Although there are some skeptics, most audiophiles can certainly discern the difference in sound between various headphone cables. And while we encourage you to research this topic online, we can also say with confidence that once you’ve tried a couple of different cables with your own headphones or iems, you won’t need convincing. yes, cables can make a big difference.
how do different cables affect the sound?
Just like musical instruments, different cable materials can have different effects on the sound of your headphones. Most IEM and headphone cables come in copper, silver, gold, or some kind of hybrid of these three metals. Of course, there are variations involving the type of braid used, but here’s a brief rundown to get you started.
Reading: Headphone cable material
iem cables and copper headphones
The most common and affordable cable is copper. copper tends to have a warm, rich, textured sound profile. however, in terms of speed and consistency of sound, it is often inferior to silver.
silver earphones and iem cables
The second most common material is silver. it is also more expensive. silver is brighter and more vivid in its presentation than copper. often, it feels a bit thinner than the heavier sound of copper. it also tends to be faster and can offer a more spacious soundstage. while it can also be cleaner in presentation, we’ve found that silver wires often have a more fluid feel compared to the relatively textured quality of copper.
See also: Behringer | Product | P1
gold earphones and iem cables
Like copper, gold also has a relatively warm and heavy sound. it has tons of richness and dimension. How much better sound quality is gold than copper? This question has been in debate for as long as online forums have existed. but at the end of the day, gold is very expensive, and perhaps for this reason, it is less popular than silver and copper.
hybrid headphone and iem cables
You can also find hybrid cables on the market, such as silver-plated copper wires. In theory, the combination of these different materials will create effective synergies with respect to the characteristics that these metals produce. but in practice, the result may vary depending on the particular model of the hybrid cable.
thickness and mesh of the cable
many people wonder if the thickness of the cable and the type of braiding have any effect on the quality of the sound. Again, this is quite a contentious topic. what we can say with certainty is that if it has any effect, the thickness of the wire is less important than the type of metal used in the wire. you can read countless forums on this topic online. but we warn you that you too may lose your sanity in the process. some say thicker wire strands are used for smoother mids and bass, while finer strands mean better transmission speed. the list goes on. so at the end of the day you may want to experiment with a few different types on your own headphones or iems.
how to choose a headphone cable
So here’s the most important takeaway: When choosing the right cable for your headphones or iem, you not only have to consider which of the above sound qualities appeal to you, but also how well it will work synergistically with your headphones or is say in the past, we combined super expensive elements with very sophisticated cables, and the result in sound was disappointing. for example, if you combine a highly dynamic earphone with a very lively silver cable, the sound signature can become too active and therefore unforgiving on the ears. combine a warm earphone with a copper wire that sounds very warm and can lose definition. therefore, higher priced cables do not necessarily mean an improvement in sound. you have to find the right combination.
Lastly, you may want to be careful with non-brand cables. we’ve tested expensive, thick, aesthetically pleasing copper cables that significantly degraded sound quality. At the end of the day, anyone with the right materials can make a good cable. that doesn’t mean it works well. so, in general, you want to make sure you’re buying from a trusted brand, regardless of whether you spend $50 or $500.
For a wide selection of iem headsets and cables, call audio46 at (212) 354-6424 or live chat with one of our sales engineers.