The Janus has been a long time brewing. In fact, Effect Audio first reached out to me in February 2018 and asked if I wanted to hear their latest creation at CanJam Singapore.
Let me tell you about trade show listening by the way. After about 8 hours solid of intensive listening to all sorts of gear your preferences by 5pm each day go decidedly to the “easy listening” warm and mellow side of things.
Call this fatigue or a talk with my inner self but either way by the time I got to the EA table and listened to both the Dynamic and Basso variations of the Janus cable I knew instantly which one I wanted to review. The pairing with the Empire Ears Phantom was something special.
And it needs to be special because this is a $1399 IEM cable which for some might be a step too far. For others who have heavily invested in high-end IEMs (custom or otherwise), this may well be the final tuning they need for a perfect system.
The Janus is an Effect Audio “Hall of Fame” product range. There are three product ranges in the EA line up; Premium, Heritage and Hall of Fame.
The bread and butter is the Premium which includes the likes of the Ares II, Thor and Mars 4 and 8 wire cables. The Heritage is more of the “Blue Sky” or exploratory type of cables with transformational properties such as the Lionheart and Leonidas cable range.
The Hall of Fame is EA’s top of the line cables with premium materials and wiring. Alternative Hall of Fame cables currently include their flagship Horus but have previously had even higher priced variants including the Hessonite and the Litz Silver hybrid Heracles at $1999.
Price & Differentiation
The Janus is not one but two cables, both priced at $1399 so they sit slightly below the Horus in the Hall of Fame line-up. The two cables are called Dynamic and Basso and both have uniquely different sound signatures. The dynamic is the one we are reviewing, the Basso we do not have here though I did test it at CanJam Singapore and the difference between the two is fairly easy to make out.
Basically, the Dynamic signature is what EA has described as a “hi-fi” sound whereas the Basso is pitched more as a “head-fi” sound. The focus on creating a 2-channel speaker like an emphasis on imaging, separation, and layering. Whereas the Basso has a slightly darker, thicker low-end weight to it that will appeal more to bass lovers.
Materials & Wire
The Janus Dynamic (JD) is unique for being the first aftermarket IEM cable to use both the traditional elements of copper and gold alloy as well as the more exotic mix of palladium in their wiring.
Palladium in audio has been around for quite some time actually, it is nothing new in that sense. This is not a cheap metal to acquire and work with. The raw material combined with processing and application in wiring is significantly higher than gold, copper or silver.
It is also significantly less conductive as an element than either copper or silver and even gold. However, resistance in wiring can be used to achieve a certain type of signature so it is not necessarily a negative feature if the application of the metal is correctly done.
Mind you, both Janus cables use palladium as a plating than purely as a wire itself. If you notice in the build the cable actually has two physical colorings, (jackets). This signifies two types of wiring in the cable construct.
The first is PPC or Palladium Plated copper and is the lighter color of the two wires in the braided design. The second is an in-house mix of gold-plated copper and a gold-alloy and is housed in the black wiring.
Now from what I know, the common consensus is PPS or Palladium plated silver is an excellent conductor with the right level of resistance at certain gauge levels to produce good sounding cables. I was curious then if the natural tendency of low conductivity elements such as palladium, when applied to copper, would attenuate high frequencies too much. The answer was no.
Copper Vs Silver
Effect Audio found that it was copper that did better with high-frequency production when using palladium. When they upped the palladium content in silver they also found that the high-frequency attenuation was more noticeable.
Note, for those who are looking at the Basso version of the Janus the different in the materials mix is more elements of copper and a higher scaling of the ‘palladium to copper’ ratio which may explain why I heard a thicker and slightly darker sound at CanJam Singapore.
Wire Gauge & Stranding
The geometry of the Janus dynamic wiring is a multi-strand construction but not a multi-sized strand construction such as that found in their TOTL Horus cable. The Janus is rated at 24AWG so it is a bigger gauge than the likes of the Thor and Lionheart which are rated at 26AWG. The resistance is going to be a bit lower on this size of cable which should have a better skin depth than the smaller wire for conduction.
Thus, a less resistive wire will have an inherently better high-frequency reproduction than 26AWG variations meaning the Palladium plating has a bit more “wiggle room” in terms of how EA want to color the Janus Dynamic copper sound. The same can also be said for the gold plating on the black jacket wiring which is often used in very small quantities for smoothing out high-frequency reproduction in cables.
