After having owned a couple of the Forza Audioworks cables (the twin, copper made usb cable, and the Claire analogue interconnects), I asked him if he wanted to make me a recable for Etymotic ER4P.
I have been an Etymotic lover for years, mainly for their lifelike midrange, deep bass, linearity, and their high tuneability. By changing eartips, they strongly change their sound signature. In years, my favourite tips has become the Klipsch gel biflanges, and the Westone soft triflanges, to which I cut the last (smallest) flange.
I have purchased my Etymotic ER4P about 3 years ago. After one winter, the cable started to break. Apparently, the cold makes the cable stiffer, and much more fragile at the junction near the jack. Back then I didn’t send it immediately to Etymotic, but I just replaced the jack with a custom one, which lasted for some more months. At some point, a driver was also sounding badly. I sent the ER4P to Etymotic (warranty was over), and paid to have it replaced with a new cable and new drivers.
Last winter, the same scene occurred again, and in just a winter, the cable broke again.
As personal comment, I believe Etymotic must have changed something in their production, since years ago, their cables used to last much longer, and now they plain suck.
I didn’t want to spend 80Usd + shipping back and forth from the USA, only to have Etymotic replace my cable again, hence, I arranged things with Matthew from Forza Audioworks in order to have him build me a custom cable. In his product list, I had already seen recables for Westone In Ear monitors.
I had to choose if I wanted to send him the ER4 stock cable (which is removable), so that he could reuse the pins on the custom cable, or if I wanted him to buy Westone to Etymotic adaptor pins, to add to his standard Westone recable. I was already leaning towards the first solution, and one of his customer confirmed that the adapters sold on eBay, in his experience, were rubbish and kept disconnecting from his Etymotic.
I sent Matthew my stock cable, and asked him to make me a recable with custom impedance of 35 Ohm (against the standard 27 Ohm of the ER4P and the 100 Ohm of the ER4S).
I did so, because I think 35-40 Ohm would be the best tradeoff.
Structure and Comfort
The recabled Etys look like in the picture. They are very cool, in my opinion, since the copper color, inside the transparent insulator, gives them a pink/orange tonality which is very cool and fresh to have.
I also asked the cable to be pretty long, about 1.50-1.60 meters, since I wanted to use Etys also from a home setup, given the need.
The cable is much sturdier and well made than the stock one, for just a small amount of money more than it would have cost me to send the Etys back to factory.
As a downside, I think it’s a bit too stiff. It’s difficult to wear over the ears (it won’t stay in place), and it’s too noisy to wear like an earphone, straight down, due to microphonics. I did find an elegant solution, which works very well, and it involves wearing it behind my back (inside my t-shirt), the lower end entering my pocket from behind.
This way, it’s just a bit difficult to set up, but it’s a very elegant solution, it’s quite comfortable, silent, and the Etys stay in place. With this solution, 1.50 m length is mandatory.
I do think a couple of things: first, that some headshrink close to the earpieces could be of help to keep the drivers in place. The second, is that the ideal form factor for this cable would be a J cable, like that of Sennheiser CX300. Basically, you wear the left earpiece normally (wire going straight down), while the right branch of the earphone goes behind the neck to the right ear.
If I had to ask Matthew for a second cable, I would definitely opt for a J solution: clean, comfortable, and the most stylish.
Soundwise, the cable is very good and matches well the sound signature of the ER4. Compared to the stock cable, there is better smoothness in the highs, paired with slightly fuller upper bass, and a bit deeper soundstage. Soundstage depth is more apparent when using the Headamp AE-2 portable amplifier. They are otherwise quite similar, mainly sounding more liquid. It’s difficult to quantify how much of this character is given by the cable construction, and how much comes from the increased impedance. Still, since impedance, with Etys, usually adds something towards the higher range, I would think the copper cable has added some body and lushness in the lower range, and might have been balanced out by the impedance increase.
All in all, the Forza Audioworks recable is a much preferable alternative to the stock cable, since it offers better construction, looks and (hopefully) durability, as well as a more serious warranty. As a European, I would certainly choose it over having Etymotic replace their stock cable for a fee. The stock cable is really bad and not worth the money.
If I lived in the USA, anyway, having Etymotic facilities in the same country, compared to having to get an aftermarket from overseas, would still make more sense, albeit one would have to give up the cool looks of the Forza recable.