Music? Or Sound? JVS Elaborates

When I reread my February “As We See It,” Music? Or Sound?, my first thoughts about a piece I had written a while ago were: (1) I wish I’d devoted less space to telling the story and more to expanding upon my thesis; and (2) I’m afraid that my motivation will be misconstrued. Indeed, the flurry of furious comments makes clear that I failed to make the best case for my argument.

I regret that, to some, I came off as arrogant or condescending. It’s not that I have a golden ear; rather, I’ve had sufficient experience with the particular performers and compositions in the recordings used at the demo to have developed a set of expectations as to how those recordings should sound. The reason why others at our listening sessions weren’t immediately “able” to hear the imbalances I heard is that I had the advantage of hearing the recordings in widely varying contexts over years of blogging audio shows.

People tend to trust reviewers who have devoted considerable time to amassing a storehouse of listening experiences that enable them to make valuable critical calls about equipment and recordings. It’s not that these reviewers necessarily have superior judgment; it’s rather that they’ve established standards by which to evaluate the material at hand. They have learned how to both focus on specific elements, and to sit back and take in the big picture. IMHO, those reviewers who are equipped to assess how the entire listening experience makes them feel have an obligation to educated readers and elevate discourse by discussing how equipment can present music in ways that transcend the sum total of its parts.—Jason Victor Serinus


poopfeast420's picture

If anyone on the planet can blindly discern 16 gauge copper wire from "audiophile" wire, let him come forward.

eugovector's picture

...but only by price tag.

audioclassic's picture

What, I thought we settled this 35 years ago. Of course, I can hear the difference between high performance audio cable and zipcord. And I'll bet most of the guys reading this can, too.

ppgr's picture

stop wasting your time with infidels (missing obvious giveaways of inferior sound) and start your own idolaters society of Norse God.

eugovector's picture

So, you knew which was the expensive cable.  Those who didn't couldn't tell the difference.  Have you ever considered the the only constant in all your failed relationships is you?

Ajani's picture

I agree with some of what is said in the earlier posts. I'm not some diehard DBT fan, but I think you really should consider the possibility that it's not everyone else in the room who couldn't hear the obvious inferiority of the cheaper cable. Maybe, it really is just a case of your own bias in favour of the Nordic God's Cable.


I will however agree that there maybe a problem in reviewing products by focusing solely on specific aspects of the sound, rather than the whole musical presentation. Having deeper bass, clearer treble, etc does not guarantee that the overall experience is better.

kevon27's picture

Buy what ever cable you like and can afford. If you can afford $3000 per inch speaker cables to connect to your $300000 a pair speakers and you believe it will bring you closer to the music.. More power to YA.. Your purchase will keep certain peoples employed.
The cable argument is boring and tired. I believe print and E-zines constantly bring up this topic to get people charged up and increase readership of a moment.

I can bet you there is a group of audiophiles out there that hate pre-recorded music. They believe music must be live and played on acoustic instruments only. Any electronics, amplification, wiring is bad thing.

kevon27's picture

"To my ears, the differences between how the cables interacted with the music and equipment were clear. Beyond the sound's being exceedingly airy and open with the expensive cable, with more refined highs, tighter bass, and exceptional transparency, it let me hear music more organically, in ways that touched me deeper"


You use some fancy audiophile terms to describe what you are hearing. Please explain what these terms mean.

Airy: What is Airy ness? How does a cable manufacturer design a cable to be airy? Where in the audio spectrum does the airy ness takes place? Can someone measure Airy ness? 

Open: ? What does open sound sound like? what about Closed sound? 

Tighter bass?  I know one can affect bass with electronics and EQ but how does a cable able to make the bass response tighter? What if a manufacture of cables want there cables to have loose sounded bass how would they do that?

Organically: what the hell is that? 

Can any of the terms you use to describe the sound you are hearing be measured? If so then how? If not then how does a manufacture have quality control on their products?

MVBC's picture

"exceedingly airy and open"

Indeed: I understand what "airy and open" means, but what is "exceedingly airy and open'? It is like washing your T-shirt whiter than white for detergent commercials...

mauidj's picture

Brilliant response. This article completely spotlights the crazy direction that Stereophile and most other audiophile publications are headed. No wonder the industry is getting nowhere in regard to enticing the man or woman in the street to test the high end waters.

