A Journey through Eletech’s Inferno.
PROS: Balanced and natural, improves transparency, improves imaging, outstanding build quality, specifically designed for headphones, good price/performance.
CONS: Desktop use only.
I would like to thank Eric Chong of Eletech for providing me with the Dante Series, Inferno headphone cable for the Sennheiser HD650 in exchange for my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favourable review.
Eletech Dante Series – Inferno
- Dual 21 AWG OCC Copper
- Duality Core Design
- Dual Shielded (Inner Fibre Ceramic; Outer OFC Copper Net)
- Eletech Customised Y-Split and Connectors
- FlexiMax Insulation
- Price: US$749
Sometimes I like to experiment with my reviews and write in a style that is different from my usual review format. My ‘Masters of Classical Music’ series for instance, is a good example of such an experimental style. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, which I am personally fine with, but for readers of my reviews I expect it can be a bit ‘hit or miss’. So, for this review a word of warning that it is not written in my usual review format. Instead, I decided to go all-in with the “Dante’s Inferno”-theme. As a consequence, this review might be a little weird for those who are not familiar with this 14th-century epic poem, although I hope the writing is still enjoyable and of course the usual review information is included as always. For those who are familiar with it, there will be numerous references, some more subtle than others. For those of you who are Dante scholars… I’m so very, very sorry for what I am about to do to it.
Halfway my journey towards sonic enlightenment, I found myself straying from the portable path and into the dense forest of full-size headphones. As I stood there, I trembled in fear while looking up at the mountain of desktop gear that needed to be explored before I could properly orient myself back onto the true path of aural illumination. I took a moment to rest my head, weary from the shock of realising the depth of the rabbit hole I was about to sink into.
After regaining my composure, I set out on the new task before me. And lo! Almost immediately I was confronted with the beast of the headphones themselves. Which ones to choose? What about comfort? Weight? Tuning? I was beside myself with questions to which I had no answers. Naive as I was, I felt confident I could still find the solution and bathe myself in the cleansing warmth of soothing music arising from the perfect pair of headphones. I had however failed to take into account the second beast that is the source. This beast was one with multiple heads: The amp? The DAC? What about streaming? What about synergy? I felt lost and confused. Then came the third beast and it broke my spirit because if the source is balanced, then what about the cable? I slumped back feeling the darkness of eternal sonic mediocrity.
As I sat there in darkness, a shape appeared before me. “Have pity on me!” I called out. “Whoever you are!” I demanded. The shape answered. “I rise from Singapore. I am an artisan aftermarket cable builder and I dabble with luxury leather cases that sell out before the day of first offering has ended.”
“Art thou then Eric Chong of Eletech fame?” I replied with eager anticipation. “I have long been a connoisseur of your cables and they sit permanently affixed to many of my most favoured IEMs. Please help me as I sit here discouraged by the beasts that block my path forward.” He answered in his usual sober-minded manner. “Don’t worry about all that and let us focus on a different path. Use what you already have and I shall guide you along the way.” As I had faith in his wisdom, I picked up my trusted Sennheiser HD650 and Shanling M8 (with Turbo gain) and followed this artisan as he took me on a journey of exploration into Eletech’s Inferno…
As Eric and I pass through the gates of the Dante Series, we pass a sign that says: “Abandon all expectation, ye who enter here” The lettering is clear and written with intent. “What does it mean?” I ask. Eric explains that two years ago he and his team at Eletech set out to make a headphone cable, but they did not want it to be based on any of their IEM cables. It had to be a cable that was purposely designed for full-size headphones and so they needed to start developing it from the ground up. It had to be something new and unlike anything they had done before. That was the birth of the Dante Series of headphone cables where the Inferno is the first release. I remembered conversations I had with Eric about headphone cables some years ago where he explained the different demands for headphone cables when compared to IEM cables. I was happy to hear that his views on the matter had not changed since then and that he had stuck to the ambitious plan of meeting those demands head on.
First Circle – Limbo.
