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From the land of the rising sun, Brise Audio does what could be equated as magic in their line of upgrade cables. Made with only strands of copper and no other metal, today we look at what makes the STR7-SE tick.
Do you believe in magic?
Or at least, that cables make a difference? Well I do, and have taken my wallet on a magical fantasy ride of no return. Non-believers, say what you will but the best cable I’ve ever owned is the Danacable Lazuli Reference, a ludicrously expensive cable forged from pure copper. In the end, I sold them because of impending poverty, but the fleeting romance was pure magic.
- Elegant design
- Excellent build quality
- Good, relaxed comfort
- Warm, inviting sound signature
- Natural timbre with a beautiful tone
- Coherent tuning
- Ample detail levels
- Wide, expansive soundstage
- Superb imaging properties
- Forgettable packaging
- Rigid build
- Bad memory effect
- Sound quality is pairing-dependent
- Lacks air, dynamics and upper end extension
- Smearing in complex tracks
Since then, I’ve been on a quest to find a similar sound on a cheaper cable. Could Brise Audio be it? The Japanese company is stubbornly rigid in their use of copper. You won’t find any other metal in their pursuit of the perfect sound. But when I heard their then-flagship in-ear monitor (IEM) cable STR7-Ref in an audio show, I was instantly hooked, like that dude who heard the little mermaid sing.
When Brise Audio became available locally, I jumped at the chance to listen to my mermaid again. Alas, the STR7-Ref was out of my budget, but like falling in love with your girlfriend’s little sister (horrible analogy yeah), the STR7-SE could be had for much cheaper. So I signed my soul to the devil for the unicorn fairy dust that would make my audio setup complete.
Where To Buy
The STR7-SE is available for MYR$1599 (~$390) from Stars Picker, the most rocking headphone store in all the lands (Malaysia, actually). They handle international sales too. Otherwise, the list of dealers is here. The cable is available with 2-pin, MMCX or FitEar connectors, in 3.5mm single-ended, or 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced jacks. I’d like to thank big boss Hai Wei for the discount offered for the review unit.
- Amber Rubarth – Sessions from the 17th Ward
- Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
- Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
- Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
- Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
- Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
- Lana Del Rey – Born To Die
- Melissa Menago – Little Crimes
- The Eagles – Hell Freezes Over
- The Weeknd – After Hours
- Product Name: STR7-SE
- Conductor: High-performance and high-purity copper conductor
- Conductor Structure: Spiral77
- Insulation: Special high-performance resin
- Length: 1.2m
Packaging and Accessories
Ladies and gentlemen, we start on a low. The mighty STR7-SE cable comes in a resealable foil pouch, the kind that you find in supermarkets that uh, keeps your nuts fresh. I hope, at least, most of the money I paid is spent on the cable itself. There’s also a warranty card, but that’s all you’re getting, honestly. A baggie and a card. Moving along.
Design and Build Quality
The STR7-SE is the standard variant of the STR7 series, with the aforementioned STR7-Ref being the high-end version. It sports four insulated wires, with each wire housing seven bundles, and each bundle containing seven strands of high-performance, high-purity copper. Altogether, 196 copper strands are arranged stereoscopically to become the STR7 cable.
Tall, Dark and Handsome
Thanks to the resin insulation, the cable is a handsome and mysterious black, with matching connectors and jack. The connectors have the Brise Audio logo on them, color-coded to separate right and left (right is red). The wooden chin-slider, though looking out of place, matches the aesthetic of Brise cables in general. Looks-wise, they’re as formal as they come.
For now, build quality is superb. The wires are neatly twisted and congruent, without any loose braids. You give them a tug, or try to uncoil them but they snap back into shape with utmost discipline, unwilling to be the weak link in the chain. This is a sturdily-built cable made to rough it out. But don’t, because think of the price tag!
Ergonomics and Comfort
A simple test of ergonomics is to coil the cable around your open hand, and see if they stay in shape after placing the coiled-up cable onto a flat surface. Initially I thought the STR7-SE did a fine job, but then it unrolled itself at the slightest touch. You’ll be hard-pressed to maintain a fixed position for it, because the active memory effect is strong in this one, almost with a mind of its own.