Jack_Mlynek's picture

No, something more than cable envy was going on. Instead of blaming the listeners, I began to wonder if we who review equipment have unintentionally helped create a community of audiophiles who lack the ability to listen deeply.

Are you seriously contending that reviewers shape the ability of people, audiophiles at that, to listen to music deeply? I've seen arrogance before, but this takes the cake. Who the hell to you think you are? If the music is worth it, then one can enjoy it at any level and as deeply as one wishes. I can assure you that cables, whether megabucks for megalomaniacs or zip cord for those that can only afford that, have zero to do with music. 

I remember a system Stereophile detailed recently that totalled well over six figures. When I added up the cost of the cables, they were over half the total! 

dalethorn's picture

It would seem that the argument is not whether they sound different (everything sounds different), it's whether anyone can hear the difference, and following that, evaluate the difference. It would be good if everyone clarified that. I don't doubt that very short cables made properly would have little effect on the sound, but get beyond short to medium length or long and strange things begin to happen. Maybe some more information about where the cables were deployed and how long they were....

The Federalist's picture

With all due respect Jason... You've really stepped in it here.

The "honest" audiophile should be able to admit to himself that he is at least as much in love with the pieces of kit and gears involved in the hobby as the music itself (if not more!) I tend to believe most fall into the latter. But understand that you guys are crafting an illusion in order to move product.

You review cool new stuff and say its better than last years stuff because they implemented whatever boutique upgrade so people who have a DAC want to get another DAC or people who have a great set of speakers want to get more expensive speakers. 

But the truth is that you can only listen so deeply into a recording... Recording equipment, studio mixing, final mastering and production media, will always limit the actual music file (be it digital, LP, CD or tape) to containing a finite amount of information to experience, hear or reproduce. Not to mention our own ears are limited in the amount of information they can take in.

It is not some cosmic ocean of sonic information that you can plunge yourself ever more deeply into with better equipment and a bigger spend.  

But this doesn't stop most review sites from portraying it that way... because it makes for good copy.... and it moves units for the manufacturers. Deeper bass, more air, timbral authority... our ears and the media the track was laid down on max these out somewhere well short of the highest end.... and cables just can't impact it that much. A little (yes, maybe) but not $5,000 worth.... Gold plated copper interconnects do not create a warm and lush tone... but it makes for enticing copy doesn't it? 

Example: 'The Gold Tune oil filled caps and gold plated copper interconnects yielded a lush, warm tone with rich tonal colors and vibrant timbral finesse yet its discretely constructed output gave it a lithe and supple feel through the upper register creating a immersive and intoxicating experience'.... Oh I gotta get that!

Don't start believing your own illusion too much Jason.... we mostly (who are honest) know how much is music and how much is just good old fashion consumerism. But you start getting self righteous and incredulous and the hard line objective types will storm the gates. I am good with the game as long as no one on either side starts taking themselves too seriously.... be forewarned... you sound like you are. 

Paul Luscusk's picture

 is better.I found this out when friends from Ixos gav me some ultra high end rca's to replace my stock rca's that came with my Tandberg 440A . Long story short The stock Tandbergs blew the Ixos away for making high end recordings, wasn't even close.

handler's picture

Oh the audio belief system:

If YOU can't hear the difference (read: superiority) of component A over component B, then your ears are bad or your system isn't resolving enough.

I'm not gunna say there's zero difference between cables, but why can't we be more scientific about audio? At least have the identity of the two cables hidden.

Can you imagine if sighted testing was the norm for new drugs coming to market!??

Come on, sighted testing isn't even used for high school chili cook-off judging.

The mind will believe what it wants to believe and is easily deceived and confused!  

untangle's picture

I attended both BAAS sessions that JVS describes. As is usual with 20 audiophiles in a room, unanimity of opinion was not to be had. That's cool. We all bring different experiences and expectations to the table. Jason goes on to analyze this behavior, musing on the reasons for the "outlier" conclusions.

That analysis is wrapped in an editorial style that abrades some (many) readers. I get that. But if we strip off some of the attitude from the writing, we are left with some pretty clear assertions:

  • At a BAAS event, the sonic differences of two cables were apparent, and one of them was "truer" to the source
  • That truth is embodied in both the macro ("musical whole") and micro ("musical elements") performance of the cable.
  • Many listeners may be spending too much time on the elements.
  • Professional reviewers may be fostering this behavior.

