Eletech Socrates: The New Black – An In-Ear Monitor Cable Review

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Sound Impressions

Lively, enveloping and vivid, Eletech’s Socrates is a cable capable of elevating an IEM’s dynamic range through measured colourations along (mainly) the lows and mids. A beefier, thump-y-er sub-bass and a more prominent, more open upper-midrange hallmark the cable’s signature, resulting in a sound that’s, for lack of a better word, louder, punchier and more expressive. But, though musical and fun, the sig isn’t without its trade-offs too; spatially, especially. The Socrates’s larger, more intimate instruments inherently inhibit image depth, so you won’t get that effortless, aerified, grand stage classical-heads tend to demand. It separates horizontally – width-wise – really well, but you’re certainly closer to the performance than what I’d consider reference. It’s more so a rocker or crooner‘s cable in presentation; immersed, intimate and focused.

That aside, however, the Socrates is a pretty impressive technical performer. Though a meatier bass may imply a certain amount of euphony or warmth, the cable actually does an admirable job maintaining a sense of openness and air within the soundscape. Transients come through crisp and clean, aided by the Socrates’s slightly harder-edged mid-treble. And, constantly behind them is a stable, defined, pitch-black background. Listening to a stripped-down arrangement like Tori Kelly’s Sorry Would Go A Long Way, this greatly aids making those lead vocals pop without forcing presence. This cable is a proficient separator too with channels of clean air between each element in the stage. This is especially true, again, of its upper-mids, where the Socrates more-or-less frees up the space around them for increased transparency and definition.

The Socrates’s bass presentation – its sub-bass, especially – is certainly one of its highlights. It adds this palpable, visceral thump that does wonders for kick drums, tom-toms and slap bass, making them sound more life-like, punchy and, again, expressive. It’s not gonna magically turn your balanced-armatured woofers into a dynamic driver, but it can get you a bit of the way there. Almost as impressive as this Socrates’s thump is how little of it bleeds onto the rest of its response. The mid-bass isn’t any warmer, neither does it bloom. And, there’s still a tightness – a quickness – to the upper-bass and low-mids, which greatly contributes to this cable’s crisp layering and air. Lastly, the tone of the bass is nicely clear as well; not overtly rich. That way, you get a great thwack out of kick drums, rather than a boom, for balance between clarity and fun.

In the midrange lies the Socrates’s second forte. It provides openness, resolution and power to the higher-mids, allowing them to cut through and headline the mix despite the cable’s addictive lows. Female vocalists, electric guitars and pianos alike beam with crunch, clarity and texture. But, like the sub-bass, it does this without a blatant, artificial-sounding lift, so they’re allowed to pop without overpowering the mix. As mentioned, the region also benefits from the Socrates’s stable, airy image; the areas around them, especially. And, despite the crisper, clearer, more vibrant etch they now have, they’re still lush, well-supported and rounded in timbre; balanced with warmth, rather than thin and one-dimensional. That is so due to this cable’s sufficient low-mid content; not as expressive as the high-mids, but resolving in their own right too. For me, the bass is what you come to the Socrates for, but the mids are what make you stay. That vividness and nuance they bring to all lead instruments is top-class. And, how balanced it remains positionally despite that is a victory all on its own.

Up high, the Socrates completes its lows and high-mids with a crisp, punchy and articulate mid-treble. Transients around 7-8kHz have this harder edge to them, which sounds brilliantly realistic on instruments like the hi-hat. It adds that tactile, almost-metallic tick hi-hats are supposed to have, but it does so without coming across brittle, artificial or strident in the process. Again, all of the Socrates’s colourations are well-measured, and I’d argue that it’s truest here. The cable’s upper-treble presentation reads natural to me. There’s neither any notable elevation nor roll-off. It simply extends, aerifies and defines the stage, which, as we’ve discussed, it does a pretty nice job of. It’s not as free-sounding or effortless expansion-wise as some of the 8-wire cables I’ve used, but it does serve its price and config very well. All in all, this Socrates’s treble fittingly caps off its sig with some extra, yet controlled edge, along with the finesse needed to pull off its dynamic sound.

Suggested Pairings

Eletech’s Socrates, in spite of its liveliness, retains an impressive amount of naturalness in its tonality as well. This makes it genre-agnostic, and easy to pair too. But, among them all, here are three of what I consider to be this Socrates’s fortes:

A beefy, yet unintrusive sub-bass with great rumble and thump: One of the first qualities I noticed about the Socrates was its physicality and weight down low. It neither elevates the bottom nor blooms it, necessarily, which bodes well for the IEM’s tonal balance and stage cleanliness. What it does instead is add a realistic, visceral quality to thumps, aiding instruments like the kick drum without any excess warmth. This is perfect for, say, Vision Ears’ ELYSIUM, which could use that oomph.

More open, defined, yet lush vocals: The Socrates’s other main draw for me is how it reveals, highlights and clarifies vocals. The upper-mids, especially, gain texture, power and air, which help lead instruments shine in the mix without becoming saturated or inching too far forward. Electric guitars are crunchier, female vocals beam and snare drums have a stronger crackle too. If vocals on your monitors seem wishy-washy, veiled or withdrawn, the Socrates would make an ideal pairing.

A harder-edged, more articulate mid-treble: The Socrates complements its zingy upper-mids with a hard-edged, yet refined treble. Hi-hats and snare drums have a grittier, more tactile attack to them, which helps them cut beautifully in a mix. At the same time, the Socrates – impressively – neither makes the mid-treble any brighter in tone, neither does it introduce any sibilance too. If you want more energy and attack out of your in-ears, the Socrates will do so with a measured touch.

With its colourations, though, the Socrates won’t please everyone. It’s a pretty lively, forward-sounding cable after all, and there’ll be those after something more laid-back or linear. Here are three attributes you won’t find on Eletech’s Socrates:

A grand, expansive and distant-sounding soundstage: The Socrates’ liveliness and (relative) forwardness will take up quite a bit of space within its soundstage. So, despite its stellar separation, layering and air, it won’t deliver that effortless, wide-open, concert-like imaging that befits, say, classical or orchestral music. If that’s what you’re after, the Iliad’s more fitting.

Neutrally-positioned, relaxed-sounding vocals: The Socrates’s midrange delivery, though lush, naturally has a bit of attitude to it; a certain zing or spunk. Vocals and guitars are delivered with a slight vibrance and energy, which, at the same time, aids in texture and transparency as well. But, it may not fit, again, genres like classical, where frailty or subtlety in vocals are sometimes required. This is definitely a midrange more suited for pop, rock or acoustic, so do keep this trait in mind.

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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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