Excellent value, Strong build quality, Light and supple fabric jacket, High quality connectors, Likeable and widely pairing sound profile
Bulky wires, Not the largest tonal shift for those wanting this
If you’re looking for an attractive cable that can be optioned to your liking and offers guaranteed quality without breaking the bank, these are a terrific option for the majority of enthusiasts.
Forza Audio Works (FAW) is a Polish custom cable maker that specialises in headphone cables. Perusing their website, you can observe a range of quality custom cables, currently with 8 options of conductor and geometry. However, one thing stands at the fore and that would be their pricing which is sensationally cheap relative to competitors. In fact, their cables are so well priced that many are cheaper than OEM replacements, making for a very cost-effective upgrade even to address ergonomics or terminations alone. For review, I’ll be looking at their two flagship cables, the Noir Hybrid and the Noir HPC MK2. Both feature 8 26AWG wires, the former using a mix of 7N UPOCC Silver and Copper conductors in a semi-Litz geometry, and the latter using pure 7N UPOCC copper in a Litz geometry. Forza has recently updated their cables with improved flexibility and oxidation resistance in addition to improved sleeving. They are built to last with a generous 3-year warranty.
I would like to thank Forza Audio Works very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the Noir Hybrid and Noir HPC MK2 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the cables free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
FAW offer a similar degree of customisation to other leading cable makers if only over a limited number of conductors configurations. Still, given the reasonable base price on these cables, it opens up more avenues for customisation by the buyers. Termination options are abundant on both ends and lengths are available from 1.5 – 3.0m. Prices can jump quite noticeably with specific brands of connectors. For instance, going from a Neutrik 4-pin XLR balanced to the Futurech equivalent brings up the price by 40 EUR reflecting the price of the components themselves. This is also true for the headphone connectors. In addition, through correspondence with the company over email, they were more than happy to accept custom requests. I requested inverted polarity on the Noir HPC MK2 to suit the HEDDphone so the company are able to accommodate less mainstream headphones as well.
Through discussion with a few insiders who make headphones and keyboard cables, many lament that custom audio cables are some of the most price prohibitive to produce. In turn, it is difficult to produce a reasonably priced, non-luxury product for average consumers. FAW provides a minimalist unboxing experience which is where I’d want prices cut as the quality of the product is no less than what you’d see from more expensive brands where it counts. The cables simply come in a cardboard box with wood shaving offering light padding and a canvas drawstring pouch keeping the cables scratch-free during transit. It’s all you need for a cable alone, perhaps a cable organiser strap would be convenient but is hardly a necessity.
I must thank my friend Pawel from Ear Fidelity for the recommendation; as soon as I saw his photos of the FAW cable with his HEDDphone, I instantly loved the look the company had achieved. They present well with metal connectors and a loosely braided fabric sheath that exudes an EDC aesthetic and feel that I am a huge fan of. The bold FAW y-split gives the cables a performance-orientated look and the company brands near the plug and on the heat shrink covering the headphone connectors add visual flair. While heat shrink can be hit and miss, the edges are well finished and the craftsmanship is very consistent. As such, they serve more as a reminder that each unit is hand fabricated with care rather than sticking out as a weakness of the design.
The jacket itself is immensely pliable with zero memory owing to the soft, flexible fabric and loose braid. The wires are organised in a flat braid and these qualities together contribute to impressively low microphonic noise transmission. Note that the wires are on the large side, especially these two models due to the added bulk of the loose-fitting sheath, making them most suitable for full-size at-home headphones. That said, despite their size, they are surprisingly light meaning that ergonomics are never interrupted by the cable. My main gripe here is that the Noir Hybrid and MK2 are visually identical which won’t be an issue for most, however, having both on hand this did make things confusing. It would be nice to see perhaps a change of colour scheme on the heat shrink to delineate each model – I was able to discern using the polarity due to my specific request.