I have a confession to make: I’m pretty stingy when it comes to audio gear. Therefore, aftermarket cables have never been on my agenda, unless they are random discount cables from XINHS or Nicehck on Aliexpress. However, I have always had my eyes on the budget trio from Effect Audio (Ares, Eros, and Cadmus) because they are not crazy expensive and they look good in Internet images.
Today, the stars align. I have access to both the upgraded 8-wires (8W) version of Ares and Cadmus, along with the strange new Code 23. Are they any good? Let’s find out.
- This impression is possible thanks to Australian Head-fi Tour. Special thank you to @Damz87 for arranging the tour and @JordonEA for supplying the units.
- The units would be sent to the next reviewer of this impression.
Ares 8W & Cadmus 8W
- Very thick cable. Much bigger than my 4w from Dr. Juggle and 8w from Nicehck.
- In fact, the wires seem too large for both the heat sink and the hardware.
- The Cadmus earhook is not positioned properly (photo above). I don’t know if it is fixable with the ConX.
- Some of the braids on the cable are slightly unravelled. I hope that it is because of the long journey it has been before reaching my desk.
- Hardware are made of metal, with excellent build quality and handling sensation.
- This is the first time I see an IEM cable having its own carrying case. The design is smart, as the leather cable clip also functions as the clasp to close the case.
- The ergonomic of this cable is simply ridiculous. It’s like having the metal bendable earhooks of IE900 extending through the entire cable (photo above).
- On the plus side, this cable still puts less stress on the 4.4mm jack of my DAP than the stock cable of UM Mest Mk3.
- The carrying case is epic with space for both the TermX (interchangeable plug on the source side) and ConX (interchangeable plug on the IEM side)
Reference setup: DX300 -> Dr Juggle 4w cable (bought from @Damz87) -> U12T
- This cable has the tendency of highlighting the upper midrange and lower treble, pushing the foreground of the soundstage closer to me. As a result, it does reduce the sense of depth of U12T.
- At the same time, it is very soft and well-behaved, easy to use.
Test track: Han Zimmer’s LIVE album.
- The Ares is a bit louder than the reference setup.
- The Ares 8W reduces the brightness of the midrange and lower treble by a small degree, but noticeable. At the sample time, the sparkle of cymbals and hats on U12T remains the same.
- The Ares 8W thickens the lower frequencies by a small amount, but noticeable.
- The bass transient and the physical punch of the subbass is increased. Every hit of the drum feels more authoritative than the Dr Juggle cable.
- Despite more prominent bass response, the lower frequencies of Ares do not sound slightly muffled like the Dr. Juggle cable.
- Does not seem noticeable louder than the reference setup comparing to the Ares 8W
- The bass and, thus, the overall impression of dynamic of Cadmus 8W is stronger than the reference setup.
- The slightly muffled presentation of the Dr. Juggle cable is lifted.
- The overall presentation of the upper mid and lower treble frequencies does not change noticeable from the reference setup comparing to the Ares 8W.
- Stronger change in the sound signature and soundstage presentation.
- The illusion / sense of depth is noticeably stronger with the Code 23. It feels as if the instruments in the midrange are pushed back a step, and the distance between closer and further away instruments are intensified.
- The lower midrange and upper-bass is more emphasised. I have never noticed the that there is bass guitar in “The Last Samurai Suite: Part 2” track until I listen to it with Code 23. On the reference setup, I have to listen very carefully to pick out the bass guitar.
I was surprised by how lopsided this comparison between my Dr. Juggle cable and all three Effect Audio cable. I found the Ares 8W pair very well with U12T in my tests. The Cadmus 8W is less “opinionated” than the Ares 8W. But it still brings some more life and excitement to the sound of U12T. I’m torn between this pairing and the Ares 8W pair.
The Code 23’s sound is interesting. It’s different in an intriguing way. However, I’m not convinced by the ergonomic. At this rate, the cable feels like a novelty than a practical daily carry. Perhaps it suites desktop uses.
Before we close the article, let’s take a step back and look at the big picture.
All of the impressions above are based on one setup with intense focus on only one genre of music: large, spacious classical recordings and soundtracks. Given how every variable above can change, it follows that the actual effect of the cable on the subjective impressions of sound would be very hard to generalise. In my test, I find that conjecture from @Bosk about the relationship between ergonomic and bass/dynamic/stage holds. But beyond that, I don’t believe it is possible to generalise or predict whether the sound difference leans the way you wish, or even whether you can hear a difference at all. Have a try, and keep your expectation in check.
For me, now I have Ares 8W and Cadmus 8W on my wishlist. So, for the sake of my wallet, I don’t want to test cables anymore.