Part 1 – We’re Going Through Changes
Let me introduce you too MY Beyerdynamic T5p. Oh yes they are a little different to most and that’s because I have had a little modification performed. See since my first listen too the T5p back when I did my first Beyerdynamic day article I was sold on them. It was so spacious for a closed back, it was articulate in what it done and boy did I love its forward and pushing on analytical sound signature. It was only a matter of time before I got a pair and when I did my love for them continued. However, something that really started to annoy me was its hardwired cable. This is a problem that has annoyed me with other high end headphones including the Fostex TH900 and Denon AH-D7000 before it was discontinued and it is for a number of reasons. The first reason is quite simple and even more worrying when you are also using a can on the go (something I do with the T5p but cannot with the TH900) and is the risk of the cable breaking. Apart from the obvious worry of the cable physically breaking, I also have the thoughts of the jack going dodgy or simply a weak connection forming after a lot of use and that is something that really gets in your head and panics you when you have a headphone that you really do like and hope will last forever. The next part is that I love to see what different cables bring to the sound of a headphone and I would love to see how much I could push the T5ps sound. Lastly with me moving too a fully balanced portable rig, I obviously wanted to balance my T5p. Now having removable cables pretty much counter all these problems. If a cable does break, you can always replace it very quickly and obviously you can balance aftermarket cables with any connection under the sun.
So this was only going in one direction wasn’t it, yes, I did indeed get my T5ps modded and it turned out bloody brilliant. I was inquring with Double Helix Cables (DHC) very own Peter Bradstock regarding if they would be doing JH Audio Roxanne Cables and one thing led to another, I mentioned my love for my T5ps but my hate for the cable and he mentioned how he had once Audez’ed them, that’s his term for it. I was game and my beloved headphones begun their trip to the states to transform into something even more epic. The mod involved the stock cable being removed, Audeze mini-XLR connector being fitted were the strain reliefs sat at the bottom of the housings and drivers being soldered too the connectors with some of DHCs very best pure silver cable. See it is things like that why I love DHC, they don’t just do the job, they really get it done and that’s why inside the housings, you get only the very best.
The mod turned out perfect, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. They protrude only slightly at the bottom of the cups and are perfectly aligned so the release clasp of the connector will face outwards. If this arrived as a retail model (which it should) you wouldn’t batter an eyelid, and honestly I wouldn’t have minded a flaw or two, I was willing to pay the price but Peter completely outdone himself.
Part2 – Beyerdynamics Closed Miracle
So with the cable issue out the way the T5p are amazing but that’s not too say they don’t have their own flavour and it certainly isn’t one that will be too everyone’s taste.
The rest of the headphones construction is great, metal cups with a smooth plastic around the edges, metal yokes/headbands and accurate adjustment sliders. The pads are quite thin but they are memory foam and I find them so comfortable. I think other pads could seal better but I have been very content with the stock pads.
Isolation is so-so, good enough for me to take them on the go but its not airplane ready or ideal for super noisy environments, I just use them in the passenger seat of a car or on more relaxing commutes. They’d also work a treat finding a nice scenic location, booting up your portable rig and just chill, immersed in the music and your surroundings. These are also not the tightest or low profile headphones so again, they are not like a pair of Sennheiser Momentums, your perfect compact, portable solution but they can do the job without a doubt. Comfort levels are very high because as I said, clamping force is gentle; they are very light and have a soft headband and cushions.
The sound is the bit that is certainly not for everyone but one person it certainly does work for is me. I guess you could say the sound signature is quite polarizing, it has a lot of treble, good quality treble, but a lot of it, a great midrange presence and a fairly polite bass response. It also has one of the widest soundstages and sheer quantities of air I have come across in a closed headphone, one of the main reasons for my love for it. See thing is with closed headphones is they are always soooooooo closed, I mean, its all in your head and while that is always going to be a limitation with headphones, it is nice when a company does their upmost to limit that effect and that is what’s on display here.
Thing this with the bass is its very picky over a lot of things. Just the positioning of the headphones on your head can dramatically effect things and so can what your listening too them on. Give them a clean source and a capable amp and they show off moderate levels of spongey extension and a fast paced mid-bass with a natural decay. Its not earth shattering, its not heavy and it certainly is a little shy but its not weak or anemic and only on a few genres of music do I wish there was just a little more, the rest of the time, it gets the job done. It not going to wow you, it does seem to just go through the motions but when you move into the other frequency ranges, you realize there is more to music that skull crushing bass.
