Penon Audio are known as a wonderful portal for the wider world to access Chifi goodies of the East. However, they have since launched their own independent store with its own line of value-orientated products. At present, Penon only offer their BS1 earbud and the OS849 cable being reviewed today, though they have had plenty of prior experience as with cables as an OEM.
That said, the OS849 is their highest end design to date and one that is impressively constructed considering Penon’s asking price. The cable comprises of 8 cores each with 49 individual conductors. It’s a silver plated design using 6N OCC copper as a base. Penon are also keen to mention the quality of their terminations utilising 68% copper plugs and silver solder. With such promise, let’s see how the cable performs.
I would like to thank Chi Kong from Penon Audio very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the OS849 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the cable free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
The OS849 is wonderfully packaged within a hinged wooden box and soft pouch that keep the cable safe during transit. The woodwork is actually done in-house by Jackson, the owner of Penon Audio. It’s a charming gesture that represents the thought and passion that goes into each cable.
The pouch can also be used to protect in-ears and Penon provide a practical and well-presenting experience overall.
Despite undercutting the vast competition in price, Penon have utilised their wide experience to provide a cable that is incredibly solid and very manageable during daily use. The cable itself is very much on the larger side with a similar diameter to Effect Audio’s 22 gauge plus cables. That said, it isn’t overly heavy for its size and was perfectly manageable during portable use. At present, Penon offer the cable with either a 3.5 or 2.5mm balanced connector with the option of MMCX or 0.78mm 2-pin.
The construction of the cable also contributes to this impression of solidity. All terminations are of quality gold plated components with heat shrink strain relief. The Effect style y-split and 3.5mm plug possess absolute rigidity and the plug itself is perfectly centred. Tasteful carbon fibre accents and concentric knurling of the chin slider complete the package to form a rather premium experience.
The wire itself is also of pleasing quality though it does not demonstrate the same level of aesthetic and ergonomic achievement as higher priced cables from ALO, Effect Audio and Plussound to name a few. Still, the cable is pliable and supple considering its size and despite a lack of earguides, promotes a stable fit. Some memory is present and the sheathing feels slightly plasticky, but the cable isn’t tacky and easily avoids tangles; in fact, the memory actually aids stable wear by helping the cable to conform to the outer ear. During my 2 months of use, I also haven’t noticed any discolouration or hardening of the insulation nor oxidation of the conductors.
The lack of earguides also makes the cable a good match for cable down earphones such as the JVC in-ears. I would also postulate that it would pair well with earbuds but unfortunately, I didn’t have any MMCX sporting models on hand at the time of testing. From impression, the OS849’s tone would also provide a very nice match towards their more open form factor.
Interestingly, the cable reflects more typical copper than silver qualities with a warm tone permeating throughout its presentation. That said, the cable can be considered u-shaped overall, with a tinge of silvery brightness within the upper midrange and lower-treble. And where some cables pride themselves on transparency and balance, the OS849’s image is formed from lush body and entrancing bass; lower frequencies thrive on rumble and body with enhanced extension servicing impact and slam.
This tone mainly stems from Lifted middle and especially upper bass frequencies that create fuller bass notes and a slight sense of tubbiness within their bass/lower midrange transition. With dynamic driver in-ears, sub-bass forms more of a driving force through outstanding extension and notably increased slam while remaining tight with great control. Due to this weighting, bass is full and impactful but separation between notes isn’t absolute. That said, bass definition, detail and texturing is surprisingly strong; this isn’t an ultra-clean presentation but one with great weight and dynamics.
Mids are smooth, slightly bright and possess greater than neutral body due to the cable’s lifted low-end presentation. Male vocals are full-bodied and instruments such as acoustic guitar sound organic. Upper mids are slightly elevated granting greater clarity to vocals that counteracts their added low-end warmth. This presentation especially benefits thinner earphones like the Meeaudio Pinnacle P1/P2 but does compromise transparency when compared to more neutral cables. The OS849 also isn’t the most revealing cable; though background detail retrieval is superb, the cable lacks some resolution so these details aren’t delivered with the immediacy and clarity that more expensive cables manage. Still, Penon’s cable redeems itself through its smooth delivery and natural timbre and vocals.
The cable’s upper midrange rise continues into its treble. Lower treble, in particular, is emphasized enhancing detail presentation, and larger bodied notes prevent a thin, raspy portrayal of treble elements. As such, cymbals are very nicely textured and strings sound slightly forward but also defined, contributing to the cable’s layered presentation. Middle treble has some nice shimmer before a small decline into the upper treble that grants high-frequencies with a more velvety presentation and a darker background. That said, extension is excellent, immediately improved over stock cables, if lacking that last iota of air and separation offered by higher end cables such as the EROS II. The OS849 isn’t the most open and delineated cable but background details are accurately portrayed and its tasteful tone heightens engagement without compromising detail.
