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Plussound EXO Tri-Copper Review – Spirited

Pros – 

Excellent ergonomics and build quality, Great resolving power, Dynamic low-end

Cons – 

Upper-bass emphasis doesn’t find synergy with many already warm IEMs

Verdict – 

The Tri-Copper combines excellent ergonomics with a natural presentation, high resolving power and clean background.


Introduction –

When perusing the handful of veteran Custom Cable manufactures in the West, Plussound is a name that immediately springs to mind. They’ve been making upgrade cables in the US for almost a decade, utilising high purity wire and bespoke components to offer both an aesthetic and sonic upgrade. However, since the company’s inception, aggressive competitors have sprung onto the market. In turn, Plussound have recently updated their cable line-up with improved geometry and massive upgrades to ergonomics. Their new Tri-Copper pioneers this transition, demonstrating great creativity and expertise with a price tag to match; its $549 USD asking price making it Plussound’s second most expensive EXO configuration to date. You can read more about their new cables and purchase one for yourself here.

 

Disclaimer – 

I would like to thank Christian from Plussound very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the Tri-Copper for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the cable free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

 

Design –

Besides the newly enhanced jacket that I will detail further below, the new Plussound cables are essentially identical to their progenitors in design. That’s not to be taken as a negative as Plussound’s cables have always impressed with their construction; from their beefy but well-relieved plugs and sleek aluminium y-splitter to their bespoke connectors, they feel built to last. This impression is reinforced by a high level of finish with an even braid and heat shrink at all terminations. Their cables are handmade and highly configurable with wide support for various connectors, colour schemes and wiring configurations.

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The Tri-Copper EXO is an especially great looking cable. Plussound’s new insulation is more transparent, providing a lens that showcases the interweaving conductors below. They’ve also made huge steps forward in ergonomics; where Plussound’s previous designs have bothered with their stiff, springy construction, their new insulation is almost impossibly supple. The EXO conforms like few other cables I’ve handled and its loose braid soaks up microphonic noise. I can imagine this makes their higher-end 6 and 8 braid models infinitely easier to live with than before. I spent almost 6-months with the cable and didn’t notice any hardening or discolouration, all photos in this review were taken just prior to writing.

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The ergonomic feel of the cable is especially impressive given that it’s slightly thicker than most competing 4-braid models. Though it is on the larger side, it’s still perfectly portable and compact enough to fit inside the majority of IEM cases. Its aluminium y-split doesn’t weigh down the cable nor does the cable itself prove cumbersome during daily use. Though I had long held Effect Audio’s cables as the gold standard in ergonomics, manufacturers such as PWAudio have demonstrated that they’re not alone at the top, and Plussound has confidently joined their ranks.

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Configured with standard 0.78mm 2-pin connectors and a 3.5mm straight plus, my review unit demonstrated a high level of finish and general construction quality, all backed by a one year warranty. The 2-pin connectors are nicely relieved as is the 3.5mm plug, both further secured with a grub screw. Of note, the screw faces away from the ear on the connectors, avoiding discomfort and imbuing the handmade DIY charm that makes custom cables such as pleasure for enthusiasts. There are no ear guides, but a 90-degree bend near the connectors that directs the cable over the ear. As the cable is so soft, it reliably hugs the back of the ear with no inclination to spring off while providing plenty of stability during more active use.

 

Sound –

I don’t personally believe that the material of the cable should purely dictate expectations but one would have a hard time guessing what kind of sound the Tri-Copper carries. Its internals are stuffed full of goodies, a combination of pure copper, silver and gold plated copper conductors, all in a Litz type 6 configuration, the most sophisticated of its kind. And once connected, its sound is equally unique to match.

 

Tonality –

The Tri-Copper is a lightly warm cable with well-controlled treble, a smooth midrange and generally full-bodied notes. It has a darker background set to a hint of additional lower-treble crunch which brings smaller details to the fore regardless. It also has impressive air that maintains atmosphere and a sense of openness despite its warmer tone. It, therefore, achieves excellent synergy with brighter, thinner earphones though it can also suit mid-bass focussed earphones with a thinner midrange. Testing below was done using the iBasso DX200 with AMP5 and its core qualities extrapolated through pairing with various IEMs.

 

Bass –

The Tri-Copper has a warmer low-end though its qualities aid the retention of fine detail. Extension immediately stands out as improved, with heightened slam on both armature and dynamic driver in-ears. This is reaffirmed by an increase in tightness, producing a solid, concise and hard-hitting presentation. Most notably, however, is the Tri-copper’s fair mid-bass emphasis and slightly lifted upper-bass that serve to increase bass weight and fullness. It isn’t excessive to the extent that notes become bloated or congested rather contributing towards a bolder bass note presentation.

