Balanced interconnects for headphone system: Wireworld Platinum 8 or Transparent Ultra etc?

Ian B

Member
Oct 20, 2020
93
34
23
40
I'm putting together a headphone system mainly consisting of an EMM Labs DA2 and Audeze The King Mk II amp. I was using a set of Wireworld Platinum Eclipse 8 RCAs, but discovered that the XLR connection between DAC and amp sounded much better so I need some good balanced interconnects. As good as the current Wireworld is, the Audeze amp can be a bit austere and bright, and I'm suspicious I have too much silver in my system, so looking towards a slightly warmer and more grounded sound.

Would I lose anything sonically going from Wireworld to Transparent at equivalent price? I just notice that 1 meter of Eclipse 8 is $3000 for RCA and XLR, while with Transparent Ultra the RCA is around half the price of the $2800/meter XLR. It sounds like the balanced is just twice the network on the cheaper cable, and I'm wondering if it is actually equivalent to the Wireworld.
 

jfrech

VIP/Donor
Sep 3, 2012
1,914
402
405
Austin
Transparent will not give anything up sonically. It has very natural portrayal. Transparent also has a certified used program, so you may be able to get a better cable in their line up. Those networks are doing something important musically....A dealer should also be able to loan you a cable to try...The Ultra cable line up from Transparent is very good, I would not dismiss it. Good luck
 

Ian B

Member
Oct 20, 2020
93
34
23
40
Transparent will not give anything up sonically. It has very natural portrayal. Transparent also has a certified used program, so you may be able to get a better cable in their line up. Those networks are doing something important musically....A dealer should also be able to loan you a cable to try...The Ultra cable line up from Transparent is very good, I would not dismiss it. Good luck
Thanks, that is good to know and will look into this.

I'm also considering one of the new Shunyata Alpha or Sigma v2s to complement all my NR v2 Shunyata power cables and Denali. I've heard synergy between cables can add something extra.
 

jfrech

VIP/Donor
Sep 3, 2012
1,914
402
405
Austin
Yes, I've owned Shunyata before. I would stick with their power cables to your Denali. It's really good stuff...
 

Nemal1

Well-Known Member
Dec 9, 2018
301
175
98
59
If you are interested in pure silver, look up artisan silver cables in the UK. Their top of the range nth degree cables are terminated with furutech xlr’s and are excellent value and sound quality is also superb. I use a set between CD player and stax amp.
good luck with whatever you choose
 

Ian B

Member
Oct 20, 2020
93
34
23
40
Well, I am borrowing a set of Shunyata Sigma V2 XLR and the results are interesting and informative. While not apples to apples, the Sigma is much better than the unbalanced Wireworld I was using. In fact, the resolution, soundstage, noise, holography, bass and treble are all fabulous. Where things are not jiving is that it seems to have a scooped/recessed/thinned midrange and sounds a tiny bit strained. The weight from vocals, bass guitars, etc seems to be missing and counterbalanced with extra bite. If it wasn't for that, these would be a sure thing for me.

As the other cables I'm interested in I'm not able to try out and are a bit unknown to me, I'm looking back at Transparent and also wary of their company. I have at least heard them before, so I have some idea, but I am not able to borrow or test any, and the dealer said I could simply purchase a set and return them with an absolutely astronomical 20% restocking fee. So if I order a Reference Balanced, the restocking fee would be $1120, and I can't test drive it.

Shunyata has been a much easier company to deal with and so I was really hoping these cables would work.
 

jfrech

VIP/Donor
Sep 3, 2012
1,914
402
405
Austin
Why are you wary of Transparent? They are a great company and reputation. I might ask if they have a cable lower in their line up available to demo or a used cable. I suspect they have to custom build the reference balanced for you...
 

Ian B

Member
Oct 20, 2020
93
34
23
40
Why are you wary of Transparent? They are a great company and reputation. I might ask if they have a cable lower in their line up available to demo or a used cable. I suspect they have to custom build the reference balanced for you...
You know, part of it is that I don't really like going through their local dealer, and that is also why I'm not able to demo any of their stuff. Whether it is that dealer or Transparent, it's a part of audio culture I don't really like paired with high prices, and high stakes purchases that can't be returned or have big restock fees, etc. I went through this with DCS and the same dealer, I wasn't able to test the DAC at home, it sounded harsh with my current setup (really only liked Transparent cables), I could not return it, and found out the warranty is non-transferable so took a big hit reselling only weeks after I bought it.

