When it comes to CIEMs I want to try them all but one company to this day has eluded me to do so much as demo a universal fit version and that is Unique Melody. Yes there are a couple of others I haven’t tried but that’s the only major player. That being said this is not an introduction to Unique Melody but something that came to fruition after talking to the North America distributor of Unique Melody, Stephen Guo. Because Unique Melody come with a standard OEM cable like most CIEMs these days, a lot of people asked Stephen for something better and in a smart business move, Stephen became the sole worldwide distributor for another Chinese brand, Beat Audio Cables. Yeah, what was probably a good name in 2006 when they started, Beats is now taboo name in our hobby but don’t let that put you off. These guys seem to specialise completely in CIEM cables and have some interesting ideology about going about cable creation. On top of that their products are simply stunning, which always goes a long way with a cable, if the eye is pleased then you are instantly feeling positive towards a product, we cannot help what the brain does. We had two cables sent over for our testing from two different ends of the scale. Josh got the $199 entry level Silversonic MKV and I got the second from the top and the latest release from the company in the form of the Oslo III, at a much pricier $599 it is only cheaper than the $799 Prima Donna!
Old or New
When you are going to offer cables simply for earphones, it is important that you can offer something for all of the markets demands. A few years back there was not many options for connectors but now it has just got insane. Thankfully removable cables are getting ever more popular but no one seems to want to use the tried and tested 2 pin, which is thankfully still a staple method for the old school companies. Fortunately Beat cater for most, but like no companies right now not everyone. They do all the most important ones, two pin, MMCX, new Sony IEMs, FitEar and even the latest Audio Technicha models. For an additional fee depending on what cable you are getting you can even get the JH Audio Siren Series connectors along with the bass dial.
That being said the sad bit comes when you look at all the new types of terminations coming in. Don’t for one second think I am blaming Beat Audio because not a single company caters for these following products and I don’t see why they would when they are the only ones playing with these new methods. I have recently received the JAYS Q-Jays and the PSB M4U 4 and both use a new propriety method. The JAYS has a custom threaded MMCX that is awesome and the PSB I don’t even know what it would be called. Depending on the success of these earphone it probably is not even worth sourcing connectors but I wanted to note that Beat don’t cater for absolutely everyone but do have great options. Thankfully they do handle all options for jack terminations. Me and Josh both decided on getting 2 pin connectors then I got a standard 3.5mm single ended jack and Josh went for a 2.5mm TRRS for his AK240SS and AK380.
You can also choose custom lengths should you not want the standard 1.2 meters and request no ear guides.
I will get us going with my feelings of the Oslo before letting Josh take over with his experiences. Now when you want to advertise a cable a lot of companies like to approach things in their own ways. You get the likes of Nordost and Wywires who want to just claim crazy purity (they can’t even prove), others who put a lot of push down to the materials used and others who just list proprietary methods that sound fancy but almost certainly goes over the buyers head. Beat go a different way and don’t really want to get too technical with their buyers, sometimes they disclose the material used, sometimes not even that. Instead they are more set on offering almost subjective impressions for who might like the cable. While I am sure it is all in good intentions, they do say some questionable things like “This cable offers nothing except high quality copper! For those who love the copper sound” (Thor description). I don’t generally find copper to have a sound even if it has got a stigma for being warm and for first time cable buyers this could be misleading. On the flip side is it any more misleading than just a list of materials like other companies I don’t know.
If I was a buyer I would certainly feel confused when choosing a model. They have 9 models ranging 199 to 799 USD but three of the cheapest three are only $50 apart and two models even share a price tag. Other than aesthetics and subjective opinions, which one should you choose. I feel sometimes too many options is actually worse than too little and this could almost be off putting. The last thing you want is to buy the wrong $349 cable.
Reading their ‘About Us’ page you certainly gain the vantage point this company are coming from in terms of what their ethics are and they don’t want to be limited to using what people expect to be used because they think that sounds good. These guys want to use what they like, not what is the best on a purity scale or a lab test. That’s fair to me, I am all for that. My one niggle is that regardless I like transparency with a company; I hated it when Noble did not disclose what was in the Savant or FitEar with the fitear. Just be straight with us. I do also understand they are protecting themselves and cable tech is copied more often than any other area of the industry.
