LETSHUOER Cadenza 12: Form vs Function

LETSHUOER Cadenza 12 Review

Photography by Chitoh Yung (@chitohgraphy)


The Cadenza 12 is a hybrid (1DD/11BA) IEM that costs $2300. I heard a prototype as far back as last year at CanJam SoCal 2022. At the time, I found it to be decent if not a little soft-sounding and lacking the special sauce that its price should command. I quickly forgot about it, as few IEMs capture my attention and even fewer for the right reasons: an abrupt ending for an IEM named after a cadenza (the flourish just before a finale). But now I have the production version of the Cadenza 12 on hand. Does it have the energy needed to put on a more memorable show this time? Let’s take a closer listen.

This unit was loaned for review by LETSHUOER. It can be purchased from here. As always, what follows are my honest thoughts and opinions to the best of my ability.

Source & Drivability

All critical listening was done off of an iBasso DX300 and iPhone 13 Mini with the stock accessories. I used the stock silicone ear tips. Silicone ear tips are generally optimal unless isolation is a consideration. They don’t require as much maintenance, they don’t attenuate high frequencies, and they will last much longer. The Cadenza 12 takes moderate power to drive, but I had no issue hitting my usual listening volumes of ~70dB. Hissing was not an issue. If you'd like to learn more about my listening methodology, test tracks, and general beliefs in audio, then I would encourage you to check out this page.


I received a loaner unit for assessment, so I don’t believe everything I received should be considered representative of what’s included in the full package.

The Cadenza 12 has a full-titanium shell. Titanium is a coveted material in many applications due to its unique properties: it has exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, it is hypoallergenic, and it does not rust. However, working with titanium, particularly in detail-oriented applications, results in added wear-and-tear of machining equipment. Difficulties machining titanium are often reflected in high prices of products that use the metal. Indeed, from the standpoint of an IEM, I’m also not sure if the practical implications of using titanium are warranted, but it is quite cool to see the metal being used, as the Cadenza 12 embodies the idea of ‘functional ear jewelry.’

The case of the Cadenza 12 is likewise quite high-quality. The frame of it is constructed of thick aluminum that is surrounded by real leather. It has a magnetic latch and there is a mesh slot in the lid for storing accessories. While this case is not waterproof, I’d say it’s pretty crush-resistant and it offers apt protection in most scenarios. It is on the slightly larger side; about the size that would be best fitting into a jacket or cargo pants pocket.

Generally, I’m not a big fan of the Cadenza 12’s included cable. It has a sheath up until the Y-splitter, at which point the sheath is removed to reveal the hybrid copper-silver wires underneath. The juxtaposition doesn’t appeal to me; furthermore, I feel that the cable is somewhat stiff and unwieldy. But I do appreciate that the connectors of the included cable sit flush with the IEM’s chassis. I observe this oversight with a lot of IEMs that don’t have recessed connectors. This cable also features interchangeable terminations in 2.5/3.5/4.4mm which is an added touch that I’ve appreciated becoming more common.

Sound Analysis

The measurements below were taken using a clone IEC-711 coupler. There is a resonance peak at 8kHz; as such, measurements after this point should not be considered entirely accurate. If you’d like to compare the Cadenza 12 to hundreds of other IEMs I have measured then please see this link.

The overall tonality of the Cadenza 12 is best described as “balanced with a touch of spice up top.” I dislike using the word musical but I think this is a fitting description for the Cadenza 12’s tuning ethos. The bass response is tastefully emphasized thanks to some extra kick at 300-400Hz. Rather than ‘farty’, I’d describe the bass on it as more satisfyingly ‘thumpy’ especially on kick drums and drum machines. However, there’s a slight softness to the Cadenza 12’s bass transients that might dissuade listeners who demand razor-distinct bass lines. And for the most part, I find the bass on the Cadenza 12 to be just acceptable for $2000. I actually mistook it for being on the better end of BA bass on first listen (yes, I rarely read specifications anymore), and it's clear that LETSHUOER is indexing for a more coherent presentation with the Cadenza 12’s DD implementation.

The midrange of the Cadenza 12 sounds fairly natural, although it has a slight recession to the way it rises from 1-2kHz. This is a tuning characteristic often observed with HiFiMan’s headphones which are praised for their imaging ability. It’s clear that this tuning decision has implications for IEMs as well. The Cadenza 12’s ability to layer instruments, especially in the center image, is praiseworthy even if the center doesn’t “pop forward” outside of the headstage. Now, something that has to be kept in mind with this type of tuning decision is that it can make male vocals sound too thin; this can get worse depending on the forwardness of the upper-midrange and/or the thinness of the lower-midrange. If you wanted an example of how to not execute this type of tuning, the ThieAudio Oracle MKII would be the IEM that I point fingers to first. But while there is a hint of uncanniness with the Cadenza 12, I find it mostly works because of that extra energy at 300-400Hz lending back some note weight. The regions from 3-5kHz, moving into the upper-midrange, are also at an appropriate level in that they’re slightly reserved.

The treble response of the Cadenza 12 isn’t without its idiosyncrasies. There is some noticeable peaking at just over 10kHz or so. It lends to an odd resonance, possibly what can be described as an “echo” to certain instruments and, rarely, the edge of female vocals. Treble extension has also been improved since I first heard the prototype, but I find myself wanting more upper-treble energy if only to balance the peak over 10kHz. To be clear, this is not a matter of pure extension (which is excellent) so much as quantity. Overall, I can see some of the intention behind tuning the treble like this, but I’m not sure if I’m sold on it.

My fellow reviewer, FC-Construct, has suggested in the past that ‘detail’ is mostly a product of when novel, unusual sounds pique our ear’s interest. I’m inclined to agree; I’ve further suggested that when tuning is done tastefully and kept within “normal” parameters this enhances the phenomenon. I mostly find this to be the case on the Cadenza 12. It has a fairly balanced tuning with the 10kHz peak lending a slight shimmer to the edge of notes which some might associate with a stronger sense of micro-detail. However, I don’t find the Cadenza 12 to come across like a $2000 IEM for technicalities and, in the absence of pricing knowledge, I’d probably place it closer to the $1000-1500 mark.

The Bottom Line

I normally approach reviews with the idea of sound coming first and, make no mistake, my conclusion on the Cadenza 12 has to reflect that. It’s a good sounding IEM. I certainly wouldn’t bat an eye at it being someone’s favorite IEM. But when push comes to shove, I have to concede that it’s still not a shoo-in at the $2000 price point, which is ultra-competitive. Against top-dog competition like the 64 Audio U12t, for example, the Cadenza 12 doesn't quite measure up in terms of sound quality. But it certainly can pick up some slack in terms of its fantastic build quality.

Ultimately, this begs the question: how much extra should you be willing to spend for premium materials and for what is essentially functional jewelry? If you’re going to purchase this IEMassuming it’s not your endgame soundthen I think this is the question you need to be asking yourself.


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