I make no judgement about what its like to have long term investment, relationship with Transparent. I also think their cables sound really good. I do find it a bit ironic that their cables are more colored than transparent, that their design is somewhat opaque, and that they have networked cables that aren't network cables. But anyway, that is the particular angle I'm looking at this from. I may try to work out something else with them, or find a used cable. I also think that these Sigma XLR were not burned in when they sent them to me as they have changed considerably in two days, so my they may be a good fit yet.
 
Last edited:

tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
3,901
4,109
745
the Upper Midwest
I also think that these Sigma XLR were not burned in when they sent them to me as they have changed considerably in two days, so my they may be a good fit yet.

Actually, most Shunyata interconnects of recent vintage receive their 'KPIP' process at the factory which is their burn-in that unlike others is permanent. Doing an in-home burn-in will negate kpip and the cables would need to go back to the factory for restoration. Yours needed to settle to their new environment and as you note that takes 1-2 days. You can read about kpip at the Shunyata Web site. I have a loom of the Sigmasignal cables and it does not surprise me that you find them more to your liking than Wireworld.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ian B

Ian B

Member
Oct 20, 2020
93
34
23
40
Actually, most Shunyata interconnects of recent vintage receive their 'KPIP' process at the factory which is their burn-in that unlike others is permanent. Doing an in-home burn-in will negate kpip and the cables would need to go back to the factory for restoration. Yours needed to settle to their new environment and as you note that takes 1-2 days. You can read about kpip at the Shunyata Web site. I have a loom of the Sigmasignal cables and it does not surprise me that you find them more to your liking than Wireworld.
It is a little difficult for me to separate the settling part from actual burn-in (I define this as running continues signal through them) with Shunyata cables. In the past I did find that there was some change over time despite the KPIP process on power cables and digital interconnects, but less than with other brands. These actually remind me of some Venom speaker cables I had years back that actually increased in volume over a week or so.

I'm loving them except the part where the frequency response seems a tad uneven. I think that will probably work itself out. Hopefully.
 

tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
3,901
4,109
745
the Upper Midwest
It is a little difficult for me to separate the settling part from actual burn-in (I define this as running continues signal through them) with Shunyata cables. In the past I did find that there was some change over time despite the KPIP process on power cables and digital interconnects, but less than with other brands.

I should clarify. By 'burn-in' and its avoidance with recent Shunyata cables, I meant using a burn-in device (Audioharma, Frybaby, etc.) designed for that purpose, not running-in wires by passing signal through them with your system.

I agree it is difficult if not impossible to attribute changes occuring over time to specific causes. If you're doing trials with demo or borrowed cables - supposedly already broken-in - I"d give them 3-4 days in system before serious assessment. I find first impressions can be interesting and helpful, but for me it takes time to learn a component's character - with most electronics (not wire) that can mean several weeks to a couple months.
 

Ian B

Member
Oct 20, 2020
93
34
23
40
As tima suggested, it did take around 4 days for these Sigma cables to fully settle and it was a bit of a wild ride. Some of my judgements about the timbre were wrong, and the midrange is fine.

I am coming from a lower tier of interconnect experience and up till now the Wireworlds were the best I had heard. What these Sigmas do is quite amazing. The amount of space, clarity, definition, silence, and speed is profound to the degree that it has done more for my sound than a number of components. The Sigma full loom thing really bring out this live music quality where it seems like there is nothing in the way of the acoustic sound at all.

However, I'm not sure if these will work long term. I do really believe Shunyata's tests demonstrating perfect square wave performance, and those square edges are double edged sword. The same character that gives the sound fantastic slam, pluck, thump, and image definition also gives it an overabundance of bite and edge in the higher frequencies that are unflattering to loud or harmonically dense music.

I plan on trying out Dave's ZenWave cables and maybe some TA if I can find another way to demo them. The Sigmas really set a high bar, I didn't think interconnects could do what these do. But its those sharp square edges that are a bit much for listening.
 

