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pw audio 1950 Shielding: Copper Chameleon, Magic In Balance







This Bad-Boy should be on everyone's list of must haves - simply put it matches with everything and sounds incredible. Using Cardas Clear wires, and adding PW Audio's secret shielding magic sauce, this is one is spectacular.




Pros:

- Top notch technicalities, ultra clear and resolving


- Incredibly balanced


- Reference tuning but amazingly musical


- Pitch black background


- Some of the best mids I've ever heard


- More comfortable than other shielded cables



Cons:

-Sonically nothing


- Price


- Chin cinch doesn't work well




Greetings dear Head-fiers, and welcome to my review of - in my personal opinion - the most underrated and lesser known TOTL cable in the world: The PW 1950s Shielding. This is one badass cable, often overlooked, and I am excited to share my experiences and impressions with you all. I will also be rather meticulously comparing it to the other big dogs of the day - the Orpheus, Brise Ultimate 8W, First Times Shielding and Ode To Laura, an exciting ride through absolute SQ heaven. It will be a bit long, lots of detail to cover, so be prepared for that. Not everyone believes in cables, or has the means or desire to spend such an exorbitant amount of cash on a TOTL cable. I get it, I totally do and your opinions and feelings are warranted. I won’t even try to convince you otherwise, but maybe better not to waste your time on this lengthy review if you don’t care. Some people do, I certainly do. We crazies constantly fever dream about that final 3% SQ improvement, a tad more this or less of that, and I write this for those as insatiable as I. Cables can unleash inherent potential, they aren’t a guarantee of improvement, and should be considered as such. Pairing is paramount, and as always YMMV. As a quick aside, please keep in mind that this is a very expensive cable. $2400 at the time of writing. The others are similarly ridiculous in cost, with the Orphy a staggering $5k+, FTS, OTL and Brise 8W close to $3k or above. So with that in mind let’s get started!




If we wind back the clock a few years ago, I was just starting to dance with the idea of getting into IEM cables. Coming from years of 2 Channel Hi-Fi and cable rolling, I was well aware of the differences -and potential upgrades- cables could make. I used to spend hours and hours with a buddy of mine A/B’ing speaker cables for my home system. I have really sensitive/critical ears, so it was fun, and also maddening picking out all the tiny differences. It’s a labor of love one could say, not for the faint of heart. Since the very beginning I have been a Cardas fan. Their ability to mix detail, note weight, soundstage and resolution without a hint of harshness or overly accentuated tonality was their secret sauce, and has garnered them legend status. I currently have all Cardas in my home 2 channel, Golden Cross and Golden Presence, and I love it. Lush yet detailed, even but enrapturing, crystal clear and revealing, with a tiny hint of warmth and musicality for days. When I play vinyl I just melt into my chair and am carried away to sonic bliss. Why I am speaking about Cardas Hi-Fi cables in a IEM cable review you may ask? Well because the PW 1950s is using Cardas wire inside, Cardas Clear to be specific. While it may not be listed on any website officially, believe it or not both the PW 1950s and 1960s cables are made with “off the shelf stock” Cardas wire. I actually called Cardas and spoke with them at length, and they reluctantly confirmed, it’s their wire for sure. The 50s is Cardas Clear, the 60s is Cardas Clear light, offering different takes on the Cardas sound - 50s being more revealing and reference compared to the warmer 60s. So how does one go about getting Cardas’ fabled wire? You either buy it by the long roll which is insanely expensive, or you get yourself some Cardas headphone cables, rip them apart and redo it yourself. The latter is what cable gurus like @DrJuggles do, which is apparently extremely time consuming, and expensive to boot. 50’s clones can also be found on the second hand market, and for around $700ish you can get yourself a real 50s Cardas Clear IEM cable. To no surprise they sound amazing. PW sells the same cable, (buying it by the huge roll no less) with their fancy hardware and brand prestige for $2k+, and sonically I can tell you there is no difference at all. I had them both at the same time - my first “real” cable was a 50s clone and I loved it to death. The hardware wasn’t exactly matching, but when I first plugged it in with my 64A 18t I was instantly transported to heaven. Like my home 2-channel, it sounded just right, that perfect balance of resolution, evenness and musicality. I was blown away that a clone could sound so good, and to be honest, I wondered why anyone in their right mind would pay more than double for cosmetic differences and useless brand prestige.




