Consistent with my cable testing philosophy, I used the same IEM (Traillii, a.k.a. the Bird) and the same source (LPGT), 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 a particular IEM sound compares between FT and other cables.
FT vs Orpheus vs 1960 4w – Orpheus soundstage spreads a little bit wider than FT, while both have a similar depth/height. And that width expansion is mostly in mids, stretching wider, creating a more holographic image. But relative to 1960 4w cable, using Traillii as IEM for comparison, FT soundstage is bigger than 1960. The sub-bass extension is similar, but mid-bass punch is faster in FT while Orpheus bass is a little slower and more relaxed. As a result of that, Traillii bass sounds faster and punchier and performs more like BA bass w/FT and more relaxed and slower and performs more like DD bass w/Orpheus. Mids and treble are smoother with Orpheus, like a smoother analog blanket over the sound of Traillii, while FT is a little brighter and with a higher level of micro-detail retrieval. The same with treble, FT is crisp with more airy sparkle while Orpheus is smoother and more relaxed. Both FT and Orph exhibit a very black background, though a faster and punchier sound of FT creates a perception of faster transient response of notes which makes background even blacker in Traillii with FT cable. Relative to Traillii, its stock 1960 4w cable performance is in between Orpheus and FT where Orpheus brings a smoother and more analog tonality to the sound and FT extracts more micro-details and tightens up the sound with more speed and even blacker background. Both cables also improve soundstage width and imaging relative to stock 1960 4w.
FT vs EA Centurion – here the soundstage difference is similar to comparison with Orph, where Cent has even more depth which creates a cool 3D imaging effect, though FT is not too far off. The Cent sound is brighter and faster, kind of a polar opposite of Orph. In comparison, FT bass is a little more relaxed, though equally articulate. But when you start analyzing mids and treble, you quickly realize that Centurion makes Traillii lower mids more neutral and upper mids and treble brighter and crisper, while FT gives lower mids more natural body and makes upper mids smoother and more natural. Both have a very good airy treble extension, but Centurion is crisper in upper frequencies while FT takes an edge off with a more natural definition. FT tonality with Traillii will be in between Orph and Cent, having natural tonality like with Orph and higher resolution like with Cent.
FT vs EA Code 51 – very similar soundstage expansion between these two cables. Actually, despite a totally different wire material, these two have a lot of similarities in upper mids and treble. Bass quantity, from sub-bass rumble to mid-bass impact is similar as well, but with C51 the bass sounds even faster, while with FT and Traillii it sounds a little more laidback, less aggressive, though both sound as articulate. Another difference I hear is in lower mids where C51 is more neutral, even a little thinner and more revealing, while FT has more body and more natural smoother tonality.
FT vs PlusSound PPH8 – again, soundstage expansion is not too far off, maybe with FT stretching just a little bit wider. And also, the overall tonality is not too far off either. FT is a little smoother, giving the sound a more analog flavor, while PPH8 is a little more revealing. I also noticed FT has blacker background with Traillii. But overall, these two are not too far off.
FT vs Eletech Iliad and Aeneid – I decided to combine these two cables in one comparison because they have a complementary sound signature. When it comes to soundstage expansion, Aeneid reaches closer to FT width, while Iliad has a bit narrower soundstage. With tonality, Iliad is brighter and more revealing when compared to Aeneid. So, when you compare FT cable to both of these Eletech cables, it is more aligned with Aeneid which is close to FT in soundstage expansion, but FT tonality is still smoother, with a fuller body, and more natural timbre in comparison to Aeneid.
Just like I start every cable review with Preamble about what I think of cables in general, I always end in the Conclusion with my public service announcement, reminding to keep realistic expectations about cable contribution to IEM sound changes. Cable is about sound refinement and finding the right pair up synergy to realize that refinement, either if it is going to be subtle or more noticeable. But one thing I constantly bring up like a broken record, it’s all about diminishing returns because you are not going to make your IEM sound $2k+ better when you pair it up with multi-kilobuck cable. But for some people, even 5-10% refinement is priceless. And I’m not just saying this, I actually have quite a few readers who ping me with requests of cable recommendations in a price range of $2k-$5k, telling me it is still a bargain relative to $10k+ they spent on cables for their high end 2-channel stereo speaker system.
First Times, standard edition, is not cheap, though cheaper than some other flagship cables or the shielded edition. If you already invested into $4k-$6k flagship IEMs, like Traillii, Erlkonig, Phoenix, Mason FS, and looking to maximize their performance with bigger soundstage, blacker background, and higher level of micro-detail retrieval, FT can help you get there. It still has a natural smoother tonality and will not make your IEM sound brighter, harsher, or colder. Instead, it elevates the level of micro-detail retrieval and lifts the faint veil off the sound. Especially with Traillii, it was quite noticeable. And if money no object and you don’t mind a bulkier cable weight while expanding the soundstage to an even higher 3D holographic level and moving into the direction of an even smoother analog tonality, Orpheus Shielding edition can take you there, but expect to pay a lot more. After all, it’s your money.