When I first got into headphones and would search the web regarding all there was to know about them, upgrade cables was one of the first things that caught my eye. At the time I didn’t have any headphones that even had removable cables but as I looked at all these exotic headphones that did and the plethora of different cables people used on them, one cable stood out as being more elusive, more intriguing and also much more expensive, that was the Crystal Piccolino cable. Too me it seemed like a legendary cable, only a select few openly had one and never did I dream that one would cross my path. Back then it was Jaben who were the distributors of the Piccolino but that partnership is no longer and a new one has formed. I mention partnership, as that is how Crystal Piccolino cables work, the cable is made in the Netherlands by Crystal Cable and then they sell the reels of cable to a partnered headphone cable manufacturer and then they do the relevant terminations and braiding so that it is a functional headphone cable. Now it is an expensive cable, there is no doubt about that and although I am not trying to justify the price, it isn’t as crazy expensive as it was when I first come across it, it was around £600 back a couple of years ago but now Effect Audio have got the price tag down too around £265, which is a lot easier to swallow, even if it is still one of the most expensive IEM cables on the market but do take into consideration it was made as a cable with cost no limits and ultimate performance.
Now Crystal Cable are a real high end HiFi cable manufacture and the Piccolino is actually derived from another one of their cables, the Piccolo that they dubbed a bit too large for headphone appliances so they set out too make and even smaller version of the cable but maintaining an incredible performance. Now looking at the cable it is very sleek and thin and considering you can get some chunky 8 braid cables for even a little bit cheaper, it is only natural you would worry about the conductivity of the Piccolino. Well there is a lot going on in this cable and pretty much all of that is too keep it sleek while having incredible levels of conductivity. Now to start with the cable is silver but unlike other cables, it has filling between the individual metal crystals, a gold filling to be precise so this allows for great flow of currents at very thin diameters. They also flip the usual logic of having a thick insulation with smaller conductors inside by having a real thin layer of insulation and very thick conductors. In basic terms the conductivity is awesome yet it is one of thinnest most discreet cables I have ever used, I would say that is a winning combination.
Next to the 8 braid Effect Audio Thor Copper Cable
As with all Effect Audio cables and the same as with the previous ones I mentioned you can get this with a variety of connectors, they have an option for every type of IEM there is and they also have a headphone version, and I am guessing they will cater for any type of jack termination but they recommend a straight or right angled Oyaide jack and I make them right, it is my favourite jack as well. They also offer a 2.5mm TRRS jack for those AK240 users wanting too take their IEMs balanced. Now when I have been saying this cable has a low profile, I am not kidding, in essence this cable is a two braid and the individual braids are tiny so you have a very compact cable. It is very light but it has a very sturdy feel to it, in fact it has a level of sturdiness that leaves it feeling quite hard, nowhere near as soft as they likes of the Effects own Thor OCC Copper cable but unlike the usual hard cables out there that are a pain to use, this one is actually really manageable, it coils easily and holds its position, it doesn’t have a mind of its own and it sits on your ear very ergonomically, its quite an odd phenomenon really because when a cable is hard, it never seems to do what I want but this is a exception for sure and is a relatively easy to use companion on my travels. Of course on top of the cable quality you have the great craftsmanship of Effect Audio, the braid is tight, the jacks are well soldered with a bit of heat shrink to keep them neat and in place and they even add a cable cinch, what’s more too want. It is also quite a sparkly and loud cable, it is silver and in the right light it has a real glare to it, I like it, it makes it feel special and too right.
More so than not, a cable will bring an ever so slight colouration too the sound or its own little flavour, be it a hint of warmth or a super fast paced lively sound. The Piccolino instantly was different, it had a sound that was almost nothing like, in a good way, in a way that said, this is not resisting the music in anyway and its just a clean, pure audio signal. It has an uncanny lack of grain and everything is just very tight and balanced. The bass has phenomenal impact, everything is refined and pulled together and it really hits but it no way is it boosted. It is snappy, in fact the entire frequency spectrum is fast, with a natural decay, not a sped up one. The midrange is airy and silky with not a hint of grain and perhaps the only coloration it has is a very slight tilt the upper midrange and I mean very slight, it just gives a extra oomph of clarity too your earphones. The treble is smooth and just generally transparent, its not going to calm down sibilance like a warm cable can but its not going to make anything worse. The icing on the cake is that cable does sound generally very spacious and does a good job on helping your earphone keep in control. Hmm, so am I describing the perfect cable, the short answer is no. On a technical level, speed, detail, grain, space, balance, it is the best cable in my vast collection of IEM cables, that is for sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s a prefect match for all IEMs, I mean sometimes a warmer or bright or mellow cable is actually better for the job but if you love the signature your already have with a top tier monitor, then likely scenario is that this will just take you a tiny notch up in the grand scale.
With the Heir 2.Ai and Lear LCM-5
Now when it comes too the effect a cable is going to have in your audio chain it is always going to come at the bottom with your headphones at the top, amplifiers and DACs being pretty equal in impact underneath and then cables coming in bottom. I say this because even though I have tried this cable with the 100 pound Heir 2.Ai and other cheaper IEMs, other IEMs that you could buy more than one of for the cost of this cable, in reality you should only be considering this for a top tier CIEM or universal that you’re very happy with and don’t see changing from in the near future and you already have the rest of the audio chain at a very confident level. This is not me taking away the effect a cable has on sonic qualities because that is undeniable, it is just me saying it is worth having priorities when it comes to what your using. I mean a great 350 pound IEM will be better than this cable and my Heir 2.Ai, which would also come too £350. If you have something like the JH13 FreqPhase or in my case the Lear LCM-5 and your happy with its performance and signature and you just want too improve it a bit more, that’s when a cable like this can perhaps be justified. I really dig the Piccolino, it is the real deal in terms of an IEM cable, it sounds spectacular, it doesn’t tangle and is extremely ergonomic and is well built on top of that but it is not a small purchase and I think you should make sure that everything else in your portable/IEM set up is as perfect as possible before you spring for this and when you do, I don’t think it will disappoint, because it likely is, the final piece of the puzzle.