Class leading build quality and ergonomics, Very strong detail and resolution in-class, Agile bass, Wide soundstage
Can skew too warm on already warmer gear, Slight reduction in treble instrument body
If you’re looking for a detailed copper cable with top-notch ergonomics and build quality, you’d have a hard time topping the Fortitude around its asking price
Element Technology are a Singapore-based audio manufacturer specialising in boutique custom cables. They split their products into three families, the flagship Parnassus series, the premium School of Athens series and affordable Virtues models. The Fortitude falls under the latter and represents the company’s most affordable cable at present. It implements an OCC copper design augmented with an extreme high strand count that promises strong high-frequency performance alongside excellent ergonomics. Buyers will also benefit from a similar level of build quality as their higher-end models, sporting custom Eletech connectors and the same supple FlexiMax insulation.
The Fortitude is available for $199 USD. You can read more about it and purchase one for yourself at Eletech’s website here.
I would like to thank Eric from Eletech very much for providing me with the Fortitude for photographing. Eric was kind enough to extend the loan period an extra week for me to write this review, after which, it will be returned to him. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review.
The Pitch –
Litz 4 Geometry with Extreme High Strand Count
Eletech implement the second most sophisticated Litz type 4 configuration. This comprises of bundles of twisted wires twisted around a central fibre core. Eletech implement Kevlar here for its high-tensile strength and excellent wearing properties. They also use individually enamelled strands and cryogenically treated conductors that assure high purity and no oxidation/discolouration over time.
Custom Connectors and Y-Split
Gone are the generic DIY cables of past years, custom cables are akin to modern art pieces. Though not as distinct as the higher Eletech cables, the Fortitude represents this mantra well. The Y-spit especially employs a design congruent to the source-end plug for a visually coherent package and the terminations all employ a brushed finish. Chamfered edges have been implemented for user comfort, altogether promising excellent aesthetics and durability.
Eletech implements medical grade PVC insulation that offers a great balance between tensile strength and flexibility for an ergonomic experience. Special focus was given to their insulation design due to their adoption of high-strand internal wiring. One thing I have noticed about Eletech’s cables especially is that each model offers a distinctly different ergonomic experience due to the geometry of the wires inside despite sharing the same insulation.
The Virtues series cables employ a more simplistic unboxing than Eletech’s more premium models but it is a functional and well-presenting setup nonetheless. The Fortitude comes in a small box with pull tab and sliding tray revealing the cable within a protective fabric pouch.
Continuing Eletech’s legacy of unyielding design, the Fortitude crafts a clean and coherent aesthetic. As always, the company’s custom-designed connectors and y-split entice with their stunning angular design that forms awesome contrast and lustre. This is reinforced by very transparent insulation makes the high strand count design very apparent, portraying the rich colour and texture of the conductors below. Chamfered edges on the metal components contribute to the ergonomic experience while a brushed finish provides a very premium impression. As with all of their designs, it’s the finer touches such as the coloured Eletech inlays that elevate this design above the majority of competitors.
The ergonomic experience is just as compelling. Like the Prudence, the Fortitude is a 26 AWG cable – so similar to other cables in this class and noticeably more compact than the 24 AWG higher end models. In turn, it feels lighter and no more cumbersome than most stock cables despite the metal connectors. The Fortitude is also the most flexible cable in Eletech’s line-up. The insulation is smooth but also super supple with zero memory making it easy to coil for storage and highly tangle resistant on top. Microphonic noise is minimal despite the Kevlar core and this also ensures that the cable feels sturdy despite being light and flexible. Terminations feel well-anchored with no play and pre-moulded ear guides comfortably route the cable over the ears for an extra stable fit. The Fortitude is simply a delight to use during daily use.
When listeners think of copper a warmer and darker sound generally comes to mind. That said, there have been no shortage of models that break that mould and the Fortitude is one of them. This cable is quite lively for a copper cable, with a quick, concise note attack and an energetic top-end. Bass is a touch warmer with a lightly elevated mid-bass while the midrange is defined by its slightly larger and more forward vocals filled-in by a medium warmth permeating from said bass. Meanwhile, the top-end has a crisper and more aggressive foreground that finds good contrast to a cleaner background. The Fortitude has a refined presentation that represents a strong performer at this price.
