Last Updated: Jul 23,2014
This is a review of Audio Technica ATH-IM03 in-ear monitors. ATH-IM03 SonicPro
This is a review of Lunashops replacement cable for ATH-IMxy series of IEMs. USD$40.00 - Earphone Cable For audio-technica ATH-IM50 ATH-IM70 ATH-IM01 ATH-IM02 ATH-IM03 ATH-IM04 - lunashops online shop
A lot of factors can contribute to sound quality improvement of your headphones. Beside selecting a higher quality source, both audio file and audio player, for example choosing the right eartip is probably one of the most popular mods. Some people experiment with wire up or down fitment or even go to an extreme of modifying earpieces with removal of filters or covering the vent. If you are fortunate to have a pair of headphones with a removable cable - you have another way to improve your sound, to fine tune it's characteristics. Until now, those who purchased recently introduced Audio-Technica ATH-IM series (IM01/02/03/04/50/70) had only a few pricey replacement choices due to unique 2-pin connector used in the design of that cable which is not as common as a standard MMCX connector. Fortunately, Lunashops introduced a series of replacement cables (Product search_Lunashops Online Shop - Hifi Earphone Cable DIY Center) ranging from $18 to $40 where $18-$20 ones are designed as a replacement with a more flexible design without annoying stiff memory wire and one even with in-line mic/remote for smartphone control. The more expensive one at $40 is designed not just as a replacement but actually as an enhancement where a more premium silver plated wire material is used to improve sound quality of your ATH headphones. That is a cable I would like to focus on in my review and to share with you what I found.
I have a number of MMCX replacement cables from Lunashops already, and was always pleased with their build quality, though those were $20 models which usually arrived in a generic packaging. This premium model arrived in a neat looking tin can with a clear top display screen, and cable was secured in a small plastic zip bag and cushioned by foam lining inside of the tin can. Out of the box, I was very pleased with a soft clear shielding of the cable and twisted pair of silver plated cables which looks to me like two twisted pairs before y-splitter followed by all 4 wires twisted together after the y-splitter. Y-splitter itself is plastic and somewhat transparent, followed by a clear plastic chin slider. The 3.5mm connector is straight, has a clear strain relief, can be un-screwed to reveal the wire connection, and it's gold plated with a typical TRS (Tip - left, Ring - right, Sleeve - ground) wiring which I verified with multimeter to be connected properly to L/R earpiece connector. Also, for those who are curious, while comparing the wire resistance between original cable and this replacement, I found the value to go down from 0.9 ohm in original cable to 0.6 ohm in replacement - most likely due to silver plating which also improves conductivity of the signal. Furthermore, I measured this replacement cable to be 1.27m long in comparison to a stock 1.2m cable.
Going back to the 2-pin connector header, the one used in Lunashops replacement model is not color coded with Red for "right" side, but it has a very clear L and R letter marking and also a small bump on L side, though it's not really necessary since ATH-IM series asymmetrical design prevents from flipping the sides. Connector itself has a very snappy lock fitment with an identical feel to the original connector. Testing with both IM03 and IM50 models showed a great comfort improvement in fitment over the ear. With original cables it was a major PITA to shape the wire and after putting it back in the case for storage to start all over again re-shaping when you take headphones out again. Now the wire, which is also relatively tangle free, goes easily over the ear and with a help of chin slider feels comfortable and stays secure in place. I found this to be a significant improvement over the stock cable. You can also use silicone earhook guides if necessary.
Of course, the big question is about sound improvement. There is no question about it, you will definitely going to hear the difference. It's not just a subtle improvement, but actually noticeable. I'm sure different people will hear different level of improvement since our hearing sensitivity is not the same, but it will put a smile on your face in either way. IM03/IM50 sound is great to begin with, but with addition of this replacement cable the sound became brighter with more sparkle and improved details across the entire frequency range. This brightness is well controlled without becoming sibilant, and overall gives a better definition to a sound. The most noticeable improvement is probably in low frequency region. I found the attack of the mid-bass punch to be a bit sharper and sub-bass gaining a new level of rumbling texture. Actually, speaking of sub-bass, I found this improvement to be more enjoyable with IM03 but not as much with IM50 where even with original cable it was already pushing the envelope. Also, microphonics was down to minimum. It's all a matter of personal preference and type of music you are listening to, but in my opinion - this replacement cable is definitely a worthy investment for either models of ATH-IM series headphones. Overall, for my own personal taste, this replacement cable will be staying permanently with ATH-IM03.
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