Given my experience that cables invariably make a difference, I went into this test expecting both the Wireworld and Crystal wires to trump the NAD’s stock cable. Still, I was unprepared for just how great the difference was. Frankly, I was aghast at how much musical and sonic information was being lost somewhere in the strands of the stock headphone cables. The standard string forfeits so many of the AK380’s benefits, it sounds like a completely different unit. For instance, the air pocket around instruments that the AK380 so beautifully and uniquely conjures is completely missing when using stock cable. That loss is indicative of all the other micro-details the AK380 can deliver—but doesn’t through this cable. Other deficits of the stock cable include a lack of bass weight, curtailed highs, smeared rhythms, and a general glaze over the proceedings. If this had been the only cable I used to compare the AK240 with the AK380, I would never have fully appreciated the latter’s superiority.
Switching from the stock cable to the Wireworld Nano made a difference of a magnitude that would be commensurate with a major upgrade of the headphones themselves. It’s impossible to overstate how much the Wireworld opens up, cleans up, and tightens up the sound. The Nano Eclipse delivers the full merit of its source in glorious technicolor, with detail, pace, and dynamics beyond reproach. If I must pick a nit, it’s that the cable is ever so slightly over-warm in the midrange. I don’t know about you, but given the Eclipse’s overall fabulous sound, I can easily live with that.
As good as the Wireworld cable is, the Crystal Cable Next is even better—as well it should be for its substantially higher tariff. The Next does pretty much what the Wireworld does, only more of it. After its 100-hour break-in—before which the cable comes off as threadbare—the Next’s sound is even clearer than the Nano’s, allowing even more timbral, rhythmic, and spatial information to flow through. Decays seem to go on forever rather than fading into a very low-but-still-present noise floor. Bass notes are as taut as a rubber band stretched to the break-point. Accordingly, you can easily follow the most complex bass line no matter what else is going on. Needless to say, the slight midrange bump of the Eclipse is absent with the Next.
The Next also excels from a usability standpoint. All of Crystal Cable’s hard work on this product’s form factor pays off big-time. The cable is significantly lighter—less of a drag on the cans—than the comparatively bulky Wireworld. That carefree weight, combined with loose twistability, renders the cable effectively “not there,” which is exactly how wires attached near your head should be.
I fully recognize that pairing a $750 cable with a set of headphones costing less than half that amount is ridiculous—a scenario never to be seen in the real world. However, this configuration did prove that, given a good source, the sonic capability of the Crystal Cable Next is evident even with modest headphones.
In sum, it seems that cables do make as big a difference in headphone applications as they do everywhere else. Now that I’ve heard what aftermarket cables can do, I will never again consider a set of cans with a captive cord; the question of how much music I was losing would constantly nag me. For those of you who own or are considering buying headphones that support aftermarket cables, either of these two would be an excellent choice. At just under $200, the Wireworld Nano Eclipse is an absolute no-brainer for any reasonably high-quality personal audio setup. And for those with a state-of-the-art personal listening setup, the Crystal Cable Next will be a state-of-the-art complement.
SPECS & PRICING
Wireworld Nano Eclipse
Terminations: As ordered
WIREWORLD CABLE TECHNOLOGY
6545 Nova Dr., Suite 204
Davie, FL 33317
Crystal Cable Next
Terminations: As ordered
Conductors: Proprietary silver/gold alloy with silver plated monocrystal copper shield
Nieuwe Stationsstraat 10
6811 KS Arnhem
+31 26 353 9045