PLUSSOUND Exo Palladium-Plated Hybrid: The Palate Cleanse – An In-Ear Monitor Cable Review

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Sound Impressions

PLUSSOUND’s Palladium-Plated Hybrid is a cable that tip-toes musicality – soul or bounce – and transparency extremely well, and it’s down to two things for me: The vast, open, outstandingly-clear space it creates and the bold, slightly-gooey notes that live within it. The tone it sports overall is airy and clean; incredibly open and free-sounding. Instruments have seemingly endless amounts of space to occupy with breadths of crystal-clear air flowing between them. Yet, this doesn’t come with thinness or plasticity. Again, notes are tinged with an oomph to them; wet-sounding or analog at all times. It’s particularly superb on that vocoder solo towards the end of Snarky Puppy’s Grown Folks, where this solo comes through solidly and weightily, but is surrounded by a sea of open, airy synths and percussion, or a track like Sabrina Claudio’s All To You; her voice buttery-rich, yet pure clarity on the beat. It’s a sig I dare call unique, but one this PPH nails with aplomb.

Spatially, again, the PPH nails transparency to a T. While its timbre inherently prevents it from being the most clinical in separation, there’s zero question as to where instruments start and stop, and where they’re supposed to be within that stage as well. Even on a warmer-mixed, less-pristine-sounding record like Tommy Igoe and the Birdland Big Band’s New Ground, the PPH discerns its percussion, piano and horns (many of which occupy the same frequency range) with great ease. Again, there’s simply clean air solidly separating each instrument, and headroom over top too. Further finishing it is outstanding image width. Even running on the less-technically-apt, 3.5mm output on my PAW Gold Touch, I’m getting width comparable to my balanced-terminated flagship cables. Dynamically, it puts a real shift in too. Its vintage traits do limit explosiveness or contrast, but the headroom it has nicely compensates; lending it liveliness to go with its light glow.

Down low, what the PPH contributes is body and weight. Low notes have this heavier thump to them, which works nicely with kick drums and chugging rhythm guitars. I wouldn’t say it lifts dry, gritty, skull-rattling rumble in any significant way, so I’d say it’ll suit genres like rock, metal and pop a bit more. Thankfully, this extra heft doesn’t come with any prominent lifts that put the bass out of sync. I think this has to do with the light upper-bass drop this PPH has. It isolates that rise to just the mid-bass and prevents those dirtier frequencies from rising with it. This’s also partly where the PPH’s headroom, space and air come from. Like the midrange, though, its bass also has a light glow or bloom to it. I find it adds an organic touch to kick drums and toms. With material like Silk Sonic’s Leave the Door Open or Dreamgirls’ Love You I Do, it adds this vintage feel those songs need. So, this PPH’s bass gives good, solid weight, but is light and considerate with its touch too.

The PPH’s midrange, I think, exemplifies its full signature by balancing nuance with soul. It’s not the driest, most compact midrange in the world, so it probably won’t be for those who want their notes hyper-tight and almost-digitally precise. It’s got a lift in the lower-midrange that inherently contrasts this. But, what you get in exchange in intimacy and resonance is arguably superior. Listening to Alfa Mist’s Mind the Gap, Lex Amor’s vocal comes across brimming with emotion and soul, and it absolutely carries this track. The same goes for SAYGRACE on Coffee. With that said, like the low-end, these are not lifts that put the mids on a different plane as the rest of the ensemble either. There’s still linearity and naturalness, so it’ll never feel like an artificial EQ bump. And, technically, this midrange showcases excellent transparency too. Again, it’s raw air flowing between instruments; clean, despite their light, organic glow. So, while a tad richer than analysts may like, the PPH’s midrange makes little compromise to achieve its sig; smooth, alluring and soulful, but open and clear all the same.

Up high, the PPH injects a bit of high-treble air to open up the stage and shine through all that boldness and body. That’s what creates this cable’s clean, transparent backdrop, as well as those streams of air that flow between each of its notes. Something else this does to my ears is highlight all the little nuances that would’ve been lost in that backdrop. And, that’s also courtesy of the PPH’s gentler low- and mid-treble. Transients aren’t over-sharpened or overexcited. That may not be ideal if all you want is glitz and contrast for your thrashing cymbals or sizzly hi-hats. But, the lack of an emphasis towards those quick, biting transients shifts that spotlight towards the quieter, subtler details instead. An example of this are the very soft ah’s on Animals as Leaders’ The Woven Web around the 90-second mark. They would’ve drowned in hi-hats on a more contrast-y, sparkly cable, given your monitor’s inherently balanced, of course. So, as long as you don’t mind washy-er rides or lighter sibilants, the PPH’s highs deliver; uniquely open, clear and airy, and instrumental for everything below.

Suggested Pairings

The PPH is a cable that I feel brings more technical changes than tonal ones, which makes it a fairly universal cable. But, down below are three of what I consider to be its best qualities; the case it makes for a place in the $1000 price bracket:

Open, airy transparency with hints of smoothness and glow: That’s the PPH’s calling card. It has a clean, airy, free-sounding stage and populates it with instruments that have an aura to them; this slight spread. The result is a nice cross between open transparency and soul, and it’s ideal if you want your flagship monitors as open as possible, but with flow to them.

Heavier, richer lows and low-mids with headroom: The PPH imbues instruments with oomph or weight. But, what it does in addition is raise the cleanliness and air around them. They have great room to radiate and project, and there’ll never be that sense of saturation or congestion. It’s perfect if you like your instruments substantial, but without any cost to space.

Superb expansion and separation without compact, clinical-sounding instruments: The PPH also separates by expanding the stage, rather than shrinking or tightening its instruments. The latter are allowed to seem big and rich, yet well-organised too; channels of clear air streaming between them. This’s then topped off with superb width for a palpably stereo sound.

The only qualms one might have with the PPH would most likely be tonal. Its mix of neutrality and organicity may not be for everyone. So, the PPH won’t be the PLUSSOUND cable for you if your preferences align with the two I’ve listed below:

Explosive, dynamite-like contrast across the extremes: This PPH’s sound, though dynamic and lively, doesn’t emphasise the extremes to the point of sounding egregiously impactful; strongly v-shaped or w-shaped. You won’t hear a skull-rattling bottom-end or thrashing highs. So, if that emphasis in contrast is what you’re after, you’re better off with another cable. 

A tight, withdrawn midrange: The PPH also has a glow and spread to its midrange, which won’t be ideal if you want a fast, snappy, compact tonality there. PLUSSOUND’s Silver + Gold or Tri-Silver would probably match your preferences better.

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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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