PW Audio No. 10 – Value in Vigor

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Sound Impressions

PW Audio’s No. 10 is a specialist in vivid, explosive, dynamic energy. Its presentation is one fuelled by contrasts between the lows and highs, but with an impressive amount of integrity given to the midrange as well. It makes an ideal pair with in-ear monitors that lack power or immediacy without the timbral compromises you’d expect with such signatures. The lower-mids are full and well-textured, and neither the lows nor highs overcrowd the stage either. Although it surely isn’t the most laid-back or spacious, the authority and control that the No. 10 has in spite of its boisterousness is noteworthy. Richly-textured, impactful and composed, the No. 10 greatly appeals through its unique blend of power, body and space.

The No. 10’s extended highs bring a slightly brighter tone to the low-end as well; now clearer, cleaner and more palpably-defined. Kick drums that were previously fat or bloomy now have greater resolution and texture. But, again, the No. 10’s main draw is its bounds of kineticism and impact. The in-ear’s sub-bass is both extended and boosted for an addictively guttural presence, imbuing kick drums, toms and bass guitars alike with loads of power. Hooked up to itsfit Lab’s Fusion, the bass slide that kicks off Larnell Lewis’s Change Your Mind feels visceral; tactile. And, that force persists throughout the track. It’s a bass that blends clarity and fun seamlessly; one of the most solid, powerful lows I’ve heard at the price range.

Along the midrange, the No. 10 renders a livelier, more vivid presentation. But, more so than any sort of higher-mid rise, these dynamics come from the cable’s stable, rock-solid background. Instruments are set against a cleaner backdrop, so they pop with more energy and contrast. The woodwind that opens Incognito’s It’s Just One of Those Things from their Live in London album, for example, comes off more vibrant and effortless. Tonally, this also assists the lower-mids. Again, the No. 10 preserves a substantial, rounded timbre in spite of its energy, requiring no lower-mid cuts to achieve its intended sig. As a result, female vocals won’t come off thin, and neither will baritones lack gravitas. To me, it’s a best-of-both-worlds scenario that renders instruments both contrasty and coherent; a vibrant colouration that sounds natural, nevertheless.

Up high, the No. 10 sounds superbly clean. But, once again, rather than any amount of top-end elevation, that definition comes from the cable’s strong extension. A handful of space cocoons each treble note, refining them without adding any extra presence. Nevertheless, you will hear a slightly punchier, more articulate edge to the treble, because of its dynamic range. Like the woodwind on It’s Just One of Those Things, you will perceive a more tactile pop on instruments like cymbals and hi-hats, but with butter-smooth, refined transients all the same. Tonally, it may be a hair brighter than what I’d deem natural. Nevertheless, it’s tempered with enough meat and body to come off rounded, and its technique is, again, stellar.

Suggested Pairings

The No. 10’s vibrant, vivid signature is ideal for giving your IEMs a great pick-me-up. And, its balance means minimal tonal compromises in the process. If the three traits below are what your in-ears need, the No. 10 is an easy recommendation:

A visceral, enhanced sub-bass: Surely, the No. 10’s killer app is its big-sounding, DD-like low-end. Now, big does not refer to forwardness or presence. Rather, it’s the power and drive that the cable instills, without ever encroaching upon the mids or highs. Kick drums and toms come off deep, muscly and physical, and they’re resolved more effortlessly as well. If your monitor requires low-end solidity, depth or texture, the No. 10 is the remedy; more so than any other in the price range.

Top-end vibrance and energy: The No. 10 also brings an added punch to then highs without adding unwanted presence at the same time. The top-end remains smooth and refined, but gains a bit of punch to contrast against the low-end. If you think your IEMs sound a hair dull up top, the No. 10 can provide the attack, vividness and extension you’re searching for.

Full-sounding clarity: Tonally, what the No. 10 pulls off so well is a balance between coherency and contrast. You get that crackle-and-pop between the highs and lows, but there is integrity to the midrange as well; a difficult feat to pull off. This is ideal if you want to add detail and texture to you in-ears, but maintain any wholesomeness or body that it already has.

At the same time, in spite of its balance, the No. 10 does have a distinct sig that shies it away from certain preferences. If the following three attributes are what you want out of your upgrade cable, the No. 10 may not be the perfect fit for you:

A warm, laid-back sound: The No. 10’s boisterousness means it isn’t necessarily capable of outputting the calmest tonality in the world. As has been clearly expressed above, it’s a more vibrant-sounding cable than anything. So, if what you want is to calm your monitor down and give it some degree of euphony, PW Audio’s Single-Crystal Silver should be more ideal.

Low-end attenuation: This one’s rather obvious. Given the cable’s guttural low-end, it won’t be ideal if what you wish to do is cut your lows. If you’d like to tighten a monitor’s bass, the PW Audio Saladin cable would make the more fitting option.

A transparent, uncoloured response: Again, although the No. 10 does sport a smooth tonal balance, it does impart its own colourations all throughout. This isn’t the sort of cable to just disappear into the in-ear, per se. So, if you were looking for a conductor upgrade simply for technical improvements alone, the No. 10 – despite its balance – won’t be perfectly ideal.

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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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