Music in the Round #74

It has been a disrupted spring. Late last year, my wife and I committed ourselves to a long-needed renovation of our main living space: an apartment in Manhattan. Articles, books, and TV shows have illuminated the trials and triumphs of home renovation, but as far as I know, none has included a redo of the listening room of an obsessive audiophile, let alone one who is also an audio writer facing copy deadlines.

I'm more than a little lazy, and I had long-delayed much-needed system updates because of all the dreaded effort and disruption. But slowly I began to realize that this was an opportunity to make some long-planned changes in my system without losing the use of it for any longer than the renovation itself would require. I won't go into all the difficulties associated with plastering, painting, refinishing the floor, dealing with workers and contractors, and shopping for furniture. (As I write, the new couches have yet to arrive.) Instead, I'll focus on my list of audio to-dos: updating the AC wiring, replacing the equipment rack and main-channel cables, and shipping off essential components to be updated.

AC power
A separate AC line at the front of my listening room has always been dedicated to the front-channel power amps and subwoofer. The only change needed there was to replace the outlets with Hubbell hospital-grade receptacles. At the back of the room, however, the only power outlet was on a line that I'd thought was shared with two lamp fixtures—but testing revealed that this line is actually shared with the kitchen microwave and a plasma TV in the study, at the other end of the apartment. It was a no-brainer to take this opportunity to add two dedicated 20-amp lines, securely grounded to the building's 1/2" ground rod and fitted with Hubbells. I hoped that this would have a major impact on the sound, and sure enough: Hiss is now almost undetectable, and hum is nonexistent, even when I place an ear next to a speaker. I'm also confident that my system is now isolated from noise created by heavy-duty appliances.

Equipment rack
I'd always hated my equipment rack. When I began writing for Stereophile, in 1996, I replaced a tidy, traditional Target Audio rack with a stack of four double-wide Classic modules from Lovan USA. This gave me the eight component spaces I needed, but I was always unhappy about the crudeness of the Lovans and the flimsiness of their shelves, prompting my ongoing efforts to reinforce and damp them. Replacements had long been overdue, and now that the impending renovation was already dictating the Lovans' disassembly . . .

I set out to find a more accommodating rack to provide a firm but adaptable foundation for all of my components. (Back in the day, who anticipated needing servers and DACs?) Not only that, the new rack would have to look good and not overwhelm the room, which also serves as our living room. Audiophile-grade equipment racks rightly emphasize rigidity, but they're often bulky and not easy to move or reconfigure. After weeks of browsing, online and in stores, I decided on a Synergy system from Salamander Designs. For some years, I've had a tall, narrow Synergy rack in our weekend place, in Connecticut, and it continues to meet my needs there because it allows me to easily reconfigure its shelves whenever I get new equipment in for review.

I used the Design Your Own tool at Salamander's website to design a twin-width S40 Core Module rack, in black finish with aluminum posts ($999), which I customized with two pull-out shelves ($89 each) and six Salamander Robot Feet ($24.75 each), which add 3" to the height. The finished product measures 44.5" wide by 44" high, with spaces for 10+ standard-size components on 9 shelves, not counting the top shelf. I was a bit concerned about rigidity, since my tall, narrow Synergy rack in Connecticut, comprising a 39"-high Extension atop a 21"-high Base Module, is no better than okay in that regard.

I even anticipated adding to the new rack a set of steel cross-braces, but ended up not needing them: With its six substantial pillars of extruded aluminum supporting a lower, wider shape than that of the older Synergy rack, and its six big leveling feet sitting firmly on the reinforced-concrete floor, the new S40 Core Module rack is impressively stiff and rigid. Its fixed top and bottom shelves, and the adjustable ones in between, are deader and heavier than in my older Synergy rack, and the two pull-out shelves make it easier to access connectors. Online I found a clamp-on monitor mount for the LCD screen, which helps keep the top surface clear. As you can see from my photo, it looks good, holds everything, and can accommodate visiting review samples.

Cables
I've often said that I'm not a cable fanatic. I never obsess about alternatives to the cables I'm already using. I need cables only to be well made, and well designed for the task.

But this was the time for change. My new rack is several feet farther away from the power amps and speakers than was the old, and my old interconnects were already at their limits. Moreover, after decades of using only spade-terminated speaker cables snugged up with a trusty binding-post wrench from AudioQuest, I wanted the convenience of banana plugs for swapping out amps and speakers.

I called on Stereophile's former assistant editor, Stephen Mejias, now at AudioQuest, to ask for his suggestions for replacements for AQ's Mont Blanc speaker cables (biwired) and Cheetah interconnects (XLR), which I'd been using for years. At first he offered to loan me several of AQ's top cables to compare, but I didn't want to make this a big project. How about something more modest, with reasonable flexibility? (I hate wrestling with stiff cables.) After a few e-mail exchanges, Stephen arrived laden with three Oak speaker cables with SureGrip BFA/banana connectors ($3040 for an 8' stereo pair; a third cable adds another $1520) and three Earth balanced interconnects fitted with XLRs ($4075 for a 10m stereo pair, plus $2037.50 for the extra single), to swap for what I'd been using. The prices are pretty stiff for a guy who's not particularly interested in cables, but you can't do without cables, and these seemed commensurate with the value of the rest of the system.

