Prion4 Headphone Cable: DHC’s Masterpiece
Starting at $1,799.00 for your custom OCC litz cable.
19AWG (18.8awg exact) OCC Silver Litz
Over the past 8 years, the Complement project has evolved tremendously – the first prototypes encompassed the best that we could build with the materials we could readily find. Now, it is an exact translation of our imagination and desire – a cost-no-object, uncompromising vision. Complement4 and Spore4 Silver received numerous accolades, and stand tall as some of the most effective headphone upgrades available, with specifications we have long considered to be “just right.” But a lingering voice said to us “What if?” Prion was always an unspoken working title for our most unreasonable, complex, and sometimes unbuildable designs. Now, we have finally taken action to bring these designs to life.
Awards – see Complement4 Silver for past reviews. Prion4 is a substantial upgrade over the highly proficient Complement4 Silver.
New Audioholics review incoming – paired with Hifiman Susvara!
Double Helix Cables is another store run by audiophile Peter Bradstock. With a background in microbiology and genetics, Peter has utilised the concepts of revision (accepting and rejecting hypotheses/cables) to truly refine and improve upon each of his creations. Each cable is developed with high-quality litz wires, durable sheathing and is remarkably stunning to boot.
In this review, I had the opportunity to test their flagship cable – the Prion 4 which is priced at $1799 minimum (for 4 feet length). These cables are currently the most complex headphone cables produced by anybody employing a staggering 19awg OCC silver litz – the limit of which can be practically fit and soldered to a headphone connector.
One word comes to mind when listening with this cable – and that is effortless. With such a sonic improvement to the stock cable, I am surprised that cables could make this much of a difference. Not only is transparency brought to the forefront, along with outstanding micro-detailing, separation and accuracy but macro-dynamics are also strong with extensive top and bottom range contributing to a highly engaging side that combines powerful precision with dynamism and emotional involvement. In addition, the expansive nature of these cables works wonders for the already capable Susvaras. If that were not enough, recordings sound alive with lack of grain, nuances and fast decay speeds. While the Prion 4 headphone cable is not cold or irritably bright, it does benefit from a tube stage which adds even more staging width as well as some welcomed midrange bloom. Overall, these are most transparent, refined and involving cables I have ever come across. For that reason, these should be considered as a reference headphone cable for anyone without a budget in sight.
— Smit Patel
Positive Feedback’s Brutus Award Winner 2016!
“…Incredibly detailed. Atmospheric. Transparency in spades. No sense of grain or of any constriction. And bloody quick…the Double Helix Cables are my current reference standard for headphones, for sure.”
DHC flagships featured in the world’s top headphone setup (WA234 + MSB Select DAC) @ Mono and Stereo – full review of Spore4 and Prion4S in this system coming soon @ Headphone.guru
Prion4 review coming soon @ Positive Feedback Online
DHC Firsts – an introduction.
Most of the features adopted by other headphone cables originated at DHC.
First OCC silver headphone cable – Silver Complement, 2009.
First shielded, multi-layer dampened headphone cable with separate left/right cables – Complement, 2009.
First insulated OCC litz wire – Molecule SE, 2012.
First headphone cable with conductive polymer shielding insulation – Complement2, 2013
First headphone cable with conductive anti-static center core – Complement3, 2014
First headphone cable incorporating an insulated cotton-dielectric wire – Complement4, 2014
First headphone cable with hybrid multicore – conductive center + cotton outer cores – Molecule Extreme, 2014
First cable to incorporate all of the above – Prion4, 2016
Introducing – the Integrated Wire, generation 2. An integrated wire offers a complete multilayer construction around each signal wire, machine-made for consistency and hand-finished into a cable built to your specifications. The goal is to create conditions around the internal litz copper or silver strands that allows them to perform to their true potential. This series of machine-applied, precise layers is DHC’s original design.
Multicore type4/type6 layout. The more complex nature of Prion’s colossal 18.8awg conductors requires a second level of six cores, made of pure cotton, to organize the bundles. This provides support and damping throughout the wire.
Carbon-polymer outer shielding insulation. This material, pioneered by DHC, allows us to throughly shield each Integrated Wire without the use of heavier metal shields, for a featherweight, purist flagship cable. It blocks a wide bandwidth of interference while being light & flexible.
