GuCraftsman – Craftsman or Cable Artist?
Disclaimer by writer Adnan Firoze: This is not an advertisement, but it is definitely a recommendation. Nothing was handed to me for free. I bought these cables with my money and on top of that, I don't even know Gu - who makes these cables but I know that he is probably the best IEM cable maker I have tried - and believe me, I have tried a lot including more expensive cables from Moon Audio, Effect Audio, and ALO Audio.
( Adnan Firoze is one of our customers. He is a computer scientist, loves music, audio gears, and writing, his journalistic website is https://thewindbag.com )
Okay, so it was a giveaway right there that this has to do with IEM cables. I came across just a single review of this Chinese cable maker – Gu, who makes IEM cables. Thought I might give it a shot and went for his cheapest cable and ordered a balanced 2.5mm terminated one to use with my Ultimate Ears 900s. And oh boy was I in for a surprise! I was overwhelmed. Here's why.
Would you look at that? There was a velvety cardboard little box and inside there was a cloth cover. Below the cloth, lied the cable. This presentation resembled the unboxing of the ALO Audio’s Litz cables and the pictures are testament to that. There was a 2.5 to 3.5mm converter for the convenience and which is not even mentioned in his product placement. What more could I have asked for? The price was more than reasonable, and the premium feeling resembles items times above the price bracket. A real polyester bag for a cable was a pleasant surprise; that too inside a real storage box that is actually usable – makes it totally worth the experience.
The offerings include premium silver coated cables to 6N OCC copper cables. Theystart from as low as $35 to as high as ten times that. The best thing is, this cable maker is not selling snake oil and I have seen my share of $700+ earphone cables that sound no different. He gave out a certification and you can just take the cable to your local jewelry store to verify the silver or copper purity. I think this transparency is what sets him apart from other "independent" cable makers. There are many other manufacturers in the hobby that charges outrageously. But not GuCraftsman! You get what you read/see.
The Braid(s) and Strands
His braids are different from some other known cable makers – more specifically, a modified yet improved version of the Litz braid. He uses unique design of a crystalline shape of braids. His braids can be picked out by anyone acquainted with him just by seeing the braids. No other cable maker has the same design. And ohh my, those strands are gorgeous! They speak for themselves. Again, what you see is what you get. More like, what you are promised is what you will get. In my opinion, GuCraftsman can go forth to patent the braid.
Now for the controversial part. I do not want to start the (in)famous debate, if cables do make sonic difference or not. Let's just say I do believe in balanced vs. unbalanced and can distinguish between a crappy and a great cable. As the ladder climbs - you reach the point of diminishing returns of course. But yes, if you ask me, cables do play a role in the sound if it is an analog cable that you will probably run from your DAP or phone to your ear.
In general, I believe for most IEMs, an upgraded cable improves the build, convenience and power delivery. The SQ is the where the debate lies. I believe, from my experience, there are few IEMs where cable materials (silver vs. copper) do make noticeable difference. Among my lot, the TOTL Empire Ears Legend X is such an IEM. Impressions on that are coming up later in the review.
w/ Ultimate Ears 900s
With GuCraftsman's cable with the UE900s, I heard a staging improvement along with tighter bass, fuller mid-bass and the best part - a much clearer presentation all across the spectrum with supreme instrument separation. But it is a very neutral sound - nothing over emphasized (but of course its job is to retain the character of your IEM without making any noise - and it does it better than any that I have heard before). Still, you may be surprised what an upgraded IEM cable can do. Again, note that this was my first try with Gu's cables and so it was the cheapest too. But I believe it made small yet noticeable upgrade in the sound.
w/ Fearless Audio S8F
Then after GuCraftsman earned my respect (and money), I ordered a pricier cable for my recently Fearless Audio S8 Freedom which I absolutely love - and also can go as far to say that it will give the Andromeda a run for her money. I particularly ordered the "GuCraftsman 6n OCC Silver 2 pin IEM Cable meant for 64 audio U12t, Tia Fourte" for $128 (in 2019).
And holy macaroni! The surprise factor was less this time because, now I knew what to expect. This time, I had the IEMs with the cables in my ear running from my Hiby R6 Pro. The sound is fuller bodied (than stock) and cleaner. I wouldn't say that it has made a different IEM out of an already great IEM. That's not its job anyway. But I could hear every instrument separately with a pitch-black background even from a DAP that is known for some noise! On top of that, I was listening to Rage Against the Machine and I could pick out the so-rare-to-find cowbell noise from "Killing in the name of". So, go figure!
w/ Empire Ears Legend X
If you have heard this gem of an IEM, you would know it is a dark set, emphasizing the low-end with some great detail sparkle on top. However, the stock Effect Audio cable does not do justice to the capabilities of the Legend X. With GuCraftsman’s silver cable, the soundstage indeed broadened significantly and the end to end separation became much clearer. The sparkle got much cleaner and pronounced; I kid you not! I do not contend that this is the only cable that achieved this, as I got a similar improvement with Effect Audio’s Thor II silver cables, except those are five times pricier.
Gu's craftsmanship is what you are paying for - cosmetic and sonic. More on the sonic side of course but also for the hand made "honest yet premium" (both - tangibly and sonically) cables! It would not be a stretch to say that the cables punch way above their prices.
Written by: Adnan Firoze