AudioQuest Headquarters Tour

The Southern California headquarters of cable manufacturer AudioQuest, which includes their offices, a listening room, conference rooms, a very very large warehouse, assembly rooms, a graphic design room, a few kitchens and various and sundry other more mundane but just as important places, is within a few-minutes’ drive from T.H.E. Show at Newport Beach. Shane Buettner, AudioQuest's Director of Education who you will most likely recognize as the former Editor-In-Chief of Home Theater magazine, Joe Harley VP of AudioQuest (Joe Harley is also a recording engineer/producer responsible for among others the Blue Note 45rpm reissues from Music Matters and he's a musician), and Andrew Kissinger, Regional Sales Manager, gave a group of A/V journalists, including Tom Norton, Senior Editor and Video Technical Editor of Home Theater magazine, the full tour.

My comments on the tour/AudioQuest facility can be summed up by saying that this is one of the most organized, clean, neat and tidy places I've ever seen. And it's not the kind of organized, clean, neat and tidy you can fake for a tour. From the huge warehouse to the tiniest Ziplock baggy, everything had its place and label. Impressive.

We also partook of a few demonstrations that are meant to highlight the differences cables can make and I'll give you an overview of what we heard. I'm not going to get into describing sonic minutiae since a) it's my belief that you really need to experience this kind of thing for yourself, and b) those who believe cables do not and can not make a difference won't believe a word I have to say so I'm not going to waste my time gilding a dead lily. To get right down to it, the Emperor does in fact have clothes; you cable deniers just have dirty minds.

The first demo involved a simple setup and premise: one inexpensive micro-component system, different speaker cables—stock and AudioQuest—connected to each speaker and a balance control. As you listen you or someone else switches from one speaker/cable to the other using the balance control. And back again as many times as you'd like. It took one swap to hear a difference and few more to hear it again and again since it was not subtle—the AudioQuest speaker cable improved the presentation and the most obvious change can be described as lending the music a more natural voice. Or if you prefer, the micro system simply sounded better with the AudioQuest cable.

The next demo, and you'll notice that AudioQuest had cleverly setup these demos in order of least controversial on up, involved a B&W Zeppelin boombox and two power cords—stock and AudioQuest. Listen, swap, listen. You could also keep your eyes closed for this one, I didn't, but the improvement in sound quality was easily and readily apparent after the first swap. I'd characterize the most obvious improvement as a less constricted presentation—the sound was no longer tied so tightly to the box.

Next up was the new favorite bugaboo on the block—the HDMI audio cable. Yes, we're going there. One modest system, two HDMI cables—stock and AudioQuest. Listen, swap, listen. Blind or not your choice but I preferred to watch everyone's reaction, which was the same as mine—wow! The difference was not subtle and can be summed up as a lack of compression when the music was played using the AudioQuest HDMI cable as compared to the stock piece of crap. The change in the quality of the vocals stood out so much that it enhanced the emotional impact of the song.

Lastly, we moved to the big rig: Rockport Aquila loudspeakers, Ayre MX-R monoblocks, Ayre KX-R preamp, Ayre DX5 Universal A/V Engine, AudioQuest Oak speaker cables, Wild and William E. Low Signature interconnect and power cords. It's worth noting that the previous demos were intentionally set-up on moderate to damned-cheap gear to illustrate, in addition to the basic premise that cables do in fact make a difference, that you don't need to have fancy-assed audiophile stuff in order for cables to make a difference. This time we listened to HDMI audio cable's more popular cousin—the USB cable.

Listen, swap, listen. Shane swapped the USB cables from the external 2TB hard drive to the Mac mini and from that to the Ayre player from stock to AudioQuest and back again. He also introduced a few levels of AudioQuest USB cables—the Carbon, Cinnamon DBS, and the Diamond, as well as adding and taking away AudioQuest Q Feet isolation devices under the external hard drive and Mac mini. In each and every case, the improvement when moving up the USB cable line or adding isolation to things that spin was readily apparent to everyone. In fact swapping just one stock USB cable for an AudioQuest Carbon improved the sound quality to such an extent as to render the music more engrossing. More groovy, if you will, as if the band had just hired a better bass player or drummer or both and the lead singer had removed his scarf from covering the microphone.

(A Free AudioQuest Tip: If your external hard drive offers both Firewire and USB, you can improve the sound quality of your computer-based playback by using Firewire from your hard drive to your computer and USB from your computer to your DAC.)

Of course this wasn't a science experiment and I readily admit that all kinds of things could have influenced what I heard, especially the most obvious one which is that cables, even HDMI audio and USB, can make a difference in sound quality. If you remain skeptical, and some skeptics always do no matter what, I'd suggest that AudioQuest set up a series of demos for each and every cables-don't-matter skeptic. They could easily bus them in from nearby John Wayne Airport, let them listen for themselves and then put them back on the bus and drive them into the middle of the desert and leave them there to fend for themselves. At least that's what I'd do.

I don't know about you, but I was shocked to see the size of the AudioQuest warehouse. Shocked to discover that so many people buy so many cables. I had never given this matter much thought. But with fan blades larger than any helicopter, even one former-Governor Arnold would use in his next action flick Predator III, the Housekeeper, hanging over your head and row after row after row of cables stacked up to the ceiling, you have to accept the fact that cables make a difference to a lot of people.

COMMENTS
Mattias Alm's picture

Michael Lavorgna wrote: "Of course this wasn't a science experiment and I readily admit that all kinds of things could have influenced what I heard, especially the most obvious one which is that cables, even HDMI audio and USB, can make a difference in sound quality. If you remain skeptical, and some skeptics always do no matter what, I'd suggest that AudioQuest set up a series of demos for each and every cables-don't-matter skeptic."

One controlled blind test would suffice, thank you very much.

Best regards,
Mattias Alm

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
One controlled blind test would suffice, thank you very much.

Michael Fremer and I independently took part in a blind test organized by a Wall Street Journal editor at a CES a few years back. When the scoring was analyzed after the test, it appeared that each of us could distinguish between the cables by listening. Interestingly, neither of us knew we were listening to cables  when we took the test. Instead we were under the impression that the test was investigating lossy codecs.

 

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Mattias Alm's picture
JA wrote:

Quote: One controlled blind test would suffice, thank you very much.

 

Michael Fremer and I independently took part in a blind test organized by a Wall Street Journal editor at a CES a few years back. When the scoring was analyzed after the test, it appeared that each of us could distinguish between the cables by listening. Interestingly, neither of us knew we were listening to cables  when we took the test. Instead we were under the impression that the test was investigating lossy codecs.

 

That's interesting. Is the report available somewhere?

Regards,
Mattias

andy_c's picture

Hello Mattias,

The WSJ guy's name is Lee Gomes. The article about these tests is here. Notice how the test was set up. Here's the pertinent quote:

I set up a room with two sound systems, identical except for one component. Everything except the speakers was hidden behind screens.

So, rather than having a given system and changing only the cables and nothing else, two entirely separate systems were used. Since the speakers of those two systems probably can't take up the same physical space simultaneously, one must assume the speaker locations of the systems were different. Obviously a totally incompetent test.

There was a thread about this on Audio Asylum. One of the more telling comments by someone who was there can be found in this post.

In audiophile land though, only the methodologies of tests whose results contradict audiophile dogma are ever questioned. Totally incompetent tests such as this one, that substantiate audiophile dogma are treated as gospel and repeated ad nauseum.

Mattias Alm's picture

Oh dear, oh dear. Not only does the test not give any valuable information, it is obviously totally flawed in both set-up and methodology.

No proper level matcing? Two different system with obvious audible differences to begin with?

Type 1 Error

"Type I error, also known as an error of the first kind, an α error or a false positive is the error of rejecting a true null hypothesis(H0)."

As I said, one properly conducted blind test would suffice. Why not set up a test with two set of cables that measure the same within audible limits, and see if it is possible to hear a difference?

Regards,
Mattias

michaelavorgna's picture

The demo approach worked for me.

Blind listening tests are funny – the people most interested in their results appear to be as uninterested in performing them as the people who are uninterested in performing them. My guess is its because both feel they already know the outcome.

Cheers,
Michael

gmgraves2's picture

To be fair, Michael, Most people are reluctant to perform DBTs simply because they are a LOT of trouble. A DBT cannot be done easily, it requires a lot of setup, finding a suitable venue, getting the equipment together, cobbling together some kind of comparator apparatus, getting a group together, matching levels precisely, etc. I've performed and been party to enough of them to know how non-trivial DBTs can be.

Mattias Alm's picture

Hi,

Yes, it might have worked for you, but since I wasn't there, unfortunately it doesn't for me.

I've performed a number of blind tests over the years. The biggest insight from those were not technical issues (yes, there might be audible differences between cables, nobody is denying that), but psychological: how easy it is to hear differences (when listening open) that are not really there. Either you draw the consequences from that or you don't.

I have the experience that many that hear differences in open listenings do not want to listen blind, because then the differences most often disappear.

Regards,
Mattias

michaelavorgna's picture

 

Either way Mattias, I'll stick with my statement that you really to need to hear this kind of thing for yourself.

Let’s say I had participated in a controlled blind test that you felt was conducted properly and I determined there was an audible improvement between cables. I still would not recommend running out and buying anything until you heard it for yourself.

The final determination of whether or not an audible change is worth the money is a purely subjective valuation.

> I have the experience that many that hear differences in open listenings do not want to listen blind, because then the differences most often disappear.

Of course you do ;-)

M

WillWeber's picture

Would we want to go out of our way to hear it for ourselves if there were no controlled blind tests reported by the scout? We might. But if the scout did it "scientifically" then we will be more likely to want to venture to hear it ourselves, since there would then be more likelyhood of a payoff. We can't go out and test everything, not in my world at least.

Anyway, thanks Michael for your scouting! I believe good cables can make a difference over crummy cables. I'm not convinced that exotic cables make a difference over good cables. But I intend to test drive some though, but which ones?? Yikes! My system already performs quite nicely. Will exotic cables really matter?