With the exception of the first point (DBTs, physics, etc.), the other three seem straightforward to me.

So while the tone of the piece was a bit off (pun intended), I took no offense to the thesis. And I was there. But then again, I preferred the nordic wire....  ;-)

Bob Walters   President, BAAS

Ariel Bitran's picture

this is exactly what i took from the piece as well. thanks for your comment Bob.

MVBC's picture

"But when several BAAS members said they either couldn't hear a difference, or preferred the lower-priced cable, I realized that they were having a major problem in perceiving unfamiliar, complex music that contained multiple ideas, piquant harmonies, and emotional shifts."

Wow, what a condescending tone! Perhaps, these members had attended multiple live concerts and were able to make the difference between the real experience and the artificially enhanced recreation that the author fanes about? It is always funny to host some audiophile esthete who claims listening to the real sound through speakers that even with 2,000wrms could not reproduce a single flute's dynamics and is suddenly surprised at that very dynamic range that even the most efficient drivers can barely reproduce.

So I prefaced the second listening session with some tips:

LOL Hilarious! So when the result is not what the good doctor prescribed, a dose of psychobabble is supposed to influence the audience to seek certain qualities deemed by the master of ceremony as truer to the reality, something that the listening session did not reveal at first.

The problem with this is of course that he was not at the recording session and is likely to impose his own bias -like hyper detailed high frequencies- that could very well be an addition from the gear. Unless the comparison had occurred with a live show, this whole affair lacked the live reference, the base line that no contest can proceed without and demonstrates a severe case of hubris from its author...

As for Ariel's comment, well after the Silence of the Lamm loving piece, what else would be expected if not unconditional agreement?

And you guys wonder why High End is in trouble?

mauidj's picture

Oh please. This is wrong on so many levels. You work with the guy so you are not likely to say anything negative are you. Hey mr editor you really think your writers should be commenting on their coworkers articles. Lame.

Ariel Bitran's picture


pwf2739's picture

I recently went to hear a local jazz group at a club where they regularly perform. I had never hear this group before and I enjoyed them so much I thought about their performance for several days. I can assure you that while there I was not thinking about bass response, openness and certainly not cables. The music touched me and I liked it. Simple as that. 

I think that is what recorded music should strive to accomplish. Leave the listener with a feeling of excitement. Leave them thinking about what they heard after the music stops. 

Just over a year ago, I had a very modest system. An inexpensive integrated amp, DAC and speakers. I streamed my music from my home computer. I think my original speaker cables cost about $200.00. And it sounded pretty good. But it didn't move me in any significant way. I wanted something better.

My current system has a power cord from the wall outlet to the conditioner and speaker cables that are of the extremely expensive Norse God variety. I can say without hesitation that after each of these two additions the quality of the music improved. Profoundly so. Just from a cable change.

I am not a reviewer and frankly, have a lot to learn about high end audio. I don't typically sit around and write myself a review after each song is played. I do, however, have a keen sense of what I like and what moves me. And I can say without reservation that my current system, which is yes quite expensive and has two (soon to be three) Odin cables, sounds closer to what I heard in that jazz club than anything I have ever had in my home. Regardless of what I was previously using. And I think about what I have heard long after the system has been turned off. Each time I listen to it. If that is the work of a cable then I'm in favor of that cable. 

I've been on both sides of this fence- the justification of an expensive system vs. an inexpensive system. Had my first system really had a lasting effect on me I would still be listening to it. But it did not and I wanted to make a change. An audio system should only be as nice or expensive as the listener wants it to be. At the point where one is happy and it moves them, then no more changes are really necessary. Should that occur for less than, say, $5000.00 then that is a wonderful thing. If it takes more than that, even substantially so, then to each their own. If they can afford it then so be it.  

In my view this article was not a debate about the cost of a cable. It is about which one sounded better and why the various participants chose the way they did. I'd like to believe that had I been there I'd have chosen the Norse cables myself. But who can say with certainty.

