Review: Lime Ears Model X – The Onion

Cables

I noted it early on, I am not a fan of the Plastics One cable. Mostly due to aesthetics, call me crazy, but I do find some cables to simply look sexy. Of course after-market cables perform on a different level and add something valuable to the spectrum. Though I’d rather put it this way: they do less harm. I like that phrase, an Audioquest guy told me that’s their slogan, and I think it gets cable-sound to the point. ‘Do no harm’. Excellent. For the purpose of this review I have tried many cables in order to find the best match for Model X.

All below cables are terminated to a 2.5mm balanced plug.

PlusSound – Exo (T-Metal, 449$)

The Exo cable with their silver, silver/gold and copper/gold hybrid construction is something very special in my opinion, ever since I got it I hook it up to any monitor I have. The Model X + Exo pairing is resulting in a bigger sound stage, enhanced transparency and resolution. Layering and imaging also stepped up a bit, while treble got clearer and features more sparkle. The top end extension is also reaching a tad farer with a little more air.

PlusSound – X (Gold Plated Copper- 349$)

The second PlusSound in my possession I bought because I was looking for an ultra-portable cable that had to be light-weight and extremely comfortable. The X-series was on my radar for a while, and after I read a few reviews I decided to give this one a shot. I sure as hell am glad I did.
The X-X combination gives the monitors a slightly more elevated low end with enhanced upper bass body, while retaining great resolution and layering. Mids keep their wonderful lushness and treble loses a bit of its focus getting tamed a bit.

Labkable – Silver Galaxy Mix II (silver plated copper, copper – 380$)

In the recent past I came across more and more eight-wire cables below 400$, the Silver Galaxy Mix II is one of them. It sports a mix of four silver plated copper and four copper conductors. The Silver Galaxy Mix II brings a good portion of lower end body and transparency to the sound, while it does lose a little of the treble goodness and resolution.

Labkable – Samurai III (silver, gold, platinum – 870$)

The Samurai III cable is a mixture of 98.5% silver, 1% gold and 0.5% platinum. It is the only cable I have and know of that uses platinum as material. Together with my Model X stage gets considerably wider, with more air between the instruments. Treble extension also increased, while the pronounciation of high notes got a little softer, it’s almost like a layer of silk was put on top of each note. What I value most about this cable is the added realism in the mids. It adds a little more body and fluidity to the mid-section, giving especially keys and strings more weight and naturalism.

Effect AudioLeonidas (silver, gold plated silver – 799$)

Leo has been my trusted partner for a long time now, and what makes me love it so much is the fact that it goes very well with just about any IEM. It has a wonderfully natural tonality, with incredible details and an enhanced soundstage with immense sense of air. All that added to X makes it a hell of a CIEM, ready to compete with some other, higher priced, models right here. It’s got speed, clarity, resolution and precision. Just like you wouldn’t expect it from a quad driver.

My personal guilty-pleasure combination was with the Exo and Samurai III cable, because of the inseparable lush mids and top end clarity. I mostly looked for the PlusSound though.

I have to admit, I am a little spoiled with choices when it comes to cable-pairing, and it won’t be the end, as we have already agreed with PW Audio to send in their 1960s flagship cables, it will be interesting to see how those fare up against the likes of Effect Audio, Labkable and PlusSound.

Sources

Though no specifications regarding impedance and sensitivity are disclosed on Lime Ears’ website, I can tell you that it is not very prone to hissing, so much, that it only picked up very mild hissing from my Continental Dual Mono, which hisses a lot more with most of my other monitors. Except W900 and Vega. All the other sources stayed dead quiet in their backgrounds.

Astell&Kern – A&ultima SP1000

Almost all my listening time with the Model X was done with my SP1000 (solid steel), because it holds my favourite albums, is incredibly fast and has an impressive sound, especially from its balanced output, which I exclusively used.

The SP has a very wide and deep soundstage, with great dynamics and out of this world resolution and layering. As you probably read in my sound discription, this also goes for the Model X, so both really partner well together. The stereo imaging is very good with superior instrumental separation and a pitch-black background. The sound is alive, engaging and keeps fascinating me every time I listen to it.

