I’d like to thank Eric Chong for sending us a retail sample of Raphael for this review, though it goes without saying the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.
Considering how long I’ve been enmeshed in this hobby, that Raphael is my first experience of an Eletech cable is somewhat surprising. Unlike many in the industry, it’s also the first time I’ve swapped words with Eric Chong, whose reputation as an innovator, perfectionist, and all-round ‘nice guy’ preceded our introduction.
Based purely on our brief interactions so far, and the quality of the products he sent over for review, I can happily confirm the above is grounded in fact. I won’t pretend to know too much about Singapore-based Eletech, other than what I’ve heard through the grapevine, but since experience is everything, my first impression of the company and, specifically, its cables, is overwhelmingly positive.
Which brings us to the reason you’re reading this: Raphael. I’m told Eletech all but scrapped the ‘entry level’ cable from its portfolio, before reviving it with the new ‘Virtues Series’, of which Raphael is part. While the other two cables in the series, Azrael and Cassiel, seem to raise the bar for materials used and hardware included in the sub-$300 price range, Raphael appears to be more of an outlier.
For one, at $500, it’s almost twice the price of the others, and instead of using base materials like copper and silver, it delves more into the exotic, with gold-plated copper and gold-copper alloys. As you’ll soon discover, it also delivers a sonic performance that’s well above what I personally consider entry level, and is just as accomplished – if not more so – than some cables I’ve used that cost twice as much or more (and besides, words like ‘entry’, ‘basic’ and ‘budget’ have no business hanging around a $500 cable in my opinion).
That the Virtues Series, according to Eletech, is named after (the artist) Raphael’s iconic Cardinal Virtues, which he created inside the Vatican way back when in 1511, you get the sense that (the cable) Raphael is somewhat of a standard bearer for Eletech, regardless of how it’s positioned in the range.
Packaging, design and ergonomics
Since we were sent a full retail version, I’m able to describe the packaging and accessories that buyers can look forward to on purchase. Raphael ships in a relatively small box, at least compared to those of similar-priced cables I have from other cable vendors. This is a good thing, in my opinion, as cables should really not be ‘weighed down’ by elaborate packaging, especially when many of us have to factor in shipping costs halfway across the world.
The box itself is cleverly designed, with a vintage silkscreened sleeve and a circular cutout for the Eletech logo. Various Renaissance-era design motifs reflect the ‘theme’ of the cable, with a brief description and detailed specs imprinted on the back of the sleeve as well. Sliding the sleeve off the box exposes even more design elements on the lidded main box, and it’s apparent that someone really took the time to create an interesting unboxing experience for this cable.
The experience continues inside, with a glossy plaque featuring Raphael’s Virtues fresco, a keepsake of sorts that I’ll probably turn into a fridge magnet at some point. Beneath the plaque you’ll find the cable, neatly packed into a folio-style leather pouch. I’ve seen Eletech cable cases that look more like IEM pucks, and are indeed designed to house both cables and IEMs. This is not it, so you’ll probably have to find another use for the pouch, or leave it in the box, once the cable is paired with your IEM of choice.
Before describing the cable, here’s the spec sheet for reference:
- Ultra-high purity gold-plated copper and copper alloy
- 4 wires, 23.4awg, individually-enameled and cryogenically treated strands
- 9 core Litz, multi-core design with high dispersion geometry
- Kevlar-reinforced core
- Customised precision-cut metal splitter and connectors
- Eletech bespoke solder
- Soft PET insulation with precise braiding
Visually, Raphael is a handsome cable. The clear sheathing reveals the copper hues of the base material, though slightly less ‘coppery’ as a result of what appears to be rose gold plating. Thickness is on the leaner side, and while still substantial due to its 4-wire construction, this is a cable that will appeal more to those who like their cables slim, light and supple.
On the flipside, comfort is exceptional, the softness of material virtually disappearing around my ears when worn, and placing next to no weight on the IEMs. Microphonics are non-existent too, and the cable appears to be resistant to kinks and twists.
The connector hardware and Y-splitter exude quality, made of painted and brushed aluminium, and quite a bit smaller in person than I expected. There’s no chin slider, but honestly, who uses chin sliders nowadays? If there’s any criticism to level at the design (and I’m nit-picking here) it’s that the colours used could be a touch bolder. The gold accents are understated, as are the copper highlights. Then again you could say this makes Raphael classy rather than blingy, so there’s that.
Finally, I’d say that build quality is excellent. The 2-pin connectors sit tight in every IEM I’ve tried them with, the braiding is neat, and the finishing is flawless. I do wish Eletech had some sort of modular system like EA’s ConX, which would let me try Raphael with all my IEMs, and while some consider this a compromise, I personally find more value in flexibility than the tiny – and in my experience virtually inaudible – quality hit.
Continue to sound impressions…