Labkable Samurai III ($875)
Pandora’s smaller sibling has a similar tightness in the bass response, but misses the sub-bass impact of Pandora. Although the Samurai’s controlled mid-bass gives it a clean stage, Pandora adds more depth to the stage and combines a similar sense of spaciousness with an overall bigger bass. With the Samurai it feels more like a compromise, while the Pandora is giving the best of both worlds. The Samurai’s midrange is more colored, with slightly warmer notes and a brighter upper midrange. The Pandora’s midrange is cleaner, being more transparent and resolving. Similarly, the Pandora’s treble is more articulate, while the Samurai’s treble is slightly thicker.
SilverFi IEM-R2 ($1295)
Pandora versus the IEM-R2, rationality versus emotion. Pandora has the reference signature, and overall offers more clarity. The IEM-R2 on the other hand has an inherently warmer sound, with a midcentric signature. Both create a clean stage, and offer excellent separation. The Pandora’s is slightly wider, while the IEM-R2’s is a bit taller. Both create good depth. The Pandora’s midrange is slightly leaner, but sounds clearer with more apparent detail. The IEM-R2 on the other hand has a more emotional, warmer sound better at reproducing a natural vocal representation. The IEM-R2’s upper midrange is relatively more uncolored and smoother compared to the brighter Pandora’s. Similarly, the IEM-R2’s treble is smoother, while the Pandora’s is more articulate and slightly brighter. With its clear and articulated sound the Pandora offers digital precision; while the R2 is less upfront in its detail, it has a more natural tone. Both perform at a high level when it comes to midrange resolution.
Empire Ears Zeus-XIV
Zeus combines a full-bodied sound with high resolution and a large stage. Its midrange is forward, and the upper midrange is smooth. The treble is less prominent, giving it more of a warm, midcentric signature. Pandora tightens the bass, while adding a nice bit of impact. The midrange is slightly leaner and brighter, but more balanced when taking the treble in account. The sound is clear and detailed, while still sounding full and engaging. An excellent match, that manages to boost Zeus’ already impressive technical performance.
The S-EM9 has a signature that slightly departs from neutral. Due to its excellent resolution and separation, it provides a highly detailed sound while refraining from sounding bright. The S-EM9’s stage airiness and bass performance is highly dependent on the cable pairing, and makes it a fun iem to play around with when it comes to cables. With Pandora, the bass is powerful, fuelling the music with energy. The upper midrange and lower treble is slightly brighter than with its stock cable, but adds to its excellent detail retrieval, without sounding harsh. The stage is cleaner and larger, allowing more air for instruments to breath. Upper midrange notes are highly transparent and engaging, providing nice bit of excitement for synthetic treble notes.
The Pandora can be considered the cable equivalent of the Jomo Samba: both share a similar signature, an uncolored reference signature excelling in resolution and clarity. While matching similar signatures sometimes works excellently, the Samba needs a warmer cable to be at its best, to combine technical precision with a musical and more emotional sound. Combining Samba with Pandora offers superior clarity and definition, while resulting in clinical precision. Excellent for electronic music, though not as natural for instrument-based music.
Similar to JH’s Roxanne, the Solar is characterised by powerful bass which gives it a warm and smooth signature. The mid-bass presentation gives it a full sounding signature with thick notes, although the warm air reduces the airiness and overall transparency. The Pandora gives it a cleaner and more resolved mid-bass, which helps to recreate a cleaner stage. Midrange notes are clearer, being more transparent and overall better articulated. This helps to bring the midrange more to the foreground, while uncovering subtle nuances in the music. The Solar’s treble remains smooth, while a lift in the upper treble brings out more fine detail.
In my last review of Pandora’s counterpart, the Samurai III, I mentioned the philosophy, in which the Samurai was designed: that of the ‘Bashuda.’ The spirit of the warrior, reflected in values as discipline, precision and rationality. While those values apply for a certain amount to the Samurai, it is the Pandora that truly seems to embody them. For this is the true reference cable, providing ultimate precision and high performance.
With its large stage and highly articulate sound, the Pandora offers a clean and highly resolving sound. Due to its reference signature, it truly pushes the ability of a neutral or warmer iem with the precision it offers, especially when combined with an already highly resolving iem as the S-EM9 or Zeus-XIV. However, I tend to use it most with already bright iems for its mesmerising precision and transient sound, especially when listening to fast-paced or complexly structured music. I’ll have to admit its beautiful design adds to the magic, as it really is a work of beauty to behold. But of course this all comes with a price. For the cable enthusiast the Pandora is an exciting and technically highly proficient cable; but as always, it will be up to each audiophile individually to determine if it’s worth it.