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STE Ag W16 IEM Cable – Silver Brings Fresh Information

STE Ag W16 IEM Cable – Silver Brings Fresh Information

 

 

STE AG W16 Cable for IEMs is a 580 USD option for those who are looking to improve their IEMs, designed with an ergonomic build, extremely similar to the STE Cu W16, which I reviewed in the past. Given the price point, STE AG W16 will be compared to other high quality cables, including STE Cu W16 (400 USD), Effect Audio EVO 1 (440 USD), and Ares Audio Sakeishi (450 USD). To give you some idea of what IEMs work best with STE AG W16, I will be exploring in the sonics part of today’s review how it works with some of my favorite IEMS that use a 2-Pin standard connector, including Oriveti OV800 (999 USD), Unique Melody MEXT (1200 USD), and Metalure Wave (600 USD). 

 


 

 

 

Introduction

 

If you haven’t already, you should totally check out my review on the Cu W16 from STE, as I explained there what the company’s all about as well. In a few short words, STE Audio / Silverstone Technology Electronic is an upcoming company who worked hard and heavily to redesign their website and offer their new audio cables at the best prices possible. They have excellent experience, being in business since 2015, by Ferrari Chau, Gary Lau, Patrick and Harry. They are based in both Taiwan and Hong Kong, doing heavy research on new materials, developing new wire structures and designs for better ergonomics and sonic performance. Currently, most of the development is happening in Taiwan, while production is taking place in Vietnam and Thailand, both countries I collaborated with before, and which have been producing awesome products. 

 

 

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with STE Audio. I’d like to thank STE Audio and Ms. Ferrari Chau for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my personal experience with the STE Ag W16 Cable. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it. The purpose of this review is to help those interested in STE Ag W16 find their next music companion. 

 

 

 

Packaging

 

First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:

 

 

 

 

 

Product Link

 

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3ApJfqP

 

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/3P1Ax6q

 

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3um4lTk

 

 

 

Build Quality/Aesthetics/Functionality

 

Ag is the chemical symbol for “Argint” as we call it in Romanian, or Silver in English. The naming is as such because the cable is silver coated, and features one of the highest for silver purity levels, being a 16-Core 7N Ag cable. Just like the Copper cable made by STE, it uses slow annealing or double grain wires, which helps with better signal purity and stability. Annealing is the heating then cooling to a specified temperature, after which the cooling becomes much slower, to increase electrical conductivity, and it is a common technique used in cable making. 

 

 

 

 

The design is very similar to the Copper version, with a textile cotton and metal shielding, extremely flexible build, and with a silvery tone above the Y Split. This coloration the cable has has nothing to do with the Ag or Silver inside the build, and it is an aesthetic choice, since there are multiple layers of insulation on the cable anyways beneath the PVC jacket that we see above the Y Split. The nylon that covers the cable from below the Y split is nice to the touch and has a braided design that is quite effective at avoiding cable microphonic noise. 

 

 

The Y Split and the main connector is a low-profile design with titanium in their build, and a gunmetal color. The cable has a springy design for the part that goes around the ear, rather than having a solid build design. The braiding technique of having a short-throw braid allows for better shielding than if the cable was stuffed inside a single common nylon jacket. Most recent cables use a single material for the entire cable, so STE Ag W16 feels pretty unique in its design. 

 

 

The handling of Ag W16 is superb, and it achieves this good handling above the Y split, but the tradeoff is the microphonic noise, as the company designed AG W16 so that it has as little memory effect as possible (it does not remember kinks). Ag W16 can be designed with any connectors you may need, including 3.5mm Single Ended, 3.5mm Balanced, 2.5mm Balanced, and 4.4mm Balanced, and even others, if need be. 