Fast forward a few months and I saw the 50S pop up on MusikTeck’s website and I was intrigued. This was something new to me. It looked super cool, and while I didn’t know much about the PW Shielding secret sauce back then I was nonetheless smitten, and brokenhearted, with the idea that there was a better version of what I already have. (Typical audiophile thinking right?) I spent weeks starring at the website, and inevitably just ordered one to satisfy the lingering question on my mind: how could it be better? When I first installed it I was totally blown away. It takes everything from the 50s that made it magical, but taking it up several notches in every direction, like a different cable. From my previous review of the First Times Shielding I was absolutely astonished to hear how much of an upgrade it offered over the standard FT. There is something truly impressive about whatever PW is putting in that shielding, the sound benefits are very noticeable, and not only does it improve the SQ, imaging, background blackness and resolution, but it adds more dynamics and energy too. Can’t explain how, but I hear it clear as day.







I’ll get deep into the sonics in just a bit, but quickly fast forward a bit more, and I bought myself an Orpheus (which is a staggering cable), and mistakenly sold the 50s Shielding quickly afterwards. The Orphy is a beast, and does something I never thought was possible; a pure copper cable that basically defies the laws of sonic physics. While it was a bit different than the “Cardas” sound, being a bit more warm and colored, it is a crowding achievement in cable tech. I was again smitten. Further down the road I found myself downgrading my gear and putting funds elsewhere, and I sold my prized Orphy. I often wonder if it was the right decision. But I did need a cable for my Jewel, and the 50S was the first thing coming to my mind. So I bought it again, and I love it just as much as I did the first time, even after owning and trying/reviewing basically every TOTL cable available. It’s a beast in its own right for sure, incredibly impressive. If anyone is wondering, the 50S is the closest to a “baby Orpheus” I have yet to find. Not the same, but for half the price or less, it is incredibly close in many ways. With the Jewel it’s a perfect match.




Quick disclaimer: I bought my 50S myself, though I did get a discount from MusicTeck in exchange for a review. I have done quite a few reviews, I always pay for my gear, and only buy what I am personally interested in. I don’t spend any time reviewing things for anyone else, this is a passion, and I do because I want to. I spent an exorbitant amount on time doing this, and I love every minute of it. There is never a promise of a favorable review in any way, my words and impressions are my own. I offer in the hope that they can help others along their audio journey, the same way the myriad reviews I read as a beginner helped me enormously. I can’t thank those that came before me enough for their immeasurable assistance, guidance and gracious patience with me. If you want one for yourself I suggest buying it from MusicTeck. Andrew is a true gentleman, and the nicest guy to work with. Kind and accommodating, shipping to me in the EU is usually 2 days and I’m a happy camper. I receive absolutely nothing from this recommendation, just want to pass on my good experiences there, and MT is the best in the biz. You can find it here.




All my listening was with the Aroma Jewel and 64A 18t. I used the Sony WM1ZM2 mostly, but did some testing also on the A&K SP3K. I also used the N8ii, P6 Pro, RS8 and LP6 Ti AE in the past, but those impressions will be from memory and my extensive notes. I’m a musician and engineer as a profession, so I do err on the side of realistic over extraordinary in terms of tuning. I am not a scientific guy, this is all based on feeling end emotions. That being said I do a ton of A/B testing, to the point of madness most times, so when I say I hear something it’s after a ton of scrutiny and effort on my part. Please keep in mind that these are my thoughts only, I speak in experience and impression only, not in facts.



FYI I pay no attention to packaging or any of that, a box is a box and it just goes in a drawer like the rest, so I will spend no time on it. Suffice to say the 50S comes in a back metal box with nothing else. Pure and simple.



Let’s get into it!






The 50s Shielding is an uncolored monster. Unbridled resolution, top tier dynamics, wide stage but also intimate when called for, all with a crystal clear presentation that leaves nothing unheard or unfelt. It could even be described as surgical, so clean and clear. It is very linear, without a single shred of FR out of place or peaks in any way. The balance is incredible, and one of its defining features for me. Having owned the Orpheus, it’s hard to compete with that in terms of a copper sound. I’m not here to say that the 50S bests the Orphy, it doesn’t. The Orphy is an absolute beast as mentioned earlier, with the widest stage I’ve ever heard and so much micro detail and texture, all in a natural and sublimely musical analog presentation. Vocals and instruments are ridiculously awesome sounding on it, that mid forwardness and thick note vibe is intoxicating. It’s simply staggering. But, if I had one complaint/criticism for the Orphy it would be that it’s a bit imposing. No matter IEM I used it with, it would also sound like Orphy. It is also quite smooth and slower paced, with a strong emphasis on mid bass and rolled off highs, which sometimes left me wanting a bit more extension on both ends. The 50S has about 95% of the Orphy’s abilities, but it removes those somewhat imposing qualities and exchanges them for an ultra clear and uncolored tonality in exchange. Gone is the mid forwardness and mid bass bump, instead you have godly resolution without the imposition. Now, some may certainly prefer the colored tonality, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the extra musicality the Orphy brings, I love it dearly myself. But I do find myself really enjoying the 50S especially for that reason. It’s different but also lust-worthy. Some albums that could be a bit too mid focused, too much mid bass, or the highs too tamed down for me with the Orphy, the 50S brings all that back while keeping the magic there. The FTS, OTL and Brise 8W certainly have their advantages and uniqueness here too - but we’ll get into that later on. Let me just say it clearly here, the 50s is technically one of the most impressive cables I’ve heard to date, but the magic is the balance.