In terms of handling, the resin sheath feels rigid and rugged, as opposed to the softness and suppleness I’m used to with PVC sheathing. While not as bad nor as stiff as I thought, I’ve been long pampered with easy-to-handle and silky-smooth cables from Effect Audio, so Brise Audio has a long way to go before joining the ergonomic elite.
Comfort is rather good. The weight is evenly distributed along the cable, and wearing them I feel only a slight tug over my ear. You know you’re wearing a cable, but it won’t distract you from your work. You can order the STR7-SE with memory wire so the cable would adhere better to your external ears. To me though, memory wire adds more weight and rigidity I’d rather do without.
Overall Sound Signature
Like slowly tip-toeing away after putting your toddler to sleep, Brise Audio’s STR7-SE opts for the soft and tender approach to sound. The cable imparts the familiar warmth of good copper cables but doesn’t overdo it. Notes are full-bodied, smooth and rounded from top to bottom, producing an altogether enriching experience. It is a warm, relaxed-sounding cable, with just enough technical nuance to save the day.
Rather than overwhelming the signature with gooey, syrupy richness, STR7-SE balances out with higher resolution and better note definition as well. Details are not forsaken, but not overly emphasized, prioritizing realism and tonality above mindless detail-mining.
Musicality is a key feature of the STR7-SE and its easy-going tunefulness will endear itself to many.
The lower end is more prominent than the upper, with a mildly elevated sub-bass paired handsomely with warm midbass, before segueing into the beautiful, lush mids, which is to me, the highlight of the STR7-SE. This is a tone to fall in love with again and again, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The signature is finished off with a smooth treble, like foam on top of a nice glass of stout.
Owing to the STR7-SE’s warm sound profile, pairing is of paramount importance. For example, warm IEMs like Lime Ears’ Aether R sounded stuffy and lacked dynamics with the cable. The tone is out of this world, but the lack of excitement lulled me to sleep. For IEMs with emphasized treble like Hidion’s Violet though, the cable is a godsend, taming and smoothening the bright treble to produce a heaven-sent signature.
Don’t pair warm with warm, it’s like wearing a jacket in the sweltering heat. You’ll pass out but not from sonic bliss.
Critical listening was done after 100 hours of burning in, probably optimizing the copper conductivity and sound quality, but I’ll never know. It sounded just as sweet and luscious before and after the burn-in. The IEM of choice is Hidition’s Violet, she of the super treble.
The STR7-SE possesses a generous bass section, or colloquially a bottom-enhancer. The lower-end extension is more pronounced, with a bigger and badder growl. The hungry sub-bass is rumbly and visceral, with a bit of physicality to knock some sense into you. The midbass is reined in, becoming tidier and tighter, displaying powerful but nimble punches.
The bass hugely satisfies in terms of warmth and sheer impact. Notes are rounded and smooth, possessing an organic timbre that is arresting and realistic. The texture is buttery and fluid, flowing beautifully from one note to the next, building layers upon layers of creamy bass.
Bass resolution is good, but admittedly not the best. You can decipher a lot of musical information, but in busy tracks, the blunt notes won’t help in separating everything cleanly. So while very accomplished in tone and realism, bass clarity and airiness are potential issues. Having said that, STR7-SE’s bass encapsulates everything that a good copper upgrade cable can do.
From here we go full throttle. The mids are the reason the STR7-SE is well worth your consideration, for herein lies the magic. Notes are fully fleshed out and blossoms beautifully like a flower. They sound lush and organic, brimming with natural, lifelike timbre. Music unfolds splendidly before you, enveloping you with sweet coloration that’s a delight to hear.
The mids have a relaxed positioning, neither recessed nor in-your-face. The finely-sculpted notes obligate better separation, so voices and instruments pop out, begging to be heard. The rich, euphoric mids are deftly-tuned, with smoothness overload and just enough clarity to get by. Vocals sound realistic, with nary a grain in sight.
Detail levels, as mentioned, take a small step back. This is not the clearest or most resolved of mids, and layering is an issue when tracks get too complicated. And like the bass, dynamics and air play second fiddle to musicality.