Ian B

Member
Oct 20, 2020
93
34
23
40
So now I am comparing some used Transparent Audio Reference Balanced cables, which is a pretty interesting change. The stuff most people say about TA, the musicality, bass, emotional connection, lack of fatigue, and big soundstage seem to be true and nothing else sounds like them. But it is also hard to get used to the tradeoff which seems to be the top octave with all the air basically lopped off, and fairly compressed dynamics. It's like the dynamics are changed into lateral energy, where you feel more punch and heft, but everything remains somewhat squat in terms of image height. We will see if my ears get used to it.

My sense is that this is TA strategy, the trick they do with their network boxes sounds good enough to get you hooked, but to get back the top end frequency response and dynamics of other cables you have to pay more and more.

I guess these cables are a known commodity, but it is also interesting that they have a cumulative effect. I typically use a Double Helix Prion 4 HP cable (silver litz) but I also own a TA Ultra Balanced HP cable. The Prion 4 has more extension and width, but with these interconnects the cumulative TA effect is very noticeable and there is more calm, less noise and more 3D character. But maybe there is a touch more grain and color too.

Having recently compare the Shunyata Sigma V2, it is remarkable how different my system sounds with the two sets of interconnects, which seem to be at opposing poles. It really is a component level difference. The Sigma was much more dynamic and had great image height, clarity, and air, but had an uneven tonal response and was harsh in my system. The Wireworld Platinum Eclipse 8 is actually the most neutrally and naturally balanced, but doesn't have the "wow" of the other two cables. I'm hoping to check out the Zenwave D4 at some point as well, but so far TA Reference is the most listenable, if it comes at an extra sonic tradeoff.
 
Last edited:

Daniel M

Member
Oct 7, 2020
15
2
5
I am using a balanced headphone cable from Danacable - the Lazuli Reference with my Focal Utopias which I'm quite happy with. You can get them on a trial basis to compare to the TA.
 

Ian B

Member
Oct 20, 2020
93
34
23
40
I am using a balanced headphone cable from Danacable - the Lazuli Reference with my Focal Utopias which I'm quite happy with. You can get them on a trial basis to compare to the TA.
I actually had the Lazuli Reference for a while. It didn't quite work with the setup I had at the time and I so I went for the Prion4. The Danacable was really good and had a classic copper sound, and although I think the Prion4 is better (but different) the Lazuli Reference probably would handle brighter cables upstream better. For instance, the Shunyata Sigma v2 XLR was too bright with the Prion4, but fit better with copper headphone cables.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
13,130
1,519
658
Fascinating, IanB...I have only just begun looking into headphone cables having just acquired a Sennheiser 800S on special deal and a 2nd hand EAR Yoshino HP4. I was looking at Danacable, Prion, Cardas (own for our first headphone Sennheiser HD650 and like the Cardas)...and then came across Moon Audio Dragons (Black, Silver)...and THEN discovered TA make an Ultra.

I own TA Opus and have owned TA for over 15 years now so know the sound well. I have historically noted that sometimes Ultra can be a bit less open/clear/illuminated in the treble...this in terms of its IC and SC. Never heard the Ultras.

Are you able to give any more comments/listening notes about the TA Ultra headphone cable and how it compares with perhaps your Prion? Thanks!
 

Ian B

Member
Oct 20, 2020
93
34
23
40
Fascinating, IanB...I have only just begun looking into headphone cables having just acquired a Sennheiser 800S on special deal and a 2nd hand EAR Yoshino HP4. I was looking at Danacable, Prion, Cardas (own for our first headphone Sennheiser HD650 and like the Cardas)...and then came across Moon Audio Dragons (Black, Silver)...and THEN discovered TA make an Ultra.

I own TA Opus and have owned TA for over 15 years now so know the sound well. I have historically noted that sometimes Ultra can be a bit less open/clear/illuminated in the treble...this in terms of its IC and SC. Never heard the Ultras.

Are you able to give any more comments/listening notes about the TA Ultra headphone cable and how it compares with perhaps your Prion? Thanks!
Yes, the Prion 4 is superior in extension and width. Overall it is the better cable and is quite transparent, but the TA Ultra has a nice midrange richness and dynamic punch in the lower midrange. I think your observation about the Ultra series is accurate, less extended treble and a little more compressed overall, slight graininess.