The low-end provides reasonably copper-esque qualities but with a tighter note presentation that adds satisfying tactility. Sub-bass extension is slightly improved albeit not to the extent of the larger gauge cables I’ve tested. Nonetheless, there’s a nice tight slam and rumble. Mid-bass is elevated, not hugely but achieving some focus here. Note timbre remains natural, however, not humped or bloated but very punchy and surprisingly agile too. The upper-bass continues this trend with a hair of emphasis, instigating the generally warmer character of this cable. However, this also helps to retain just a bit more linearity through the bass which works to the benefit of its natural timbre.
I was most impressed by the note presentation of the Fortitude’s low-end. It isn’t too smooth, rather sitting on the quicker side equating to a cleaner and more defined presentation. Note attack is noticeably sharper than stock OFC units and most competing coppers as well. Meanwhile, decay is a touch quicker than average forming a well-textured yet snappy presentation. The Fortitude has especially good timing and organisation on complex tracks as a result. Though still a touch smoother than a silver cable, since mid-bass takes some precedence over sub-bass making it slightly less aggressive, this remains a pacey and well-defined copper cable with a concise and punchy presentation.
As one may expect, the Fortitude provides a slightly warmer midrange tone, a result of its warmer bass. The change is not overt, but the timbre is noticeably different. There appears to be a slight centre midrange bump that increases vocal size and brings them a hair forward if not hugely noticeable in context of the cable’s similarly larger bass. In turn, vocals don’t dominate and there’s a little more contrast in the lower-midrange contributing to a lively and pleasantly clean presentation, nonetheless. These two factors permit appreciably higher vocal definition than stock while retaining a coherent note presentation, not stretched thin or strained.
Vocal extension in the upper-midrange is similar to stock but the Fortitude is slightly more articulate providing the impression of greater clarity and openness. Again, this is not to a large degree as, given the uptick of lower-register warmth and generally less drastic changes above, the Fortitude is hardly a revealing or bright sounding cable. The timbre is not the most accurate as the Fortitude isn’t especially linear, but it is a coherent sounding cable and well-balanced too. To my ears, the qualities work in harmony to achieve a flexible sound with good genre and synergy versatility.
I suppose one could call the Fortitude U-shaped given that highs are noticeably more energetic than stock. However, the extent of the change means that the cable really doesn’t focus explicitly on contrast and clarity, it is just leaning slightly more in that direction over most copper cables. Immediately, there’s a little more presence in the lower-treble contributing towards an articulate and crisp presentation. Detail presence sits slightly forward, in-line with the bass and vocal range, once again instigating a slightly more engaging and higher contrast presentation. Accordingly, instrument body is thinner but note attack is quick and concise, enhancing fine detail retrieval.
Detail delivery is also very focused, working in tandem with a dark and clean background to create a well-layered presentation with a keen sense of direction and localisation. Top-end extension is not the highlight of this cable but does represent a healthy increase over a stock unit. There’s simply a bit more headroom and control on offer; a more composed presentation despite being more aggressive. Sparkle is more palpable on high-end IEMs especially and the transient response sounds generally cleaner. However, it’s that uptick of foreground energy that contributes most to the impression of a more detailed sound to my ears.
The Fortitude offers a noticeably wider soundstage than stock, expanding width to an impressive degree. Depth is ample but generally more intimate due to the powerful, forward vocal range. On the contrary, this does help with the imaging performance as vocals uphold a very strong centre-image and always remain focused even on complex tracks. The presentation is pleasantly layered, with strong foreground/background contrast especially. Localisation is and directional cues both come through sharp and clean, if not especially holographic. Separation is not the highest but a good performer considering the modest warmth at play. The midrange especially could be more defined while the bass and treble sound noticeably more organised to my ears as opposed to stock.
Craft CE4 (550 EUR): Deeper bass extension with a cleaner and faster mid-bass, more separated and defined. The midrange tone is cleaned up by a fair degree while vocals become a touch larger and more defined. Treble is more detailed with a sharper note attack and more energy in general. There’s a bit more extension and background detail especially. The presentation is wider and more separated. An excellent pairing.
Hyla CE-5 ($940): Bass isbigger and warmer through the mid-bass. It is tight and agile but a bit tubby due to the warmth. The midrange is fuller and warmer which works well due to its recessed lower-midrange. The treble is a bit too thin given that the CE-5 is already thin, it benefits from a smoother cable like the No.5. That said, it remained a high-resolution and composed presentation with good width and better coherence. Still, a less recommended pairing to my ears.
Avara EST-6 ($1100): Deeper, more agile and more defined bass, slightly cleaner and more defined midrange due to increased lower-midrange contrast, similar warmth to stock. Top-end is noticeably more detailed, a bit more sparkle and micro-detail. Greater soundstage expansion and separation, a strong pairing.
