Disclaimer: The Astral Acoustics Libra was sent to us a sample in exchange for our honest opinion and does not have to be returned. Astral Acoustics is not a site advertiser or affiliated with Headfonics. We thank Henry and the team at Astral Acoustics for this opportunity.
Readers can avail of a 15% discount when buying the Libra by using the following discount codes at the check out on their new website: “HF libra 4” for the 4-core version and “HF libra 8” for the 8-core version.
The Libra is the flagship cable of Hong Kong specialists Astral Acoustics and is priced at $520 for the 4-wire and $780 for the 8-wire.
The company, which started in 2016, is headed up by Henry Tik and they have a base of operations as well as a showroom in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong. They also just launched a dedicated e-commerce website a few weeks before we published this review so be sure to check out their full range of cables online.
Our last feature with Astral Acoustics was on their $240 entry-level Taurus copper wire cable which I felt was a good looking cable with a respectable and well thought out sound signature.
Those wishing for the richer tones of copper combined with a good upgrade in dynamic range and staging capability over a lot of stock cables would definitely be interested in what the Taurus has to offer. The Libra is supposed to take it to another level.
What Is The Pitch?
The Libra is position as Astral Acoustics flagship cable and despite the composition of silver and gold being a bit of a contrast to the copper of the Taurus the pitch is actually fairly similar in terms of what they wanted to achieve. Henry is still a man fixed on his principles that a pure silver cable never quite has the smoothness and musicality of a copper cable.
The Libra’s use of a silver-gold alloy costs a bit more than the copper of the Taurus but Astral Acoustics believe the payoff is they are able to retain their core smooth sound but bring in some additional staging capability and superior top-end extension or air.
In cable reviews, I do love copper but it is a personal preference more than an outright technical homage. It does not match with everything. Silver can bring in a level of clarity some people prefer. Henry believes the Libra’s subtler mix of silver will produce more of an all-rounder as a result and possible appeal to a more demanding level of audiophile who require something more articulate.
There have been a few minor but welcome tweaks in the pricing of the Astral Acoustics line up of cable and now they are even more attractive in pricing. The Taurus is still $240, however, the Libra 8-wire has had a minor discount. This makes the entire line what I would term as competitive.
Both the Pisces and Libra are higher end IEM cables. The Libra is $780 for the 8-core and $520 for the 4-core. The Libra is their flagship cable composed of a 25Awg Silver Gold Alloy with type 2 Litz. The Pisces comes in 8-core only and is priced at $640.The Pisces is the next one down and is constructed from 8 Conductors: 4 UP-OCC GPS and 4 UP-OCC GPC.
Materials & Wiring
4-Core Vs 8-Core
This particular Libra is the 4-core version as opposed to the 8-core. When I asked what was the difference between the two apart from the technical side I was given the following quotation from their new website:
“For Libra, the 8-wire version provides an extended soundstage not just horizontally but also in headroom/height. It also delivers a more holographic sound than the 4-wire version.”
The 4-core is constructed a type 2 silver-gold alloy litz with a gauge rating of 25AWG. That is slightly thicker or larger than the usual 26AWG I have reviewed in the last year and also bigger than the 28AWG of the Taurus copper wire. The approximate wire dimension is 0.455mm or 30% thicker than 28AWG wires. It also has much less turns of wire as a result of the thicker diameter at 55.9 compared to the 79.1 turns of the Taurus copper.
The use of type 2 litz wire differs from the type 1 of the Taurus cable. With type 1 the construction features a single twisting operation on the wiring with an optional outer insulation. With type 2 the cable construction features bundles of twisted wire twisted together with an optional outer insulation. I asked Henry why he moved to Litz 2 from Litz 1:
The larger the gauge of the wire the higher the resistance. Thus Litz 2 structures help by isolating each individual wire inside to increase the overall area of the wire to reduce its level of resistance.
