Pros: Dynamic Bass, Grain-Free Treble, Spacious Stage, Modular Plug System
Cons: Transparency is Not Top-Class
I would like to thank Dita Audio for providing a discount on the purchase of the OSLO cable in exchange for a review.
Since purchasing my Audeze LCD-i4, it has become my go-to headphone. But what I couldn’t get past about it was the included SPC cable, as it presented a dry mid-range and a grainy treble. So I set out on finding a replacement cable that would present a full-bodied mid-range and a grain-free treble. I went though 8-10 cables and had no luck in finding the right one. Either the cable didn’t sonically synergies with the i4, or was too heavy for i4’s cable socket. I had given up on the search for few months and then began search again in 2019. I reached out to a friend, who is quite up-to-date on the cables. I told him my sonic, physical and budget requirements and he recommended the Oslo cable. Then I reached out to Dita and told them that I was buying this for my LCD-i4, and wanted the cable without the curved heat shrink on the IEM side. Darren at Dita was very helpful with my request and shipped the cable in no time.
I actually quite liked the packaging of the Oslo cable. It is functional enough to securely hold the items in place, and at the same time, not an overkill for a cable. Included with the cable is a velvet pouch, a 2.5mm and a 4.4mm awesome plugs and a small bottle of contact enhancer. We’ll discuss each of these items in their respective sections, except for the velvet pouch which basically makes for a good cable storing sleeve.
Flexibility, Handling, Build Quality and Microphonics:
If you have tried Dita’s truth cable, you wouldn’t believe that the Oslo cable is from the same manufacturer. Unlike the Truth cable, which was stiff, springy and exhibited a lot of cable memory, Oslo is supple, non-springy and has no cable memory. It is a single tube cable (think of Sennheiser IE800’s cable, but thicker), with the wires running helically on the inside. Build Quality is also impeccable, especially the quality of the IEM connectors are simply a notch better than the connectors used by competitive brands. But something to note here is, the 2-pin connectors or the Oslo cable seem to be a bit of a tricky fit with Empire Ears IEMs.
Awesome Plug System:
The Awesome Plug system really is the highlight of the cable. As the name goes, the system is really awesome. It is basically a modular system that allows you to switch the plugs on the source/amplifier end between 3 choices of terminations: 3.5mm SE, 2.5mm Bal and 4.4mm Bal. So if you were to buy this cable today and were going to switch from an Astell & Kern DAP over to one of the Sony DAPs, you wouldn’t have to worry about sending the cable to Dita for re-termination. All you need to do is screw out the 2.5mm plug and screw in the 4.4mm plug and you would be ready to go. A notch and groove system ensures the plugs are always connected in the correct orientation. My only concern is about the durability of this system as the plugs seem to be made of plastic. I must admit, the materials feel quite sturdy that it would easily last a few years. I wish Dita offers a variety of cables with this plug system.
Oslo’s sound can be described as warm, smooth and laidback, with a large soundstage. Unlike cables that are inherently warm in the mid-range, Oslo’s warmth is a result of slightly enhanced mid-bass and lower-mids. While this puts the tone of the cable on the warm side, I would not characterise Oslo’s tone as Natural, as it misses the linearity slightly by not having sufficient upper-mids. On the tonal side, what draws your attention is the low end. As the bass is tilted towards mid-bass over the sub-bass, Oslo prioritises slams/punches over rumbles, by a small margin. Only by a small margin though, as you still get those rumbles to a satisfactory level, just not as much as an SPC or other cables that are tilted towards sub-bass. Despite the slight lift in mid-bass, it doesn’t sound one note or loose, but rather taut and layered, something you would typically find on cables with controlled mid-bass. It is indeed a rare combination and is one of the highlights of the cable. This bass bump continues on to the lower mids, which results in thick notes and warm presentation in the lower region of the midrange. This gives a lot of power and a beautiful color to male vocals and instruments with fundamentals and overtones in the lower region.
As a result of slightly smoothed out upper-mids, female vocals and instruments having overtones in the upper region do not carry the same level of prominence in the presentation. This also results in a slight compromise in transparency in the midrange. This smoothness continues onto the treble, but this time it actually works out for the better, as what you get is a linear and smooth treble that does admirable detail retrieval, due to its high resolution. This for me is the second highlight of the cable. If you are looking for sparkly and airy treble, Oslo’s treble might not quench your thirst. While the smooth upper-mids and treble are contributors to the laidback nature of the cable, another reason the cable sounds laidback is, its slightly softer note attacks. So it should come as no surprise that Oslo is a forgiving cable. This brings me to the third highlight, the soundstage. Oslo doesn’t rely on sparkly highs to create an airy stage. It creates a very spacious stage with a black background by placing instruments farther from you. So you what you get is a large, stable stage.
