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pw Orpheus: The myth, the monster, the legend




Arguably the best IEM cable ever made, the Orpheus has magic in spades, with an 'oh so groovy' analog character. Pitch black background, crazy micro-details and a vast stage with a nice relaxed feel make this cable a legend.




Pros:

-Unmatched technical abilities


-Insane resolution


-Largest stage of any cable I have heard


-Extremely musical


-Breathtaking mids


-Smooth and analog


Cons:

-Price


-Weight


-Top end lacking extension


-Warmth could be too much for some


-Treble roll-off could be too much for some


-Smooth and analog (for some pairings)




Greetings dear Head-fiers and welcome to my review of the fabled PWAudio Orpheus. There is a huge amount of hype around this cable for two reasons; one is the incredible sonic performance, the other is the price. I can attest that yes, it is in fact one of the most incredible cables I have ever heard, perhaps even the most so if you are a copper signature fan. But that’s painting the Orphy into a corner, it is far more than just a copper cable. Its ability to present insane amounts of detail and resolution while also remaining ridiculously musical and natural is something I have yet to hear another cable do. To me it is redefining physics as I know it, breakneck abilities in a smooth and expansive sound that needs to be heard to believe. This review has taken me longer than others, not because it’s hard to write, but because the Orphy sits so close to my heart. I remember the first time I plugged it in - I was using the Traillii at the time- and I had never heard anything like it in my life. Stage stretching to next week, crazy amounts of detail and a jet-pitch-ultra black background making microdetails and tiny whispers fly around me like a sonic storm of butterflies and golden whispers. It was HUGE, and I was blown away. Honestly, I have yet to hear anything that truly rivals it. Yes there are some other cables that are mind-blowing, we have never had such a plethora of goodies at our disposal. But the Orphy’s magic blend of musicality, emotion, analog sweetness and detail stands alone, in my opinion at least. Strangely, I haven’t read a full length review of the Orpheus, loads of impressions and hype, but nothing that goes into full detail. Perhaps no-one wanted to take it out of their ears long enough to write about it! So I am happy to be reviewing it myself now, to be an Orphy owner myself, having spent 100s of hours devouring its lushness and intoxicating sonics, and sharing that with you all. Now, the second hype - is the price, and for that I have no comment. I can hear the hecklers already ripping this review to pieces, shouting from the rooftops that no-one in their right mind should pay this much for a cable. You may be right. And it is true, the price is ludicrous indeed. This is however a review of how this legend cables sounds, not a debate of prices, worth and diminishing returns. This is a review for people who want it all, who wish to ride the wave to the very cusp of insanity and perfection, letting both toes skim the water on either side. If you think cables are snake oil or a useless upgrade, for all of our sakes, just stop reading. This is true summit-fi, the peak, quite possibly the best cable ever made with a price tag to match. So, to keep things on track this review will focus on SONICS, ERGO, SYNERGY and COMPARISONS ONLY. No need to spend pages discussing at length the merits of a cable that costs as much as a good used car. So I won’t. This will be about sound, feel, emotion, and the ocean of pleasure and tickling happiness I find myself in whenever I use it. It’s crazy good, I’m not shy in saying so, so let’s get into it.








THE PREAMBLE

I bought the Orphy myself from MusicTeck, though I did receive a discount in exchange for review. As usual, nothing was required of me other than to present my impressions and findings to the community in an honest and open way. I review because I enjoy it, I love it really, and I only review things that interest me. I’m an audiophile in the most extreme sort of way, and cables are something I love to test, review, and own if I love it enough. For the comparison section I have reviewed many of the cables included in this review before, so I really recommend reading those reviews if you’re really serious about TOTL cables. You can find them here. Do remember that some of these reviews were months or years ago, memories fade, and sometimes we feel a bit different about something the 2nd, 3rd or 11th time we hear it. So in keeping as transparent as possible I will offer my most current findings, along with impressions and memories of past cable reviews based on my in-depth notes. I will be comparing the Orpheus to the other top dogs, since that’s what would interest, and educate you all the most I assume. Included in this review I will compare the Orpheus, 1950s Shielding, First Times Shielding, and Brise Yatano 8W. For testing I used my main squeeze Jewel as a baseline for reference, and then a plethora of others including Storm, Mentor, Mason FS, Elysian X and Annihalator, FF Maestro, 64A 18t, Noir and Blanc and the Fir RN6. For DAPs I used my current favs: the LP6 Ti AE and Sony 1ZM2, as well as extended time with the SP3000, DX300MAX, P6 Pro, and (a while back) the Cayin N8ii. Before people say I am trying to convince them to sell a kidney or skip several years of their kids’ birthday presents for the Orphy, I am absolutely, emphatically, not saying anything off the kind. This is only a cable, and there are other great cables for a lot less. The Orphy is for those that really, really care, who have the income or addiction to support such a grandiose purchase, and don’t need to miss rent or live off Ramen for months to make it happen. Keep the G.A.S. in check here friends



If you do decide to get one for yourself, I cannot recommend Andrew at MusicTeck more. He's the best in the business, and a nicer and more accommodating guy you will not find. I receive absolutely nothing for this link, just want to share my good experiences. You can get yours here. (https://shop.musicteck.com/products/pwaudio-orpheus-with-shielding)










ERGO, PACKAGING AND AESTHETICS

The Orphy is not a small or light cable. It’s a python wrapped in blue and black nylon that brings as much weight and girth sonically as it does physically. It is a beast in all senses of the word. I personally really like how it looks. Black wrapped nylon shielding makes up the bottom half up to the Y split, brilliant deep blue paracord wrap on the wires up to the ears. PW satin black hardware all the way, simple, clean and visually quite appealing to those that prefer a more understand look. No shiny bare wires, no gleam, no chrome or fancy stuff in any way. It’s all covered up, like a prototype super car that doesn’t want to give away its secrets. If it didn’t have such an imposing look one might not even notice it on the subway, but really there’s no way not to look at it. It screams wow, even if that scream is under your breath and more of a woah… what is that?!?!? I know I might be in the minority here, but I think it’s one of the most beautiful cables made, it’s just so cool. Batman murdered out dark madness with that streak of midnight blue flare to give it just enough personally to crawl out of the secret sauce from whence it came.



In use the Orphy for me is quite comfortable. It is heavy, thick and somewhat cumbersome at first but you do get used to it. I use mine on the subway and trams, in the plane, on my couch, at my desk, and on long walks in the park, never bothers me really. That doesn’t mean it’s not heavy, but it is for lack of a better word, comfy for what it is. It is a bit stiff when brand new, but it softens quite a bit and when you use it for a month or so it is very comfortable when the nylon breaks in. Same goes for curling it up, harder when new but gets pretty tight when it softens. I never had a problem fitting it into any case I have, as long as you do it slowly, and carefully. To be clear, compared to “normal” size cables it’s huge and that should be known from the get-go. The weight takes some getting used to, but honestly I now feel weird wearing thinner cables like something is missing, the feeling of girth, quality and robustness just isn’t there. I think the same could be said for big watches, they feel huge on the first day, and then they sort of disappear and you never notice them again.



For such a crazy expensive cable the packaging is relatively basic and simple. I never really get into the packaging since I never use it or give it the slightest glance after I take the cable out. But, all told the Orphy comes in a small somewhat ornate black box that opens up like a jewelry case with a little golden clasp, revealing like a pearl, the traditional PWAudio black milled aluminum box all PW cables come with. The outer box has some cool textural pattern work on it, with the Orpheus logo in shiny silver. I personally don’t know anyone that displays their cables in a fancy box, but I am sure they are out there. This is nothing like the gorgeous thematic designs of Eletech, or the insanely priced Effect Audio Centurion box. You buy a cable, you get a cable. That’s just fine with me, some may have other points of view on this, I personally don’t care. Moving on to the good stuff!









SOUND

This is the part that gets me really excited. While we do gaze at our gear in glee, admiring its design, lusting after the way it makes us feel, in the end we (hopefully) spend most of our time actually listening to it. So how does it sound? The Orphy is simply stunning. Hyperbole meant, this another level entirely over basically everything else. It breaks the mold for copper, or really any material for that matter, resulting in a cascading symphony of gorgeously detailed and insanely emotional music. It takes my breath away, it really does. If I count the number of times I cried while listening to music in recent years on portable audio, the Orphy was there 96% of the time. It does something nothing else does, I honestly don’t know exactly how to explain it. It’s like this immense soundscape all around you, everything is perfectly placed and extremely layered and textured, instruments brimming with intensity or subtle gentle flurry, all the while wisps of golden micro details float and pluck all around you. It’s glorious. But the way it does all that, that’s what makes it special. I’ve said it and I’ll say it again, nothing quite sounds like the Orphy. There are some that are close, quite close even, some with different tunings and flavors, mixtures of exotic materials and cutting edge tech, but nothing stands quite as tall when it comes down to true analog sound and falling helplessly into the velvety blanket of pure immersion.



When you first plug in you are greeted by the most immense stage you’ve ever heard. It’s huge, gargantuan. Yes, in the world of full size headphones IEMs can’t hold a torch to the stage of open backs, but this is the largest stage I have ever heard with portable gear and IEMs. With the SP3000 or MAX it’s crazy big, stretching out to the sides and around behind you in a way I didn’t think was possible. With the 1ZM2 and LP6 AE it keeps the instruments closer but stretches the stage so wide I can hear actually space in-between the snare hit and its reverb bouncing off the studio wall, then back again. Really. Reminds me of listening to speakers six feet apart and slightly toed in, everything just wraps around you while keeping voices and featured instruments right in front of you, like a solo performance just for you. It isn’t the tallest stage out there, but depth and width are indeed extreme and awe inspiring. There is so much space and air between the layers I feel like can see through them, nothing ever crowded or lacking definition. I was listening to Kandace Springs’ Indigo while writing this, there’s this percussive ticking so far behind my head that I actually turned around to see who was behind me. Her voice was captivating, sitting right above my head and slightly further back, giving her space to float and breathe without being to intimate or too far away. Deep kick drums, shaker way off to the left, claps on the right, I can hear at least 5 unison backup vocals clearly enough to pick out which is her, and which is the slightly different voice of her producer. All while being so incredibly musical I feel she’s singing just to me. Mind blown.



EDM is wild with this size stage too, polished well mastered electronic music is freakishly enjoyable. The bass is huge and impactful, then all the synths and digital instruments throb and pulse like you’re physically swept away with all that is happening between your ears. Then the rain of space and reverbs drift off in all directions to the point I can’t tell where they end. Phaser sounds and pads are immense and stretch out and above you like rain and fog. Instruments sound and feel real. The nice thing is the stage isn’t wide for wide’s sake. I never feel like I am too far away, or that things have become stretched past the realm of realistic or natural. Heavy guitars are panned way off to the sides, but they never lose their impact or feel stretched out. Jazz I can hear where in the room the musicians were sitting, but it sounds very natural. Yo-Yo Ma or Brad Mehldau solos feel like you’re sitting inside a 1000 year old concert hall, and you’re alone on the stage with them. Rock and funk have impact, space and grit when called for, keeping that funky baseline tight and deep. It’s screaming anthems, soft timbre, ultra deep and wide, and everything in between.



If you have never heard shielding cables, it’s hard to fully describe how back the background is, or what that really means to a listener. Imagine sitting in a sensory deprivation chamber with your eyes closed, when a voice starts singing in your ear. You didn’t hear them come in, it just began, coming out of the blackness. As more instruments come in you notice the little things, like the bassist’s fingers sliding up the gut strings, or the click as the drummer turns his snare on after a particularly quiet vocal solo. The trumpet player off to your right breathes heavily before putting the horn to his mouth, his fingers work the keys in anticipation of his first notes. The keyboards come in with a pad that swirls a mixture of Rhodes and B3, and and you can clearly hear that small instance when he takes his foot off the sustain pedal to change chords. Vocalists breathing, the reverb off the hi-hats. The back background makes all these little details more audible, removing the “noise” and leaving more space for information, texture and detail. Other companies do shielding as well, but none (with the exception of Brise which is even better) offer this kind of sonic transparency and blackness. Paired with the SP3000 which has an extremely black background already was a surreal experience. Add the Tsuranagi and… it’s hard to describe, but you know it when you hear it.







In terms of tuning the Orphy is on the smoother side, so don’t expect ultra sharp transients and super sparkling highs. It’s more analog, filled with goodness and musicality. At the same time it’s one of the most technically capable cables known to man. That’s it’s secret, you don’t have to choose technical or musical, it’s the whole enchilada here. It can bite hard with guttural heavy guitars, make female and male vocals sound full and clear, earth-shattering bass or the thwack or a drum solo, all while never getting into analytic territory. Ultra layered electronic music is especially impressive. The Orphy is definitely on the warm side, so that needs to be taken into account when pairing. It’s not crazy warm, but I did find that it imparted more of its magic with a more neutral source, or more reference IEMs. I love it with the Sony M2, but I heard more “Orphy-ness” with the SP3000, N8ii or MAX simply because it’s not doubling up on warm/smooth/analog, and so I notice it more. Bass is a bit over neutral, and there is a mid bass bump, so while with the LP6 AE it’s stunning, ridiculous good, it can occasionally feel like a bit too much of a good thing, overly analog and thick there. This of course comes down to preferences too. I’m more of a reference guy, but for an uber musical setup the Sony M2 + Orphy + FitEar DC Ti is amazing. Or P6 Pro and Traillii. Or pair it with the Storm, MAX and Tsuranagi to have your mind exploded all over the carpet (This was one of the craziest experiences I have ever had with audio). Or bring in the AE with Tsuranagi and UM Mason FS, I cannot begin to explain how punchy, dynamic, percussive and guttural that combo is. On the whole the Orphy is more analog than modern, less sparkle and more smooth, slightly slower bass but still punchy and extremely controlled, and the best mids I have ever heard. Lots of air but less shine up top. A slight emphasis on mid bass, but also reaching as deep as called for. If you want modern try the Centurion, Ode To Laura, Code 51, or Nightjar Mira for a faster paced sound. For amazing texture and the punchiest bass I have ever heard try the Ode To Laura, which coincidently has more sparkle and treble energy which some may surely prefer. The Brise sits somehow in the middle, bringing the gap between old school copper and modern tuning. I still find the Orphy more detailed than all of them, especially in the mids, but its tuning is different. I wish to reiterate, Orphy is magic because it accomplishes something no other cable seems to be able to do: provide summit-fi details and staging while staying smooth and analog. But that does come as a tradeoff, for IEMs and DAPs that are warm, very smooth, or mid bass heavy you can have some issues with synergy that may detract from the magic.









I decided that in the Bass-Mid-Treble section I would also do the comparisons at the same time. No need to have a second section at the end, since many are mostly concerned with how it compares or differs from the other TOTLs out there. As I said before, I have compared the Orphy to many TOTL cables in reviews lately which I would recommend you to read if you’re actually thinking of taking the plunge on this beast.










BASS

Orphy has fantastic bass. It goes deep, has great texture and rumble with a longer decay. The stage of the Orphy is huge and this extends to the low end as well, keeping the bass all around you instead of right next to you. For electronic music this is amazing, especially with Fir Kinetic Bass, it’s like sitting at the club and feeling the bass in your chest. Speaking of feeling, I notice that Orphy bass errs slightly on the side of feel and less texture or punch. It is on the slower side, vs the punchy fast bass of others, and that means it can be felt sometimes more than heard. But that’s not to say it’s lackluster or missing punch, it is exceedingly well controlled and punchy, I am simply splitting hairs here, and only do I notice when doing A/B tests for hours. It does have a slight mid-bass bump which can add a great sense of weight and power, providing that oomph and punch a more linear cable like Brise 8W or FTS would be missing on some level. It depends on how you like your bass, for me it was track dependent for what I preferred. All IEMs I tried the bass was highly improved, with better control, punch, reach and texture. Overall, keeping with the theme, the Orphy is more analog and relaxed vs others here, and that comes down to IEM pairing as well. If bass is your primary concern the Orphy is fabulous, but I wouldn’t say it necessarily has the best bass among this group. If you prefer a slower DD like attack vs a more punchy modern sound, with a tad of extra meat in the mid bass then Orphy is king. It is solid, deep, rumbly and full of flavor. OTL more punch and slam, and more texture - it just might be the most textured and punchy bass I have ever heard, amazing really. The Brise 8W also has amazing reach and amazing texture, punchy and clean, it’s probably my favorite bass of the bunch. The Brise has more of a sub-bass feature over the Orphy’s mid bass punch, and therefor is more linear overall. FTS also has a sub-bass feature and is quite fast and punchy, though I felt it lacked a bit in texture. 50s Shielding has super punchy bass that has great texture, thought doesn’t reach quite as deep as Brise or FTS. They all have amazing bass, it really comes down to how you prefer your bottom end and you honestly can’t go wrong with any of them. This is surely summit-fi all around, and we’re splitting hairs on an atomic level.




In order of punchiest bass: OTL - Brise 8W - FTS - 50s Shielding - Orpheus



In order of reach (or sub bass) : Brise 8W - FTS - Orphy - OTL/50s Shielding



In order of texture: Brise 8W/OTL - 50s Shielding/FTS/Orpheus



In order of bigness and perceived weight: Orpheus - Brise 8W/OTL/FTS/50S








MIDS

Here is where the Orphy steals the show in my opinion, followed closely by the Brise 8W though they are tuned differently. Here is where the insane level of details, texture, stage spread and magic make the Orphy what it is. If you’re a big mids fan, like I am, there is nothing quite like it. Due also to the jet black background, details just jump out at you from space, faint clicks and pops are clearly discernible and clear, and nowhere is this heard and felt like in this mids. I would give Orphy the award for the most defined, resolving and expressive mids of any cable I have heard, hands down. They are somehow razor sharp yet smooth and natural. Lip licking, gentle breathing, the chair in the studio creaking, snare hits, guitar plucks, all there mixed into the musical atmosphere, giving one of the most musical and enjoyable presentations I have ever heard. The stage size is its biggest in the mids, stretching waaay off to the sides, panning guitars, backup voices, crash, splash and keyboard pads wide leaving a nice big space for the vocals, lead guitar, or whatever is being featured to have all the room it needs to shine. It reminds me of listening to big studio monitors, where you can really hear everything in a treated-room like environment; all the fades, the pans, that extra grit you added to the guitars, those minute swishes and atmospherics all dance around you instead of stuck in the middle. Reminder that all this in superbly analog, smooth and musical, not overly harsh or overly sharpened to give some fake feeling of extra bite. That in itself is the biggest takeaway from the Orphy for me, just how detailed it is, but never once does it make you feel like something has been overcooked to get you there. I remember when I was demoing the The Storm -which is the world’s best reference IEM imho - It was plain ridiculous with the Orphy, it made my jaw drop honestly. I was speechless and could only continue listening for lack of power to do anything else. It retained its reference tuning, but became sensationally musical with quite noticeably upgraded resolution and technical abilities. That’s the Orphy magic; relaxed and effortless in a crazy resolving way. It does come at a slight cost though, and that’s texture. Because the Orphy is quite smooth, it doesn’t have as much texture (and grit) as other cables. You hear everything, but there is a bit of smoothness, though I hesitate to say so since it might make people think it’s glossed over. It’s not. The mids are most certainly not overly smooth, but the rest of spectrum could be called somewhat smooth and that could potentially bother some if they like things extra energetic all over. Orphy does have a slight upper mid emphasis, not even a peak, more of a soft roll up or ramp in the 2-4k region. I didn’t even notice it immediately. It does add a touch of extra bite and sounds even with the rest of the FR, but sometimes with Jewel or other IEMs that have some pinna gain there, occasionally I heard vocals having a slight touch of shouty-ness to them. This could have been also from the DAP pairing, The LP6 AE has a touch more energy there too, so all three together is what I was probably hearing.



Comparing, Brise Yatano 8W is next in line for mid quality and resolution. Some might even prefer it’s more neutral tuning, and slightly less smooth vibe. The Brise is definitely still a copper cable, transients are smooth and balanced, thought I find it a bit faster and more energetic compared to the Orphy. Some of the smoothness the Orphy brings is exchanged with similar resolution but a punchier and faster presentation not lacking in musicality. On a pure resolution level the Orphy mids are more detailed, but not by much. The Brise stage width is more intimate, keeping instruments in the center, similarly to the 50s Shielding, and letting the extra space, air, reverb and tiny details out to the sides. The Brise stage is quite large and spherical, just not as wide. In the mids the Orphy is more open, which could also be contributing to the slight increase of conceived detail. The layering and placement of Orphy is insane, but Brise is equally good albeit in a smaller space. Mids are fantastic on the Brise, and it is quite linear so for those that prefer less warmth and overtly analog vibes. 50s Shielding is also very similar to the 8W, mids are fabulous and more linear, clear without the warmth of analog coloration. The Brise is more modern sounding while the 50S is more old school. Both place the mids more forward while the Orphy steps them back a bit and stretches them out. I would say the Brise has slightly more details and resolution to the 50S but they are very similar vibe-wise. The OTL has faster and sharper transients, resulting in a more modern twist to the pure copper sound. It has also the most texture in the lower mids, but that fades away in the mids and upper midrange with the OTL’s signature “wispy” and “ethereal” vibe there. Lower mids were fabulous, but the higher up I went, I found them less natural and realistic, but I am very reference when it comes to my mids. OTL is also very detailed in the mids, they are definitely the most crisp and energetic of the bunch and for many that might seal the deal right there. FTS is more linear than Orphy, but more colored and warm compared to the linear and neutral Brise. The FTS holds the spot in-between the Brise and the OTL, with faster and crisper transients but retains the PW copper sound with a bit of warmth and weight. FTS mids are very detailed, though less modern than OTL or Brise.



Speaking about synergy, the Orphy really sounds great with just about anything. But of course some IEMs benefit more from the Orphy’s style, especially the note weight it adds. In general more neutral IEMs have more perceived ‘Orphy vibe’, just since it adds something that might not be there to start with. If you have a warm and fat IEM you will still hear the benefits, but they will be more about control, resolution, and abilities rather than transforming the IEM’s persona. Something like the Traillii was a shocking upgrade, thickening up the mids and doubling down on the resolution. Storm is a very neutral technical monster, and Orphy made it even more technically capable while adding in a dose of weight, musicality and personality that was well enjoyed by all who heard it during my testing meetup. For fatty IEMs like the Trifecta I could imagine things getting a bit overly thick. Mason FS while being on the thicker side did not get overly saturated or weighted down for my tastes, it was actually an amazing combo. Maestro was also great, keeping its sparkle in check, and adding a bit more power and weight to the mids, evening out the FR for me. If you like things sharper/brighter you should know, starting with a sharp/bright IEM the Orphy will round it off a tad, while not sacrificing resolution. Sharp/bright, ethereal, and/or thinner IEMs benefit greatly from Orphy’s softer side if you want to tame them down a tad without sacrificing technicals. Or double it up and go to warm town for some of the most musical and enveloping listens of your life. While some things about the Orphy might not work for everyone, one things is clear: For the best mids you’ve ever heard, the Orphy is King.




In order of resolution in mids: Orphy - Brise 8W - FTS/50S/OTL



In order of mids quality (naturalness and realism): Orphy/Brise 8W - 50S/FTS - OTL



In order of note weight: Orphy - Brise/50S - FTS - OTL



In order of transient speed and energy: OTL - FTS - Brise 8W - 50S - Orphy



In order of analog/warmth/smoothness: Orphy - 50S - FTS - Brise 8W - OTL










TREBLE

Here is where the Orphy can be divisive. The Orphy has a very analog top end, some would even call it rolled off, and that can be either a good or bad thing depending on how you like your treble, and what IEM/DAP you started with. Orphy has a very airy top end, lots of detail and space, just not as much sparkle or extension as others. Things are smooth and relaxed, which can subdue a bit of the extra energy that can make me uncomfortable or overly sensitive with some IEMs. I personally find this a big positive in such scenarios, though many might not and feel it is taking too much away. If you like a lot of sparkle or treble energy this is NOT your cable. Others do that far better, that’s just not the Orphy vibe at all. This has all to do with pairing, since IEM treble presentations vary greatly. There isn’t less treble, it’s simply presented in a different way, more relaxed. With most IEMs I find the treble to be gorgeous, well controlled and nicely airy and spacious. All that black background and fine microdetails make their way to the high end, and the extreme resolution mixed with extreme musicality are prevalent and in abundance. The treble just isn’t the star of the show for sparkle heads, but for most I think they will love the high end presentation. I don’t want to paint a picture of a super rolled off non expressive high end, that’s not it at all - it’s just softened and more relaxed up top, effortless and musical rather than stunted. My first experience with Orphy was with Traillii, which for me has a bit of an overabundance in sparkle sometimes. The Orphy kept the air and space, all that incredible magic sparkle, just softened the edges a tad and made it even more effortless and lovely. That is such an incredible combo, Orphy and Traillii is legendary. I still see it in many people’s HF signatures, timeless indeed. Same with Mentor, I didn’t feel like the top end was overly rolled off, just made more relaxed and musical rather than sharp - even though the technical levels are off the charts. Mentor can have a bit of a glare sometimes, not so with the Orphy. Storm’s extreme resolution was kept in check and a very natural and extremely enjoyable high was the result. I remember when I was demoing it, everyone was rather astonished how great the treble was. Also RN6 and Maestro had a lust-worthy high end with the Orpheus. However, if your IEMs have a rather subdued high end like the Jewel, then it can border on too much roll-off in certain cases, it again really depends on how you like it. Of course that is DAP dependent too, I found Jewel + Orphy + N8ii to be quite well balanced, while others found N8ii too bright in different setups. The same paired with the AE or even P6 Pro just might be too much for some that prefer an enthusiastic and energetic top end.



The one thing that actually could detract some people’s enjoyment is that lack of vertical extension. Orphy stage is huge and enveloping, but it is wider and deeper than it is tall. Again there’s that big studio monitor stereo effect, where the whole room is just swallowing you whole into a decadently lush satin filled room. But the ceiling isn’t endless like the OTL, which seemingly has no end in vertical expansion - it’s wild. Analog, lush, sweet and effortless treble, while remaining amazingly detailed but never sharp or overly bright. If you want more extension or sparkle then Brise 8W, FTS, OTL or even 50S would serve that particular area better. OTL is without a doubt the brightest of the bunch, with plenty of sparkle and treble energy, though it accomplishes this in a very natural and gorgeous way. I hesitate to call the OTL bright, because it’s not, but in the company of the cables I am reviewing here it certainly holds the flame for enjoyable and energetic treble energy. Lower treble is thinner and more airy vs the fuller and weightier high end of Orphy. That’s one of the things I personally prefer, an even and natural note weight from top to bottom, keeping the whole FR sounding natural and realistic. The Brise has that too, wonderfully extended treble, more sparkle and crispness comparatively, but it is also very natural with great note weight and realism. I would say I probably prefer the top end of the Brise over the Orphy if I was forced to choose, but that’s a really hard call. Both the Orphy and Brise 8W have a soft emphasis in the upper mids/lower treble region. Orphy’s is in the upper mids, heard with guitars, voices and instruments - giving a sense of extra clarity without adding any bite. The Brise emphasis is slightly higher up, in the lower treble and this does add a bit of bite which can be amazing for some kinds of music. I found it could also a bit too much with some pairings, right in the 6k region. Like the Mason FS, which has an emphasis there, heavy music or splashy trashy stuff was mildly distracting, though I have a friend who prefers it for exactly that reason. I won’t make a blanket statement about it, just want to mention it. Brise treble sounds just a tad more modern vs Orphy or FTS, reminding me of hybrid vs a pure copper, but never in a harsh or crispy way at all. PW holds the old school vibe, Brise is decidedly more Hi-Fi and modern refined. FTS has a nice even and neutral top end, airy with nice sparkle. It also has a small peak in the lower treble, giving some extra bite, though in very good taste. FTS sounds more traditional copper up top, with a bit of extra pizzaz, many will love this. Brise and FTS are quite similar in the top end. The 50S is more like Orphy with a slight roll off, but it is less “extreme” and has more sparkle and energy there. Weight is similarly even, a very nice top end that’s airy and effortless while remaining very highly resolving in the copper vibe. OTL has the clearest and most pronounced treble, sharper and cleaner transients, also more modern sounding over all the rest. I personally found the top end a bit bright for my tastes, but I am famously sensitive there so keep that in mind. For pure treble abilities and finesse the OTL takes the cake, that vertical expansion blows my mind.



Speaking of the Orphy, because of that analog vibe, the perceived stage size in the highs isn’t super tall, which also makes the mid stretch even more apparent. Those that find fault in the Orphy after owning it usually say that the lack of treble extension is to blame, and I can totally understand that. But those that do find fault are usually hard pressed to find anything else to complain about, and the extension lack is certainly minor and not a deal breaker for me, or for the myriad others that also find the Orphy to be the best cable ever made.




In order of treble quantity: OTL - FTS - Brise 8W - 50S - Orphy



In order of treble quality: Brise/OTL - FTS - 50S/Orphy



In order of treble extension: OTL - FTS/Brise 8W - 50S - Orphy



In order of note weight in treble: Orphy/Brise 8W/50S - FTS - OTL











STAGE

For the last few hundred words I have been waxing poetic about the stage of the Orpheus. I believe that’s justified, it simply has the most staggering stage of any cable I have ever heard. Now stage size is highly subjective, so this all comes down to personal preference, and what you think stage size actually means. I went into great lengths to explain the stage sizes of these cables in my previous reviews so I will summarize them again.



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. The 50S and Brise 8W have large stages, but they keep 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, mids like guitars and drums fill out the space around you like you’re sitting inside the band rather than a few seats back. 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. The Orphy pushes mids back out a tad giving more space and air, but perhaps losing a touch in engagement. FTS has a slightly narrower stage, and not as deep as Orpheus, but on par in "size" to the others mentioned here. 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 stages in terms of physical dimensions I would say this:



-The Orpheus would be like an oval, hugely circular, but with the midrange stretching out at the widest edges.



- 50S and Brise 8W would be 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.



- FTS would be a narrower oval, with the high and low end stretching a bit further but keeping the mids more intimate.



- 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.











