When an individual of the audio enthusiast type buys an earphone, one always tries to enhance it by changing various things. One always looks for different things to get the best out of the earphone. We burn in the earphones for hours to get some enhancements and trying various ear tips are the most basic of the things.
What we forget most of the time is the cable. Nearly 99.9% earphones don’t come with balanced cables. And most of those single ended cables are just run-of-the-mill type basic cables. These cables are just there for the sake of it. Even some premium brands like Custom Art, Lime Ears and Inear ship with just okay, industry standard cables.
If you have a good earphone, often the stock cable will restrict it from performing at its best. But one might think, there are a lot of cables, plenty of brands to choose from, what is the best cable for my earphone? Many type of cables with variety of materials available in the market, which is the one I need, what material I should get to suit my earphone and audio tastes the best.
I am not a huge cable guy, I don’t have expensive cables, and I look for cables which are best value for money. Spending a lot on cable doesn’t really make sense to me. If one just spent $500 on an earphone and then buys a $300 cables for it, does it makes any sense?
What I will be looking into in this article is the Penon OS849 earphone cable. It is a Single Crystal Copper Silver-plated cable (basically a SPC cable) priced at $119 for 3.5mm singe ended version and $129 for 2.5mm balanced version. It is available in both 2pin and MMCX connectors.
I am comparing the OS849 with Nocturnal Acrux-4 which is priced at $119 (but one has to pay extra for 2.5mm termination and choice of 2pin) and $80 Electro Acousti pure copper cable.
Here are the specs of it:-
- 6n single crystal copper silver-plated cable
- Contained 8% silver, the thickness is 10μm,
- 8 Cores, single core is 49 strands, a total of 8 × 49.
- The plug contains 68% copper
- The solder joints is silver –contained tin
- Carbon fiber metal splitter and CNC integrated slider
- Sound field is very big and very natural
- Cable length: 1.2M
Get one for yourself from this link:-
Accessories and Packaging:-
Unlike most cables which barely come in a standard box type packaging, the Penon cable comes in a tidy looking retail box.
There are a lot of accessories out of the box. One can find three velvet pads, one velvet pouch, a cable clip, one cleaning tool and a Velcro cable tie. Most of these accessories are stuffed in the classy looking wooden case. OS849 has plenty of accessories and I don’t think one can ask for more.
Build quality and comfort:-
Build quality of the OS849 is very good. The strands have a transparent layer of soft plastic on them which protects it from scratches. It feels very solid to the hand and can take more than a hit. The 2pin connector looks and feels very strong, it uses metal to give better protection than plastic and chrome plated plastic connectors used by most of the brands The Y splitter looks very good with some carbon fiber accent to it. The 2.5mm Jack feels very solid to the hand. Thankfully it does not come out if rotated by mistake (which is a big problem with some cables). The jack has a stress reliever to withstand bends. The cable slider too looks classic and is better than what others have.
The build quality is fantastic but like any other cable it cannot withstand brute force.
I have experience with a lot of decent cables. Of them all Effect audio Ares and the Acrux-4 cables have horrible memory and are rigid. They just cannot be wounded to ones liking. The OS849 doesn’t have that problem. It does have some memory but it obeys better much like the Symphonym cables that ship with Shozy and AAW earphones.
The braiding is neither too tight nor much loose, maintaining good composure.
The OS849 has no cable guides. You can give it shape as per your liking, the cable is not heavy and is fairly comfortable over the ear.
All in all Penon has given plenty of attention to the build quality of the OS849.
What to expect:-
The OS849 is basically a Silver plated copper cable. It has silver plating on copper cores.
It is not a secret that silver is the best conductor of electricity closely followed by copper. Most of are aware of the rule that silver is good for mid range and copper deliver good lows, Combining both the metals in a cable means it has the best of the both worlds.
Thanks to the SPC nature of the cable it doesn’t get much leaner or thicker when it comes to notes and delivers better transparency compared to copper cables. It produces accurate notes thickness and depth. Helps with treble extension and stage size too.
How does it pair:–
Fibae 3 is very good earphone in its price range, but it lacks a bit of bite. Notes lack some depth. Switching to the OS849 from stock cable delivers more accurate notes thickness and pairs fantastically with the slightly blunt sounding Fibae 3. The stage which sounds conical with the stock cable gets more rounded with the OS849. OS849 pairs nicely with Fibae 3.
Exactly same scene with the Fibae black, the smoothness is good but it does lack a bit of bite off the notes and the treble extension feels a bit lacking. With the OS849 it gains better sharpness and instruments have better transparency. Treble gains some extension and energy, the stage too get bigger. The OS849 pairs very well with the Fibae Black.
The SD5 has very similar cable compared to the Fibae 3. The material is exactly same. With the stock cable SD5 sounds very good, mostly because it itself is a very potent earphone but still one might like a bit more bite which can be gained with the OS849. With it the SD5 sound cleaner with better definition and transparency. Instrument separation improves, so does the stage size too. The SD5 pairs fantastically with the OS849.
Noc Eden already comes with a very good cable and sounds exceptionally balance. Notes have good bite and transparency to them. But, still slightly better bite and separation is needed, OS849 with its balanced and agile nature can deliver it. It improves stage size too and unleashes a detail monster. The pairing can be slightly uncomfortable if one is not exactly comfortable with sharp notes.
TFZ Secret Garden 3:-
One of the best mid ranger, the Secret Garden 3 delivers very good details and clarity with its above par cable. It sounds good with the stock cable but with the OS849 balanced cable it gains better details and transparency across the spectrum and has better instrument separation too. The stage size too gets bigger and the treble gains better extension.
How does it compare with others balanced cables:-
When compared to the Nocturnal Acrux-4 the OS849 sounds sharper and leaner. It brings more transparency with separation while compromising some smoothness. Things can get unnaturally sharper if you don’t choose a more musical or smoother sound source. Pairing the Acrux-4 with my Plenue R does bring unnaturally sharper upper mid range.
Compared to Electro Acousti copper cable, the OS849 sound more transparent and clearer with better instrument separation. Copper cable has slower decay and sounds more laid back and is suiting for more aggressive sounding earphones like NCM Bella V2 and EM-5H. Pairing this cable with my Shanling M5s smoothens things even more and things start to sound a bit dull. But paring it with my Plenue R balances things nicely.
In short, OS849 pairs better with earphones which have smoother notes. Pairing it with something that already has very accurate notes depth and sharpness might get a bit uncomfortable.
Earphone with gentle tonality gain good amount of bite and transparency. If you think your earphone lack a bit of treble extension, the OS849 will definitely help. Pairing it with something like the EM-5H or Audiofly AF1120 might not be a wise idea as things can get sharper than desired, unless you like lean and sharp notes.
All in all the OS849 brings more agility to dull sounding earphone. It helps with decay speed, tightens things up, has bigger stage and delivers better treble extension too. Compared to stock cables, the OS849 is miles ahead. It brings better technicality and separation to the table.
If you have the budget and want a bit sharper notes with improvements in every department, the OS849 will not disappoint.