BASS

The 50S has amazing bass. I remember how great the bass was on the OG 1950s. Powerful and punchy, reaching low and with great authority. It was fairly neutral, but with a fantastic tonality. The Shielding version is just better. Reaches deeper, more punch and speed too. Texture is fabulous, rich and rumbly, never bleeding in the mids. The control is one aspect I find most improved with the added shielding, the bass gets so much more taught and moving, like someone added a ton of headroom with a powerful amp, there is just a feeling of tightness and punch that never feels wooly or thumpy. When the track calls for massive bass it will knock your head off, but it also gets out of the way completely if the track doesn’t feature a heavy low end. I hear it very linearly, all the way to the deepest rumble, there is no emphasis in any particular part of the bass, which makes for a really enjoyable low end in my opinion. Vintage bass, ultra modern throbbing synth lines, thunderous bass kicks, they all sound epic and controlled. Keep in mind that the 50S is uncolored or boosted here, which means it will be present the bass the way your source and IEMs do. So if you have a bass shy IEM, or a boosted mega canon, they will stay that way, just tighter, more controlled and punchy, reaching deeper, really textured and wondrous. I have never tried an IEM with the 50S whose bass didn’t improve dramatically. If you’re a real bass head in terms of quantity this might not be your cable, but in terms of quality this is one of the best I’ve heard.




I did some bass tests just for fun and I was very impressed with the 50S’ abilities in keeping with the original track mix. I use jazz records from Pat Metheny, Avishai Cohen, Joshua Redman ,GoGo Penguin, Robert Glasper and John Coltrane along with some more modern stuff like Snarky Puppy, Moonchild, Hiatus Kayote and Talking Heads. Then some heavy stuff like Tool, Meshuggah and Gojira. Finally some bass heavy mixes like D’Angelo, Emancipator, FKJ, Asgeir, Bonobo, and even Billie Eilish just to show the deepest range. (I do love electronic music, I just don’t have a huge library of truly bass intensive music so I cannot comment on that aspect fully) I was astonished to hear how well the 50S handled them all. James Garrison’s upright bass was clear with plenty of growl, Micheal League’s ’62 P-Bass was punchy with just a touch of that early Fender woofy magic. Avishai Cohen has a ton of finger noise is his tone, it was so percussive and snappy, I felt like he was siting right in front of me. I could even feel the low end from his upright shaking my feet, wild stuff. All the heavy music never got muddy and stayed tight, I could even clearly discern what kind of bass amp they were using, instead of just a boomy thump. D’Angelo and Moonchild was sub-bass heaven, and even with Billie Eilish torture tracks, those deep and dirty mixes slammed my head off without breaking up. I was especially impressed with how it was able to handle Asgeir’s Bury The Moon album, delicate acoustic instruments and reverb drenched falsetto, with that dirty electronic bass and crackling production down below never sounding murky or closed in. The Orphy made this album almost unlistenable for me, it was just a wild mess of lower mids and midbass in a sea of overlapping boosted frequencies. The 50S showed off the intricate subtleties better and got out of the way more. I have never heard a cable sound so wildly chameleon, its ability to adapt is incredible.




