Effect Audio Ares II ($149.90)
Effect Audio’s Ares II has become the de facto entry-level pick for aftermarket cables. At the time of its release, very few could argue the performance boost it gave for the money; not to mention the aesthetics, build quality and termination options that came with it. This was further amplified last year, when monitor makers like Empire Ears and Jomo Audio began offering them as default cables. So, I believe it’s only fair to see how well the new kids on the block compete.
The Griffin is the Ares II’s most direct competitor, and nowhere is that more clearly reflected than in sound. Both carry similar tones, but with minor differences in positioning and dynamics. One of them is upper-mid delivery. The Griffin’s upper-mids are positioned a hair more forward, for more intimate vocals and an overall more absorbing experience. By comparison, the Ares II’s are more laid-back, but that benefits it in terms of depth. Because the lead instrument sounds further away, the Ares II has greater perceived stage depth. But, when you start to analyse the two in raw headroom and expansion, it ends up a draw more than anything. The Griffin’s extra presence simply gives it more upfront projection.
Funnily enough, what’s been said about the Griffin’s midrange can be said about the Ares II’s extremes. The latter is the more dynamic, energetic-sounding of the two because of a greater contrast between the top- and bottom-ends. Tracks sound louder and in-your-face as a whole, while it’s more so the midrange on the Griffin. This means the Ares II is more suitable for rock-out listening or genres of music with a strong rhythmic drive to them, like uptempo rock, pop and EDM. I find the Griffin more inviting with vocal-focused tracks. But, I also find its composure more ideal for critical listening. The relative linearity of the Griffin makes it easier for you to step back, look at the recording from a distance and analyse every element there. On the other hand, the Ares II’s sound has more to do with throwing you into the thick of things.
Compared to the Ares II, the Chimera provides a thicker, fuller sound. Although it mainly has to do with the latter’s richer mid- to upper-bass response, it also has to do with its more saturated midrange. The Ares II is more recessed along the lower-mids, which gives it greater perceived clarity from the contrast between the low-mids and the top-end. However, despite the Chimera’s richer, more euphonic response, it wins out in sheer technical performance. The Ares II loses out in terms of image stability and headroom. The Chimera’s image is a lot more open and explorable. So, although the Ares II is the more crisp-and-cut-sounding of the two, the Chimera has the edge in image precision, stereo spread and resolve.
In tone, I believe the Ares II is the more linear of the two. The Chimera is more obviously coloured with its bass tilt, while the Ares II’s most obvious instance of colouration lies along its low-treble. Effect Audio’s cable possesses more bite and articulation there, while the Chimera opts to sit back. Although this added bite again gives the Ares II greater perceived clarity, it can also add too much to IEMs with an inherent emphasis in that region. Examples include Custom Art’s FIBAE 2 and Empire Ears’ Phantom. The Chimera’s restraint doesn’t do much in the way of attack, but it does guarantee a harsh-free pairing no matter what. Midrange timbre is also different between the two. The Chimera’s more saturated midrange yields more rounded, full-bodied vocals. The Ares II more compact response is more geared towards clarity.
With Griffin and Chimera, Satin Audio have unquestionably set new standards in the entry-level upgrade cable industry. Sonically, both provide palpable leaps from generic stock cables at some of the most accessible prices the market has ever seen. The Griffin is the more linear, airy and natural-sounding of the two, while the Chimera relishes in its bulbous bass response for a more coloured response. Plus, their packaging, presentation and build have impressively outdone a number of their pricier peers. Look-and-feel is excellent, accompanied by a helping of accessories to boot. Satin Audio have affirmed my strong belief that quality should never be axed for value, and I can’t wait to see what they’ve got next.