Now as for the cables we have the Silversonic that seems to put a lot of emphasis on being silver. That’s in looks by the way and it says nothing to actually say to me that the cable uses silver wires. I have copper cables that look silver so (pure copper not even silver plated) so this could be absolutely anything in terms of material used. From appearance it seems to use a Litz type design making use of many thinner, bigger number gauged wire. The cable itself is a quad braided design splitting in to a very neat and tidy two braid after the Y split. It is of course as the name suggests, the 5th iteration of this cable, showing a will to improve this cable!
In the same way the Silversonic has reached its fifth version, the Oslo is onto its third. The Oslo II used to be black but guess what? They wanted to make it look cooler and silver aesthetics has been there most popular choice, so that’s the new look for the III. Worth noting is that they also doubled the thread count to make it more conductive. The Oslo is only a two braid but inside the plastic sheath seems to be a lot of wire, much more than the pathetic Nordost Heimdall II full sized Headphone cable. For IEM cable it certainly seems to have a decent gauge. I did ask Stephen what material is used and I will quote is answer.
“I’m a little hesitant to say silver plated copper since it’s not as simple as that. You can say it uses both silver and copper. There are lots of techniques involved into making these cables, but it’s pointless to mention since sound is the ultimate judgement factor.”
This further shows their ethos and how they don’t want material to cloud your opinion but then I think back to the “Copper, copper, copper” in the Thor description. Anyhow, it doesn’t use gold and they seem to be pushing conductivity levels. What’s the worst it could be doing?
Oslo is Stunning…
I have never travelled there but anyone I know that has returned says how gorgeous the Norwegian capital is. I get the exact same impression from the Oslo CIEM cable, surely the most captivating to gaze at out of any of my ever expanding aftermarket cable collection. It comes in a cool tin for added credit and everything about the design compliments each other. The bright glow of the silver cable (which uses a special polish to continue to shine ever bright) blends nicely with the rich gold of the y-split and connector housings. I must mention that both these gold housings are the cheap old OEM casings that have been around for years, solid at their job but cheap and something I used when making DIY cables. To give them their due they have given them their own make over and do look good on the cable, so stop whining Sonny.
The ergonomics both of the cables are only OK. They are well built and give us no concerns there but it often kinks and doesn’t do exactly what you ask of it. It is soft when you want to bend it in a certain direction but not in all ways. In comparison the floppy and soft PWAudio cables are much better, as are some of my Effect Audio’s with their loose braids. That being said when wearing them everything is fine. The ear guides don’t use awful memory wire so actually work very well and the Oslo cable seems to do a decent job with microphonics when music is playing, if it is a bit audible when paused if you are to hit the cable.
… And Sounds it Too!
I will be honest and say this review has taken way to long. Like months. I am sorry Beat and Stephen. That being said since I first received and heard the Oslo III it has been a permanent fixture on whatever has been my favourite CIEM. When I received this that was Hidition’s Viento-R and when I started using the Heir 10.A more the cable moved over. I have tried it with a handful of others as well and always been pleased. Stephen Guo also told me that this is the cable he chooses to use and I am sure he also has access to the $200 more Prima Donna. I guess he has a external motive to say he uses it though being their distributor, I however don’t and also have access to a number of CIEM cable that need 3 hands to count. It still gets my endorsement.
As if to prove a point Beat Audio seem to be preaching I compared to a pure OCC copper cable from PWAudio. I have never been one to say this but I am sure you have heard copper is thick, bodied and warm. Well the Oslo made it sound brittle and un controlled. On top of that instead of sounding warmer it had a more exaggerated treble decay that just made it fatiguing, straight back to the Oslo please.