Flexible Teflon secondary dielectric layer. This minimal-absorption, high dielectric strength material allows us to maintain the integrity of the inner litz construct while optimizing the cable for the perfect balance of low inductance and capacitance. Use of Teflon ensures that Prion4 is greatly lighter & more flexible than previous DHC flagships.
Pure cotton primary dielectric layer. A cable-industry first. DHC offers the first ever litz cable with a matrix of cotton braided around the litz strands inside a durable, insulated cable. The result is a cable with cotton as its true primary insulation – a material that does not add or subtract charge from the strands, damps vibration, and offers superior dielectric strength to practically everything – without the strands or constructs being vulnerable, as the cotton-encased litz construct is protected in the outer layers.
18.8awg (~19awg) pure OCC silver litz. The 14-bundle design of Complement4 expands to 30 bundles arranged into six subgroups; Prion contains more than double the amount of OCC silver as Complement4. The ultrapure single-crystal litz silver bundles are arrayed into a cylindrical-tube layout inside each Complement4 Integrated Wire. This design greatly reduces skin effect as each strand alternates between the inside and the outside of the wire construct along the cable’s length, equalizing impedance throughout the wire. Each tiny strand of OCC silver is coated in an invisible, razor-thin enamel layer which prevents oxidation and cross-talk between strands, eliminating diodic junctions and their propensity for energy storage. This conductor goes above and beyond in terms of current carrying capability. Not just any OCC silver, we have combed the world for silver that sounds this way, casting many possible designs and materials aside. This metal is chosen for its unique combination of precision and forgiveness. We find it even less harsh-sounding than copper, even with troublesome recordings, due to its refinement. Those who hear our silver ask “How is this silver? It’s so smooth and easygoing…”
Center conductive/damping core. DHC helped introduce type 4 litz with our original Peptide V2 type 4 litz wires – an optimized version of the type 2 litz with a core of damping material at the center, keeping the litz strands out of the wire’s “dead spot” at its center, and aiding in litz’s prime goal of equally distributing each strand between the wire’s surface and its interior. With Prion4, we take the damping core featurel to a higher level with our conductive core – a DHC first. The core is made of a resistive material which absorbs any internal static buildup, while also allowing vibration damping on all sides of the litz strands – they are “sandwiched” between cotton and this core – the perfect internal environment.
Complement’s channel isolation. Each channel’s pair of Integrated Wires is isolated into individual sleeves, and we typically do not twist these channel pairs together, providing separate cables for 3-pin XLR models and two separate cables ending in a 4-pin XLR or 1/4″ plug otherwise. In this way, soundstage integrity is preserved.
Maximum isolation for 3 pin XLR cables. To further lower Prion4’s noise floor, opt for Prion4S with Spore Shielding, only for 3 pin XLR cables. Ultra-light metal shielding is applied to each strand to provide further protection from noisy environments. This upgrade is optional, and for optimal ergonomics we recommend forgoing it.
Exclusive sleeves. A huge variety of DHC’s sleeves are available, with many base colors and metallic tracers, including some of our favorites: white/metallic silver, black/antique gold, and black/red. If you would like to nominate a new color combination, just ask.
Still comfortable. Despite its extreme nature, the thickness of the Prion4’s four cables are only 13% greater than those of Complement4, as the larger silver construct inside is still only one part of the complete design. The cable is light & flexible for what it is, but is not recommended for portable systems, as it is overkill for that application.
Eidolic terminations. Only the best plugs hand-chosen by us are available for Prion4, including Eidolic’s complete lineup of connectors. Due to its specifications, only certain terminations are available, so if they are not listed below, then they are not an option.
Recommended pairings. This cable is offered for specific headphones – we feel that other than for HE1000/X/Susvara, Utopia, Abyss, LCD3/4/X, Dharma, and HD800/S, the money is better spent on upgrading one’s headphones.
For a more portable cable with much of Prion4’s capability, check out Molecule Elite19 and for your in-ear monitors, Symbiote Elite 19.
Expand compatibility with Triple Threat adapters. We offer compatibility with other headphones (only the ones listed as valid headphone types in the Prion4 headphone type menu) by way of short adapters to convert the cable’s upper connectors to another headphone type. Pick Ultrashort triple threat adapters for the best possible performance and shortest length. Pick Prion adapters for adapters made with the same materials as the cable, which add length & flexibility, avoiding multiple connectors joined together at the earcup. While Ultrashort Triple Threat adapters are the most minimal possible connection, they may not be ergonomic enough for some customers, so we offer both options.
