Editor’s Note: The cable used in this review was purchased at a discounted rate.
NocturnaL Audio (https://nocaudio.com) is a custom cable maker based in Singapore. They have been producing cables regionally for the portable audio market since 2013. I’d heard of them off and on over the past couple of years as members of Head-Fi would post comments and pictures about their latest and greatest cable purchases. Most recently, NocturnaL reached out to us at CYMBACAVUM, to see if we would be interested in trying out some of their products. Since I’ve always had an interest in NocturnaL’s relatively affordable pricing, I agreed to give them a try.
So what kind of options are available you ask? NocturnaL’s website boasts 55 customizable options per cable! Here is a quick run-down of their models:
- Sirius: 24~25AWG 7N-UPOCC Silver with Gold hybrid
- Acrux: 24AWG 7N-UPOCC Silver with 18 strands
- Nyx: 20AWG 7N-UPOCC Copper with 148 strands
- Hydra V2: 24AWG 7N-UPOCC Silver and Copper with 4/14 strands
- Calyx: 25AWG 7N-UPOCC Copper with 14 strands
- Quad29: 22AWG OFC Copper with 30 strands
All models are available in 4-conductor and 8-conductor construction. The model chosen for this review was a 4-conductor Hydra V2.
When it comes to choosing an aftermarket cable, great aesthetics, practicality and flexibility are my overarching concerns. Practicality and flexibility drove my choice to a 4-conductor construction and aesthetics steered my other choices. It appears all NocturnaL cables come with wooden y-splits and neck sliders but the terminations on either end are boundless. I chose to go with a modified, barrel-style two-pin connector to fit the majority of my in-ears, whether they be recessed or flush sockets. However, every other connector necessary to fit the overwhelming majority of in-ears are readily available. For the jack I decided to be a little adventurous and deviate from my favorite 3.5mm right angle Oyaide, and instead opted for a previously unknown (to me) MPS Eagle 6C straight jack. [Mr. T says that they’re a Taiwanese company that previously mostly took on ODM/OEM projects but have expanded their own brand regionally] Again, aesthetics drove the decision, as the mostly silver and gold accented jack really looks great with the copper and silver hybrid wire. I had a feeling these design choices would look absolutely fantastic with my red Aurisonics ASG-1Plus.
Upon arrival, the first thing that struck me was the level of flexibility in the wire of the Hydra V2. NocturnaL uses a proprietary material for the insulation, which gives the cable greater flexibility with a lot less memory than most other cables I’ve used, while maintaining essential durability. Also readily distinguishable was the tight round braid used in the construction of the cable. I’m used to looser style round braids used by many other cable manufacturers. When I asked about the design choice of the tighter braid, NocturnaL stated that the tighter braid gives the illusion of a thinner cable, while actually improving its strength.
I’d have to say I agree with that illusion and I’m guessing a tighter braid also uses a bit more wire as well. Compared to the competition, some of which seem to flop around with a mind of their own, the Hydra V2 is less likely to recoil back into its previously stored position and this means it will lie flat against the body or pretty much any shape you put it in. There is nothing more annoying to me than a cable that maintains its storage memory while in use; all cables should have this kind of flexibility.
NocturnaL gives serious attention to the little finish details that make the cable a joy to own. For instance, many cable makers will try to pre-form the cable coming out of straight barrel connectors. Some do this with long sections of heat-shrink, memory-wire or apparently just applying heat and bending the wire. Heat-shrink is unattractive, memory-wire can be a love/hate affair for many, especially if they wear glasses, and I have serious concerns about the durability of cables bent into shape solely with heat (I’ve had one short, from an unmentioned manufacturer, with this later kind of construction). And those that do nothing? Then the cable shoots awkwardly forward of the ear quite a bit before looping back.
NocturnaL has outclassed them all. They utilize two little step down sections of clear stress-reliefs that are pre-formed to go back over the ear. The sections are very, very short. The end result is a low profile curve over-the-ear, which gives the comfort of no memory-wire and accommodates wearers of glasses as well. This is one of the cleverest features I’ve seen on an aftermarket custom cable.
The other impressive finishing detail is the clear stress-relief utilized underneath the jack. Most manufacturers will partially cover or fully cover the jack with heat-shrink, while trying to disguise or jazz it up with branding. Of the few I’ve seen use stress-relief under the jack, a gap is often left between the heat-shrink and plug, for a less than high-end finish. NocturnaL’s clear stress-relief fills the space between the wire and jack, completely. I’m told the stress relief material is heat shrink but it is optically clearer and more polished than just some typical clear heat-shrink I’ve seen on the competition. Some of the aftermarket jacks available are works of art in and of themselves and NocturnaL will display it for you, in all its glory. Sometimes it’s the little details that impress the most.
The Hydra V2 starts at $79.99 USD and when you consider the finishing details, it really is a bargain in a sea of much more expensive cables. You can visit NocturnaL’s page on Singaporean dealer and worldwide shipper, Treoo, here: http://store.treoo.com/shop-by-brand/nocturnal-audio.html.