The wiring is also an 8-wire but the split is different. This is not a single 8-wire cable since there are two distinct mixes or strands. This is a ‘4-4’ wire split between the PPC side and the EA GPC black jacket side. It still all comes together as an 8-wire though so it will have all the hallmarks of an 8-core cable including a superior level of dynamic range to 4-wire variants.
The Janus’s 24AWG 8-wire build is visually very striking and is perhaps one of the most attractive and well thought-out cable builds I have seen in a long time. The two-tone tight braided wiring beautifully contrasts with a mix of carbon fiber and aluminum chrome finishing on the supplied barrels. It creates a much darker “noir” like vibe than the bright rustic colors of their usual copper variants.
The gauge and number of wires, (8), also means it is a much bigger cable construct than their 4-wire 26AWG versions. It somewhat dwarfs the Lionheart in dimensions, however, it is actually a little smaller and lighter in the hand than the 26AWG 8-wire Ares II we reviewed recently. Considering the Janus has the heavier gauge then I can only presume EA managed to reduce the build and jacketing depth to give it that lighter feel.
Overall, the handling and microphonics on the cable are just excellent. Not a physical noise to be heard on the cable anywhere and a total lack of memory retention, tangles et al. The pliancy is also fantastic. It bends and moves so easily and snaps right back into shape without very giving off a “flyaway” feel.
The Janus continues to use Effect Audios’ new Ultra-Flex PVC jacket in a tight and very clean braided configuration. The material and braiding do a wonderful job keeping the handling very controlled, tangle free and also prevents any stiffness from creeping in. I already found this to be a significant upgrade on their older stiffer PET jackets. Even compared to their ARES II 8-wire PVC version this one actually feels like it has been refined and softened a little further.
The jacket does have a curved finish at the top but no actual memory wire. It looks to me it is part of the jacket’s design rather than separate heat shrunk plastics. You can shape it when you put it around your ear but after it will go back into its original curved shape.
This particular Janus Dynamic cable is 1.2m in length and terminated with a 0.78mm 2-pin socket design. The 2-pin connectors are encased in chrome finished aluminum tubes sporting Effect Audio’s logo on each and a carbon weave and chrome finished 2.5mm stereo jack barrel on the other end.
The jack used on the Janus is their PSquared plug which I first experience during our Lionheart review. The PSquared 2.5mm termination was developed in cooperation with Japanese specialty cable manufacturers, Oyaide Electric. Co., Ltd.
These guys have been operating over 60 years so they are no flash in the pan indie operators and their plugs are well respected. The PSquared jack is considered an upgrade on their rhodium plated plugs from their use of Palladium and Platinum with the contention that it will sound better than the standard plug. In our testing with and without the plug on the Lionheart we found PSquared to be the more dynamic sounding of the two finishes.
All balanced PSquared plugs will have black rings and the Janus is finished as standard with a 2.5mm fitting. During your ordering process, you can also opt for different adapters depending on your preferences. EA provides a few different adapters for the Janus including pig-tailed and straight 3.5mm and 4.4mm jack finishes.
Have to give props to the very premium looking Y-split barrel on the Janus. This is a brand new aluminum chrome design and a move away from the older, bulkier, carbon fiber glossy barrels.
The weight feels much lighter than before and it is also a little shorter. It still locks the wiring into separate chambers so it looks very clean going in and coming out into the left-right split. The little engraved “Janus” brand on the side of the barrel is also a very nice finishing touch.
In a word, outstanding comfort for an 8-wire cable and much better actually than the 26AWG 8 wires Ares II custom build. Again, I hark back to what I consider to be a much lighter feel and slightly better pliancy in the jacket of the Janus Dynamic build.
This makes a big difference because the Janus simply drapes over your ear in a very easy fashion without any fiddling. Not once did I feel any level of discomfort from undue pressure on the back of my ear from many hours of listening.
Accessories & Packaging
EA has gone with the same visuals in terms of packaging as they used on the Ares II 8-wire build but with a few tweaks to clearly mark out the “Janus” brand. Gone is the traditional white and printed label EA box and in comes a more urbanite black slide case with fold-out inner lid. The outside packaging has the Janus branding at the bottom and the ‘Hall of Fame’ white cable print down the side.
Open all that up and you can display the cable which sits in full view insides its foam basin. It’s a nice touch actually and a definite upgrade on the older packaging scheme.
I would definitely want to see a magnetic (leather finished) cable organizer for the Janus package though at this price point. I have mentioned before the old central organizing pillar of the packaging would be useful also. Cost-wise I am not sure if possible but a small storage pouch for carrying around such an expensive cable could be added to some nice peace of mind.
Click on Page 2 for Sound Impressions & Comparisons