DISCLAIMER: Effect Audio provided me with the Janus Dynamic 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.
Effect Audio needs no introduction. The Singaporean superstars have cemented themselves as one of the most prominent cable manufacturers in the world; crafting some of the finest products the industry has ever seen. But, not ones to rest on their laurels, Effect Audio have just recently made their most exciting innovation yet: Palladium-plated conductors. As an hors d’oeuvre of sorts, Effect Audio have used this technology to birth the Janus twins; Dynamic and Basso; set apart simply by the geometries within the conductors. Today, we’ll be looking at the Janus Dynamic – one-half of the cable industry’s hottest prospects, and one of the most natural, balanced and effortless cables I’ve heard yet.
Effect Audio Janus Dynamic
- Wire composition: 24 AWG UPOCC Palladium-plated copper & EA alloy mix
- Default configuration: 8-wire
- Key feature(s) (if any): Palladium plating, UltraFlexi insulation
- Price: $1399
- Website: www.effectaudio.com
Build and Accessories
The Janus D comes in a box not unlike ones I’ve previously explored with Effect Audio’s pricier offerings: A black monolith enclosed within an embossed paper sleeve. However this time, the printings are accented with metallic silver ink; a welcome touch given the exclusivity of the cable within. Lifting off the felt-lined hatch reveals the Janus D, as well as its included pigtail adapter. As usual for Effect Audio, the package oozes class. Although I wish they’d include an extra feature given the price – like the Lionheart’s leather pouch, for example – it’s still an impressive display nonetheless.
The Janus D is a formidable beast; thicker than Effect Audio’s standard fair by 2 AWG. Regardless, they still perform admirably in ergonomics. In daily use, I rarely ever notice the extra weight. And, Effect Audio’s newly redesigned Y-split keeps everything stationary on the go. Although it’s far from the most vanishing cable in my arsenal, its lofty size should never be a concern either. The conductors themselves look absolutely stunning; alternating between shimmering grey and matte-black throughout. The braids aren’t as tight as their slimmer siblings, but they’re as even and uniform as Effect Audio’s products always are. Finally, softness and suppleness are still some of the best the industry has to offer.
The Janus D also features Effect Audio’s newly-redesigned Y-split and PSquared plug. This revision features a gorgeous mirror finish – almost resembling chrome – as well as laser-engraved emblems. Numerous users (myself included) have complained about logos rubbing off in the past, so this revision addresses that issue wonderfully. The Y-split feels immensely more robust than the previous one too. It’s noticeably lighter and more compact, but density has greatly increased. As a result, it doesn’t bounce anywhere as easily when in motion, and the cable remains stable at all times.
The 2.5mm PSquared plug is wonderfully machined as well, though it’s important to note that it will be the Janus twins’ default connector. Unlike Effect Audio’s other offerings, all Janus orders will arrive with the aforementioned plug and a pigtail adapter, which you can choose to have terminated in either 3.5mm single-ended or 4.4mm balanced. This was apparently a compromise made to avoid long wait times d ue to the Janus’ laborious production process. I’m personally not a fan of this system, because the inclusion of an adapter adds an extra point of failure and additional heft to an already-lofty cable. So unless you already own a 2.5mm-compliant DAP, this should be an important factor to consider.
The Effect Audio Janus D is an excellent technical performer, yet – idiosyncratically – subtle in how it alters the monitor’s presentation. It maintains a smooth and lightly warm timbre, but what sets it apart is the linearity with which it does so. There are zero noticeable aberrations throughout its frequency response, so its general performance is defined by qualities like balance, extension and decay – all of which prove mighty impressive. The Janus D presents compactly-sized images spread throughout a stunningly defined stage. Excellent coherence allow all of these elements to co-exist without the need for extra brightness, and a sufficiently quick decay maintains a pitch-black background at all times.
Expectedly so, the Janus D’s most noteworthy traits are stage expansion, transparency and imaging precision. It presents a holographic, three-dimensional soundscape with layers that expand towards all three axes. Instruments toward the far-left and right display just as much resolution as the centre image, presenting a cohesive whole filled with a variety of tones and textures; equally audible, ripe for the picking. This is especially true with busier genres of music. Although instruments aren’t as sharply isolated as they could possibly be – due to the Janus’s linear upper-treble – this is to the benefit of tonal accuracy, and separation still impresses nonetheless. Finally, transients and decays constantly feel swift, but not sharply so. Hence, the Janus D showcases a healthy balance between liveliness and refinement in its delivery.