Noble Audio Katana ($1800): Improved bass extension, slightly warmer mid-bass and midrange. Larger, more powerful vocals, more articulate. Greater detail presence and fine detail retrieval. More headroom and wider soundstage, a strong pairing.
Custom Art Fibae 7 (1100 EUR): The Fibae 7 includes the Null Audio Arete stock. Slightly richer mid-bass but with similar extension and definition. The midrange is slightly wetter but also a touch warmer so similar in definition. Slightly more articulate with a more detail treble, similar quantity. Wider soundstage especially, similar separation. A decent pairing but ideally the bass would be a bit cleaner.
Lime Ears Aether R (1200 EUR): Bass extends noticeably deeper and becomes a touch fuller in the mid-bass. It is tight and faster, resulting in higher definition. The midrange tells a similar story, it is slightly warmer but is also well-defined and articulate. The top-end especially becomes more detailed. There’s better resolution and texture alongside more defined layers. The soundstage is wider with better separation. A good pairing, a touch warm in the midrange.
Suggested Pair Ups
The Fortitude works best with two kinds of sounds; earphones with a neutral tone and note size like the Katana or earphones with a bolstered lower-midrange like the EST-6. On earphones already sporting mid-bass emphasis or a warmer midrange tuning, the Fortitude can push a bit too warm though, of course, this is a preference and the uptick of definition does help with versatility here as compared to some competitors. The top-end is generally inoffensive and achieves wide synergy, with the exception being the notably thin CE-5 due to its unorthodox ceramic tweeter. Otherwise, I find the Fortitude to offer strong resolution and detail retrieval at this asking price.
Effect Audio Ares II ($149): The Ares II offers a similar bass extension but also a slightly fuller mid-bass. The Fortitude is more agile with higher definition, the Ares II having greater impact but less detail. The Ares II is warmer but has slightly larger and more forward vocals. The Fortitude is cleaner with a bit more contrast and again, higher definition. The Ares II and Fortitude have a reasonably similar top-end presentation. However, the Fortitude comes across as considerably more refined, with greater headroom, texture and detail retrieval while only being a touch brighter. The Fortitude has a cleaner transient response and higher resolution. The Ares II lacks the same extension. The Fortitude has better staging performance in general, of course, it is also the pricier cable.
PWAudio No.5 (259 SGD): The No.5 provides a slightly fuller and deeper extending bass but is a little woollier in the mid-bass, the Fortitude being more agile and defined. The midrange is a touch cleaner and more articulate on the Fortitude with greater contrast while the No.5 is warmer, fuller and more organic with greater linearity. The Fortitude has a more energetic top-end, the No.5 being noticeably smoother but also more even metred, providing a more natural instrument body and also a darker, cleaner background. The Fortitude meanwhile offers noticeably greater fine detail retrieval and more pronounced sparkle. The Fortidude has a wider stage and better separation while the No.5 has a more rounded presentation with more coherent imaging and more defined layering.
Eletech Prudence ($249): Eletech’s SPC model comes in at just a small price premium. The Prudence offers a slightly deeper, harder-hitting sub-bass but also a more linear mid-bass. It isn’t as full and warm but cleaner and a bit more defined. It also offers a noticeably cleaner midrange and a more defined one, lacking the bolstered warmth of the Fortitude. The Fortitude has a more focused lower-treble, with more crunch and bite to percussion alongside a darker background. The Prudence is the more organised and composed performer, however. It sounds more effortless with higher resolution, more texture and a bit more headroom and sparkle. The Prudence has a larger soundstage too, it isn’t quite as coherent due to reduced note body and foreground detail focus but is a bit more holographic and separated.
After becoming well-acquainted with Eletech’s more premium cables, I was impressed at how much of the same DNA had filtered down to their affordable offerings. This starts with a similar top-quality construction, being thinner in gauge but also more compliant; one of the softest cable’s I’ve reviewed in fact. The sound impresses too, especially for the price. Indeed, there is some warmth in the bass and midrange but also excellent agility and contrast that retains separation. The top-end steals the show, being very technically adept. It isn’t quite as effortless as pricier Prudence but very focused and organised; a satisfying performer indeed. As always, synergy and preference are best dictators of a purchase decision in this hobby, so refer to my suggested pairings and comparisons to find which option is most suitable for your particular setup. Regardless, if you’re looking for an ergonomic and well-detailed copper cable, you’d have a hard time topping the Fortitude without stepping up to a higher priced model.
The Fortitude is available from Eletech (International) for $199 USD at the time of writing. I am not affiliated with Eletech and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.