Comparing the FTS and OTL, both feature more of a colored bass, slightly more boosted, with the FTS featuring the sub bass more, and OTL having a bump in the mid bass. Both the FTS and OTL are very fast and punchy in the low end. The Orphy also has some extra bass thrown in there, and is slower and more analog sounding, favoring mid bass over the relatively minute sub-bass region. The Brise 8W has a touch over neutral in quantity, reaching lower than all of them, fast with very good texture and control. The 50S is totally even in this area, reaching as low as the track calls for, with a bit less in quantity overall, but still slamming when called upon. Brise 8W and FTS both have a bit more sub bass, Brise is faster and FTS is a bit slower comparatively. Orphy has amazing control, but slower attack. OTL is uber punchy and textured, some of the best I’ve heard from a cable. Now this is all ultra nitpicking, but since we’re splitting hairs here I personally prefer the a more neutral tuning vs colored and boosted bass presentations most of the time. This is of course IEM and source dependent, so keep that in mind. Brise 8W and 50S have the most comparable bass presentations here, while the Brise has a touch more quantity, and sub bass they are both linear-ish, punchy and awesome. Pick your poison, they all have amazing bass.









MIDS

Coming from my guitarist and studio recording background the buck starts and stops with the midrange. Mid are where it’s at for me. It’s also where most “real” instruments live, and where vocals and harmonies flow. That isn’t to say that other frequencies are less important, but for me mids have to be correctly presented or I lose interest. The 50S mids are sparklingly clear and open, incredibly detailed and resolving while always sounding natural. I hear no embellishment or frequency peaks of any kind, just pure unadulterated midrange that is simply fabulous. There is just so much detail it’s wild, but keeping that copper natural sound. If you’re not used to it, it can be a bit intense at the beginning. Remember that surgical comment from earlier? The mids is where you hear it most, but fear not, it’s not sharp or harsh in any way, just really really resolving. Transients are tight but never aggressive or overly ambitious, keeping the music fast paced when it calls for it, relaxed when the tunes get more mellow, and everything in between. Again that Chameleon thing, if it’s intense music then it will be really intense, but it can also be relaxed and enjoyable for hours and hours with zero fatigue. From the plucks of a distorted Pink Floyd guitar string, or the wispy lip smacking of Norah Jones, the screaming organ of Jethro Tull, or the sinfully percussive attack of Coltrane’s horn, everything is clear, clear, clear. There is equal weight to the lower and higher mids, so drums thwack and thump, snares don’t sound thinned out or given more attack via some EQ weirdness. I can hear the drumhead attack so clearly, along with the decay and bloom like I’m right there next to it. Guitars are epic. Put on Tool’s Vicarious and be treated to some of the best guitar and drum mixes you’ll ever hear. Huge and stunning, but clean, clear and precise too. Instruments sound real and lively. Vocals are sublime and neither too wet and gooey, nor too cold or lacking in emotion. Male and Female vocals sound correctly weighted, and never too thick or thinned out for airyness’ sake. It does equally well with something tender and light handed too - Joni Mitchell, Steel Dan or Fleetwood Mac sound straight off the mixing console. Listening to Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach cello suites was a life altering experience, I could hear his breathing and the scratching of the bow against the strings as clear as day.




For vocals testing I used some of my favorite artists such as Jacob Collier, Jordan Rakei, RY-X, Kandace Springs, Lianne La Havas and Gregory Porter. From the deepest Porter baritone to Collier’s falsetto nothing was out of place, nothing too thin or too thick, they all simply sounded deeply moving and effortlessly clear. Kandace Springs has a huge range, and I was very happy to hear that her voice was splendidly portrayed throughout. She can rumble the floor or test your tweeters for peak range, she’s amazing. Lianne was epically gorgeous, every inflection and wisper was so present, so clear and articulated - never once did I hear harshness or peakiness which the Jewel can sometimes have for female voices. This is an incredibly musical midrange, but undeniably clean and clear. With the Jewel, whose mids are more forward and super resolving to begin with, I find this type of presentation lustful and reference at the same time.




I’m a big heavy music fan, and when I get in the mood I want it to blow my hair back. Speaking about muddiness, I love chugging heavy guitars, and this can be a torture test for lower mids (and the rest of the mids too). One test I always do is with the newest Meshuggah album, man is it heavy…. damn. The guitars are tuned super low and unbelievably thick sounding, and I gauge how good the separation is, and whether or not things gets broken up, lost in the mix or turning too analytical or crispy. The Orphy has great spread and the mid resolution is unmatched, but it’s quite thick note-weight wise, and on the slower side. It also has that mid bass bump, and I sometimes felt that made for a bit of muddiness and lack of energy. FTS is a tad soft as well, but with a touch of upper mid/treble energy that can make for fatigue on heavy mixes. The Brise 8W is fast and articulate with thicker note weight, but also features a bit of upper mid energy around 2Khz that I know some really enjoy, but it was a bit too much with the Jewel’s extra presence there. The OTL is nice and tight in the low mids, but it has thinner leaner upper mids, plus that extra upper treble emphasis makes heavy music too bright for me, too crispy. The 50S absolutely SMASHES with heavy music. Meshuggah never sounded so clear - their deepest darkest insanity is portrayed in stunning clarity, never breaking up or getting lost. It’s super fast and articulate, crazy detailed with fast and clean transients. It has perfect note weight, with great layering and an even top end that never overemphasizes the splashy-trashy-grittyness that is metal. Love it - highest recommendation for heaviness.