Luxury & Precision – L5Pro

The L5Pro is Luxury & Precision current top offering. It delivers outstanding sound quality at a moderate price, at least for today’s market. Due to the lack of balanced output I used a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter when utilizing the L5Pro.

The Luxury & Precision is a damn fine sounding player with great sound stage and musicality as well as resolution and emotions. It is warmer compared to the SP1000 but probably has the most audiophile tuning of all these DAPs.

Luxury & Precision – L3Pro

Just like its big brother, the L3Pro is a very musical and warmer source. In contrary to the L5Pro it does have a balanced output though, and what an output that is. Great resolution and imaging with lush mids and good low end body. Of course it does not deliver the in-depth clarity like the SP1000 or L5Pro, but at the same time it also comes at a fraction of their prices.

The L3Pro has become my go-to DAP on business trips and will most likely stay at that position for a long time. The only downside to the L&P DAPs is their incredibly outdated software. Nowadays manufacturer use a customized Android version, whereas L&P sticks to their custom build Linux firmware. While I can clearly hear that it is worth it, my inner-audiophile misses the basic functions of some other offerings… Too bad, really.

Chord ElectronicsMojo

Ever since the Hugo2 came into my life Mojo has not been getting as much playtime as before. Simply because it has been replaced as my office DAC by its bigger brother. Word on the street is that Chord will very soon launch their Poly addon module, who knows, maybe then my Mojo will run through more battery-circles again, since I have been looking forward to that little companion for a while now.

The Mojo pairs really well with most of my C/IEMs and X is no exception either. It has a very detailed and smooth sound, with great extension on both ends as well as very good imaging. Especially the bass-boost enhanced body and emotions of X pair very well with Mojo.

Chord ElectronicsHugo2

A few lines above you read that Hugo2 is my main office source for music, my work requires me to be completely focused on what I’m doing, and sharing an office with a hand full of people doesn’t make that exactly easy. The solution of course for me is to completey shut out my surroundings and plug in some C/IEMs, while not everyone likes to see that at my office, I know no other way around it. Plus I get to listen to awesome gear and music…
Hugo2 is my top pick as source/amp of the year, and it is very unlikely that something else comes along and beats it in terms of sheer resolution, space, imaging or simply reproduction of audio overall. Hugo2’s resolution is by far the best I have yet heard, what’s especially mind-numbing is how extremely precise it renders in depth. The stage is amazingly deep and at the same time absolutely clear in all dimensions.
Model X as sparring partner for H2 is a guarantor for a highly resolving and precise combination with a wonderful musical touch and warmth while keeping the typical silk top end of Hugo2. Smooth, detailed and a wide-spread soundstage with superior imaging and layering. Flick the bass-switch up and you’ll gain even more bass and lower-mid body.

ALO Audio – Continental Dual Mono

I don’t think that it is necessary to use a separate amplifier to run Model X properly, but from time to time I like to use my faithful ALO CDM to add a touch of tubey-goodness to the sound. I’m running the CDM fully balanced with my SP1000 as source. Line level output is set to 1V, to have a little room for the volume potentiometer to find the right place for channel matching.

The tube-hybrid from the Portland based cable twisters, breathes even fuller and lusher mids into the X, bass is tight yet well rounded, highs are tamed and lose their sparkle. Resolution also took a hit, while layering still is great. Switching the bass to its upwards position results in just too much low-end prominence.

Comparisons and Conclusion on the last page!

Review: Lime Ears Model X – The Onion
4.6 (92.94%) 17 votes

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A daytime code monkey with a passion for audio and his kids, Linus tends to look at gear with a technical approach, trying to understand why certain things sound the way they do. When there is no music around, Linus goes the extra mile and annoys the hell out of his colleagues with low level beatboxing.

    2 Comments

    • Reply December 7, 2017

      Albert

      In the switch down position (or whatever the more neutral position was) how close to neutral is the model x?

      • Reply December 7, 2017

        Linus

        In switch down position Model X is more neutral, but still has a slightly lifted lower end.

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