The STR7-SE invites you to kick off your shoes and sink into the dreamy soundscapes of their hauntingly captivating mids, and they excel wonderfully here.
I’m not even sure if Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow” has another meaning, but I’m using these words to describe STR7-SE’s treble. The treble response is smooth sailing defined, remaining even throughout like a boat on calm seas. Harsh, annoying trebles from bright IEMs are given a spit and shine, polishing the texture and removing the peaks.
Cymbals, hi-hats and percussion instruments have a delicate sheen and shimmer, sounding accurate and with a good bite. Notes are quick and lean, with the edge smoothed out for an easygoing listen at the higher registers. The treble region finally has some semblance of speed and immediacy, something I sorely missed lower in the spectrum.
Hey There Delilah
Timbre, thankfully, sounds natural as ever, so the amazing tone of the STR7-SE is consistent throughout. Like vanilla ice cream or a plain white tee, it’s hard to offend anyone with this mature, if safe tuning. If it were up to me though, I’d prefer more sparkle and sizzle up top, coupled with a dollop of liveliness and dynamics. More upper end extension would be awesome too. But still, I can live with this.
Soundstage and Imaging
Like lying down on the grass and staring at the starry night sky, in the company of fireflies and lullabies, STR7-SE promotes a relaxing, chilled-out and spacious atmosphere. Dimensions are effortlessly expanded, in both width and depth. Music fans out and pans out in a magnificent, sweeping scope, with every part of the spectrum given ample space to play.
Like fireflies, notes fly in and out in harmony with each other, illuminating the soundscape with a coherence and unity of lovingly-sculpted round and smooth notes. The marvelously black background aids in the sense of magnitude, resembling the vast expanse of space.
Imaging is another strong suit of the STR7-SE, thanks to the hidden helping hands of the dark background. Musical images float to the front with fantastic ease. Despite the inherent smoothness of the signature, left-to-right separation and front-to-back layering are precise and well-spaced, with smearing only in the most complex of tracks.
Eletech Cables Prudence
If there ever was a case of sonic opposites, this would be it. Eletech’s midrange offering has vibrancy and vigor in its veins, contrasted with Brise Audio’s melted butter approach. Where the STR7-SE is emotive and personal, Prudence is exciting and extroverted. Jay and Silent Bob, if you get the reference.
This comparison celebrates their differences and acknowledges their complementary signatures.
Prudence’s bass is tighter and more focused. Notes dig deeper and punch harder. Unlike the soft, tender caresses of the STR7-SE, Prudence is no-nonsense and incisive, delivering bass hits and leaving trails of air behind. Notes are better-defined and textured, with more dynamism than the Brise.
Mids and treble tell the same story. Notes are faster and thinner, but strikingly precise. Crucially, the Prudence adds crispness, sparkle and air to the signature, making the STR7-SE seem dull. What Prudence cannot match though, is the inimitable and irresistible tone of the STR7-SE, which peels away layers of emotion with each listen.
Prudence’s soundstage is deeper with brilliant layering skill, whereas the Brise Audio is wider but shallower. Prudence edges out STR7-SE with better imaging accuracy, but the Brise Audio is no slouch either with a wonderfully clean background that results in a spacious, relaxed presentation. Listeners might not be on board Prudence’s forwardness and aggression, another key difference between the two.
I know what you’re thinking. In a vast sea of all-too-common copper cables that are practically a dime a dozen, what makes the STR7-SE so special? What justifies the high price? What voodoo magic could Brise Audio possibly possess? I might not have all the answers.
What I can say though, is that STR7-SE lines up consistently with the expectations of a good copper cable. You have warmth, an organic tinge, and of course, the to-die-for tonality that I have mentioned several times. What makes them stand out more is technical finesse, with better resolution compared to their copper brethren.
Forever and Ever Amen
But most importantly, the STR7-SE encourages you to put the music on and get lost in it. No number-crunching, no fancy technological jargon, just you and the music alone in the dark, til death do you part. Brise Audio reaches deep into your soul and electrifies it with stark, honest musicality, and more than gets the job done. Isn’t this why we got into the hobby in the first place?