 

 

The company also offers a multitude of connectors for the IEMs, including 2-Pin, MMCX, and basically any other connectors that you may need, if you send them an email and ask about it. If you read the specifications, you will see a lot of u on the list of coatings, and this u means a micrometer, so 1u = 0.1mm. All in all, the W16 Ag Cable has a really low impedance and will pair well with any IEMS. The connectors are universal and I noticed no problems when pairing it with the likes of Xenns Mangird Tea 2, IMR Acoustics Pro Dark Matter, Ambient Acoustics MAD 24, or Moondrop Illumination

 

 

 

Specifications 

 

 

Material – 7N Ag – Super NaLite (16 Wire)

Earphone plug – MMCX / CM or other* (Earphone and Phone plugs can also be order made)

Price – USD 550

Solder – Cu 8% / Sn 92%

Coating – Ag

4u Silver Coating

3u Golden Coating

2u Silver Plated Coating

2u Soft Oil Coating

1u Copper Oil Coating

5u Silver Coating

3u Golden Coating

4u Soft Copper Coating

Phone plug – 3.5mm TRS / 2.5mm TRRS/ OCC Plus 4.4mm TRRS* (*Earphone and Phone plugs can also be order made)

Length – 1.5M* (* Length can be order made)

 

 

 

 

 

Sound Quality

 

Now that we’re at the sonics part of today’s review, we need to start by saying that Ag W16 is the kind of cable with a rather clear character of its own, but most changes it brings compared to other cables are subtle, rather than evident and imposing. I mainly used STE Ag W16 with Unique Melody MEXT, which is my favorite pairing for them, but also with Oriveti OV800, and Metalure Wave. The sonic character has been tested with other IEMs too, and I did as much switched as possible, to try and determine how Ag W16 sounds like. The overall impression is that Ag W16 has a uniquely high dynamic range, excellent impact, and super good overall detail. The treble tends to be quite brilliant and open, while the bass is fairly neutral and clean. 

 

 

Speaking of the bass, I noticed this the most with MEXT, but the bass of Ag W16 is actually natural, clean and well extended. It reaches as low as 20 Hz, and the bass is not necessarily recessed or dampened in any way, but when quickly switching back and forth between the Cu W16 and Ag W16, I noticed that the tonal balance of Ag W16 is tilted towards it having more treble, and this is why it tends to be more open and brighter, and the bass feels leaner than on Cu W16. The bass is tighter on Ag W16, and it offers better timings, with more precise impact, although the lows feel lower in quantity than Cu w16 and other copper-based cables for example. I love the fact that the bass is still fairly smooth, and Ag W16 never feels grainy or congested, despite Silver as a material having the tendency to add some grain at times. 

 

 

The midrange of Ag W16 is where most of the magic happens, as it has a super open, clean, and detailed midrange. Once again, especially with MEXT but also with OV800, I noticed a really strong change in the sonics when listening to Ag W16, as it paints a much larger soundstage, with more space between instruments, better overall instrument placement, and a nicer overall tonality compared to most cables. The tonal balance is switched from slightly dark in the mids to slightly bright and more open in the mids, especially with MEXt, and it gives bands like Killitorous a sweeter solo and guitar presentation in general. Ag W16 is super smooth in the mids, despite the more open presentation, and this results in a better overall listening comfort, all whilst being more detailed than most cables, especially than the cables most IEMs come with by default. This is not to say that the default cables are bad, but the tuning they go for is almost every single time darker, smoother, fuller, but also slightly more grainy than what Ag w16 presents in music. 

 

 

The treble of Ag W16 is a really nice surprise as it has a better treble extension, and it feels like most cables dampen the treble and smoothen it a bit, while Ag W16 allows for the full energy of the treble to shine through. This includes better instrumental placement cues, with better overall clarity and better overall micro details. If I was to place Ag W16 somewhere, it is in the top 3 cables I ever heard as far as clarity, detail and resolution goes. Ergonomically, it is about the first, having better flexibility than more pricey cables like Copper+ from Plussound.

