DISCLAIMER: Effect Audio provided the EVO 10 in return for my honest opinion. I am not personally affiliated with the company in any way, nor do I receive any monetary rewards for a positive evaluation. I’d like to thank Effect Audio for their kindness and support. The review is as follows.
Audiophiles will recognise Effect Audio among the planet’s most-popular cable brands. Based in the portable-audio hub of Singapore, they’ve gained recognition for their gorgeous, often-innovative aesthetics, their fancy, intricate accessories and – surely – the sonic lifts they bring to your IEMs. This year, they’ve bridged those concepts into an all-new line called the EVO Series, featuring copper-based conductors, brand-new hardware, brand-new insulation and an interchangeable faceplate system. We’re taking a look at the EVO 10: A cable with impact, vividness and punch coursing through its veins.
Effect Audio EVO 10
- Wire composition: 26 AWG UPOCC Litz Gold-Plated Copper & Silver-Plated Copper
- Default configuration: 4-wire
- Key feature(s) (if any): Surlyn insulation, UltraFlexi jacket, E-Face interchangeable Y-splits
- Price: $588
- Website: www.effectaudio.com
Packaging and Accessories
Packaging was a point of criticism in my most-recent Effect Audio review. But, that changes completely with the EVO 10. Upon seeing it, I was caught off-guard by how different it was from their usual output, and I truly applaud the effort. The EVO 10 comes in a tall, towering box veiled in a matte-black sleeve. The sleeve features metallic-silver embossings, along with a peculiar, shutter-like, cut-out design. I initially believed this was gonna be one of those optical illusions, where the image underneath would “come alive” as you moved it across the shutters. But, that didn’t turn out to be the case, to my slight disappointment. Still, though, I admire their shift in packaging nonetheless, as well as the air of mystery it provides.
Unveiling the sleeve, you’re treated to a hi-res render of the EVO cable. And, lifting the lid open, you get your first look at the cable’s innovative, interchangeable Y-split, which we’ll discuss later on in this review. This is also where you’ll find the cable’s mini-manual; tucked inside its interior, cardboard cover. It’ll tell you about cable-swapping and maintenance, but I should note the lack of images here, apart from the bit showing you how to change the E-Faces. I think it could’ve been a hair more thorough. Moving on, underneath the cardboard cover, you’ll find the EVO 10 cable gorgeously displayed in a felt interior. You’ll get a close-up of this cable’s new, streamlined hardware too. And, Effect have even capped the 2-pin plugs with their own custom covers. So, again, they have stepped presentation up a notch here, and I’m ecstatic to see it.
Accessories are the one place where I feel Effect could’ve done a tad better. I would love to have seen a cable tie of some kind to really complete the package. A carrying case would probably be generous, but I think something like a tiny pouch wouldn’t have been out of the question. The only accessory you do get with the EVO 10 is a very fancy-looking, premium-feeling warranty card, which, by the way, I wouldn’t blame you for completely missing on your first unboxing, because it is sneakily tucked away at the bottom of its windowed cardboard insert. In fact, at the time of writing, I think my review’s the only one that’s mentioned it, so it’s even eluded some of the pros. Still, despite its lack of extras, I won’t rail too hard, because it’s something Effect usually nail. I’d just like to remind them that stuff as small as cable ties could go a long way.
Aesthetics, Ergonomics and Everyday Use
I’ve always recognised Effect Audio by their bright, flashy-looking conductors, so this all-matte, all-black sheathing is a bit of a departure from their norm. But, they’ve done it for as good a reason as any; to spotlight their all-new, swappable Y-splits. As a base, the EVO line features a transparent Y-split; something I can definitively say I’ve never seen before and is arguably stunning already on its own. The four wires look almost like a window into an Iron Man suit. But, on top of that, Effect have added a mechanism that allows you to customise the Y-split’s faceplate as well. They call these plates E-Faces.
When you purchase the EVO 10, you’ll receive three E-Face colourways: Jet Black, Amethyst Purple and a random one out of a selection of five. This may be Fossil Grey, Space Grey, Marble White, Royal Gold or Sunset Hue, as seen on the photo below. I think this idea of turning the faceplates into something of a game or an easter egg hunt is a novel idea. Though, I hope they eventually become available to purchase separately for collectors’ sake. Swapping this faceplates’s as easy as carefully prying the attached one away – either from the top or the bottom – then slipping the new one in and lining it up with the Effect-Audio-logo-shaped protrusion on the Y-split. Again, it is great customisation and a rad idea on Effect’s part.
When it comes to changing out the E-Faces, I did encounter quite a bit of difficulty with the initial swap. After trying out a fair number of makeshift tools from plastic knives to credit cards, I eventually got the thing off with a fingernail and a lot of bravery. Subsequent swaps weren’t anywhere as tough, but it’s important to keep in mind that this process won’t ever be the smoothest in the world. For future iterations of the transparent Y-split, I’d recommend Effect add on a small notch or groove at the top and bottom, so there’ll always be a tiny gap between the Y-split and its E-Face. This way, it’d be much easier to slot a fingernail or a tool in. Still, though, it’s got the seeds of a stellar idea. All it needs is a tiny bit of fine-tuning.
Image courtesy of Effect Audio
The EVO cables have also switched their hardware up; now somewhat of a hybrid between Effect’s usual connectors and the ones from their Vogue line. Personally, I love how both the 2-pin and the source plugs have this anodised finish. And, the blockier shape makes them easier to grip as well; less slippy. I also adore the colour-blocking on the source plug; the contrast between the bright, silver top and the black body is strikingly gorgeous. I wish they would’ve employed a similar approach to the 2-pin plug. Perhaps, a silver finish on the area where the Effect logo is. So, you get more of that contrast up top, and you get stronger uniformity between the two connectors. That aside, though, the craftsmanship on this EVO 10’s hardware is stellar as usual, and this slimmer, more grip-friendly design should make handling quite a bit easier too.
When I first saw this EVO 10’s black jacket, I was initially concerned about what it could do to the suppleness and comfort that Effect’s cables were practically renowned for. But, once I did get a feel for them, I was relieved to find out that it was virtually identical to their previous cables. The only difference was they felt ever-so-slightly less slick to the touch. But, in day-to-day use, it’s a complete non-factor. They’re as flexible, memory-free and microphonics-free as their Leonidas II or Cleopatra. So, again, those worried about the EVO 10’s comfort should have no cause for concern. And, to top this all off, Effect have installed a very grippy, rubber cinch that’ll sit flush with the Y-split when all the way down; a beautiful touch.
Effect Audio’s EVO 10 is a cable that contributes dynamism, energy and impact while maintaining an admirably-balanced frequency response. That’s because it doesn’t do this through typical means, which entails (often egregious) rises across the lows, upper-mids and highs. Rather, it mostly does so by darkening the spaces around notes, letting them pop more palpably to the ear. It’s akin to darkening shadows in an image to make highlights look more vivid. Now, it’s not fully free of colour either. I can hear a hair more oomph from the mid-bass and slight forwardness to the midrange. But, again, for the most part, its colourations are more dynamic or spatial, making the tonality it is able to keep all the more impressive.
Speaking of, the cable maintains a slightly warmer tone. This stems from a lightly-fuller low-end, as well as a surprisingly linear, relaxed high-end. That’s not to say it doesn’t extend or aerate, though. This treble does a fine job painting a clean, resolved backdrop for the instruments to leap through. The couple points I’d dock from it would be in effortlessness and organisation. The IEM’s stage won’t quite breathe as freely as it would on, say, Effect Audio’s Leonidas II. And, because of its more stimulated sound, some instruments may sound a touch punchier than others too, depending on the track and the pairing. So, you won’t hear the most even, spherical imaging in the world. But, again, for the sig it’s going for, the EVO 10’s technical achievements shouldn’t be undermined; clean, well-paced and capably-resolving in spite of its exuberance.
Down low, the EVO 10 adds a bit of girth and oomph to the mid-bass. Kick drums will come off a bit fuller and darker, but not notably so. The lows actually have a snappy pace to them, so they won’t linger long enough to muddy up the image. I also attribute it to a more neutral sub-bass, which lends the mid-bass a hair more space to use. When listening to Larnell Lewis’s Change Your Mind, for example, you’ll hear more thump out of the kick drum than presence out of the bass guitar, which, in that track, is lower and more guttural by comparison. I find the bass to have a nice, clear texture as well. It does not get too dark or smoky like most emphasised-mid-basses can. So, although it is a bass I wouldn’t necessarily pair with an already-warm IEM or one that needs sub-bass, it’s still a low-end that toes that line well with great personality to boot.
