Music Lover Eddie Hsueh takes us through not three, not four, but a whopping 18 cable combinations with FIR Audio's M5 in-ear monitors
Translated by: Asher Yeo
Original article: neon.ly/pPrWn
The DAP I’m using is my beloved Lotoo PAW Touch Titanium, it has a neutral sound and excellent resolution--Ideal for taking on the character of the earphones they’re used with and for understanding the sonic essence of each cable.
The M5: Sound Signature and Pairing suggestions
The M5 is a pair of earphones that full embrace their electrostatic qualities, with transparent mids and a wide, natural soundstage.
The customs sound quite different from the universals: I find the universal’s mids to be a little more exciting and slightly grating. This was why I initially preferred the M4 for its milder and more attractive mids and vocals.
The custom M5 sounds a lot like my custom Project K Lyrebird.
The M5’s mids and lows are lean and not considered full. I personally prefer a full sound with more mids. So for my cable pairing I’m hoping to add a bit of body back into the mids and bass without affecting the detailed highs imparted by the electrostatic tweeter. As well as widen the soundstage.
We’re pairing the M5 with 18 cables in total, including gold, silver and hybrid and gold-plated cables.
1. PWAudio 1950s
The 1950s has plenty of explosive power on its own. Especially in the lows and in terms of width. This strengthens the M5s leaner lows and highs which can sound a little bit empty. The cable also strengthens the cleanliness and detail. It pairs pretty well with the M5.
5. Whiplash TWCu20
This colours more than the BW22, thickening the M5’s vocals. The strength and dynamism is a bit less than the 1930s and Yatono. But it does colour the vocals and is an easy listen. I breezed through a few more songs after this. This isn’t an expensive cable and I’d recommend it.
6. DITA OSLO Cable
This cable increased the resolution of the M5 and adds a bit of charm to the M5’s mids. The OSLO cable leans towards the mids and highs, with lesser lows. The soundstage has also somewhat been rendered smaller. It’s not great for the M5. I’d actually opt to pair it with DUNU’s earphones such as the Zen and Luna.
7. Han Sound Audio ZenToo Plus
This surprisingly fit the M5 well. The mids and lows were filled up and it imparted a bit more lows than the OSLO. There was also more detail. The Zen’s high’s intentionally tuned to be airy and luxe, don’t sound too unsuitable when paired with the M5. A captivating combination.
8. Cross Lambda Audio Future
This sounds similar to the 1960s when paired with the M5. With smooth, easy to listen vocals. However, this comes at the expense of the soundstage and didn’t exact the sort of improvement I thought it would over the M5. This cable actually suits the VR1. The Cross Lambda Artemis, however, pairs well with the M5.
9. Zephone Endian 3
This one is powerful, comparable to the 1950s with similar bass performance. It changes the M5 into another pair of earphones. But the only difference from the 1950s is that its highs are a bit more grating and not exceptionally easy to listen to. You’d probably need to burn these in for a while. They have a lot of potential.
M5 + Copper cable recommendations:
if you were looking to achieve a bit of coloration while retaining the M5’s current balance. For this the ZenToo Plus, TWCu 20 are good choices. If you’re looking to thicken the mids and lows, try the Yatono 4wire, 1950s or the Zephone cable.
Pure Silver Cables
1. Toxic Hydra 18
These make the M5’s mids way too lean and nearly disappear their lows. It’s incredibly bright overall and rushes straight for the head. I can’t jive with this.
2. Han Sound Audio Agni II
Even though the Agni II has the best bass among silver cables, but it’s still on the stingy side when compared to the 1950s and the Yatonos. It’s better than the Hydra 19, but still too bright.
Silver cables will never be the best for the M5. If you absolutely must use a silver cable. Crystal Cable’s CDD is the best Choice. Or you could also try Effect Audio’s Cleopatra and Zephone’s Silver Dragon. But copper cables are more reliable as a simpler, cheaper option.
1. Toxic SW22V2
Switching over from the silver and copper cabled earlier makes gold cables sound all the better, mainly in terms of detail and treble extension. The SW22 may have laid back vocals but also fatter and warmer lows and mids. It’s a surprisingly good listen, if the vocals weren’t recessed it would be a great fit for the M5.
2. Toxic Griffin 26
When paired with the M3, the Griffin goes more towards the upper end for a more detailed presentation. The vocals aren’t recessed. Personally I feel like the Griffin 26 sounds like an upgraded BW22. It has different strengths to the SS22 and it’s honestly hard to judge which is better. The SW22 is seeming more suitable though, especially since its thicker in general.
3. HanSound Audio Venom
This darkens the background of the M5 and leans towards the lows and mids. It’s stable, has thick vocals, but sacrifices some of the instrumental's resolution for that.
4. HanSound Audio Torfa 4 wire
It's very similar to the venom (it's tuned by the same person after all), but the Torfa 4's speed and bass is better than the Venom's, with better resolution and slightly better vocals
Between these four cables, I’d choose the Torfa 4 Wire and Griffin 26. They have pretty different sound signatures.
1. Toxic Phoenix 22:
The Phoenix, when paired with M5, is near-perfect. From the vocals of the sweetness, detailing, resolution, it’s all brilliant. I initially thought that the M5, with it’s colder, more exciting highs wouldn’t be a great fit for the overly resolved Phoenix, but I’ve been very satisfied trying it with the customs this time.
But when you put two pieces of excellent-quality equipment together and try to enjoy music, I’m still hoping that there’ll be less detail and resolution in favour of warmth, nuance and musicality.
2. EURA TAWA
This cables has been touted as suitable for the M5. When I tested it earlier, it was great. Mainly because it has a solid mid-bass segment. Thickening those frequency bands. Although the imaging can feel a bit muddy, but it’s a full sound. After this second round of comparison, though, I’ve still come to the same conclusion. That the mid-highs are a little dark and that it’s not an exceptionally speedy or dynamic cable.
3. Toxic GSP V2 8
I knew I found my true love the moment I paired it with the M5. It’s not as thick as TAWA, or as clear as the Phoenix, neither does it have too much resolution. But it strikes an appropriate balance. It’s complimentary in nature towards the M5. Topped off with slightly sweet vocals. It’s great.
It’s honestly hard to pick one best cable for the M5 among these there. They have their strengths and weaknesses. I felt like they were all pretty good. But the one that left the deepest impression on me is the GSP V2 8.
The M5 is the best.