Reviewing cables is always fun and exciting…will I get attacked by people that don’t believe that a cable can make a difference? Will it be called snake oil? Will the world end up covered with fire and nuclear winter arise?
Jokes aside, I know that a lot of people will never even consider such expensive cable to buy, so if you’re one of them…just don’t read this review, you really don’t have to. You might want to however because there’s always new and exciting stuff in audio that can actually make a difference, and IEM/Headphones cables are definitely one of them.
I personally never doubted a minute about what a good cable can do to my setup. Right when I started my audio journey I just gave cables a try and I never looked back. The same thing goes with loudspeakers, tell me that speaker cables don’t make a difference, and I’m going to highly doubt your sense of hearing.
What’s most unsettling about the whole cables debate is how people get so emotional. Listen up, you don’t have to buy aftermarket cables, no one will ever make you do it, stop feeling the pressure. At the same time, some people really enjoy cables, we cable-roll, we’re just having fun…stop calling us names pretending to be a Messiah because you’re not and you’ll never be. “OOOOH, cables are such a snake oil!”, “cables don’t make a difference”, “you have to be blah blah to buy a $x00 cable”. You have a right to have your opinion, but you don’t have to ruin people’s fun because of it.
And no, I’m not defending cables manufacturers, I’m not saying that everybody in this hobby should go on and buy expensive cables for their IEMs or headphones. Definitely not. But a lot of people just like to do so, and since they’re spending their own money, they can decide what they are going to spend it on. I would love people to stop antagonizing cables because it’s just pointless. Snake oil you say? If you would really like to go that far, then start calling everything audio-related a snake oil. You can listen to music just fine with a $10 earbuds.
Okay, I got pretty emotional, so let’s go back to the hero of today’s review, the Eletech Inferno. This brand has made a name for itself in the past couple of years with one of the best-built cables on the market, and I also really admire their marketing and story-telling. This time they came up with their first full-sized headphones cable in their portfolio, the Inferno. Let’s see what’s it about.
I really, really adore the overall approach to the unboxing experience of Eletech products. Just look at the photos on their social media accounts and you’ll know what I mean. Beautiful boxes, carrying cases, everything has its purpose and the branding is one of the most consistent in the entire headphone audio market.
Unfortunately, you won’t find my impressions of the unboxing experience of the Inferno in this review…because I received just the cable, with no accessories, no box, etc. This is probably due to the fact that the Inferno is a new product and they haven’t yet finished designing the packaging. However, it is Eletech we’re talking about, so you can be sure that the unboxing experience of this cable is going to be stunning. It always is with this brand.
Design, Build and Comfort
Eletech is also known for its sublime design language and perfect build quality. Their IEM cables are crafted to perfection, and their Iliad is one of the most beautiful cables I’ve ever seen.
So, this time they went for a cable to use with full-sized headphones. I’m not going to lie…this is interesting. Were they able to transfer their skills in IEM cables into something new and different? Long story short – yes.
The Inferno is a chunky cable, without a doubt. It’s rather heavy, big, and extremely well-made. While most of cable manufacturers try to make their cables as light as possible, Eletech surely had different plans for the Inferno.
The actual build quality is very impressive. The metal hardware is of top quality, just look at this Furutech XLR connector shown in the photo. This is definitely one of the best XLR plugs I’ve ever seen and handled.
Using such quality components will ensure the longevity of the cable. At the end of the day, you don’t want this thing to break…well, basically ever. It’s definitely not an affordable cable that you can just throw away and get a new one because it broke. It is the manufacturer’s job to make this thing as durable as possible, and I’m pretty confident that the Inferno will last you a very, very long time.
How’s the comfort then? Well, it’s not bad, but it’s not great either. As I said, this is a really chunky boi, and it’ll surely make you feel its presence while using it. It definitely won’t bother you too much, but if you’re thinking about getting a new cable to increase the comfort of your headphones, then you’ll probably have to look somewhere else.
As far as the design goes, I really dig the Inferno. I’m a huge sucker for no-sleeve cables, and this copper thing is a beauty, to say the least. The Inferno is made with some super high-quality materials, and there was no point in hiding it behind a sleeve, and I’m glad that Eletech went this way. The copper is paired with some extremely well-made and beautiful metal elements, and this is true audio jewelry. In my opinion, an aftermarket cable should look like a statement piece in your wardrobe, you’ve paid a lot of money for it – enjoy it even while you’re not using it.
So far, we know that the Inferno is an incredibly well-made, great-looking cable from one of the best cable manufacturers in the market. However, all of it would have been for nothing if the sound would end up being mediocre. Remember that the Inferno won’t increase the comfort of your favorite headphones, so it definitely should make them sound better, right?
The sound performance depends hugely on the headphone you’re going to use the Inferno with. It won’t produce a sound by itself. Also, different headphones offer different quality cables included in the box, so the amount of improvement will depend on this factor as well.
Let me focus on the overall characteristics of the Inferno first, and then we’ll go into specific headphones I paired it with and different cables I compared it to.
So, the Inferno is a copper cable, and you are definitely able to hear that. I’m a big copper fan myself, as I find it very natural and safe sounding, which I cannot say about many silver-plated cables I’ve heard. They often tend to sound a bit dry and “forced” to me, so if I had to choose between copper or silver-plated copper cables in the past, I almost always picked copper. Take Forza Audioworks for instance, I’ve used a lot of their cables in the past and I actually believe that their copper line is much better sounding than their hybrid models.
