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For the uninitiated, Socrates was a renowned philosopher who challenged the status quo and implored his followers to always seek the truth. Find out why the latest high-end cable from Eletech Cables shares his name.
This year has gone splendidly, hasn’t it? As we ponder about life, the cosmos, and everything, the world is careening towards more uncharted waters and pathogens. Perhaps it’s opportune to take stock and reminisce about the things we love and cherish. Family, Coffee Bean, and upgrade cables for instance. While awaiting the release of No Time to Die, allow me to show you another way to part with your hard-earned cash.
Remember Eletech Cables? Purveyors of IEM cable excellence, I took a look at Prudence awhile ago. If you have the recognition, knowledge, and pedigree of their stature, you don’t beat around the proverbial bush. And if proverbs are your thing, you’d know that, in a lineup that has Plato in it, sooner or later king daddy will come knocking. Akuma to your Ryu.
- Sophisticated design
- Jaw-dropping proprietary components
- First-class build quality
- Satisfactory ergonomics and comfort
- Premium quality leather case
- Elite sound performance
- Unforgettable vocal rendition
- Beautiful timbre and lifelike tone
- Bass response and layering
- Treble focus and clarity
- Wide, spacious soundstage
- Superb imaging and separation
- Moderate kinking and memory effect
- No chin slider
- Vocals can be too forward
- Upper treble roll-off
Socrates aims to defy conventions, to flout a longstanding stereotype that copper cables are all warm and smooth-sounding, and belong to the lower tier.
No more. Socrates pushes the upper limits of copper, manifesting a sound that is reference-grade and highly technical, yet grounded with sweeping emotion. With a namesake like this, would you expect anything less?
Where To Buy
Socrates (the cable, not the legendary dude) is available for $699 from Eletech’s official website with a wealth of customization options. For connectors, you can choose from 2-pin, MMCX, UE/QDC, FitEar or JH 4-pin. At the other end, jacks are available in 3.5mm single-ended, 2.5mm balanced and 4.4mm balanced. I’d like to thank founder Eric Chong for the review unit, and our continued cooperation.
- Adele – 25
- Allan Taylor – Colour to the Moon
- Amber Rubarth – Sessions from the 17th Ward
- Bruce Springsteen – The Rising
- Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
- Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
- Lana Del Rey – Born To Die
- Taylor Swift – Folklore
- The Eagles – Hell Freezes Over
- The Weeknd – After Hours
- 24 AWG
- Flawless Monocrystal Bespoke 7N OCC Copper
- Maximus Efficiency Strand Geometry
- Kevlar Infused
- Cryogenically Treated
- Eletech Bespoke Solder
- Eletech Customised Y-Split and Connectors
- FlexiMax Insulation™
Packaging and Accessories
Unlike the housing for your ancient 1990s computer, Socrates’ packaging is one beige box you should be excited about. Featuring the great philosopher’s portrait at the front, the box resembles a large textbook, and you might even be able to walk through campus impressing a few philosophy majors.
The box opens like a book (yup) to reveal a round, wine-red leather carrying case, well-protected by foam inserts. The case is painstakingly handcrafted from thick cowhide leather and looks exquisitely high-end. We’re not in Kansas anymore, this is the high life. Socrates awaits you inside the case, yearning to be brought out and listened to.
You can probably get away with calling your listening sessions “wisdom-sharing”.
Design and Build Quality
The sheathing protects some serious business, for Socrates is made with a monocrystal bespoke 7N OCC copper, that is specifically configured to be 24AWG thickness with very high strand counts. The single crystal refined copper is continuous and free from defects and contaminants, to achieve zero grain boundaries. This enhances cable conductivity and confers low electric resistance, resulting in highly effective signal transmission.
Eletech’s in-house geometry stranding should also be mentioned. Their Maximus efficiency strand geometry allows multiple-sized copper strands to be packed within the sheathing to keep the cable slim. Different strand sizes manage different parts of the frequency range (thinner for high frequency, thicker for low). Socrates also has a Kevlar core for additional tensile strength.