This much I can say without equivocation, in my system and in my home the better components with the Norse cables are without equal compared to any of the previous components I have owned. They make a difference, they move me, and they enable me to sit and enjoy the music. Just how it should be.  

noelberkowitz's picture

I think its also important to remember that there are no absolutes in our hobby. or at least not many. every review is an opinion-piece. every preference is that, a prefence. does one group like cable A? yaay for them. does another group like cable B: well yaay for them too. I really do not understand why people always have to make a bloodbath when someone simply has a different opinion or different taste. just chill out and enjoy the music. that would be the point of all of this.

deckeda's picture

JVS authors a piece that includes music listeners missing the forest for the trees only to have several commenters then miss the forest for the trees.

thecanman's picture

with this ridiculous post. How about...

1. The author displays breathtaking arrogance. "The unwashed masses didn't hear what I think I heard, so I tried imparting my exalted wisdom to no avail." Please.

2. The author knew which was the expensive cable. Hello! Does he have any concept whatsoever of the scientific method, the placebo effect, or expectation bias?

3. If the author wants to worship at the altar of consumerism and Norse gods, he is welcome to do so. If some of us are skeptical, that doesn't make us imperceptive dolts.

4. I would challenge the author to a test: have someone else set up 20 high-end, nearly identical systems in accoustically identical rooms, the only difference between the systems being that one system has a single inexpensive cable whereas all the rest of the cables in each system cost $1 million an inch. Then bet your house and one of your kidneys that you can instantly pick out the system with the less expensive cable, blindfolded, because it will be just so freakin' obvious. Have unbiased witnesses and post the results on this blog. This is too logistically difficult? Tough. You're a professional audio reviewer. Put your money where your mouth is and make it happen, or stop telling those of us who are cable skeptics that we're deaf and musically illiterate.

End of rant. Flame away.

Ladyfingers's picture

No scientific method was employed in this "test", so it's just nonsensical rambling.

If the writer is so convinced of his listening skills, there's a million dollar prize waiting for him at the Randi foundation.

James_Seeds's picture

Jason's piece certainly sounds a bit much to digest but I agree at times with his conclusions

I owned a modest system that is now 15 years old comprised of a solid state amp, preamp and floor standing speakers that cost then somewhere in the vicinity of 10k but now maybe if I'm lucky 1k never the less I replaced the tired 12 gauge cables with a set the cost $600.00 and I must say the difference was night and day, I should've done it sooner the boost in detail and clarity was a welcomed surprise.

Would I spend 5k on speaker cables, if I was made of money probably but for me $600.00 was money well spent 

eugovector's picture

Were the old speakers cables, presumedly copper, also 15 years old?  Did you try replacing them with new $20 cables (basic copper of an appropriate guage) to see if that also made a difference?

JL77's picture

"thecanman" gets it right: The author knew which was the expensive cable. Placebo effect and expectation bias are proven, objective effects. Any time a subtle listening test is non-blinded, it loses ALL objectivity.

Using trained audio listeners in a repeatable lab environment, we've learned about the diminishing ability to hear subtle audible differences over time. The only statistically-acceptable method to hear JNDs is via quickly switched A-B comparison. After a short period of time, discerning subtle audible differences (cable differences) becomes statistically improbable, and usually impossible.

VandyMan's picture

 began to wonder if we who review equipment have unintentionally helped create a community of audiophiles who lack the ability to listen deeply.

Wow, you are really full of yourself! To the vast majority of your readers, most audio writers, including you, are interchangable. Most of us skim your articles and simply not that deeply influenced by your writing. Get over yourself.

GeneZ's picture

What if some cable Z was technically perfect?  But speaker technology or amplifier capacity today is still lacking a certain factor in music reproduction yet to be discovered?  The perfect cable may sound not so good because of how speakers and amps are made, not the cable. 



IgAK's picture

What a lofty perch you survey peons from, Jason. But it seems you need it for such vauntedness. I do hope you can go back there again...

While I can't disagree with all your opinions - I listen to the whole of the music as a gestalt before analyzing the details - I can't disagree with those who pointed out the obvious problem of your price expectations, either. That disease does hit reviewers harder than most. Yes, I do this professionally as well. But I definitely have heard reasonable (but not, perhaps, cheap) cables outperform snobgear, too. I have not heard any two cables sound identical, though. The differences may be small or subtle, but they always exist. I don't expect everyone to hear the smaller differences, but most people don't have to if their living does not depend on it, so a certain amount of experiential training can't help but come into play. Unfortunately, the belief that a cable must be grossly expensive to be good seems to be most strongly entrenched among spoiled reviewers who generally never give a more reasonably priced cable half a chance.