AudioQuest's Oak speaker cables are configured for biwiring, with conductors arranged in a complex, double counter-spiral geometry, and insulation to which AQ's 72V (battery-powered) dielectric bias system (DBS) is applied. The split-tube banana contacts, of silver-plated beryllium-copper, fit so tightly into the amp and speaker terminals that I can just barely insert or remove them by hand. The Earth interconnects have conductors of solid perfect-surface copper in individual tubes of fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP), arranged in a triple-balanced geometry; as with the speaker cables, a 72V DBS system is applied to the insulation. The connectors are plugs of high-purity red copper with hanging-silver plating (in which each part is clipped to a hanger and dipped in a silver bath).

ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
jporter's picture

You simply can't feel good about that purchase. I have a feeling that your wife would have many other suggestions for what to with that amount of disposable income (Which you truly disposed of). Here you go. I am sure Stephen will give your money back.

http://www.monoprice.com/Product?c_id=102&cp_id=10239&cs_id=1023901&p_id...

dcolak's picture

Thx, I just bought me a nice cable :)

fetuso's picture

Monoprice made a bi wire configuration of that cable. I currently use their 12 AWG regular cable, but I don't like my banana plugs.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Significantly less than the 2 couches, fwiw.

jporter's picture

Stay away from VIG...You are just paying for the name.

dalethorn's picture

When you have to go extra distance with cables, the need for quality is exponentially greater.

jporter's picture

32 foot runs of what is essentially mic cable. We will just have to agree to disagree.

dalethorn's picture

I can't agree to disagree without knowing all of the technical issues. It seems whenever someone sums up these things in a simplistic way, a whole host of corrupting electrical/electronic influences get glossed over, which just sets the conversation back to square one.

lo fi's picture

I agree with jporter. It's an obscene amount of money to waste on tricked-up wire.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Anyone notice the SOTA Reflex LP Clamp? :-)

dalethorn's picture

No, but that rack looks like a fright. I'd feel like I'm in the exam room with my doctor being anywhere near it. Isn't there a way to spread those components out more, lower the whole thing, put some paint on the shiny parts? But it's probably ideal for testing...

Kal Rubinson's picture

I wanted something as compact but, also, as flexible as possible. Anything that would "spread those components out more, lower the whole thing" would have to be massive and that's what we wanted to avoid. In addition, the height is ideal because I can manage my server with the keyboard, mouse and screen at the appropriate levels. On top of that, we like the styling. ("We" is used explicitly.)

pavru's picture

What is the purpose with this article?

Pavru

Kal Rubinson's picture

So you know where I am coming from.

corrective_unconscious's picture

So you can try to abuse him verbally....

But leave his clock radio out of it, please.

tmsorosk's picture

Nice article and nice setup Kal, thanks for sharing.

Long-time listener's picture

K. Rubinson notes, "The Earths sounded somewhat smoother in the treble, and noticeably more detailed in the midrange and bass."

That's the kind of difference we usually spend thousands to get when we buy DACs, amps, and speakers. If cables can make that kind of difference too, they're worth it--assuming you have the money, as can be said for any other component.

Mr. Rubinson is also odd in being so blase about cables while being so focused on other components. If it makes an audible difference, go for it.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Yes, I am blasé about cables because I think that the differences among (competently made) cables are so small and so context-dependent. It seems reasonable to me to expend my efforts on those things which have a greater and more consistent impact on sound and those are, imho, speakers and room acoustics. Cables are at the other end of the priority list.

Please note that I didn't change my cables until I had to and, likely, will not do so again unless necessary.

lo fi's picture

That's where confirmation bias comes in.

Long-time listener's picture

I agree that confirmation bias is an important concept, and that many similar psychological effects can affect our listening.

An excellent example of confirmation bias would be someone who refuses to hear or claims they can't hear differences between cables that others can hear, thereby confirming (for themselves) their staunch belief that there CANNOT be any difference between cables.

We should also consider differences in listening ability and perceptiveness between individuals. Learning to listen critically takes experience--note the recent experiments with blind testing done by Tyll Hertsens at Inner Fidelity, and the way that some listeners were able to improve their performance with experience. I am someone who has played musical instruments for decades and has had to learn to hear the subtle differences in sound--very subtle--that tell me when a guitar string is exactly in tune at an interval of a fourth above the next lower string, for example. In addition, I've listened critically to stereo equipment for decades. Not everyone has had these experiences, and not everyone has developed the ability to hear--and not everyone cares about--the subtle differences in sound between cables. But there ARE differences. If you can't hear them, or don't care about them, don't accuse others of imagining things by using ideas like "confirmation bias" that apply just as easily to you as to anyone.

lo fi's picture

You acknowledge confirmation bias, however, I find your so called "excellent example" counter-intuitive and implausible. Speaking for myself, I don't set about auditioning and comparing audio gear in the hope of not hearing a difference. On the contrary, I expect to hear differences as I suspect most people do. This is where we become susceptible to confirmation bias which can influence our perception. Blind testing attempts to eliminate that bias.

I've been following Tyll Hertsen's Big Sound 2015 project with interest. I think it's fair to say that the participants have struggled to distinguish between audio components with any consistency during blind testing but for one notable exception. I don't know how they fared with blind testing audio cables or if it was actually conducted. We'll have to wait for Tyll's report to find out.

