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Review: Beat Audio Billow Mk II / Oslo Mk IV

It’s not often that a brand comes along that I’ve heard absolutely nothing about, not even a whisper. It’s even rarer for that brand to actually offer something genuinely new and competitive at the ultra-premium tiers of the hobby. China-based cable maker Beat Audio ticks both boxes. 

I still can’t say I know too much about the company, other than from a brief written conversation with Beat’s marketing frontman, Stephen Guo. From what Stephen tells me, it’s just him and ‘the boss’, who also happens to be the tech guru behind Beat’s ‘offbeat’ products. The two owned (and possibly still own) an audio store somewhere in China, selling a variety of different products from different brands, and it’s here that Beat’s cable prototypes were designed, created and came to life.  

If it wasn’t for MusicTeck, which many of us consider the mecca of portable audio in the West, Beat Audio may well have continued its presumably thriving business in the Far East with everyone else being none the wiser. Thankfully that’s no longer the case, with this and other English-language reviews hopefully serving as an eye-opener for those of us who may be getting jaded by the same-old-same-old names and products in the hobby. 

A very different Beat

Let’s get the obvious out the way – the name. Yes, it’s similar to ‘that’ consumer brand, and the similarity is even acknowledged on the company’s About Us page. But I can assure you the two ‘Beats’ couldn’t be further apart. This Beat is intended to represent just that, the tempo of the music, and was chosen by ‘the boss’ as a homage to his passion for lock dancing. 

Since Beat’s specialty is cables, and not your run-of-the-mill cables either, the name is also meant to evoke a deeper feeling for how each cable is individually designed to change and drive the rhythm of the music we, as individuals, listen to. It’s actually quite clever if you think about it, because that’s exactly what these specialist cables are designed to do: shape the sound we hear. 

For the money we pay for premium cables, it’s actually the very least we expect them to do, and other factors aside, it’s ultimately what we buy them for (or so I keep telling myself, my wife, and anyone else who asks). 

Which brings me, at last, to the subject of this review, two of Beat Audio’s ultra-high-end cables, blingfully dressed in brilliant gold and bold purple: Billow and Oslo. If nothing else, you’re unlikely to ever mistake these cables for anything else on the market, so distinctive is their bright, colourful wire and rose-gold hardware. 

Billow, now in its second iteration, is resplendent in its yellow-gold colourway, so yellow in fact that its hardware looks a few shades darker than the wire. There’s plenty of gold in that wire too, but I’ll get to all that fun stuff shortly. Oslo is the fourth version of this popular cable, denoted by its flashy purple skin as a bold sign of differentiation.

Both cables are made of a base material mixed with multiple metal alloys because, as Stephen puts it, purity isn’t everything:

“Making high purity OCC cables is easy, but [knowing] how to improve the sound of OCC by adding necessary elements is not, because [these elements] are not readily available off the shelves.” 

What he’s referring to is what Beat calls its “filling the gap” concept, using different mixtures of rare elements and metals in addition to the typical copper, silver or copper/silver base of each cable. 

“Imagine silver molecules as basketballs and copper molecules as softballs,” he explains. “In an alloy of silver and copper, there [are] gaps, and to fill the gaps, we need smaller spheres such as tennis balls and golf balls. Those smaller spheres are the different alloys we use in the mix, carefully selected over extensive trial, error and R&D for their specific sonic character.” 

It’s all very flowery, I know, but let’s face it, such is the nature of expensive IEM cables. The words and symbols are designed to evoke deeper feelings about how we each choose the ‘perfect’ cable pairings for our IEMs, and to supplement what is ultimately the very individual, and arguably very subtle, effect of these cables have on the audio chain as a whole.

Continue to Billow Mk II – The Golden Wave…

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Picture of Guy Lerner

Guy Lerner

An avid photographer and writer 'in real life', Guy's passion for music and technology created the perfect storm for his love of portable audio. When he's not playing with the latest and greatest head-fi gear, he prefers to spend time away from the hobby with his two (almost) grown kids and wife in the breathtaking city of Cape Town, and traveling around his native South Africa.

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