But I'm not a reviewer, though I have in the past been invited to do that by one of the biggest names. It would have been a conflict, so I declined. But here's what I have noticed repeatedly about the "Norse God Cables" in many systems over many of their models. They are the darling of reviewers for being hyper-detailed. This does aid discerning differences so I can see why. But I can barely tolerate them for more than a half hour because they are gratingly hot on top, and unattractively amusical. I didn't say badly balanced, at least not in the last sentence ;>), though they tend to be hot at the top end. I said amusical. Spectacular, yes, but not soul soothingly satisfying.  They do not attract emotions without analysis. They are work to listen to, and I feel I should not have to work to enjoy the music. Of course, that's just my opinion...and that of many others whose ears I've found to be superior over years of comparison...that aren't reviewers.  So perhaps you have not taken into account that the viewpoint and desires of the non-professionals at this event may have been one of enjoyment and comfort, rather than the board-meeting hyper-stressfulness of these expensive Viking attack-dogs. Maybe a different expensive cable should have been compared?

Mind you, I'm not saying I expect I would have liked the cheap cables, either. Your description is voluble and says enough about the details that I probably would not have. But maybe you should have considered the overall feel and appeal of the different cables as they might be perceived by those preferring comfort over edginess. And been a bit more humble? This is a much bigger factor than you perhaps realize, being a reviewer. I deal with the customers and their rooms. No, I'm not a salesman, either, except reluctantly after I design the gear, which I prefer to do the selling for me. So I see how people react to what they are hearing while looking outward rather than inward.


Volti's picture

I couldn't pass this up. 

Recently I went to a customers home to do an upgrade to his speakers, and I brought my own basic 30' long copper cables that I use around my shop to replace the fancy, expensive cables that I knew he had hooked up.  My thought was that these fancy cables could be changing the sound enough that it would prevent me from hearing the speakers the way i'm used to hearing them. 

So after making the upgrades to the speakers, we sat down to listen to some music.  First with my cables, and then with his fancy cables.  We both looked at each other and agreed that his cables definately sounded better.  I was a little suprised I guess.  I wondered to myself, that the materials used in these cables must really be making a difference in the sound quality of the system. 

Then it dawned on me that there was something else that was probably the real difference maker here.  His cables were 23 feet shorter than mine!  Hmmmm. 


GeneZ's picture

Volti... You said..  "Then it dawned on me that there was something else that was probably the real difference maker here.  His cables were 23 feet shorter than mine!  Hmmmm.

Find out if it was a litz configuration he had. Its the one type of cable that will eliminate certain distortions that all other stranded wire will produce. Raw litz is not that expensive.  In its raw state it does not look like much. And, its a bear to solder.  You'll need a solder pot to tin with. 

Litz eliminates the skin effect that stranded-non-litz wire always produces. It causes that tizzy effect we hear in the high end... what makes us realize we are listening to amplified music. 

dalethorn's picture

There's a suggestion here in these comments that subtle differences must be detected in quick A-B switch comparisons. I think if a subtle difference were one-dimensional, so you knew what artefact to listen for and everything about its qualities, that might work. But it almost never works for me. Partly because every difference is different, and partly because my ears and brain just don't switch that quickly.

JL77's picture

Fast A-B testing works well in a design lab, when a product is being developed, but is admittedly harder in a home playback system.

The point is that academic psychoacoustic testing has proven the inability to reliably detect subltle audio differences over periods of time longer than a few seconds. Unless the differences are significant, our "audible memory" is poor.

The power of suggestion is alive and well in audio. Once I remember turning up some HF EQ for a client, and we both nodded and agreed that it really helped the overall mix. Later I realized that the EQ was bypassed.