It's apparent that you are a "cable believer" which is your prerogative. I just don't happen to share your belief based on my own subjective experience and the absence of verified objective evidence. I won't resort to telling you about my "golden ears", or my personal experience with audio in an attempt to add credibility to my posts because I don't consider it relevant to the discussion. I never said that I don't care about audio cables, nor did I accuse anyone of suffering from confirmation bias, I merely introduced it as a possible reason for the kind of claims that I'm seeing here.

Getting personal and making the same assertion repeatedly won't win you an argument.

Long-time listener's picture

My intent was not to "get personal" in the way you suggest. But really, if you're going to imply that a psychological effect such as confirmation bias applies to cable believers, but that when applied to you, it is suddenly rendered "counter-intuitive and implausible," what can I say? What can anyone say to such incredible, blind subjectivity? The examples of humans being blind to their own psychological faults, while pointing them out in others, has been the stuff of classic comedy throughout the ages. The immortals in Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream," locked in their own romantic follies, observe the same romantic entanglements on the part of their mortal counterparts with the comment "Lord what fools these mortals be."

And further, personal experience and learned listening skills are absolutely relevant. Recently it's been postulated that it may require as much as 10,000 hours of experience to become proficient in many professional fields, and there's no reason to assume any differently in the audio field. For myself, I have relatively little aptitude for chess playing, for example, despite a mild interest in it, and 10,000 hours at best would make me no better than an average player. The assumption that everyone has an equal capacity to become a great chess player, or even a good one, is just as far-fetched as the idea that everyone can become an equally skilled listener--human aptitudes vary with the individual. And if I recall, Tyll's tests--with only three or four listeners so far--have turned up one person that achieved statistically significant results, and another who, after one day of learning and practice with no significant results, returned and did so on the second day (I'm relying on memory here). So those people had some fundamental aptitude combined with some degree of development of those aptitudes already in place. The point is that some people, at least, if not all, are capable of achieving statistically significant results on blind listening tests.

I guess we can start to make a list of psychological blind spots and fallacies that affect "cable deniers," so that we can trot them out just like they trot out "confirmation bias." First, cable deniers seem to believe that aptitude and training matter in any other area, but not when it comes to listening. Apparently we are all born with the ability to be superlative critical listeners, regardless of aptitude or training. Second, no cable affects the signal it conducts in any way (despite experimental proof to the contrary, including in the audio frequency band). Despite the fact that waves are affected by the mediums through which they travel, all physical cables nevertheless have achieved the level of theoretically perfect conductors, regardless of materials or construction. Yet further, despite this, they CAN be different, since some can "degrade" the signal, though none can improve a signal (although one that degrades a signal less might seem an improvement over one that does so more). etc., etc.

lo fi's picture

You've been admonishing people who do not share your belief throughout this thread. And this disagreement is becoming increasingly frustrating because you appear to be deliberately misconstruing what I am saying to suit your purposes.

Your example of confirmation bias is counter-intuitive because the phenomenon is usually associated with the reinforcement of positive rather than negative expectations. I am not suggesting for a moment that this only applies to audiophiles and to those audiophiles in particular who believe that audio cables do sound different - it can apply to us all. As I have already said, although I try to approach auditioning and comparing audio components with an open mind, I suspect that I am susceptible to confirmation bias on some psychological level despite my best efforts. That bias being that I expect to hear a difference.

I think we can assume that we are participating in this Stereophile thread because of a shared interest in audio. However, whatever impressive listening skills and extensive experience we bring to this argument is indeed irrelevant. This argument has not been about that and I won't be drawn into a "pissing contest" with you over it.

Further to your further points, you are again making more wild assumptions about those who do not share your belief in audio cables. I don't think anyone here, myself included, has suggested that people are incapable of learning new skills and of learning specific skills that would enhance their chances of passing a specific test. It should go without saying that of course we are capable of doing that. However, I caution you against jumping to hasty conclusions about Tyll's blind tests (of a statistically small sample group) before he actually reveals them.

As far as the "cable deniers" go, I tend to take the view that the onus of proof lies with the "cable believers" because they're the ones making the questionable claims. And that applies to your cable techno-babble which sounds like marketing blurb from an audio cable manufacturer's website. I again ask what any of that has to do with your belief that audio cables do sound different and can you provide any objective proof in support of your subjective claims? Therein lies the rub - for you.

Long-time listener's picture

Well, sorry. Most of my own comments have been misconstrued here--usually deliberately, and usually drenched in sarcasm. I keep trying to return to simple, fundamental points, without deliberately misconstruing those made by others, but can't help getting angry at snide terms like "golden ears" tossed my way when I'm simply making, again, a simple and fundamental point. Why wouldn't listening skills vary between individuals, as do all other skills? Why wouldn't training make a difference? Two people standing in front of an oil painting will both see it, if both are sighted. But only an oil painter with years of experience will be able to distinguish which blue pigments are Prussian blue, or manganese phtalo blue, or cerulean blue. Will you toss out the term "golden eyes" to belittle him if he claims he can distinguish those hues--when the difference between them might be meaningless to you? Or tell him not to engage in a pissing contest? Or tell him his knowledge or perceptions are irrelevant?

lo fi's picture

Well, I absolutely deny having misconstrued your comments in any way so that's something else we can disagree about.

