A few comparisons and matching examples to put the Samurai III’s signature and performance further in perspective.
Rhapsodio Golden ($700)
The Golden cable is a special mixed alloy of copper and silver (mixed metal, not a hybrid), and combines elements of both copper and silver in its tonality. The overall sound is warm, with an enhanced mid-bass presentation compared to the neutral Samurai. The warm mid-bass air results in thicker notes and a less airy stage, with the Samurai accordingly displaying better separation. The Samurai’s midrange is a slightly colored version of neutral, the Golden takes it a step further. The upper midrange is full sounding and slightly bright, resonating with sparkle and beauty – but it is a ‘photoshopped beauty’; exciting, but not completely accurate in its tonality. In addition, the Golden’s lower treble is slightly more pronounced, bringing out more sibilance on occasion. The Samurai has a more linear presentation in comparison, while also being more resolving.
Effect Audio Leonidas ($800)
Effect Audio’s Leonidas has a similar general presentation: a clean stage resulting in good separation, and a signature that is neither particularly warm nor cold. Leonidas provides more depth to the presentation, while the Samurai is slightly wider. The key differences consist of Leonidas’ tonality being overall more uncolored, while the Samurai’s midrange is slightly warmer, and thicker and brighter in the upper midrange – a coloration that adds a bit of excitement and beauty. Both share an excellent balance between sub- and mid-bass, but Leonidas has a more impactful sub-bass – one of its defining feats, and quite a delight to listen to. Their treble presentation is very similar, sounding neutral, articulate, and detailed. While both are highly resolving cables, the Samurai does have an advantage over Leonidas. But again, the two are more similar than different in their overall presentation, with minor differences that can favor either over the other depending on the matching or music.
SilverFi IEM-R2 ($1295)
The IEM-R2’s presentation is overall less neutral, with a mid-centric tonality. The bass has a warmer touch with more mid-bass emphasis. Despite the warmer tone, both display excellent control, resulting in a clean and airy stage. The Samurai’s bass is a bit leaner, but also tighter. The IEM-R2’s midrange is inherently warmer, and sounds more natural – truly this cable’s strength. Notes are warm, full and lush. The center midrange of the Samurai sounds more neutral, while the upper midrange in turn is brighter. The IEM-R2’s upper midrange is relatively uncolored in comparison. Both share an articulate treble, but the IEM-R2’s is smoother, and less prominent compared to the Samurai. Overall, the Samurai sounds cleaner and more neutral, while the IEM-R2 is warmer with a more natural tonality. They both share a clean stage offering excellent separation, and are highly resolving.
With a brighter signature, the NT6pro offers exceptional clarity and resolution, while still having good body and warmth in the midrange. Although the stock cable can be considered slightly veiled, this veil also covers the midrange with a pleasant warmth, essential for an emotional recreation of vocals. With some pairings the NT6pro’s clear midrange can tilt towards dryness, an essential aspect to consider for matching. Pairing the Samurai is a case of ‘adding on’; improving a signature’s strengths, rather than altering it. Compared to the stock cable, the NT6pro’s stage is cleaner, with airier treble and better definition. The midrange sounds clear, but retains an emotional or ‘musical’ quality, due to the slight inherent warmth.
While the Galaxy has a relatively linear bass and midrange, a lower treble peak gives it a slightly brighter tonality. The Galaxy is best paired with a warmer cable like the RSD 2.98 or Golden, to provide a natural tonality. A cable like the BTG Starlight SPC on the other hand brings out the worst of it; enhancing the treble peak results in an artificial tone, lacking warmth and overall tonal balance. Pairing the Galaxy demonstrates two key aspects of the Samurai: the required inherent midrange warmth, with a smooth lower treble. The Galaxy can become prone to sibilance with the wrong pairing, but remains smooth with the Samurai. The stock silver/gold 2.98 cable is warmer, with a slightly fuller midrange. Due to the warmer air however, the stage is not particularly airy – the Samurai provides a cleaner stage.
Empire Ears Zeus-XIV
Zeus-XIV’s strength lies in its midrange; with its forward presentation, Zeus sounds full, bold and slightly warm. While Zeus absolutely excels with most band-based music, its strength can also be its weakness; Zeus’ powerful mid-centric signature makes it less applicable for treble-oriented music as pop, electronic music or metal. The right cable pairing however can effectively balance its tonality, making it more versatile while improving its clarity and resolution. The Samurai pairing is such a case of ‘transforming’, bringing out more sparkle and shimmer in the midrange, and bringing the treble slightly more to the foreground. However, while the midrange is still warm, it is slightly leaner, sacrificing a bit of fullness and forwardness for the relatively more prominent treble. As imaging and separation are already strengths, the Samurai improves on the precision, creating a sense of three dimensionality in the instrument positioning.
The Samurai III was designed with ‘Bushido’ in mind; the warrior code that reflects a sheer sense of discipline, seriousness and rationality. Taken literally, these virtues might seem to translate to a clinical or cold signature. The Samurai III’s presentation is clean, precise and highly resolving – rationality. But the beauty in the upper midrange and sparkle in the treble, prevents it from being too dry or analytical – there is a sparkle of passion in there as well.
The Samurai best serves two purposes: either for a listener that values precision, a clean stage, and some more brightness in the upper midrange; or to very effectively balance out a mid-centric’s tonality, as in the case of Zeus-XIV or something like the Custom Art 8.2. The boost in clarity brings out more detail, but more importantly, really makes the music shine. There is simply beauty in the precision, the sparkle, the liveliness. It might be designed with rationality in mind – to me, it evokes an emotional response.