Bass performance is one of the Janus D’s strongest suits. It consistently boasts great solidity, wonderful resolution and effortless detail. The region is linear overall, so it’s neither noteworthily rumbly, or punchy, or melodious. Rather, its forte is the ability to maintain an authoritative presence no matter how busy the track gets. Excellent achievements in speed and control ensure the bass is consistently heard, while extension guarantees it’s always felt as well. Although that usually implies tight, insubstantial jabs, the Janus D’s low-end is surprisingly meaty and thick. Punches are harmonic, warm and textured, but never occupy too much space – nor linger too long – within the stage. It’s a bass that rock fans will love, as it resolves the bass guitar and kick drum without either being compromised – both punchy and luscious.
The Janus D’s vocal range is the least coloured of the three. Steady linearity runs through the lower- and-upper mids for a carefully balanced response. Favourably, it does little to alter the monitor’s inherent presentation. Rather, superb transparency further distances the image from the background, ensuring endless nuance and effortless detail without awkwardness in tone. To some, however, the Janus D may lack vibrancy in the upper-mids compared to other offerings. Horns and female vocals sound less peppy and bright here than – say – on the Thor Silver II, which may translate to a lack of engagement at first listen. However, closer scrutiny will reveal the cable’s technical strengths. Separation and imaging precision are extremely impressive, as is note structure and resolution. Never is there excessive warmth from the bass, nor a plasticky chill from the top. Simply put, it’s naturally rich, organically clear, and outstandingly life-like.
The Janus D’s top-end resumes its neutrality; neither organically warm, nor strikingly crisp. Rather, it maintains a clear, laid-back response, where its stand-out characteristics are linearity and transparency. Like the rest of its signature, its transparency is the tonal kind, where it imparts little colour to the in-ear’s inherent presentation. However, it does have a bias towards smoothening and refining transients, rather than sharpening them. This works extremely well with the 64 Audio A6t, where its 7kHz peak often borders between grainy and articulate depending on the pairing. But, it isn’t preferable with the Jomo Audio Deux, for example, which needs that bright contrast to pop against its fuller midrange. Regardless, the top-end extends admirably; bolstering its background blackness, transparency and depth. It’s a top-end that won’t necessarily excite like the Horus will, but its technical prowess (and versatility) is undeniable either way.
The Janus D has an overall clear, laid-back signature, with little deviance in terms of tonal bias. As a result, pairing becomes a question of dynamics, rather than timbre. Because although the Janus D excels in the technical realm, it’s relatively less coloured than the industry’s current crop of favourites. So, if you’re already content with how your in-ears present instruments as is – and you’re simply looking to boost performance – these are what the Janus D can do for you:
Superior imaging, separation and resolution – The Janus D’s forte is its ability to create an airy, spacious and grand sonic image without ever making its elements sound distant, nonchalant or unengaged. A strong sense of focus and resolution spans throughout the entire spectrum – instead of remaining limited to the centre image – and musicality is never lost over time. This is gold for IEMs that feel a bit closed in; like the Warbler Audio Prelude or the Custom Art FIBAE 2. You’ll experience music within a more epic, voluminous scale without losing any of its intimacy.
A well-supported, dense, yet transparent midrange – The Janus D maintains strict discipline in its upper-mids and lower-treble; showcasing strong linearity and vocal quality without any frills. A pitch-black background renders finer nuances and dynamic energy, whilst maintaining refinement and organicity. Images are harmonically rich, but remain compact enough to sound cleanly defined at all times. This complements similarly voiced in-ears like the Empire Ears Phantom or the 64 Audio’s A6t, and it will enrich wispier ones like the Custom Art FIBAE 3 or the Kumitate Labs Sirius.
Strong bass extension and resolution – Like the Bespoke Ares II I reviewed recently, the Janus D has an authoritative, guttural low-end. As a result, both add physicality to thumps and thwacks without necessarily increasing the mid-bass. However, the Janus D takes it to a whole other level by enriching the bass with a melodious tone and a warm, meaty texture – along with high resolution. If you have IEMs where bass is present, but a touch one-dimensional – like the Avara Custom AV2 – it’ll surely add a pleasing depth that’ll endow upright basses and electric guitars great personality.
