Here are my overarching impressions of each cable (over the course of a few months) and how they sounded on my systems. I’ve included a few generics that have a similar composition (shielding, conductors, etc) to audiophile ethernet cables:
Wireworld Starlight CAT8
- Pinpoint accurate as far as imaging
- Quiet background
- Wide soundstage
- A bit bright, sibilant, and peaky
- Light on bass
- Tone and timbre is inaccurate
- Might remove music along with the noise to achieve the quieter background
Synergistic Research Active SE CAT6 (silver and black tuning bullets)
- Pitch black background (black)
- Perhaps the largest soundscape of any of the cables here. Super spacious sounding. (silver)
- Decent timbre (silver)
- Forward midrange (both)
- Refinement, control, and tightness (black)
- Soundstage sounds artificially stretched at the cost of density. Bloomy. (silver)
- A tad bright and grainy (black).
- A more free-spirited and looser presentation. Not as well controlled as the other cables. (both)
- Flatter and lower resolution.
Purist Audio Design CAT7
- Very few complaints about this cable. It’s silky smooth and musical.
- Clean sound, very nice blacks, great dynamics, separation, and pinpoint imaging.
- Tight low-end response
- Maybe too laid-back and calm for some listeners. Doesn’t have that sparkle.
- The most neutral and balanced sounding cable of the bunch.
- Tight low-end
- Fluid, open, and transparent
- Fantastic clarity and resolution
- Great focus and control
- Lacks meat on the bones. Comes off a bit lean.
- Thinner textures
- This cable conveys the most realism in music via its layering capabilities, speed, transparency, and extended highs. Just amazing spatial resolution.
- Huge and natural sounding soundstage
- Rich atmosphere akin to a live performance
- Well textured and musical
- Accurate timbre and tone
- Slightly recessed mids
- Lean with a lack of midrange density
- Inflexible cable so difficult to physically chain in some systems
SOtM SE (Black)
- Aside from the dCBL-CAT7, all other cables in this lineup sound flat in comparison to this one.
- Great musicality and clarity.
- Sweet and rich midrange
- Accurate tone and natural timbre
- Fantastic low-end textures
- Proper mass and weight across the board
- Probably my second favorite cable after the dCBL-CAT7.
- Not a lot of air
- Not as detailed
- Some grain and roughness in the mids
SOtM SE (Gray)
- A very articulate, clean, coherent, and resolving cable.
- Delicate, smooth, and well controlled. A bit of a cross between the black and dark gray SE cables.
- In a word: Polite.
- Lack of midrange density
- Very flat sounding versus the other cables
- Sonic smearing with fast transients
SOtM SE (Dark Gray)
- High resolution
- High treble energy without being abrasive
- Roundness in the midrange
- Thin and flat
- Poor delineation
- Constantly elevated sheen across the entire spectrum
SOtM iSO-CAT6 Generic
- Decent timbre and tone
- Fuzzy and flat.
- Lacks dimensional roundness.
- Not very dynamic or engaging.
- Lacks coherence and the imaging is a bit confusing.
- A little bloated and unfocused. Lacks sharpness and delineation.
- Great coherence, separation, and clarity.
- Quiet background
- Nice treble sparkle and a spacious sound.
- Dynamic and very resolving of micro-details.
- Sibilant at times
- Lean with an overall heightened tone
- A bit of smearing in the upper-mids to lower-highs.
- Even the generic SOtM SE cable sounds more tonally correct, just lacks clarity. Vocals don’t sound right.
- Good physical build quality.
- Although one of a sturdier build quality, this cable is problematic for audio. Tone and timbre are way off, thin mids, troubles in the treble.
- A very lean sound without many benefits. Vocals are all flat. Semi-spacious sounding.
- There’s this electronic haze around the mids and treble.
AQVOX Excel High-End CAT7
- I could see this as a polarizing cable. It’s basically a very rich and borderline dark cable. Perhaps great for tuning with the iSO-CAT6 but might be a bit much on its own.
- The sweetest and densest midrange of the bunch. It could be quite addictive at times.
- Lacks reverb definition, shine, clarity
- Transients are difficult to delineate. Strings, plucks, etc are just smeared.
- Chocolate-dipped sound
- Very smooth and melodic.
- Fantastic layering, decent tone and great timbre. Very balanced.
- Decent amount of midrange presence and density.
- Never aggressive sounding, nice textures, just wish it had a bit more warmth.
- Lack of resolution, air, and clarity
- May be too smooth for some. Doesn’t have that sometimes melodic grittiness.
- Could use a bit more meat on the mids.
- Lacks extended treble for a more vivid sound
- Decent amount of detail
- Grain in the mids
- Piano notes don’t have the right mass
- Flat and lacks dynamics
- Just a very generic sound (isn’t great but isn’t horrible).
I’ve consolidated my impressions into this chart. I plan to reference it in the future for tuning purposes.
|Wireworld||Starlight CAT8||$210||Pinpoint Image Accuracy & Detailed|
|Synergistic Research||Active SE CAT6||$550||Soundstage & Forward midrange|
|Purist Audio Design||CAT7||$350||Micro-details & Smoothness|
|SOtM||dCBL-CAT6||$170||Detailed & Neutral|
|SOtM||dCBL-CAT7||$500||Realism & Resolution|
|SOtM||SE (black)||$150||Midrange Density & Musicality|
|SOtM||SE (gray)||$150 (?)||Detailed & Control|
|SOtM||SE (dark gray)||$150 (?)||Resolution & Brightness|
|Certicable||CAT8||$30||Avoid this cable|
|AQVOX||Excel High-End CAT7||$227||Heavy Richness & Warmth|
|Vention||CAT7||$11||Avoid this cable|
Most of the generics didn’t make the cut so it’s good to know audiophile ethernet cables are doing something a little different. If you’d like to know the comparison between each cable, I’ve placed them in the “Raw Notes” section at the end of the post (they’re nearly as long as the review itself).