Do you find yourself increasingly dubious about cable manufacturers' performance claims? Has this affected your spending habits?

Do you find yourself increasingly dubious about cable manufacturers' performance claims? Has this affected your spending habits?
Yes I study the claims closely
41% (106 votes)
I take a brief look
30% (78 votes)
I never look at the claims
29% (74 votes)
Total votes: 258

There are an increasing number of articles on the Web regarding cables/speaker wire and their sonic properties. Combine this with some "blind" listening sessions (like the one substituting a coat hanger) and any sensible person has reason to pause. Do you find yourself more dubious about manufacturers' performance claims? Has this affected your spending habits?

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COMMENTS
audio-sleuth@comcast.net's picture

Cables, hell, what about speaker manufacturers' claims? Talk about fraud. They're the worst. How about speakers claiming a sensitivity of 90db, that show a 2 ohm load at 30Hz. How does that work?

Bob Loblaw's picture

Sometimes you have to wonder. You get what you pay for up to a point, but determining that point is tricky. You have to use common sense as well as your ears.

Dave's picture

I try cables in my system before purchasing.

Ken Hotte's picture

The trick is to correlate hearing function with measurements. We do not, at this time, know all there is to know about human hearing. What we do know is not utilized by those who create and utilize measurement systems. We have engineers who know nothing about designing a measurement criteria that equals what the human ear hears. Telling all those who want to listen to them that the measurements are showing that cable manufacturer's claims are bogus. We have cable manufacturers very rightly keeping what they know about signal prorogation out of the public purview, since this is how they make their money (by keeping that knowledge to themselves). We have audiophiles who are at very different levels of knowledge, intelligence, and native skills all telling one another that the limits of their personal knowledge package is "the truth." The same thinking is coming out of the mouths and pens of engineers and pundits on all sides. We have millions (audiophiles over the years and their friends whom they "test") saying they hear the differences. Until the model of human hearing is more fundamentally clear, and this point applied to the properly weighted testing of cables, we will have no clear consensus. Be it known, that the human hearing mechanism is capable of learning and only now, very recently, has it come to light that the human brain creates neural stem cells and thus new nerves and plexus on a ongoing basis, so the brain actually grows, all the time. We can also enhance that, by trying to learn, instead of shutting down our minds to new things. In conclusion, only the ignorant think that anything is "written in stone." Ignorance is everywhere. Work at relieving yourself of some of your own. Ie, literally "grow a brain."

Nik from Chicago's picture

I remain open to the idea because when I went with $50 digital optical cables from my cable box and DVD player after using $6 RCA cables I couldn't believe the difference. If anyone is going to go spend thousands for what they put on their racks they might as well "test-drive" cables worthy of such systems. However, eventually, the budget runs out and I don't see myself spending more than a few hundred.

David's picture

Most of the claims made by manufacturers have no credible engineering to support such claims. They can be amusing, though.

Chris V.'s picture

There are so many radically different approaches, and each is claimed to be "the way." AudioQuest DBS, Transparent/MIT "networks," Tara RSC, OFC, silver, different dialectrics, exotic construction, super thin, super fat(!), solid core, Litz, etc. You'd think that if this were truly science, that designs would converge instead of getting increasingly further out.

Mike Agee's picture

Many cable claims stretch credibility, but so does most advertising (and way too much mainstream public discourse these last seven years). As for double-blind tests: I know my own short-term preferences rarely, if ever, survive my longer-term experience. Add "settle-in" time even for veteran pieces after being moved (to, for example, compare one cable to another), and we are left with a recipe for wrong conclusions and sound-by-committee. In the meantime I am so convinced of the audibility of cables that expressed doubts raise more doubts about the hearing acuity of the doubter than anything else. Cables can be very frustrating, what with the cost, break-in delays, system synergy, and nagging concerns that the next one may be better. I've contacted a few component manufacturers hoping they already did my homework, but they preferred to remain neutral (ha ha). I solved the issue for myself by dabbling heavily in the upper three figure categories of renowned critic-approved cable offerings, but finally settled happily on Speltz wires. After two to three weeks of break-in they transfer a very open, 3D, neutral, and affordable presentation, a fact concurred upon by several perceptive friends who listened at key times during the trials.

Bob S.  in Stokesdale, NC's picture

I never look at the claims, I can't afford the really "good" ones anyway. I'm gonna get more bang for my bucks with a record cleaning machine, and maybe someday upgrade my cartridge, get incrementally better amps, preamps, and digital sources. Now, if I hit the PowerBall, well who knows.

Louis P.'s picture

Every cable upgrade I have done was cost-effective. Since dealers in NYC don't lend out cables to customers of average net worth, I have always purchased mail order, based on the general type of sound the cables have (warm, detailed, etc). At the HE2001 show, I heard the Verity Audio Parsifals sound incredible in a modest Gamut system wired entirely with Nordost Valhalla cables. The Parsifals sounded far better than they did in other rooms where they were paired with very expensive electronics. That was a defining moment in my audiophile life, even though I doubt if I could ever afford the Valhalas. BTW, my wife, she who has no interest in anything audiophile, was able to hear the difference between the PS Audio Power Punch and Shunyata Venom (budget) power cords with my Philips 963 SACD player.

FreeCloud's picture

All manufacturers say the same thing, that their wonder cable is the best. I believe cables make a difference, but it's minor and usually not worth the insane prices.

tom collins's picture

I trust my dealer. I think that buying and correctly matching cables is a tricky business. I believe someone who talks with the manufacturers, goes to shows and actually hears the components over a one-size-fits-all concept. I recently bought my first aftermarket power cords and the difference with my equipment was astounding. The dealer would have taken them back if I was not happy, but now there is no way he will get these back. But, he knew that that brand worked particularly well with my electronics, so I trust that experience over advertiser claims.

