Introduction to the Review of Gladiator Cables Grafene
Let me begin the introduction by telling you a bit of a backstory behind how I got the aforementioned Grafene cable. Sometime after High-End Munich 2023, I’ve been discussing headphone cables with Paweł, the founder of Ear Fidelity, as I had been using the venerable HE1000SE with the stock cable all that time. We all know the Hifiman stock cable situation – I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that a replacement was in order. That’s when Antonio from Gladiator Cables hit us up, and let me tell you – the relief washed over me in an awesome wave (Get the reference?).
Gladiator Cables is an Italian-established endeavor, seeing its beginning in the summer of the year 2021. One thing that definitely deserves recognition is the customer support and interaction that comes as a package deal with basically anything you order from Gladiator Cables – Speaking to Antonio, the founder of the business, has been an absolute pleasure. We kicked it off immediately, with plenty of common interests and a great sense of humor, that won all of us over. It also helped that Antonio’s Italian origin ties in perfectly with my attraction towards Italian cuisine. He promised to hook me up with some cold cuts from his hometown, and I’ll be sure to remind him of it before AVS 2023 in Warsaw, where I hope to meet him this October!
Okay, Antonio is a cool guy and all, but how long does it take him to make a cable like the reviewed Grafene?! After agreeing to the type of cable I would like to take ownership of, it took Antonio two weeks to make it and ship it, and another week later, it arrived at my doorstep. I say it’s not bad for a custom cable, seeing that they’re handmade. Also, we’re talking international shipping here. Some complications could always happen (cough, Polish national post, cough).
The particular cable I own is priced at 850 Euro, as it is a 2-meter long variant, but the prices start at 750 Euro.
This will be the shortest paragraph in this entire review if you can even call it that. The cable arrived to me in a plastic bag, since it was made before Antonio got those cool leather pouches that he makes by hand. If you order something now, I think you can expect some leather action in your package, whatever that may sound like…
Build Quality and Tech
The build quality here is quite the marvel. Let me begin with the connectors, as Antonio has done a great job with picking those as well. My cable uses the Furutech FP-705M 4-pin XLR connector for the amp, with dual Viablue T6s Phono 3.5mm connectors for the headphones. If you’ve had anything to do with those, you know what kind of build quality we’re talking about. Both of those types of connectors make for a very elegant, yet sturdy presentation, especially with the Furutech’s large spring-like protector for the cable. The Viablues are a pleasant sight as well, mixing some technical yet elegant looks with durability and performance.
The strands of the cable are woven securely with no risk of becoming undone while also making for lightweight construction. One of my greatest pet peeves when it comes to cables is when they “remember” their shape after laying in one place for a while, as was the case with the stock HE1000SE cable. That does not happen in case of reviewed Gladiator Cables Grafene, it’s a light and tidy construction, and the cable flows nicely, adapting to any shape you want it to take. Be like water, my friend. Yes, I’m talking to you, Hifiman… Overall, the reviewed Gladiator Cables Grafene is a perfect mix of comfort and quality construction, which is a hugely important factor for me.
Let’s talk about the tech aspect in this bad boy, or Raggazzaccio if you will. The cable makes use of 4N Pure OCC silver with the addition of graphene. What makes this cable unique in the tech department is that the silver wire is wrapped in a solid sheet of graphene, as opposed to other cables simply adding graphene strands into the mix. I have honestly never seen that before, and I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of its performance. When I asked Antonio about this technology, he told me that my cable is perhaps the first cable ever made with this kind of strand setup. I never thought I would be this excited for a cable.
The design of the cable is also something that cannot be overlooked. I consider using the hoplite helmet as a splitter to be the perfect design choice, as it not only looks amazing but also contributes to the brand’s recognizability, tying in perfectly with its image. This makes the cable quite a conversation piece too. Another design choice I love is using grey and transparent heat shrink to mark the left and right parts of the cable instead of using blue and red, which would introduce some unnecessary contrast to the overall looks of the cable. I’ve relied on Antonio to make the design choices for the cable, and he has done a great job.
Hey, did I mention that I’ve also received a 4-pin XLR to 6.3mm adapter? That’s pretty great, and it allows me to test the cable with basically all my gear. This nunchuck-looking feller sports the same wires as the cable does, as well as those tanky Furutech connectors – FP-704 for the 6.3mm jack, and an FP-706F for the female XLR plug. This whole piece feels professional and sturdy, considering its weight and heavy-duty connectors.
