plusSound gave me this cable free of charge in exchange for my honest review, for good or ill.
The X6 T-Metal CIEM cable goes for $674.99
I’m new to high-end cables. Due to all the controversy surrounding The Cable Discussion (i.e. do they make a difference) I never could convince myself to spend that sort of money. Instead I decided to learn how to make them myself, hoping to explore the virtues of high quality materials without losing too much money in the process. It’s also WAY quicker to DiY than deal with the long wait-list of some of these custom makers.
I’ve crafted cables from oxygen-free copper, 7n OCC copper, Silver-Plated Copper 7n OCC Litz… but it wasn’t until I built one of silver, with a small percentage of gold in the mix (Toxic Cables Silver Poison), that I KNEW for f**king certain I heard a difference. Of all the other cables I made, I merely felt like I heard a difference. I probably did, though it was so subtle I would not swear by it. But when you jump to something like pure silver, or silver-gold alloy, the change is stark.
Unfortunately, DiY wire is hard to find in the super-high-end range, unless you buy in bulk. That’s a commitment I avoided, fearing to trap myself in a cage of my own making, forged of expensive wire and Eidolic connectors. So I never got to explore any further up the latter.
When I joined The Headphone List, one of the first projects I began was to assemble a roster of high-end samples for a Cable Shootout. All for the terribly selfish reason of sating my curiosity. I contacted just about everybody, sending requests far and wide.
Months later, I have only two cables. And two more “hopefuls”, with no firm finish date. Call me cynical, but two cables does not a shootout make. I mean, I guess two things can shoot at each other, but f**k! That’s not what Pinky had in mind.
So the Shootout is on hold. It will happen when and if I gather enough samples to make it interesting. In the meanwhile, as those samples trickle in, I will do stand-alone reviews of each competitor.
Today we review the first cable I received: the plusSound X6 T-Metal, in 2.5mm TRRS Balanced. I’ve had it for a few weeks now. plusSound has been very patient, considering this sample costs over $600. What can I say? The life of a reviewer is such that there is always a lot in the pipeline you must get through before you can talk about the new stuff. The moment that pipeline is dry, you get eaten by velociraptors.
The X6 T-Metal is a striking, handsome cable. It glitters and shimmers, woven into a rich, lustrous braid. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
According to plusSound, the T-Metal conductor uses six bundles of strands per wire. Three of these bundles are Gold-Plated Copper. The other three are Silver + Gold. And of course, since this is the X6 cable, there are six of these magic wires in total.
T-Metal is a thick wire. Six of these makes for a heavy-f**king cable. In fact, it’s so heavy and stiff, even a shirt-clip does little to help with comfort. Universal IEMs don’t stand a chance with a cable like this. They get dragged out of your ear every five minutes, unless you’re frozen in place, stubbornly holding your head absolutely still. The sample I received is also dreadfully short. The website states it ought to be 4 ft, but I measured it at just over 3.5 feet. That disparity makes all the difference. If you have deep pockets, your DAP may pull the cable taught when you stand up, making for an awkward experience. I felt at all times literally at the end of my rope.
With my Custom Rhapsodio Solar, there is no fear of the IEM coming loose, and the X6 is a less frustrating proposition. It’s still heavy, stiff and overly short, but at least I’m not madly reseating the earphone every few minutes.
I shall compare all cables I review to a goodly baseline. No, sweet Jesus, not stock cables. Don’t be obscene! Rather a decent starting point of Silver-Plated Copper OCC. Like the one I built, or the Pandora by Rhapsodio. Both of which are balanced, as is all the cables I requested for the Shootout. I’m intimately familiar with their sound on all my gear, so any changes ought to stand out.