EG's picture

I look at two things: First, I only trust the companies from whom I have purchased cables that met my expectations. Secondly, I depend on reputable audiophile publication reviewers to separate the wheat from the chaff. This formula has served me well over the last 15 years.

Douglas Bowker's picture

I look at the claims, look at the price, see if it fits into my overall system budget, and then listen. I never care about stupid anti-cable rants however and am even more skeptical of the anti-cable claims than the manufacturers.

Chris's picture

I do blind tests. Carefully. Evaluate them statistically. Turns out, many extravagant cable claims are a "get rich quick scheme"—for the makers & resellers, that is.

Matt's picture

And I mostly think they are crap. When multiple scientific papers have been produced that show that there is no discernible difference in wire, you can not believe the claims of the manufacturers. I put them in the same boat as makers of fuel-saving gadgets, magnetic bracelets, and feng sui people; if it makes you feel better about yourself and you have the money, then good for you.

Roger Anderson's picture

I'm especially suspicous of manufacturers who don't specify the R, L and C values of their cables.

Anoni Mouse's picture

Cables do make a difference. I trust my ears and spending up to around $600 per interconnect pair or speaker set is definitely a worthwhile investment, regardless of how much your system cost. However, there are a number of caveats. First, and foremost, if you don't get the mains sorted you might as well use a coat hanger and bell wire as the crap on the mains just buries any benefits. But again this need only cost a few hundred dollars for a quality mains filter and some decent mains cables. In all cases, the products should come from a known mainstream brand (Chord, Kimber, Van den Hul etc) rather than some esoteric nonsense made from moon dust. As with all things hi-fi, the laws of diminishing returns kick in quite early and, in my experience, not only megabucks hi-fi components, but megabucks cables are very fussy about what they are connected to and quite often the end result can drive you out of the room. Interestingly, I have found mid-priced hi-fi to really benefit from a sorted mains supply and cable loom to a quite surprising level. I am not gullible, I do not subscribe to the latest gadget and I bought all my gear, even cables, "sale or return." I didn't spend my money and then try to hear the benefit—when I heard the benefit it stayed in my system. For example, I tried mains conditioners costing between $80 and $7000. The one I kept cost $500. I guarantee that this "vote" will generate a large and contentious response—cable discussions always do—and that the words "snake oil" will crop up more than once. I am very relaxed about the whole subject and really don't mind what other people think. As I said, I trust my ears and am thoroughly enjoying my music.

mike eschman's picture

it has gone totally out of control

EP's picture

I never rely solely on a manufacturers PR regarding their products. I look for independent, unbiased reviews and weigh all the facts before making a purchase. Since hearing is so subjective, it only complicates matters with audio gear, especially cables. In a sense, buying a particular cable may always be a crapshoot when based upon the hearing perspective of anyone but yourself. Also, let's not forget those individuals that believe cables do nothing for sound and that lampcord is all you need!

Christian's picture

I never believed in cables, but then I made my own tests and had to admit that the sound was different depending on the cables. Nevertheless I clearly think that so calledhighi-end cables are completely overpriced. It is strange, by the way to never have graphs showing frequency response of the "magic cable." Better advice i to spend money on the component rather than the cable. A good (cheap) professional cable (Canare, Belden) and for power a solid core copper cable will do what you need.

Sam's picture

Pseudoscience isn't worth my time.

Nodaker's picture

Ignore what the manufacturer has to say about it and pay attention to what unbiased, unsolicited reviews by professional writers as well as your peer network have to say. That would not include a cable maker contacting you pleading for a testimonial (it is being done)! I'm finding the smaller makers can do a pretty fine job making a cable and the big guns will be losing to them in the end—once everyone wises up.

Roland's picture

I am a network engineer in "real life" and I have some background in electrical theory. While I don't doubt that some people really do hear some differences, you're just not going to get the kind of improvements the pricetags would have you believe. If everything these guys said were true, computer networks would not function. Read the stuff some of these guys claim and you'd think regular wire that your household appliances run on couldn't conduct lightning! Most of those claims are snake oil for sure! Caviat emptor.

JimD's picture

I don't believe many cable manufacturer's claims and use heavy zip wire for my speakers and short coax cables for interconnects.

Jim Tavegia's picture

I find many of the claims made to be often, unbelievable and certainly not scientifically quantifiable. I have own some expensive and not so expensive cables and found little to no difference to decent cables and some that sell for hundreds of dollars per meter. I have followed ST's advise and have found some of the AR cables to be excellent bang for the buck. I do think it makes sense to use better cables in tonearms and from the table to the phono stage as with these low millivolt outputs, cables may make more difference. I would also think that long runs of balanced cables should be higher in quality. I know for a fact that one overseas factory makes cables for at least two suppliers and, inside of the jacket, who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men?

rob's picture

I feel that people have inflated opinions on cables in high wattage applications. If I'm running 200Wpc, I expect the impact of a fancy cable to be less impactful than a 4Wpc setup. But in my priority list, cables are pretty low. It'd take an astonishing in-home demo to convince me to spend $2500 on interconnects rather than a new preamp.

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

lose your eyes—you're getting sleeeeepy.

dBruce's picture

Some of the claims seem rather dubious. The profs did not cover them in electronics school. But why does the "Nordost Guy" get very different sonics with various Nordost cables? Isn't wire just wire?

Ralph L.  Witte's picture

I have been an audiophile since 1950. I also have a long-time friend who designs and makes the Steinway of hi-fi speakers. I take his advice. He does not sell cable.

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