Finally a new review by Josh Chan , who has meanwhile blossomed into the Jedi master of cables. Since Josh discovered the influence of cables on the sound of headphones a few months ago, he has been meticulously testing all cables that he can get his hands on and is even working on his own graphical overview of the cables tested! Thanks Josh for sharing your wisdom with us! 😉👍
The use of cables on IEMs is an interesting topic that gets a lot of attention, especially when wondering whether or not they actually have an impact on the overall sound of an IEM.
With that in mind The experience of using cables on IEMs is highly subjective and depends on many different factors, including: construction and materials of the IEM (balanced armatures, dynamic drivers, electrostatics, etc.), source (DAP, music player, etc.), earplugs ( Silicone, foam, etc.), the construction and materials of the cable (copper, silver, gold, etc.) and your own listening preferences (sensitivity to treble, sensitivity to bass, etc.).
In my personal experience and opinion, cables definitely and without a doubt have an impact on the overall sound signature of an IEM. This shows up in my own IEMs like those from Empire Ears, which I will focus on in my review. I don't measure IEMs with different cables and I rely on what I hear and perceive.
However, the impact of a cable on the overall sound of an IEM varies depending on the factors mentioned above. It's not surprising if a cable has a large, very little, or no impact on an IEM.
The following review provides detailed information about the following STE cable:
STE MIX W16 (silver + copper hybrid cable)
I will focus on how this cable affects the following IEMs:
- Empire Ears Odin (Odin) with standard cable (Stormbreaker)
- Empire Ears EVO (EVO) with standard cable (Genesis)
- Empire Ears Valkyrie Mk II (Valkyrie) with standard cable (Alpha IV Hybrid)
- Kinera Nanna 2.0 with standard cable
The following information is based solely on my thoughts, opinions, and experiences while listening to IEMs with certain cables. I didn't take any measurements. I was fortunate to have received various cables from Tom / Audio Essence for testing.
Additionally, Empire Ears are known for very carefully testing their cables on IEMs prior to launch, so the improvement or deterioration in sound quality can vary from IEM to IEM.
Depending on your personal tonal preferences and what you want to achieve, increases and decreases of certain frequencies can be positive or negative. Lowering the treble can have a positive effect, for example, if you want to achieve a more relaxed treble reproduction.
source and earplugs
For my tests I used the Cayin N6ii Ti with the R01 board as DAP and source. To play music I used the USB Audio Player APP with the integrated Tidal function and the Bit Perfect mode. As earplugs, I used the Stock Final E earplugs on both IEMs.
I listened to the following tracks to collect my impressions:
• Illenium - Fallen Embers (whole album)
• Hans Zimmer - Time (Inception album)
• Hans Zimmer - Why so serious? (Dark Knight album)
• Alan Walker - Faded
• The Franchize Boyz - Ridin ’Rims
• Aviici - Wake me Up
• Eminem - You Don’t Know
Overall, the packaging of the cable is very simple and not over the top. The STE cable is delivered in a plain white box with a company card included. A carrying case or other accessories are not included.
Processing & materials
The STE Mixed Cu + Ag cable (STE Mixed Cable) consists of the purest copper and silver and is supplied in a 16-wire configuration. Despite the 16-wire construction, the cable isn't bulky or heavy and sits comfortably on my ears. There was no cable noise whatsoever during my test.
The workmanship of the cable is very high quality overall and you can feel that it is a premium cable. At first glance and when you touch it, you can see that the braid is evenly distributed and the cable itself feels soft.
The cable is very, very soft - one of the softest 16-wire cables I have ever come across. The cable is wrapped in black fabric up to the Y-split. On the rest of the cable you can see the copper and silver wires.
The end and the Y-split are made of dark gray titanium tube. The cable slider is made of black rubber.
Detailed sound impressions
The following sound impressions are based on my comparison between the standard cable of the IEM, the Stormbreaker (1299 CHF) and the STE MIX W16 cable (499 CHF).
Overall sound signature of the Odin with the STE Mixed Cable
The STE Mixed Cable creates a sound signature on the Odin that is slightly accentuated in the middle and in the treble. The deep bass still goes deep and the bass is punchy. The mids and highs are still present and are the focus of the sound signature. There was no sibilance or roughness. The sound stage is narrow both in width and in height. The mids sounded crisp and clear, and the highs seemed relaxed.
Compared to the Stormbreaker, the STE mixed cable has withdrawn all sound frequencies at the ODIN. The biggest difference was the reduction in the width and height of the soundstage. That's why I still preferred the Stormbreaker cable on the Odin.
deep bass and bass
Deep bass and bass have been reduced. There was still strong bass pressure, but it was obvious that the sub-bass and bass weren't as deep and structured compared to the Stormbreaker.
The mids have been cut back slightly compared to the Stormbreaker, which might appeal to people who don't like the emphasis on the Odin mids. They're still facing forward, but not as far forward as on the Stormbreaker. The mids are very detailed and clear, but the sound is warmer overall due to the reduced soundstage mentioned below.
The highs were more relaxed and less sparkling than the Odin's. Similar to the mids, they weren't that far ahead compared to the Stormbreaker, but were still further ahead than neutral-sounding IEMs. This might suit those who prefer the relaxed heights of Odin.
The sound stage was significantly reduced with the STE mixed cable compared to the Odin. The soundstage was not as wide and high as with the Stormbreaker. In my experience, this was the biggest difference between the STE Mixed Cable and the Stormbreaker on the Odin.
