DISCLAIMER: My colleague Ryan Soo loaned me his PPH review unit for the purposes of this review. I am not personally affiliated with PLUSSOUND in any way, nor do I receive any monetary rewards for a positive evaluation. I’d like to thank PLUSSOUND and Ryan for their kindness and support. The review is as follows.
PLUSSOUND is an aftermarket-cable manufacturer based in the United States. Among the myriad of cable brands in the industry now, they were one of the first to really feature customisation in their products; alterable all the way from wire counts, to cable lengths, braiding styles, hardware colours, shielding, etc. Those options became even further varied as they grew their material repertoire too. Some of their greatest hits include three- or four-metal hybrids. This cable we’re looking at today has such a make-up: The Palladium-Plated Hybrid; a richer take on the clean sound with a dose of glow.
PLUSSOUND Palladium-Plated Hybrid
- Wire composition: 26 AWG Type-6 Litz Palladium-Plated Hybrid
- Default configuration: 4-wire
- Key feature(s) (if any): PS insulation
- Price: $999
- Website: www.plussoundaudio.com
Packaging and Accessories
Since my last review of a PLUSSOUND cable years ago, they’ve altered and classed-up their packaging considerably. This PPH comes in a black, semi-gloss box topped with a gold, metallic print of the PLUSSOUND logo. Sandwiched between its top and bottom is a matching gold, metallic strip, which is a cool aesthetic touch. Lifting its lid off, you’ll see an engraved acrylic insert, which I feel is a very clever inclusion that echoes the design language of premium fragrances, for example.
Below that is the cable itself tucked inside an included leather pouch. Of the plethora of leather cases I’ve received with audio products, this one is probably up there with Eletech as one of the top dogs. It has that drier feel to it, which really highlights and accentuates the texture of the leather. Its wrinkles look ashy or aged, and that PLUSSOUND logo engraved on top just finishes the look perfectly. If they ever decide to sell it as a separate accessory, I can see it selling out rapidly.
Finally, underneath that case is a cardboard divider, which houses this PPH’s remaining extras. First up is a leather cable tie. Unfortunately, the quality of the leather doesn’t match that of the pouch. There isn’t any branding on it either, which feels like a missed opportunity. Still, though, I’m incredibly happy that PLUSSOUND has at least included one; more than I can say for a lot of cable brands out there. You also get a microfibre cloth with the company logo; again, an extra more brands should include. And, last is a warranty card you can send in if you need to return the cable because of any issues.
All in all, I feel PLUSSOUND have done a great job with their packaging. Although I’m partial towards matte textures, I do not mind the semi-gloss exterior. Besides, everything they’ve included within – from the classy acrylic insert, to the top-quality leather pouch, to all those accessories – easily make up for it. It is a great effort, and a revamp made worthwhile.
Aesthetics, Ergonomics and Everyday Use
Aesthetically, the PPH is a stunning-looking cable. The hybrid design immediately shows with alternating veins of copper and silver peering through; both metals shiny, lustrous and crisp. PLUSSOUND’s proprietary PS insulation does a superb job showing them off too; very transparent without any reflective gloss. Speaking of its outer jacket, it is probably one of the smoothest and silkiest ones I’ve experienced yet. It’s a tad heavier, I believe, than Effect Audio’s UltraFlexi or Eletech’s FlexiMax. But, what that bit of heft does is prevent the wires from ever feeling bouncy or springy. The cable simply drops when you hold it on one end, which indicates fantastic suppleness. And, this shows on the 2-wire sections as well, which, while twisted, hold their shape as if they were braided. Finally, there are zero signs of them loosening or unravelling too.
Moving onto the hardware, you can actually customise them quite extensively when you’re ordering the cable from their website. That includes the colour of each component, as well as the left and right indicators. This PPH came with a black 3.5mm TRS connector, a chrome Y-split, a chrome slider and mismatched 2-pin connectors; chrome on the left side, and rose-gold on the right. All in all, I think they all have a very sleek, clean look. I personally enjoy a bit of texture or contrast, and there isn’t too much of it here; just the hits of chrome and the gold logos scattered throughout. But, those who want a more minimalist look should find these stylings quite appealing. My one real complaint here is the positioning of the PS logos on the 2-pin plugs. They’re on the inside of the plug, rather than the outside. I think it’s odd visually, and I’ve seen it lead to confusion online as to which side was which as well. So, hopefully, PLUSSOUND can alter or clarify it in the future.