 

 

 

Comparisons

 

 

STE Ag W16 Cable vs Effect Audio Evo 1 Cable (580 vs 440 USD) – The overall package is better on Evo 1, but ergonomically, Ag W16 is more flexible and more ergonomic, although the particular variant I have is a bit shorter than Evo 1. The overall sonic performance is quite different, Evo 1 being uniquely distinct as a cable. While most cables are quite similar, Evo 1 has a really strong character that emphasizes textures, and brings a lot of detail, but also can make music quite harsh if the IEMs / Headphones didn’t require this kind of emphasis. STE Ag W16 is smoother, but also more open, more detailed, cleaner and more holographic. Evo 1 has more grain in the midrange, as well as most frequencies, while Ag W16 has better overall detail while staying natural and clean. 

 

STE Ag W16 Cable vs Ares Audio Sakeishi (580 vs 450 USD) – The aesthetic is quite different between the two, and if we talk about the package, Sakeishi has a much better package, coming in a metallic box, along with a really beautiful pouch. The overall performance is different, Ag W16 is more flexible, and also less microphonic. The overall sound is more detailed, cleaner and more airy on Ag W16. Sakeishi sounds more linear, with lower treble and more bass, but also slightly more grain, where Ag W16 is more airy, brighter sounding, and more smooth in the textures, being easier to listen to and enjoy with aggressive music. The dynamics are better on Ag W16, and so is the overall micro detail and resolution. The bass is also tighter and has more definition / better resolution on Ag W16. Just like Cu W16, Sakeishi attenuates the treble a bit compared to Ag W16, which is how Ag W16 manages to have an edge over it. 

 

STE Ag W16 Cable vs STE Cu W16 (580 vs 400 USD) – Those two are exactly the same when it comes to the design, build quality and outer appearance, save for the color of the wire above the Y split, which is a classic copper on Cu W16, and silver on Ag W16. The overall sonic performance is quite different, and I’m shocked to say this, but switching them, side by side, it is actually easy to tell them apart. Cu sounds much fuller, darker, smoother, and has a bolder bass, a darker presentation, and a more heavy weight to each musical note. Ag, the one I review today, is more detailed, cleaner, sparklier, has more presence in the upper treble, and treble in general, having a wider soundstage, more space between instruments, and a leaner bass. The texture is actually fairly smooth on Ag W16, and although it has a good amount of air, you never struggle with it, it is never harsh or too sharp. I’m happy to say that both cables are designed to sound detailed and clean, but they favor different things in music. For most IEMs, I prefer Ag W16, and it has a more positive impact, where Cu W16 tends to be heavier and smoother, better for bright sounding IEMs in particular. 

 

 

 

Value and Conclusion

 

Speaking of the price, Ag W16 has excellent value and can be said to be a great deal. Sadly, at the moment the company is not working as they had some supply chain issues, so the only place to grab a STE Cable is second hand, or from stores that still have stock of them. I’m fairly sure they will eventually be back, but until that happens, you should keep a keen eye for one of those cables, it is one of the best I’ve heard, and one of the most affordable silver based cables out there. 

 

 

Before the end of today’s review, I have to say that STE Ag W16 deserves a place in Audiophile-Heaven’s Hall Of Fame, as one of the best sounding cables ever made by humanity, at a somewhat sane price. It just sounds great, and can improve IEMs like Unique Melody MEXT to the point I don’t grab MEST MK2 over them, and bring MEST MK2 to a whole new level too. 

 

 

At the end of today’s review, if you’re looking for an ergonomic cable, with a fairly natural length, good build quality, and superb sonic performance, with a sparkly, airy performance, a huge, holographic soundstage, and excellent clarity, STE Audio Ag W16 is one of the best choices you can go for today. 

 

 

 

 

 

Product Link

 

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3ApJfqP

 

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/3P1Ax6q

 

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3um4lTk

 

 

 



 

 

 

— Please remember to stay safe, and always have fun while listening to music!—

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full Playlist used for this review

 

We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature.  PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality are all revealed by those songs. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music!

 

If you have a dime to spare (donate), it would make my day much brighter, as it would help me improve things around the website and increase the frequency of my posts.

 

Youtube Playlist

 

 

Tidal Playlist

 

https://listen.tidal.com/playlist/64555551-ec3c-4279-ae44-248fdfcf6c4b

 

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. Super nice review, really appreciate your honesty and well thought review!

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