Comparing the mids to our other TOTL contenders: The Orphy has the uber stretched out, thick and wondrous mids, best in the business. While the Orpheus mids have slightly more micro details and more note weight, the 50S is the more “correct” of the two, never exaggerating in any way. The Orphy is more sinful, more musical, more open and wider stage, but not by that much. The 50S has very similar technical abilities but keeps the stage size a bit more natural and spherical instead of crazy wide, but it never sounds crowded or closed up at all. I do prefer a slightly more mid forward sound if I am being honest, the 50S doesn’t affect this, the Orphy has the sweet spot for me there, FTS also has somewhat forward mids too. But I do like them both, different but both extremely detailed and impressively musical. The Brise 8W comes closer to the Orphy than any others in terms of raw resolution and abilities, it is a massively impressive cable. Transients are smooth, but the energy is fast and dynamic. Very detailed and great note weight. The Brise does sound a bit more modern to me than the others, like a hybrid cable mixing a bit of silver or exotic materials in there. There isn’t a hint of harshness or extra brightness commonly associated with some hybrids, it is very smooth and natural, but very dynamic. I could happily live sonically with the Orphy or Brise 8W forever and never leave anything wanting in terms of mids, they are both stellar. FTS and OTL have a lighter more neutral touch, not as much detail as Orphy but both impressive. While FTS is a tad mid forward but linear here, with a touch of extra energy in the upper midrange. The transients and speed of FTS is closer to Brise, it has more bite and attack than 50S. OTL begins to thin out here, going instead for a lighter more ethereal tonality. I mentioned this in my review, and honestly the thinner upper mids of the OTL was one of the main reasons I didn’t buy it for myself. I know for a fact this is a main reason a lot of people love it, so always YMMV. The 50S has a more neutral sound than all the above, but never sterile or lean. Note weight is somehow fat and powerful, but not imposingly so. It’s not thick, it doesn’t add weight like the Orphy or Brise 8W, the 50S is clear and open, but it is very satisfying in the way. For the most weighty and lush mids the Orphy stands alone, but just behind is the Brise 8W, 50S and FTS, and then the OTL being the thinnest. Again I must state, these are all amazing midranges, and I am splitting hairs down to the subatomic level here. You can’t go wring with any of them.









TREBLE

Like the rest of the spectrum, the 50S remains clean and clear up to the top end as well. There is plenty of air, shimmer and sparkle when called for, but there is NO EXTRA anything if it’s not there to begin with. Like most copper cables, especially Cardas, there is a slight roll off on the uppermost frequencies, but it doesn’t feel constricted or missing airiness. It is well extended and natural, smooth and well defined. That top notch resolution continues in the high end, sparkle and crashes are super clean and controlled but light on their feet at the same time. I will be the first to admit that I have a sensitivity in the treble region, and too much spice or sparkle can make me uncomfortable. I have worked on this, and my limit has been raised, but I am always cautious of ultra energetic treble sounds. With the 50S there is a sense of pleasantness and freedom in the high end, without lacking an ounce of energy and clarity, the high end is super comfortable for me. I would highly recommend this cable for anyone that has a treble sensitivity, but I must stress that it’s not missing any sparkle, it’s just presented in a very relaxed and open way.




What I really love about the 50S is how linear it is in terms of note weight. Usually a cable has a big low end, fast and thicker low mids, slightly leaner upper mids and the high end tapers off into a whisper. I find this kind of distracting as instruments with higher pitch have less body. This is not the way we hear it live, a cymbal smash can have lot of weight, guitar solos at the high end shouldn’t trail off into space completely. The 50S keeps that even note weight all the way to the top. Even with the highest notes, I never get the ethereal otherworldly quality. With EST treble there can be that lovely sensation of soft touch in the highest ranges, notes flicker and shimmer, floating in space. The 50S keeps that, but there isn’t the artificial tapering off like some cables do in favor of extra air. While the OTL has a fantastic high end, there is a treble emphasis there, adding in some golden sparkle. It’s something that I did truly enjoy during my time reviewing it. This isn’t a negative per se, only that I found it to be somewhat fatiguing after some time with the brighter material, and I prefer a more neutral presentation of my high end. Some might call the OTL bright, I would just say treble focused, and it did indeed capture my attention a bit too often for my tastes.