The midrange is probably my favourite quality about the EVO 10. It adds a push to them – a drive – that I find particularly effective with horn stabs and background vocals. This is showcased in both the horns section and the sax solo on Oytun Ersan’s Mysterious Maze. When either part comes in, there’s a forcefulness and energy that better sells the performances for me. It also teases size out of vocalists, giving them a bit more spread and glow, which is ideal for IEMs that inherently have tighter, more compact-sounding midranges. My favourite application of that is on the intro of Snarky Puppy’s Liqud Love. The two background vocalists lightly-panned left-and-right almost fill the space by themselves, boosting immersion into the track. The only negative, as I mentioned in the beginning, would be a tiny loss in image organisation in exchange for its exuberance. But, all in all, it’s a naturally-dynamic, glowing midrange that I personally think makes the EVO 10’s sig.
Up top, the EVO 10 remains impressively restrained. I hear a tiny bit more tizz at around 5kHz, which brightens attack on hi-hats and cymbals. But, that aside, the cable doesn’t really add much else, which I personally enjoy. I feel this top-end’s most notable achievement is actually in the higher-treble. It extends enough to create a dark, pitch-black background for instruments to pop in and out of. Again, it’s what drives the EVO 10’s punch. Now, it doesn’t necessarily aerate or breathe as openly or freely as, again, the Leonidas II or some of the 8-wire cables I’ve heard. You’ll hear a tiny bit of compression that’ll probably dull that impact after a long while. But, for what it is, I feel it’s an impressively balanced treble that avoids the pitfalls of most “fun-sounding” cables. It isn’t mind-blowing-ly technical, but it gets the job done, and fits in nicely too.
The EVO 10 is a cable that doesn’t necessarily strike neutral on the head. But, I really think the colourations it does bring to the table have great charm to them. Down here are three of what I consider to be the EVO 10’s most appealing traits:
A musical, immersive presentation rooted in vocals: Despite the vividness and contrast sat in its extremes, what makes this EVO 10’s signature to me is its smooth, enveloping and dynamic mids. Vocalists are up-close and personal without being congested, artificial-sounding or saturated. They’re all immersive, nuanced and glowingly-toned. It’s a quality that brings out the best in monitors like Empire Ears’ ODIN or Vision Ears’ ELYSIUM, and it genuinely is the EVO 10’s standout for me.
Broad, expressive instruments that make space: Complimenting its punchiness is a sense of speed to this EVO 10. And, that prevents instruments from lingering too long and mucking up the stage or overcrowding the ensemble. Though its space isn’t always 100%-spherical, there’s always a sense of order and tightness to this cable, which is why it also sports such a clean, crisp backdrop. So, if you want your complex material punchy and well-resolved, the EVO 10 will perform just fine.
A fun, impact-driven sound without an egregious V-shape: Lastly, this EVO 10 manages its vibrance and exuberance without resorting to too many tonal compromises. It’s minimal to my ears, and the resulting sig is admirably balanced for what it is. So, again, if you want instruments to have more pop and shine without becoming artificial, the EVO 10 is a good shout.
On the other hand, as is always the case with slightly-coloured gear, it won’t cater to those who desire the opposite of its sound. So, if the three aspects below are what you want to bring to your in-ear, the EVO 10 may not be the cable for you:
Complete, utter neutrality: Obviously, the EVO 10’s boosted signature won’t appeal to those looking for perfect linearity or uncolouredness. Effect’s Eros II, Janus D or Code 51 would be stronger fits for this. Despite what I feel are very desirable, universal traits this EVO 10 has, it ultimately won’t be ideal if you want pure, technical lifts without the tiniest tonal shift.
Tight, compact, clinical-leaning notes: Then, despite this EVO 10’s tidiness and speed, its notes tend to trend on the larger side as well. Its mid-bass and midrange have glow to them, and the latter’s more intimately-positioned as well. So, if you crave more distant-sounding instruments with a more perimeter-of-the-stage arrangement, Effect’s Janus D is more ideal.