In fact comparing to any number of cables and it was the sheer amount of control this cable had time and time again that impressed me the most. It seemed so capable to keep everything together and not let things get out of control and messy. I was once told by a cable manufacture that a perfect cable does the least to the sound. Any colouration a cable may add is actually an interference of the signal and while he has a point, sometimes a colouration may actually be nice. Some earphones will want a warmer cable, or some people may find that anyhow. For me this cable seems to be that completely nonexistent type I was told a great cable should be. I have warmer cables like the Effect Audio Thor Copper and brighter cables like any of my PWAudios but while other seem to have some sort of colouration, this always seems to have the right tonal balance coupled with great transparency. While it does seem to be super clear and not get in the way. It still holds a nice amount of body, not as thin as some others, which seems like an extra pro.
Refinement, transparency and balanced tonality to me seem to be of great importance and that is the Oslo III in a nutshell. It simply outclasses any of my other cables on a technical ability and does so without colouring the sound, call me impressed and this will continue to follow round whatever I dub to be my favourite CIEM, maybe one day it will be a Unique Melody monitor, who knows!
Over to Josh!
The Premium Looks Continue…
I had actually never seen or heard of this cable company until I knew they were coming through, I didn’t even look on the internet before they arrived, I didn’t know what to expect at all. It was only fair at the time that I (Josh) would be reviewing the cheaper of the two cables and of course I was a little disappointed by this, who wouldn’t be?! I was especially disappointed when Sonny opened his box up first to reveal what was the best looking IEM cable I had seen in person, it was gorgeous! Thankfully though, and to my surprise I must admit, the $199 cable I was lumbered with looks absolutely fantastic too! It’s oh so easy with anything silver to make it look ‘blingy’, ostentatious, cheap, and nasty or any combination, it takes a designer to create a silver product that looks premium, classy, and expensive. They’ve managed it with the Silversonic though, I would describe it further but I know Sonny’s pictures will do it justice! One aspect that deserves a special mention is the right angled jack which is compact and solid, even if it is plastic, it’s really cool.
The ergonomics are very similar actually, as was said in the Oslo’s section. Pretty good overall, but doesn’t always do exactly what you are after, especially when I was on train journeys and my player was on the table in front of me so the cable wasn’t at a reasonable length. It just wouldn’t sit still and flat! Really not a big issue for me as the majority of time it was at a longer length where it is completely insignificant. Oh and I will add that the ear guides are fantastic, the best I’ve used actually.
I have no issues at all with build either; they offer everything you would want from the jack to the Y split through to the braiding. And at $199 I think it’s pretty bloody good and I have nothing more to say on the matter.
Not just a pretty face!
We are getting on for nearly 3000 words so I will keep it fairly short. This cable has one standout improvement over a stock cable and that is simply refinement. It’s a word that can be used to describe both cables actually but at this lower price point it is a more impressive offering. You get the details and the nuances you want in a controlled and subtle manor; it’s not an aggressive cable at all! It isn’t a dynamic musical cable either; it’s more of a flat sounding effect compared to my effect audio hybrid. This isn’t a negative for me, just something worth knowing.
As with the Oslo III, Beat haven’t gone for a cable that is warm or bright in the Silversonic, they seem to have kept a consistent goal to add as little as possible to the sound signature which is surely the goal of every audio enthusiast? Unfortunately not, we are all different and all prefer different things, but for me at least, adding nothing is the overall goal. Obviously I can’t tell you if this is the case throughout the range but it seems to be with these two!
I will be hugely picky now and tell you that the only things that left me wanting a little more from this cable were absolute clarity and openness. I did feel vocals sounded a little restrained at times and this effected clarity too. At $199 though, you can’t complain I don’t think, especially considering the way it looks and feels. The only reason I’ve included it is because someone will inevitably say “why would I buy the more expensive cable if this one is so good?” so if that was going to be you, there is your answer.
Not Just Two Cables, But Two Great Cables
Beat Audio have thoroughly impressed me and I think I speak for Josh as well. Both cables have offered an increase to our listening experience thoroughly on a level of refinement and I am happy that a cable manufacture also knows how important looks are in a cable as well. The Oslo is not cheap but if you have a flagship level CIEM then this is a much worthwhile purchase. Obviously if you have a $600 or less universal or custom IEM then you should not by any means spend the price of the Oslo on a cable and the Silversonic is a great cheaper buy!