Interview with SGAudioHive
SGAudioHive is a boutique aftermarket cable company located in Singapore. Yong is the lone drone of the hive and he is working constantly to provide better products for the community.
I discovered him on instagram and at that time I was in need of balanced adapters because of DX200. After some browsing, went ahead and ordered bunch of adapters from him. He was delightfully kind and sincere throughout the whole process. I wanted to learn more about his cables and the idea of an interview appeared. Before the interview, I would like to clarify our position on cables.
Custom cable-making is a controversial topic. There are still people who does not believe in them or simply refusing their philosophy. As QuantumEars, we are certain that cables DO affect the sound quality. It’s more than just conductivity race,
Now that we are clear on this subject, let’s move to another hot topic. Prices.
Aftermarket cable prices increasing as fast as other portable audio branches.
We have seen 6K $ headphones, 4k £ in-ear monitors.. Cables are sadly no gringo to this picture. For me, it’s all about that price/performance ratio. I think maximizing it is the key to every customer’s heart.
Let’s get to the interview!
QE: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Yong: Hi there! My name is Yong from sgaudiohive. I currently run sgaudiohive full time in small shared workshop in Singapore(the ‘sg’ in sgaudiohive stands for Singapore).
QE: How long have you been working on audio cables?
Yong: I started learning how to fix simple connection issues for headphones and earpieces back in 2007 during my diploma days mainly because I have a few headphones I needed to repair. Slowly I started building cables, interconnects, line out dock(for ipods, very popular during the days), fixing DAPs/phones, refurbishing ipods while serving my national service and eventually coming up with sgaudiohive in 2012, providing repair and modification services and selling DIY cables.
I left my job in 2015 to focus on sgaudiohive full time and we have come a long way until now.
QE: When exactly the idea of SGAudioHive started to take shape?
Yong: While I was working in my day job, I would arrange to pick up/deliver orders around Singapore during break time or after work. After which I would spend my free time at night or during the weekends completing those orders. The cycle of going to work, picking up orders, delivering orders, going home to work on the jobs again, made me feel like a bee. Thus the ‘hive’ in sgaudiohive. Also while working on designing the initial cable range and logo/branding, I was thinking of an approachable, non-pretentious branding, the hive actually fits well into the design brief.
QE: Can you give me a run-down of the total product categories?
Yong: Currently we have 3 different line of cables.
- Florea : our entry level upgrade cable suitable for replacement or as an entry into the custom cable world
- Mellifera : our mid range cable targeted at customers who wants better performance and quality but still wants a slim profile
- Laboriosa : our top range cable, do not be fooled by the pricing of the laboriosa range.
QE: What is the most important aspect of building cables according to you?
Yong: Build quality and ergonomics. We do our best to build our cables as sturdy as possible and every cable is stress tested before packing.
QE: What stands out the most about your cable lineup?
Yong: Apart from price and performance, I believe what makes us stand out more is the category. Our products fill up the market gap for under USD200 cables without compromises. This is especially relevant in our local market as buyers in this price bracket are limited to buying imported/mass produced products. Our aim is to bridge this gap, educate and grow along side our customers.
QE: What about materials, we all know that there are literally LIMITLESS options, what do you like, prefer or perhaps cautious against..
Yong: I do not have a preference for material nor do i advocate for/against any type of materials. However I do understand most people have their own preferences. As long as the material is durable, feels good, has good ergonomics and pairs well with their setup, all of those can be explored.
QE: Do you planning on increasing the cable variety?
Yong: Our current line of cables covers almost everything our customers need, therefore we intend to stick with this line of cables and improve them along the way. Our plan is to focus on the current line up and develop them in anticipation of our customers’ increasing requirements.
QE: As a boutique craftsman, you’re following a competitive price policy, is this a sales strategy for you?
Yong: Actually we do not deliberately set our prices to be competitive. All of our prices are heavily considered and adjusted for the best interest of new hobbyists.
Our strategy is to encourage entry users to try, educate users on benefits, develop quality products, and grow with our customers.
We are able to provide such prices because of the following reasons:-
- We have a low overhead cost as we operate in a manageable scale.
- We are self funded and do not have pressure from investors/partners. Our only pressure is paying the bills and rent.