Frank.hardly's picture

Jason Victor, you make some good comments about listening. I'm an uneducated audiophile, but after years of playing classical music both as a listener and musician, I intuitively listen for some of the things you describe. What drives me crazy in chamber or orchesteral music (concertos) in particular is the energy or volume of instruments being recorded in disproportion to what they could realistically present in a concert or live setting. I've had to adjust my volume to account for the sudden thundering of a piano in an orchesteral settting that is unbelievable. I believe these issues are more due to the misintentioned efforts of people occupying mixing boards to boost certain elements they wish to highlight rather than trying to create a believable re-enactment of a live recording. I have a hard time understanding how a cable can correct this basic engineering decision. I also value the voicing of individual instruments, rather than a monotone of sound. The whole audio chain from recording to through to speaker has a part in presenting this separation of instruments. Maybe a great cable could help the overall presentation, but I have a hard time quantifying how much this improves such separation relative to the other parts of the chain. Is it 5% improvement?Will this help a muddied recording? I think not. If I spend 40% of my audio budget on a 5% improvement is this $'s well spent or could I get more bang for my buck to spend more on my amplifier or speakers? This is the sort of thing I look for from educated audiophiles such as yourself who are being paid to advise the uneducated and less experienced. I don't think there's much value in saying such and such is a great cable relative to another cable if the context of the whole isn't being considered and some quantification of benefit is being discussed. Airiness and energy are hard to get my objective mind around.

dalethorn's picture

This could be a legitimate question when planning the initial purchase of a system, but after making the best purchase possible within whatever the budget limits are, any tweaking after that wouldn't fall into the same category, i.e. balancing tweaks or cable costs against the system costs. Now, with system in place and no desire or budget to replace the entire system, I can look at cable costs as a separate issue. Then I can consider - is a subtle improvement really a one percent, or five percent improvement? Maybe it's a 100 percent improvement. Those kinds of percentages don't usually scale linearly.

169glazier's picture

I have a Belles 150A Hot Rod amp in one of my systems. I loved the way it sounded but there was a veil in the midrange like a light sheet in front of the speakers. When I switched out the belles amp out with a McCormack DNA 125 the veil was gone and it had more transparency. But I lost the warm tube like midrange that I really liked about the Belles amp. I bought a pair of Von Gaylord Legend 2 speaker wire and WOW the veil was gone the midrange was lush smooth and the transparency was even beter than the McCormack with the old speaker cable. Having the right speaker cable in the system makes all the difference. I love the sound so much I dont want to change back to the McCormack DNA 125 or use any of my other amps that I own.

System configuration


Belles 21A with Aurua Cap Up Grade  Pre-amp

Jolida CD 100A Player

Dynaudio Audence 82 Speakers

Von Gaylord Legend 2 8' Speaker Cable 8' Pair

Synergistic Research Quad Speaker Cable 8’ Pair

Shunyata Research Diamondback 5’ Power Cord for Pre-amp

Shunyata Research Diamondback 5’ Power Cord for Amp

Shunyata Research Diamondback 5’ Power Cord for CD Player

Von Gaylord Chinchilla 1M interconnects for Pre-amp to Amp

Kimber Kable Hero WBT 1M Interconnects for CD Player

ajcrock's picture

What is the range of hearing of the listeners?  Many people cannot hear well enough to hear the full spectrum.  For those people a cheaper cable and system is just fine.  Same with wine and champagne.

As for myself I have a group of people that include those who have known the difference in good equipment and cheap equipment and those who have not.  In all cases when I have replaced copper with .999 silver, not that plated crap, they have all said the music sounds brighter and more open what did you do, this was unprompted.   I have also used 24k gold and they thought the music sounded richer.  Again they did know a change had occurred.  I do have Nordost cables.  They are plated not .999 silver.

Half Full's picture


Firstly, I appreciate your willingness to stick out your neck with some pretty damning opinions. To accuse virtualy the entire BAAS of being effectively tone deaf requires some big kahonas.  Secondly, to have enough confidence in your own ability to discern subtle differences that they could not and then taking credit for making them that way borders on arrogance.  But still, I love it!  Do we listen to it, or do we listen for it?  I've been chasing this gold ring since the 70's and frankly my enthusiasm for my audio habit had waned since we moved on the lake.  But awhile back, after digesting Jim Smith's book and spending a day checking plug polarity and wearing out a tape measure, I arrived at a level of satisfaction with my system that I never before enjoyed.  Know what?  I immediately sold the speakers, bought new amps, cabling, Oppo 95, bunches of Dupont 304, and completely changed my stuff.  I am now as happy, several thousands of dollars later, as I was before. Only now there is an Oppo 105 (damn!) and my 3.6's have been kicked to the curb by 3.7's. Just like cars, it will never end.  Back to the point, I appreciate your having found a way to derive an income by feeding my habit.  I only wish you were less abrasive toward those of us that feed you (literally).  I value your experience and expertise but you should be carefull when you choose to belittle mine.  It is quite possible possible the BAAS members were finely attuned to facets of that particular experience that you completely missed.  Can you see through a keyhole with both eyes at the same time?

