I recently auditioned two Empire Ears iems and both came with Audio Effects Ares II cables. Interestingly they were not exactly the same as the model shipped with the bravado has a black splitter and slider while the cable shipped with ESR came with a splitter that matched the jack. This gave me the opportunity to try a couple of different versions of the Ares II and give a few impressions.
Effect Audio lists the Ares II as 26 AWG UPOCC Litz Copper with two different thicknesses to give both distinct highs and details as well as smooth bass and mids. I could not find a note showing the final thickness of the strands so I think all are 26 gauge but the number of strands in each bundle differs to achieve those two distinct diameters. EA also touts the flexible insulation as being the same as used on the Leonidas and it was indeed very pliable for a larger diameter cable. The clear insulation allows the copper coloration to show through in good contrast to the Silver furniture used for most of the fixtures.
The bi-pin connectors on the cable are well designed and give a clear indication of left and right as well as a clear marking of the polarity of the connector that helps avoid any mis-alignment. Both cables came pre-bent heat shrink tubes that were flexible enough to allow comfort with glasses and yet strong enough to retain shape even when cased. An option for a cable with a memory wire would be welcomed by some but the current arrangement was more than strong enough and worked extremely well.
The splitters at the middle vary between the two cables. On one, it is a two-part black arrangement where the chin slider fits down into the splitter. It is an odd part to describe, but easy to see in the pictures. The up side to this design is the exit of the cables from the splitter is hidden inside the cup the chin slider rests in and the chin slider (when not in use) provides some strain relief. The down side is the when the chin slider is used for its intended purpose, there is no strain relief for the cable exits from the splitter.
On the second cable, the splitter is a chrome and carbon fiber part with a set screw to hold the cable on the inbound side. Issues with this second design are it is heavier than the other and you can feel some pull on your ears as a result and neither the entrance or exits have strain reliefs. This will become a common theme as neither cable has any visible strain relief anywhere along the length of the wire.
The Jack on both cables is a 2.5mm TRRS connector with a chrome and carbon fiber wrap. Again, my only complaint would be there is nothing to seal the rear of the jack where the cable exits, nor is there a proper strain relief on the cable where it exits the jack. While the insulation should be strong enough to protect the cable, an added layer of protection is seldom a bad thing.
I will be the first to tell you that I trade cables mostly for comfort, connector type, and aesthetics as any changes in sound are usually obscured unless you have a near perfect listening environment and most of us simply do not. I did find some time to listen is as close to a silent environment as possible and can say that I think compared to the Norne Vorpal I replaced for purposes of this trail, that the bass didn’t seem quite as well extended on the Ares II as the Norne, although top end was about equal. The Ares II did provide a nice clean sound with no detectable artifact or issue.
And just like that, the whole thing comes screeching to a halt. Both a 3.5mm and 4.4mm to 2.5mm jack were provided with the sample cables and both had problems. Neither of the adaptors worked as well as I would expect from a product at this price point. Both had the same problem although the 3.5mm had it more often than the 4.4. The issue was that sound would periodically cut out on one channel or the other or both and wiggling the connector would bring it back. At other times movement of the connector would result in audible crackling in the earpieces. In fairness to Effect, I have never found adaptors to be a good solution and much prefer purchasing another cable with the proper connector if I need it. Effect offers a full range of terminations both at the earpieces and at the source end of the cable and with the cost of the adapters running up to ½ the cost of an additional cable, they simply are not a good investment.
Would I purchase the Effect Audio Ares II cable? Yes. It was a well-made, good sounding cable and the warrantee offered by Effect Audio gives me enough peace of mind to offset any concern about the strain reliefs. Would I buy the adaptors to use the same cable with multiple devices? Absolutely Not. They simply do not work well enough to be a good alternative to purchasing cables for each device.