I have a test track for treble, it’s from Jacob Collier’s Djesse 2 album, called “Feel”. It starts off with this kick drum hit that decays into space, and floating above there is this flickering, shimmering, sparkling noise going on up top. I hear this very differently depending on which cable and source I am testing. I find it a very honest test of “airiness”. The Orphy removes almost all of it, while OTL makes it very apparent. FTS and Brise I hear it very nicely, with just a touch more emphasis, but very clear and airy. The 50S has all the same details but it sounds more in the background and not as forward, relaxed but resolving. Choose what you prefer here, treble is quite a personal preference thing. I tend to err on the side of cation to avoid any fatigue or harshness. For treble heads, and those that like a lot of treble emphasis and extra sparkle this might not be the best choice. I would instead go for the OTL, it has probably the best treble of any cable I have heard. The 50S just doesn’t shine a light there as much as others do, the treble is fantastic quality though, just not featured.




If I had to rank the cables I am comparing here in terms of treble emphasis it would be as follows: OTL being the most treble focused, then Brise 8W or FTS, then 50S, Orpheus. The Brise isn’t a bright cable at all, but there is a bit of a modern twist to the tuning, and it has a tiny peak in the upper mids/lower treble that brings more attention to those frequencies. The Brise’s “hybrid” sound is featured here, perhaps more than in the midrange. Keep in mind that it is very natural and extended organically. Same with the FTS, while being more old school/analog in tuning, has a slight touch of extra treble energy there, but in no way would I call it bright. The FTS is definitely more energetic here, with more bite and sparkle, but not on the level as OTL. The 50S and Orphy both have that copper slight roll off, but the Orphy’s roll off is more extreme, sometimes feeling that there is indeed something missing or omitted. The 50S has a more relaxed high end than others, but I never feel as though something is missing, it’s all there, just faithfully presented and slightly relaxed. That means if you have a brighter IEM and want to soften the top end, the 50S and Orphy would do that, but the 50S won’t actually remove anything, just soften the uppermost frequencies a tad. The Orphy makes it more analog and can, in some cases, remove information up top. All these cables have great extension and air up top. The most would be the OTL as it extends almost to infinity. The Brise and FTS would be next, in a more relaxed and subdued way compared to OTL, both with amazing extension and air. The 50S is very very good but just not its defining trait. The Orpheus has the most analog top end, and while there is a ton of air and space, there is not so much sparkle or energy present.











SOUNDSTAGE AND NOISE FLOOR

Stage size is a bit of a loaded term, and can be quite dependent on a person’s feelings about what space really is. Some cables push super wide and stretch the imagination of how big a mix can be. Others are more spherical and round, expanding up and down just as much as wide and deep. The widest stage I have heard is the Orpheus, northing quite compares to how big and spacious it is, especially in the midrange. Guitars sound like they are panned extra far out, giving your music this sense of grandiosity and epic-ness I have yet to hear in other cables. The 50S has a large stage, but it keeps the instruments a bit closer and more intimate and instead stretches the reverb and tiny details further out of your head, which is a bit more like how one would hear things live. Vocals are placed right above your head in the center, guitars and drums fill out the space around you like you’re sitting inside the band rather than a few seats back. I hear all kinds of reverb, space, decay and fine details stretching waaay out in space allowing the instruments to occupy the center, and all that space wraps around your head. This is especially evident using the Jewel, which has a large spherical stage already, which is further amplified to great effect. If memory serves me correctly, when I owned the Traillii the stage with the 50S was amazing, keeping the wide space it’s know for, but confining the instruments more to the center giving the sound great weight and midrange focus, but never giving up one iota of air and width. It was quite intoxicating, and I actually preferred the 50S over the stock Traillii cable, or really anything except for the Orpheus. The 50S stage is big, airy, open and grand, but never too stretched out. Instruments have great placement and layering, I never have difficulty picking out anything minute details even in some crazy crowded music.