With the technical terms behind us, it’s no question Socrates is well-built and looks stunning too. The cable follows a black and copper color scheme, with copper only appearing at the splitter and jack. Manufactured by Pentaconn, the splitter and jack are beautiful beyond words. The polygon inserts reflect light as you turn them, and matches well with the black brushed metal barrels. This is supreme elegance at work.
Ergonomics and Comfort
For the most part, Socrates has efficient, businesslike ergonomics. Going through the paces of review, there weren’t any glaring red flags. They were easy to wear and remove, lightweight, and generally pose the way I want for photographs. Imagine a casual weekend shoot with your favorite model, where work gets done with the minimum of fuss, and you look forward to payday.
Sometimes though, even your muse has bad days. Looking deeper into the handling, Socrates is pliable but slightly firm and springy. When left alone, segments of the cable start to uncoil and rise on their own. There is some unsightly kinking and memory effect too, especially from the splitter to the jack.
Rolling up the cable using the over under technique helps restore the original shape somewhat, as does keeping Socrates inside the leather case when not in use. When fully coiled, the cable is expectedly well-behaved. With some maintenance and tender loving care, Socrates is back to being the cheerful, bubbly model you know.
Comfort is excellent. The weight is on par with similar 4-wire cables, so if you have a collection of them, you’ll already be used to the weight. The pre-formed ear guides at the connector end ensure the cable loops around your ear gently, providing hours of listening comfort and style. The only question mark is the lack of a chin slider, but I hear Eletech is addressing this soon.
Overall Sound Signature
Some events make you sit up and contemplate life. A traumatic event, unbridled joy, or being overcharged by Netflix. Socrates puts us in a philosophical mood the best way he knows how, by presenting a captivating signature that arrests your attention every time. This is a copper cable out to prove it’s not an ordinary copper cable, because philosophy lol.
At its core, Socrates has a warm signature, but the story goes further. He must have been told as a child that he could accomplish anything as long as he believed. And I bet he believed his little heart out, because Socrates owns a phenomenal tuning that breaks many conventions of copper cables, pairing euphonic, analogue-smooth warmth with genre-defying detail retrieval and resolution.
The bass brings excellent extension and physicality, deftly balanced with pristine treble definition and vocal-forwardness. Note clarity is enhanced particularly in the mids, ebbing and flowing with clean edges. Even then, lushness prevails with a nice flow from one note to the next. The pitch-perfect tuning is set against an immaculate stage, with incredible perception of width, height and layering.
The cherry on top is the spellbinding vocal rendition. Socrates produces smooth, silky, seductive and soulful vocals male and female, that taps into your emotional core and renders you vulnerable.
To put it succinctly, Socrates can do it all, by will of might and magic. Be very afraid.
Critical listening was done after 100 hours of burning in, blazing through several textbooks along the way. Believe it or not, the background sounded cleaner after burn-in, almost like removing a veil, while the tone is skilfully maintained. If you’re in love with the sound before burning in, that won’t change. The IEM pairing of choice is Vision Ears’ VE8, because both have a similar tuning.
Socrates ain’t no Greek god, but he brings the thunder and lightning, providing authority and gusto. He possesses enough literary firepower to send hearts pumping and pulses racing. Sub-bass reach is admirable with a generous rumble in the jungle. You can feel the ominous, menacing growls in the lowest registers, as profound as really deep thoughts. What’s so amazing about really deep thoughts?
Moving up, the midbass is the epicenter of warmth in the signature, generating plentiful impact and slam. The thunderous midbass is matched with lightning speed and finesse to keep the stage clutter-free. Punches are deep and incisive, before decaying spotlessly, yet naturally. Socrates demonstrates remarkable restraint as well, prioritizing discipline and neatness over excess and bloat, like a responsible partygoer.
New Ears Resolution
The magic, not devil, is in the details. Socrates’ bass has an outstanding level of resolution, delineating each note clearly with a smattering of air in between. The details captured in each effortless bass layer are a pleasure to unravel. Notes are full and wholesome, with a fluid texture and a brilliantly organic timbre. This is a phenomenal, life-affirming bass, handling physicality and technicality with equal regard and mastery.
