Hey there fam. Are you a custom cable fan? Some people swear by them. Others can’t see a justification for the cost. While comfort and aesthetics are easy to measure, the effects on sound are often highly subjective and the subject of many heated discussions. In this review we’re looking at the BTG-Audio Starlight CIEM cable.
BTG-Audio is based in the sunny suburbs of California. They specialize in custom headphone cables, headphone repairs and mods. All their cables are made to order and they only get built once an order has been paid. This means that each and every cable is truly custom made so when you order something you know it was made specifically for you.
BTG-Audio’s cables are proudly made in America and use American components when possible, ensuring the highest quality parts and supporting the local economy. Another thing the company takes pride in is their communication and one on one service. They love to interact on a personal level with their customers and help them get exactly what they need at a fair price.
The Starlight’s wire is a 19 strand, silver-plated oxygen-free copper (OFC) which is insulated with a clear Linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) in a milloit braid pattern.
On the top end of the cable are Eidolic Premier 2-pin CIEM Connectors. These are medical and aerospace-grade connectors featuring PEEK (polyether ethyl ketone) insulation that is known for excellent dielectric strength and superior heat resistance which doesn’t break down during soldering. The Eidolic 2-pin contact pins are rhodium plated making them both durable and highly conductive.
My cable came with an Eidolic 4.4mm balanced rhodium silver carbon plug which, naturally matches the Eidolic 2-pin connectors. Should you wish to customize even more, you can contact BTG-Audio and choose an Oyaide, Viablue, Futurtech or other plugs.
Build Quality, Design and Handling
Admittedly I’m usually not a fan of nylon-sleeved cables because they’re often stiff and unwieldy. However, my concerns disappeared the moment I held the Starlight in my hands. That sounds like a song line but I digress…
It turns out my fears were unwarranted as the Starlight handles really nicely. The nylon sleeve is fitted very snugly onto the LLDPE which not only looks and feels great but also improves durability as well as handling.
The Eidolic rhodium silver carbon plug is not only gorgeous to look at but is also lightweight and strong. The way the silver carbon catches the light looks really premium.
An unobtrusive but sturdy Y-split sits further up the cable and it has what looks to be like a heat-shrink applied plastic coating with the company logo on one side. There is solid strain reliefs at both ends. Just above the Y-split is a piece of black tubing which acts as a cable cinch. The cinch is easy to move up and down yet holds its position perfectly once applied.
Above the Y-split the cable is non-sleeved, revealing the twisted LLDPE insulation. Although the cable is rather thin above the split, it feels very robust and looks quite striking too. I found the Starlight has almost no microphonics at all. I’m guessing that is why the cable is not sleeved above the Y-split. Thanks to the lack of microphonics this is a great cable for use on the move as there is no cable noise when you’re walking or active.
Finally, we come to the Eidolic 2-pin connectors. These are metal and match the cable’s plug. Each one is colour-coded with a small ring around the top end. Overall it’s a very nicely built cable. It’s attractive, robust and resistant to tangling.
At first, I was worried that the thinness at the top of the cable might cause it to dig into my ears but I have not experienced any discomfort whatsoever even during long sessions. It’s probably because the cable weighs very little and the wires rest lightly on top of my ears.
One advantage of being thin at the top end is it makes the Starlight very comfortable to wear with glasses. Overall I find the cable to have above average comfort and it’s easy to forget it’s there and go about your business while enjoying your music.
*All testing was done on my Sony NW-ZX300 DAP using the 4.4 mm balanced output.
To my ears, the Starlight has a detailed sound with an expansive, open stage. It seems to attenuate the mid-bass every so slightly, giving bass notes tighter control. This results in a blacker background for midrange instruments and has the effect of making the treble seem more forward.
Ultimately the sound will be determined by your transducers (IEMs) but different cables have subtly varying effects on the overall performance which I will go into more detail about in the pairing section below.
Empire Ears Bravado
The Empire Ears Bravado (review here) can be a little heavy-handed when it comes to bass but given a suitable pairing and the right music it can fantastic. As a case in point, with the Starlight cable and 417.3’s “700” song, I am in absolute musical bliss.
With its subtle attenuation of the mid-bass, the Starlight really brings out the best in this bass-centric monitor, allowing more detail to come through and making vocals really shine. Treble remains largely unaffected but because of the extra bass control, it feels crisper but just as smooth and enlarges the stage.
The Starlight makes the Fusion’s (review here) bass tighter and more textured and livens up the treble as I’ve never heard on this IEM before. Its upper bass and lower midrange tuning gets a little bloated with some cables but paired with the Starlight it shifts some of the emphasis away from the lower ranges making it more nimble and layered.
Custom Art FIBAE 2
The F2 (review here) sounds less V-shaped when paired with the Starlight. The bass loses some of its ‘rawness’, vocals are more articulated and the treble, strangely enough, seems to sit further back while when paired with other IEMs the treble sounded more forward. The soundstage is slightly improved.
Effect Audio Ares II
The Ares II is a flashier looking and feeling cable with its shiny, coppery appearance but I prefer the handling of the Starlight. It’s lighter and more supple than the Ares II which tends to hold shape (memory) and bounce around like it has a mind of its own.
The Ares II is more energetic and bolder sounding. It has a meatier low end and brighter treble and feels more aggressive overall. Although it does have a weightier bass the Ares II maintains a similar soundstage to the Starlight because of its livelier treble.
I feel this is a good cable for warmer, less dynamic or less exciting IEMs but is not particularly good for something like the EE Bravado which already has a very heavy bass. I would choose the Starlight for the Bravado while the Ares II works great with something like the FIBAE 3 which has a more forward midrange.
Braid Magic BM-3
The BM-3 is another flashy looking cable that is more similar to the Ares II in build. It handles quite well but is significantly heavier than the Starlight. Perhaps the most notable difference is the BM-3’s memory wire with heat-shrink tubing. Because the Starlight is so lightweight it can get away with the naked LLDPE (Linear Low-Density Polyethylene) insulation sitting on your ears.
The BM-3 has enhanced bass, similar to the Ares II but has smoother and more liquid midrange and silkier treble. It’s warmer and richer in character with a more intimate stage, while the Starlight is more transparent and has greater dynamic range.
I would match the BM-3 with brighter or more neutral IEMs, such as the M-Fidelity SA-50 (review here) and pair the Starlight with something warmer or bassier. Having said that, I really enjoy the SA-50 when paired with the Starlight too.
The BTG-Audio Starlight is a cable that has a very honest and transparent timbre. It offers a holographic, expanded soundstage along with a very clean, black background. It’s the perfect cable if you don’t want to alter the signature of your IEMs but want to squeeze every bit of inherent performance out of them.
Add to that its lightweight nature and comfortable handling and you’ve got a cable that performs exceptionally well and at a lower price point than many of its counterparts. It should also appeal to anyone who wants a less “blingy” looking cable or one with neutral colours. If you’re looking for an affordable cable upgrade the BTG-Audio Starlight definitely gets my recommendation.