Bundles of Fun.
PROS: Warm-natural tonality, textured bass, clear mids, sparkly yet smooth highs, detail, air, resolution, looks to pair well with many IEMs, great build quality with excellent comfort and many customization options.
Erik (head-fi’s Wyville) is back and, staying true to his cablephile calling, sharing another cable review, this time of PlusSound X6 Tri-Copper. Some might recall I (twister6) already reviewed 4-conductor EXO TriCopper. Now, let’s find out from Erik how the 6-conductor X6 version of TriCopper performs!
I would like to thank Christian from PlusSound for providing me with the X6 Tri-Copper in exchange for my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.
- Gauge: 26 AWG
- Geometry: 7 cores
- Materials: Tri-Copper (copper, silver-plated copper, gold-plated copper) Type 6 Litz
- Insulation: PS Insulation
- Connector type: 2-pin/CIEM
- Termination type: 2.5mm TRRS (balanced)
- Price: US$ 824.99
PlusSound is a small, yet highly versatile company based in Los Angeles, California. They offer a wide range of products such as their small form factor 3D printed IEMs, Cloud Nine amplifier, earplugs, various accessories and DIY components, and of course a very wide range of cables, interconnects and adapters. I think that perhaps in terms of cables, interconnects and adapters, PlusSound offers one of the widest ranges available and has some of the most extensive customization options. Just in terms of IEM cables there are 10 different series to choose from, with regular cable options in the X-Series (2-wire), Exo (4-wire), X6 (6-wire) and X8 (8-wire), as well as more sturdy cable series such as the Poetic that has sleeving to add to the durability of the cable. Just that sleeving alone has 13 different color options.
To take the X6 series as an example: There are 8 different wire materials available, ranging from the common Copper, SPC and Silver, to the exotics such as T-metal and the Tri-Copper of the cable under review here. There are 14 connector options including Ultimate Ears’ new IPX, 7 terminations, 2 types of braiding for the main cable (semi-round and flat), 2 types for the left and right side cables above the Y-split (flat or twist), 7 color options for the logo on the termination, 5 for the logo on the connectors (left and right can be chosen individually), 12 different y-splitters and 7 slider options (including none). I am not even going to try and do the math to work out how many combinations are possible here, but it makes for a great experience shopping for a new cable.
Not only does PlusSound offer truly custom cables that are of a very high quality and is matched by an equally great customer service, Christian Oliver (the big boss-type person) himself is a great guy to talk to and he really thinks along with the customer. One of the things I still remember quite fondly and something that as a reviewer I greatly appreciate is that he takes criticism on the chin like few others. I remember reading one reviewer cursing the ergonomics of the X6 cable he was sent. Christian clearly took that as a challenge and sent him an X-Series to prove just how ergonomic his cables could be. To this day that reviewer (a friend, in case you are wondering) still uses that X-Series as one of his favorite cables. Moreover, Christian went down deep into the PlusSound Skunk Works to come up with a new insulation, the PS insulation, that would prove an ergonomic dream. I compared old and new in my review of the Exo Silver + Gold and can now say that it has held up very well since that review.
As it happens the cable under review here is another X6, this time with the new insulation, so a good opportunity to put the X6 through another rigorous ergonomics test (ie. Me listening to my favorite music all day long. I know, it is a tough job, but somebody has to do it.)
Unboxing and accessories.
I generally don’t spend too much time thinking about the box something came in, but it does seem like an increasing number of companies are putting a lot of thought into their packaging and accessories. Indeed, I actually still use the box from my previous PlusSound review because it is so nice, sturdy and convenient in use. This time the box contained a small mysterious second box and I just had to take a closer look.
The box is a classy satin black with a similarly satin black sleeve around it that contains glossy black artwork and information on the back about the cable, instructions on how to use and care for it and warranty information. The box itself is very sturdy with a magnetically closing lid. Inside is a foam pad with to the side a small second box marked “accessories”, and of course the cable itself that was sealed in a clear plastic bag.
The accessories box is a small cardboard box that again is constructed very sturdily so it can be used on the go. I am not sure if many people will do that, but I think it is a good indication of how much thought PlusSound have put into this. The box contains the amplifier band that PlusSound included already, something I think makes sense considering they offer their own Cloud Nine amp, and newly added were a microfiber cloth, a cleaning tool and a leather strap to help organize the cable. That last one I suspect will be the most popular accessory, as I always have trouble with my cables getting in a tangled mess, especially if I have a few stored in the same box. The cloth and cleaning tool are of course always useful, although I suspect that people who own a lot of gear will have several of those already. I have a few, but I also always keep losing them, so I am keeping these in the box to make sure I know where at least one set of them is. See, the box is working already!
Build quality and fit.
