Plussound PPH Review – Power & Lucency
Super soft jacket that doesn’t harden over time, Very wide soundstage, Holographic imaging, Powerful yet highly controlled bass, Defined vocals
Top-end isn’t especially open or sparkly, Full-bodied midrange can limit synergy
The PPH is for the discerning listener looking to extract maximum performance from their high-end gear.
Plussound is a renowned cable manufacture from California, USA. They’ve been hand-fabricating high-quality custom cables for almost a decade and offer a very wide range of configurations, all built with the conductor of buyer choice. Their latest flagship offering is the PPH, short for palladium plated hybrid. What we observe is copper and silver wire, both plated in palladium. This configuration can be observed on multiple competitors and is thought to bring a more engaging and vibrant sound in addition to one that is technically sound. As always, Plussound pride themselves on using the most advanced Litz geometry available alongside flexible polyethylene insulation. As of 2019, all cables also come with their new metal connectors which provide a very premium aesthetic.
The PPH is available for $999 USD in 4-wire Exo configuration. You can view their line-up and configure a cable for yourself on their store here.
I would like to thank Christian from Plussound very much for his quick communication and for making this review of the PPH happen. As always, all words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. The cable was provided to me free of cost in exchange for my honest review, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
The Pitch –
I just recently took a look at Satin Audio’s competitor which featured a rather sophisticated array of conductors. The PPH rather values simplicity in its approach to Palladium. Here, we observe pure copper and silver wires, both plated in Palladium. Actually, I was surprised to see this material adopted by so many cable manufacturers as it is most renowned for its hard-wearing properties, often used to coat plugs where it provides better wearing properties than soft gold. As with most materials, Palladium does its own unique qualities to the sound whether by virtue of its resistance or perhaps some other function.
Litz 6 Geometry
The cable has a Litz 6 geometry, the most sophisticated available, and with individually enamelled conductors, the cable won’t be subject to oxidation over time. It consists of Litz 4 bundles surrounding a central fibre core. This means the cable is well reinforced while still offering optimised ergonomics. The wires are 26AWG which is fairly standard for a custom cable.
Though organised and intuitive, I’ve always felt that Plussound’s website doesn’t flatter its flagship products as much as it could. Each conductor is simply presented in a dropdown menu and the price changes accordingly, there are no dedicated info pages or marketing. However, laying eyes upon the PPH’s packaging immediately dispels any notion that the PPH is anything but a flagship product. A premium gold/black hard box opens up to reveal a gorgeous acrylic plate that boasts the cable’s proud American heritage. Just beneath is a leather pouch containing the cable, and beneath is a soft leather strap. You can’t really ask for much more from a cable, the experience here is premium but not excessive.
Plussound organises their website into distinct tiers. The user first decides which form factor they’d like, whether that be a cable for an in-ear, headphone or interconnect. Within, the buyer is able to choose the wire configuration in addition to whether they would like sleeving. The Exo series is the most orthodox, a standard 4-wire configuration. Once selected, Plussound offer fairly wide customisation of the entire cable. This is my first post-2019 Plussound cable which features new interconnects that look substantially nicer than the heat shrink units used before. You can view my configuration in addition to the level of customizability below:
With the new connectors, Plussound really take their designs to a new level. The Exo PPH is a gorgeous cable in both colour and construction while upholding excellent ergonomics too. It’s a 26AWG wire which may feel thicker coming from stock cables but is quite standard for a custom cable. As before, the insulation is simply sublime – super smooth, supple and clear with zero memory and a great showcase of the stunning conductor array below. Another upside to Plussound’s cables is that their insulation retains its flexibility well over time. Many of my custom cables have become quite stiff but the Tri-Copper that I’ve had on hand for almost 2 years is almost as soft as the PPH which bodes very well for the rest of their models too. In use, the cable barely transmits microphonic noise and coils easily for storage. Tangles aren’t a concern with its smooth insulation and larger gauge construction.
