Lavricables Ultimate V3 for Sony MDR-Z1R
Packaging, design and ergonomics. From a packaging perspective, there’s not much to see here; the cable ships in a felt-covered oversize black pouch with the Lavricables logo on the front.
The cable sheathing is made of a seemingly high quality PVC material that feels very smooth and supple to the touch. The clear sheathing lets you see the pure silver wires in all their silver glory, and is also kink free, lightweight, with no perceptible microphonics (you do get the option of black paracord sheathing at checkout, if that’s your preference). I like the weight and design of the carbon Y-splitter, and the connectors themselves are clearly marked and appear to be well made and robust. I asked for locking connectors to be installed on the cable, a very nice feature of the MDR-Z1R and one that Lavricables is happy to include for a small additional fee.
Overall the cable has an understated, elegant look, without any flashy bits and pieces. There’s no obvious strain relief at either end, but the cable is light and supple and I don’t doubt its robustness. It will definitely appeal to those looking for a cable that ‘gets out the way’.
Sound characteristics. I’m not someone who believes that cables have a specific ‘sound’, but rather that they help tweak the sound characteristics of the headphones you’re using. In that respect, the first thing that strikes me about the sound of the MDR-Z1R with the Lavricables Ultimate is the tighter, lighter presentation of notes. Silver cables are generally known for their ability to focus and extend treble notes and tighten bass frequencies, and that’s consistent with what I’m hearing here.
The MDR-Z1R is renowned for its powerful bass presentation, and the Lavricables Ultimate doesn’t diminish this aspect in any way. What it does do is shift the overall balance of the bass towards the lower sub-bass frequencies, and cleans up some of the warmth of the midbass notes so they appear cleaner with more grip and punch. The same effect is perceptible in the midrange, which now veers closer to neutral, consequently losing some of its wetness in the process but conversely becoming more resolving.
The MDR-Z1R is also renowned for having a slightly errant peak around 9kHz or 10kHz in the upper treble, something most obvious when listening to poorly recorded breathy female vocals. With the Lavricables Ultimate, the treble frequencies appear smoother, and the peak is far less pronounced.
Select comparisons. If the above seems a bit vague, it will probably make more sense when comparing the Lavricables Ultimate to two other cables I use with the MDR-Z1R, the Sony stock cable, and the Kimber Kable Axios Cu.
My review test comprises of back-to-back listening to specific test tracks I’m intimately familiar with, noting the changes I hear in certain sections between each cable. I repeat this test numerous times with different tracks, changing up the order of the cables to avoid memory bias. For this review, my test tracks included:
- Lana Del Rey – Textbook
- Nils Lofgren – Keith Don’t Go
- Eagles – Hotel California Live
- Dead Can Dance – Yulunga (Spirit Dance)
- He Xiu-Tan – Earth Drums
- Tong Li – Lingren Song
- Zhao Peng – The Moon Represents My Heart
- Zhao Cong – Moonlight on Spring River
- Michael Jackson – Liberian Girl
- Zach Hemsey – Mind Heist: The Birth of an Idea
Vs Sony stock cable. It didn’t take me long to realise the stock silver plated copper cable that ships with the MDR-Z1R is not the most ideal sonic pairing for the headphone, at least as far as my preferences and sensitivities are concerned. I quickly picked up on the notorious 10kHz peak, for example, which made listening for long periods fatiguing.
Physically, the Sony cable matches the look and feel of the headphone, with a sleek PVC-covered sheath, moulded locking connectors that ‘disappear’ into the headphone, and a low-profile L-shaped 4.4mm Pentaconn plug. In contrast the Lavricables Ultimate is ‘prettier’ with its silver braids and carbon hardware, but is complementary rather than ‘made for’ the MDR’s all-black aesthetics.
Sonically is where the Lavricables Ultimate improves on the stock cable, however. Compared to the stock cable, I found the Lavricables Ultimate to be more resolving in the lower frequencies, with a tighter and faster bass and less midbass bloat or woolliness that is sometimes evident with the stock cable. The Lavricables Ultimate was also more resolving in the midrange, with added air and darker spaces between notes, but notes ere consequently slightly lighter and drier in their delivery.
Treble is where the biggest changes were evident, with the Lavricables Ultimate sounding smoother and silkier, with no glare or errant peaks, more refined and resolving. Stage was also less congested with the Lavricables Ultimate, with less haze between instruments and vocals, and as described above, resolution is increased across the board.
On the flipside, I did detect a touch of upper midrange glare on some tracks with the Lavricabes Ultimate, which could be a consequence of the drier notes, something the stock cable doesn’t seem to suffer from.
Select impressions continued…