The sound analysis of these cables was done using 64 Audio U18t with Lotoo’s LPGT, 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”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, Galantis “Hunter”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Robin Schultz “Oh child”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”.
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 compare it to. What you hear is a synergy between 3 elements in the sound chain: 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.
Seems that across multiple pair ups and comparisons I found Athena to deliver a consistent improvement in lifting and extending the sub-bass rumble, making mid-bass impact a little more noticeable, adding more body to mids/vocals, making them smoother, more natural, richer in tonality. Also, it takes a little bit of edge off the treble, reducing some sparkle. But to my surprise, with all these smoother changes described above, the speed of the sound didn’t change. It still maintained its pace without slowing down or becoming laidback.
Athena will have a good pair up with IEMs where you want to fine tune the mids/vocals, to give them more smoothness without taking away the resolution, to make them sound more natural without slowing down the speed. Also, works great with IEMs where you want to keep sibilant peaks under control.
Consistent with my cable testing philosophy, I used the same IEM (64 Audio U18t) and only changed one variable at a time to note the sound difference I hear while keeping volume matched. Keep in mind, I’m describing how these cables sound with 64 Audio U18t IEM.
SA Athena vs Leo II octa (8 conductors) – This comparison was a bit of a surprise to me, considering similarity in wire material, I was expecting to hear a very similar sound response. I found the bass to be very similar, perhaps with a touch more rumble in Leo II versus a little more impact with Athena which made U18t bass with Athena a little bit faster. Treble was identical, or nearly identical, with the same airiness and extension. Mids/vocals is where I hear more difference, not exactly night and day, but with Leo II upper mids are a little more revealing, even a little brighter in comparison to mids with Athena being a little smoother and more organic. I went many times, back’n’forth and even tried a blind test, and I can still spot the difference. In theory, I wouldn’t say one is better or worse than the other, which is a big compliment for a cheaper priced Athena, but it’s just a matter of a personal preference, if you want more transparent mids, go with Leo II, but if you want fuller more natural mids – Athena is a good pair up for it.
SA Athena vs PlusSound Tri-Silver (4 conductors) – the difference between these two cables is more noticeable, though 8 conductors vs 4 conductors will result in a lower impedance of the cable (8 wire) which can affect the sound. Starting with a bass, I hear U18t to have the same amount of sub-bass rumble with both cables, but the mid-bass impact is stronger with Athena. While the difference in bass is not that big, upper mids and treble difference is more noticeable. With tri-silver U18t mids sound brighter, more revealing, and treble is a lot crisper, while with Athena the mids/vocals are more neutral and more natural and treble is also a little smoother, crisp but not with the same amount of sparkle. Of course, it’s just a matter of a personal preference, depending on if you want to fine tune the sound of your IEMs to be smoother, more organic, or brighter and more revealing.
SA Athena vs PWA 1960 4wire (8 conductors) – in this comparison, the difference was also noticeable. Not so much in bass since the bass impact and depth are very similar, perhaps with Athena going a little deeper in rumble which gave 1960 a little faster attack. Mids are also a little brighter in 1960, in comparison to more natural tonality of mids in U18t paired up with Athena. Actually, the effect of 1960 cable on mids was somewhere between Athena and PlusSound. But the treble is where I hear the most noticeable difference. 1960 treble is a lot brighter and crisper, I don’t find it fatigue, but it just very crisp and airy, while Athena treble is a lot smoother and more natural. Obviously, with Athena cable U18t treble is not rolled off, but the peaks are more under control which gives an overall sound a smoother and more natural tonality.