Review sample supplied by Final Touch Audio
1.0m 740 CHF ex VAT (approx 717 euro ex VAT)
1.3m 828 CHF ex VAT (approx 802 euro ex VAT)
1.5m 952 CHF ex VAT (approx 922 euro ex VAT) (as reviewed)
Ethernet cables can’t possibly make a sonic difference, right? I certainly originally used to think this myself when I first got into streaming audio, but as early experiments have proven a long time ago when doing experiments using Meridian Sooloos equipment (the predecessor of Roon), this is just not true. Why? A popular theory is that it’s not the signal itself but rather outside noise that’s picked up and then wreaks havoc inside the server or streamer, thereby creating interference or strain of some sort. Or there may be another principle at work. I just don’t know, but the audible differences are there.
Here’s what Final Touch Audio has to say on the matter.
Despite the common thinking and belief that Ethernet cables do not and cannot make an audible difference in transferring those famous zeroes and ones in audio applications, we did our best to prove them wrong. As always trial is the best way to go in your decision process and we strongly believe that we achieved to create a unique Ethernet cable for which you will be able to say – Yes this makes a positive difference.
We used the best conductors and connectors available on the market, paying the utmost attention to finding the right balance between the diameters of the conductor and the dielectric material used while deploying the proprietary geometry of the cable. All of this was carefully and meticulously blended together in order to achieve the lowest possible interference of the cable to the speed of transferred data and the lowest possible signal reflections in the cable.
There are no specs on the website, but honestly, I wouldn’t know what good they would do, until we find out just what measurements to take and how to interpret them in correlation with the listening results. In any event, the cable is beautifully made and is terminated with professional all-metal connectors. The cable feels very solid but is still quite supple and bends well enough.
For all my ethernet connections I normally use a ValueLine CAT6 S/FTP Ethernet cable which is really nothing special and just a standard OEM brand cable. Before settling on this cable, though, I compared many others in the same price range and found that some of the other standard cables sounded airier or more fluid but also less forceful and robust while others sounded overly mellow and even imprecise. I finally selected the ValueLine for sounding the most articulate and concrete.
I will review the Metis Ethernet cable using my Main Setup between the main switch for the audio system (a regular LinkSys LGS-108) and the Antipodes K50 Music Server. The K50 is connected to a Denafrips Venus II DAC using the Final Touch Audio Sinope USB cable. The Metis Ethernet cable will be compared with my standard Ethernet cables, as well as to the Pink Faun Digital Interlink LAN and the Mad Scientist Black Magic.
For the record: yes, annoyingly, I also hear a difference in sound even when playing local music. But because this goes even more against sane logic, I will focus purely on streaming audio via Qobuz to make sure that audio data is actually flowing through the Ethernet cable, and I will make sure to re-queue the track in Roon each time I swap cables.
Going from my standard CAT6 cable to the Metis, the soundstage becomes freer while growing in all dimensions but whereas such transformations can often go hand in hand with a reduction in precision or control, this time, this time, these aspects are fully retained. Moreover, I find that the transient behavior is not only as sharp and immediate as before, the delineation of leading edges and especially the conviction of the pulses is now being rendered even more powerfully and more convincingly. Admittedly, transient behavior is always one of the key aspects that I listen for as it not only pleases my brain but also tickles the toe-tapping muscles and, when I’m in a very particular mood, even elicits a few dance moves. This is what the Metis facilitates.
In addition, there’s a more subtle change that is picked up when listening more casually and when just enjoying the performances on a musical level, rather than listening intently in pure-reviewer mode. This is when I notice that the music’s emotional intent is relayed more easily and more convincingly. Note that it’s not just the greater flow that is responsible and certainly not any kind of euphonic enrichment or friendliness. Nothing of the sort. Thankfully, unlike many other high-end Ethernet cables, that’s just not what the Metis is about.
The Metis’ true potential is probably best described by relaying what I hear when switching back to my regular Ethernet cable. Back in the normal situation, I still hear the same level of detail but it’s presented in a very different manner, more static and in-between the speakers, and in a duller, less alluring fashion. The brain still says, yeah, ok, fine, but the soul doesn’t quite connect as deeply as with the Metis cable. Let me try and further clarify this by comparing the Metis to two other high-end Ethernet cables.
Mad Scientist Black Magic
The Black Magic also presents the music on a large canvas but less explicitly so. The sound is full and smooth but less explicit, less articulate and precise, and less spritely. Although I was originally quite smitten with the Black Magic’s staging capabilities as well as its transient behavior, now having heard the Metis, the Black Magic is more like a dreamy cloud of a soundstage than a forest in which you can clearly see each tree. I guess I’m spoilt now by the Metis’ precise rendition of depth and the beautiful layering within the soundstage. Of course, this extra performance demands a more serious price, but if the budget allows it, the Metis does really provide a new level of musical performance.
Pink Faun Digital Interlink LAN
In comparison, the Pink Faun sounds comparably light-footed and airy and it offers a deeper stage than the Mad Scientist, but the imaging is more indistinct and especially in terms of precision of the layering, it is not at the level of the Metis. More noticeably, perhaps, the Pink Faun adds creaminess in the midrange and is more reticent (less punchy) and smoother overall, arguably too much so for my current taste. It’s a very relaxing, non-offensive, and slightly warm sound with a calmer delivery than either the Metis or the standard cable. Priced more similarly to the Metis, the Pink Faun LAN cable provides an alternative perspective that could be more ideally suited for systems that verge on the overly controlled or edgy side.
When doing reviews, it is usually the careful assessment of the relative sonic aspects and relaying this into clear words that always takes the most time. But just as it happened with the Final Touch Audio Callisto USB cable or indeed the Sinope USB cable, from the very first notes, I knew I had something special on my hands. This cable’s superiority is so evident that the review has practically written itself!
Neither the Pink Faun nor the Mad Scientist ethernet cables manage to portray the percussive element or the natural wooden timbre of acoustic piano or the feeling of actually hearing a bow across the snares of a violin quite as well as the Metis. And I’m not talking about subtle differences, this can be instantly heard. All it takes are three piano notes or a single chord on a violin!
The Metis makes my regular Ethernet cables sound static and spatially compressed, duller, and less alluring, taking away a serious chunk of emotional involvement.
Thankfully, the Metis is not about adding euphonism, romanticizing, or otherwise editorializing the music with some kind of “sound”. This cable is 100% neutral and it relays everything wholly naturally.
Manufacturer: Final Touch Audio