No Y-Split. As a purist cable, Prion4 is not intended for use with y-splits that require the two channels to be woven together up to the y-split. There are no suitable y-splits and they go against the cable’s design philosophy.
Ready to travel. Includes a customized carbon fiber case large enough for your Prion4 and maybe a DAP and amp. Limit 1 per customer with their first Prion4 purchase. Several carbon patterns are available, we will surprise you.
No questions asked warranty. It’s hard to say how you’d damage this cable, but we’ll fix it for free for life, or reterminate it at a low cost (barring impossible reterminations, cables sliced down the middle, etc), after shipping costs.
Prion4 cylinder badge
An optional enhancement – a 3D printed cast sterling silver or bronze cylinder with Prion4 marque plate. An ingenious design lets it thread on and be held in place with silicone grommets so that it cannot move around easily but can be removed or repositioned if necessary. The cylinder has the DHC logo on the flip side with tiny holes comprising the logo’s dots.
We can customize this decorative cylinder as we did for a fan of the Zelda game series:
For 4 pin XLR and 6.3mm models, we can create a bespoke cable with unique sleeving combinations, one of many exotic sterling silver y-splitters, and a single-cable quad layout below the y-split. This type of build takes more than twice as long to assemble, but is easily the most striking cables in the DHC lineup. Pictured with our “silver atom” split, an outrageous design built around a realistic model of the silver atom, these Prion4-specialized splitters are much larger and more costly than our usual small silver splitters found on our IEM cables. We do not recommend choosing this layout for ergonomic reasons, it’s about the same in that regard.
Includes Prion4 cylinder badge in sterling silver or bronze.
After ordering, we will design the cable together via email.
For Prion4S, we can install 3D printed sterling silver logo tubes near each 3 pin XLR, customized to your liking:
Closing gaps. With two flagship headphones, where one is preferred to another, Prion4 will push the under-performing headphone ahead of the higher-performing headphone (assuming both headphones were using the same cable before Prion4 was added).
Focus. It’s just like being Neo in the Matrix and the objects on the soundstage are the bullets. Time feels like it’s slowing; details that escaped you before come into focus. If our previous flagship was a microscope, Prion4 is Google for details – it relentlessly extracts all the content of the music file and exposes it clearly.
That first song feeling. The special quality of the first track in your listening session never goes away; the lack of fatigue and presentation of unfamiliar details helps maintain this sensation.
Treble refinement. Not every song with harsh treble is actually harsh – the treble simply needs to be managed properly without its nuances taken away, or else it becomes grating and unlistenable. Putting Prion4 through the brightest and most sibilant tracks, the upper frequencies are delicate, laid back, and presented with confidence.
The midrange has heart. Does your favorite cable & headphone bring tears to your eyes sometimes? Convincing emotion can’t be simulated with lesser equipment – it has to be felt. I’m reliving what I felt the first time I heard a song.
Bass forms a complete construct, not layers. This is not the bass presentation we are accustomed to hearing. The layers coalesce into an amorphous, high-pressure aura that lifts & supports the soundstage, giving a truly intimate ambiance.
HE1000: With Prion4 this headphone can do no wrong. Treble is luscious and soundstage extends in all directions much further than previous listening sessions, any boundaries vanishing. The headphone is evenhanded, having equal aptitude with all genres – all around very hard to beat. Even more bass presence than LCD4, with enough impact to make you wince on the right tracks. Arguably a little more enjoyable than LCD4, but LCD4 seems to be even less colored and feels more like a studio than consumer product here.
LCD4: A staggering new insight into each song. Truly the most honest headphone pairing we’ve ever heard, for better or for worse. There is an added bit of revelation that is completely unfamiliar. It feels like I’m finally getting a real glimpse into the true feel of every track. Poorly recorded tracks put their best foot forward, but it is very easy to differentiate good recordings from great ones. The deepest bass we’ve experienced with Audez’e products, but never exaggerated; it comes out when it’s called upon. No grainy treble we can identify at this time. Vocals are much more articulate and each word easily recognized.
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