Cables are difficult to A/B test. Takes time to changeover, need to have someone else do it to be blind, and the cable layout and interaction with other cables is a variable(s) that is complex and can influence the results. So "listeneing for oneself" is not so obviously conclusive unless really carefully done.

WillW

michaelavorgna's picture

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

It was my pleasure WillW.

ctbarker32's picture

This writeup continues to confirm for me that the ongoing cheerleading by the Audiophile press for expensive cables is self delusional and fraudulent.

The reporter of this event fails to factor in the group think and subtle coercion brought about an "invitation" to a "spotless" facility. If someone invites you to their home and provides refreshments and convivial conversation, do you think you will be inclinded to trash his house and talk derisively about their decor and tastes? The obviousness of these social truths is astounding!

Of course, the high-end cable fraud will continue on unabated because of credulous reporters like this one. And if you dare question the group think, you are attacked for having inadequate component quality, poor hearing ability, or just plain stupid ignorant views.

Indeed, belief in High-End audio cable quality is a religion with all the mystery and voodoo that word often connotes.

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
Of course, the high-end cable fraud will continue on unabated because of credulous reporters like this one. And if you dare question the group think, you are attacked for having inadequate component quality, poor hearing ability, or just plain stupid ignorant views.

No-one in this thread or in the magazine has said anything like this. In fact, Michael Lavorgna reported that AudioQuest demmed the different cables with a high-quality boombox.

Quote:
belief in High-End audio cable quality is a religion with all the mystery and voodoo that word often connotes.

In your opinion, of course. But please read the essay I wrote in 1997 on this subject at http://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/84, in which I offered several scientifically valid hypotheses why cables should differ in sound quality. See also Malcolm  Hawksford's analysis at http://www.stereophile.com/reference/1095cable.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

ctbarker32's picture

John,

I will read the articles you link to. I have done a quick glance and I am assuming because of the dates that that they only address Analog connectors and do not address the more recent Digtal conncectors such as USB and HDMI?

From the original article:

Quote:

In each and every case, the improvement when moving up the USB cable line or adding isolation to things that spin was readily apparent to everyone. In fact swapping just one stock USB cable for an AudioQuest Carbon improved the sound quality to such an extent as to render the music more engrossing. More groovy, if you will, as if the band had just hired a better bass player or drummer or both and the lead singer had removed his scarf from covering the microphone.

I continue to take issue when audiophile mythology from the analog realm is applied to computers and digital technology. I worked as a computer engineer since the early 1980's. I have a hard time accepting that properly constructed digital cables for USB and HDMI will have any effect (subtle or otherwise) on sound quality. It is literally just 0 and 1's.

John, I have a great amount of respect for you and and have read Stereophile for decades. I cannot think of a better person to run a magazine like yours with your skills in engineering, sound recording, musical training/playing, and of course writing. I just think that time has come for High-End audio to shed some of the mystical qualities of the past and come clean about some things. Just as it was shown that Global Warming is a fraud with the revelation of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit data manipulation, I believe that audiophile cable mythology needs to be exposed and put to rest.

There, I've done it. I've managed to skewer two of the most treasured mythologies of modern times!

John, have you ever considered hiring an ombudsmen type writer that would take on some of these disputed issues?

John, would you ever hire an audio writer who had impecable writing skills and audio reviewing credentials but was fervently anti audiophile cable?

John, are there currently anyone on the Stereophile staff that is an audiophile cable skeptic?

A final question, in the pictures in the article there appear to be at least a half dozen or so attendees. Did every attendee hear all the same changes with no disagreement among any of them? I find it suspect and reinforces my theory of group think if every attendee was in agreement.

I would find it more interesting if this "test" could have taken place over several days. In my test, a person would listen on several separate trips and not know if anything had changed or not. Sometimes a change would be made between trips, other times no chages would be made. I would expect the results to fall closer to statistical normalcy of 50/50 (i.e. pure chance - randomness).

I believe the expectation of a change brought on by being told a change has taken place is a proven psychological manipulation that is always a factor in these cases.

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
I have done a quick glance and I am assuming because of the dates that that they only address Analog connectors and do not address the more recent Digtal conncectors such as USB and HDMI?

That is correct, analog connectors and transmission only.

Quote:
I worked as a computer engineer since the early 1980's. I have a hard time accepting that properly constructed digital cables for USB and HDMI will have any effect (subtle or otherwise) on sound quality. It is literally just 0 and 1's.

Not at all. It is an analog signal that carries that information and is subject to the usual woes of analog signal transmission. HDMI cables, for example, suffer from crosstalk between the various twisted pairs that contaminates the audio data with video clocks, worsening jitter in the reconstructed analog signal. This degradation is measurable and can be audible. USB cable has a fairly hard length limit due to its analog bandwidth limitation and you also have to consider the fact that it also carries a voltage supply and ground connection. See this interesting post on the subject from John Swenson, who writes modified code for the Squeezebox Touch: www.audioasylum.com/forums/pcaudio/messages/9/90278.html.

Quote:
John, have you ever considered hiring an ombudsmen type writer that would take on some of these disputed issues?

I regard that as my role, as the magazine's editor.

Quote:
John, would you ever hire an audio writer who had impecable writing skills and audio reviewing credentials but was fervently anti audiophile cable?

There are people who are both anti-audiophile and anti-audiophile cable, but most of those whom I have encountered have a religious, non-scientific point of view that I see no need to air in my pages.

Quote:
John, are there currently anyone on the Stereophile staff that is an audiophile cable skeptic?

Probably Jim Austin comes closest to that description, but to be honest I steer clear of anyone who describes themselves as a "skeptic." They tend to be joyless, small people who deplore what they can't understand, envy what they can't appreciate, and feel they gain status by trying to rob others of the same.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

gmgraves2's picture

"It is an analog signal that carries that information and is subject to the usual woes of analog signal transmission."

This statement is wildly misleading, Mr. Atkinson - especially to those readers who lack the technical expertise to place your comment in proper perspective. With all due respect, while from one standpoint, it is true that a digital signal is an analog waveform and that this waveform is subject to the characteristics of all of the circuitry through which that waveform passes, including cable characteristics such as DC resistance, impedance vs frequency, etc. But, here's the thing, though. The digital circuitry that receives and performs the digital to analog conversion of that waveform doesn't recognize those "woes of analog signal transmission" until those "woes" get so bad that said digital circuitry can no longer find the transitions from one to zero and back again that make up the data located in that analog waveform. Even if that signal integrity is momentarily lost, the error correction algorithms used in digital conversion can pretty much reconstruct what's missing, making the system pretty robust (too many errors, however, can affect sound quality, especially if those errors are too large to correct and must be interpolated). IOW, as long as the data arrives at the other end of transmission intact, whether that transmission consists of a half-meter or so of USB cable, or an Internet radio station streaming from half-way around the world, the DAC can reconstruct the quantized music. In the same way and for the same reason that digital tape recordings don't care about the analog tape noise (hiss), digital to analog conversion circuitry doesn't care about cable characteristics. The transitions from bit to bit is all that digital circuitry in the DAC cares about or is looking for. I've seen intact computer applications pulled out of a bit stream so noisy that the human eye could not find the digital data for the noise on an oscilloscope . The application copy pulled form that noise by the copy software, OTOH, was clean as a whistle and bit perfect. Pretty impressive (to me, anyway).  

If you are to assume that cables make a difference in the sound of a digital source, you're going to have to keep looking for a technical explanation for it because this one won't fly. Perhaps Stereophile could fund research to find the "unified field theory" of cable sound that would encompass and explain both digital and analog cable sound. 8^) 

JimAustin's picture

Probably Jim Austin comes closest to that description, ...They tend to be joyless, small people who deplore what they can't understand, envy what they can't appreciate, and feel they gain status by trying to rob others of the same.

Thanks John. :-(

gmgraves2's picture

Being both an electrical engineer and an audiophile, with many DBTs (Double-Blind-Tests) under my belt, I can say with absolute certitude, that at audio frequencies, the standard lengths of wire commonly used in audio simply cannot have any effect whatsoever on the sound. I spent years, early in my engineering career measuring, testing and spec'ing wire for use in America's defense and payload rockets (ICBMs, satellite-carrying boosters, etc.). I performed every test imaginable on wire: frequency response (from "D.C. to daylight") permeability, inductance, capacitance, resistance (and, of course impedance) and well as insulation break-down (called a hy-pot test). This experience has shown me that, at audio frequencies, anyway, wire is wire. Then there's the numerous carefully set-up DBTs to which I've been party as well as the number of similar ones that I have read about in AES and JAES journals which have all come to the same inescapable conclusion: Wire, by itself, can have NO EFFECT on sound, and if one runs across any interconnect or speaker cable which does affect the sound, it's because it has OTHER COMPONENTS associated with it (beware of cables with little boxes in them at one end and/or the other. They likely contain resistors, capacitors and inductors) and are no longer "cables" but rather are "fixed filters" of some type. Physics and all electrical theory literally scream the impossibility of this supposition, and if these sciences are wrong, then, were I you, I'd stay off airplanes, out of cars and we aren't having this conversation on the Internet, because computers can't work. 

Now, to play devil's advocate here, for a moment. Let's suppose for the sake of discussion, that cables actually DO sound different. How would anybody know which is best? Is "different" better or worse? Does a $25000 pair of speaker cables always sound better than a $2500 pair, or a $250 pair or even a $25 pair? It's all mental masturbation and if the differences are not clearly evident in a series of DBTs (one DBT demonstration is not statistically significant) and REPEATABLE, then, well, we all know that humans are very susceptible to suggestion and expectational bias. 

michaelavorgna's picture

My father was an electrical engineer and an audiophile and we had some interesting conversations on this very subject. Suffice it to say that he believed cables could make a difference but I will concede that he wasn’t nearly as pompous as you appear to be gmgraves2.

gmgraves2's picture

Standard "religiously inculcated" Cool-aid drinking, audiofool reaction to a reasoned argument: Can't contest the merits of a debate opponents points, so attack the debate opponent personally. Nice. 

michaelavorgna's picture

If you don't feel as if you appear to be pompous, which is exactly what I said, I'll have to respectfully disagree.

gmgraves2's picture

Sorry, but an ad hominem attack is always bad form in a debate. It usually means that the debater who resorts to those types of attacks has run out of ideas. Can't we keep these discussions civil? They're much more informative and a lot more fun that way. After all, Flaming is so 1980's. 8^) 

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
Can't contest the merits of a debate opponents points, so attack the debate opponent personally. Nice.

