I know some of you will instinctively reject the idea that so-called high-performance signal cables could make much if any difference in the sounds you hear from your in-ear monitors (or other transducers). Nevertheless, many of us have heard differences between signal cables, and with that thought in mind I’m simply going to tell you the differences I observed.
The test: for my listening tests, I used a pair of very accurate and uncolored Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitors (IERMs) driven by a Ray Samuels Audio SR-71B Blackbird headphone amplifier, fed from an iPod Classic via a high-quality line-out dock (LOD) cable.
I listened to a battery of well-recorded tracks through the IERM’s as fitted with their stock Ultimate Ears signal cables. Next, I replaced the stock signal cables with the Moon Audio Silver Dragon V1 IEM cable and then replayed the same tracks to see if I could detect any sonic differences (beneficial or otherwise).
The outcomes: Right off the bat, I noted several sonic differences with the Moon IEM cable in place—all of them favorable ones. First, I observed heightened midrange openness, as if the Ultimate Ears IERMs had tapped a hidden reservoir of timbral or tonal purity (which is interesting, giving that this is an area where the IERMs were quite good to begin with). I wouldn’t say the difference was huge, but it was definitely noticeable and made the monitors more engaging.
Next, I noted a pretty clear-cut difference in apparent transient speed and definition. Wherever sounds started or stopped suddenly, the edges of notes (and especially the very beginnings of notes) seemed to be carved more cleanly and crisply and the Ultimate Ears’ overall presentation also sounded—for want of a better term—more agile. In practice, this meant that passages that feature sharp dynamic contrasts became more dramatic, yet without becoming colored in any way that I could discern.
Finally, I observed just a smidgeon more treble openness and extension with Moon’s IEM cable in play, yet without any increase in brightness (and in fact, without any significant shift in tonal balance at all). This improvement was noticeable on small, low-level treble details, such as reverberant echoes, reverb tails, or high harmonics that conveyed the sense of air surrounding instruments. I would say this treble change was perhaps the subtlest and smallest of the three improvements I’ve mentioned, but worthwhile nonetheless.
It’s important to understand the cable didn’t change tonal characteristics of the Ultimate Ears monitors much if at all. Rather, the changes had more to do with timbres, textures, and transient speed, so that the monitors became more expressive and musically informative, yet without losing any of the fundamentally neutral character that makes the In-Ear Reference Monitors so desirable in the first place. This is good thing, since it means the Moon Audio cables carefully observe the traditional physician’s edict to, “first do no harm.”
If you try the same test that I conducted, do consider using the Hilary Hahn/St. Paul Chamber Orchestra performance of the Edgar Meyer Violin Concerto [Sony] as one of your test tracks, focusing especially on the concerto’s second movement. This particular recording provides a showcase for most of things the Moon Audio IEM cable does well in one nice, neat, self-contained package. First, you’ll discover the passage moves through several vigorous dynamic “mood swings,” which reveal the improved transient speed and dynamic agility that the Moon cable provides. Next, you’ll note that on Ms. Hahn’s upper register violin passages you can readily hear the clearer, purer, and yes, sweeter high harmonics and treble openness the cable helps to unlock. Third, on more densely orchestrated passages, you’ll quickly grasp the heightened qualities of timbral and tonal purity the cable makes available, while at the same time being able to hear for yourself the fact that the cable doesn’t (thank goodness) alter the core tonal neutrality for which Ultimate Ears’ In-Ear Reference Monitors are justly famous.
As you listen to Meyer Violin Concerto with the Moon IEM cable, you may be struck by the fact that the cable doesn’t change those things that are arguably best left alone (namely, the wonderful neutrality and accuracy of the monitors), but that it does enable the monitors to tap more of their full sonic potential, so that they sound clearer, more focused, and resolved. This “several steps forward and no steps backward” quality is what makes the Silver Dragon IEM cable such a desirable enhancement.