Though added fullness is not usually conducive towards higher detail, the cable’s improved control means that it is still very discerning of fine detail. Bass speed is retained if not improved, and notes remain focused; increased in size while mitigating the exacerbation of bloat or muddiness. Accordingly, the cable yields a larger, fuller and warmer presentation while benefitting bass definition. It’s noticeably more dynamic, augmenting the attached IEM with solidity and scale.

 

Mids –

The Tri-Copper has a slightly richer midrange voicing. This mostly stems from its fuller bass as opposed to elevation of the lower-midrange, in fact, the Tri-Copper’s midrange is very even. Resultantly, the cable doesn’t enhance clarity or alter vocal presence, but the nature of its surrounding frequencies contribute towards a smooth, refined and slightly full-bodied presentation. As a result, thinness and dryness are mitigated and tone is slightly warmed. It isn’t a cable that specialises in absolute transparency, however, as the cable injects additional body, it tends to produce more complete and wholly resolved notes in addition to a very natural vocal reconstruction.

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This is especially effective when paired with brighter earphones as their midrange tends to thin out, losing that fine detail. Instruments such as acoustic guitar and piano are also flattered with organic body and improved resolution of micro-details. Vocals are especially excellent, delivered in a smooth and natural manner. In addition to its enhanced bass, this is no doubt aided by the cable’s controlled higher-frequencies and clean background that directs attention towards the foreground and prevents over-articulation or an excessive sense of forwardness.

 

Highs –

Up top is where the bulk of the Tri-Copper’s technical enhancements can be heard. It increases extension in addition to a slight increase in both lower-treble energy and control. It does so all the while imbuing a more organic treble instrument body. Tested with the Noble Katana, timbre is excellent, delivering some of the most realistic cymbals and high-hats I’ve heard. This can be attributed to the cables smoothing of peaks and dampening of middle-treble, contributing towards a cleaner background and a more refined yet more focused foreground. Through greater linearity, the cable also heightens detail retrieval in addition to permitting more textured notes. Strings and cymbals are especially flattered, presented with more accurate shimmer and decay.

Though middle treble is attenuated, the cable’s excellent extension retains air. Similar to Effect Audio’s cables, I hear a touch of additional upper-treble energy that adds a touch of clarity to treble instruments and brings micro-details to the fore. The cable also endows higher resolution which, in conjunction with its lower and upper-treble emphasis’, contributes to a presentation teeming with nuance without a hint of fatigue. This is where the cable most differs from lower-priced models such as the PWAudio No.5 that provide a similar increase in note body but lack the same kind of resolving power.

 

Soundstage –

The Tri-Copper provides a tangible benefit to soundstage expansion as it has a more laid-back background and greater treble extension that increases perceived space, especially with regards to width. Layers are also more delineated and, as the cable smooths peaks, instrument separation is improved. Its greater linearity yields more accurate imaging, especially within the midrange where notes are more wholly resolved. Due to increases in resolution, background detail retrieval remains high despite their slightly more laid-back presentation. Separation overall is improved, most notably with regards to the high-end though on already warmer IEMs, low-end separation remains the same as the cable’s higher control is set to an increase in bass note size.

 

Pairings –

Jomo Haka ($400): Fair pairing, overly warm as the Haka is already a full, dark earphone. Bass is noticeably improved, more extended and considerably tighter with greater definition. Mids are a bit too warm, vocals are slightly dull, could do with more upper-midrange. Lower-treble gains some presence and clarity, slightly more detail. Extension and air are improved though background is even darker. A bit of a muted pairing though not explicitly congested. Expanded soundstage aids this.

64Audio U3 ($500): Great pairing, extended sub-bass with heightened slam, mid and upper-bass become more linear with sub-bass. Midrange is more coherent with greater vocal body and more wholly resolved notes. Highs are more controlled, not too bright, cleaner background enables more focused foreground. Sparkle is retained and extension is slightly improved, redeeming air. Great soundstage expansion, more layered and better placement due to more accurate body. Maintained separation due to increased linearity despite increase in fullness.

Hyla CE-5 ($915): A great pairing. Excellent sub-bass extension and tightness, great mid and upper-bass control with a more even bass/midrange transition. Notably more natural midrange with fuller vocals and notes. High-end is more detailed, lower-treble control is increased. Background is very clean, perhaps a tad muted. Extension is enhanced, nice sparkles and very high resolution. Soundstage space increases, very layered and separation remains high. More natural overall.