Ergonomically, again, I have zero complaints. It’s a very flexible, supple-feeling cable, and its hardware weighs nothing at all. And, this PPH has no microphonics as well, so you won’t hear any noises should it rub against your clothing or bump into you as you move. It’s worth noting that this cable doesn’t come with any pre-shaped heat shrink or memory wire by default. So, those who do want it should mention it on the Notes section when you’re ordering on PLUSSOUND’s website.
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.
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.
Effect Audio Leonidas II ($888)
Compared to the tidier-sounding Leonidas II, PLUSSOUND’s PPH is a more musical-sounding cable with a hair more glow to its midrange. Instruments are richer and more vibrant than reserved, which lends the PPH a more analog, soulful feel. The guitar, keys and horns on Mark Lettieri’s Star Catchers don’t cut off as quickly – tightly – as they do on the Leonidas II, for example. But, while that may imply a less clinical, less organised tone, the PPH very-capably keeps up in layering and resolution. This comes down to its bigger, more holographic stage. Instruments are further apart, so they will have more room to ebb and bloom. Then, the PPH’s stronger textures allow the listener to discern different sounds more easily too.
Tonally, I hear a slightly brighter, airier attack from the PPH. It comes from the cable’s lightly-elevated mid-treble; around 8kHz. Hi-hats and cymbals have a touch more presence in the mix, but they’re no sharper or edgier than they are on this Leonidas II. The latter comes off more subdued, and it’s subtler when delivering detail as well. This PPH’s slightly-brighter edges hand background details a tad more light. So, you’ll more-easily catch nuances like the strings sitting in the back of Daughtry’s Heavy is the Crown, for example. That aside, however, they are rather similar, neutral-natural-sounding cables that balance clean and musical very, very well; just differing on which side of this spectrum they tilt more closely towards.
PW Audio 2-wire 1960s ($999)
This PPH delivers a similar transient response – a similar snappiness – as PW Audio’s 1960s. But, again, it’s got a brighter, more open sizzle to its instruments because of its mid-treble lift. I must repeat that it doesn’t add any extra sharpness or sparkle per se; just a tad more presence and air to hi-hats and cymbals. It also has less mid-bass warmth than the 1960s, resulting in cleaner separations between the in-ear’s lows and low-mids. Listening to the guitar solo on Oytun Ersan’s Oh, That Butterfly!, for example, there’s a crisp layer of air separating the bass and the electric guitar. Whereas, they’re slightly more-intermingled on the 1960s. But, in terms of weight or impact, the PPH definitely keeps up with the PW Audio cable.
Spatially, this PPH and the 2-wire 1960s perform fairly similarly. Though, I’m hearing a tad more height on the former, as instruments span a bit bigger to create a more engrossing image. The PPH has a bit more room within its space too, due to those airier lows. Again, like the comparison against the Leonidas II, I find that this lets those background details shine through a bit more, as they aren’t covered by as much warmth. But, in sheer resolution, it’s more of a wash between the two. To me, it comes down to whether you prefer a more relaxed, more airy and more vibrant sound or one that’s fuller, chestier and more concentrated; a more open stage that highlights microdetails or a heavier one that bolsters the leads.
PLUSSOUND’s Exo Palladium-Plated Hybrid – true to its name – uniquely melds wide, airy, holographic imaging with heft, vibrance and allure. Instruments breathe and bloom, but are not anchored by warmth or muck of any kind. They remain light, tidy and clear, surrounded by streams of clean air. And, they’re positioned tidily for a sig that compromises neither musicality nor technique. It may not have that deep contrast v- or w-shaped enthusiasts need. It isn’t as surgical as drier, tighter-sounding cables can be either. But, those after a cable that – like a fill light – simply aerates and flows (with micro-detail retrieval and imaging precision to boot) will be hard-pressed to find another like it; whether in this price tier or up. This Palladium-Plated Hybrid is spring water to any in-ear it’s attached to, and it’s a cable I’d gladly pair with any of mine.