The X6 under review here has the relatively new ‘Tri-Copper’ wires that are made up of groups of copper, silver-plated copper and gold-plated copper wires that are bundled together and coated in enamel. Hence the name “tri” copper. It is a bigger cable that consists of 6, 26 AWG, wires that feature the recently developed PS Insulation. The way the wires are braided is relatively loose, adding a little to the overall diameter of the cable, but also greatly to its suppleness. There are also no pre-bent heat shrinks or memory wires to go around the ears, which reduces the diameter there a little and again improves the suppleness of the cable. Where the previous X6 might have been a bit stiff and bulky, this X6 is actually very comfortable to wear, even for long periods of time. The durability of it seems very good, as my previously reviewed PlusSound cable has held up very well and I have so far not noticed any stiffening of the insulation material. The only thing I have noticed is that the twist-type braiding on the left and right side can ‘untwist’ with intensive use because there is no material around it (like a pre-bent heat shrink) to secure the twist. It just requires a little care when storing the cable, which I admit I am not all that good at. Even so, I have had no issues with the cable because of it.
The parts used by PlusSound are of a great quality. Both the termination and connectors have a branded heat shrink around them and I personally really like this. It makes the termination and connectors a little more bulky, but it also feels incredibly solid. With some of my other cables I have had issues with caps of the connectors coming loose and the termination unscrewing, but not with these. These feel rock solid and are a joy to use when switching cables. It not just feels more solid, but I feel there is more control and less chance of bending connector pins. The only downside is that due to the larger diameter of the connectors, they can cause fit issues if the IEMs sit a little too flush in the ears. In those cases the connector can push the IEMs out a little breaking the seal. In most cases though I suspect it will not be a problem.
The logo on the termination is copper with the logos on the connectors copper for right and silver for left, while the Y-splitter is Silver Aluminium and the slider Rose Gold Aluminium. Now there is an eye for detail! Copper, Silver, Gold… Just like the Tri-Copper material. A great example of how it is possible to play with the various customization options.
All listening was done with my AK70 from its balanced out using the primarily Empire Ears Phantom and Legend X, but also the Rhapsodio Saturn, Custom Art Ei.3 and Rhapsodio Galaxy V2
On paper the Tri-Copper reminded me a lot of the Effect Audio Lionheart with a similar way in which a copper-based cable is blended with silver and gold (plating in this case). On paper I might have had some expectations. Luckily, I know not to trust “on paper” and instead rely on my own two ears because the X6 Tri-Copper clearly had ideas of its own. Now that is not to say that it is a wildly different cable from what I expected. It is a warm cable. Check! It is a natural sounding cable. Check! And then everything else went out the window because PlusSound pulled a trick or two to make sure that the sound would be full of character and thoroughly exciting. I had not expected sparkly, certainly not with my Phantom. I had not expected detailed, certainly not with my Phantom. And yet, listening with my Phantom, there it is… Sparkle! Detail! Air! Bass, oh glorious bass!
The X6 Tri-Copper diverges from my expectations because unlike Lionheart it is not a mid-centric cable, the Tri-Copper instead opts for more focus on the bass and treble. As a consequence, the presentation has something of a hint of V-shape to it, adding excitement to IEMs like my Phantom. The stage is extended and very airy yet maintains a feeling of intimacy by the way it wraps the music around the head. Especially with the Phantom music surrounds my head in a way that gives a very holographic experience. The music feels all around me and combined with the high level of detail gives a really immersive feeling. This works great for classical music. Rather than sitting in the audience, somebody put the seat smack bang in the middle of the orchestra and it is a lovely place to be. Alternatively, play EDM music such as Carbon Based Lifeforms or Melokind and the physical sense of space is tangible, only aided further by the level of detail and the articulation of the notes. Melokind’s ‘Frühlingsgefühle’ becomes a sensation that tickles me in all the right places. Even with the Galaxy V2, which have a flatter, wider stage than the Phantom, the result is that the music feels like it is flying around my head. Like the Phantom the Galaxy V2 pair very well, as the X6 Tri-Copper seems to perfectly compliment the detail-oriented V2 that have an outstanding bass and exciting treble. Two very different IEMs, still great synergy and together with the other IEMs I used for this review it looks very much like the X6 Tri-Copper is highly versatile and will pair well with a wide variety of IEMs.
Still, I like searching for the best synergy and found that with the Empire Ears Legend X. Oh my… *drools* This is an outstandingly good pairing as the X6 Tri-Copper takes the already impressive Legend X to new heights. Do note that Legend X already come stock with the Effect Audio Ares II (4-wire) cable that I consider excellent in its own right. The X6 Tri-Copper felt like a clear step up and seemed to work tremendously well with Legend X’s inherent strengths.