I am an audiophile who prefers musicality over analytical listening, as I believe that music is like poetry and you enjoy it by experiencing it, rather than through any frequency response curves. My audiophile journey started many years ago, and over the course of time, I’ve owned various audio gears- some important ones being Audeze iSine20, Sennheiser HD650, Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Gen, Shure 1540, Chord Mojo, Fiio X7 (Mark i and ii), IFI iTube 2, Schitt Asgard 2, Pinnacle P1, although the list doesn’t stop.
Now somethings on audio cables. When I started off, the significance of interconnect wires or more popularly called – Cables, was not something I really valued. However, having been part of various audiophile forms, I discovered and came across some debatable aspects which pointed to the importance of Cables- be it for headphones, amplifies or DACs. Nevertheless, what always kept me from trying out those was the price-benefit ratio. The good quality cables are ridiculously price, and me being from India, would have to multiple that cost by another factor to cater in for the Customs duty on the MRP during imports. The one I could afford was Schitt PSYT RCA Interconnect pair between my amp and DAC. Though it had good connectors, I couldn’t notice any significant improvement in sound quality when compared to the oem amp cables. The high end cable stuff seemed to be far from reach. Thats when I came across this divine website called Head Gear Audio, which seemed to hold the key to my aspirations, as it had a reasonable price quoted for cables with premium materials. So I decided to take a leap and plunge into the world of custom audio cables.
Head Gear Audio (HGA) Cables:
I had got a pair of HGA custom cables- one with a single ended (3.5mm 3 pole) plug and the other with a balanced (2.5mm 4 pole or TRRS) connector plug, for my Sennheiser HD650. Both the cables had very high quality connectors at the amp end and also at the headphone end (2-pin left and right). The overall build quality of the cables were extremely premium. Internally, the cable uses DH Labs HP1, which is highly acclaimed to have a great synergy with Sennheiser HD650.
Coming to the important aspect that actually matters- the Sound Quality of the cables. To summarise in a word, its just “Divine”. Never did I realise that a non-electronic component like a cable, could make so much difference in the audio equipment chain. Seriously, to those who argue that any cable would do, should actually listen through this high end cable, and then make any statements.
When I first heard the music through the Head Gear Audio cables, I was delighted by the smoothness the cable introduced into the sound signature. It was as if the sound was “honey dipped” without any artificial sound coloration. All the harshness was completely eliminated.
Mids: The mids became slightly recessed with respect to instruments. But there was more intimacy and smoothness. One of the best things about the midrange is how detailed and revealing it is, with natural tonality and timbre.
Bass & Treble: Great bass and treble extension. There was no shrillness in the treble, and hardly any significant treble roll off. The top end has the right amount of shimmer and glimmer. The bass was precise and tight, with the right amount of slam and sub bass. Both the rumble and the impact are outstanding when they are called for
Single ended (SE) Vs Balanced (BAL):
For those who are new, an important question which might arise is if you need to get the cable with SE-3.5m or BAL-2.5 amp connection plug. Obviously this is presuming that you have amplifiers with single ended and balanced out. The SE 3.5mm is a common choice as that’s the one supported by most players and even by mobile phones. Although most portable devices supporting balanced out have 2.5mm TRRS jack, the balanced out could be an XLR or mini XLR as well, instead of 2.5m 4 pole. Since my DAP had a 2.5mm balanced out, I went for that. You can always reach out to Head Gear audio support in case you are unsure on the connection options, as they have a good team to support.
Balanced option is now being added to many DAPs, and amps, and this is due to the huge benefits that come along with it. My personal take is that it’s a must if you want to have a portable audio set-up which includes high impedance headphones and in my case it’s the HD650 (300 ohms). Balanced outputs, generally have higher output voltage, so their driving abilities are higher and this helps to minimise the equipment you need to carry. Also, due to better channel separation, listening thorough a balanced connection gives better resolution, instrument separation and timbre. For portability, I prefer using HD650 from the FIIO X7 Mark ii balanced out with HGA balanced cable (2.5 mm plug), as its creates a better soundstage and instrument separation with added tonality.
All said, if it’s not for portability, the choice between SE and BAL becomes blurred as well as debatable, and there are some audio communities who even argue that the difference is not quantifiable. Honestly, you need to listen and make a choice, as its boils down to personal preference of the tonality when used in a desktop setup.
To summarise, the HGA cables introduced a buttery tonal smoothness without compromising on sound clarity, and added excellent resolution along with better instrument separation. The sound signature appeared to be more full bodied and musical. All these make both the SE and BAL cables a significantly better upgrade over the stock headphone cable.
- Fio X7 mark ii Balanced Output-> HGA balanced cable ->Senn HD650
- Fio X7 mark ii-> (line out) JDS Labs C5 -> HGA single ended cable ->Senn HD650
- Fio X7 mark ii-> (line out) Aune B1s -> HGA single ended cable ->Senn HD650
- ipod->ultrasone naos-> HGA single ended cable ->Sennheiser HD650
Audio Sources- Tidal HIFI, Spotify, FLACs, DSD- Beethoven Symphony No 5 and 7