The FitEar TO GO! 334 has been my favorite IEM for quite some time. My only complaint has been that the tubby, heavy housings tend to pull away from my ears, causing me to constantly feel the need to push them in more snugly. The stock 01 cable is no help in this regard — the memory wire has virtually no holding power and might as well not even exist! In addition, while being on the thinner side, the stock cable is very unwieldy and stiff. I also have no love for the straight-terminating connector, as this is one area where the cable seems to develop (bad) memory from being bent the same way during normal usage.
Needless to say, I’ve been wanting a replacement cable. Up until now, the only replacement cables have been from FitEar themselves (the 00 Cable) and Portland-based ALO Audio (SXC Cable), both of which are very expensive and (reportedly) more stiff and unwieldy than the stock cable. Other cable builders, such as Whiplash Audio and 93East offer FitEar-compatible cables by using DIY-style Sennheiser HD-25/600/650 plugs, but do not offer cables with overmolded connectors. What I wanted was an affordable, eye-pleasing replacement cable that offered improved ergonomics and durability without sacrificing existing audio performance.
Enter Brian Goto of BTG-Audio.
I first stumbled upon Brian’s services about a year ago and sent in a Fischer Audio DBA-02 with an aged, brittle and stiff cable for modification. Brian was able to source the pins and connectors necessary for modifying the DBA-02 from a fixed cable IEM into a removable cable IEM. Brian’s modification was not only successful but was also expertly done, all for a fair and affordable price. It wasn’t long after that Brian started his own line of IEM cables.
BTG-Audio has created two successful and affordable lines of CIEM cables: the Sunrise and Starlight cables. After reviewing a sample of the Sunrise cable, I approached Brian about creating a FitEar cable for my TO GO! 334. After some short back and forth on potential pin connector solutions, Brian sent me a sample pin connector to test. To my excitement, the connector was a perfect fit — and with that news, the FitEar cable was officially under development.
Brian offers the FitEar cable in both the Sunrise (OFC Copper) and Starlight (Silver-Plated Copper) variations. I chose the Starlight version. The build is identical to the CIEM versions of those cables. The standard braid is the Milliot/round braid, which I find to be more flexible than other braid styles. The Y-split is robust and durable; the neck cinch is tight and will not slide down with wear.
Above the Y-split, the wire sheathing is clear, so the OFC Copper or SPC shows through. I must admit the silver color of the SPC looks great against the piano black body of my TO GO! 334.
Below the Y-split, the cable is covered in a black nylon sleeve for durability, while remaining very flexible. Although the sleeving is standard, it can be ordered without sleeving for lighter weight and improved flexibility, as Mr. T did with his own Starlight FitEar cable.
Compared to many aftermarket cables, BTG’s offerings are some of the best when it comes to flexibility and ergonomics; however, they still fall a little short of the superior soft flexibility of the Whiplash Audio TWAg line, which is my benchmark for ergonomics in cables.
Brian offers a wide variety of terminating connectors, from Viablue, Oyaide, Neutrik, etc. My personal preference is a right-angle Neutrik plug, to reduce stress on the cable with my pocketable setups.
Held to any standard, the BTG-Audio FitEar cable is as functional and durable as they come, while still maintaining great flexibility. Some suggestions for future BTG-Audio offerings would be to maybe offer multiple sleeving color options, perhaps a silk upgrade option over nylon, and perhaps some exotic wire options for those inclined to the more expensive boutique wire options.
Science Corner (by Mr. T)The insulation material of the Sunrise and the Starlight are different. While both are made from a polyethylene blend, the polymer makeup is quite different, and so, the two handle quite differently. Those that have the opportunity to handle both a Sunrise and Starlight cable simultaneously will note that the Sunrise cable feels a fair bit thinner, yet less flexible and a bit more microphonic, despite both being ~26AWG in gauge. Why? In order to understand, we need to delve into polymer chemistry. Audio cables of all types use sleeving material made from thermoplastic polymers, such as Polyvinyl chloride (PVC). While PVC is very flexible as a cable insulator and in general seems like an ubiquitous substance, used in tubing for pipes and electrical plumbing, its core monomeric component vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen (found to cause rare liver tumors) and therefore should not be used in applications that require prolonged human skin contact (such as earphone cables). Thus, the cable industry has several other, safer alternatives, such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, or Teflon® by DuPont), perfluoroalkoxy (PFA), and polyethylene (PE). Polyethylene takes on many forms, as it has many different points of linkage. When the radical polymerization process is uncontrolled, the result is an unorganized polymer, with many different branches. Such a process of random branching is termed “backbiting” by polymer chemists. The densities are often varied and unpredictable, making such polymers unfit for normal use. Industrial chemists have devised novel ways to control and streamline the polymerization process, such that all different types of polyethylene can be synthesized on a large scale. The Starlight is constructed with a more traditional blend of linear PE. Such a process is usually controlled by a Ziegler-Natta catalyst, which enables the polymerization process to be much more stable, compared to a typical polymerization process that uses a radical abstraction process. In doing so, industrial chemists can control the density and the degree of branching of the polyethylene created. The Starlight’s variant is termed linear low-density polyethylene (LLD-PE). While LLD-PE’s insulative properties are not as good as those of its higher-density brethren, it is by far the most flexible, even when it is thicker. Most high-end IEM cables these days are constructed from LLD-PE because of its flexibility and low microphonics. The only real downside is that its melting point is relatively low, and care must be taken when it is around soldering irons and heat blowers, two common tools of a cable builder. It is thus not seen as a “durable” sheathing, but is definitely the best when it comes to ergonomics. The Sunrise has the technically ‘tougher‘ blend of PE — cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE). This type of PE is branched, but in an organized fashion with latticed “cross-links” — like those on a fence chain, and thus features many of the flexibility benefits of linear polyethylene, but with a higher melting point and better durability. It is, however, not as flexible as LLD-PE and tends to be more microphonic.
It’s important to note that the overmolded pin connectors used on the BTG-Audio FitEar cable are only truly compatible with the flush connections of the universal-fit FitEar IEMs, which include the TO GO! 334 and the F111. The stock FitEar pin connecters, while seemingly larger than the BTG-Audio pin connectors, have a longer tapered area that allows for the ridged connection points on FitEar‘s customs. Due to this ridge, and the die used to overmold the BTG connectors, the cable is not necessarily compatible with FitEar‘s custom-fit IEMs, as some of their custom-fit IEMs have thick, protruding faceplates that may rub against the thicker taper of the cable’s overmold.
The BTG-Audio pin connectors are also slightly cloudy-looking and have a less defined shape than the FitEar stock pin connectors and BTG-Audio‘s normal Westone-style CIEM connector, which I assume is again due to the mold die used in the overmolding process.
After extended use and wear, I can happily report that my entire wishlist for a TO GO! 334 replacement cable has been realized. No longer do I feel as though the housings are pulling away from my ears, thanks to the very functional memory wire, and happens to be in one of the best lengths in a removable cable — not annoyingly long or uselessly short, but perfect for holding the IEMs in place, forming the shape of your ear and disappearing out of sight. I can listen to my TO GO! 334 for long sessions and forget about the housings and the cable. The BTG-Audio FitEar cable not only looks great, but has also added to the joy I get when using my TO GO! 334. Thanks Brian!
For more information on the BTG-Audio FitEar cable or to view more offerings, please visit: http://www.btg-audio.com
(Full Author Bio)