Back to the Inferno though. I’m going to describe the general sound characteristic of this cable as natural and tight. This is definitely not a cable to alter the sound signature of your headphones, but rather to bring out fine details that are left in the music while keeping a natural and smooth tone. We often tend to look for a cable to do a specific thing, such as smoothing the treble, boosting the bass, or making the overall sound warmer. The Inferno is none of that, this is an upgrade cable, not an “alter” cable.
Whether it’s good or bad will hugely depend on your needs and expectations. If you’ve got one pair of over-ear headphones and you’d like to slightly change their sound signature, the Inferno won’t do that. However, if you own multiple headphones and you’d like to get a cable that will suit all of them and improve them, then this product should definitely be on your “to try” list.
I’m definitely the second guy. I have a lot of different headphones and the Inferno is working wonders with every pair I tried it with, while not altering the sound signature too much. Of course, it’s going to change it a bit, especially when the included cable is silver plated. But the difference won’t be a result of the Inferno altering the sound signature, rather than using different materials than the cable you’re currently using.
If you’d like something that has more of a sound of its own, you’ll probably have to go for silver or gold-plated silver, as this kind of cables tend to have their “sound”. With those materials, you’d be probably going to spend a lot more though, so keep that in mind.
The Inferno pairs very well with the Elite. This flagship headphone has one of the best stock tunings, to begin with, so you don’t really need to change its timbre if you already have and use the Elite.
The stock cable supplied with the Elite is actually pretty good, but it’s not even close to the Inferno. The latter gives you a better texture, and better extension on both ends and the overall sound is more controlled and polished. The bass is tighter, the midrange better pronounced and the treble more extended. The detail retrieval and resolution are both slightly improved. Overall, I actually prefer the Inferno over my Forza Audioworks Noir HPC with the Elite, as the latter tends to make the Elite just a touch too smooth and dark. The Inferno on the other hand gives a more natural, textured, and tight sound that works beautifully with the Elite.
Audeze LCD-X 2021
The Audeze LCD-X 2021 also has a decent quality cable supplied in the box. Once again though, the Inferno sounds much better – fuller, tighter, and more nuanced.
Changing the cable feels like there’s been a blanket removed, giving you better texture and more insight into the recording. There’s more air and separation to be found, and the imaging gets more accurate and more realistic. The LCD-X 2021 is a highly detailed and accurate sounding headphone, to begin with, but the Inferno boosts its capabilities significantly. I don’t know if it’ll be worth investing in a cable that costs nearly as much as the headphone itself (well, at least not that far off), but the Inferno definitely improves it.
The HEDDphone is one of the most polarizing headphones I know. When we’re talking sound, this is definitely one of my favorite pairs I’ve got, having exceptional timbre and great technical capabilities. It’s really heavy and uncomfortable though, so I don’t use it as often as I could have.
When pairing with the HEDDphone, the Inferno really shows what it’s capable of. The HEDDphone is able to provide even the slightest details and this cable pushes the limits of technical performance even further. It doesn’t alter that godlike timbre of the HEDDphone, so you’re still getting that incredibly natural, unique sound.
Having in mind the retail price of the HEDDphone, it is worth investing in a good quality cable to pair it with, and the Inferno is definitely a very good option. On top of that, it somewhat suits the HEDDphone physically as well, as it’s also chunky and robust, so this feels like a perfect pairing.
Forza Audioworks NOIR HPC
This comparison isn’t entirely fair, as the Inferno is much more expensive than the Noir HPC, but I’ve got both of them in the same connectors combination, so this is pretty natural for me to compare them.
Starting with the ergonomics, the Noir HPC is definitely more comfortable. It’s not a light cable as well, but it feels more flexible and it’s softer, giving you better ergonomics overall. When it comes to the build quality, both are built exceptionally, but I’d give an edge to the Inferno for its sleeve-less design and better quality of the splitter and connectors.
Let’s get into the sound. I’ve been a fan of the Noir HPC for many years now, and I really got used to its sound throughout all these years. It’s a rather dark and smooth-sounding cable that tends to make the sound more delicate and smoother while providing a huge soundstage. The Inferno on the other hand is much more neutral and tonally “correct”, not altering the sound of the headphones, which you cannot say about the Noir HPC. When it comes to the technical performance, the Inferno edges the Noir, providing a better detail retrieval and better resolution. The Forza Noir sounds a bit dull and too soft in comparison, but remember that we’re talking big money difference here.
Overall, both cables are exceptional. If you’re on the budget, you should definitely get the Noir HPC, as it’s been with me for so many years and it never failed. Also, it is more comfortable and it has a “sound”.
The Inferno on the other hand is much more expensive, but it does sound better. While it’s not a huge difference, cables are all about fine-tuning and slight improvements, and the Inferno proves its worth when compared to the less expensive Noir HPC. You simply can’t go wrong with either.
Eletech enters a full-sized headphones cables market, and it does it with confidence. Their newest Inferno is a very mature and exceptionally built cable that has one task – to improve the sound quality.
It’s not a cable that will change the sound signature of your favorite headphones, but I bet it will improve every single headphone you’ll try it with. Perfectly natural, open-sounding, and technically capable, that’s what a good quality cable should be. I’m really curious about what Eletech is going to come up with in the future.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Meze Elite, Audeze LCD-X 2021, HEDDphone
- Sources– Yulong Aurora, XI Audio Broadway S, Hifiman EF400, SMSL DO100 + HO100, Little Dot MK III SE, EarMen Tradutto
Big thanks to Eletech for providing the Inferno for this review. I wasn’t paid or asked to say anything good or bad about this product, all of the above is just my personal, unbiased opinion. Eletech hasn’t seen this review before publishing it.