You have now twice been asked to read the Hawksford article before you continue with your rant, Mr. Graves. Please do so.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

(Also an audiophile who happens to be an engineer.)

Stephen Mejias's picture

Fascinating. Have you read Malcolm Omar Hawksford's article, gmgraves?  I would love to hear your opinion on it.

gmgraves2's picture

Yes, I've read it and I'm familiar with the work or Maxwell, and Hawksford, and others who have studied the properties of conductors. Everything Mr. Hawksford says is absolutely true and certainly becomes a primary effect at some frequency and at some cable length for that frequency or set of frequencies, but these effects are so far below the threshold of human hearing when applied to audio frequencies in the lengths commonly used in audio systems (a few meters (max) for interconnects, and about 16 meters for 14 Ga speaker cable), that they essentially, don't exist. Raise the spectrum to HF, VHF and UHF RF and these things (and others) become very important. 

But at audio frequencies, you can't measure the effects and even if you null-out a signal that's passed through a cheap throw-away mass-market cable you will find that it nulls perfectly and you can't even see any residual signal on a very sensitive oscilloscope, and if you replace that throw-away interconnect with a $4000 Nordost (for instance) Valhalla, nothing changes. you don't have to re-null because there's NO difference. You can do this using sine waves, square waves OR music and the results are the same. Take the same two cables and try them on a listening panel of 10 to 12 listeners in a series of carefully set-up and calibrated DBT or ABX test, and you will find that NOBODY can tell the slightest difference. 

 

But you do bring up a good point (and I thank you). I've seen lots of RF conductor characteristics wrongly applied to the audio spectrum (mostly by the marketing departments of cable makers) in an effort to convince the unwary that things like skin effect and wave propagation and linear crystal copper conductors vs amorphous copper conductors and how they affect audio signals actually mean something. While under some conditions and at some frequency, all of these characteristics become crucial to proper signal flow, audio meets none of those criteria. Audio is just a low-frequency wave form, no different from any other low frequency signal (like seismograph data). I was party to a DBT once where a half-meter length of AudioQuest interconnect was compared to a piece of coathanger wire! Nobody could tell which was which in repeated tries. 

 

Now, I realize that this question has become a religious issue with many audio enthusiasts, and I'm just trying to interject a little sanity into the discussion. Needless to say that I have no personal stake in this issue and if one wants to spend many thousands of dollars chasing cables and cable sound, let them do so. Me? I'd rather spend that money on music. 

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
Being both an electrical engineer and an audiophile, with many DBTs (Double-Blind-Tests) under my belt, I can say with absolute certitude, that at audio frequencies, the standard lengths of wire commonly used in audio simply cannot have any effect whatsoever on the sound.

Perhaps, just perhaps, Mr. Graves. you don't know _all_there is to know about cable theory. Read, for example, Malcolm Hawksford's article linked to in my previous post, which would seem to contradict your statement. (Dr. Hawksford is also an electrical engineer and an audiophile, BTW.)

 

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

gmgraves2's picture

I have read it (and long before this thread was started) Mr. Atkinson. And I agree with everything he says. His math is right and his conclusions are right. What I disagree with is his assertion that the characteristics he speaks of are applicable to the audio passband in any audible way. The first time I went through Mr. Hawksford's article, I remember doing the math for several audio frequencies. I found that some of the effects of which he writes, are indeed there, but were more than -140 dB down. I'm sure that you will agree that this is far below the threshold of human hearing and even below the noise floor of any sound source or amplifying device that you would care to name.  

Understand, my assertion is NOT that wire has no effect on an audio signal, it's rather that wire has NO AUDIBLE effect on an audio signal, unless it has been manipulated, purposely, by the manufacturer to introduce some filter effect. Then of course, I contend that it's no longer a conductor, but rather a fixed filter. 

fricc's picture

Engineer audiophile here too, also particle physicist and computer scientist (sounds pompous, I'm sure about it).

I have a slight problem with Hawksford's article: it is only qualitative and not quantitative and offers no real measurements to back up a theory which the author itself disclaims as "finely etched with a little speculation".

The article in question doesn't seem to have appeared on any peer reviewed journal or conference, does not disclose the experimental setup under which measurements have been made so that they can be reproduced and verified by other competent people.

An article containing lots of "squiggles" and based on speculative logic is not a proof. It is not in the face of good common sense, the kind of thing that flies planes and lands them every day. With a little patience one can go through the equations of mr Hawksford and prove that the effect he is talking about are insignificant in the audio spectrum.

What can happen though is that "audiophile" cables have so much braided stuff inside to start significantly contribute to the capacitive load of the speakers, which can have the effect of a filter and change the frequency response of the system enough to be detected by a listener. Now my point is that different doesn't mean "better". Besides any filter will inevitably smear the signal somewhat.

I think it is educational to take a look at the amplifier tests that Stereophile is publishing and notice how much an amplifier frequency response changes when applied to a realistic speaker load as opposed to an 8 ohm resistor.

Quite frankly this kind of articles doesn't seem to be clarifying the issue in any way, it just obfuscates things with unnecesary complexity (the squiggles), and it appears to have the only aim to intimidate dissenting engineers endowed with good common sense.

 - Fabio

gmgraves2's picture

Fabio, you have hit the same nail on the head that I hit. While Hawksford brings up some interesting points, it becomes a matter of degree. Like I have said several times, it's not so much that the characteristics of capacitive reactance, inductive reactance, DC resistance or group delay, etc.,  don't exist in either an interconnect or a speaker cable, but rather whether those frequency-dependent characteristics affect the audio passband in any meaningful or audible way. As you reiterated, above, Hawksford's analysis certainly will effect some high frequencies in a meaningful way, but those frequencies don't seem to be in the audio passband. 

You are also correct about amplifiers. A modern, solid-state design is pretty close to transparent (this wasn't always the case). Any differences heard between amps (in a DBT) can pretty much all be attributed to the amp's interaction with the speaker load and the amp's power supply. Obviously, a cheap 150 WPC (for instance) amp with a just-adequate power supply. might be indistinguishable from a very expensive amp of the same power under the circumstances where neither is worked very hard (like driving very efficient loudspeakers designed to complement flea-powered SETs), they might sound very different, one from another, when driving difficult loads or very power-hungry speakers. Because the more expensive amp's power supply is bigger and can source more current. By the way, before somebody has an ah-ha moment, yes speaker cable is part of the amp's load. but again, reasonable lengths (8-20 ft) of adequately sized cable add almost nothing to a speaker's load profile (unless the cable's manufacturer has deliberately designed the cable with external components - beware of expensive cables with little wooden, plastic, or aluminum boxes as part of the cable. They probably have components in them large enough in value to alter the cable's frequency response. I suspect this is often done to make the cables in question sound "different" (or in marketing speak, "better") that the competition.). 

And your comment about complex and expensive cables actually being worse than cheaper, simpler cables because their construction adds more X-sub-C and X-sub-L to the equation is also well considered. 

This brings up (AFAIC, anyway) the ultimate question. If neither price nor design is a guarantee that a given cable is actually better sounding (assuming for a moment that cables do have a sound) than another cable, how is one to know that their new, expensive cables aren't really a step backwards from what they had before? One can't try all of the possible combinations and permutations, after all. Doesn't it makes sense to avoid that kind of (possibly expensive) crap-shoot and simply buy cables with good build quality (for reliability) and lest it go at that? 

 

Nice to have a chance to discuss these issues with somebody like you.

 

Ciao!

WillWeber's picture

My, how this thread has grown!! I am going to risk getting sucked further in.

I find that there is truth in Prof. Hawksford, Mr. Graves, and Mr. Atkinson (and now gentleman Fabio too). So what gives?

I read the article by Prof. Hawksford, and his theory is correct, to a point. It is the classical approach for academic theoretical physics: a classroom lecture type of treatise for teaching the concepts. Hawksford does acknowledge that the effects are indeed of small magnitude in the audio range with relatively short cables. This is not an engineering effort and he does not quantify this. It is theoretically correct, although his derivation from Maxwell is hand-waved, plus he includes the usual mathematical simplifications for convenience sake. And that is OK, because these are insignificant in consequence, and the well-known wave equation is correct. Note that at 20 kHz the vacuum wavelength of an electromagnetic wave is 9.3 miles! Air induces only slightly smaller wavelength. It would take quite an interesting dielectric (I think cable designers avoid meta-materials) to slow the propagation to where the cables in a stereo system are anywhere near long enough to be considered as waveguides with distributed impedance factors (unless my components were in the next town). Now the error electric field vectors that Hawksford describes are real, but these too are quite a small magnitude at audio frequencies, even if they are of a significant time delay. He admits this as well, but again no numbers on the magnitude.

As Mr. Graves claims, the magnitudes of these effects are indeed quite small in the audio domain. I did not confirm his calculations, but I do have experience with scientific instrumentation and waveguides/transmission lines carrying very sensitive signals at various frequency ranges, from audio to optical. The effects described by Hawksford can be measured, but are only apparent at very high frequencies over long waveguides.

