While I did say I like to keep it informal I like to briefly discuss how I do my evaluation.
First I use a set of IEM/headphone that I intimately know. No point testing unfamiliar gears with more unfamiliar gear, not unless you are just auditioning the gears, right?
For this review I use a variety of IEM, all with MMCX type connection (I say this as there are people who believe sound can be coloured based on the connectors used and MMCX said to colour sound the most).
Just to mention the gears used the most are mentioned:
- Ultrasone IQ: can sound wide in the right condition and very bright in the wrong condition (wrong condition are: bright recording, high output impedance sources, wrong tip)
- AKT8iE: An impactful bass, warm sounding, a wide sound stage and an average depth. Has the potential to offer great dynamic in those classical music recording which offer such dynamic range. Responses very well with cable swapping and hence why I selected for my review.
- Chord HUGO: Reference source and thanks to dual 3.5mm I can do direct A/B.
- Lotoo PAW Gold: Another reference gear which I use for testing the portability/duality of the plug for portable use.
What got me into cable replacement at the start of this hobby was merely because my stock cable wasn’t functioning correctly and since I was spending money I wanted to I am spending my money wisely. I never thought much on how cable replacement cable can change the sound. To be honest I didn’t know it could and at start when I was reading the “APURESOUND ER4S” thread, a thread relating upgrade cable for the Etymotics ER4, the IEM that got me into this hobby and begun my interest in cable replacement, I thought the people in the thread were just making things up, I was reading the thread not out of interest of learning after a short while spending time reading that thread but I was reading mostly out of amusement. How things have changed for me!
Another reason why enthusiastic are forced to swap their stock cable with something else is when they like to use a balance amplification to drive the IEM/headphone. I am not going to discuss why such method of power delivery is preferred; I leave that to you guys to look into.
Balance amplification was first made popular in desktop usage. But slowly portable amp makers came with the claims that they can offer the same level of performance in a much more compact form. The first one that I got to know was Ray Samuels SR71B. Soon the movement was large enough for it to give rise to now having sources (iPod DAC, remembers those?) which offered line out in balance format. Slowly the DAC balance out was thing of a past as the DAP makers decided the market is large enough for them to take the best of the staking and make it in a compact format.
Basically the DAP maker claimed we no longer need amplifiers to achieve what balance amplification offers. They could offer the same level of performance for most IEM users in a much more compact format. The idea sounded good right? Well yes (depends on how you look at it) but the issue was and still is one thing: on what kind of balance connection do we settle on? At start the Kobiconn connectors dominated the portable amplifiers. Thankfully it never made its way to the DAP world. The 3.5mm TRRS to my knowledge was the first balance connection used in DAP, first used by HifiMan HM801 and still used in current Cowon flagship DAP, the Plenue S. That too had its issues, people kept frying their amp section by plugging into the wrong jack but nevertheless it was the only option available for those who wanted to have such connection. That was until Astell&Kern made an entrance to the DAP world, first they focused on single ended DAP but surely with introduction of the AK240 the 2.5 mm TRRS jack appeared to have informally become the new standard. Unofficial as it is currently it appears that it will not go away anytime soon despite the new 4.4mm JIETA standard, which adds yet another option for various DAP maker to implement.
As you can see it merely is impossible to just have one cable to cover ever possible option in an elegant manner. Various cable makers tried to do it, they offered noble yet certainly bulky option such as using the Kobiconn connectors somewhere in middle of the cable and allowing the user to change the bottom half to tailor their needs however the final product was just heavy due to part used and the final finish had a lot left to desire for. So if you belonged to the group of DAP collectors who happened to own more than just one DAP your options was to either get the bulky cable with multiple attachment or get a cable for each of your IEM terminated in your required connector. They were the only option till Dita decided to take the same mindset they applied to their debute products, Dita Truth and Answer, and produce an after-market cable that I see as a revolutionary product as far as modular cable is concerned.