Free cables's picture

I have inherited some of the best Nordost cables and I have spent lots of time evaluating them with the following observations. 

Firstly, these cables do sound good and highly resolved. I have had friends who are skeptical engineers and do not give a damn how much they cost, the prestige, nor what t hey are supposed to do, but they eagerly borrowed the cables for long term loans because they sounded clearly superior.  There are techical artifacts that might explain these differences that include "low dielectric absorption".  

They may make a system that is already too "defined and cold" sound worse.

In the case of interconnects, it is not about the transmission of sound, but more about how the cable loads your preamp output. I have done experiments blinded that strongly supports this assertion. Speaker cables are about amplifier loading and damping factor/series resistance and power transmission. 

The most expensive cables are only suited to someone who loves to burn cash, or who has already spent all they can on the rest of there equipment; that is to say exceeding $5000 for amps $5000 for preamps $5000 for dac and then say $20000 for speakers. Then go spend  $10000 to $30000 on cables.  Otherwise it is crazy to spend as much on cables as a new pair of speakers cost, because improving all non cable components will almost always result in a substantial improvement.  If your budget for a system is $20k, spend half on speakers, half on electronics, and several hundred to $1000 on wiring.  These are just suggestions.

Now, I have always wondered why so many audiophiles seem to spend more money on cables and wombley pucks that all electronics and speakers combined!  I finally have guessed what drives this phenomena.  It is called the "wife tolerance factor."  

It goes like this.  Some dude convinces his wife to agree to his purchasing the system he read about or auditioned at the audio store.  He sets it up and realizes at some point that it is not as good or satisfying as he hoped.  Well now he realizes that she will never agree to replacing it all, or some of it with really good equipment that cost more.  Further even if he can change the amp or speakers from his hidden cash cache, she will notice.  The solution, keep changing the cables.  Even if she notices, she will never suspect how much of the retirement fund had been dumped into power cords.


i will never make fun of a reviewer who touts a great cable, nor will I mock someone on a budget for discovering that bed springs and coat hangers sound better than Trojans after a 2 year breakin period.  But my advice, do not upgrade via cables, buy real equipment.  The best stuff will still sound better with budget cables such as dh labs or even, gods forbid, monster cable from a spool.

Free cables's picture

Very few people have hearing that cannot distinguish between the real thing and reproduced sound. Old men with 3khz of hearing still manage to hear the effects of 20khz brick wall filters because the effects on phase are audible at 1/10 the frequency.  It is not about people's hearing,but how much they are into and interested in the music.  Also a really basic system may not resolve the fine differences between cables. 

Ronzu's picture

Let's assume that all of the listeners in the "test" group agreed that the expensive cables sounded better than the cheaper ones. Should we then assume that these same cables will sound better than cheaper cables in other systems, where the amplification and speakers are different? Maybe it just means that the more expensive cables work well with the particular electronics and speakers of the test system. A different system may sound better with the cheaper cables. I want to know what cables sound best with MY amplifiers and speakers. I don't need to know what tires perform best on a Ferrari, if I'm driving a Volkswagen.

