The natural and balanced sound of Leonidas II shouldn’t make it too difficult to pair it with an array of different monitors. Of course, this can best be tested in practice. Let’s take a look at a few very popular IEMs and how they scale up (or not) with Leonidas II. Comparisons are always to their respective stock cables.
Empire Ears – Phantom
Phantom is a warmer than neutral monitor, which also has a good balance. It’s biggest plus is a visceral, high resolved bass and a dense and thick lower midrange. Where it falls short is upper mids and treble as well as sound stage dimensions. The Leonidas II pumps in quite some resolution and extension. Bass appears slightly softer, but even more resolved.
Mids are balanced and smooth, with a more forward lower midrange. The sound stage stretches noticeably further in all dimensions. Where the Phantom does well on its own is also imaging, but with the Leonidas II this gets even better. All participants stand out clearly from a black background. Micro and macro details are also cleaner and easier to take out.
Treble is well controlled, silky and airy. The lower midrange and more forward bass of Phantom makes the high notes slightly veiled at times. Leonidas II takes off at least some of that veil in my opinion.
64 Audio – A12t
The A12t is a monitor that pairs exceptionally well with the LBE Leonidas, so I was very eager to try it with the Leonidas II. The sound stage stretches again noticeably wider and deeper. The resolution and transparency of this pairing is out of this world, where instruments seem to float around in the room, right in front of you.
Mids are a tad smoother, but more holographic and emotion loaded. The sound stage stretches wide and deep, where tones and instruments can come from far behind, but with immense precision.
Treble seems to me more extended, with even higher accuracy. The tia beauty is still intact. The detail retrieval is incredible with this monitor. It picks up every little nuance of the sound with ease. Really lovely.
Jomo Audio – Quatre
The Quatre was just reviewed a few days ago. Quatre portrays details with higher precision than with the stock Ares II. Imaging has stepped up quite a bit, where musicians and notes stand clearly lid in front of a dark background. Bass goes a notch deeper, but is softer in my opinion.
The resolution of the entire spectrum, from top to bottom, has gained a lot in quality. The sound stage of Quatre has changed to a wider and deeper arena. In which every instrument is carefully separated from each other.
Mids are smoother and more natural, with a sound that is reproduced in front of you. The Quatre and Leonidas match very well for my taste.
Earsonics – Grace
The just released new universal ten-driver flagship from French Earsonics has a similar tonality as Phantom. A deep extension with a darkish and warmish sound. It however is held back by the stock Plastics One cable. Replace it with the Leonidas II and you’ll get a much-improved beast.
The sound now seems clearer, as if smoke just vanished. Even though the Grace doesn’t seem to be veiled even with stock, but the Leonidas II really shows what the French is capable of. You get a higher resolution with impeccable imaging qualities. Again, the background is just dead silent and black as the night.
Bass reaches deeper with a more organic sound, air around the notes and higher resolution. There isn’t necessarily more rumble, impact or punch.
Mids are cleaner, more open and more spacious. The resolution is top shelve quality, where accuracy and precision are just gorgeous. Vocals are more emotional and float like a feather.
Treble extension goes wider with higher clarity. There is more sparkle and highs seem crisper to me. However, the Grace possesses the ability of a non-sharp and non-fatiguing treble, which doesn’t come out as sibilant.
I don’t have many cables in this price segment to compare Leonidas II to, but I think the most interesting for many will be to know how Leonidas II compares to its predecessor. There is one non-EA cable in this section as well, the only other cable that comes with a similar price tag. Hong Kong based PW Audio’s 1960s (2 wire) copper cable.
For this section I have used my trusty Katana’s hooked up to the Mojo. Dual outputs, identical monitors but different cables.
Effect Audio – Leonidas (799$, discontinued)
Leonidas has been known for high resolution and a smooth sound. Good extension on both ends and a tight and well controlled bass. It seems to be a cable that can match many monitors. I love Leo for its tonality and precision, but when I started listening to the Leonidas II, it was clear that a new king is in town.
Leonidas II does everything the original does, but better. It’s still smooth and natural sounding, but has a much higher resolution with extreme precision. The instrumental separation and imaging is one of the strongest assets of Leonidas II, and the first-gen Leo can’t really compete here. Leo II extends further in highs and lows.
