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.
Excellent! TOTL ones, truly. I suggest bying spinfit tips for them to get full comfort and liner listening sessions.