Danny Fondren's picture

The article was very interesting as I've long wondered about the usefulness of high end cable(ing). If one went by the theoris of circuit design it would seem obvious that higer quality/ shorter cables would achieve a better sound. Its my personal opinion that that idea may have a lot to do with people thimking they can hear differances from thier speakers cause by cables (aside from outright faulty cables or connections). I have two arguments against any general recognizable ability to hear quantitive differances. "A" Related to physics- If one were to expect an audible improvement in sound reproduction quality being achieved by high grade cables, to know you had achieved the improvment ; elimination of other (spurious) efects need to be eliminated. ie examp. The qualit of conectors seems to be of extreme importance, as even very small diferances in cintact can make readibly measurable differances in current , load ect. likely larger differances to the signal integrity than cabling. In many electrial situation the basic remedy is solder all contacts (brings on the questin is one type solder beter accousically thn anotherwhich is marginally a silly idea). "B"  The psychological angle: to whit , there has been some discusion that in your listening test , "was blind testing utilised adequately" ? It does not sound - no pun intended HA- as if it were , and here is my strongest argument... While one can measure AV equipment quite well nowdays it is very much a dificult task to measure ones own hearing quality from day to day, possibly minute to minute even. Think of the environmental effects that may influance the quality of our hearing , many of these effects can be controled to a degree. More importantly are the often (very) subtle effects of physiology and pshycology (which interact with each other). Our senses qualityies are suseptible to a great many influances ; blood pressure , health , diet, stress , blood/brain chemistry at a given moment. I contend that these efects are as important as , or may be more important to a listeners ability to decern sound(s). Even people with perfect pitch ect. are very suceptable to physiological influences , and that does not even get into the relm of human suggestability which in itself has some varibles due to physology.    My point/arguement here is that " Many (thousands no doubt) of studies have proven , when it comes to critical and casual comparisons made by human beings using their perseptual judgements based on thier 5 senses , to be accurate as possible ; strengent use of "BLIND Testing " , and "SCIENTIFIC METHODE" must be used . Or we may find we didn't hear, smell taste ,feel ,what we thought we did.   Oh yeah,    Danny Fondren   Aspen/Twin Lakes , Coolorado

acuvox's picture

Hearing is highly adaptive and comparative on time scales from microseconds to a lifetime.  This means there are things we can hear that are beyond the ability of machines to measure, and things that are trivial to measure but nearly impossible to hear.  It also means that perception between individuals will vary widely, and even the perception of one individual will vary with recent auditory experience and state of mind.

Complicating this are the ubiquitous background din of the post-industrial world, the outlandish distortions of consumer audio and bad acoustics which have so buffeted the richest sensory pathway that it has been subsumed by inferior vision in society.

Audiologists like King and von Bekeszy working before the advent of radio obtained quite different results.  Everything from Fletcher-Munson forwards used subjects who learned to hear music from phonographs and dynamic loudspeakers, which is contaminated and therefore suspect.

To attempt the most basic "controlled experiment" in human hearing, one should start with test subjects who were raised acoustically, away from the synthetic sounds of motors, speakers, metal and glass; or at least, had acoustic sounds dominate their developmental auditioning like conservatory trained musicians.  

Scorpio69er's picture

Using only the highest grade ore mined from our private copper, gold and silver mine in Chile's Atacama Desert, then refining that ore in a proprietary process handed down through four generations and sheathing nature's purest metals in theta-rejecting baby llama skin, we have fashioned the ultimate in speaker cables and interconnects: The Scorpio Line.

Death Stalker: At only $2000/meter, this special 1000:1 blend of our purest copper and silver will yield the highest possible SPL when listening to heavy metal music, while maintaining a warm yet neutral character with your favorite bagpipe piece. The sonic equivalent of Angus Young in a kilt.


Black Spitting Thicktail: This 1111:11:1 blend of our purest copper, silver and gold has been hailed by reviewers as "a revelation". At $10000/meter, it will transport you to another sonic realm. Whether listening to powerful symphonic music or the soothing strains of Slim Whitman, your hair will turn white as you encounter the mystical. As they say, "you can't take it with you", so why worry about the cost?


Asian Forest: Specially designed to reproduce the whole range of natural sounds from an ant fight to an exploding supernova with equal realism, this 1313:13:3 blend of our purest copper, silver and gold throws a soundstage as big as all creation. At $50000/meter, like Yahweh himself, you can have the whole world in your hands. Just remember to put it back when you're finished.


MVBC's picture

But don't you worry that at $50,000 a meter it might seem a bit cheap for such a great cable? But if it was per foot, then...surprise

Scorpio69er's picture

$50,000/meter might seem a bit cheap for such a great cable, but we also want to bring outstanding value to our customers. laugh

MVBC's picture


Scorpio69er's picture

Unless and until double-blind ABX testing proves that there is an actual sonic difference between lamp zip cord and ridiculously priced pieces of wire, we must assume that any differences reported by any reviewer are figments of the reviewer's imagination.

Trust me, the electrons don't know the difference.


Enter your username.
Enter the password that accompanies your username.