So who's the subjectivist now? Look at you abandoning your "simple physics" for painting analogies straight from the subjectivist's playbook to argue that we all have different levels of ability, skill, experience and sensory perception. What will you think of next?

It's a convenient but ultimately unconvincing counter argument I'm afraid because it is, well, an analogy, which is an approximation. Besides, standardised eye and hearing tests have been around for quite some time. I imagine that hearing tests could be quite the reality check for ageing audiophiles who claim that they can hear differences between cables. ;)

Long-time listener's picture

What I said was, "Well, sorry. Most of my own comments have been misconstrued here..." By "here" I obviously meant "here" on this site, and wasn't referring strictly to your most recent post, but posts by others as well. Once again, you fail to even read what people wrote, or can't read very well, I'm not sure which (maybe an eye test is in order?), and then fail to respond to what people actually write, and that's the problem with trying to communicate *here*. So you too are clearly also just responding to whatever you want to and whatever suits your purpose.

The claim that a physical conductor is not a theoretically perfect conductor is not pseudo-science.

Analogies are, yes, just analogies, as everyone knows. But they're sometimes useful in trying to ascertain whether or not someone simply misunderstood what was said, or whether, in your case, they simply can't read very well.

lo fi's picture

Given that you were replying to my post and made no effort to clarify what you wrote until now, I think my response was warranted.

When I asked what you would think of next, I wasn't expecting a tortuous exercise in dodgy semantics and childish taunts. I've endeavoured to respond comprehensively to your posts, but if you could highlight the points that you think I have failed to read and respond to, I will try to address them.

I have no idea what this theoretically perfect conductor that you keep referring to has to do with your real world claims. Could you please explain the connection as it eludes me.

Analogies are a poor substitute for facts when you're trying to prove a point, which I assume is what you've been attempting to do "here". By the way, what exactly is your point? Do you still have one or are you just interested in arguing for argument's sake?

Long-time listener's picture

"... if you could highlight the points that you think I have failed to read and respond to, I will try to address them..."

Well, first of all, you apparently don't understand the difference between "hearing ability" and "listening ability," either due to poor English skills or poor conceptual thinking. The painting analogy was intended to clarify that, but you were only interested in responding with "childish taunts" and irrelevant comments about hearing tests. I didn't start the sarcasm and insults here, but I'll give as good as I get.

I'm going to assume you won't understand the other points any better.

I have an idea. People who believe that cables make no difference can use steel pipe of various gauges for interconnects and speaker cables--probably can be found very cheap as scrap. It'll look really cool in a steam-punk kind of way, and you can laugh at the "cable believers" who spend more. Unless you think that steel might not sound so good, except that you've already made it clear that it makes no difference what the conductor is, they all sound EXACTLY the same...

lo fi's picture

Notwithstanding your utter failure to respond to fundamental questions that I have repeatedly asked of you, I have already addressed that point and your analogy in my previous posts. I suggest that you read over them before firing off yet another post in which you bring nothing new or relevant to the discussion.

That said, I feel compelled to drive the point home so that you are left with no room for doubt, while reassuring you that my English comprehension skills and "conceptual thinking" are up to snuff. Your point that we have the capability to develop and hone specific skills such as critical listening (I prefer that term to "listening ability") is not in dispute, as you would have seen in one of my previous posts had you cared to look. Hearing ability (that is one's ability to hear) can vary from person to person and diminishes with age as we know. That too, is not in dispute.

Regardless of the state of our hearing acuity or how developed our critical listening skills are, we cannot hear differences in sound that are not actually there. However, controlled testing has demonstrated that we are prone to fooling ourselves into thinking that we are hearing them. We are adept at filling gaps in audio information. This ability can be traced back to a time when our sense of hearing had more to do with our daily survival than comparing audio cables.

It is erroneous to think that our hearing is linear and precise in nature - it is not. (It is also why in an ideal world, we would match the volume levels of audio components when comparing and evaluating them to ensure that we are giving them a fair hearing.) Our hearing in conjunction with our audio memory is unreliable, and that's not even taking confirmation bias into account. This is where standardised testing performed in a controlled environment keeps us honest, regardless of how well we think we can hear and our critical listening experience. Simply put, we shouldn't trust our own ears as much as we do.

With regard to your painting analogy, again it is not in dispute that an artist's eye is capable of distinguishing subtle changes in hue that the untrained eye might miss, but those colors must be there in the first place. I understand that the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue Color Vision Test is a standardised test that is used to test a person's ability (or acquired skill) in that area.

This again brings us back to the fundamental point that you have failed to address from the outset. There is no proof to support your claim that audio cables do sound different as far as I am aware. Until your claim is verified by objective testing in a controlled environment, it is fanciful to expect me (or any other rational being for that matter) to accept it on faith alone, especially when my subjective experience contrasts with your own.

Your personal insults and artless attempt at sarcasm really didn't warrant a reply but there you have it. Now I think we're done here.

PS For what it's worth, I am about to buy an AudioQuest RCA interconnect cable. I chose this cable over similar products from other cable manufacturers based on its form factor and price. So I do think about my cable choices. The cable's "sound" however, was not a consideration in the decision making process, which should come as no surprise to you. ;)

Long-time listener's picture

"Notwithstanding your utter failure to respond to fundamental questions that I have repeatedly asked of you..."