As we enter the first circle of Eletech’s Inferno, Limbo, we pass some of the cables that have paved the way for the success of Eletech. Popular cables such as Socrates and Plato, which despite theirs and other Virtues were not suitable for headphone usage. Here we of course also find the origins of the Iliad and Aeneid flagship cables. As Eric and I walk here in Limbo, we reflect on how far Eletech has come since it was launched back in 2019. Eletech’s portfolio has matured and diversified, catering to those who want the best value with the affordable Fortitude and Prudence, all the way to their ‘price no object’ flagship cables, special Project 8 cables, regional editions, collaboration projects and an increasing selection of accessories. We might still be in Limbo in relation to full-size headphones, but it is a wonderful place to be.
Second Circle – Unboxing.
As I descend from the first circle down into the second, I am confronted with my Achilles heel. For my lust after all things audio had driven me to reviewing and as a reviewer I am privileged in that, on occasion, I will get early access to new products. So too with the Inferno and as a result it did not yet include any packaging for me to show off, although Eric kindly sent me a couple of pictures to include here, so as not to leave us wanting. From other pictures that I have seen more recently, I can say that (as always) Eletech turned luxury into a virtue and the cable comes presented in a wonderful leather pouch. Perhaps not quite at the same level as the Luxe Companion cases that Eletech has become renowned for, but considering the Inferno is not a super expensive cable, that is perfectly understandable.
Images courtesy of Eletech
Third Circle – Design.
I am now in the third circle of the Inferno, that of its design. As I walk here together with Eric, it is clear that he and his team have been overindulging with copper to create a gluttonous thick, dual 21 AWG, pure copper cable. It is a beast based on a “dual” design philosophy. Eric explains, “it is a dual full core design wherein each signal path (+ / -) is fed with a highly efficient complete 21 AWG gauge core. Each core is made up of two different strand sizes and mixes two types of high purity copper.” There are also two layers of shielding used, Eric explains, “with the inner layer using a fibre-ceramic shielding, while the outermost layer uses an OFC shielded net that rejects EMF”.
Eric and I walk on and I say to him. “I am impressed, although the technical details are a bit lost on me. I am but a humble “music lover” audiophile and so to me the Inferno is simply a deliciously indulgent copper cable. And he to me, “Ignore the technical details then and return to thy science (reviewing), which declares that the more perfect a thing is the more it feels good. How does the Inferno feel to you?” And this question leads us into the fourth circle of the Inferno.
Fourth Circle – Build quality.
Fifth Circle – Ergonomics.
As we enter the fifth circle where we consider ergonomics, we are crossing the boundary that separates the objective, i.e. the specifications, from the subjective. Here my companion needs to take a step back to allow me to form my own opinion and for a moment I feel quite alone. Time to sit back, put my feet up and actually use the Inferno.
Immediately it becomes clear that the Inferno is designed for desktop use. It is possible to use it on the go, I guess, but it is clearly aimed at home use for full size headphones. Unexpectedly, I found that the Inferno balances well with the light HD650 and the size of the cable doesn’t create any of the annoyances I usually have with bigger cables. Because of the size of the cable itself, it does feel a little stiffer than thin IEM cables do, yet at the same time the Inferno maintains a high degree of suppleness. This allows easy use at a desk, where I can place the cable wherever I want it so that it doesn’t get in the way while I work. With stiffer cables I always find they have a nasty tendency to bend in a way that pushes it under my arms while I try to type, preventing me from moving forward with my work. Not so the Inferno, which is a pleasure to use.
Sixth Circle – Barely Useful Information That Has To Go Somewhere.
For this review I am using the Shanling M8 as a source for the HD650. Pure heresy, I know, using a portable source for the power hungry HD650. We can here discuss the ethics involved in such heresy, but ultimately it is a case of using the tools that are available. At the time of writing, I simply do not have access to a proper desktop source and have to make do with the M8, which is actually pretty good. The Shanling M8 on ‘turbo gain’ is capable of driving the HD650 properly. I am not talking about volume level, as almost anything can drive the HD650 to sufficient volume. Without enough power the HD650’s sound degrades with poor bass and treble response, which does not happen when powered with the M8. The M8 is a warmer source with analogue qualities that I think work quite well with the HD650.
Page 2 – Sound impressions, Comparisons, and Conclusions.