Pinky-Made SPC OCC Litz
Pandora, by Rhapsodio – SPC OCC
The X6 T-Metal carries a neutral-warm tonality with remarkable clarity. A touch of warmth and polite treble try, and fail, to rein in the savage power at the core of this mutant. Upon first listening to the X6, I couldn’t believe any cable could change the presentation of an IEM this much. The soundstage skyrocketed upward. What the holy hell could I mean by that? It got tall. TALL, I say! Vocals are no longer at eye level, they’re now mid-forehead. The width could be smaller, or it could be wider. It’s very hard to discern when TALL is the only thing I really notice. Whatever the other dimensions, the Z axis dominates them all. Ok, there’s also a greater sense of depth and space.
The sound is stronger, thicker, and visceral. In contrast, it makes the Pandora sound thin and laid-back. Sub-bass is elevated by a few dB. I don’t think the mid-bass changed much, because the vocals are even clearer than before. If the mid-bass had increased, I imagine the vocals would have grown a little wooly and lush. Instead, they sound slightly forward, thick, but very detailed.
In my first draft of this review I wrote how the treble might have been ever-so-slightly rolled off. Now, I think it’s in fact extended further. The highs aren’t in any way aggressive (unless your IEM is) and they actually feel rather soft and gentle. This led me to jump to the conclusion they had lost something. But the more I listen, the more air I perceive in the upper registers. With the overall arrangement being so full and dynamic, it’s hard to say for sure, yet I believe those highs are reaching farther than they used to.
Resolution has increased. Everything sounds a bit more real, with sharper definition. I have this difficult-to-explain sensation of holographic immersion. I feel very much like the music is all around me, perfectly imaged, and tangible.
The X6 T-Metal does bizarre things to my IEMs. Depending on the pairing, it might work well, or, it could take away a vital element to your enjoyment of a piece. As different as the U12 and Encore are from one another, both of them are hurt in the same way by the X6: Soundstage. I glory in how big and wide the U12 is, and this cable humiliates my favorite IEM by stretching it tall, plopping a funny hat on its head, and calling it Vergil. Why Vergil? F**K if I know. I didn’t make the cable.
If it weren’t for that weird-ass soundstage, I’d be in love with this pairing. I cannot allow anything to diminish the U12 and Encore’s width. It’s one of their finest attributes. Even though, again, I’m not certain the width has shrunk, it just feels that way due to the added height. It’s like widescreen vs. 4:3. Even if the side-to-side is equal, 4:3 has none of the cool-factor. Who wants to look up? That’s where the killer apes hang… and wait.
Which brings us to the perfect IEM for plusSound’s special oddity: The Rhapsodio Solar CIEM. As I mentioned before, a Custom is the best choice for a cable that secretly hates that you have things in your ears; it ain’t going anywhere. And Solar is the best signature for a cable that fears wide things; Solar’s width is only average at best. Where Solar excels is depth, which just so happens to be a specialty of the X6 as well. Furthermore, Solar possesses stunning sub-bass, and is all the more phenomenal with this pairing. Oh yeah, did I mention the vocals are recessed on this IEM? Well, they seem to step out of the shadows with plusSound. What I’m trying to express here is the X6 T-Metal bolsters every one of Solar’s strengths, and helps it where it’s weak. It’s a sound I really enjoy. After an evening of listening to this couple from the Opus#2, I could barely notice how tall it sounded. It felt… wonderful. Big in all ways, and not malformed on the Z axis.
In all honesty, I grew accustomed to the dimensions of the U12 also. It just takes a little getting used to.
So there you have it. This is the truest test of your audiophile credentials. What are you willing to do? How much suffering will you endure for better audio? Is comfort a mere luxury, easily put aside for superior performance? Do you mind a severe reworking of the soundscape? If you’re okay with all these things, I can wholeheartedly recommend the X6 T-Metal. This cable delivers a marked improvement in dynamics and clarity, separation and resolution. It is steroids for any IEM. I don’t want to listen to Solar on anything less ever again.
You may notice a blob coming out of one of those connectors. That is my fault. In my frustration with the comfort dilemma, I took a heatgun to the cable and went a little berserk. A black adhesive started to leak from beneath the heatshrink. So don’t blame plusSound for any failing in aesthetics; the cable looked flawless when I got it.