Well, I certainly am sorry about my "utter failure." If I missed something important, too bad, but you yourself seem to have a habit of skipping over important parts of my posts that you don't want to respond to. You're all for science, but I quoted a study showing that high frequencies are attenuated, and you dismiss what I say as "pseudo-science" so you can maintain your biases.

"Our hearing in conjunction with our audio memory is unreliable,..."

This represents a misunderstanding, not so much about hearing, but about memory. And it's nonsense. If our hearing, in conjunction with our audio memories, is so unreliable, then why am I able to identify the voice of a friend that I haven't heard for three years, over a poor phone connection, within a couple seconds, before he's identified himself? Because it isn't necessary to have the aural equivalent of perfect eidetic memory to make the distinctions necessary for hearing comparisons. Our memories don't work that way, nor do they need to. They work by characterizing certain salient features and creating an overall impression based on them that can be used to make useful and accurate distinctions. If you claim that perfect aural memory is necessary for listening tests, then even blind tests will not be useful.

"...and that's not even taking confirmation bias into account."

And you don't understand confirmation bias very well (when it exists, it tends to confirm "any" expectation). I have several different types of cables for both my portable setup and my home stereo. Where exactly is the bias that is being confirmed? If my bias was in favor of my most expensive cable--and heavy expectations should attach to heavy financial outlays--then I would like the Siltech one best. I don't (although it has its strong points, and I might prefer it in another system, since it has its own sound signature). If it was in favor of my most visually attractive cable, it would again be the Siltech. It's not. If my bias was created by manufacturer hype, it would again be Siltech. Etc., etc., etc. In fact I have an Ortofon cable that I like better--because it simply sounds different, and in my particular system, better. It's imported from Japan, and I don't read Japanese, so I can't respond to manufacturer hype. It's less expensive, so no bias there. It's also less visually attractive. Nevertheless, it sounds slightly better. Despite the complete lack of any bias on my part in favor of the Ortofon (I'm actually very biased in favor of the Siltech; I still very much wish it sounded better, for all the reasons mentioned above), I'm sure you will make something up, something to which you hope you can attribute bias, and then tell me that it certainly must be happening, because you have the need to believe it is. But it's not.

"...especially when my subjective experience contrasts with your own."

I thought you wanted to leave subjectivity out of it?

"PS For what it's worth, I am about to buy an AudioQuest RCA interconnect cable. I chose this cable over similar products from other cable manufacturers based on its form factor and price."

Yeah, right. You can get equal form factor, and better price, by soldering some second-hand steel cable to RCA connectors. Once again (speaking of not responding to what others write), you got something against steel as a conductor for audio purposes?

I'm so tired of this, and I really don't want to respond any further. I don't care if you hear can differences or not, or if you want to or not. Despite your claims of scientific objectivity, you pick and choose whatever evidence you want to support your own biases, while claiming--without proof or even any grounds for supposition--that biases must surely exist on the part of others.

Happy listening.

lo fi's picture

Persistence has actually paid off in this instance. I originally tried to reply to your post a couple of nights ago but technical problems with this website frustrated my attempts. So I elected to post it as a new post which placed it at the end of this thread where you might have missed it. Fortunately, I am no longer encountering that problem and have been able to post it here as originally intended. :)

Now in response to your points:

"If I missed something important, too bad, but you yourself seem to have a habit of skipping over important parts of my posts that you don't want to respond to. You're all for science, but I quoted a study showing that high frequencies are attenuated, and you dismiss what I say as "pseudo-science" so you can maintain your biases."

You are wrong. I have responded to every claim and point that you have made in your posts (repeatedly in some instances). I again refer you to my posts and invite you to cite one example where I have not. This contrasts with your own selective efforts and litany of misrepresentations. The study that you have cited again is but one example.

Here is your post:

p.s. from Brandeis University, "On Transmission Line Analysis"
Submitted by Long-time listener on September 21, 2015 - 3:17am
"A quote: "According to our analysis, higher-frequency signals propagate more quickly down real transmission lines than low-frequency signals. BUT HIGH FREQUENCY SIGNALS ARE ATTENUATED MORE QUICKLY. [my emphasis] A 100-m length of RG58/U cable will attenuate the amplitude of a 1-GHz signal by 55 dB. A 1-kHz signal, meanwhile, will be attenuated by only 0.10 dB. The 1-GHz signal will get to the end of the cable in 500 ns, but it will be almost six hundred times smaller in amplitude."

And here is my reply:

With respect Long-time listener...
Submitted by lo fi on September 21, 2015 - 6:02am
what does that have to do with the claim that different audio cables do sound different?

Not only have you failed to respond to my question, you have also wrongly accused me of dismissing your example as "pseudo-science". Your penchant for making erroneous assumptions, false accusations and deliberately misconstruing what I and others have posted here, undermines your credibility.