The midrange is glorious, detailed, forward and it redefines clear. They midrange is delicate and reminiscent of crystal, a very transparent crystal. The midrange does have a slant to the higher midrange; an area of great presence and the entire midrange is showered in a glow of clarity. Female vocals still have a real elegance too them and they are so honest while male vocals could perhaps do with just a little bit more body and grunt. The timbre is very snappy and quick and nothing, however busy things get, seems to phase the headphones.
Treble is extended, sparkly and up front, coming of that slant into the higher midrange. At 10khz we have a lot of splash and rather obvious peak. Cymbal crashes and high hats all get their point across in a strong manner, there is no mistaking them. Extension seems to be great considering the masses of air these headphones have swirling around, which I like. They don’t have the smoothest treble, it can be a little sharp if the source file is and sibilance can also show up everyone now and again.
It is all thrown together very tightly and it sits in a lot of space, left and right imaging is great but it does come at the cost of some dodgy center imaging. Depth could also be improved on but height seems accurate enough. Instrument separation is insane, as you would expect with a headphone of this sound signature and it fills the large space the T5ps have.
The T5p are an underrated headphone that always lacked a bit of exposure next to the T1 and it really is worth of its flagship position of the closed Beyerdynamic line up and with some of the reductions you an find for it, it is very well worth looking into.
Part 3 – Lets Roll, Cable Styley
Don’t think I wasn’t going to mention how different cables worked with it though, that wouldn’t have been fun now would it. I have 3 cables that I have been using with it; the first came back with it from DHC, their Molecule SE 8 Braid with “Peptide Synergy” Wiring. I also got Effect Audio Thor Copper with an 8 Braid and finally the Nocturnal Audio Hydra 8 Braid Silver + Copper cable.
The Molecule SE is DHCs portable cable that comes in a magnitude of variables. It was actually a model that started out as a special edition, hence the SE, but was so successful they decided to make it a permanent fixture. You have a $249 base price but there are all sorts you can customize too get what your after, which will of course change the price. Other than the plethora of connection offerings and length of cable, you have two main choices. One is the cable used and the other is the braid you go for. For the molecule SE you can choose from three type 4 Litz OCC cables with an American Wire Gauge (AWG) of 23.5. You have the standard “Peptide”, an OCC Copper, the “Peptide Hybrid”, an OCC Silver Plated Copper, and finally the “Peptide Synergy” that I have, a cable that has each braid constructed of a twist of both the standard “Peptide” and “Peptide Hybrid”. You also have the choice of either having a 4 braid or going for the “Macromolecule” 8 braid, (also a choice to split the difference and go 6-braid) obviously for a better conductivity. My cable, with the 8 braid construction, “Peptide Synergy” cable, 6” length, RSA/ALO balanced jack and Audeze connectors comes in at $409, yup it isn’t cheap.
The Effect Audio Thor is the flagship copper product of the company and it uses a 28AWG silver plated copper cable. They also offer a variety of stuff but they don’t have the sheer quantity of connectors DHC offer or some of the more premium jacks but they still cover most bases with their range including both an AK240 2.5mm TRRS jack and ALO/RSA balanced jacks. They also offer the choice between 4 and 8 braid cables for a bit of extra money. One of the cool offerings they have though is the choice of cable colour; you can have an all black cable, all silver or a combination of both colours. It doesn’t end there though as for no extra cost you can have a sleeve over your cable and that’s the option I lapped up. The base price is $149 and my cable with an 8 braid cable, sleeving, straight Oyaide 3.5mm jack and Audeze connector is $260. That price also includes a 3.5mm to ¼ inch adapter.
Lastly we have the cheapest offering with my fully done up cable coming in at just over $150 with a base price of $120 and that includes the 8 braid. The Nocturnal Audio Hydra is a 26AWG cable that braids separate OCC silver and OCC copper wires together. The price is cheaper to start with but most jacks that are standard with both the other companies such as Oyaide jacks and Audeze connectors come in at an additional cost here, that being said, it still finishes at a very cheap price. They have as much termination choice as Effect and they also have the option to choose the cable colour. As this is the first time I have checked Nocturnal out it might be worth me giving a bit of extra information. Like Effect they are based in Singapore, they are pretty new to the game and they are also trying to get a worldwide distribution network. Their website is also pretty coo, I wouldn’t mind if Inearspace was near as nice and they give detailed information on everything and even say how many cables they have sold each week.
