The new face of Cleopatra.
PROS: noticeable upgrade over the original Cleopatra, gives the sound a more natural analog tonality, ConX modular connectors, TermX modular plug, excellent workmanship and durable build.
CONS: the sound improvement varies depending on pair up, Octa version cost more.
The product 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 opinion about it. It’s not my intent to start an argument here. 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, and purity, all of which put together act as a filter between your source and earphones. Variations of these physical properties can affect the conductivity 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 of earphones and their synergy with a source.
When it comes to Effect Audio (EA) cables, lately I feel like most of the attention goes to either their budget Signature Series cables which punch way above their price tag or their Premium flagship cables that use exotic wire materials. At each end of this spectrum, one satisfies audiophiles who look for the best price/performance ratio and the other one is for those who can afford it and don’t mind diminishing returns. As a result, cables like their original pure silver Cleopatra (Cleo), which is somewhere in the middle, don’t get as much attention, even so it’s a fine premium material cable. Thus, I was glad that almighty Queen of Egypt got a makeover, taking it to next Cleo II level.
And I think this makeover can be appreciated by both, cable believers who do hear a difference in the sound and others who appreciate the aesthetics and the functionality of the cable design. I know, some will raise an eyebrow, what functionality? Aren’t we talking about braided wires with a sole purpose of transmitting the analog signal? Yes, we are, and nobody is trying to reinvent the wheel here. But having a single cable that covers both 2pin and mmcx connectors and provides access to 2.5mm, 3.5mm, and 4.4mm termination gives you a lot of flexibility in functionality. So, let’s take a closer look at what this latest Cleopatra II upgrade from Effect Audio brings to the table.
Unboxing and Accessories.
Over the years EA packaging evolved from a rather generic to a more premium. Starting with their Signature Series, it leaped forward with a new custom cover artwork to align with the cable name and coloring to match the wire material. With a “silver” printed drawing of Cleopatra on top of the box, it transforms this average size giftbox into something you would want to display on your bookshelf or your desk. With cover off, the cable is surrounded by a velour lining that makes it look like a jewelry box with a silver bracelet on the display in the middle. I find it to be an impressive presentation.
Underneath the cable display, you will find foam cutouts for the leather case and TermX and ConX storage boxes. The square shaped leather case is greyish in color and has a unique interweaved top cover design, reminding me a bit of something like Egyptian sandals. I’m just trying to make a connection here since I know that nothing is random when it comes to EA packaging. Also, included was a leather cable organizer strap with EA branded snap button, though I found it to be a bit tight for 8-wire rolled cable, maybe suited better to keep together a standard 4-wire Cleo II. Also, included was the owner’s manual.
I’m quite familiar with ConX and have reviewed it before. Plus, I have several other EA cables converted to ConX. It’s a modular design which allows you to change between IEMs tips so you don’t have to get another cable. It comes with a tool to tighten/loosen the connection, use it instead of your fingers since you can bend 2pin connector otherwise. Cleo II comes with a Basic ConX which includes 2pin (0.78mm) and mmcx connectors, the most common ones used with IEMs. You can buy additional connectors to complete the Full set. Those additional connectors include IPX, currently used by Etymotic, Westone, UE, custom 64 Audio, and a few others. Then, Pentaconn Ear Connector which recently became popular with Elysian Acoustics Labs iems, including their collab with EA, GAEA. And a rarer A2DC connector used with Audio-Technica iems.
TermX is a new one for me. Of course, modular cable terminations have been around for a while now. Most of them are basic plug/unplug type of modules, not the highest quality material or the most secure connection, but very convenient when you have to go between single ended and balanced connections of your source. TermX follows the same principal with 4-pin modular connection including an added twist, no pun intended, of the custom plug housing that screws over the top for a more secure fit. It does add one more step when switching between the tips, but it also feels more secure, and the headphone plug doesn’t even look like it is modular. When you are ordering Cleo II cable, you also have an option for non-TermX “performance” plug which is OFC Pentaconn 4.4mm connector of a much higher quality. Some purist audiophiles don’t care about a modular concept and want just a solid 4.4mm plug with the best quality material.
Cleo II comes with a basic TermX which includes 2.5mm, 3.5mm, and 4.4mm modular plug tips. And you can upgrade it to a full TermX which adds USB-C and Lightning connector options for your smartphone. Obviously, those modular plugs will have a DAC built-in since you have to convert digital to analog. And this option is purely for your convenience so you can listen to your IEMs with Cleo II cable on the go with your smartphone. If you are a serious audiophile who wants to squeeze out every ounce of the performance, you will go for a hardwired Performance OFC Pentaconn 4.4mm connector.
The next gen Cleo II is also a part of EA’s Heritage series, just like the original one. And like the original Cleo, as well as Leo from Heritage series, Cleo II has 4 separate conductors, each with 26 AWG thickness wires. Cleo II also introduces a proprietary dual geometric design. The wire material is a selected premium UP-OCC (ultra-purity Ohno Continuous Cast) Silver Litz with individually enameled strands. It is wrapped in UltraFlexi Insulation which gives you a clear and transparent view of the wires and keeps the cable supple and microphonics free. When you look closely, you can actually see two different types of wires, probably as part of dual geometric design.
The review unit I received is Octa version of Cleo II which comes with 8 braided conductors. The main 8-wire braid is not very tight and doesn’t look too thick since we are talking about 26awg wires. After the y-split, you have 4-wire braid on each side, also not too tight, going up to IEM connectors where it becomes twisted and encapsulated in a pre-shaped heatshrink for a more comfortable fit. The headphone plug is part of the TermX I already described in the previous section. The same with IEM connectors which are part of ConX. But despite of being modular, every piece of the cable hardware has the same matching material with a greyish titanium-like finish.
From a distance, the y-split even reminded me of their Centurion flagship cable, though Cleo II y-split shell is not retractable, and you have a separate matching chin-slider. I also think this chin-slider was probably designed and optimized for 4-wire version since it is a bit tight with Octa version. But it is still functional, and in theory you do want a chin-slider to be tighter rather than slide loosely. As far as the IEM connector housing goes, EA logo is on the outside while L/R marking is on the inside.
One question I’m always being asked is “which one to get, 4-wire or 8-wire?” and “why 8-wire is more expensive?”. Just like a jewelry necklace chain, the thicker and heavier one will cost more due to extra material, and the same logic applies to cables where you double the number of wires. Regarding the difference in sound, more wires will cut down the impedance of the cable. Even using the same material, depending on the crossover and driver design of your IEMs and the output impedance of your source, change in the wire impedance could impact the sound. I only received Octa version of Cleo II thus won’t be able to comment on comparison between 4 and 8 wire versions.