To compare, again the Orpheus has the widest stage most notably in the midrange. It is indeed amazing and grand, very impressive especially with the Traillii, total 3D immersion. The Brise 8W is the closest to the 50S in terms of stage, they both place instruments at the center and then give off a huge expansive stage all around. One might call them more intimate, but I feel that is missing the point, this isn’t about width, it’s about the shape of the space as well. FTS has a slightly narrower stage, and not as deep as Orpheus, but on par in "size" to 50S. OTL has a very tall stage but less in the depth and width department, and it thins out as things get higher resulting in less weight to the notes. This could also be why it feels almost endless in the stage at the top end, it just goes off to infinity. If I had to try and describe the 50S stage I would say a circle, it all seems to start at the center and float outwards at even lengths resulting in a lovely circular stage in all directions. The Orpheus would be more like an oval, hugely circular, but with the midrange stretching out at the widest edges. FTS would be a narrower oval, with the high and low end stretching a bit further but keeping the mids more intimate. The OTL would be a reverse pyramid, the high end having the largest and most space and getting smaller and more intimate as it goes downwards. Note weight would be the opposite, where the low end is the most thick, and it gets thinner and leaner as it goes up.





All these cables have extremely black backgrounds. Notes pop out of nowhere, bringing a sense of micro details and space. The Brise, Orphy, FTS and 50S all feature additional shielding and therefor have the blackest backgrounds. If I was forced to choose I would probably give this to Brise, their multi layered shielding technique is one of their brands defining traits and it is implemented to perfection here. The PW shielding magic is very very impressive on its own, so you can’t really go wrong here. The OTL is unshielded, and while the background is dark it’s not on the same level as the others. During my time with the OTL I never noticed a lack there, but when I A/B’ed with the others it was noticeable. All the PW Shielding cables have extremely black backgrounds and notes float in a sea of pitch black space. With well recorded modern music it is quite amazing, that ultra pitch black background - sometimes I thought I forgot to press play it’s so quiet. But then the music starts and I am enveloped in a cavernous sonic blanket of wowzers - to coin a phrase.









FEEL AND BUILD

Going purely on an ergonomic and cosmetic basis the 50S has a rather unique look to it. Coming adorned with that PW Magic shielding covering up to the Y split, above we see the bare grey matte wires that to me scream Cardas. They are reasonably soft and pliable, a bit plasticky before they break in, but going over the ears and sitting nicely. The other PW cables feature colored paracord sheathing which I always found to be quite comfortable once it breaks in and gets soft. Nice to the touch, and satisfying my musician’s need for cables to be extremely resistant to ware and tear. In terms of hardware we have the newer versions of PW’s black hardware, identical to FTS and Orphy, something I have mentioned many times as a great positive. I love the PW hardware, especially how small and low profile there were able to make the 2-pin connectors. At the end is an official Pentaconn5 4.4mm plug wrapped with the PW logo on a small piece of shrink wrap. Normally I don’t think TOTL cables should have any shrink - I’m talking about you Brise - but it’s quite small and gives the cable an extra bit of security while plugging and unplugging. My only issue with the 50S is the chin cinch doesn’t work well, and more often than not I find it down by the Y-split. It uses the same cinch as all the other PW cables, but because the bare wires are thinner it doesn’t hold well. That could be solved easily with the Pentaconn slider sold my Electech, which is a super cool accessory. Or you might not care, just wanted to mention it.











Comparing ergo with this group of cables is not an easy one. With the exception of the OTL which is lovely to use and very light and comfy, the rest are big thick monsters. None of them are really “comfortable” when you think about the size of most standard cables. The OTL is vastly smaller and lighter, not even in the same league for ergonomics, far better. That being said, I never had an issue with the ergo of the Orphy, or the other PW Shielding cables for that matter - I wear them out and about every day. A lot of my listening is walking around, sitting in the tram, train or plane while traveling. Perhaps I am a weirdo, but it never really bothered me, and the SQ I get was always worth it. The 50S has a smaller gauge wire, so it is noticeably thinner. While it’s not a light cable by any stretch of the imagination, it is thinner and lighter than Orphy and FTS which are identical here, maybe 35% or so. The 50S is definitely the most comfortable of the PW bunch, simply based on physics: it coils up smaller, sits on the ear lighter, just a smaller cable. If anyone has tried the PW Shielding cables and had issues with weight, the 50S is indeed more manageable while still retaining the robust and industrial look and feel the shielding provides.