A laidback, relaxed or far-field presentation: Lastly, again, this EVO 10’s stereo image is on the more intimate side. While it definitely has more than enough background blackness and organisation to manage capable layering and separation, it probably won’t be up to par to the demands of some of the community’s most ardent soundstage enthusiasts. So, for a bit more space, I’d probably recommend Effect’s Leonidas II instead, or one of the 8-wire cables like the Bespoke Ares II.
DITA Audio OSLO ($580)
Compared to the more relaxed, more airy-sounding OSLO, you get a lot more forwardness, immediacy and punch out of the EVO 10. This is especially true across the mid-bass and the upper-midrange. You’ll hear denser, more solid and more forwardly-positioned notes there. On the intro of Nathan East’s version of Serpentine Fire, for example, the kick drum and the lead vocals will sound warmer, more intimate and more powerful. Comparatively, the OSLO sits them in line with the more subtle ticking sounds on that same track. I find the EVO 10 to have rounder, smoother edges in general too, which I find more musical. The OSLO’s sharper, harder transients are more suited for separation and detail retrieval, like the tick sound I mentioned earlier. So, all in all, the EVO 10 is more intimate with larger, fuller, more forward-sounding notes, but with a good amount of space too. The OSLO prioritises the latter more with a more laidback sig and less-forgiving edges.
Eletech Socrates ($699)
Compared to Eletech’s Socrates, the EVO 10 will deliver a brighter, clearer, more vibrant sig. There’s more energy coming from its upper-midrange and its mid-treble, which lends instruments more bite and zing. Those brighter sounds are also more accentuated on the EVO 10 because it has a tighter, less bloomy upper-bass than the Socrates. For example, in the intro of Snarky Puppy’s What About Me, that chug of the guitars are on the forefront with the Socrates. Whereas, with this EVO 10, you’ll get more of Nate Werth’s percussion work; the cowbells and congas. The bass and low Moog synths sound warmer and more guttural on the Socrates too, while they’re quicker and lighter on the EVO 10. Then, staging-wise, I find the two similar in size with the EVO 10 delivering the cleaner, tidier backdrop due to its quicker, tighter notes. So, though both cables have similarly lively sigs, the Socrates has the warmer, heavier touch, while this EVO 10 is faster and cleaner.
PW Audio Monile ($551.99)
The EVO 10 and the Monile have fairly similar, neutral-natural tonalities. Both cables exude a sense of air, whilst bringing a lot of clarity and light to their upper-mids. To me, the differences between them lie in their centre-mids and below. The Monile is lighter and more relaxed here, resulting in instruments sounding breathy and open; less weighty or dense. This EVO 10’s more intimate and present here by comparison, which gifts its notes more meat and integrity. It isn’t warmer or fuller-sounding per se. Its images just seem more saturated or concentrated, which I believe, boosts realism. That’s most true with live material, as it lends tangibility to performers. On Megan Davies and Keelan Donovan’s cover of Blame, both their voices and guitars feel more natural because of those chestier, smokier overtones. Though, at the same time, if you wanna lighten or tighten your in-ears, the Monile may fit better. At the end of the day, it comes down to needs and taste.
Effect Audio’s EVO line-up is, in many ways, a company who’s tread all possible ground asking themselves, “What’s next?” And, as a result, it’s birthed a product that finds them working admirably hard to refresh and reinvent. One is this cable’s swappable E-faces, which – albeit short of flawless – is a small tweak or two away from being one of the cabling industry’s most exciting idea in years. And, second is the signature of this EVO 10 itself. It doesn’t strive necessarily for neutrality or technical brilliance. Rather, what it offers is lively, tangible immersion rooted in a gorgeous, engrossing midrange tone, a crisp, clean, dynamic image and articulate, yet well-tempered extremes. It is a more unique, more niche-sounding cable. But, at the same time, I think what it brings to the table will have broad appeal. So, if the sound descriptions I’ve laid out above are ones you jive with, the EVO 10 is a charismatic, musical cable, with fresh, innovative design under its wing too.