JA points out that cables do matter, and he gives practical situations in his article Wired:

  1. Wave physics per Hawksford: addressed above…
  2. Cable Dielectric linearity: does the lump capacitance of a cable have the same issues as a circuit capacitor? Perhaps, but is this significant? The capacitance of cables is quite low in comparison. Mr. Graves concurs. It may matter more in interconnects, but these usually can be kept short.
  3. Copper crystal granularity (and similarly purity): Again, we have very long wavelengths for the propagating waves. The electrons may be “surprisingly slow”, but they don’t move very far either. So any “defects” are essentially resistive, and of a small increment, easily made up for with slightly larger conductors, or slightly shorter cables.
  4. Grounding: of course, and that is dependent on the entire system. So some cables may work better in one system, while other cables may work better in another system.
  5. Component I/O impedance: again system dependent, and so may also benefit from cable matching.
  6. EMC (electromagnetic coupling--injection and susceptibility): amen brother, here we have many factors in one. The cable layout can affect the results, and this depends on the conductor geometry as well, as JA suggests, and on the same factors for other nearby cables and components that might couple with the cable in question. And all depending on the relative layout of all these items. All-righty-then, how can anyone do a conclusive A/B comparison if EMC is an issue?
  7. Microphonics: ya betcha! How about an inverse example. I once worked in a lab for laser induced atomic fusion. The laser amplifier stages are pumped with banks of very large Xenon flash tubes. Each lamp was fired with banks of capacitors of about 50 Farads each (that’s right, not µF) at several kilovolts. That’s a wompin’ lot of Joules, and released in a microseconds pulse over an RG-58 coax. These poor cables! It must’ve been like a garter snake swallowing a warp speed elephant. Anyway, they only lasted a few dozen pops before fatigue rupturing. So yes, a vibration is a reversible case, and will create currents even in coax.

There, in my view, it is these last four issues that make the largest difference in cable sound: grounding, I/O impedance matching, EMC, and microphonic sensitivity. I am assuming that for speaker cables that the cable resistance and complex impedance are sufficiently low to not degrade phase and damping factor. Of these, a cable designer can only control a portion: cable impedance, shielding, dielectric material, and microphonic sensitivity. A crappy cable can violate any of these. A good cable design can avoid them. Exotic cables? I don’t know, but I suspect that any differences compared to good cables are quite minute (but the jury is still out). Of course, a good cable may not have to be expensive, although a bad cable can be made expensively just because there is a market for pretty audio jewelry.

That leaves us with some variables that a cable design does not address, but are system/cable interactive. And an expensive cable does not guarantee it’s a good design. So it is no wonder there is so much agitated debate on this issue, and inconclusive or contradictory DBT tests reported. Yet, it appears to me that all the above cited authors are truthing. God I love this hobby!

WillW

(Another engineer, physicist, and dare I say “audiophile”, OK I did say it)

Markus Sauer's picture

Wahey, a debate betweeen JA and a former Stereophile writer!

http://www.stereophile.com/content/meridian-mcd-mcd-pro-cd-players-george-m-graves-ii-review

(where George appears to have heard differences between capacitors; one way of looking at cables is to see them as capacitors, of course)

http://www.stereophile.com/content/apogee-duetta-ii-loudspeaker-george-graves

(where George appears to have heard a difference between cables)

Double-blind testing is an excellent tool. Like all tools, however, it must be fit for the job. For a double-blind test to be credible, I would want to be convinced that it not only eliminates false positives but also false negatives. I.e., I'd like to see some evidence that the DBT set-up (including the participants) is sensitive enough that small differences that should be (just about) audible according to accepted audio wisdom will indeed be detected. Then and only then will I accept a specific DBT's null result for, say, cable testing as valid.

Btw, speaking to a designer of digital audio components recently, he found effects in the -140 dB region to be audible in the audio output.

michaelavorgna's picture

I'm having a difficult time reconciling these Georges.

From the Apogee review you linked to, George Graves states: "Conclusion: Apogee Duettas are capable of near-state-of-the-art performance, but are so sensitive to cables that without the right ones, you won't get the performance you paid for."

Clearly the George M. Graves II who wrote this review (and is also an electrical engineer and audiophile, btw) believed that cables make a difference. Yet we have Mr. Graves, aka 'gmgraves2' who is an electrical engineer and audiophile commenting here that "I can say with absolute certitude, that at audio frequencies, the standard lengths of wire commonly used in audio simply cannot have any effect whatsoever on the sound."

Puzzling.

I'd like to know from 'gmgraves2' if you are George M. Graves II and if you'd care to comment on the disparity between these two views.

gmgraves2's picture

See my other response about "capacitor sound", but I do want to clear-up some points that Mr. Sauer has brought up.

Yes, one way to look at cables is to see them as capacitors. They do have a capacitive component. But again, that capacitive component is negligible. RG6 and RG59, for instance (these are generally, speaking, pretty common values for coaxial cable used in audio and video) have about 20 Pf per foot. Now, that means that a 1 meter length would have about 60 Pf of total capacitance. If you do the math, you'll find that the dielectric absorption distortion introduced by a 1-meter length at 20 KHz is so miniscule that you're likely to get 1000 times more distortion from the diode effect of the mating of the RCA plug on the end of the cable with the RCA jack on the components that you're connecting and even that, on a clean connection, is so far below the threshold of human hearing that makes no difference (dirty connections, OTOH, CAN be something else entirely).

One misconception that a lot of audiophiles have is that ANY anomaly that can exist is audible. This is a myth that the audio press has (inadvertently) fostered over many years. The truth is that there are certain anomalies such as frequency response, speed instabilities, and noise modulation to which the ear can be very sensitive and there are others, such as THD in amplifiers, to which the ear is surprisingly insensitive (some of the best sounding tube amps had more than 1% distortion at levels much above 1 Watt. People didn't notice. I particularly recall a certain French-made tube amp a number of years ago that the redoubtable Harry Pearson proclaimed to be state of the art. It was found to have >2% THD at 10 watts.

This brings me to your "designer of digital audio components " friend. Next time you talk to him, ask him how he could hear audible effects in the -140 dB range when the noise floor on the finest D/A or A/D converters available is at best around -130 dB (MSB, I believe, specs the "Ladder DAC" in their eye-wateringly expensive Platinum DAC IV at -133 dB)? And that  -130 dB itself is about 10 or 15 dB below what is generally considered the threshold of human hearing? While you're at it, assuming that he has super hearing sensitivity, ask him where he found a ROOM quiet enough not to mask "effects" in the audio at -140 dB. If he tells you that he has an anechoic chamber at his disposal, ask him how that could possibly relate in any way to a real-world listening environment (assuming again, that humans can hear that dar down, which, of course, they can't).  All due respect, Mr. Sauer, but as elastic as my threshold of credibility may be, it doesn't stretch that far.  

 

  

fricc's picture

It is also interesting to note that phono cartridges (which sound oh sooo good), regardless of their price, exhibit an incredible amount of distortion (2% to 15% in different parts of the audio band – HIFI News publishes measurements on line that everybody can verify).

Nobody ever complained about that, nor about the mechanical couplings inherent in the cartridge technology (where everything wiggles) and dah, it sounds pretty good to most people.

These are very measurables sources of distortion, right at the beginning of the signal path, I cannot believe that any reasonable person can say that a piece of cable can introduce any more distortion than that.

Besides, don't even get me started on the distortion levels introduced the speakers, of the time smearing effect of moving diafragms, of the phase rotations in cross-over filters, in the different response times of tweeters and woofers, of the energy stored in a coil oscillating in a powerful magnet, etc., etc.

There are (large) differences between components, but they usually boil down to good old physics and common sense, and can be measured.

 - Fabio

gmgraves2's picture

When I wrote that review well over 20 years ago, I was a "true believer" in cable sound. At the time I was convinced that in spite of what the science (and my own experience with that science) told me, cable differences in audio were easily heard. When the late Jason Bloom (of Apogee) sent me that Symo cable to replace the Monster M1 that I had been using, he told me that the Symo was the only speaker wire to use with the Duettas. I replaced the M1 with the Symo and I "heard" the differences that Jason Bloom told me I'd hear. I was familiar, of course, with the concept of expectational or sighted bias, but naturally, that didn't apply to me!

Alas, I don't have the Apogees to retest the cables on but I do still have the Symo around someplace and I have "contributed" it to a number of speaker cable DBT tests to which I've been privy, over the ensuing years. It sounded (in DBT test after DBT test) exactly like every other speaker cable it's been tested against. In short I was a victim of my own bias and preconceived notions. IOW, I was wrong. This is why, although I agree that audio magazines are great for audiophile entertainment and for keeping audio enthusiasts abreast of the passing parade (and that Stereophile is MUCH better than TAS at both thanks to John Atkinson's leadership) I wouldn't, myself, put a lot of faith in the subjective sonic revelations of any audio writer. Without a DBT to verify their findings, there's no way to know whether the differences they heard were real or a case of expectational bias. Many are entertaining to read though, and can peak reader interest in products, and that's useful.

I have no problem admitting that my my views on the subject of cable sound have changed diametrically over the years. After all, life is SUPPOSED to be a growth process. I'd be a lot more worried about myself if, after all the evidence I've heard and seen, I still believed that wire has a "sound".  

As for the capacitor business, while I don't pretend to understand how it is relevant to the current debate, I stand behind my assertion that non-polarized polypropylene capacitors sound better in the signal path than do electrolytics. This is based on sound principles of the dielectric absorption phenomenon as put forth by Walt Jung some 30 years ago.

earwaxer's picture

I have been a cap "roller" for some years now. I was also not a believer in the concept of the "bypass" cap making a positive difference. It made no sense. I tried it today for the first time. I will be damned! Added a small value Mundorf silver/oil to my AmpOhm paper in oils. We all eat crow.

fricc's picture

large (electrolitic) capacitors have also a large inductance, thereby acting as a low-pass filter. A small capacitor in parallel to the big one shunts the inductance (it provides an alternative path for high frequency signals) and linearizes the high frequency response of the large capacitor. That is electronics 101, not mumbo jumbo...

 - Fabio

michaelavorgna's picture

I appreciate the explanation George. But in spite of what you said yesterday:

Physics and all electrical theory literally scream the impossibility of this supposition, and if these sciences are wrong, then, were I you, I'd stay off airplanes, out of cars and we aren't having this conversation on the Internet, because computers can't work."

I still bet 'well over 20 years ago' George - the true believer in cable sound, electrical engineer, audiophile and audio reviewer - was driving a car, getting on airplanes and probably even using a computer.

Let’s touch base and compare notes in another 20 years.

gmgraves2's picture

Uh, I think you misunderstand my bit of whimsy in the above quote. What I was saying is that if the physics and electrical theory behind cables is wrong, and the differences between different ones ARE audible, then what other assumptions in physics and engineering might also be wrong? Extrapolating that thought might suggest that the assumptions used to design cars, airplanes, and even computers could likewise be wrong, and that would leave us planes and cars that are unsafe, and computers that don't work. It was just an attempt at speculative irony, or some such, and was written with tongue planted firmly in my cheek. 

michaelavorgna's picture

I completely got your whimsy but you appear to have missed mine – I took yours and used it on your younger self.