However, it is true that with other TA cables in your system, the benefits realized with TA headphone cable are considerable. I've gone back to Shunyata (the Sigma V1 cable which has worked very well for the moment), so I use the Prion 4 exclusively, but if I was still going with TA, especially the higher level, I would probably use their headphone cable because of the synergy and cumulative network effect. Using the Prion 4 with a TA system is also very good, and will yield more bass and treble, at the expense of a little richness, musicality, and calm. It is a very different sound.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
13,130
1,519
658
Yes, the Prion 4 is superior in extension and width. Overall it is the better cable and is quite transparent, but the TA Ultra has a nice midrange richness and dynamic punch in the lower midrange. I think your observation about the Ultra series is accurate, less extended treble and a little more compressed overall, slight graininess.

However, it is true that with other TA cables in your system, the benefits realized with TA headphone cable are considerable. I've gone back to Shunyata (the Sigma V1 cable which has worked very well for the moment), so I use the Prion 4 exclusively, but if I was still going with TA, especially the higher level, I would probably use their headphone cable because of the synergy and cumulative network effect. Using the Prion 4 with a TA system is also very good, and will yield more bass and treble, at the expense of a little richness, musicality, and calm. It is a very different sound.
IanB,

That is fantastic feedback...thank you! Given that the Sennheiser HD800S is well regarded for its extraordinary detail (particularly treble) I wonder if perhaps the existing loom of TA Opus throughout the main system plus this characteristic of the 800S might not in fact make the Ultra a good complement.

And it is in fact the main system with its TA Opus cables which is feeding the headphone amp...Zanden digital to Robert Koda K15EX to headphone amp (soon to be EAR Yoshino HP4) to Sennheiser HD800S.

That said, given what we have both observed of Ultra's lesser strengths, if it were a TA Reference, I would be more inclined for it to be a no brainer since it is at that level when I have noticed some of that closed in element to disappear. Will look into Prion. More to come!
 

Ian B

Member
Oct 20, 2020
93
34
23
40
IanB,

That is fantastic feedback...thank you! Given that the Sennheiser HD800S is well regarded for its extraordinary detail (particularly treble) I wonder if perhaps the existing loom of TA Opus throughout the main system plus this characteristic of the 800S might not in fact make the Ultra a good complement.

And it is in fact the main system with its TA Opus cables which is feeding the headphone amp...Zanden digital to Robert Koda K15EX to headphone amp (soon to be EAR Yoshino HP4) to Sennheiser HD800S.

That said, given what we have both observed of Ultra's lesser strengths, if it were a TA Reference, I would be more inclined for it to be a no brainer since it is at that level when I have noticed some of that closed in element to disappear. Will look into Prion. More to come!
With the HD800s I think you will have less treble ear fatigue with the Ultra and a more lush sound. On the other hand, the Prion 4 has more deep bass. The HP4 is a little on the warmer side, no? (haven't used one). That might complement a silver cable as well.

I sold my HD800s a couple years ago, but from memory the Prion 4 cable is actually heavier than those headphones. Ha!
 
  • Like
Reactions: K3RMIT

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
13,130
1,519
658
With the HD800s I think you will have less treble ear fatigue with the Ultra and a more lush sound. On the other hand, the Prion 4 has more deep bass. The HP4 is a little on the warmer side, no? (haven't used one). That might complement a silver cable as well.

I sold my HD800s a couple years ago, but from memory the Prion 4 cable is actually heavier than those headphones. Ha!
Yes, I believe that the reason so many owners and reviewers have called the HP4 and the 800S a perfect pairing is because of the warmer but extended and very disciplined sound of the HP4 combining with the exceptional studio clarity/detail of the 800S...plus, I am told the amp 'transforms' the bass of the 800S and fills in the rest of the register as well.

Still...sounds either cable could work depending on priorities.
 

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. This is THE place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss vintage, contemporary and new audio products, music servers, music streamers, computer audio, digital-to-analog converters, turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel-to-reel tape machines, speakers, headphones and tube and solid-state amplification. Founded in 2010 What’s Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals, we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people, and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing