Disclaimer: Linum provided samples of BAX, Voice, and Music to both Lieven and myself for an upcoming review at Headfonia. I walked away from Fujiya Avic with Super-BAX.
Update: The phrase 'begs the question' was improper and has been changed to 'raises the question'.
web: Linum Cables
The old skeptic in me would have dodged Linum’s Fujiya Avic booth. But thanks in large part to Linum’s booth, that old crotchet sort of bit it(1).
Besides, Lieven and I have a joint Linum cable review coming up. It was high time for me to bone up on BAX, Voice, and the rest of Linum’s line up. There was also this point: Linum engineer, Allan Sorrig, was manning the booth, and I’m a bit of a toady.
Naturally, I shuffled my feet towards Linum’s spread, extended my fingers, and shook Allan’s hand slightly longer than etiquette dictated. Then, I noticed the tiny “I’m a cable believer” pin on Mr. Sorrig’s shirt. It looks like this:
Coolios, thought I.
Anyways, Linum had a new cable on display. It is called Super Bax. Before I get ahead of myself, I should disclose this: what I most care about in earphone/headphone cables is comfort; SQ and all that be damned if it don’t feel good. After that, I’m into robustness. And while practically fishing wires, Linum’s cables are robust. Better, they’re thin. They disappear under, over, and around even the most headphone-unfriendly glasses out there. And I own four pair of glasses, two purchased especially for headphone listening.
Because they lack memory wire, cable guides, and because their footprint is practically non-existent, Linum cables are perfect for the bespectacled among us.
But onto audio quality. Evidently Super Bax is half as resistive as Bax, which, depending on the earphone design could make it a better, or worse performer. Allan is a level-headed chap by any definition. He levelled the spec at me in as unsalesman-like a manner as possible.
Then he showed me something else.
“Why don’t you test this?” he asked, pointing to what I thought was an amp on life support. Wires wiggled out of face-mounted siphons, three of them simultaneously attached to an ugly, bespoke earphone; the final one leading to my Vinnie-modded AK100.
In hindsight, and with wine in me, I’m embarrassed my first (and silent) reaction. That reaction went something like this: “I’ve got more important things to do than tinker with placebo.”
As I settled into the chair to face the placebo box, Mr. Sorrig explained:
“Twist the knob to test the cable of your choice.” Yes, he talks like a djinni. “The box is passive, connected only to the cables and the earphone.”
The unthorough skeptic in me decided not to ask to see inside the box. Which is one catch in this small essay, the meat of which is the following:
A very clear, unequivocal difference exists between the three cables hooked up to Linum’s ugly, bespoke earphones. First, volume between Vocal, and Bax variants, was dead even; Music seemed to me to be slightly quieter. I think I know why.
Anyway, here are my observations:
Vocal: bit stereo image, less contrast between bass and treble, but bright in the upper mids.
Music: less-control in the upper bass, obviously more upper bass bloom, wider, and even more active highs.
Bax: brightest of the three with the cleanest bass.
And that’s it. The difference between each was obvious but not mind-blowing like the differential output of two headphones. Of course. My preference (not endorsement) was for Bax. It simply was different. So, too, were the crazy earphones. If you want to show up your audiophile friends at the next headphone meet, see about rigging one up yourself.
Another nice bit about Linum’s demonstration was that at no point did Allan suggest that his cables were better than anyone else’s. Both of us agreed that comfort is paramount. We also agreed that Linum’s tiny cables have a penchant for looping strangely around, and over, and through earphones when wadded up in a carrying case. Super-BAX’s quad-cabling fixes some of that.
I have two criticisms regarding Linum’s demonstration:
1 - listeners should have been able to see inside the box
2 - neither are the bespoke earphones’s guts, or driver impedance requirements public
Point #1 would alleviate concerns that something active is going on inside the box. I took Allan’s word for it. I think he’s good for it. Point #2 is more problematic. Typically, earphone driver are designed to be used with cables of a certain resistance. Raising or lowering that resistance willy nilly can either break or make a sound signature.
Still, that little black box was the first credible cable demonstration I’ve seen/heard. Auditory memory issues eliminated, and with the flip of a switch, you really can hear differences. No my thoroughly unthorough skeptic brain didn’t force me to get Mr. Sorrig to open up the black box. Perhaps it should have. Not that it would need to. Allan himself intimated that the differences were as much a surprise to him. And now he is a believer.
Which raises the question: why do not more companies make black boxes? The bespoke earphone probably took some work, but a simple selector switch to which three, or four cables are connected, is a simple jobby that removes reliance upon faulty auditory memory.
In spite of my two misgivings, I am now a fresh-faced, although proviso-ladened, cable believer. I also strongly believe that cable manufacturers should invest their time and energy in black boxes and ugly tri-wired earphones.
Finally, I would like to thank Allan for spending the time and effort in explaining your views, experiences, and for illuminating your IEM lineup. For me, your booth was the most interesting attraction at this year's Fujiya Avic Spring Headphone Festival.
(1) Within reason. I count myself more a hardy believer in component matching that plays harmoniously into the resistive requirements of driver A, driver B, and crossover C.
NOTE: click images below to advance to the next frame. Allan shot my mug twice. Thanks, Allan.