Sound of the reviewed Gladiator Cables Grafene
To test Antonio’s creation, I have been using the HE1000SE hooked up to the DAART Aurora via of course the XLR connection. I’ve been listening to music on Deezer, making use of its “High Fidelity” sound preset. I have chosen this exact setup, as I have already put numerous hours into some listening sessions with it, and that would allow me to assess the cable’s performance in the most accurate manner.
I’ve listened to silver cables before, but seeing graphene in such a setting is a first. I was pleased to find out that the reviewed Gladiator Cables Grafene only improved the headphones’ performance, while not hindering any aspects of the sound. I expected great technical performance, I got it. I hoped for a non-emaciated sound, I got it. Anyhow, my expectations were blown out of the water, as I felt the cable elevated my beloved Hifimans’ performance to another level. Let’s dive in further.
Hearing the bass-rich hits on more drum-focused or electronic tracks is what instantly makes you aware of the performance we’re talking about here. It doesn’t hit very hard, however, the bass is still tangible and lively. I am writing this part while listening to TERRITORY by The Blaze. Here, The Bass plays its role very well – it contributes to the engagement factor, allowing other sounds to shine as well. This is not the heaviest bass presentation I’ve come across, but it has other noteworthy strengths.
What stands out, more so than the bass’s punch capability, is its cleanliness. The level of control with the Grafene is similar to the willpower of a Shaolin monk. My reference track for bass control and dynamics is “SALVIA” by the Californian noise rock legends, HEALTH. Ten seconds into the track, you become flooded with visceral drum hits, that would normally rattle your teeth out of your gums. Using the reviewed Gladiator Cables Grafene cable, the hits are still dynamic and lively but become tidier and more orderly than ever. All of this while retaining the fun factor, which I was hoping not to lose throughout my listening sessions, thanks to accurately and precisely reproduced dynamics, with pronounced but controlled textures.
Here, I was expecting the slightly warm midrange of the HE1000SE to become quite slimmed down. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that that was not the case. The liveliness that comes with the vocals of artists such as Caroline Polachek, Whitney Houston, or Estelle has been preserved, and their voices are presented realistically and naturally, not losing life in the dynamics department. It’s no overstatement to call this presentation of the midrange crystal clear – you may feel inclined to associate such wording with harshness or boredom, but that is most definitely not how the reviewed Gladiator Cables Grafene performs. Instruments that make the ambiance of the track, like the organs in Kanye West’s Pure Souls, show great transparency, allowing more forward-placed instruments to take the stage. Overall, the midrange is musical and natural, while still showcasing the HE1000SE’s slight warmth and amazing clarity.
The treble region is perhaps where the Grafene’s technical prowess shows its teeth, as it’s the part where the clarity and cleanliness shine the most prominently. Not dissimilar to the mids and the bass, there’s plenty of detail and faithful reproduction to be had. If you’re into listening to the minuscule details of the music piece, this may be something for you. Sometimes in the more extreme cases of badly mastered tracks, the treble can get hot, although ever so slightly. But I’d like to stress the importance of the word “EXTREME” here. It’s a technical and controlled presentation with a great amount of detail.
This has to be my favorite aspect of the cable in question. In previous paragraphs, I keep mentioning great clarity, and it’s a fine contributor here as well. The stage is very, very large, pushing the HE1000SE’s capabilities to the limit. Apart from its size, it also shines in the “3D” department – the presentation can be both wide and deep, allowing for some more complicated passages to shine.
What I’ve also found to be enjoyable is the cable’s versatility when it comes to spatial presentation. Yes, it is capable of very large and airy staging, but it doesn’t lose its marbles in more intimate and romantic music productions. A great example here is “The Sky Lay Still” by Elizabeth Anka Vajagic – there are Elizabeth’s vocals, presented in an up close and personal manner, and a piano playing somewhere deep in the soundstage, almost as if it was located in another room. This cable handles difficult staging tasks with ease.
The HE1000SE I chose to pair this cable with has turned out to be a perfect companion for the Grafene’s abilities. The best parts about the headphones’ sound are preserved, and some are even improved upon, making the entire experience a different, but nevertheless amazing spectacle.
I imagine the cable’s versatility reaches way beyond just the HE1000SE, and testing different combinations starring the Grafene will surely be a pleasant journey.
Gladiator Cables Grafene Review – Summary
After numerous hours of use, I have come to love this cable. It represents amazing quality, both in terms of sound and construction. It’s a great match for any headphone setup, no matter how “high” your high-end setup is.
Clear, tidy, technical, and sophisticated seem to be the most suitable epithets to describe the Grafene, one of the latest offerings of Gladiator Cables. While 750EUR+ is by no means a low price, it doesn’t get more apparent that you and your setup are getting your money’s worth.
Big thanks to Gladiator Cables for providing the Grafene 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.