SilverFi IEM-R5

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Shortly after I purchased my IEM-R4 cable a while back, SilverFi announced a new flagship: the IEM-R5. As engulfed as I was with my IEM-R4, most of us are all too familiar with that creeping curiosity towards a new flagship model; that beckoning call, haunting our thoughts – especially if it’s from a company we have a certain affinity with. Luckily, Sezai managed to arrange the IEM-R5 for me to review in a later stadium. The IEM-R5 is last in line, following my prior experience with a few of their products: the entry-level IEM2, and top-tier offerings IEM-R2 and IEM-R4. The crown jewel of what already seems to be a royal product line – for each cable flaunts a Persian flair due to its cotton-sleeved design, while delivering a satin-smooth sound.


The audio world is a peculiar one; you can rarely have your cake, and eat it too – there always seems to be some downside to every upside, and vice versa. The SilverFi cables boast a uniquely natural sound, but are matched with an equally unique build: each individual wire is cotton-sleeved, and requires special connectors. As such, the R5 comes with a few practical concerns. For starters, the cotton-sleeving makes the individual wires thicker. As there are 12 wires woven together in a flat braid, the end result is a somewhat broad, flat cable, which impacts its flexibility and ergonomics. Accordingly, the cable is mostly suitable for indoor use, although one isn’t easily tempted to take such an expensive offering outside in the first place. Not an issue for headphone cables, but purchasing a top-tier SilverFi IEM cable requires some form of dedication from the audio enthusiast – a ritual of proof as it were, that sound comes before all. But for those that decide to power through, there’s something extraordinary waiting down the line.

Many words have been written on the uniqueness of the SilverFi sound: despite the increasing cable options out there, none will sound like a SilverFi. And for practical reasons, because SilverFi is probably the only boutique manufacturer to draw their own wire – creating the cable from the ground up, in contrast to other manufacturers. The properties of the wire, in combination with the cotton-sleeving and particular solder treatment, result in a special type of signature – the unique SilverFi naturalness. Importantly, drawing their own wire doesn’t mean the SilverFi cables can’t match the competition when it comes to performance – the wires maintain a high level of purity. Accordingly, the R5 boasts excellent resolution.

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About Author

Nic is currently in pursuit of a PhD degree in social neuropsychology, while trying not to get too distracted by this hobby. In pursuit of theoretical knowledge by day, and audiophile excellence at night. Luckily for him, both activities are not mutually exclusive which helps to lighten the workload. Always on the go, Nic's enthusiasm for hi-fi is focused on all chains of the portable system: iems, cables and daps.

11 Comments

  1. Hamand on

    Hi Nic, what a fantastic review.

    I know it’s mostly a subjective aesthetic preference, and I’d welcome some input please as you’ve heard the options I’m now considering. Specifically, I have a pair of U18t IEMs and they’re pretty amazing, certainly the best I’ve heard, and like you I found the Fourte just a bit too bright in the treble region. I am deciding between the IEM-R4 and the IEM-R5 to pair with the U18t. Thoughts? Money is not a deciding factor.

    • flinkenick on

      Thank you Hamand! And my sincere apologies for the late reply. The question of this specific pairing is a bit subjective due to my association with the U18; personally, I use my A18 mostly for pop or electronica. So within this context, one of my favourite pairings is between the A18 and IEM-R5, as it provides the most beautiful and melodious upper mids, along with high resolution. That being said, If I had to pick between the R4 and R5 over all genres, I prefer the R4. The R4 is a perfect execution of neutral/natural, with a bit more body in its midrange and a wider stage than R5, although R5 has a nicer ring to its upper mids/lower treble. So in conclusion, for most band-based or vocal genres I would pick R4. For electronica or classical perhaps I would pick R5.

      • Hamand on

        Thanks so much for replying, I really appreciate it. I mostly listen to guitar driven rock and blues, so I think the R4 is where I’m headed.

        This Thursday I get to hear the Sennheiser HE1 for the first time, so it’s all irrelevant anyway… because I’m sure I’m going to bin the U18s and my amped AK380. 😉

        • flinkenick on

          Ah, you weren’t kidding around when you said money wasn’t a deciding factor lol! Yes the HE1 is really good of course, beautiful tube sound. So you won’t be needing the R4 anymore then if you drop the U18? For blues and rock I would suggest the VE8 or Zeus-XIV paired with IEM-R4. Heavenly.

          • Hamand on

            Haha, no I am merely listening to a *demo* of the HE1 in Melbourne, as Sennheiser is in town. That’s a bit rich for my blood! $80K Australian dollars, I’m sure I’ll be fine without one of these in my life.