The point being, you have come to certain conclusions about audio cables based on a series of steps involving your education and personal experiences that unfolded over the course of years. Your education in and of itself did not suffice to get you where you are today as you readily admit. It was only after you’d experienced DBTs that you came to believe what you believe. Which is all well and good.

But your bit of whimsy, as well as your attitude regarding audio cables in general, suggests that everyone and anyone with an interest in audio cables must be on the exact same page as you or they are essentially nitwits who could very well go on to assume all kinds of stupid things. Regardless of their education and/or experiences. You allowed yourself to bump along and experience things, yet you appear to want to move every single person with any interest in audio cables directly to the page you happen to be on now. Do not pass go, do not experience anything for yourself. Why? The answer for those without the requisite education and/or experience boils to – because George said so.

This, imo, is where you appear to be pompous. And let me clarify it’s the appearance of self-importance – it’s my way or your an idiot approach – that rankles. If you want to suggest that everyone believe exactly as you do, you’d have to present a very compelling argument. As it stands, you have based your argument/beliefs on personal experience, which isn’t very compelling for the rest of us.

gmgraves2's picture

You couldn't be more wrong. As I said earlier, everyone has the right to believe whatever they want to believe. You want to believe that the earth is flat? You certainly have a right to believe that. You even have the right, as an individual, to preach that the earth is flat, and even to have a cult following. None of that is anyone's business but yours and your followers/fellow travelers.

 I too have rights and one of those is to tell you, in an open, public forum, that you are wrong, more than wrong, that you are, in fact deluded because all of the hard evidence points to the inescapable fact that the world is not flat. It can be proven scientifically that this is so. Likewise, the proposition that cables have no sound can be proven by both mathematics and many peer-reviewed AES, JAES, and EAES papers presented over the years that report the statistical results of carefully set-up and executed DBTs. You have the right to accept that assertion of fact, or not, as you see fit. I stated what I know. It is neither my intent or interest to change your (or anybody else's) mind on the subject. If you consider a short background explanation to establish my Bona Fides, followed by an assertion of known facts to be pompous, then our definitions of the term are wildly different.

Before we leave the subject, let me ask you to do this tiny bit of introspection: Would you have been so quick to call me "pompous" had my post had exactly the same tenure but had been in favor of your belief rather than opposed to it? I might be wrong, here, but I'd hazard a guess that the answer would be no. 

Now, as to the post in question, the one you consider so "pompous". Can you counter, with any fact (not opinion) that gives lie to anything I said? If so, let's have it and enough of the personal rancor. OK? 

michaelavorgna's picture

 

Let's suppose for the sake of discussion, that cables actually DO sound different. How would anybody know which is best? Is "different" better or worse? It's all mental masturbation and if the differences are not clearly evident in a series of DBTs (one DBT demonstration is not statistically significant) and REPEATABLE, then, well, we all know that humans are very susceptible to suggestion and expectational bias.

I believe “suggestion and expectational bias” can also account for your inability to hear differences in cables and you’ve provided no reason for me to believe otherwise. I also have to reiterate that you George, even with your Bona Fides, believed at one time that cables do sound different and you even went so far as to write about it professionally - in your own words giving voice to “mental masturbation”.

And your references to “numerous carefully set-up DBTs to which I've been party as well as the number of similar ones that I have read about in AES and JAES journals” require elucidation and substantiation to be convincing and frankly George, I’m not interested in digging into this matter from your perspective.

Finally, if our options regarding the efficacy of audio cables are to participate in numerous DBTs, take your word for it, or continue to believe what we choose about what amounts to enjoying listening to music on a hi-fi, I’m in favor of whatever approach people find most pleasant.

gmgraves2's picture

Aren't you sort of saying: "My mind is made up. Please don't confuse me with facts"? If so, that's OK, it's your prerogative and I respect it. Many people hold religious beliefs about something. Cable sound is probably as good of a belief system as anything else, and probably better then many. At least it's harmless (except, perhaps, to the pocketbook) 8^)

But there's no sense continuing to go around and around on this. you have made your decision with regard to this subject and as I have said previously, I have no problem with it, nor do I have any desire to change that decision. And the fact that you aren't interested in digging into the matter "from (my) perspective" doesn't bother me either (but you must admit that does say something about you). The only criticism (and it's small one) that I had with your attitude was what I (and apparently several other readers) found to be an unwarranted ad hominem attack, in what should be a fun and interesting debate.

Let's face it, forums like this thrive on controversy. If everyone who posted here blindly accepted your or Stereophile's views on these subjects, this would be a pretty barren landscape, wouldn't you agree?  

So, let's just agree to disagree on this matter, shake hands and get on with it, OK? 

michaelavorgna's picture

The only thing my mind is made up about is to never make my mind up about anything. I remain curious. I will also note my views on this subject as expressed in my write-up, “it's my belief that you really need to experience this kind of thing for yourself”.

And by all means George I am happy to agree to disagree on this matter - although we do appear to agree that personal experience can and often does inform belief systems - shake virtual hands and get on with more important things like what to have for breakfast.

Cheers.

gmgraves2's picture

Good. I agree completely - and about the breakfast too. Keeping an open mind is always a good idea whether in engineering or in life in general. I'm all for examining new theories, accepting new findings and re-examining my own thought process and belief system. When the day comes that someone puts forth a credible theory on cable sound being a reality, I shall be happy to examine it and if it turns out that my stand on cable sound was based upon incomplete or incorrect information, then I shall gleefully recant my position on the subject. Ciao for now!

earwaxer's picture

I got my Granet speaker cables through Audio Advisor many years ago. I have not replaced them. Everything else is different. I'm sure they are not the "greatest" speaker cable available. Just dont think I can do that much better without major cash outlay.

Catch22's picture

To discuss the audible effects of cable settling?

Strictly from an enthusiasts point of view, I've done many cable and equipments swaps under somewhat limited scientific evaluation parameters and most certainly have heard differences in cables used, including the settling effects as the cables stabilized over a period of time. I don't have an ounce of desire to argue that with anyone and  could care less whether anyone else shares my fascination with audio.

However, where I agree with the skeptics in large part is in the value equation. What constitutes value is such a personal thing when it  comes to passionate pursuits that it's a fool's errand to engage. I have often found that I prefered the less expensive cable in my system and perhaps have a personal taste for audio aspects that aren't shared by a majority of listeners, though I can certainly appreciate the sonic signatures of various cables and can understand the appeal they would have for others who do not share my sonic heirarchy.

earwaxer's picture

Ayyiie mateies! - Havent seen the new "Pirates" yet. Looking forward to that.

xrandom's picture

My compliments !

This simply states that the topic is HOT.

I've not time enough to read it now but I'll have to do absolutely ASAP !

Thank you everyone for the contribution !

Audiogeek's picture

I am a recent Stereophile digital subscriber and a long-time lurker on this web site. I have found the preceding discussion to be extremely interesting, but I found two responses – one by Mr. Atkinson and one by Mr. Lavorgna – to be so off-putting and lacking in good taste that I was compelled to register and make my first post. First was Mr. Atkinson's insinuation that the commenter, Mr. Graves, fits into a category of "joyless, small people who deplore what they can't understand." Shortly after, Mr. Lavorgna described Mr. Graves as "pompous", a point that Mr. Graves immediately contested but has yet to be retracted.

Up to the time of these posts, I had found nothing pompous or small-minded in what Mr. Graves had written. On the contrary, his explanations seemed reasonably proffered and largely objectively argued, as they have continued to be throughout the thread. Perhaps most apparent in Mr. Graves' posts is that the subject is hardly something he "can't understand." The responses by Mr. Atkinson and Mr. Lavorgna, on the other hand, immediately suggested an argumentative breakdown whereby they had met their match.

Mr. Graves certainly seems capable enough of defending himself, and some may dismiss my criticism as trivial, but I think it is important. For a Stereophile editor and writer to engage in what seemed – at least to this impartial observer –to be unwarranted ad hominem attacks on a commenter on the magazine's web site (a subscriber?), is unbecoming to put it mildly. I can only assume there is more to this story than meets the eye, a history, perhaps, of which I am unaware. But if not, apologies to Mr. Graves would seem past due.

gmgraves2's picture

Thank you Mr. Audiogeek. for your kind words. You are very perceptive. Although I have never met (to my recollection), Mr. Lavorgna, I do have an unfortunate history with Mr. Atkinson. However, it's neither proper nor fitting to air this dirty laundry in a public forum, but I would love the opportunity to discuss it directly with Mr. Atkinson. 

ctbarker32's picture

First off, I would like to praise Mr. Graves in his tenacity to continue, in a civil manner, to respond to what I believe are attacks by John Atkinson and michaelavorgna. Obviously, I agree with Mr. Graves viewpoint and the evidence he has presented. Others on this thread have also pointed out the rather un-civil comments directed at Mr. Graves and myself. I like, Mr. Graves do not expect an apology and do not need to "win" this debate. I feel I did predict the tone of this discussion with my reference to religion, etc. There are aspects to this discussion that continue to bother me that I do think bare scrutiny.

Why are Mr. Atkinson and michaelavorgna so passionately invested in the fact that audiophile cables make any audible difference (not necessarily better) being true? Why do they not simply say, I have heard differences but it is subtle at best and far below differences in amplifiers, cartridges, speakers, etc. And, that they recognize that others see no validity in audiophile cable and that is a valid view to hold. Instead, Mr. Atkinson appears to actively lobby and dare I say proselytize the view that audiophile cables matter and should be seriously considered and pursued by "open minded" "fellow travellers" ;-) audiophiles. 