ERGONOMICS

Ergo is a sort of no contest for me, there are very clear winners here. This is a personal thing of course, but I think that 99% of you will agree. OTL mops the floor with the others here, it’s far more comfortable, supple, bendable, lighter and generally easier on the ears. Not even close. Next would be 50S, it is a shielded cable but its thiner wires means the entire package is lighter and thinner than its bigger PW brethren. Wear on the ears is also better, since the size of the cable on your ears is physically smaller. Orphy and FTS are identical in ergo, in fact the only way to tell them apart is to look closely - Orphy is dark midnight blue and FTS is more of a steel blue. They are both heavy, thick and relatively cumbersome to use for the uninitiated. The wires are a bit stiff with the nylon sheathing, but after they break in quite soft and comfy. I’ve said it before, once you get used to the weight you won’t even notice it, and the SQ is totally worth it in this reviewer’s humble opinion. I find the shielding at the bottom half to give me a sense of security also, the wires are very protected and I don’t have to worry about bumping the cable around as I do my long walks and get it and out of trams, planes, trains etc. That leaves the Brise 8W. I have not been shy in the past about my feelings about ergo and general fit/feel with the Brise stuff. It is extremely heavy, heavier than Orphy even, and that is felt. It would be less noticeable if the cable wasn’t so stiff and unwieldy, it has this slightly rubbery feel to it that I never fell in love with. You can use their cable softener spray and that did indeed make it softer, but also a bit more slippery. Also, they use a ton of shrink wrap all over the connectors, and the 2 pins have super stiff titanium memory that won’t bend enough to have a tight fit around your ears. All that said, after longer session I found the ear hooks actually made the IEMs more comfy on the ear, since it kind of floats above your ear removing the pressure. I was using customs, but I can imagine that Universals could be tugged on enough to cause seal problems for some. I don’t mean to harp on the Brise ergo, it’s not terrible, it’s simply not great, or truly comfortable. Their whole thing is sonics above everything else, and for that they have succeeded in spades. I know many have written to me that they found it fine after some time, and I believe that. And honestly, the sonics are so incredible that for many it just might be worth the potential discomfort. I was dissuaded enough to let go of mine, but I think about trying it again all the time, so that’s something. It really sounds good enough to suffer a bit. For anyone not paying attention, Brise released a new cable called Silver Concept not long ago, and it has a brand new PVC that is suuuper soft and comfy. So there that too




CONCLUSION

And so, after all that, we arrive at the end dear readers. When I first was asked to review the Orphy I was a bit hesitant, simply because there isn’t a more decisive piece of gear that I know of, where most of that comes down to the insane price. I didn’t want to be in a position where I was seen to defend said price, or to somehow convince people to sell their kidneys for such a mythic object. I remember the same when the Traillii was announced, people lost their minds, to the point that many were put off so much they didn’t even want to try it based on principle. But, as more and more heard it, it became evident that it was something very special, and definitely worth trying for yourself, if only to hear what all the hubbub was about. In many ways the Orphy and Traillii are sonic siblings. They both have concept smashing vast stages, amazing levels of detail while remaining incredibly musical. They are both also on the smoother side, and for that reason some might not like it. If you’re that kind of person I would not recommend the Orphy, but for a truly unique and breathtaking experience plug the Orphy into the Traillii and bask in sonic bliss. Or Mentor, Odin, Ragnar, Jewel or Storm. The magic of the Orpheus is in it’s ability to smash concepts of what a cable can do, all while being smooth, musical, and intensely enjoyable without a shred of artificial EQ’ing, overly cooked transients, or brightness to achieve higher levels of resolution. It is thick, it is heavy. It adds weight to the sound, thickens things up a bit, smoothing out some peaks while created a few rolling hills of its own. It’s not neutral, it’s not lean, it’s unapologetically warm and glorious. It doesn’t work perfectly with everything, but when it does, it is untouchable. The best cable you can buy, with a price tag to match.



For those with absolute summit-fi gear the Orphy could be that final step to 100%. That perfect balance of resolution and mojo, dynamics and expressiveness, all with an effortless ability to be musical and articulate. If you crave an analog and extremely resulting experience that sort of redefines what a cable can do, the Orphy is just that. I said I wouldn’t mention price, but I just want to add something carefully camouflaged as advice and not cost commentary. For about half the price of Orphy you can buy the other cables mentioned here, and they do have parts that could be conceived as better. The 50S, which I also own, is a fantastic choice. Its similar tuning crown it the title of “baby Orpheus”. The Brise is fantastic, and some just might prefer it over the colored Orphy. FTS and OTL are both stunning cables in their own right. They all reach at least 90% of the Orphy’s abilities for sure. Some would say that’s close enough, and for those I strongly suggest buying one of the others mentioned here, they are amazing cablea. But that last 10% haunt my dreams, as it does for many of you I presume. That’s why we’re here, to chase that final few percent - that’s probably why you’re reading this now. It’s hard to go back to others once you’ve heard the grandiosity that is the Orpheus. The magic. The jaw dropping technicalities dipping with analog music goodness that is oh so divine. It’s not without its caveats, nothing is perfect. But in a world of insane prices and even more insane expectations, the Orphy stands alone, and is as close to perfection as I have ever heard. Only you can decide if you want to take that extra step, but I promise you won’t be disappointed.





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