This may be the right time to discuss the Contact Enhancer. The concept of using liquid contact enhancers is not new. People have been using DeoxIT for many years now. I don’t know the science behind this concept. But my half-educated guess is, the liquid is conductive in nature and acts as a seamless bridge between the uneven metal surfaces of the plug and socket, which would result in slightly improved electrical conductivity. As for Sonic related differences, I do hear the upper-mids gaining a bit of vividness and slight improvement in clarity in the overall presentation when the Contact Enhancer is applied to the source plugs and IEM pins. The cable also sheds some of its laidback nature. It’s still laidback, but not as laidback as before.
Oslo Vs. EA Eros II 8W:
Eros 8W has become my reference cable, as it has an uncolored signature (except for a slightly sub-bass boost) and commendable performance in the non-tonal aspects. This is an interesting comparison because both cables cost the same. So depending on what you are looking for, you could decide which way to go. In my opinion, Eros is one of the right ways of doing neutral. Instead of an analytical and lean sound that has become stereotypical of neutral these days, Eros carries sufficient body without verging into warm or bright territories. Oslo in comparison, presents a warmer and smoother sound.
Eros has a slightly stronger sub-bass than the Oslo. While Oslo’s midbass and lower mids are clearly warm, Eros’ midbass and lower mids are almost neutral, may be carrying just a hint of warmth. Eros is more linear in the midrange and so presents instruments and vocals with slightly better transparency. Oslo’s treble is smoother but carries the same level of detail as the Eros. On the non-tonal aspects, it’s really a close call, as I hear both cables to be on the same ball park in terms of soundstage, separation and layering. While I have said the Oslo is laidback, Eros is not laidback, but it’s not aggressive either. It’s just neutral.
Oslo Vs. EA Ares II 4W:
Eros 4W seems to have become the most common gateway cable for people wanting to venture into upgrade cables. Compared to the Ares, Oslo presents a warmer and yet a cleaner bass presentation. The same trend follows in the midrange, where despite the lower-mids tilt on the Oslo, it comes across as better defined and having better transparency. Oslo’s treble is smoother and yet retrieves more details than the Ares. In the non-tonal aspects, Oslo once again has slight edge in almost all aspects such as soundstage, separation and layering.
Oslo Vs. stock OFC:
Oslo would be a clear improvement over a Stock OFC in all aspects you could think of. You would get a larger soundstage, better instrument separation, tighter and more layered bass, mids with better definition and treble that sounds smoother yet more detailed. Compared to the Oslo, stock OFC would sound muffled, muddy, veiled and closed in with instruments smearing over each other.
Oslo Vs. Stock SPC:
SPC cables typically have a boosted sub-bass, neutral mid-bass, a thin midrange and a sparkly and bright treble. In comparison to an SPC cable, you could say, Oslo’s sound is kind of an exact opposite. Compared to an SPC, Oslo will be warmer in the bass, smoother in the treble and would carry more body in the midrange. Depending on the grade of an SPC cable, it’s non-tonal aspects like, soundstage expansion and separation could range anywhere from negligible to commendable. Even compared to some of the best SPC cables, Oslo’s non-tonal aspects would be slightly better. Oslo also can retrieve as much detail as an SPC, despite having a smoother treble.
Pairing and Recommendations:
Not considering the sonic aspects, this would be a handy cable for someone, who has multiple DAPs that have different types of balanced connections, as the Awesome plug system makes it easy to swap through your DAPs. The wonderful ergonomics of the cable is another big plus. But when taking the sonics into consideration, I would highly recommend the cable to be paired with IEM that sounds aggressive. The cable would really help bring the aggressiveness, down a notch. It shouldn’t be a bad match with a neutral sounding IEM either. But I would advise caution when pairing with IEMs, that are laidback sounding.
Oslo is a warm and laidback sounding cable that would pair ideally with aggressive IEMs. You may want to think twice, or try it for yourself, if you want to pair it with a laidback sounding IEM. Besides the sonic highlights such as the dynamic bass, smooth treble and spacious soundstage, the most important highlight for me about this cable is; the Awesome Plug system, which allows you to swap the plug on the source end of the cable, to make your IEM setup compatible with various DAPs and DAC/Amps in an instant. From a usability perspective, I love this cable so much that I really wish Dita makes more cables with the same physical properties and awesome plug system but with different sonic signatures, so more people could benefit from it.
Price of Oslo: $600
Music Sanctuary: https://music-sanctuary.com/products/dita-audio-oslo-iem-cable
Contact Dita Audio on Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/DitaAudio/