The necklace of your choice!
PROS: excellent workmanship, “classic” PWA sleeve design, sound improvement in sub-bass and mid-forward presentation, expansion of soundstage perception.
CONS: sound improvement varies depending on pair up and the cable version.
The product (baseline Monile version) was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
I’m aware that some people don’t believe in cables and have very strong opinions about it. It’s not my intention to start the argument; instead, I would like to share what I hear during my testing. Perhaps, I can’t fully explain why there is a change in sound, but I do hear it and don’t believe it’s a placebo effect. What makes sense to me, a metal wire is a material with physical properties of resistivity, conductivity, purity, all of which put together act as a filter between your source and headphones. Variations of these physical properties can affect the flow of analog signal, resulting in a sound change, from a subtle to a more noticeable level. Also, the sound change introduced by a specific cable is not universal because it will depend on the design and the synergy between the source and earphones or headphones under test.
Despite of everything else, PWAudio (Peter Wong Audio) had a busy year which started with celebration of their 10-year anniversary with a release of No10 cable. Then, their iconic 1960 was featured as a stock cable in two flagship IEM releases, Empire Ears Odin and Oriolus Traillii. While I reviewed 1960 almost 4 years ago, this cable hasn’t “aged” and still highly regarded among audiophiles despite its rather non-flashy signature look. That is how I almost mistaken their new Monile release for 1960 because they share a similar braided black sleeving, until I saw it features not only pure copper but also silver wires.
But what really got my curiosity was other versions of Monile cable. For those familiar with 1960, you aware it comes in 2wire (4conductor) and 4wire (8conductor) versions, with a latter one doubling conductors. Monile standard cable is 2wire (4conductor) but their 4wire versions not only double the conductors but also feature different designs based on 1950s and 1960s cables and a special Shielding version. Thus, when I received Monile for review, I also borrowed other versions from Musicteck for comparison. Plus, I had a nice chat with Peter Wong himself to find out differences between all of them.
For those who are interested, I hope my write up can shed more light not only on the original PWAudio Monile cable but also its 1950s, 1960s, and Shielding versions. So, here we go!
Unboxing and Accessories.
Nothing much to write here since for my test purpose I received these cables in Ziploc bags. Typically, PWA cables arrive in a very small cardboard box inside of a cotton drawstring bag which could be optional. And when it comes to accessories, depending on your source and the cable termination, you can either order short adapter or matching cable pigtail adapter.
Also, as part of their 10-year anniversary, Peter Wong released a number of adapters which I borrowed from Musicteck for testing. The one I received were 4.4mm adapters for use with 2.5mm A&K DAPs. While so many DAPs switched to support 4.4mm BAL jack, A&K still holding on to 2.5mm. One of the main purposes of these adapters design was to provide better isolation and shielding.
PWA 4.4mm/2.5mm vs DDHiFi 4.4mm/2.5mm – I find the sound in this comparison to be tighter and the perception of the noise floor to be lower when using PWA adapter. These changes also improve the perception of sound dynamics. At least to my ears, I was able to spot the difference in a blind test.
PWA 4.4mm/2.5mm vs PWA 4.4mm/2.5mm+3.5mm – The latter adapter design, specific to A&K DAPs, uses 3.5mm ground from SE jack next to 2.5mm BAL for additional shielding. To my very big surprise while I hear the sound signature and technical performance to be similar between these two 4.4mm adapters, the one with 3.5mm GND makes soundstage wider and it is not just subtle but quite noticeable.
As already mentioned, from the first look Monile could be easily mistaken for PWA other popular 1960 cable due to its exterior tightly braided black carbon fiber cotton sleeving. It is definitely a signature PWA look where the main goal is the performance and the isolation rather than showcasing the glamourous look of the wires under see-through jacket. All Monile cables feature the same soft FEP jacket material for core wires and PVC jacket for shielding wires, and core and shielding wires are combined in a coax design. Because of that, 2wire design has a single cable going to each side above the split, with each one having 2 conductors for a total of 4. By the same token, 4wire features 8 conductors with a pair of twisted cables going to each side.
The wires itself are ultra purity Copper and super purity Silver where copper has 26awg gauge and silver – 25.5awg gauge. Another thing in common between Monile cables is hexagon shaped plug housing with a clear heatshrink piece used as a strain relief, hexagon shaped y-split, and a matching hexagon shaped chin slider. The 2wire regular Monile cable y-split and chin slider are smaller, while 1950s, 1960s, and Shielding versions scaled up to accommodate 4wire design. The housing of 2pin connectors is the same with a typical black/red marking to ID left/right sides. And you have a choice of either 2pin or mmcx, as well as 2.5mm, 3.5mm, or 4.4mm plugs.
And that is where similarities end between these 4 different Monile versions.
This standard Monile cable comes with 2 wires (4 conductors) where you have 2 positive Silver core conductors and 2 negative Copper shielding conductors. The cable itself is on a thinner side since it only has 2 coax wires with pre-shaped heatshrink earhooks, very similar to 1960 2wire look. Because of that, it is lighter and more comfortable to wear with IEMs on the go.
Monile 1950s version
This 1950s version of Monile cable comes with 4 wires (8 conductors) and it is based on PWA 1950 cable design which focuses on wire isolation within each side. There are 2 wires per side, with one having a positive core (silver) and a negative shielding (copper), and the other one flipped with a negative core (copper) and a positive shielding (silver). Due to 4 wires the cable is on a thicker side and there is no pre-shaped earhooks, but it is still flexible and comfortable to wear over the ears.
Monile 1960s version
This 1960s version of Monile cable comes with 4 wires (8 conductors) and based on PWA 1960 cable design, using silver as positive and copper as negative conductors. In this design the core conductor is always positive while the outside shielding is always negative. This way you isolate and protect from the outside interference. Due to 4 wires design, the cable is on a thicker side, and no pre-shaped earhooks are used, but it is still flexible and comfortable to wear over the ears.
Monile Shielding version
The shielding version of Monile uses 4 wires (8 conductors) and also adds an independent shielding. This way you still have copper wire as a ground (negative polarity) and silver wire as a positive core polarity, and on top of that an additional outside layer of ground shielding to isolate and shield copper/silver wires. The Shielding version I received for testing was terminated with 4.4mm BAL plug and had another 3.5mm plug used for additional ground shielding in case if the source doesn’t have grounded Pentaconn jack. Due to the extra ground shielding layer, this is the thickest cable out of all 4 Monile versions, and also comes without pre-shaped earhooks. It is heavier and thicker, still OK to wear, though feels more comfortable when you are sitting down.