It’s on the heavier side and won’t be suitable for earphones with an especially particular fit. That said, I didn’t experience an issue here personally and the X-series cables serve as a brilliant alternative for those prioritising comfort and portability. The cable has no ear guides, only a bend in the wire above the earphone connectors. It routes the cable comfortably over the ear while the weight of the y-split keeps the it seated and stable. The connectors, as aforementioned, are all aluminium and provide a highly premium aesthetic and feel. I am a huge fan of the new device-end plug which sports a built-in strain relief. The cable feels very sturdy and well-anchored into each termination while maintaining a neat and professional look overall. The Plussound PPH feels built to last and all workmanship is backed by a 1-year warranty.
Testing methodology: Subjective AB with Noble Audio Katana. This earphone has strong technical ability and employs a standard OFC plastic cable from factory, which serves as a sound benchmark for most listeners. It does not feature a flat impedance design so will be more subject to cable changes than some. I listened from my THX 789 + Khadas Tone board which measures very linearly, features a low output impedance and plenty of driving power. Select pairings will also be explored to assess synergy alongside comparisons to cables of varying conductor material. Being a cable, my comments do not refer to the same extent of change as that experienced between IEMs.
The PPH provides a vibrant, holographic and dynamic sound which seems to be a recurring quality for these palladium cables. Note delivery, I would categorise as smooth which prevents it from sounding too aggressive. The top-end is also quite clean and linear, being non-fatiguing, yet with strong resolution and definition. It can be considered W-shaped though not explicitly so as one may expect from an IEM. The low-end is lightly warm with deep extension and a more authoritarian mid and sub-bass. Mids are vibrant, delivering clear, enlarged and powerful vocals. The top-end is a touch more energetic too but with a pleasing sense of body that retains a natural timbre. The PPH delivers a tasteful sound that finds a happy medium between the technical performance of a good silver cable with the natural body of copper all the while retaining top-level separation and imaging.
Immediately, the low-end provides a deeper extending sub-bass slam. There’s noticeably better extension and a touch of sub-bass emphasis creating a more boldly expressed note in addition to more defined rumble. The mid-bass meanwhile, is a touch enhanced, so bass is fuller and slightly warmer when compared to a standard OFC cable. There remains good sub to mid-bass linearity so rather than a muddy or tubby sound, the voicing is rich and punchy.
This is no doubt aided by the PPH’s note presentation. Bass has a slightly smoother attack but also promotes a slightly quicker decay. Control is excellent with well-defined notes that retain great separation even on complex passages. So though not the cleanest or most neutral sound, the PPH is dynamic, articulate and extended. Its control and note presentation permit a strong technical performance, ensuring no fine textures are smeared nor smaller details glossed over.
The PPH crafts convincing overall balance by bringing vocals forward into the spotlight. This isn’t a mid-forward cable, but vocals do hold precedence over midrange instruments which, in culmination with strong tri-frequency separation, makes them stand out. The cable appears even-metered between male and female vocals, both being forward and enlarged. There’s a light warmth permeating from the enhanced low-end though good separation in the upper-bass and lower-midrange that grant vocals a clean tone. In turn, vocals are well-bodied, not rich nor thin, and presented with a more neutral tone than the low-end. This contributes to very high vocal clarity and definition in addition to very clear and delineated layers.
The cable doesn’t have that rich, copper warmth nor any silver brightness or stridence. It is, in all respects, an ear-pleasing sound, slightly vibrant but also very technically adept and balanced. The cable also doesn’t come across as over-forward. Articulation is smooth, and vocals have ample density if tending towards the more open and extended side overall. The robust low-end helps to keep notes filled-in and coherent so though the presentation is energetic, never does the PPH come across as thin or sterile. It is rather a delightful mix of qualities that place it a tick on the engaging side.
Focus quite adequately sums up the PPH’s performance here. The focus shifts towards the foreground with increased detail presentation and foreground/background contrast. However, this is not an aggressive, thin or strident sound. The presentation remains in strict control with a slightly smoother note articulation and accurate note body. Attack is concise but not too sharp while shimmer and decay are just slightly shorter, permitting great separation without sacrificing too much atmosphere and air. The increased separation, in particular, really aids detail presentation alongside a very clean transient response to not only heighten detail retrieval but also to deliver those details in a rather effortless manner. That’s not to say that this cable is bright. Since the low-end and mid-range also command greater attention, it simply comes across as more engaging.
