Effect Audio Leonidas II – A Legend’s Reprise

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Sound Impressions

The Leonidas II – to me – embodies refinement. There’s effortlessness in everything it reproduces, whether it be its vast, holographic stage or wealths of nuance against a pitch-black background. Like the similarly-plated Janus Dynamic, the Leonidas II’s technical prowess is subtly hidden behind a smooth, easy-to-listen-to timbre; a wholly addictive hybrid of smooth and clear. But, a definite distinction exists in tone. Unlike the former’s less coloured response, the Leonidas is neutral-leaning with an emphasis on cleanliness, clarity and speed. But again, relative to its competition, the Leonidas successor is unique in how it delivers that detail – with a light, graceful touch; smooth and rich, yet wholly transparent.

The Leonidas II is an impressive spatial performer. The stage it possesses is expansive, but more noteworthy is layering, precision and holography. Soundscapes that previously sounded flat and wall-like take on more depth as air permeates between the layers, creating obvious contrasts between the individual elements throughout the stage. Above them all though, the clear star of the Leonidas II’s presentation is its black background. By virtue of its palladium plating, the Leonidas II has taken on astounding refinement and speed. Details appear out of thin-air and vanish without a trace – a huge leap over the original Leonidas’s hazier atmosphere. This contributes heavily into the cable’s transparency, while an organic tonal balance maintains its realism. All this amounts to the II’s immense resolution, delivered with finesse.

Bass performance is an absolute strength in both variants of the Leonidas. Building on its predecessor’s dynamic sub- bass, the II adds a more organically-toned mid-bass – permitted by its broader headroom. Punches are tight, clear and textured, bolstered by commanding authority, effortless control and open air. Because the bass region sits flat relative to the mids and treble, the stage remains spotlessly clean; zero hints of bleed or bloom. Returning to the sub-bass, the cable comes imbued with excellent physicality – immensely guttural and visceral. It’s a woofer-like effect with palpable vibrations, but it’s presented with three-dimensionality and depth which prevents it from crowding the stage. The II is quality-over-quantity down low. Timbre, physicality and detail all excel, but with the restraint and control to match.

The midrange is where the II most clearly outperforms its predecessor. The original’s clear, transparent response is wholly maintained, but with it now comes superior speed, imaging precision and linearity. Unlike other clarity-driven cables, the Leonidas II possesses a hefty lower-midrange. So, notes here sound thick and harmonically-rich. But, swift decay and ample headroom maintain a pitch-black background, as well as high definition. This results in an organic, refined timbre paired with unprecedented resolution. This also aids imaging and layering. Subtle contrasts in texture and dynamic energy are more apparent along the soundscape, so instead of being congealed in one monotonous mass, those little nuances all feel separately alive – almost like tiny fireflies flickering one after another in a black 3D space.

Like the original, the Leonidas II is lightly lifted along the treble. Notes spanning 7-10kHz sound a touch brighter, so it’s not as tonally transparent as – say – the Janus Dynamic. But again, effortlessness belies the II’s presentation. So despite the lift, there’s neither a hard edge nor a strident ‘s ever in sight – unwaveringly rich, organic and composed throughout. It’s a smooth, articulate and – most crucially – refined treble, so the rise serves merely a shift in hue. Extension is strong, and so is speed. While it isn’t capable of delivering the expansiveness and dynamics of 8-wire cables, it does come close by virtue of its rock-solid stage, generously-nuanced soundscape and graceful articulation – a gentle delivery of detail that delays fatigue indefinitely. The Leonidas II’s treble is an achievement; clear as glass, smooth as a feather’s edge.

Suggested Pairings

The Leonidas II is a clear and refined cable with strong technical qualities. Its neutral tone makes it a wonderful pair especially for warmer IEMs, but its transparency, definition and clarity make it ideal for the following categories below:

Heightened clarity, finesse and transparency: The Leonidas II has outstanding spatial properties, particularly in stage expansion, dynamic contrast and organisation. Each element within the soundscape seemingly operates independently against a black background. So, IEMs like the Custom Art FIBAE 2 or the Jomo Audio Deux which have a more unified, wall-of-sound-esque signature will benefit from the Leonidas II’s transparency, separation and textural resolution.

Refined cleanliness and sparkle: The Leonidas II possesses a clean and articulate treble, delivered with a soft, organic timbre. This is ideal if you have warmer IEMs you’d wish to have cleaned up, but still wholly maintain that harmonic richness. Popular options include Warbler Audio’s Prelude, Empire Ears’ Phantom and Vision Ears’ VE6XC.

Excellent bass physicality (with compatible IEMs): Quality over quantity is the Leonidas II’s mantra when it comes to the bass, especially in physicality and extension. IEMs with sufficient sub-bass reach will adopt a more solid, guttural profile and benefit from wetness in the mid-bass. But, the depth with which the low-end is positioned ensures linearity with the rest of the range; always a team player. This is ideal for IEMs like the Empire Ears Phantom and the Vision Ears VE6XC.

Despite the Leonidas II’s impressive technical prowess, it does possess several characteristics that won’t match well with certain IEMs. The Leonidas II may not be for you if the qualities below are what you wish to bring out of your in-ears:

A warm, organic timbre: The Leonidas II is relatively neutral, but it does have a bright touch along the upper-registers. So, if you have IEMs that are bright inherently, the Leonidas II won’t tone that down. For in-ears like the Kumitate Labs Sirius, you’d be better off with less coloured cables like the Janus D, or warmer ones like the Han Sound Audio Aegis.

A crisp, strongly outlined midrange: Despite the Leonidas II’s refinement and clarity, its midrange is lush and organic in timbre – bolstered by a fuller lower-midrange. As a result, notes are rather thick and gossamer. So, if your goal is utmost definition where notes are strongly outlined – and may sometimes border on thin – the Leonidas II will not fulfil that.

Extra slam in the mid-bass: Again, quality over quantity prevails in the bass. The Leonidas II emphasises solidity, physicality and depth down low, so the mid-bass is linearly placed relative to the midrange and treble. If extra slam is what you’re looking for, then cables like the Han Sound Audio Aegis or the Effect Audio Thor Silver II would be more ideal.

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About Author

Church-boy by day and audio-obsessee by night, Daniel Lesmana’s world revolves around the rhythms and melodies we lovingly call: Music. When he’s not behind a console mixing live for a congregation of thousands, engineering records in a studio environment, or making noise behind a drum set, you’ll find him on his laptop analysing audio gear with fervor and glee. Now a specialist in custom IEMs, cables and full-sized headphones, he’s looking to bring his unique sensibilities - as both an enthusiast and a professional - into the reviewer’s space; a place where no man has gone before.

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