Just because you want an organic timbre, doesn’t mean you have to look at falling leaves, hardwood and maple all the time. Socrates sounds just as natural dressed in jet black. As you might have guessed with a cable of this caliber, Socrates levels up details and resolution by a notch or two, easily. Attacks and decays are tidy, with well-defined edges throughout every note.
And while note definition is better, the mids aren’t tightened nor thinned out. Quite the contrary, they are full, meaty, with fluid movement from one note to the next. Texture is velvety and creamy, with a natural coherence one can only describe as wonderfully musical. Cast against a pristine background, the mids are fleshed out, and prominently, forwardly placed, not that they mind the attention.
The Ties that Spellbind
The coupling of high resolution and timbral accuracy enables Socrates to convey sweet, sweet emotion effortlessly, and this is the cable’s highlight. You look forward, nay, crave hearing an intimate string or guitar passage, or a haunting piano solo, just to see how Socrates emphasizes and galvanizes them.
He wields the unworldly power to evoke, to rouse, and to stir the heartstrings, and you can’t help but be swept by the tide.
Even then, Socrates can still catch you off-guard, especially in the vocal front. Vocal texture is utterly, buttery smooth and grain-free. Male voices carry a gruff, brawny authority, while velvety female vocals seduce and reduce you to a blubbering mess. The only weakness I can think of is sometimes the vocals are too forward, but it takes a heart of steel not to succumb to the mids’ hypnotic, magnetic allure.
Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” While I’m not sure if he’s familiar with the 1980’s rock behemoth, every flight of fancy is bound to have a turbulent episode or two. Socrates’ treble is the anchor to the wild boat ride, providing stability and a steady hand to an otherwise rollicking signature that vehemently clamors for attention at every opportunity.
Other than the lower treble, the treble is relatively calm and collected. That’s not an affront to them though, far from it. Socrates renders treble with focus and clarity. The high frequencies slice through the music and make their mark regardless, surrounded by wafts of winsome air. The lower treble rise lends extra crisp and sizzle to the notes, with a controlled sparkle for energy and excitement.
Game of Tones
Further up, the treble is epitomized by a rounded, timbre-accurate tone, with cymbal crashes sounding natural yet fun. The absence of sibilance and metallic harshness further complement the treble, more Robert Pattinson’s Batman than Sparkles the Vampire. The only flaw is a rolled-off upper treble, depriving the signature of the last octaves of microdetail. But so long as the tone is unaffected, I’m cool with that.
Soundstage and Imaging
Wednesday morning, 3am. You suddenly awaken and have a moment of clarity, while all around you are sound asleep. Socrates possesses a black background akin to the dead of night, setting the stage for the music to flourish. Notes illuminate the dark abyss like glowing amber filaments, crystal clear and superbly defined.
And like an explosion of ideas, the soundstage is beautifully expanded as well, providing a large terrain to contain every thread, or flood, of musical information. The soundstage is significantly widened and heightened, resulting in a tall, vast space that is ambitious and grand. Stage depth is increased by just a little in comparison, owing to the forward-firing mids, but you’ll forgive that easily as the mids are just too good to miss.
Aided by the stable, black background, it’s no question that Socrates is an imaging maestro par excellence. Musical imagery is sharp, precise and intricately layered at all three axes, with instruments well-separated and inhabiting a space of their own. The natural soundscape makes it supremely easy to shut off the outside world, with the engrossing music the perfect vessel to transport you to your private, musical dreamland.
Effect Audio Cleopatra
Hypothetically, one day you’re walking down the street and find $700 just lying there. Rather than dwell on the whys and hows, you head straight to the audio store for some goodies. And right before you, at exactly the same price, lay the Socrates and Effect Audio’s pure-silver Cleopatra. Which do you go for? Allow me to aid you in this improbable scenario.
