Kotori Audio was conceived in the early months of 2017 out of discontentment of the high prices of mid and upper-tier cables. Kotori Audio sought to change that by offering quality handmade cables that wouldn’t nuke your wallet. So to speak…
Come late-2017 and mid-2018, Kotori Audio launched their first two cables – the Carbon and Graphite respectively. The former is a 4-core Copper Litz cable while the latter is in the 8-core configuration.
Today, we will be looking at the Graphite (2019), which is an updated version of the original cable.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Kotori Audio in any way and do not benefit monetarily or in any other form for writing this review. Kotori Audio sent the Graphite over to us as a loaner unit. The opinions on the product are solely our own and Kotori Audio did not in any way or form influence us to say anything positive or negative about the product.
Thank you, CW, Jonas and Ray for this opportunity to review your products!
Review by: “Charlie” from The Little Audiophile
Kotori Audio Graphite Retail Price (at time of writing): S$95
I received the Graphite in a tiny paper box which I understand is going to be changed soon. I guess there isn’t much to say about it except that hey, it keeps the cost down. After all, that’s the principle that Kotori Audio was founded upon.
Inside you will get a couple of Lo-Res stickers which I for some reason ABSOLUTELY LOVE and of course, the cable itself.
BUILD AND DESIGN
Jack and Termination
First impression count and the Graphite’s design is really down my alley. Aesthetically, the all black cable colour-matches excellently with any IEM. The blacked out carbon fibre Y-split paired with silver jacks and connector just adds to the fluidity of the subtle design that Kotori Audio is going for with this cable.
I have my unit terminated in 0.78 mm 2-pin and 2.5 mm Balanced, though other terminations such as MMCX and 3.5 mm jacks are available.
Taking a closer look, Kotori Audio employs Taiwanese AEC termination for the jacks and connectors. Sure, these aren’t top-of-the-line, but considering the 95 dollar asking price, you’re definitely getting your money’s worth. The carbon fibre Y-split is leaning toward the chunky side, but it is well manufactured with no noticeable rough edges. The quality is decent too! Tapping on it, the Y-split displays a good sense of density and thickness. The 2-pin connector sits securely in the jack of my Jomo Audio P3 and offers some slight resistance during plugging and unplugging.
The wire material here is an 8-core copper litz. Throughout the length of the cable, the Graphite is evenly braided to a medium tightness. The cable is quite supple, though I have definitely seen even softer cables with the same configuration. For comparison, it is somewhere in the ballpark of the Effect Audio Ares II+. There is no pre-formed heat-shrink on my unit, but the fit is still perfectly fine. The Y-split helps to weigh the cable down and the over-ear portion of the cable contours nicely around the ear.
Microphonics on this cable is minimal and mechanical/vibrational noise does not transmit up to the cable unless you are tapping it against something. you’ll have no issues pairing this with a phone or mobile device.
Note: Sound Quality was tested on the Opus 1 DAP with the Jomo x Pantheon P3 and Tripowin TP10.
For this section’s format and with his permission, I drew some inspiration from The Audiolocheese‘s review of the Ares Audio Yuki as it is pretty well thought out, rather than separating it out into Bass, Mids and Trebles which would be a messy disaster.
Tripowin TP10 x Graphite
There is a slight boost in the bass region with this cable. For example, the Tripowin TP10 is a 5BA IEM and with its stock cable, has a relatively neutral bass response. Quite a boring bass that lacks weight and impact if I’m being completely honest. It is most likely a result of having BA drivers handle this region. With the Graphite, the bass is tastefully boosted to slightly north of neutral. Bass note decay seems to be a tad slower too, giving rise to a more natural presentation.
With the stock cable, the TP10 had a somewhat telephonic effect to vocals, while guitars, violins, keyboards and sounded mundane and sound like they just simply exist. However, the Graphite brought considerable improvement to the mids! Vocals lose the telephonic veil and sound more engaging despite not leaning toward being intimate. Instruments appear to have more dynamism to them and there was a noticeable bump up in clarity. The album I used to test this was “Fare Thee Well Love” by The Rankin Family.
Trebles saw a slight improvement too. Attack and decay speed appears to have quickened, giving rise to cleaner highs and better detail recovery. Trebles sound less veiled and more open too. I did not notice much if any improvement in treble extension though.
Do I recommend this pairing: Absolutely! This pairing gives some life and dynamism to a neutral-to-bright-ish sounding pair of IEMs. It helps make the TP10 sound more engaging while improving clarity and recovering quite a bit of detail. This pairing is just yes for me.
Jomo x Pantheon P3 x Graphite
When paired with the Jomo x Pantheon P3, the bass synergy isn’t quite there. Using the track “Armor” by Sara Bareilles, there is a very prominent drum residing in the lower bass beat throughout the length of the song. With the Graphite, this drumbeat seems a tad boomy and overemphasized. Also, the decrease in speed make the drums sound sluggish and some resolution is lost.
The mids region in brought in closer and vocals are more intimate. Especially on more energetic tracks with prominent bass lines, the mids tend to become compressed into the bass, even on well-mastered tracks. For me, it wasn’t a very pleasant experience. On a slower-pace and vocal oriented track such as “Miss Simone” by Sara Bareilles, it was definitely more tolerable. Her vocals sounded intimate and engaging with a hint of nasally-ness. The acoustic guitar also stood out better here, albeit not showing micro-details in the strums.
Treble performance is quite good here. For example on the track “Shotgun” by Gallant, I found that the 2k and above range was well represented and details micro-details were not lost. There were less airiness and soundstage was brought in closer. I did not notice a change in treble extension performance though.
Do I recommend this pairing: Personally, no. Jumping back and forth from the stock SPC and Graphite cables, a difference was very noticeable. The compression of mids with the bass makes it sounds very congested. This paired with the boost in the bass and mids region makes it overly thick and severely overshadows the trebles. I recommend you stick to an SPC or hybrid cable for the P3.
The Graphite tends to give a noticeable boost in the lower and lower-mid frequencies and as such, I would highly recommend pairing this cable with bright, neutral or lean sounding IEMs as the synergy is quite competent and helps balance out the sound signature. I also see the potential for it to mitigate some peakiness or harshness in the trebles region
In contrast, dark, V-shaped or thick sounding IEMs generally do not pair that well with this cable as it over-emphasizes the lower frequencies which throw off the overall tonal balance of the IEM.
The Graphite is a commendable cable. It fills a very special gap in the aftermarket cable market as it is a nice step up from your average stock cable while not being highly priced, in the grand scheme of things of course. There are also no noticeable flaws in the build and durability aspect of this cable, less, the slight microphonics.
The sound signature leans toward the darker side of the spectrum and I highly recommend pairing the Graphite with IEMs that are inherently lean-sounding, neutral or bright.
The Graphite is also available in a 4-wire version called the Carbon, which comes in at an even more pocketable S$49.
This cable is currently only available to people residing in Singapore and can be purchased via Carousell HERE. Again, other terminations are available!
I had fun reviewing this cable and I hope this review has helped. Thanks for staying and have an awesome week ahead!