While some may doubt the presence of audible differences between wire counts (especially at the price of a whole other cable), the Lionheart makes such a debate easy to decide; the 8-wire Lionheart does not sound like its 4-wire variant, for good or ill. Straying away from the 4-wire’s warmth, smoothness and intimacy, the 8-wire cable instills a sound that’s leaner, lighter, and larger in scale. Aided by top-end extension, upper-midrange sparkle and lower-midrange attenuation, the 8-wire Lionheart displays a cleaner profile, yet still maintains a focus on the midrange. It is technically the better performer – especially in soundstage expansion, headroom, transparency and resolution – but at the cost of the 4-wire’s effortless liquidity and warm timbre, whether or not to upgrade quickly becomes a question of priority; rather than quality.
In all forms, the Lionheart has a rich, pleasing bass. Regardless of wire count, it beautifully balances tone and impact, due to a linear bump in the mid-bass. Kick drums sound soft, pillowy and deliciously natural. Bass guitars bloom with restraint, benefitting from a brilliant blend of wetness and grit. Although the Lionheart’s low-end isn’t the most textured, guttural or clear-cut, the 8-wire variant portrays excellent depth; allowing it to stand firmly behind the mix. As a result, bass notes are admirably resolved and deftly paced, adding a pleasurable sense of fun to the listening experience. A shelved upper-bass and okay extension limit the low-end’s dynamic energy; preventing it from filling the atmosphere with thunderous force, even when called upon. But, where this benefits is stage clarity. As a result of its authority, the Lionheart gets to have both an entertaining low-end and a clean stage. Although the Lionheart still retains some warmth because of its midrange presentation, it neither congests nor intrudes. With its tone intact and finesse improved, the 8-wire Lionheart’s bass screams classic; evoking vintage tube gear with the naturalness and technique to back it up.
The Lionheart thrives because of its spectacular midrange. Vocals and instruments alike convey a natural tone, achieving a level of life-liked-ness that can only be attributed to its balance of richness and energy. Vocalists can go from a gentle whisper to an explosive belt, and the Lionheart portrays that dynamic range excellently; maintaining its gorgeous timbre throughout. Instruments also benefit from excellent depth and decent transparency. Because of the Lionheart’s black background, voices pop against the soundscape; creating three-dimensional images throughout the stage. But, even with the 8-wire variant’s cleaner character, it retains some of the 4-wire’s warmth, because of its harmonic presentation. Notes strike big-and-bold with gentle decay, filling the 8-wire’s expansive stage with rich overtones. The 4-wire Lionheart exaggerates this effect, imbuing its sonic palate with a cohesive liquidity; a reverb-like effect that smears together elements of the stage. It creates a less transparent overall image, but this addictive musicality is – to me – what makes the Lionheart so special. The 8-wire does away with this to make way for greater technical performance, and I can see this change getting a mixed reception from fans of the original cable.
The culprit to all these changes is the Lionheart’s top-end. The 8-wire variant displays superior treble extension, creating a soundstage that far supersedes its predecessor’s. Spatial resolution also impresses with respectable imaging and separation; in terms of depth, especially. With the 8-wire cable, instruments sound further apart and more tactfully organised, creating a stage that’s equal-parts richness and air. This extra shimmer is what reduces the original Lionheart’s heft, but that’s not to say that warmth is entirely gone. Despite the 8-wire’s conservative lower midrange – because of a lifted upper treble – the Lionheart still maintains its body; constructing notes with generous thickness even up top. Although it is a cleaner profile overall, the cable shies away from crisp and analytical. It toys with the idea of approaching neutral, but it never shakes off the delicacy, softness or organicity inherently imbued into its tone. Pairing this semi-warm timbre with an expanded, grandiose stage can sometimes feel conflicted; instruments are neither clinically separated, nor bound together. But, putting personal taste aside, the 8-wire Lionheart is unquestionably technically stronger than the 4-wire variant. Boasting a stabler stage and excellent linear extension, the Lionheart makes a play at the big dogs in organicity, life-liked-ness and ease.