When I referred to audio memory, I did so in the context of critical listening or "listening ability" as you described it. Need I remind you that you were emphasising the importance of "listening ability" in defence of your claim that cables do sound different? Listening for subtle differences in sound between, say, audio cables for example, is infinitely more challenging than remembering the familiar voice of a friend over a crackling telephone line. Part of the challenge of comparing audio components in a blind test, is to be able to switch between them quickly enough so that the participants can remember what they have just heard, in order to compare it to what they are about to hear. Contrary to your assertion, this is precisely because our audio memory is notoriously unreliable.

"And you don't understand confirmation bias very well (when it exists, it tends to confirm "any" expectation)."

Well this is breathtaking given that your misunderstanding of the term was apparent in the implausible example that you gave in an earlier post. With regard to your own subjective cable experience, try to understand that your bias doesn't have to be based on an expectaton that one cable will sound better or worse than the other. Your bias need only be that you expect to hear a difference between them. The best chance of eliminating this bias from your perception, is for you to undertake a blind test in which you cannot visually identify the cables that you are comparing.

"I thought you wanted to leave subjectivity out of it?"

No, I never said or implied that. It was you who bizarrely accused me of making subjective claims. I again refer you to my posts and invite you to cite one example where I have blurred the distinction between objective evidence and subjective experience, including my own. However, it is patently obvious from your posts that you confuse them.

"Yeah, right. You can get equal form factor, and better price, by soldering some second-hand steel cable to RCA connectors. Once again (speaking of not responding to what others write), you got something against steel as a conductor for audio purposes?"

Wrong again. I dismissed your "second-hand steel cable" comment in my previous post as an "artless attempt at sarcasm". ;) That said, the AudioQuest cable's form factor suits my purpose very well and will look better than anything that I could put together. And no, I don't have anything against steel or any other material being used as a conductor in an audio cable if it's suitable for that purpose.

I want to take this opportunity to correct another of your misconceptions. I am not "all for science", nor have I claimed to be scientifically objective - I'm not even a scientist. But I make no apology for bringing a healthy scepticism to this topic of discussion for the reasons that I have given. And accusing me of bias for not taking your subjective claims about cables at face value is laughable, when your own blatant bias has been on display from the outset.

As I said in an earlier reply to one of your posts, avoiding confusing subjective claims with objective facts might go some way to reducing the perpetuation of audiophile myths, which appear rife to me. Beliefs don't require supporting evidence but factual claims do. Your claim that cables do sound different remains a belief (at least for now).

I sincerely hope that you won't be responding again because it's been a "testing" exercise replying to your posts which are frankly, "all over the shop".

Enjoy listening to your cables. ;)

Long-time listener's picture

"You are wrong. I have responded to every claim and point that you have made ..."
Sorry, dismissing a serious comment about why steel cables wouldn't be good in an audio setting as "sarcasm" doesn't count as responding, so please cut out the self-righteousness. The point is, steel is more elastic than copper, and so would be more durable, and clearly better in that respect; and if, as you claim, there's no difference in sound WHATSOEVER between different conductors, it's surprising no one has found steel suitable for audio purposes. Could it be that, being a very poor conductor relative to copper and silver, steel cables simply don't sound as good? You say you have no objection to using them "if they're suitable," but you have now twice ducked the question of why they wouldn't be suitable—-another typically lame response from you.

And that, I think, characterizes all of your responses.

"Part of the challenge of comparing audio components in a blind test, is to be able to switch between them quickly enough so that the participants can remember what they have just heard, in order to compare it to what they are about to hear. Contrary to your assertion, this is precisely because our audio memory is notoriously unreliable."

Once again, audio memory is NOT unreliable. We simply note salient characteristics—brightness, hardness, muddiness, snappy transients, or whatever—and compare the second component to see if it has those characteristics or not. Perfect memory is not required; all we have to do is characterize the sound adequately to ourselves. Regardless of the differences between human voices, is something other than audio memory involved in remembering and recognizing the voice of a friend I hadn't heard for THREE YEARS within seconds (this actually happened once)? Your repeated insistence isn't enough to prove that my audio memory is faulty and unreliable.

"Your bias need only be that you expect to hear a difference between them. The best chance of eliminating this bias from your perception, is for you to undertake a blind test in which you cannot visually identify the cables that you are comparing."

As I said, expectation is all that counts. But being unable to identify which one I'm listening to—how would that remove the bias of expecting to hear differences? It only removes my ability to identify which one I'm hearing at any given moment, not the expectation that it will be different from the other one. Some pretty sharp, "objective" thinking there dude.

"Beliefs don't require supporting evidence but factual claims do. Your claim that cables do sound different remains a belief (for now)."

I'm not aware of studies that have been large enough in scale to be conclusive one way or the other. So your belief is also just a belief.

Despite the lack objective, conclusive large-scale studies, there is massive experiential evidence. Isn't it at all surprising to you that most of the thousands and thousands of listeners who have compared, for example, copper interconnects with silver interconnects, consistently report the same responses? Is it possible that somehow, decades ago, some one listener decided that copper ones were warm and full-bodied, with less detailed highs, and that silver ones were more detailed and transparent, with more extended highs, but sometimes tended to be bright, hard, or less "forgiving"? And that all those other thousands of listeners were somehow aware of his conclusions (even before the Internet) and fell in line with them through the power of suggestion (with no contrarians among them, as we would expect there to be)? There is massive evidence of these responses; as I said, just do a Google search.