My answer to this question is that Stereophile and its staff directly profit from promoting the idea that cables matter and that Stereohile's bottom line would be directly impacted by deciding to become more circumpect (John disdains people that use the word skeptic) of audiophile cable. I did a brief survey of past issues of Stereophile and it would seem that almost every issue has at least one full page ad by an audiophile cable on the inside back cover. It is my understanding that the back cover and inside cover pages are the most expensive ad purchases in a typical magazine. John will no doubt correct me if I am in error. Also, each issue of Stereophile has a healthy selection of audiophile cable ads both by the manufacturer and featured prominently by their distributors. Based on these observations, I could imagine some economic fallout if Stereophile chose to take the contrary view and say that audiophile cables are simply the Emperor's New Clothes and their importance should be demoted. I will also observe that Stereophile is not alone in this situation as I have observed this trend in other magazines.

John also makes mention in his tirade against skeptics that they seek to rob others of pleasure. Am I really to believe that John and his staff really think that swapping audiophile cables is an exciting and pleasureable activity that is pursued by the enlightend audiophile?

As Mr. Graves stated, he doesn't particularly care if a person has come down on one side or the other of the audiohile cable debate. He has stated why he believes this to be delusional but it makes no difference to him personally. I feel exactly the same way as Mr. Graves. 

What I do object to, and what my original post stated, is the active promotion that audiophile cables matter by magazines such as Stereophile. Stereophile has a bully pulpit from which to make all sorts of statements and pronouncements. Just because a statement appears in Stereophile does not make something more true but it does carry influence and is also open to scrutiny and circumspection (again avoiding the skeptic word to avoid John's ire). Apparently, according to John, a questioning circumspect attitude at least when it comes to audiophile cables is not welcome in the pages of Stereophile. Apparently, according to John, the "Science is in" and a "Consenus" has agreed that audiophile cables do matter. Case closed. Slam dunk. Hmm, reminds me of another controversial topic in vogue these days?

Another point I would like to review is that neither John Atkinson and michaelavorgna acknowledge or directly address the well known psychological effects that occur when trying to test these audiophile cable theories. DBT, may or may not be flawed in a given specific test, but it would seem until we have better testing methdology we need to pusue it as best as science can. I have to wonder why DBT is pretty much standard and relied upon in the field of medical trials where actual life altering effects are at stake yet somehow in the audiophile cable debate they are flawed and suspect?

I would conclude by suggesting that Mr. Atkinson solicit an article from Mr. Graves to be published in Stereophile for the benefit of its readers and the audiophile community at large. The publishing of such an article would restore my faith that Stereophile is interested in truly trying to understand an issue and not just trying to promote an agenda for its financial benefit and its adverstisers.

I am certain that Mr. Atkinson is a phenomenal wordsmith and will be able to quickly eviserate my humble words with wit and withering criticism that will delight readers and believers in his point of view. I stand by my statements however inadequately and poorly conveyed.

Intelligence guided by experience.

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
Why are Mr. Atkinson and michaelavorgna so passionately invested in the fact that audiophile cables make any audible difference (not necessarily better) being true?

The word "passionately" is yours, sir.

Quote:
Why do they not simply say, I have heard differences but it is subtle at best and far below differences in amplifiers, cartridges, speakers, etc.

Perhaps you don't read the magazine or are confusing me with someone else. This is very close to what I believe and to what I have written on many occasions.

Quote:
Stereophile and its staff directly profit from promoting the idea that cables matter and that Stereohile's bottom line would be directly impacted by deciding to become more circumspect. . . of audiophile cable. . . . Based on these observations, I could imagine some economic fallout if Stereophile chose to take the contrary view and say that audiophile cables are simply the Emperor's New Clothes and their importance should be demoted.

Once someone states that my beliefs and editorial policies are affected by the magazine's financial performance, the conversation is over as far as I am concerned. If you really believe that to be the case, then I see no reason why you should either read the magazine or frequent this website.

And people complain about _me_ supposedly making ad hominem attacks!

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

ctbarker32's picture

John,

It would be great if you are going to take the time to address my comments that you address all of them rather than cherry pick the ones you want to.

Regarding, supposed ad hominem attacks, I feel you doth protest too much. I haven't called you "pompous" or "joyless, small people". I have made comments about Stereophile and it's staff in totatality but have not directed personal and abrasive comments at either you or anyone else. I have raised questions about the Stereophile stance and provided evidence for my viewpoint. The strongest word I used in my original post was "credulous" -  Having or showing too great a readiness to believe things. I think many would agree that it hardly rises to the level of ad hominem? I even praised your abilities pretty directly. Also, my original comments were inclusive of the entire press - not just Stereophile. But, Stereophile is king of the hill so I chose to comment on this Audioquest article that could have easily been written by the the Audioquest PR department. My synopsis of the article would be: Industry insiders take a day off from yet another audio show and visit yet another cable manufacturer and everyone agrees yet again that cables make a difference because they "render the music more engrossing. More groovy." Why, as a crack editor of some 25 years, you felt this was newsworthy is beyond me but there you have it?

Quote:

Once someone states that my beliefs and editorial policies are affected by the magazine's financial performance, the conversation is over as far as I am concerned.

Regarding whether ecomonics have any affect on editorial policy or vice versa,  I provide this quote attributed to you:

Quote:

The last MartinLogan speaker we reviewed was the Montage -- seewww.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/505ml -- in May 2005. The review was overall positive, but pointed out some problems. MartinLogan were sufficiently upset by the review that they decided no longer to cooperate with Stereophile by sending us further samples for review.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

John, please feel free to correct the record if this is an inaccurate quote. If it is correct, then I feel vindicated in saying a negative stance on a company's product can result in lost ad dollars and lack of products to review. It is my observation that there have been no Martin Logan reviews or Martin Logan ads in Stereophile since 2005. Again, if I have gotten this all wrong - please correct me.

We audiophiles, like elephants, have long memories. ;-)

Quote:

I see no reason why you should either read the magazine or frequent this website.

Sorry, John that would be too easy. I'm not going to let you off that easily. ;-) Of course, you will allow me to continue to subscribe?

Quote:

Perhaps you don't read the magazine or are confusing me with someone else. This is very close to what I believe and to what I have written on many occasions.

 

I have subscribed for decades - even before you took the helm. And I read Hi-Fi News when you were there. I read pretty much every english language audiophile magazine. I don't recall you making this direct a statement on the relative importance on audiophile cable but I am sure you will provide direct quotes? Even still, I don't recall any less than positive reviews of audiophile cables in Stereophile. I think it was just last month or so that Mr. Fremer waxed enthusiastically about audiophile cables. And, of course, there is this current article. Again, you will of course set me straight?

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
Regarding, supposed ad hominem attacks, I feel you doth protest too much. I haven't called you "pompous" or "joyless, small people". I have made comments about Stereophile and it's staff in totatality but have not directed personal and abrasive comments at either you or anyone else.

You categorized my behavior as editor as corrupt, that I put my advertisers' interests ahead of those of my readers. I fail to grasp why you don't feel that to be "personal or abrasive."

Quote:
Regarding whether ecomonics have any affect on editorial policy or vice versa,  I provide this quote attributed to you:

The last MartinLogan speaker we reviewed was the Montage -- seewww.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/505ml -- in May 2005. The review was overall positive, but pointed out some problems. MartinLogan were sufficiently upset by the review that they decided no longer to cooperate with Stereophile by sending us further samples for review.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

John, please feel free to correct the record if this is an inaccurate quote. If it is correct, then I feel vindicated in saying a negative stance on a company's product can result in lost ad dollars and lack of products to review.

No-one has said otherwise, Mr. Barker. And with respect, why is an  accurate quote explaining why Stereophile could not get MartinLogan samples for review relevant? (For the record, we do have a review underway of one of MartinLogan's new speakers.)

You were discussing the fact that AudioQuest is an advertiser. What matters or not whether those ad dollars affect what editorial decisions are made. Every year my decisions as editor result in many ad dollars being left on the table. While that occasionally sours my relationship with the magazine's ad staff, that does not affect what I do as editor. A company being an advertiser does not affect whether or not their products get reviewed in Stereophile, whether or not those reviews are positive, whether or not their products are featured on our cover, and whether or not we will publish news items about their activities. See Footnote 2 at http://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/307awsi/index.html for some relevant statistics.

And regarding your repeated request that I answer your questions about wire, as I said in my earlier response, once someone states that my beliefs and editorial policies are affected by the magazine's financial performance, I don't any reason why that conversation should continue.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

gmgraves2's picture

"...as I said in my earlier response, once someone states that my beliefs and editorial policies are affected by the magazine's financial performance, I don't any reason why that conversation should continue."

I'm somewhat surprised by that remark. First of all, from Mr. Barker's tenor, it's easy to tell, that his remarks were aimed at all magazines that criticize products while taking the manufacturer's advertising dollars, and not at you personally. Secondly, I don't think that there's a magazine reader on this planet who hasn't entertained that suspicion at one time or another.

I know that Stereophile doesn't do what Mr. Barker suspects. When I wrote for the magazine, nobody ever pressured me to "slant" my reviews in any way, nor were they edited in any way that would affect either my opinions or the content in any way except what one would expect (spelling, grammar, clarification of clumsy explanations, etc.). The same is true for my current (for the last 16+ years) gig. In fact, I've never heard any of the reviewers that I know (and I know lots of them) ever say that their published opinions weren't their real opinions and conclusions. Of course, I can't speak for every audiophile magazine in the world....   

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
For a Stereophile editor and writer to engage in what seemed – at least to this impartial observer –to be unwarranted ad hominem attacks on a commenter on the magazine's web site (a subscriber?), is unbecoming to put it mildly.

I wasn't making an ad hominem attack on Mr. Graves. Instead, as I thought was clear from my posting, I was offering my opinion of the state of mind of skeptics in general, in response to a direct question from a reader.  My opinion of skeptics has been formed from many years subscribing to "The Skepical Inquirer" magazine and from personal interactions with many self-proclaimed skeptics, such as the Amazing James Randi.

Regarding Mr. Graves' comments, they fall into the category of "I can't think of an explanation for the phenomenon thus the phenonemon cannot exist." The logical fallacy in this line of thinking is that it presupposes that the person making the statement is in possession of _all_ relevant knowledge, which is impossible. From what he has written n this thread, I believe that this was the background to Mr. Lavorgna's characterization of Mr. Graves' comments.