Silver Vs Gold
Now silver is generally seen to be one of the best conductive materials out there in the cable business but gold is one of the least conductive. That being said the premise that using gold is simply a waste is not quite accurate. The use of gold in a conductive alloy wire is there precisely to add additional levels of resistance to the performance of the silver. In doing so it will avoid sounding too clinical and neutral which is not where Astral Acoustics want their sound to go.
Given its 25AWG rating, you would not be surprised to find the Libra just a touch heavier and thicker than the Taurus. Even if only 4-core the Libra already feels a touch denser than the lightweight Taurus finish. It now comes closer to handling like of the Lionheart and Thor II of Effect Audio.
The heavies cables I have worked with generally tend to be 24AWG up to 22AWG such as the ALO Audio’s 22AWG SXC 8, Whiplash’s TWag v4 at 22.5AWG and the OC Studio Orpheus MK 5 24AWG 8-core copper cables. These IEM cables are thick and weighted, the Libra is still very pliant and light by comparison.
The Taurus PET jacket is changed now to a custom-made PVC jacket for the Libra with a heat shrunk insulation process to form around the 25AWG wire. As before, the jacket is translucent so you get a rather dashing splash of silver this time around instead of the copper hue of the Taurus cable.
Astral Acoustics decided to switch to the PVC due to the softer texture of the jacket compared to the stiffer PET jacket. The softer properties of PVC does have a substantial handling difference compared to the Taurus PET jacket. I always felt the build of the Taurus to be just that bit more “bouncy”.
The wire weave is still similar to the Taurus. It is not as dense or as tight as Effect Audio cables electing instead to go with a slightly looser longer throw on the overlap with similar dimensions off around 1-15cm compared to EA’s 05cm to 1cm design.
This particular 1.2m Libra is terminated with similar Eidolic Premier 2-pin 0.78mm connectors to the Taurus as well as an Eidolic Compact 2.5mm 4 pole TRRS Plug.
The connector barrel is made of aluminum rod stock with a gray Eidolic logo and engraved ring on each barrel. Elastic rings which nest in the barrel’s engraved ring are colored red and gray denoting left and right for easy connection. The pins are made from tellurium copper with PEEK insulated connectors.
Astral Acoustics have a wide variety of options for terminations though for both ends of the cable including CM 2Pin / MMCX / FitEar as well as 2.5mm BAL / 3.5mm / 4.4mm BAL.
As before with the Taurus, I opted for balanced stock but requested an additional short length of Libra cable with an Eidolic E3.5G3 Gunmetal/black carbon/gold 3.5mm plug and a 2.5mm silver barrel 2.5mm to 2.5mm converter. The additional converter short cable though will add some additional cost and can be requested via email.
Strain relief is more or less the same materials as the Taurus just a little more subtle in length from the barrel. On the 2-pin side, it is closer to the socket with about 2-3mm of translucent flexible plastic that blends in nicely with the PVC jacket.
At the base of the 2.5mm TRRS jack, the layer is similar to the finish on the 0.78mm connectors and slightly longer than the Taurus finish. There is no plastics relief on the lightweight gunmetal Eidiolic E-SX6 Y-Splitter and the chin strap is a fairly basic soft plastic tube.
The Libra does use a very light coating of memory wire of roughly 2″ in length from the connector barrels. It does look to be heat shrunk PVC and is very soft and barely noticeable.
The Taurus never came with memory wire but the use of it on the Libra looks logical given its additional weight form the heavier wire. It is very manageable and will help curve the wire over your ear nicely and keep microphonics to an absolute minimum.
Accessories & Packaging
Astral Acoustics use the same packaging for all their cables currently. Depending on how you look at it this could be a glass half full or half empty. For the Taurus, I thought it was ok but for the Libra, I would like to see one or two additional things for a value add due to its higher price.
This is a small black box with the Astral Logo on top and inside its foam lined with the cable wrapped inside. It is professionally done but I think a few little extras would not go amiss like a plastic cap for the jack, a central pillar in the box to wrap the cable around, and an IEM organizing strap or even a small pouch for carrying the cable around.
Click on Page 2 for Sound Impressions & Comparisons