With the PPH attached, the sound becomes less “flat” and a pseudo-W-shape if you will. Another highlight is resolution. This may not be immediately apparent as sparkle isn’t especially pronounced, favouring a more forward and detail dense foreground. However, extension is linear and top-class in performance. In turn, resolving power of minutiae is excellent and small details are abundant without overly skewing instrument timbre into tizziness as some sparkly monitors can become prone to. As a result of this more linear extension past the lower-treble, the PPH comes across as a very refined, layered and clean performer. It showcases great technical prowess in a manner that’s both instantly gratifying and perfectly listenable over longer durations.
The first thing I noticed was a wider soundstage, the expansion here is well outside the head when paired with a good monitor. Depth is more intimate, meanwhile, due to vocals being brought forward. Imaging is also excellent, engaging over perfectly accurate. The presentation is holographic with quick transients and sharp, excellent localisation. Centre image is very stable and strong, which is reinforced by highly defined lateral layers, especially noticeable within the midrange. The detail-presentation especially I feel provides a sense of stability and acuity to its sound. Separation is also improved due to both increased expansion and a generally more defined note presentation. This makes it easier to perceive smaller details without pushing them overly forward in the listeners face.
Gaudio Nair (900 CHF): The Nair is a very neutral monitor, thus, a blank canvas. It comes stock with a SPC Satin Audio cable. Still, the PPH provides immediately more engaging sound. Bass extends deeper and is brought slightly forward in the mix. The low-end gains body but also becomes more articulate and defined. The midrange is more vivid with greater body from the bass, a less reference but more musical sound. It comes across as a bit more coherent to my ears. The top-end, meanwhile, is actually not quite as open, but more focussed, especially in the foreground. The PPH is more detailed with more accurate instrument body, the stock cable sounding a bit thin. The soundstage is a touch wider on the PPH and separation is much improved.
Custom Art Fibae 7 (1100 EUR): The Fibae 7 is paired with the Null Audio Arete OCC from factory. The bass extension is similar but there’s more information in the sub-bass becoming more controlled and defined. The mid-bass too is more articulate with better detail retrieval. The midrange is a bit more open and separated with higher definition but similar positioning to stock. Meanwahile, the top-end gains headroom and air in addition to deriving a sharper note attack which aids detail retrieval. The soundstage becomes noticeably larger and more holographic, separation is much improved. The PPH is an excellent match here.
MMR Homunculus ($1699): The Homunculus comes with Eletech’s Prudence, an OCC SPC cable. The PPH provides a slightly more powerful and planted sound. Bass digs deeper creating a slightly fuller note. However, control is much improved and mid-bass sounds a lot more defined as such. The midrange becomes more full-bodied which isn’t the best match for the already warmer Homunculus. The stock cable sounds a bit more open through the midrange and top-end so though the PPH is technically superior here, its sound is not well suited to my ears.
Noble Audio Katana ($1850): A slightly more engaging sound with better technical. Bass extension is immediately much improved and bass becomes more controlled and defined. Mids are more forward, enlarged with slightly enhanced clarity but also deriving a bit more body from the low-end. The treble has more detail presence and retrieval and the background is cleaner with better micro-detail retrieval. The soundstage is wider and more holographic, separation is especially improved.
Hidition NT-8 ($2500): This is another highly enjoyable combination. The NT8 gains more bass body, power and depth. Its mid-bass becomes more articulate and its sub-bass better balanced. The midrange remains similarly forward, but with enhanced body while retaining strong clarity and openness. As such, it comes across as a bit more balanced and richer in voicing. The top-end is a touch smoother in the foreground but fine detail retrieval is improved by a fair degree. There’s more sparkle in the highest octaves and greater headroom. Soundstage width improves and imaging becomes even sharper. Separation is improved with greater dynamic range and note definition.
MMR Thummim ($4499): The Thummim already includes the excellent Eletech Plato so there isn’t a huge difference technically, more a matter of preference. Here, we observe similar effects to the Homunculus, producing a thicker, more powerful sound. Bass becomes fuller and thicker, the Plato is a bit cleaner and tighter while the PPH is bigger and more articulate and textured. The midrange is more open on the Plato while the PPH is fuller and denser, I find the Plato offers a more delicate balance and accurate timbre here. The top-end synergy though, I absolutely adore. The Plato is no slouch but the PPH introduces even more air and headroom in addition to more concise percussion in the foreground, it brings the top-end more to life. The soundstage is also wider on the PPH and the presentation is more layered. However, separation does take a step back from the cleaner Plato.