I have been privileged to have met some extraordinarily smart people in my career as a magazine editor and one thing they have had in common is that they will both admit the limits of their own knowledge and the possibility, admittedly and possibly faint, that there is something happening that falls outside of what they know.

Quote:
apologies to Mr. Graves would seem past due.

I don't believe so. YMMV.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

gmgraves2's picture

Once again, Mr. Atkinson mischaracterizes someone's position by putting words in their mouths in order to "win". My comments are just the opposite of what you state above.  I can (and did) give several reasons why cables cannot have a sound. The maths say no, and many well considered, well set-up and executed DBTs with impeccable statistical analysis and critical peer review say no. IOW, the science gives reasons why cables have no sound, and the controlled experimentation backs the science up. You know, it's called the scientific method?  

Logically, one cannot prove a negative, so, no, I cannot prove that some "unknown" phenomenon isn't at work here that causes cables to sound different, but there is no evidence at all that would leave any engineer, scientist or physicist worth his or her salt to support that view. And while I certainly cannot prove categorically that cables don't have a sound, as a logical person, I cannot ignore the fact that despite the marketing mumbo-jumbo "white paper" explanations that show up on cable maker's websites from time to time, NO scientifically valid theories have ever been put forward that would explain or support that proposition, including Mr. Hawksworth's.

Now, I'll repeat what I asserted earlier and without the sarcasm. The properties of wire under any and all conditions and at any frequency or set of frequencies that you can name have been well understood and well characterized for almost 3/4 of a century. To assert that there are yet unknown properties to account for the delusion that wire doesn't behave exactly as predicted when carrying an audio signal is incredibly naive and astronomically unlikely. The cable sound faithful act as if there is something intrinsically "special" about an audio waveform that is not present in other forms of AC signals used in other disciplines. And that's pretty ludicrous, if you think about it, because none of these "audiophile" anomalies have ever been noticed in any form in any of them.  

BTW, Mr. Atkinson, just to be clear, you have nothing to apologize to me about and I don't either demand or expect any apologies from you. 

JimAustin's picture

>>many well considered, well set-up and executed DBTs with impeccable statistical analysis and critical peer review say no.<<

Would you kindly provide citations? No need to provide "many" -- just half a dozen or so will do.

Thanks,

Jim Austin

Audiogeek's picture

"I wasn't making an ad hominem attack on Mr. Graves."

Not to belabor the point, but yes, I believe you were.

Look, I don't have a dog in this fight, as they say, but I just found your and Mr. Lavorgna's comments to be a bit out of line. After Mr. Graves disclosed that there is, in fact, some personal history here of which the rest of us are unaware, it opens up the possibility that your hostile words may very well be justified. But that doesn't mean it's appropriate to post them here, especially when it appears to the rest of us that Mr. Graves is making a sound argument, and doing so in a way that doesn't seem small or pompous (can one be both?). It would be best to save those words for an offline discussion, in my opinion, because to the uninformed observer like me those types of words only weaken your position.

Without knowing more of your history with Mr. Graves, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt as to whether an apology is in order. But I've read everything you've written here, and the link to Mr. Hawksford's piece as well, and nothing seems to refute Mr. Graves' point about what occurs within the realm of audible frequencies. I'm not an engineer, so I'm probably missing something, but that's the way it seems to me. I don't have enough experience blind-testing various cables to say there is an empirical difference between a decent cable and a multi-thousand-dollar cable, but I would say that I come into the discussion a skeptic who's open to being proved wrong. Maybe one day I'll have that opportunity.

Caaables's picture

I will start off by saying while I do believe cables can sound different, I do not believe that "exotic" cables can be audibly detected from one to another with such extreme and positive effects.

My question to the believers is this...

Typically when there is such controversy over a topic, one side will usually show as the victor unless it is truly up to opinion however, the believers claim it is not a matter of opinion but, fact that these cables do infact sound better.  If these cables DO sound BETTER, why is there such disbelief (and do not spoon feed me the idea that those who cannot afford it do not want to believe it because even those who make critically acclaimed products *MCINTOSH* do not belive in such lunacy) if the answer is apparent.

PS. There are numerous studies indicating that shows there is no significant difference between "exotic" to well made cables (that's using science ftr).  Also, there are numerous DBT that indicate, though previously suspected, no improvement could be detected.

RIDDLE ME THIS!?

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
I will start off by saying while I do believe cables can sound different, I do not believe that "exotic" cables can be audibly detected from one to another with such extreme and positive effects.

Aren't these contradictory beliefs?

Quote:
There are numerous studies indicating that shows there is no significant difference between "exotic" to well made cables (that's using science ftr).  Also, there are numerous DBT that indicate, though previously suspected, no improvement could be detected.

You and Mr. Graves have referred to "numerous" DBTs that have published, for example, in the JAES. But I don't recall many if any that rise to the level of a peer-reviewed paper on this subject. For example, there was a test at an AES Convention that was proclaimed by some as "proving" that cable differences didn't exist.  But if you read our report of that test at www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/107 , you will see that the test had inadequate test conditions, including the fact that the moderator's mike was left live during the test.

Quote:
RIDDLE ME THIS!?

It comes down to whether you want to replace your own experience with the experience of others. As I said earlier, I took part in a blind test a few years back, the results of which indicated that I could distiguish between the cables. Why am I obliged to disregard that experience in favor of the results of a flawed test like the one described in the linked article?

Please note that I am not defending the extreme prices of some audiophile cables. That's why I used the phrase "silly-expensive" on the cover of the June 2011 issue. But in a free market, manufacturers can charge what they wish and if those prices are not justified by the benefit experience by customers, those manufacturers will fall by the wayside.

Stephen Mejias auditions very much less expensive cables in our August and September issues, BTW. I recommend read those columns.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Catch22's picture

Maybe they should ask themselves why they can't hear something that the experts in the field of audio, like JA, for example, can hear?

From an enthusiasts perspective, I wouldn't put any credence in a reviewer's opinion if they began every review with the proclamation that they can't hear very well, just as I wouldn't put much credence in a scientist who lacks the intellectual curiosity to learn things not yet known and takes the lazy way out  instead.

The best scientists are probably thrilled at the challenge of being proved wrong. If I were one, I would be because it would mean I learned something.

Audiogeek's picture

they should. But at least in this case I believe your question should apply equally to the proponents as well as the skeptics. If it's good policy for one, then why not the other?

gmgraves2's picture

This has little to do with experience or hearing acumen and everything to do with physics and expectational and sighted bias. DBTs remove those variables from the equation. It's really interesting to see how people change their minds after a DBT. They are SURE that they hear a difference in cables (and other things) only to find that these differences disappear when they don't know beforehand which of two test samples they are listening to.

I, myself, for instance, used to hear differences in cables (the more expensive one always sounds better than the cheap one) until I hear the same comparison in a DBT. Then they both sound the same. It stands to reason that one expects the fancy, expensive cable to sound better. and so it does....

Yes, there are many unknowns in science and physics. Wire behavior at audio frequencies is NOT one of them, however.   

BarrysConspiracyWorld's picture

SPDIF digital cables make a difference in sound.  HDMI cables make a difference in the picture and sound (for those of you who use them for sound.  I prefer to run my HDMI's directly into my plasmas for best picture.)

DBT's are a bore.  You could probably run a test which showed no difference in speakers (or amp, preamp, dac etc) when using a DBT.

 

Best regards,

 

BarrysConspiracyWorld

   

gmgraves2's picture

"BT's are a bore.  You could probably run a test which showed no difference in speakers (or amp, preamp, dac etc) when using a DBT."

If you believe that, then, were I you, I wouldn't ever take any prescription drugs because DBTs are the "Gold Standard" of science for testing drug efficacy, as well as new chemicals, and a thousand other hypothesis.

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
Quote:
BT's are a bore.  You could probably run a test which showed no difference in speakers (or amp, preamp, dac etc) when using a DBT.

Quote:
If you believe that, then, were I you, I wouldn't ever take any prescription drugs because DBTs are the "Gold Standard" of science for testing drug efficacy, as well as new chemicals, and a thousand other hypothesis.

Just because a test is blind doesn't mean it isn't flawed. Designing such a test with the variables reduced to just the one you are investigating is not trivial. Remember the Coke vs New Coke tests in the mid-1980s that very expensively overlooked a hidden variable in favor of New Coke.

And many of the blind tests that have been published that purport to "prove" that, for example, that cables or amplifiers sound identical have been rigged in favor of producing a null result.  How do I know? Because I have been involved in many of them as a listener at, for example, as AES Conventions.

Here is a list of all the ways a blind test can be arranged to produce either a false positive result when no real difference exists or a false null result when a real difference _does_ exist.

When the tester desires a positive result, the tester makes the preferred device louder. Or, in a test with a large number of trials arranges for it to be presented more often. (I inadvertently made this error in the blind tests of amplifiers I organized at the 1989 Stereophile Show -- see www.stereophile.com/features/113 , which was corrected in a followup test also published in the magazine at www.stereophile.com/features/587 .)

When the tester desires a null result in an ABX test, the primary tactic is to withhold the switch from the test subjects. If you then switch between A and B far too quickly, allowing only very brief exposures to X, you can get a null result between components that actually sound _very_ different.

Here are some other tricks I have witnessed being practiced by dishonest testers to achieve a false null result:

Misidentify what the listeners are hearing so that they start to question what they are hearing.

Introduce arbitrary and unexpected delays in auditioning A, B, or X.

Stop the tests after a couple of presentations, ostensibly to "check" something but actually to change something else when the tests resume. Or merely to introduce a long enough delay to confuse the listeners.

Make noises whenever X is being auditioned. For example, in the infamous AES test I mentioned earlier in this thread that has since been quoted as "proving" cables sound the same, the sound of the test speakers was being picked up by the presenter's podium mike. The PA sound was louder than the test sound for many of the subjects. See www.stereophile.com/features/107 .

Arrange for there to be interfering noise from adjacent rooms or even, as in the late 1990s SDMI tests in London on watermarking, use a PC with a hard drive and fan louder than some of the passages of music,

Humiliate or confuse the test subjects. Or tell them that their individual results will be made public.

