In my opinion, cable doesn’t have a “sound” which you can describe by itself like IEMs in terms of lows, mids, treble. Cable is a medium that could shape up and fine-tune the sound signature or expand the soundstage perception, something you can describe relative to IEM under the test or relative to another cable you comparing it to. What you hear is a synergy of 3 elements in the sound chain of the source, the cable, and IEMs. Thus, it’s easier to describe the sound when you replace one of these elements and note the change associated with it.
In this sound analysis I used 64 Audio U18t with A&K SP1000 SS (latest 1.08 fw), playing a selection of the test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Robin Schultz “Oh child”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”.
I usually start my cable sound analysis by going into Pair Up and Comparison testing so I can draw the final conclusion about what the cable brings to the table in terms of the sound. Thus, Sound Analysis section in reality is part of the Conclusion, even so I have it listed before pair up and comparison in the review.
Relative to many stock OFC and SPC cables, there is definitely a noticeable improvement in soundstage perception with a wider/deeper stage expansion, and I even noticed improvement in staging relative to some other premium cables, which I mentioned in Comparison section of my review.
In terms of sound tonality, I noticed one very common and quite consistent trait where Leo II doesn’t boost the low-end as much, but gives it more focus and more control thanks to a transformation with a faster attack and shorter decay which tightens the sound and makes bass more articulate and better layered.
The effect on mids is also very consistent, giving the sound a fuller body in the lower mids while keeping the upper mids natural and still transparent without adding too much coloration. We often associate natural with a warmer tonality which can color the sound, making it smoother. To my surprise, I hear a fuller body (especially noticeable when compared to a more revealing brighter Horus), but mids/vocals are still transparent and quite detailed. In many cases improving the retrieval of details to my ears.
When it comes to treble, I hear Leo II common effect of maintaining (or enhancing relative to stock cables) a nice sparkle and airiness, while still keeping it under control without any exaggerated sound artifacts of shrill.
One of the common stereotypes about Silver or Silver-based cables is a bright sound characteristics. Leo II is a prime example of this not being true, and as a matter of fact, it brings more focus and control to the bass and gives more body to the mids without reducing resolution and transparency. To my ears that’s the biggest contributing factor of this cable.
Consistent with my cable testing philosophy, I used the same IEM (U18t) and only changed one variable at a time to note the sound difference I hear. One common observation, Leo II probably has a little higher impedance since I had to raise volume by a few clicks in every comparison.
EA Horus to Leo II – I hear nearly the same soundstage (both in depth and width). Starting with bass, I hear a little more rumble, not necessary elevated, just with a deeper extension. Lower mids gain more body, doesn’t sound as lean anymore, and upper mids are smoother and more organic. Lower treble looses just a little bit of sparkle, giving it a more natural tonality. Both cables, when paired up with U18t, have a great resolution and excellent retrieval of details, but tonality is not the same with the main difference of Horus making U18t brighter, more revealing, more analytical, and a little more transparent, while Leo II gives it a more natural tonality with a fuller body mids and more controlled treble.
PWA 1960 2wire to Leo II – I hear a very similar soundstage depth, but 1960 is still a little wider in comparison. With a bass, both have a similar sub-bass extension, but 1960 mid-bass slams a little harder. With mids, 1960 2wire sounds a little warmer, with a touch more body and a bit less resolution, while Leo II is more transparent (less warmth to color the sound), and as a result makes Leo II to sound a little more resolving. With treble, I hear 1960 with a little more sparkle while Leo II is more controlled and natural.
EA Thor II+ to Leo II – I hear nearly the same soundstage (both in depth and width). Very similar bass extension and slam, but the bass with Leo II sounds more articulate, tighter, faster. Thor II+ mids are fuller and warmer while Leo II is more transparent, more resolving, and with better retrieval of details. Treble with Leo II has a little more sparkle as well. Considering that we’re talking about pair up synergy with U18t, Thor II+ gives it a more natural, smoother tonality, while Leo II still keeps it natural but finesses it with more transparent, more layered mids. Another big difference is the ergonomics of a more flexible 26awg Leo II vs a stiffer and heavier 22awg Thor II+.
EA Lionheart to Leo II – With an exception of mids, surprisingly I found a lot of similarities in this comparison. Soundstage is nearly identical, though I have to note that Lionheart I have is 3.5mm terminated and I had to compare it to Leo II with EA 3.5mm adaptor. Bass has a very similar extension and impact, though Leo II has more control and better articulation, keeping low end tighter. Mids are warmer and smoother with Lionheart, while more transparent, more revealing, and with better retrieval of details with Leo II. Treble is nearly the same, well controlled and with a natural sparkle. Lionheart is usually great with brighter or neutral tuned IEMs, but with a smoother sound you lose a bit of resolution and transparency, which you gain back with Leo II.
HSA Aurora to Leo II – While both have a similar soundstage width, here I found Aurora to have less depth, giving a sound more intimate feeling, while Leo II extended further with a more holographic staging. With bass, I hear Leo II going a touch deeper, while Aurora hits a little harder, but again, Leo II bass is tighter, better controlled, and more articulate. Mids are similar in presentation and retrieval of details, but with U18t the Aurora is brighter and a little harsher, especially going into lower treble, while Leo II sounds more natural, smoother, and better controlled. The same with treble, where Aurora sounds brighter with U18t, while Leo II is more natural and better controlled. But in general comparison, the biggest difference here is in mids, where Leo II is more natural and still transparent and resolving, while Aurora is better suited for warmer IEMs pair up.