July 17, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA
Headphones

Strauss & Wagner Rome Balanced Stereo Upgrade Cable (3.5mm to 4.4mm)

While 95% of headphones with detachable cables can be upgraded to a balanced connection, it’s not always a cost-effective option. Sometimes, cable markups can be so ridiculous that it’s hard to justify a $300+ upgrade. Cheap options sometimes work well, but they can also increase static noise and overall fidelity. Some headphones, like the Sony MDR-Z1R, have proprietary 3.5mm connections. This means it’s nearly impossible to find third-party cables that are compatible. Strauss & Wagner’s new Rome cable claims to work with all of them, so let’s see how it compares.

Quality and feel

OCC Silver(Ohno Continuous Cast) is well known for both its purity and quality. The continuous design means that there is minimal soldering within this cabling, allowing you to get the most signal out of your 4.4 balanced connections. In terms of connectors, they all feel sturdy and secure. The plastic around the braided cable feels smooth and won’t snag on your shirt. The thick braiding makes it difficult to tangle these cables. For $149, you’ll be hard pressed to find a cable with this quality at this price.

I often get asked what difference cables make to the sound quality of certain headphones. The answer to this question lies almost entirely in the quality of the cables you already have. In theory, a cable won't affect the sound, as it only transfers the signal. In practice, it's impossible to produce perfect cables, and there's always a variable that will affect how the signal is transferred. Most headphones don't come with the highest quality cables, and you'll most likely have to spend upwards of $2500 to get premium metals in your cabling. Unless you're using high-fidelity headphones, most of us will notice a difference by upgrading to a cable like this.

Design

Measuring 150cm (~4.9ft), it’s an excellent length for a portable or desktop DAC setup. If you want to relax on your couch and listen to an amp that’s too far away, the ALTA extension cable is the perfect companion. Testing both together, I got all the detail and nuance in the mixes. The extended cable didn’t affect fidelity at all, even when coiled on my desk. The cables feature 3.5mm male stereo connections that terminate in a 4.4mm output. Some other colors would be a welcome addition, but the silver cables provide a high-quality aesthetic all the same.

Compatibility

I’ve tried a lot of Strauss & Wagner cables and it’s great to see that the designers have outdone themselves with this new release. Strauss & Wagner products rank high when it comes to value and quality. For $149, I was surprised to see how broad of a compatibility the Rome has. As mentioned above, not all 3.5mm connections are created equal. Sony, for example, is known for adding proprietary connectors to their 3.5mm cables. I’m happy to say that when I tried the MDR-Z1R, the connectors were slim enough to fit perfectly. I’ve also tried the Hifiman HE1000, the Meze Liric II, and the Sivga Luan. Not only do all of these cables fit perfectly without any signal loss, but I also noticed an increase in fidelity. Check out the Strauss & Wagner website to see if these will fit your current headphones.

Auditory impressions

From the moment I plugged in the Rome cable, I noticed a significant increase in clarity and crisper highs across all of my listening tests. The difference was immediately apparent: sounds became more defined and the overall audio presentation gained a new level of crispness.

I was particularly impressed with how the Rome cable improved the performance of some of the budget headphones. The Meze 99 Classic, which were already stellar performers in their price range, reached new heights with this cable upgrade. The bass, which is a strong point of the 99 Classic, became more controlled and articulate, while the mids gained additional presence and detail. Similarly, the Sivga Luan, another of my favorite budget headphones, underwent a noticeable transformation. The Rome cable seemed to unlock the hidden potential of these headphones, dramatically increasing their fidelity. The soundstage was noticeably expanded and instrument separation became more pronounced, allowing me to distinguish individual elements in complex mixes with ease.

To put the Rome Cable through its paces, I listened to a variety of genres. One track that really showcased the Cable’s capabilities was “Allegiance” by Atmospheric Black Metal band Dimmu Borgir. The Rome Cable brought out the intricate layers of this densely packed song, revealing nuances in the guitar work and symphonic elements I couldn’t fully discern before. Harsh vocals cut through the mix with greater clarity, while thunderous drums gained added impact without overwhelming the other instruments.

On the other end of the spectrum, I tried the cable with “Eric B. Is President” by old-school hip hop group Eric B. & Rakim. This classic track was given new life through the Rome cable. The iconic drum loop sounded punchier and more dynamic, while Rakim’s smooth flow gained an extra layer of articulation. I noticed subtle details in the production that had previously eluded me. Trying them through the HE1000s brought a lot of life to this iconic lo-fi recording.

What impressed me most about the Rome cable was its consistency across different headphones and music genres. Whether I was listening to metal, hip hop, classical music, or anything else, the cable always delivered greater clarity and more refined highs. It’s a transparent device that really makes cheaper headphones come to life.

Summary

The improvements weren't subtle or imagined – they were clear, consistent, and really enhanced my enjoyment of my music collection. For anyone looking to get some extra performance out of their headphones, especially budget models like the Meze 99 Classic or Sivga Luan, I can wholeheartedly recommend giving the Rome cable a try. The fact that these cables work on a wide variety of headphones makes them a great choice for those of us who own multiple pairs of headphones.

Get the new Cable from Rome and all other products mentioned in Audio 46

For more information on compatibility, please visit Strauss & Wagner website

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