No one asks me to do a blind test, or requires it, in order to believe I'm hearing legitimate differences between speakers. If I can just as easily hear differences between cables--and the difference between copper and silver is equally apparent--that should be equally persuasive. I myself haven't abdicated my own sense of personal integrity to the extent of denying what I myself can clearly hear, just because someone tells me they can't prove to me what I'm hearing. If you can't hear any differences, fine, you can use lamp cord. It's behind your components where you can't see it anyway.

lo fi's picture

This is the second time that you've exiled yourself from this thread only to return. I really do wish that you would make good on your threat because this exchange has deteriorated from tiresome to pointless. The only reason I continue to participate in this circular argument with you, is to keep you honest by holding you to account for your misrepresentations of my responses to your posts, which continues unabated.

In response to your points:

"Sorry, dismissing a serious comment about why steel cables wouldn't be good in an audio setting as "sarcasm" doesn't count as responding, so please cut out the self-righteousness. The point is, steel is more elastic than copper, and so would be more durable, and clearly better in that respect; and if, as you claim, there's no difference in sound WHATSOEVER between different conductors, it's surprising no one has found steel suitable for audio purposes. Could it be that, being a very poor conductor relative to copper and silver, steel cables simply don't sound as good? You say you have no objection to using them "if they're suitable," but you have now twice ducked the question of why they wouldn't be suitable—-another typically lame response from you."

I must say that you're hypocrisy knows no bounds. I can hardly believe that you are trying to gain the high moral ground here while continuing to ignore the questions that I have asked of you. As I said previously, your question about steel cable was really a rant that didn't warrant a response but I responded to it anyway. So please drop the pathetic faux indignation because you really don't have a high horse to sit on. I repeat again that I have responded to every point that you have raised and claim that you have made during the course of our exchange, and I again invite you to provide me with a single example where I have not.

I could again refer you to what I have written in my posts but that clearly is having no impact on your behaviour so I will correct you once again. Here is another of your misrepresentations: "and if, as you claim, there's no difference in sound WHATSOEVER between different conductors". I have not claimed that. What I have said repeatedly in my responses to your posts is that there is no objective evidence to support your claim that audio cables do sound different, and this aligns with my own subjective experience. Is that really so hard for you to comprehend?

You are even incorrect about what you actually wrote in your own post. You never asked me why steel cables wouldn't be suitable for use as an audio cable, so your claim that I have "twice ducked the question" is yet another of your fictions. Please at least try and get your own facts straight. As I said in my answer to the question that you actually asked which was "...you got something against steel as a conductor for audio purposes?", I really don't care what conductive material is used in an audio cable as long as it is suitable for that purpose. I'll leave the decision as to what is or isn't a suitable conductive material to the audio cable manufacturers because that's their area of expertise. I don't know about you, but I think it's perfectly reasonable to assume that when I buy an audio cable, it's going to be made out of material that is suitable for the purpose of transmitting sound. I mean seriously, you really are grasping at straws here.

"Once again, audio memory is NOT unreliable. We simply note salient characteristics—brightness, hardness, muddiness, snappy transients, or whatever—and compare the second component to see if it has those characteristics or not. Perfect memory is not required; all we have to do is characterize the sound adequately to ourselves. Regardless of the differences between human voices, is something other than audio memory involved in remembering and recognizing the voice of a friend I hadn't heard for THREE YEARS within seconds (this actually happened once)? Your repeated insistence isn't enough to prove that my audio memory is faulty and unreliable."

And once again you are mistaken. Rather than reiterate my point, I suggest that you become informed by reading up on blind testing of audio components. A Google search will get you started. Hopefully, this will help you to understand that audio memory has been shown to be far from perfect and quite fallible, when subjected to blind testing in a controlled environment. And hopefully, it will also become apparent to you that your example really isn't comparable.

"As I said, expectation is all that counts. But being unable to identify which one I'm listening to—how would that remove the bias of expecting to hear differences? It only removes my ability to identify which one I'm hearing at any given moment, not the expectation that it will be different from the other one. Some pretty sharp, "objective" thinking there dude."

Again, if you read my post more carefully you might not have overlooked that I actually wrote "The best chance of eliminating this bias from your perception, is for you to undertake a blind test in which you cannot visually identify the cables that you are comparing." Is this approach perfect? No. Is there potential for someone like you who fervently believes that he can hear differences between audio cables to return a false-positive result? Yes, absolutely in your case. Do the researchers make allowances for these anomalies in their testing procedures? Yes. Is it statistically significant? Probably not. Is it a far more rigorous, objective and better approach to testing the veracity of subjective claims such as yours about cables, than relying on you swapping them over yourself and confirming that you really do hear a difference? Yes, of course it is. This kind of scientific testing is not new. Similar approaches utilising placebos are conducted in trials to test the efficacy of new drugs for example. Do you seriously think that the possibility of confirmation or expectation bias, is somehow uniquely limited to participants involved in the blind testing of audio components? If so, you might want to reconsider popping your next pill, "dude".

"I'm not aware of studies that have been large enough in scale to be conclusive one way or the other. So your belief is also just a belief."

Well your ignorance is no excuse, but be assured that there is no objective proof or evidence to support your belief that cables do sound different. The other salient point that I again bring to your attention is that you are the one who is making this claim, and the burden of proof rests with you.

