In the past, Hi-Fi+ and Ultimate Headphone Guide have favourably reviewed some of Effect Audio’s higher-priced earphone cables. However, there has been great interest recently in Effect's more affordable three-model Vogue-series range comprising the Maestro ($99 US), Virtuoso ($149 US), and Grandioso ($199 US) cables. Vogue is at once Effect’s most affordable and cost effective family of cables.
Effect’s Maestro cables use 26 AWG, ultra pure OCC copper conductors with a 'Golden Ratio Dispersion, Triple-Size Stranded Design.' For added strength, Maestro uses a woven Kevlar-infused, multi-stranded Litz cable configuration. Three earphone connector options are offered: 2-pin/CIEM (Flat) connectors, 2-pin/CIEM (standard) connectors, and Shure/Westone Pro MMCX connectors. The only amplifier connection offered is a 2.5mm balanced plug. Cable connector and Y-split yoke housings are made of machined aluminium with Effect Audio logos and easy-to-read channel markings on the outside.
The Virtuoso cables are much like the Maestros, but with a crucial difference: they feature 26 AWG, ultra-pure OCC silver-plated copper (SPC) conductors. Meanwhile, Grandioso cables are similar to Maestro and Virtuoso, but they raise the performance bar by using a hybrid combination of 26 AWG ultra pure OCC copper conductors and pure silver conductors, plus what Effect claims as an “upgraded cable geometry design.”
All three Vogue cables offered a substantial step up in performance vis-à-vis stock cables. I heard greater dynamic impact and sharper dynamic contrasts, cleaner and quicker rendition of the leading edges of notes, purer and more vibrant tonal colours, and significantly improved focus and resolution for upper midrange, presence region and treble details. Effect’s Vogue-series made my resident Massdrop x Noble K10 sound as if it had magically stepped up to an altogether higher performance class. However, each of the Vogue cables has a distinctive sonic persona.
The Maestro cables, for example, convey an organic and slightly warmer rendering of the music than the other Vogue models. In particular, this takes the form of a somewhat richer, more impactful rendering of bass content with upper mids and highs that are clear, but silky smooth and blessed with just a hint of delicate sweetness. A 1973 recording that illustrates these qualities is the title track from bassist/composer Eberhard Weber’s The Colours of Chloë [ECM, 16/44.1], which some have described as symphonic jazz. The Maestro cable helped draw forth the deeper, earthier elements of Weber’s bass sounds (which can otherwise sound a bit 'thin' on this album), while also unlocking the clarity and expressiveness of the bass’ upper register. At the same time, the Maestro cables clarified keyboard and percussion, yet without pushing them forward in the mix or introducing any excess brightness.
In contrast to the somewhat earthy and organic vibe of the Maestros, the Virtuosos are all about transient speeds, crisp delineation of notes, and sharpened focus and resolution on upper midrange, presence region, and treble details. Virtuoso sound uncommonly agile and highly resolving from top to bottom, complete with delicately filigreed high harmonics and textural and transient details. To hear what I mean, listen to the percussion tour de force 'Talking Wind' from Marilyn Mazur and Jan Garbarek’s Elixir [ECM, 16/44.1]. With the Virtouso cables in place, the sheer richness and variety of the percussion voices on the track suddenly come alive, though not in a brash or overbearing way, but rather with a terrific blend of speed, refinement, and elegance.
Finally, the Grandioso cables stand as something of a best of two world’s design, neatly fusing the best sonic qualities of the Maestro and Virtuoso models. In practical terms this means Grandioso captures the bass weight and articulation plus the gentle touch of treble sweetness of the Maestro, while also embodying the cat-quick reflexes and heightened focus, resolution, and three-dimensionality of the Virtuoso—all in one beautifully integrated package. To appreciate what this means in musical terms, listen to 'Moten Swing' from Clark Terry’s The Chicago Sessions, 1995-96 [Reference Recordings, HDCD]. This amazing recording captures the DePaul University Big Band accompanying Clark Terry on trumpet in a recording with extraordinary dynamic range. Early on, the big band rhythm section establishes a soft but definitely swinging groove, where the Grandiosos help clarify and add gravitas and rhythmic punch to the band’s acoustic bass, piano, and percussion sections. But, against the backdrop of this groove, the band’s horn section and Terry’s trumpet fairly explode into action, with the golden tonality and appropriately biting attack of the horns and the pure, penetrating voice of the trumpet conveyed with real authority and conviction. The combination of speed, delicacy, and sheer dynamic clout is irresistible.