However, the Janus D’s bias for smoothening transients rather than sharpening them makes it unsuitable for the stereotypical upgrade cable criteria: Moar detail! Moar clarity! The Janus D has a decidedly meaty timbre, despite its expertise in separation and precision. Nevertheless, these are qualities you shouldn’t expect from Effect Audio’s latest:
Increased treble sparkle and top-end clarity – Despite the cable’s shimmery-silver looks, one should expect very minimal dazzle from the Janus D’s top-end. It’s an articulate and especially refined treble – elegant in its delivery and silky to the ear – but it won’t sound particularly sharp ala Effect Audio’s Horus, for example. In-ears like the Jomo Audio Deux or the Empire Ears Athena-VIII ADEL that need a little bit of bite, will not pair best with the Janus D’s laid-back response.
Poppy, vibrant vocals – The Janus D balances between its lower- and upper-mids. Although it has a slight tilt towards the latter, it’s not going to add any noticeable zing or pep to your instruments; whether it be the honky-ness of a tenor sax, the sweetness of a female songstress or the ring of a snare drum. If your in-ears have calmer upper-mids out of the box – like the Custom Art FIBAE 2 – and you wish to bring out more vibrancy, the Janus D shouldn’t be your pick.
A cleaner, leaner presentation – This is most definitely the Janus Basso’s wheelhouse. The Janus D has a linear frequency response that won’t remove any chestiness or cloy-ness (around the 500Hz to 1kHz region), which makes it less than ideal if you seek more defined and streamlined images. The Janus B has a more v-shaped response with a neutral lower-midrange, so that’s the one to get if you’re after a punchier presentation and contrast between the low- and top-ends.
Effect Audio Bespoke 8-wire Lionheart (S$1599)
The Bespoke Lionheart spits out a similarly grand image in width and height, but maintains intimacy in depth. This is due in large part to its warm bass and articulate lower-treble. The Janus D is significantly more linear, uncoloured and laid-back. Down low, the Lionheart throws looser punches; warm and meaty, yet a touch sluggish in decay. The Janus D’s comes with superior resolution, clarity and control. Thumps are visceral and defined, as they are textured and melodic.
The Lionheart’s vocals are further upfront, while the Janus D’s excel in refinement and transparency. The former is more rock out! while the latter has an effortlessness that significantly bolsters its resolution. The Lionheart’s instruments are more forwardly placed, while the Janus D’s sit relatively evenly with the rest of the frequency response. The Janus D has a faster, more refined treble with more headroom. The Lionheart’s is smoother and warmer, but more congealed.
PWAudio 2-wire 1960s (S$1399)
Like the Janus D, the 1960s is capable of strong three-dimensionality. Spatial resolution is excellent, exceptionally at the diagonals. As an instrument pans from left-to-right (or vice-versa), it’s especially easy to follow as it travels – giving the stage a well-defined spherical outline. But, this is also because the 1960s is deeper than it is wide, so 10 o’ clock and 2 o’ clock are closer to the centre image. The Janus D has a wider stage with greater headroom. The 1960s is more articulate because of its bright lower-treble. The Janus D is more laid-back, while the 1960s has a coloured, engaging tone.
In longer listening, the 1960s will prove more tiresome, as it focuses on crisper transients rather than richer harmonics. There’s clearly more snap to the note, while the Janus D balances between edge and body. The 1960s will sound more dynamic and lively as a result, while the Effect Audio conductor has superior linearity, refinement and space. The PWAudio cable invites energy and rhythm at the cost of transparency; its stage feeling a touch more claustrophobic than the Janus D, even though it displays excellent openness in and of itself. The Janus D simply has a more relaxed presentation, which – once again – makes it sound impressively effortless no matter how busy the track gets.
The Effect Audio Janus Dynamic flaunts excellence in tonal balance, spatiality and resolution. It endows every monitor it’s paired to with dense, textured, strongly-defined images within a vast, transparent and unintrusive space. But, what truly impresses is the effortlessness with which it does so. While laid-back, organic signatures are typically associated with sluggishness and cloy, the Janus D subtly – yet crucially – injects its calmness with relentless authority and unwavering control. Within its raw, colourless palette are massive achievements in speed, definition and precision – spanning evenly throughout its entire spectrum. It truly is the best of both worlds; emotional in tone, methodical in execution.