Disclaimer: The BTG-Audio Starlight CIEM cable sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank BTG-Audio for this opportunity.
This is our first BTG-Audio review on Headfonics but you can read more about cables reviewed previously here.
BTG-Audio is headed by Brain Goto and they hail out of CA, USA. Brian has been on the DIY scene for cables and headphone modifications for years now. If you check the Head-fi threads you will see it stretches way back to 2012 and even then BTG-Audio was a thing before the start of that thread.
Now for the longest time, BTG-Audio has been perfecting and selling two varieties of IEM cable called the Midnight and, in this case, the Starlight. They are differentiated by their essential components; copper for the Midnight and silver-plated copper for the Starlight option.
The review sample in question today is the Starlight version and it retails for a fairly competitive $125 in its stock format. We will be also reviewing their SPC 8-wire headphone cable version in the coming week also.
BTG-Audio offers two versions of its aftermarket monitor cables, detachable and non-detachable. The Non-detachable requires you send in your complete headphone/monitor for disassembly and modification. This is a legacy really of BTG-Audio’s long history on modifications which is great to see still being offered in 2019.
The detachable options are pretty much what most of our readers will be used when buying aftermarket cables. You get two versions of the midnight cable in MMCX and 2-pin terminations and you get the same two terminations for their flagship Starlight cable.
The Midnight is slightly cheaper starting from $87 so I guess that makes the Starlight their flagship cable at a starting price of $125. They all come packaged and ready to ship out once you buy them online. All you have to do is pop them out of the bag and connect them to whatever monitor you are using.
Materials & Wire
The 1.2m Starlight uses a 19-strand 26AWG silver-plated OFC (oxygen free copper) wire though I do not believe it has any specific Litz-type build to its geometry.
The wire is insulated with a clear Linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) finished in a milloit braid pattern. A milloit braid pattern has been around for a very long time and its purpose is to shield the cable from magnetic fields than a regular twisted cable methodology.
The LLDPE jacket is also a commonly used component for jacketing and insulating audio wires. Here it is split from a 4-wire braid beyond the split into a thinner 2-wire twist up to the connectors. The final material is a choice you can have at the checkout on BTG-Audio’s website and that’s the option to go with a black nylon outer sleeve or leave it unsleeved altogether.
Now the aesthetics stakes me back a bit to the ‘good-old-days’ of cable building. Nothing wrong with that but it does remind me a lot of my older Null Audio Lune MKII cable in its visual appeal though to the touch I can tell there is more wire in the Starlight jacket than the thinner Null Audio variant.
I do like the nylon sheath on my headphone cables for comfort and protection though some might prefer it without. Of course, you can get the Starlight without also if that is your preference but I do like the striking contrast between the very silver hue of the LLDPE jacket and wire above the Y-Split and the black nylon all the way down to the 2.5mm TRRS Eidolic jack.
The nylon jacket adds a very important physical softness to the Starlight cable. Since this is not the latest PVC jackets used by the likes of Effect Audio and PLUSSOUND it is not quite as soft and pliant in its LLDPE jacket alone. The nylon dampens that flyaway nature up to the Y-Split and importantly it is not loose. It is unlikely this jacket will allow for awkward or ungainly wire twist underneath.
Beyond the Y-Split there is no nylon and thus the cable is a little springier with more memory retention but nothing significant. The only break in the fluid form factor is the fairly bulky black tubing for the chin cinch. Compared to the Ares II it is a touch stiffer but the gap between the two is not huge. One thing to note, the Starlight build does feel a little lighter than either the Ares II or Null Audio’s latest Tiburon which they sell for $150 to $170 each.
I am a fan of Eidolic connectors. Astral Acoustics uses the same connectors on their Taurus and Libra cables we reviewed last year and I do think they are on par with PLUSSOUND in terms of solidity. They may not be quite as flashy as PLUSSOUND’s new branded connectors but they are every bit as durable.
Although the detachable Starlight is limited to just 0.78mm and MMCX connector options you do have a choice of jack though at the BTG-Audio check-out. The main alternative seems to be Viablue jacks for monitor cables in both thin and fatter barrel format though you will need to add a premium for around $30-35 if you select one of these. You can also switch to some heavy duty right-angle plugs for a lower profile and these range between $10 and $40 depending on your choice.
For this one its Eidolic 2-Pin connectors and a 2.5mm TRRS Eidolic wide-barrel for the jack. The yS-split is an aluminum alloy barrel masked in branded heat-shrink finishing but not an Eidolic barrel.
The Eidolic 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.
The jack barrel is actually quite light in comparison to the likes of the Null Tiburon aluminum alloy and chrome finished variant so the stress on DAP jacks from this connector is going to be fairly minimal.
Strain relief is locked inside the barrel enclosure so you won’t see much if any strain material finishing save for a tiny sliver of heat-shrink right in the rear exit cavity of the 0.78mm connectors. Any strain-relief on the jack side is going to be hidden under the nylon jacket also.
Comfort & Noise
The Starlight does not have any memory forming materials around the connector end. That means they are fairly flexible and work for over the ear regular monitors as well as dropping down for the likes of Audeze’s iSINE and LCDi4.
Despite the fairly light nature of the cable beyond the Y-split, I found it held it’s over-the-ear position quite well with the likes of the 64 Audio Trio and Jomo Audio’s Trinity. I suspect some downwards pressure and pull from the rest of the cable is adding in that additional placement discipline on the Starlight near the connector side.
It is also very comfortable with almost no physical presence compared to the thicker Ares II and Null Audio Tiburon experience. Glasses users should definitely enjoy this low-profile cable experience.
Physical noise on the wire with IEMs is not as good as the Ares II or Tiburon but better than ALO Audio’s Reference 8 for example, which I find very stiff and microphonic. Most of the microphonics on the Starlight come from the exposed LLDPE 2-wire twist above the Y-split. You could argue that memory materials might also have helped to further dampen noise on the Starlight.
For the likes of iSINE and the LCDi4 from Audeze, which are worn straight down, there are no such noise issues.
Accessories & Packaging
Old school packaging here with just a vacuum sealed anti-static bag for our samples. I am not sure if they come in anything more sophisticated than this in the retail version. If they do let us know.
Personally, even at the nice price, I would like to see maybe a small branded carry bag, cloth or even a business card offered. The anti-static bag is fine, keep that but perhaps the option to even buy a branded small carry case would be nice to offer at the check-out.
(Note the image above is the headphone cable alternative but the bag is the same for the Starlight CIEM cable).
Click on Page 2 for Sound Impressions & Comparisons