Suggested Pair Ups
For my preferences, the PPH finds best synergy with more neutral to analytical earphones such as the NT-8, Katana and Nair, introducing a more dynamic bass and fuller midrange, it also makes the treble a bit cleaner which can help with glare. However, it also works well with neutral/natural monitors like the Fibae 7, so long as the monitor has sufficient midrange clarity. Most contentious were the MMR combinations, the Homunculus especially sounding a bit too thick. This is very likely also due to MMR’s inclusion of the vivid Prudence and Plato from factory. The nature of the stock cable is, of course, something to consider as my sound section comments are in reference to a standard OFC cable.
Plussound EXO Tri-Copper ($549): The Tri-Copper (TC) is also a warmer, fuller cable but without quite as much balance and finesse as the PPH. The low-end doesn’t extend quite as well nor does it offer the same level of control and articulation. The TC is warmer and more mid-bass focused, delivering a warmer, slightly fuller sound but also a less discerning one. The midrange is larger on the PPH, being a touch warmer and more laid-back but also drier on the TC. The PPH is more open and more natural to my ears, with better balance overall. However, I would say that the TC is well considered to contrast its warmer bass. The forwardness and style of treble presentation is similar, but there’s a bit more micro-detail on the PPH with a slightly sharper note attack and more sparkle.
Eletech Plato ($999): The Plato is a 24AWG pure monocrystal silver cable. It is more neutral from a note body and tone standpoint. The bass is just as deep-reaching but cleaner and tighter with quicker decay and sharper attack while the PPH is bigger, fuller and more smoothly textured. The midrange is thinner on the Plato and more laid-back. The PPH has larger, more forward vocals while the PPH has better extension, definition and separation. The PPH sounds a bit wetter and more refined to my ears though take note that its fuller presentation better matches my preferences. The treble has a cleaner transient response on the Plato, being a touch more detailed. The Plato is brighter and carries greater sparkle while the PPH has a more contrasty presentation with a cleaner, darker background and more accurate foreground instrument body. The PPH has a wider soundstage while the Plato is more rounded. The PPH is a bit more holographic while the Plato has sharper imaging.
Satin Audio Zeus ($1399): The Zeus is a more exotic cable offering gold conductors in addition to copper, silver and palladium. It has even better bass extension and more sub-bass focus. As such, the Zeus is cleaner and a bit more dynamic and defined while the PPH is richer and more articulate. The midrange is fuller on the Zeus but more upfront on the PPH with its large and forward vocals. The Zeus is more powerful in voicing, being fuller and a touch more laid-back, while the PPH is more engaging with higher definition and greater clarity. The PPH has a more forward detail presentation while the Zeus focuses more on upper-treble sparkle. The Zeus has a cleaner transient response and slightly sharper note attack delivering a touch more detail retrieval. The PPH has a wider soundstage while the Zeus is more rounded with more depth. Both are holographic, the Zeus having more sparkle and the PPH being a bit more upfront with directional cues. Both trade blows on separation.
What I admire about Plussound is their honest approach to marketing. There aren’t any huge claims or statements, but transparency of specification and quiet confidence in the quality of the product. The PPH showcases this entirely, with gorgeous workmanship alongside excellent ergonomics. Sonically, the cable performs well even in its premium price tier. You get the resolving power of a good pure silver cable alongside the body of copper but with some extra energy and cleanliness from the palladium plating. The result is a highly engaging sound specialising in soundstage width, holographic imaging and a robust yet articulate bass. From a technical standpoint, the PPH won’t leave many listeners wanting for resolving power and it finds wide synergy with a sound that’s well-considered for most high-end IEMs. The PPH is for the discerning listener looking to extract maximum performance from their high-end gear without compromising on ergonomics.
The PPH in EXO configuration is available from Plussound (International) for $999 USD at the time of writing. I am not affiliated with Plussound and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.
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