) and turned off cross feed.
When it comes to resolution and incredible staging, the Hugo2 is always one of the first products I think about. It powers the Grace very well and gives it decent loads to reveal excellent layering and separation. The sound stage is mighty wide and deep, just as I know it from the Brit.
Bass is controlled and fast, dynamic and enjoys great texture and resolution. Midrange is open and transparent with good emotional warmth in it.
Treble extends well with good energy and sparkle. There are heaps of details brought out with the Hugo2 which make their way through Grace.
Comparisons and Conclusion on the last page.