- We sell our products direct to our customers without going thru 3rd party.
- We provide a large variety of services, which helps to cover a bit of the costs for running our business, thus we do not require a large mark up on our products.
- We do not add in development cost as a markup. Most of our development and testing are done during our rest days/hours. We also run hive projects occasionally, where some of the cost are covered by project participants.
- We do not add in ridiculous markups for jobs which will take longer/difficult jobs. Our solution to this is very simple, we practise and work on developing our skills, cutting down time taken and setting up a faster workflow instead of taking advantage of customers’ gullibility and making them pay for any inefficiency.
QE: Is it possible to order from anywhere in the world?
Yong: Yes! We are able to ship anyway Singpost(Our local registered service) is able to ship to. We have no issues shipping to most countries!
QE: How long is the turnaround time?
Yong: We are working over the clock to do our best in getting the order to our customers as fast as possible. If the item is in stock, it will be shipped out within 5-7 days. If not, expect a build time of around 10-14 days. Shipping Via Singpost registered is quoted at around 12-20 working days, some customers had feedback to us that the actual shipping time is slightly faster, but we would advise to follow the general guide of 12-20 working days. Naturally that excludes busy period and holiday seasons. PS. Local customers will enjoy a faster shipping rate of 2-3days.
We thank Yong for his patience and enthusiasm during the interview!
Let’s get to the review, shall we?
Today we will be reviewing 3 mid-fi cables from SGAudioHive’s line-up.
Our first contender is the “Mellifera SPC” SHORTLY “MEL.SPC”
Mellifera SPC is a 26 awg silver plated copper litz design cable. It’s texture feels smooth and well-made. Insulation is flexible, perhaps even more flexible than PW Audio No5. Plug bulkiness is medium, it’s definitely lighter than a full-size eidolic or furutech 3.5mm. Moving on to the good old Y split, Yong used a cylinder shaped gold Y splitter. It is in the medium weight class as well. General weight distribution of the cable is good, it does not pull the iems down and it is not too light either (so no hovering, bumping you chest). The cable is well-braided.
Now that we are done with these, let’s move to SOUND.
First thing I noticed was the increased airiness. Low frequencies tightened up, stage dimensions expanded, instrument separation were clearer. Mid frequencies were more articulate and they were tad less territorial. Resolution-wise M.SPC is quite good, definitely above it’s price tag. Treble region is balanced. No trace of harshness. Another thing I noticed with the upgrade is the change in perceived speed..
To wrap it up, M.SPC is an excellent cable and it absolutely performs above its price tag.
If you’re looking to improve your iem’s sound quality but you already like its signature, I recommend you getting this particular cable.
Our second contender is the “Mellifera Silver” SHORTLY “MEL.SLV”
Mellifera Silver is a 26 awg 5N OCC pure silver non-litz structure cable.
Cable insulation feels smooth and well-made. Insulation is flexible but not as flexible as the M.SPC. Other than this, design is similar to M.SPC. Yong is quite the braidsman!
Craftsmanship is impressive, shrinks are carefully placed, nothing sticks out..
Let’s move on the SOUND.
Once again M.SLV greets us with a nice, airy presentation.. Treble energy is easily noticeable as well as treble extension. There is a lower midrange hump. Bass response is slightly tighter and more controlled. Upper mids are slightly more accentuated.Overall it has a slight U shape signature. Resolution-wise it’s on par with the SPC so it’s quite impressive.
Our third and last contender is the “Mellifera Copper” SHORTLY “MEL.CPR”
Mellifera Copper is a 26 awg OCC copper non-litz structure cable.
Cable is beautifully sleeved in black & red by Yong, aesthetically it is truly amazing. Cable weight is tad more than the rest of the Mellifera family because of the Y split but it’s not a big deal. Craftsmanship is impressive, no visible flaws.
Sound highlights of M.CPR are better controlled bass response, low region quantity increasement, tighter and more impactful sub region, slightly clearer mids. I also noticed the tidiness of the stage.
Frankly Yong did a fantastic job with Mellifera family. We’re in a new era of price/performance and in this era, it is possible to get more and pay less. This particular line-up is a great example to this. We wish Yong a great future, hopefully audiophiles will understand and preserve the importance of this price-chivalry.