One way to improve the performance of your beloved headphone or IEM is by getting an upgrade cable, although whether the improvement is noticeable remains debateable. I have never been a cable believer and the thought to upgrade my cable never actually cross my mind. Until recently when I got myself a Radius HP-TWF41 and I genuinely hated the cable that comes with it, which brings me to some valid reasons for getting aftermarket cable: less microphonic, not easy to tangle and easy to skin.
Finding the cable
My quest to find the aftermarket cable isn’t a hard one, it doesn’t take long of search to get me into Linum cable from Estron, which they claim as the thinnest and lightest cable in the world. They offered four types of different cable: Vocal, Music, BaX and Balanced. They are also currently making Super BaX, which is not available yet. I got myself the BaX version, since I have no need for balanced cable yet.
As a premium cable, I think Linum is priced quite competitively, just $99 in Amazon for the BaX version. Considering other premium cable could cost upward of $200, this is a quite good starting point for me. As my first upgrade cable, I don’t want to spend too much just yet.
Linum cables is offered in three types of connector: MMCX, 2Pin and T2. I got myself the MMCX version as all of my IEM collection were terminated in MMCX. Pictured above is the MMCX connector of Radius HP-TWF41 cable, Linum BaX and JVC HA-FX850 cable, respectively.
The cable is only 0.9mm thick, it wasn’t an overstatement when they say it is as thin as a string. The cable also feel solid and sturdy, and the cable weight in just 2.7g. The cable is flexible, soft to touch and not iritating my skin. Estron also claim that their Linum cable won’t oxidate, which is a good news as most transparent cable could usually turn green at some point. Overall, this does feel like a premium cable, although the connector and jack termination left something to be desired.
The plug support on the MMCX connector is decent, a little short but that is great for over-ear IEM. However, it’s a shame that it used the same plug support for the 3.5mm jack, too short in my opinion, which in turn make it more difficult to unplug. The lack of strain relief is also worrying, although the cable is quite sturdy and flexible, some strain relief could go a long way to help the durability of the jack.
How it worked?
Linum BaX MMCX connection does fit perfectly on my Shure SE215 SPE. The thinness and lightness of the cable improve the comfort of SE215 significantly, as the default cable that comes with SE215 is quite thick, stiff and rather microphonic. It’s like this cable is made for SE215 and other Shure SE series.
JVC HA-FX850 also works pretty well. The connection is solid and this cable shave some weight off from FX850, slightly improving comfort, as it’s a quite heavy in-ear. That said, FX850 comes with a pretty solid cable already, which I don’t have any complain about it.
Finally comes the IEM that I bought this cable for, Radius HP-TWF41. Unfortunately, the MMCX connection to TWF41 is rather loose. It’s to the point where I could lose sound from one of the ear when I’m moving my head. This could be TWF41 fault as I don’t have this connection problem with both FX850 and SE215, but might also be a common issue seeing that Estron did have a section for this in their Linum product FAQ.
Other than the connection issue, Linum BaX improve the cable from TWF41 significantly. More comfort, easier to manage and much more friendly to the skin.
Again, I wasn’t a cable believer. I don’t believe cable could improve the sound of my headphone significantly, but the actual question is whether the improvement could be noticeable.
My subjective impression – which could also be affected by placebo effect – is that my headphone with this cable sounds slightly warmer, slightly deeper bass impact, slightly better separation and slightly wider soundstage. Note that I overused the word slightly, because that exactly what I’m finding. If I was to blind test without knowing which cable is which, I’m sure I’ll fail miserably.
Another thing that I can confirm is that the cable made the headphone slightly harder to drive. From my DX90, using this cable, I need to put around 5 step (from 255) more in volume than I normally would. For instance, my listening volume on DX90 paired with TWF41 is around 180-185 in low gain, using Linum BaX, I put it on 185-190. So there’s perhaps an increase in impendance compared to stock cable.
In the end, I stand by what I’m thinking at first. Cable upgrade is great if you want to improve comfort, better aesthetic and other reasons. If all you wanted is to improve sound, then cable did very little, it’s far better to spend more for a better headphone. On the other hand, if you loved your headphone already, then you can consider upgrading cable, as any small gain is still, a gain.
Linum BaX is a great cable to consider. If only the MMCX connection is more solid and the 3.5mm plug is longer with strain relief, I have very little to complain. If you wanted to buy this to replace your MMCX cable, I suggest you to find some review with your IEM first if possible, otherwise it could be a gamble whether the connection is solid. Or like me, you could live with it, as it’s more of intermittent issue though it happened more often than I like.