Cleopatra, despite initial apprehension, does not have a dry, weightless sound of your typical silver cable. Moreover it sounds exquisitely balanced with subtle warmth, and of course, the technical aspects are beyond question. The most noticeable difference between Cleopatra and Socrates is in the note weight. Cleopatra has leaner and nimble notes throughout, while boasting more extension both ends.
Also, note texture is more palpable on Cleopatra, with the ebb and flow of each musical passage better heard. For the signature, Cleopatra has a more present and weightier sub-bass rumble and cleaner midbass. While not as fun and full as Socrates, Cleopatra is a head-rattler and the bass performance is a matter of preference.
In the mids, Socrates takes the wheel, possessing a rich, emotive, pitch-perfect tone that is hard to dethrone. Only when compared is the Cleopatra caught out with drier mids, and a bright timbre with an occasional digital edge. Vocals, particularly female, are grainy and less engaging too. Some might prefer the airier and more detailed nature of Cleopatra, but Socrates has the mids all figured out.
All That Glitters
As we move up, Cleopatra’s upper mids and treble become sharper and more incisive. Notes are better defined, but there’s a slight tendency to harshness for Cleopatra. Socrates’ smoother, measured approach sounds more pleasant and coherent. Stage width is similar between the two, but Cleopatra boasts a deeper soundstage than Socrates, with more accurate imaging precision.
At the end of the comparison, how to spend the $700 is entirely up to you. There is no clear winner, but if resolution, speed, clarity and spatial properties matter more, Cleopatra is fit for a queen. If you’re after an organic, musical, coherent sound while not lagging behind in technical ability, Socrates is the philosophical choice.
Brise Audio STR7-SE
At its core, both cables resonate boundless emotion and realism. So like Superman and The Flash racing at the end of Justice League, I wanted to see how far both cables take those unmeasurable attributes. The IEM of choice is Vision Ears’ VE8, crowned “best tuning ever” by me with melt-your-heart mids. And the song, fresh off Taylor Swift’s new album Folklore, a pining, heartbreaking duet with Bon Iver, “Exile”.
Played first with the STR7-SE, it was goosebump city from start to end. The gruff, bellowy baritone of Justin Vernon sounded raw and weighty, and I felt every drop of emotion from his wounded voice, which contrasts with Taylor’s silky-smooth yet pained and distant vocal rendition. The sweeping violins, weepy pianos and sparse arrangement blended well into the bleak atmosphere. Job well done.
Now it’s Socrates’ turn. Notes have better resolution but just as much body, sacrificing none of the timbre while unearthing more details. Instruments are well-spaced and better-defined, like a mist clearing, but the vocals, oh lord the vocals. Voices are thrust forward, and in the intimacy, layers of rawness, aching and defeat are laid bare. Forget about goosebumps, tears flowed. And when Justin pleaded “I couldn’t turn things around”, the floodgates pried open.
By retaining all that is good with the Brise Audio and elevating the technical aspects further, Socrates took me to a place I’m afraid of going back to.
That of emotional vulnerability, awe, and helplessness. If I listened to this combo again on a dark day, God help me, but what an unforgettable experience this has been.
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing,” said the great man himself. It’s time to re-examine what you knew about copper cables and truly listened. Forget about precious metals, precarious alloys and unicorn hair. Why scour the earth for gold, palladium and platinum when copper has been true and faithful all along? This is a distinct case of right under your nose (RUYN) syndrome, and Socrates has RUYN-ed me lol.
Socrates dives into the heartland of Hi-Fi and delivers a heart-stopping performance from a classic material. It took a mountainous effort sourcing the purest copper, refining it ad infinitum, perfecting the tuning, until it finally sang. With a soaring, soulful voice, Socrates sang his lungs out, shifting between excitement, elation, and authentic, gut-wrenching, heart-shattering emotion.
Socrates delivers on its initial promise, being one of the few flag-bearers of high-end copper cables, a segment that should, by now, command some respect. I always allude to the day I became a cable believer, when Danacables Lazuli Reference floored me on my first listen. Socrates comes closest to replicating that fateful day. This is a magical listening experience, one that will leave you exhausted, but exhilarated.