That leaves the Brise, which I am torn about. It is really thick and stiff, and has this rubbery feel to it. Once you get it situated and placed I found it to basically disappear, as the ear hooks are so big the cable more or less floats above your ear. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was wearing this thick rubbery snake on my neck, and moving around or walking about was much less comfortable for me. And then there’s that shrink. The cable itself is fairly soft and pliable, but my 8W came with 7 inches of extra shrink wrap around the 4.4mm in no less than 5 layers! The 2 pins are so covered you can’t see them or really adjust the ear hooks from all the layers of shrink. Why? The magic shielding is in the cable itself, so this is just security I guess, it seems hugely unnecessary to me. I actually (carefully) removed most of the extra shrink from the 4.4mm plug and the handling was instantly improved ten fold. I could even coil it up in a standard case. I totally get the insane levels of shielding, for SQ is fantastic, but the shrink is rather ridiculous. It just looks and feels cheap to me. I’m all for simplicity, I think it’s even preferred for my tastes, but this goes a bit too far for a cable costing almost $3k. It is a bummer, as I know quite a few 8W owners that sold it based on this alone. I know Brise is often praised for their build quality, but for the 8W specifically I would have to politely disagree on that, especially compared to the Orphy and Co. Sorry if I make anyone angry, I am just trying to be honest.




What I am trying to say while rambling here, is that all these cables (OTL aside) have their compromises in terms of ergo - and you are the only one who can decide what it is worth for you. Orphy and Brise 8W might be the highest performing cables in this group, but Orphy/FTS win by a mile on ergo over the Brise. But the Brise SQ is fabulous, and for some could even beat the Orphy in technicals. The 50S is even better than Orphy, and OTL is the lightest and easiest.








CONCLUSION


And so, here we are. There really is so much great stuff to choose from in the TOTL cable arena right now, all these cables are incredible. They’re also all stupid expensive, the 50S being the “cheapest “ of the bunch at a measly $2400 in hard earned cash. The build costs vs sale price is insane and those responsible for this epidemic of price gauging should be severely punished for eternity, but I digress. I purposely wrote this review completely devoid of cost comparisons, because I feel the SQ, staging, and resolving powers we are talking about here can be contemplated beyond the price tag. That doesn’t mean I am saying sell a kidney to buy the Orphy, quite the contrary. What I find to be so interesting is just how well the 50S fares against the GOAT cables on trial here. In many ways it beats them all in certain areas, depending on the tuning you prefer of course. All that with the lowest price tag of the bunch - I find that very interesting indeed.




Some of you may have read my extensive reviews of both FTS and OTL. I loved them both to pieces, and nearly bought them both at different times. The only thing that stopped me was how they accentuated certain areas, pushed the FR out of balance, (by design for sure) and that pure and magical balance that haunted my dreams was somehow missing. The Brise is already a legend, unbelievably good sound, but for many the wear comfort and ergo might be the nail in the coffin. THE FTS is fabulous, but that extra notch of treble energy ad the sharper transients were not totally to my liking. The 50S stands alone for me in some way, I loved it so much I bought it twice. It has that perfect balance I was searching for, top notch technicals and the best ergo of the fatty shielding cables I tried. After spending a lot of time with the cables featured here, and owning the Orpheus, I think the 50S just might be the best cable you can buy for the price. That is a bold statement, I know. Get out your pitchforks. The Orpheus is amazing, and I do miss it sometimes, I just might buy it again down the road. But for less than half its price I find the 50S to offer 95% of its abilities, in a thinner, lighter, and more neutral uncolored tuning that works with absolutely anything I throw at it. The Orphy brought me to tears more than once, but in certain pairings it was a bit too thick and lacking extension. The 50S is a tad less musical but it works for anything, the Chameleon. I prefer the 50S’ tuning over the FTS even with it's similar technical prowess, and to me the 50S has a touch more cleanliness. The OTL is fabulous, but a bit ethereal sounding for me, and it brings too much emphasis to the treble for my ears. The Brise 8W is amazing, hugely musical and extremely resolving, but ultimately uncomfortable and stiff. I find the 50S to portray everything evenly, with ultra clear precision and amazing detail, never steering too far away from natural. That deeply resolving nature is its calling card - you probably understand by now why they call it Cardas Clear. Like a pane of glass, you can see EVERYTHING. That’s the Cardas way, their magic sauce, extreme resolution without losing out on musicality. It does it damn well in my opinion, perhaps better than anything else available.




Can I recommend it to others? Hell yeah I can. It just may be the most future proof cable investment you could make, since it plays so well with anything you pair it with. Any IEM will perform at its highest potential. It won’t give you ultra boosted bass or sparkle for days, that you can find elsewhere for less. The 50S’ superman power is the balance. Uncolored yet undeniably musical, it receives my highest recommendation.



If you want one for yourself, you can get it here.




Thanks for reading!

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