Cardas have been in the audio industry for way longer than I have even been alive. Starting up in Bandon, Oregon back in 1987, these were some of the first guys to start taking cabling seriously and also making better quality components such as terminations. I also know that they were one of the first brands to start doing boutique headphone cables, embracing the personal audio market way before it was having the time of its life in 2016. Furthering his new found love for headphones after years in the speaker market George Cardas started to build his own earphone or should I say ear speaker, how he perceives his models. While I say he had a new found love for this sector of the industry, he actually wanted to make his own earphones because he found what was already available very “annoying”. Now as we are in 2016 you are probably guessing he started doing all this recently but that is far from the case, he pursued this dream from way back in 2009. I remember seeing the original ear speaker start appearing at shows in 2012 but they still tweaked and perfected it for a whole lot longer before its release in 2013. That was the EM5813 and as you have probably seen this reviews title, I have the A8. The A8 is much newer having been released last year and it is also cheaper by $125 in the native USA. I found out that we are fortunate enough to have a Cardas distributor (AudioFreaks) in the UK that have brought over the IEMs, not just cables. The sad thing is the price for us Brits, £279 is nowhere near as appealing as $299. Import tax is a bummer.
A Mirror of your Ear
What I know to be the case with the 5813 and I expect continues with the very similar shaped A8 is that the idea behind the design is that the earphone is made to mirror our hearing system. The driver has similar tenacity properties to our ear drums and the path it takes is very much like how our cochlea is made up. I have not seen them talk a lot about this for the A8 but it seemed like one of the driving technologies when I used to watch interviews of George back in 2012 regarding the first model. They do say that the A8 shares the golden spiral curve shape and I think that has something to do with it. While talking about technology I want to mention this does not use the most standard of drivers. The driver is brand new to this model and is a 10.85mm dynamic that is the worlds first “Ultra Linear, Contour Field, Dual Magnet Driver”. Apparently that means it does not have a permeable core which helps sound? I have looked further into this and normally between the magnet and driver coil you have a permeable pole piece that can lead to “flux modulation distortion”. Instead of this pole piece Cardas use another magnet (a special contour magnet) which has benefits such as increasing the flux and preventing that distortion.
Now being a cable company you would expect that this was an area for them to show off a bit. In my opinion this the most awesome looking stock cable I have ever come across! That is not to say it is perfect in function but I think it looks freaking brilliant, I even said in my DHC Complement 4 Review that their cables should look like this, it is a helix after all. Now I found it sad that they opted against removable cables, you know I find them vital for more than one reason. Even though the case here is you get a great stock cable and one designed for purpose, simply for longevity the piece of mind of a removable cable is a big one for me. I also want to be able to do things like balance my earphones but while this does come ready to go with a single ended 3.5mm jack, Cardas have implemented a design that lets you balance them. Like Sennheiser’s IE800 these have a jack at the y-split letting you add an extender for actual use. But instead of Sennheiser stupidly putting a 3.5mm jack at the y-split Cardas used a 2.5mm TRRS jack so you can basically get an adapter to make these have any balanced connection and Cardas themselves currently sell both a Astell & Kern 2.5mm TRRS and Pono adapter for £49. I have the AK one and it has worked great allowing me to use the balanced output of quite a few of my DAPs including the Cayin N5 and AK380. Whatever adapter you are using they have a cool lock in system.
Now I talk about how cool I found this cable and I am sure you know why just by looking at the pictures but there is more to this helix design that just aesthetics. The helix design comes from the way they have wrapped their conductors (golden ratio strands) around a fiber core. This is done to not stress the conductors even if tugged or knocked around when out and about. I will tell you my little niggle with the cable though and that is how it can be quite microphonic.
The unique almost tear drop like housing is just beautifully finished. On first touch it has this rubber feel to it but clearly has way too much weight to be plastic. It is indeed finished with an ABS rubber which is smooth and never cold in your ear and also is probably a little more ideal if dropped but underneath this is very much metal. While it looks blue it has a machined billet brass construction. It honestly does feel so solid and well finished and while I have had my usual little whine about non removable cables, strain reliefs enter the housing very well.
I must say the shape does work very well, which you may not expect from something quite heavy and not the most usual of shapes. With the included dual flange tips it sits just right in your ear and distributes weight well. That is not to say I don’t find them start burdening my ear after an hour or so and needing a brief rest from the weight. On the topic of whats included you get 3 sizes of dual flange tips and a pair of Comply’s. Due to the nature of both dual flange and foam tips, these actually isolate pretty well even for a vented dynamic driver.
You also get an absolutely gorgeous case with gold accents that just have that little bit of swagger.
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Go to Page 3 for Measurements