Hong Kong based Labkable is an all-around cable specialist, reflected in their slogan: solutions for cables. They not only sell a wide range of cables for iems, headphones and speakers, but every individual component you can think of to satisfy the enthusiastic DIY’er (Hong Kong has a large cable DIY community). At Canjam London, I had the pleasure of inspecting their range of iem cables – a colorful display of high quality cables. Especially the hybrids make for colorful variations; the black and white ‘Silver Shadow’, flat-braided brown and black Takumi, or the majestic flagship ‘Pandora’, a hybrid 10-braid with two alternating colors of brown – all together, an interesting ensemble of eye catchers.
When I asked Peter, one of the founders of Labkable, about his philosophy, or whether Labkable had a ‘house sound’; his reply was to offer a wide as possible variety of signatures, so every customer can find a sound that matches their preference. Each cable has their own origin story. The popular meaning of ‘Samurai’, is the famous ancient Japanese Army. But Samurai also represents the spirit of ‘Bushido’, which can be translated to the Japanese virtues of ‘rigorousness’, ‘precision’, ‘seriousness’, and ‘prestige’. The Samurai series were developed with this concept in mind, to design a sound representing these values as closely as possible. In this regard, the Samurai III can be seen as the counterpart of the Pandora: the warmer sounding Pandora represents ‘emotion’, the Samurai stands for ‘rationality’ – if you don’t like one, you will most likely prefer the other.
Labkable Samurai III
Alloy: Silver/Gold/Platinum mixed alloy
Conductors: 4 braid
Construction: Litz construction
Build & Design
While not as exotic as the many hybrids Labkable has to offer, the Samurai III is still a beautiful cable to behold. Mainly due to the dark gunmetal gray color of the Litz wires, with each conductor consisting of many tiny individual wires; but the splitter and connectors also provide a nice quality finish. The splitter is slim and lightweight, a black carbon fiber design with silver edges, matching the shiny silver connectors. The slider is made from a pretty inconspicuous plastic, but it keeps the cable light. The slim silver plug is regularly used with quality cables, in this case terminated to 3.5mm trrs.
The wires consist of an unusual alloy of silver (98.5%), gold (1%), and platinum (0.5%). The platinum was first and foremost included to increase the durability of the wires. Certain silver/gold alloys can become more vulnerable to damage, so the platinum was used to strengthen the core. In overall ergonomics, the cable has a common flexibility and weight for an upgrade cable – more noticeable than thin stock cables, but not heavy enough to be bothersome. While some cables might be more thin and flexible, I’ve equally had enough that are heavier and less pliable.
The Samurai has a relatively neutral signature; notes are neither thick nor thin, and its stage is clean and precise. Its tonality can be considered slightly brighter than neutral; the bass and midrange are relatively neutral, followed by a slight hump in the treble that adds a touch of brightness to the upper midrange and boosts clarity and overall note articulation. Due to its clean stage, the Samurai offers excellent separation, while also being highly resolving.
Overall, the Samurai’s bass is tight and controlled, and neither particularly enhanced or attenuated. The sub-bass hits are precise and impactful. The mid-bass is located slightly more distant; however it is detailed, displaying a good sense of definition and more importantly control. It doesn’t boost warm air that reduces the stage airiness, like a classic copper signature. Since the stage is also not inherently warm, the bass presentation results in a clean and spacious sounding stage.
While the midrange comes close to neutral in its overall presentation, there is a slight coloration, mainly in the upper midrange. This is a defining feature of the overall signature – but in a positive way. Notes are slightly brighter and resonate with a certain beauty, some added weight that makes the presentation more impressive. This really makes electric guitars or dreamy synthetic tones ‘pop’ – brighter in this case refers to a shining quality, rather than sounding harsh or cold. While the cable itself cannot be classified as warm, the midrange has slight inherent warmth, essential for an emotional vocal representation. While Leonidas is more uncolored for instance, the midrange of a brighter ciem like the NT6pro or Galaxy can sound dry, missing that bit of warmth that keeps the musicality. Besides the slight warmth, as well as coloration in the upper midrange, the Samurai’s midrange can be classified as clear and detailed, though not overly lush or thick – the focus is on precision.
The Samurai’s treble consists of a neutral lower treble presentation, keeping it relatively smooth and safe with sibilance; the Samurai doesn’t bring out more sibilance than inherent to the iem’s tuning. A slight lift in the mid/upper treble regions adds clarity and improved articulation to the midrange. The treble itself is articulate, with a good deal of sparkle. Although the general tonality is not completely natural, it gives the overall signature a sense of liveliness and detail, while keeping the presentation relatively smooth.