The following sound impressions are based on my comparison between the standard cable of the IEM, the Alpha IV Hybrid (299 CHF) and the STE MIX W16 cable (499 CHF).
Overall sound of the Valkyrie MK II with the STE Mixed Cable
The sound signature of the Valkyrie MK II with the STE Mixed Cable resulted in a clearly bass- and middle-accentuated or V-shaped sound. The deep bass is deep and powerful and the bass is punchy. The mids are forward-facing and very detailed. Voices and instruments sounded fantastic and were very detailed with lots of texture. The highs felt relaxed. There was no sibilance or roughness. The soundstage was narrow and not wide.
Comparison with the Alpha IV hybrid cable
In my opinion, the STE hybrid cable goes very well with the V-shaped sound signature of the Valkyrie MK II. It enables the Valkyrie MK II to retain its refined V-shape signature with deep sub-bass and crystal-clear, slightly forward-facing mids . Compared to the Alpha IV Hybrid, the deep bass is reduced, the bass is equivalent and the mids and highs are less present.
The soundstage is narrower and not as wide. I therefore still prefer the Alpha IV hybrid cable on the Valkyrie MK II, although the STE mixed cable is still a very good alternative to reduce the mids and highs compared to the original setup from Empire Ears. P >
Deep Bass & Bass
The deep bass is still deep and very similar to the Alpha IV Hybrid cable, but it doesn't go as deep. The bass is very similar, but was sometimes a bit more powerful with a shorter decay.
The mids sounded great and matched the V-shaped overall tuning of the Valkyrie MK II, but were not as forward-looking as compared to the Alpha Hybrid IV cable.
The highs were more relaxed and not that far ahead compared to the Alpha IV hybrid cable. I read somewhere on the internet that people feel a certain harshness in the high frequency range. The STE mixed cable helps to contain these problems if someone has experienced this hardship.
The soundstage was reduced and was not as wide or high.
The following sound impressions are based on my comparison between the standard cable of the IEM, the Genesis (399 CHF) and the STE MIX W16 cable (499 CHF).
Overall sound of the Legend EVO with the STE MIX W16 cable
The sound signature of the Legend EVO with the STE mixed cable resulted in a very bass-heavy sound, paired with accentuated mids and Heights. The deep bass was deep and the bass was punchy and didn't cover the mids and highs. The mids are still present and retain their high level of detail and suppleness. Voices and instruments sound fantastic. The highs are relaxed and there are no signs of sibilance or harshness. The soundstage was narrow.
Comparison with the Legend EVO with Genesis cable
With the STE mixed cable, the Legend EVO retains its bass-heavy characteristics, but reduces them entire sound stage and lets the mids and highs recede slightly. In addition, in my opinion, the influence of the Weapon X-Bone Conduction Driver is also reduced. Overall, I preferred the Genesis cable on the EVO.
Tiefbass & Bass
The deep bass is still very present and deep, but it doesn't go as far as with the Genesis cable. The bass is more or less the same and the Legend EVO still retains the same bass structure. Another notable difference was the lower weight of the Weapon X. In my experience, I had the feeling that I was missing that extra "oomph" and the 3D effect that was more noticeable with the Genesis cable.
The mids sounded great, but they weren't as present compared to the EVO with the Genesis cable. You can feel that the mids are now pulled back and lie more evenly in the frequency response curve.
Treble: Similar to the mids, the highs were a bit more relaxed and not as far forward as with the Genesis cable. The highs themselves still felt relaxed.
The soundstage was reduced and was not as wide and high.
Overall sound of the Kinera Nanna 2.0 with the STE MIX W16 cable
The sound signature of the Legend EVO with the STE mixed cable resulted in a very bass-heavy sound , paired with accentuated mids and highs. The deep bass was deep and the bass was punchy and didn't cover the mids and highs. The mids are still present and retain their high level of detail and suppleness. Voices and instruments sound fantastic. The highs are relaxed and there are no signs of sibilance or harshness. The sound stage was narrow.
Comparison with the Kinera Nanna 2.0 with standard cable
The STE mixed cable had the greatest influence on the sound of the Kinera Nanna 2.0 compared to all of the other IEMs I've tested above.
Compared to the standard cable of the Kinera Nanna 2.0, the STE cable builds on the basics of this cable and makes the Nanna 2.0 even better. The bass was raised and more detailed, the mids and highs were a little further forward and super detailed.
In my opinion, the STE MIX W16 cable and the STE CU W16 cable had the most positive effects on the Kinera Nanna 2.0. I preferred the STE CU W16 to the STE MIX W16 because it offers an even larger soundstage and a slightly deeper subbass.
Subbass & Bass
The sub-bass is further expanded and goes deeper compared to the standard cable. The same goes for the bass, which is still punchy but with more punch and authority. The entire bass structure is still very detailed.
The mids have moved a little further forward and have gained in detail.
Similar to the mids, the highs have moved a little more forward and sparkle a little more.
The sound stage has increased both in height and in width compared to the standard cable.
The STE MIX W16 is an excellent cable, both sonically and aesthetically. The overall workmanship of the cable is excellent and leaves a great feeling. With the Empire Ears IEMs, the STE mixed cable has reduced the sound stage a little and controlled the mids and highs.
With the Kinera Nanna 2.0, the STE MIX W16 raised the bass and definitely opened the soundstage a little more, which was a very welcome adaptation for my taste. I preferred to use the STE mixed cable on the Kinera than on the Empire Ears IEMs.
Therefore I am happy to give it an overall rating of: 8/10