These elements converge to create a very coherent stage. Imaging is a step up over OEM cables and space is further improved yet thanks to great end to end extension and an even tone that does well to redeems micro-details and directional cues. Separation is also enhanced, perhaps not to the same extent as a result of the OS849’s thicker sound and more restrained upper treble. Brighter cables ultimately convey a greater sense of scale and openness though the OS849 well balances its foreground warmth with background cleanliness and nuance.
Rose BR5 MKII: The BR5 is a nicely revealing earphone yet one with some issues with bass depth and extension. The OS849 provides more dynamic bass while retaining speed though bass depth appears to be limited by the iem itself. Lower mids are natural and more neutrally bodied, the warm OS849 counteracting the brighter tone of the earphone itself. Upper mids lose a bit of transparency and clarity with a tinge of warming from the cable. However, this body really enhances treble, with superior detailing and noticeably better extension than the stock unit. The BR5 MKII sounds slightly wider as a result with similar depth and separation remains similar to stock as this added extension merely offsets the midrange warming. So though the BR5 MKII includes a nice silver plated unit from factory, the Penon OS849 provides a noticeable upgrade with pleasing but not perfect synergy.
Dunu DK-3001: Dunu include two capable cables from factory though the OS849 found numerous advantages even over the balanced unit. Immediately, bass extension improves, heightening impact and rumble. Bass remains defined and despite the added deep-bass, separation is improved over stock through greater bass control. Mids find almost perfect synergy, the OS849 complimenting the Dunu’s slightly thinner, clearer and brighter tone to create a more natural and balanced sound. Treble is similar, the Penon cable is noticeably more detailed through greater treble body and its smoother nature lacked the crunch of the stock cable. Extension is also improved, granting the earphones with greater resolving power and air. The OS849 expands the Dunu’s stage and heightens immersion through greater separation and resolution. The Penon/Dunu combo was noticeably more dynamic throughout, offering just the right amount of tonal correction within the mids and highs but it may be slightly too bass heavy for some.
Campfire Jupiter: The Jupiter is an exceptionally resolving earphone with terrific treble extension. Some of that can be contributed to ALO’s excellent stock SPC Litz cable that actually costs more than the OS849 upgrade cable. This actually isn’t the best pairing as the Jupiter is already a warmer earphone. While bass depth is noticeably improved, the OS849 slightly over-emphasizes upper bass on the Jupiter, creating quite a tubby presentation and overly thick lower mids. The already full-bodied Jupiter sounds downright thick with the Penon cable which saps transparency from its midrange as well as some clarity. Treble remains very detailed but the OS849 doesn’t sound quite as open as the Litz nor as separated. This is definitely the worst case scenario for the OS849, but it does highlight the importance of synergy.
Meeaudio Modular SPC ($100): The Meeaudio cable is much slimmer and lighter, it also comes with a range of adapters that enable use with a variety of balanced sources. The Penon cable is noticeably warmer and more coherent while the Meeaudio cable is more reserved and a little less defined within the bass but also clearer within its midrange. Treble is more extended and detailed on the Penon cable but the Meeaudio cable has greater shimmer and sparkle. Staging is similar, the air advantage of the Meeaudio cable offset by its weaker bass presentation.
ALO SPC Litz ($150): ALO’s SPC Litz cable is ergonomically excellent, super supple, light and with zero memory. The Penon cable is magnitudes larger and considerably more cumbersome. Sonically, both are well matched with different presentations. The ALO cable is brighter but with an engaging bass response. Bass is cleaner on the ALO but less visceral and extended than that of the OS849. Mids are clearer and more transparent on the ALO partly due to that cleaner bass response and treble has greater clarity and extension but thinner body. The OS849 is warmer and more bodied but also lacks some transparency and high-frequency resolution by comparison.
Plussound EXO Copper ($150): Interestingly, the EXO Copper shares the most similarities with the OS849. The EXO is the more subtle, balanced cable, it shares a warm, similarly well extended low-end, but has more restraint and a little less definition. Mids aren’t as full-bodied though the EXO holds no clarity advantage as it has a darker tone. As a result, the EXO is even smoother with a very liquid presentation, vocals are natural and treble is very clean yet detailed if slightly less so than the OS849. Extension is similarly strong but its darker, smoother presentation sacrifices some air, resolution and engagement in favour of a darker background greater cohesion.
The OS849 is a fine cable that offers a very unique yet engaging tonality and very noticable technical upgrades over conventional manufacturer provided units and some similarly priced upgrade cables too. Penon also provide excellent build quality, not only of the cable itself but also the terminations that can play a large role in sound quality as part of the conducting path. Furthermore, the geometry of the cable is vastly impressive considering Penon’s asking price as is the very charming unboxing.
The cable is quite thick and leans towards the heavier side making it a poor choice for active use, though pliable wires enable a stable fit during commute and stationary listening. And though the cable doesn’t find perfect synergy with every earphone, it provides a tone that well compensates for some very common weaknesses among iems; thin mids, unrealistic timbre and lethargic bass. Most silver plated cables gun for ethereal clarity but the OS849 stands tall as a creature of dynamics and terrestrial impact.