December 17, 2013 2 Comments
I own a set of JH Audio 13Pro custom in-ear monitors. These are high-end headphones which sound amazing and will set you back $1000 if you don’t get them on special ;-)
Over the course of owning these, I have come to realize just how much not only file quality (128k 256k 320k MP3 vs AAC etc) but also equipment and cable quality matter. I have honed my portable system to the point that I have a great sounding system – JHAs driven by a Centrance HiFi-M8 DAC, fed by my iPhone/iPad.
If I want to be able to use my JHAs with an iPhone, and use volume controls and Mic for regular calls, then I have a big problem. The cables that are available to plug into an iPhone are bad. bad.
You may have seen an earlier post I made about trying to connect my JH Audio 13 Pro CIEMs to an iPhone cable successfully… The result of which is a cable that didn’t do particularly well either.
I had a few custom cables made by a guy in China, and those, too, were bad. I even went so far as to write an iOS App which would detect a proper Mic module on a cable, since three of his cables actually didn’t work with a Mic.
I also hacked a set of Ultimate Ear cables… which have reversed polarity, which butchers the sound stage…
So it seems to me that the only way of getting the full quality from my setup is to have interchangeable cables. A set for when I want to listen to high fidelity music, and a set for when I am using a direct connect to my iPhone… sacrificing quality for a Mic control.
The snafu here is that to do this, I would have to plug/unplug the connectors that connect directly to the IEM. The connectors have two pins and stay put through basic friction… which means the more you plug/unplug them, the more they become loose. Im talking 5 or 6 plug/unplug cycles before a cable starts to literally wiggle itself loose.
After a lot of custom cables, I finally found Moon-Audio. (Actually, I finally spent time to learn more about what they did instead of dismissing “high end cables” as voodoo and a way to extract money from me)
Moon Audio makes a Silver Dragon (and many other cables) for various headphones, including JH IEMs. If you use one of these cables with your existing system, I have to say, that it sounds fantastic. It makes about as much difference as plugging in an external DAC like the Centrance HiFi-M8. Really.
What mae me order it, however, was that these cables can be ordered with a Male miniXLR connector allowing you to switch out what you actually connect your headphones/monitors to. In my case I have a balanced RSA cable and a “regular” stereo minijack:
First prototype interchangeable iPhone Cable:
Now the only thing I need is an “iPhone control” cable. What I did was to go out and buy the components I needed to mock one of these up. A female MiniXLR with 4 pins, an iPhone minijack (TRRS Minijack) and the old Mic remote pod I removed from the official JH Audio iPhone cable. (Yes, I have tried a LOT of iPhone cables)
The result is a working prototype, shown above.
Next, I contacted Drew at Moon Audio to make me a proper one of these using the fantastic cable found in the Silver Dragons, with not only great components and construction (silver cables, silver solder, high-quality XLR etc etc) with no iPhone control actually connected, since they don’t usually do it.
The connections look like this under the hood:
I had to find an iPhone mic control to attach to the end. As it turns out a few of the vendors seem to use the same module. (Ultimte ears, Beats and a few others) The easiest way to source one of them is Amazon – search for a Beats replacement iPhone cable. It also does make a difference which pins are connected to which pins in the control, as there must be some diodes in there, so its important to use a multimeter to note what is what. Luckily the Beats control snaps off easily…
Drew from Moon Audio made me my custom cable, and I soldered the iPhone control to it, and added a clip for the cable, resulting in a complete, high-quality iPhone cable:
Impressions to follow….