Noble Audio Django ($1000): A fair pairing, a tad over-warm, especially the midrange where male vocals are slightly chesty. This is so as the Django already has quite a full upper-bass. Otherwise, bass is more dynamic and sub-bass, in particular, is enhanced in both extension and impact. Bass is noticeably more controlled and defined while mids sound smoother but also warmer. Treble is more resolving with greater extension, perhaps a little too dark and smoothed off, however. Soundstage space is enhanced and layers are very delineated.

Empire Ears Phantom ($1850): A good pairing besides upper-bass that sounds a touch tubby as the Phantom is already emphasized here. Otherwise, sub-bass extension is augmented, even over the included ARES II and mid-bass is more defined. Vocals are very coherent but also over-warm. Highs are more to my preference, with a little more lower-treble energy. Extension is improved a hair and resolution is high. Soundstage is more holographic but with less width and separation due to increased warmth.

Noble Audio Katana ($1850): An excellent pairing, the Tri-Copper enhances its mid-bass which serves to counteract its brighter midrange and top-end. It enhances midrange body and avoids excessive brightening. The cable smooths off the Katana’s high-end, increasing linearity and detail retrieval. The cable grants a cleaner background while retaining air due to increased extension. Resolution is enhanced and soundstage space is slightly improved. Imaging is notably enhanced due to higher resolving power and more accurate note body.

 

Comparisons –

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Effect Audio ARES II ($150): The ARES II isn’t comparable in terms of pricing, but it does represent a well-performing pure copper cable and an interesting comparison. The ARES II has a leaner low-end, it has a little less sub-bass slam but also a more transparent mid and upper-bass. The ARES II has an even midrange besides its upper-midrange that has notable emphasis, aiding clarity. It has a fairly neutral detail presence but enhanced upper-treble sparkle and impressive resolution considering its asking price. The Tri-Copper has more lower-treble energy and a more linear midrange. It is noticeably warmer due to its mid and upper-bass emphasis in addition to having a darker background. That said, it extends further in both directions and provides higher resolving power overall. The Tri-Copper is more dynamic and weighted in its presentation, almost opposite to the more liquid, delicately voiced ARES II.

PWAudio No.5 ($150): Like the ARES II, the No.5 doesn’t represent a perfectly even comparison, but it is a copper cable more in-line with the Tri-Copper in terms of tone, in fact, the No.5 is a touch warmer within the midrange due to its less emphasized treble. The Tri-Copper provides a more solid sub-bass slam in addition to a warmer upper-bass that produces a fuller bodied sound overall. The No.5 is more linear with just a slight mid-bass bias. It has a similarly linear if not slightly warmer midrange and a smoother vocal delivery. This can be attributed to its treble which is smooth and laid-back on the No.5 where the Tri-Copper has an uptick of lower-treble energy and noticeably greater extension. It is, therefore, more detailed in addition to being more controlled up top, delivering considerably higher resolving power. The Tri-Copper constructs a larger soundstage and has sharper imaging due to its more resolving high-end.

Hansound Redcore ($500): The Redcore combines pure OCC Copper and OCC Silver conductors to provide a sound that is full-bodied yet clear. It differs to the Tri-Copper mostly due to its brighter, clearer and more forward midrange. The Tri-Copper is notably more bass focussed, it has greater fullness and presence here in addition to a more dynamic, textured presentation. The Redcore is a little more linear here so it delivers greater separation if not the same depth and rumble. The Redcore has more vocal presence due to its centre-midrange emphasis and it is more full-bodied due to lower-midrange emphasis. The Tri-Copper is a touch more articulated but also more even. The Redcore has a more organic treble instrument delivery due to its greater upper-midrange presence and lesser lower-treble energy. However, it has a slightly brighter background. Both have excellent extension and a nudge of additional sparkle. The Redcore is a hair more resolving however, the Tri-Copper’s slightly crisper presentation somewhat counterbalances this. Both create a large soundstage, the Tri-Copper has a more neutral midrange positioning where the Redcore has the more neutral low-end.

 

Verdict –

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In complete honesty, I have always been a bit sceptical of Plussound’s exotic combination of materials, but the Tri-Copper is perfect proof of their effectiveness. It’s a cable that combines very natural, complete notes with high resolving power all set to a clean background. Plussound’s new insulation is also an enormous step up from their previous designs, in fact, I would consider their cables to now be among the most ergonomic on the market. They’re impossibly compliant yet don’t harden over time as some competitors do and Plussound’s level of finish is excellent. The cable doesn’t flatter many warmer in-ears due to the rather sensitive nature of the upper-bass region. However, the Tri-Copper is almost perfectly at home with brighter in-ears, serving to alleviate thinness and sibilance while maintaining energy and enhancing resolution.

The Tri-Copper can be purchased from Plussound for $549 USD. I am not affiliated with Plussound and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.

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