Insist on continuing the test long past the point where listener fatigue has set in.

Use inappropriate source material. For example, if there exists a real difference in the DUTs' low-frequency performance, use piccolo recordings.

These will all randomize the test subjects' responses _even if  readily audible difference exists between the devices under test really exists_.

And if the test still produces identification result, you can discard the positive scores or do some other data cooking in the subsequent analysis.

For example, at some 1990 AES tests on surround-sound decoders, the highest and lowest-scoring devices, with statistically significant identification, were two Dolby Pro-Logic decoders. The tester rejected the identication in the final analysis, and combined the scores for these two devices. He ended up with null results overall, which were presented as showing that Dolby Pro-Logic did not produce an improvement in surround reproduction.

Or you limit the trials to a small enough number so that even if a listener achieves a perfect score, that is still insufficient to reach the level of statistical significance deemed necessary. This was done in the 1988 AES tests on amplifiers and cables, where each listener was limited to 5 trials. 5 correct out of 5 does not reach the 95% confidence level, so the tester felt justified in proclaiming that the listeners who scored 5 out of 5 were still "guessing."

So no, just because a test is blind does _not_ mean in itself that the results are meaningful.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

 

gmgraves2's picture

Mr. Atkinson, you are quite right, DBTs can be haphazardly or even fraudulently set up. Sometimes it's due to incompetence, sometimes it's the result of a need to support some agenda. In the latter case, it's also a two edged sword. For instance, one can easily rig a DBT to make one cable sound "different", or even superior to another simply by having one cable rigged so that the level of the signal is just that little bit louder than the other. One could also cheat the other way by making both cables exactly the same make, model, and length as the other and there are surely other ways to stack that particular deck as well.

I've never been a party to a rigged cable DBT because the DBTs with which I have been associated as well as those peer-reviewed DBT papers in professional journals that I have read about have been scrupulously set up and conducted. Where I would expect chicanery would be where those conducting the tests have an agenda to "prove". Those would be cable manufacturers, of course, high-end stereo stores, and audio "buff" magazines who have advertisers to protect.

Every cable DBT that I have been involved with has been performed by audio clubs and ad hoc groups of audiophile friends who just wanted to know the truth.

Logically, those who believe in cable sound haven't a leg to stand on. None of them can offer any legitimate theory that explains how simple wire can affect such a low-frequency signal such as audio, and even more importantly, why these differing cable characteristics show up in no other AC signal applications except audio. They have never been detected in RF signals, they have never been detected in digital bit streams, in fact only audiophiles have ever noticed any such anomalies. Until someone comes up with some real science that actually applies to the audio passband (and while possible, that's not very likely), the question is pretty moot and the actual verdict is in. Above and beyond that, the question becomes one of religious belief - and there is no argument for that. 

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
I've never been a party to a rigged cable DBT because the DBTs with which I have been associated as well as those peer-reviewed DBT papers in professional journals that I have read about have been scrupulously set up and conducted

Again you refer to "peer-reviewed DBT papers in professional journals" with respect to cables, and again I am requesting you for citations to those papers. I have no objection to "arguing from authority" but those authorities do need to be identified.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

gmgraves2's picture

Glad to. It will take a day or two, though. I have about 25 years worth of AES Journals in my garage to go through in order to find the exact citations. It would be nice to use the AES Internet search, but since I let my membership lapse, I no longer have that privilege without paying a goodly amount of money for it. 

michaelavorgna's picture

> “Above and beyond that, the question becomes one of religious belief - and there is no argument for that. ”

Some beliefs, especially those based on personal experience and perception (like whether or not we hear a difference between cables), have no real consequence to anyone other than the person doing the perceiving. So we don’t need to rely on a supernatural explanation when personal preference is more than adequate. In other words, what cable people choose to buy and use in their hi-fi is of absolutely no consequence to you but it is of consequence to them - and there is no argument for that.

gmgraves2's picture

"Some beliefs, especially those based on personal experience and perception (like whether or not we hear a difference between cables), have no real consequence to anyone other than the person doing the perceiving."

That's absolutely true. But there is a higher "truth" at work here. For example, suppose some "pharmaceutical" company was selling sugar pills as a cure for cancer, were advertising the pills to the hilt, paying for testimonials in their ads and publishing gobblydegook white papers explaining what these sugar pills are supposed to do and why. Let's say that you or a loved one took these pills instead of taking accepted treatments for the disease, and when they found out that the pills don't work, it's too late for their lives to be saved (I'm not suggesting, of course, that there is any relationship, other than a parallel causality between a bogus "snake oil" cancer cure and expensive cables that do nothing that a cheap cable couldn't do. It's just an analogy). Now supposed that I or others KNOW for a fact that this  cancer cure product was bogus. Would it not be criminal of me not to blow the whistle on the company that makes and sells this product? Remember, the only real difference here is that the "cancer cure" results in people dying, while the cable manufacturers are merely defrauding the public. Still, people need to know and understand what the science says about this claim. Now, here's the rub. If you KNOW that cables make no difference other than an imagined one, and you still wish to purchase them (perhaps for their "bling value" - after all some of them ARE really cool looking. Or, perhaps the buyer feels that no matter what the science tells them, that they still believe fervently that cables improve the sound of their hi-fis) THEN I agree that no one has any right or responsibility to save these people from themselves. It's those who believe in these things blindly that are getting bilked, and since the industry itself (or the government) won't regulate this kind of chicanery, someone has to raise the level of skepticism in consumers about this kind of thing and it might as well be fellow audiophiles.

Besides, I enjoy debating the subject. After all, that's what forums like this are about: having fun discussing these issues. 8^)

michaelavorgna's picture

So your mission is to save audiophiles from spending more money than you think they should.

Good luck with that ;-)

gmgraves2's picture

"So your mission is to save audiophiles from spending more money than you think they should."

I don't give a damn what audiophiles spend their money on, but I do think that they should have the option of seeing this issue from a perspective other than that they get from reading cable reviews in subjective audiophile magazines. Also, I enjoy debating this issue with "true believers".

I really, probably, shouldn't have lingered this long in this debate, but, well, I'm enjoying it too much.   

michaelavorgna's picture

I’m not surprised, and I frankly expected to see, that after a few decades this “debate” still rages on. I’m also pleased to see that people from not only “both sides” but what I see as a more reasonable stance have chimed in.

On a personal note, when accusing people and an entire industry of fraud, I’d have a pang of discomfort and I would not get the same level of enjoyment from making such a claim as you do, especially seeing as you used to see things, and proselytize as evangelically from and for the other side.

But why stop now? The more you comment, the more you tell us about yourself which is the fun part for me.

augustk's picture

In fact five correct answers out of five is statistically significant with a confidence interval of 95 percent - the probability of correctly guessing five trials is (1/2)^5 = 0.03125 which is less than 5 percent.

Anyway, I think the ideal situation would be a test where the subject gets to decide the conditions under which the test is performed (as long as it is a true blind test that is).

ST's picture

Why do we need DBT to pick out a better cable? If someone is absolutely sure that $2000 cable is superior to a $100 cable then he should be able to identify the par excellence cable without even doing the DBT.



I once asked a dealer who sells only one type of brand for the last 20 or so years if he could positively identify his cables or CD players without a DBT to which he said he could. We did a small experiment to see if he could but to his dismay, he could not recognize his CD Player even once in five attempts.



So, if the sound is already good enough, and if you were unable to tell which player, cables, amplifiers or anything else was at work then does it really matter if one cable or any other thing better than the other?



Oh, one more thing. He called again after a few weeks to inform that the earlier "experiment" was flawed because apparently his player had some fault in it. Mmmm.....that makes it worse! He couldn't even tell if his player was broken in the first place. So much for those with golden ears that could hear the microscopic difference in cables.



ST



 

gmgraves2's picture

"Why do we need DBT to pick out a better cable? If someone is absolutely sure that $2000 cable is superior to a $100 cable then he should be able to identify the par excellence cable without even doing the DBT."

Humans are NOT test instruments. Test instruments measure whatever parameters they are designed to measure and present the measured results. They do not interpret those results, they do not have biases, and they do not objectify their results. Human senses are fraught with biases. and they color everything we see and hear. (that's one reason why "eye witnesses" to crimes are so unreliable). The bottom line is that you and I (or anyone else) CAN'T be "absolutely sure that a $2000 cable is superior to a $100 cable". DBTs remove those biases from the equation. If you don't know what you are listening to, you won't let your sighted or expectational biases (and we all have them) sway your decision making processes.  

 

OTOH, the rest of your post is exactly what many would have predicted.  

bikepedlar1's picture

Ok guys this is ridiculous. If you don't want to believe better cables exist or facts or theories about them then for God's sake DON'T BELIEVE IT! Don't you have a lawn to mow, a car to wash, or double blind test for the best ketchup to get to or something? Get out of the house, go watch a movie but for the love of might SHUT UP arguing to this extent about cables. Consult a psychiatrist and try to get on with your lives. Thanks

gmgraves2's picture

Methinks you are taking this much too seriously. I debate these issues because it is fun (for me). I can't speak for others, here, though. 

bikepedlar1's picture

Well it doesn't seem like you guys are taking it seriously at all. :)  I'll paraphrase a line from one of my favorite movies Sling Blade. It was Dwight Yoakam's character Doyle that said, "If y'all don't shut up I'm goin to go outta my mind." Please continue in my absence.

Catch22's picture

The only issue is that of sounding different. The claim is that cables can't sound different. That's the hurdle to get over...or trip on. However, the value equation does seem to be the motivation for most of the skeptics. That's ironic if you think about it.

ST's picture

 

Cables do sound different but only with some amplifiers and speakers (like electrostatics). Under such circumstances, the math can explain why certain cables with different impedance sound different. 

 

It is also possible that we to perceive certain cables to sound superior than others. In this case, we have to understand why we hear what we hear. I am unable to find the actual papers but this short snippet of the talk may interest you.

 

http://www.aes.org/sections/pnw/ppt/jj/highlevelnobg.ppt

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