Another obvious difference between both is the way they handle bass. As mentioned, Leonidas held a tight grip with good control. Leonidas II has the same control, but gives a more organic presentation with a softer and smoother low end.
Both cables have a nice organic midrange, but the Leo II again bests it in terms of sheer resolution. Vocals sound more emotional and holographic. The sound stage is noticeably deeper and wider with a more spacious presentation. Instruments sound clean and realistic, where every nuance of the sound is rendered with accuracy.
Treble-wise new Leonidas extends further. High notes are incredibly accurate and sound clean as a whistle. Old Leo’s to me seem a bit richer in comparison, but don’t sport the resolution of Leonidas II. New Leonidas has more air in treble and generally has a more balanced sound in it.
Effect Audio – LBE Leonidas (899$, discontinued)
The only hardware difference between the limited edition and original Leonidas is the use of a PSquared plug and the Ferrite Guard technology (a ferrite bead in the plug). Both cables use the exact same wires.
LBE Leonidas comes closer to Leonidas II when looking at expansion and extension, however the new Leo still wins the battle. It throws a wider and deeper sound stage and has better imaging qualities on top. Layering is very similar on both.
LBE has a tighter bass, whereas L2’s is softer. Leonidas II reaches deeper and goes higher as the Black Edition. There is more resolution and air in Leonidas II’s lows than in the Limited Leonidas.
When we look at the midrange, it’s clear that both come from the same tree. Both have a smoother sounding midrange with organic sound. However, Leonidas II again is of higher resolution, with nicer texture. The air around the instruments and vocals is just right on both, but Leonidas II is just more open.
The treble on LBE Leonidas to me sounds a bit more forward, with a richer base tone. It sparkles more and has a brighter appearance overall. Leonidas II’s is faster, more energetic and neutral in color but extends further. To me the new Leo’s is cleaner too.
PW Audio – 1960s (~999$, 2 wire)
When comparing these to each other, it’s very obvious that they are of different trait. The PW cable is much warmer, especially in the lower midrange. Whereas Leonidas II is just cleaner and purer.
The 2-wire has a more forward bass response, that extends well, but not as well as Leonidas II. Leo is higher resolved and more natural, with a softer and smoother sounding bass, that has noticeably more air in it. 1960’s might have the heavier sounding lows of the two.
Leonidas II stretches a bigger sound stage, with more width and depth. It creates a cleaner sounding and better resolved picture, with perfect imaging. All subjects where the PW falls short. PW’s stage seems more compressed and closed in, where the Effect Audio gives you an open arena.
As mentioned before, PW has a darker lower midrange. Leonidas is again of higher quality with incredible precision and accuracy. It creates a more natural and lifelike presentation of instruments and singers.
I always found the 1960s cables to be detail loaded, but when you listen to the Leonidas II, you know they can’t hold a candle against it. The way Leonidas II brings out micro details is just unique. Even the finest of beeps sounds crystal clear to me. To me, Leonidas II even bests the über-expensive 2000$ four wire sibling of the 1960s cables in that regard.
The treble of Leonidas extends further and has a nicer tone to it than on the PW, which sounds warmer and less resolving. Leonidas’ is more agile and crisper.
I have a long-lasting relationship with Effect Audio’s Leonidas cables. They all are in my short-list for favorite cable, but after I laid my ears on the Leonidas II, I must admit, the original and LBE don’t get as much ear-time anymore as they used to.
The original Leonidas was regarded as a highly resolving and smooth natural cable with tight bass and great extension. It was a loved cable all around. Its successor had to completely nail everything. And it did.
The Leo II has taken everything the original was good at, and has improved that even further. The resolution, imaging, sound stage and perfection of the sound are truly outstanding and nothing really compares to it. Leonidas II has a complete balance in its sound, where nothing gets favored over others. That makes it a treat to pair it with any monitor around.
Leonidas II offers industry leading innovations and the cleanest sound I have heard in an IEM cable. After my first audition of it, I couldn’t get it out of my head anymore. I know I’ve been stressing the term ‘pure’ a lot in this review, but this is exactly what Leonidas II is. Pure.
After all this time, I feel a personal connection to Smeagol (Gollum) from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I just can’t have Leonidas II next to me, unused and doing nothing. I have to use it. Now!
Is it too early to announce it as Best Cable of 2018?