Seventh Circle – Sound Impressions.
As we enter the seventh circle, Eric and I quickly dive out of the way of the charging HD650 purists demanding the use of a tube amp for this review.
Here we are immersed in a river of music and it is time say something about how the Inferno pairs with the HD650. In one word: “outstanding”. It is quite remarkable how well the Inferno helps the HD650 to open up and how spacious it sounds. Transparency also gets a boost and there is an unexpected (for the HD650) clarity to the music. The HD650 can at times feel a bit veiled, especially when coming from headphones/IEMs that offer a lot of clarity, but the Inferno lifts this perceived veil really well. At the same time coherency is superb, hitting a balance where the music can flow and at the same time you can inspect any minute detail at your leisure.
There is also a tonal balance to this pairing that I adore. The bass is deeper and more textured, the mids are clear and feel very realistic, especially vocals, and the treble is sweet. All of it feels superbly balanced, natural and thoroughly enjoyable. It is also very holographic and the imaging is excellent. Positioning feels very precise when music pans between left and right, or when details emerge from various positions in the soundscape. I use the word “soundscape” here intentionally because it feels so much more holographic than a soundstage. It’s not that the Inferno does something magical to the HD650, instead it feels like the Inferno helps the HD650 to scale. This is one of the defining characteristics of the HD650 of course, the ability to scale, and the Inferno helps to unlock this with even a portable source. I think this is a testament to the design of the cable and this is further underlined when comparing to another aftermarket cable that I really like with the HD650. In order to explore this, we keep moving until Eric and I reach a waterfall. No time for weak knees as we descend into the deep end to see how the Inferno stacks up against the competition.
Eighth Circle – Comparisons.
Here we find ourselves in the eighth circle, where we look back while moving forward, through a comparison with previously reviewed cables. I have only the one cable, but it is ideally suited for the purpose. This is the PlusSound Copper+ Apollonian Series for the HD650. Like the Inferno, the Copper+ is a pure copper headphone cable, but it is not actually designed specifically for that purpose. It is exactly the design that Eric wanted to avoid and so will be informative about whether or not the Inferno’s design choices have paid off. To up the stakes a little, the Copper+ is considerably more expensive than the Inferno at over US$1,000.
Design wise the differences are abundantly clear. The Copper+ is a much thinner cable and feels more supple as a result, which makes it more suitable for portable use. At the same time, I do find that this thinness is less confidence inspiring for headphones where durability is concerned. The Inferno simply feels so much sturdier and more durable. The Copper+ does have the advantage that PlusSound will offer near infinite customisation options to tailor the design to personal preferences.
In terms of sound, I was quite surprised by the differences. The Copper+ is noticeably more intimate in terms of stage dimensions, but most of all it just doesn’t reach the overall level of performance of the Inferno.
The Copper+ is a fraction crisper in the treble, yet that does not translate into more airiness and the separation feels less natural, which in my opinion harms coherency a little. This is relatively speaking to the Inferno, as I do love the pairing of the Copper+ with the HD650. It is just that the Inferno strikes a better balance and pushes the HD650 further in technical performance. With the Inferno, the HD650’s midrange is clearer and feels more natural/realistic. Bass is tighter and punchier. Treble is not as crisp and yet it feels more natural and balanced. A higher transparency allows more details and textures to come through clearly, while spatial imaging is more precise thanks to a blacker background and this emphasises the holographic nature of the HD650.
I am usually reluctant to say one option is “better” than another, especially when it comes to cables, but in this case I feel the Inferno is the better pairing, despite being less expensive. I suspect this is because the Inferno is a dedicated headphone cable, rather than an adapted IEM cable and so I have to conclude that Eric was right in the course he chose for the Dante Series.
Ninth Circle – Conclusions.
As Eric and I enter the ninth circle of Eletech’s Inferno it is time to get to the core business at hand, judgement for the Inferno. We take a quick shortcut through a hidden way and sit down on a bench underneath a starry sky. “Well, what do you think?” Eric asks. “I dare say, you did an amazing job with the Inferno.” I answer.
The Eletech Inferno is a high-end, medium-priced headphone cable that seems to be capable of bringing out the best of a headphone. The Inferno brings out deep and textured lows, clear mids and extended, while still balanced, highs, to create a wonderfully balanced and natural pairing with the HD650. It is a pairing that is surprisingly spacious and transparent with excellent imaging.
Although the Inferno looks oversized, it balances very well with relatively light headphones such as the HD650. It is still a purposely designed headphone cable that is ideally suited to home use, rather than portable. Build quality feels second to none and should provide years of worry-free sonic enlightenment.