            Amped AK380+IEM-R4+U18t is pretty damn good for me I reckon. 🙂

            • flinkenick on

              That’s pretty much as good as it gets for (semi)portable audio. Every favorite setup I can think of starts with the R4 or R5, the iem follows next 🙂 Just a reminder that the R4 is only for home use.

              • Hamand on

                Your last sentence is something I’m going to experiment with. I don’t mind looking like a weirdo and surely it’s not unwieldy to the point of *unusability*?

                p.s. the Focal Utopia + iFi Pro iCAN amp + iFi iDSD DAC was pretty much indistinguishable from the HE1 and had far more impressive bass slam. An insane rig. I’ve heard that the Utopia + Chord Dave is a beast.

                • flinkenick on

                  SilverFi cables are incredibly unique, but it comes as a combined package. No other cable will sound like a SilverFi, period. Nothing comes close to that sense of naturalness combined with high resolution. But as mentioned they also come with peculiar ergonomics. It is theoretically possible to walk outside with them, I walk around in my house for instance. But R4 and R5 are just incredibly broad and flat, it is more like a slim belt than a cable. So they are not very flexible and it will def look odd. I always have to mention the ergonomics, but for me the SQ outweighs all negatives.

                  • Hamand on

                    Thank you, I really appreciate your candour and thoughtful replies to all my posts here.

                    So I wear a belt around my head for a few years – I’ve done stranger things… 😉

  2. John Lee on

    OK…
    You are obviously an educated person, with money as well, although the two are often not related..???? but…
    Tell me, if you ever did physics at school, how a cable can have sound characteristics? It simply carries electrons down it’s length, and the volume can be affected by impedance, but in terms of being “dynamic” “laid-back” “warm” etc simply defies any intelligent application of scientific knowledge.
    Don’t just delete this comment please, try your best to articulate how exactly a piece of metal can change sound?
    Thanks.

    • flinkenick on

      Hi John, this is indeed an age old question. I don’t know enough of physics to confidently go in-depth, so I have asked a friend of mine with a PhD in physics to tackle the subject. But first, I would like to say that our understanding of physics when it comes to sound is still very limited. Currently people tend to use imperfect measurements with limited validity at best, to analyze sound. For instance, it might seem true that cables ‘just transport a signal’. But earphones ‘only transport a frequency curve’, yet this results in a beautiful sound with depth, resolution, etc. However, we are just uncovering that it is not just about this frequency response, but also the way the signal is presented, for instead with sine wave analysis, or time decay with CSD graphs. So I think when we look these issues we tend to see it in a very simple way, ignoring that there might be many factors that equally contribute to sound that we are still unaware of.

      From my friend, Daniel:
      Cables are made for transporting the signals, that is currents that mobilize electrons in the strings. Here, it is important that only the electrons at the surface of the strings are relevant, since the electric field inside a metal is always zero. Therefore, the architecture of strings changed over the decades from heavy and inflexible solid core wires to nowadays heavily braided thin strings. As for the sound, pure science is not the only factor that determines the quality of the cable, which is greatly subjective. If you are only looking for scientific aspects, then there is nothing to argue about: pure OCC silver is the best material for conducting the signals, fullstop. However, this leads to a sound which many of us would find unpleasant, since it is purely analytic. That means that what most of us perceive to be pleasant for our ears is not a perfect signal without distortion, but this is exactly where subjective factors come in. Gold and silver platings for instance change the signature, since they affect the electrons transport on the surface. Here, gold platings have a worse conductivity than the underlying silver or copper strings. Hence, the signal becomes distorted. Poorer conductivity leads to losses: the signal gets attenuated in a certain range. The same happens with impurities: nowadays marketing gives the perception that UPOCC cables are best due to their high purity. Scientifically, that is surely true.

      However, impurities might make a sound more pleasing. The metals react with the molecules around, may it be air or dust. These impurities form scattering clusters, which can be thought of as stationary bumpers the electrons run into when mobilized. This affects conductivity in a similar way and makes the sound warmer (less analytic). Besides sound changes through direct physical doping (that is what you call other atoms acting as impurities), the sound gets affected by other measures that don’t change the impedance as above, but rather make is less audible. The most relevant example here is a large count of braids. Silver cables with eight braids sound different than a four braid configuration. The more braids, the warmer the silver cable, up to a level at which the cable loses its characteristic analyticity entirely. The amount of braids and strings needed to reach that change is dependent on the single wires. The outer they are, the more strings are needed. This way you may perceive some eight braid cables to sound more or less warm than others. (Edit: However, there are a large number of factors that come into play, such as gauge size of the wires, as well as the strand count of each wire, i.e. if an individual wire consists of 20 or 100 tiny wires).

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