When it comes to build quality, it is clear that they get better as the prices go up. The molecule SE is a work of art, the 23.5AWG cable is so much stronger, meatier and it just feels better as well. It uses Amphenol mini-XLR connectors, which are just more classy than the Rean and Neutrik of the other two and while the DHC cable has a tight heatshrink over all connections, the others have nothing on the mini-XLRs and the colour coding on the Effect connector actually slide off. The Effect has no physical splitters with the braids just splitting off, the Nocturnal uses some wood, which I like, although I am unsure as to why a headphone cable has a cable cinch. The nicest y-split is of course on the DHC and is their “Capsid” splitter. It is a bead blast finished carbon fiber splitter, solid and seductive all in one. The Effect cable actually feels really good as well with the sleeving being extremely flexible and floppy while also being hella strong. The flat braid of the nocturnal is well woven but it just seems thin, small and a little girly, not that I have had any problems. All that being said I cant get over how nice the molecule SE is, I seriously have never had a cable that feels quite that EPIC!
Nocturnal Audios flat braid
Black sleeve of the Effect Thor
Mmmm, the “Peptide Synergy”
Going onto the cables, it is clear that the DHC model is the most conductive with it clearly having more gain than the others, it is a louder cable and that’s a great clue to how much resistance there is the cable. The other two cables seem to be pretty much on par when it comes to volume. The DHC is also the least compressed sounding, it is spacious and doesn’t hold anything back and the same goes for the Effect cable, which is pretty much the same there, it is actually more relaxed but not quite as spacious. The Nocturnal feels a little strained in comparison, like it is being held back by something, it just doesn’t sound as easy.
The Molecule SE is a thick and natural sounding cable with easy micro details, colossal macro dynamics and a great balance through out its deep bass, well weighted midrange and detailed but controlled treble. It is a fairly pushed back presentation but that really allows it to have some width and depth in the sound signature and you get instrument separation, oh and they have a real rich timbre.
With DHC RSA Balanced to 3.5mm TRS Ultrashort Adapter, such a handy accessory.
Warm, smooth and effortless is how I would describe the Thor and it is a very un-fatiguing cable. You get an amazing sub-bass that leads onto the warm mid-bass. The midrange has a great sense of clarity from a slight tilt too the higher midrange but that then drops off as we hit the treble which is very laid back and out of the way. Soundstage is also far away but not quite as deep.
The silver cable in the Hydra really exerts some dominance with it pushing being a bright cable with a nimble and articulate bass that just lacks a little extension. The midrange is very forward throughout but gets even more in your face as we hit the higher regions leaving an intense sense of clarity. The soundstage is much closer, sacrificing some size because of this.
When it comes to deep bass the most textured and hearty feeling is from the Effect Audio model with the DHC putting up a good fight and the Nocturnal just rolling of a little bit in comparison and not quite having that satisfying feel. The mid-bass is actually broader with more punch with the Molecule with a little bit of warmth but not as much as the slightly weaker but also slower Thor, the warmest of the group. The fastest mid-bass is from the Hydra though that whizzes through the notes but doesn’t hit that hard in comparison to the others.
The midrange is across the board the most forward on the Nocturnal, that being said though the balance is much better on the DHC which almost has as much presence in the lower midrange and male vocals than the Nocturnal but doesn’t have the uphill climb into the female vocals. The Effect is the most unbalanced though as it has the least lower mids but more higher than the DHC, hmmm, yes it does sound a tad un-natural in comparison but it is thicker than the Nocturnal with a better timbre.
Treble is dominated by the Nocturnal but I do wish it had the control and concentration of the DHC cable. That being said if you want too tame the treble of the T5ps then the Thor does that the best.
All the cables have their own strengths for sure but I think just like the case with the build quality, the price does indicate the performance level, which isn’t always the case so I am not just saying this too keep everyone happy. That being said if your someone who feels that T5p is just a bit too much in the treble, the Effect Audio Thor Copper will be the best cable for you and if you want too keep the signature like I do and just improve on it in overall refinement, the Double Heilix Cables Molecule SE is the man for the job. I don’t really think the Nocturnal Hydras slightly brighter presentation is the most suited for the T5ps but I can imagine it would do a great job bringing out some air in a pair of Audeze LCD-2/3s, a combination I need to try because I am pretty certain it would work a treat.
For a portable can, like the T5p I have yet to find a better overall cable than the Molecule, it combines everything you need, build, looks and most importantly sound in amazing package and even though it is the most expensive, if you want the best, your best off going there.
The Thor is smooth and easy sounding cable that is also the most flexible cable of the lot but with the cheaper price does come a few sacrifices in other areas and its up to you whether you save the money.
The Nocturnal is the most DIY feeling cable, while Effect and DHC are as professional as cables come, the Hydra has some jagged edges in areas and this is just one of the reasons for the cheaper price. Another is generally the cheaper parts used, such as the rigid connectors. That being said it clearly has its own sound and while it is not all silver, it has that forward, detailed and silver sound that may not be at its best but could well give you a taste for more expensive and polished cables.
All in all though, my T5ps are sounding better and I love it!