Effect Audio 8 wires
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First things first. Thank you Andrew and Grace for the awesome customer service, as always.
I previously tried the KR5 and very much enjoyed it, and based on that experience I stepped up to the XE6 and have no regrets.
I have waited a few months to post my thoughts because I found the XE6 was improving with age. I have 150ish hours on it now and it seems settled in.
The Atom modules are a pain to remove and install, only because of their tiny size. My experience was I cycled through them once over the first few days after I first received the IEM, and settled on the gold module to start.
As the XE6 aged I eventually changed to silver, then to black, and I’m pretty confident I’ll stay with this configuration now. Point being, most of us will find our preferred module and not have to mess with them further.
For an in ear, the XE6 bass is the closest I have experienced to sounding like true subwoofer bass. EE EVO has more mid bass impact, but XE6 has better deep down rumble.
Mids, vocals and highs are clear and detailed and synergize well with the bass presentation.
The stock cable is decent, not great. I have cable rolled a few different cables and find I have a preference for either PW Stormbreaker, or First Times with XE6.
From my perspective, there are three key criteria on which to judge a cable: tuning, technicalities and ergonomics. With respect to tuning, the First Times is perfect. I'd describe it as just a little bit warmer than neutral. It depends on what you're comparing it to, of course -- but in my case, using it on a Ragnar, it tames the treble; it adds just a bit of warmth to the mids; and it adds a bit more weight to the bass. There's no part of the spectrum that sounds wrong to me. From a technicalities perspective, it's solid, but there's certainly quite a meaningful gap between this cable and the First Times Shielding with respect to soundstage (not that the soundstage is bad by any stretch; it just doesn't compare to the FTS). I hear a little bit less detail as well. I'd also rank the Ode to Laura as also being a bit better than this cable for technicalities (but it has a very different and more colored tuning). Finally, for ergonomics, this is my favorite cable. It's not heavy or awkward, it doesn't tend to get tangled, the cable doesn't have a memory and remains pretty straight. Overall, the First Times Shielding is worth the premium if you want the utmost in technicalities, but putting that comparison aside, the First Times non-shielding is ideal as a high-quality, all-rounder, slightly warm (but relatively neutral) cable that's comfortable to wear.
For context, I also own a First Times and First Times Shielding. The Ode to Laura has exceptional technicalities (soundstage, detail, layering) -- perhaps better than the First Times non-shielded, in that regard (maybe not quite at the level of the First Times shielded? But not far off). But what really sets it apart is the texture and tuning.
This isn't a neutral cable. It does color the sound, but in a very pleasing way. It makes the bass very articulate and impactful (even better than the First Time Shielding). It makes the mids warmer, with a more analog feel. Slightly recessed, but not excessively so. It's got really great air on the top end, in a manner that makes the sound more open and alive, but without causing any harshness or excessive treble energy. It does all of this in a manner that's very coherent. I agree with everything in Tokparkolo's review on Head-Fi (which is a more extensive and articulate review than I'm capable of).
Overall, it adds warmth and musicality. It might not be ideal for a reference-tuned IEM like the Ragnar; it works, and works well, but overall, in that scenario, I'd prefer something that leans a little more neutral. I'd probably also lean more towards the First Times cables for genres that require more neutrality, regardless of IEM. But with a bassier IEM like the Odyssey, and for genres that benefit from the warmth (pop, EDM, hip-hop, trance, etc.) it really is something special and would be my top choice.
UM Universal MEST MKII
Andrew was a pleasure to work with, helping me find a dap that worked with my needs and met my budget. I am very happy with the Lotoo PAW 6000! It is quick and easy to use, and it sounds excellent. The build quality is top notch and it sounds much cleaner than my go blu I was using before and has a dead silent (black) background. The Eq is easy to use in my opinion and a lot of fun. The bluetooth has worked great for me the odd time I want to stream so no complaints there either. If you don't need streaming capabilities I think you would be hard pressed to find a better dap without paying 2 to 3 times the money. The paw 6000 is an easy 5 stars and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a standalone dap.