"Despite the lack objective, conclusive large-scale studies, there is massive experiential evidence. Isn't it at all surprising to you that most of the thousands and thousands of listeners who have compared, for example, copper interconnects with silver interconnects, consistently report the same responses? Is it possible that somehow, decades ago, some one listener decided that copper ones were warm and full-bodied, with less detailed highs, and that silver ones were more detailed and transparent, with more extended highs, but sometimes tended to be bright, hard, or less "forgiving"? And that all those other thousands of listeners were somehow aware of his conclusions (even before the Internet) and fell in line with them through the power of suggestion (with no contrarians among them, as we would expect there to be)? There is massive evidence of these responses; as I said, just do a Google search."

Well you've contradicted yourself here, but I welcome your concession that there is a lack of objective evidence to support your claim that cables do sound different. It's an inconvenient truth for you, and referring to random subjective audiophile impressions that you have gathered from online audiophile fora and grandly calling it "massive experiential evidence", will not erase it. I read them too, and for every person who claims that he can hear a difference between audio cables, there is another who says that he cannot. You tried this in a previous post and it still doesn't stand up to basic scrutiny. It's not even a survey of anecdotal evidence. It's just more conjecture and romantic audiophile notions from you.

"No one asks me to do a blind test, or requires it, in order to believe I'm hearing legitimate differences between speakers. If I can just as easily hear differences between cables--and the difference between copper and silver is equally apparent--that should be equally persuasive. I myself haven't abdicated my own sense of personal integrity to the extent of denying what I myself can clearly hear, just because someone tells me they can't prove to me what I'm hearing. If you can't hear any differences, fine, you can use lamp cord. It's behind your components where you can't see it anyway."

That's a fatally flawed analogy and I'm surprised that you've resorted to using it. Have you ever seen an argument anywhere in your interweb travels over whether or not people can hear differences between loudspeakers? I know that I haven't and I very much doubt that you have. That's because differences in sound between loudspeakers are self-evident and therefore not in dispute. These differences are apparent subjectively and confirmed objectively by measurements. However, the same cannot be said for audio cables; hence this disagreement. And there you go again making this discussion about you. All I'll say about that is if you are seriously suggesting that you can hear differences between cables as easily as you can between loudspeakers, then your integrity is very much in question because that sounds like absolute bs to me. I trust that even you can appreciate how ridiculous your lamp example is, and that's why I won't be responding to it.

Long-time listener's picture

And by the way, here's an example of what I'm talking about--a consistent, repeatable, audible difference that can be heard either blind or sighted.

Listening to track 8 on "Summvs" by Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto, there is a subtle background instrumental sound with mostly mid- and high-frequency content. Using my Ortofon copper cables (high purity copper with conductors of two different diameters), it can just barely be heard, and is sometimes almost inaudible. Sound emphasizes the midrange. Switching to the Ortofon silver cables (same construction), that sound becomes more audible, and midrange emphasis is lessened. Switching to the Siltech (a silver-gold alloy, with small amounts of gold), it becomes even more audible and distinct, and better separated from the other sounds, though this cable is the "leanest" sounding of the three. The differences are quite simply very audible, and have been consistent no matter how many times I listen (and no matter how many times I really, really wish that I could hear it better on the Ortofon silver cable, since that is the cable whose overall sound I like best). I'm willing to bet a large sum of money that I could successfully identify the differences between the silver and copper cables in any kind of blind test you want to set up. Cables DO have different sounds; the idea that different types of conductors with different physical and conductive properties WOULDN'T sound different is what is "bizarre"--since you like to use that word. The Brandeis University study quote was simply to point out, first of all, that physical conductors are not theoretically perfect conductors--that is, they affect the signal passing through them. It's basic physics, as Kalman Rubinson acknowledged. The corollary of that is that different conductors will affect the signal differently. Signal levels matter too, and I suspect--but don't know--that interconnects, passing signals much lower in level, will affect the sound more than speaker cables.

lo fi's picture

Thank you for sharing your cable impressions. I don't doubt your sincerity but as you must know by now, I remain sceptical of them for the reasons that I have given. I encourage you to put your critical listening skills to the test by seeking out and participating in a blind test of audio cables if you can.

I understand what the Brandeis University quote means, but did the study test its hypothesis or proof on audio cables and if so, did it establish that they do indeed sound different as a consequence, or are you extrapolating here?

I'm sorry if this sounds harsh but if you can't bring anything new in the way of objective evidence to support your claim, then I would like to end our exchange now. It's gone on for far too long as it is.

Long-time listener's picture

A physicist responds to the following comment on cables: "therefore, if you can't measure frequency response differences between one cable or another, then it's clear one is not "brighter" than the other. it must all be in your head. and whether you like it or not, psychoacoustics is a proven phenomenom."

His response:

I'm afraid that's nonsense. "Brightness" does not equal a change in frequency response, it is one of the hardest to quantify qualities. "Brightness" can have a lot more to do with timbre than frequency. If you want an example, take helium. It is a fallacy that helium changes the frequency of the human voice. The frequency of a person's voice on helium is almost exactly the same as without helium. The apparent change in pitch is not due to a frequency change. And yet you hear a completely different pitch. The shape of the wave causes it, the number of harmonics which changes the wave form. Look up Fourier transforms if you want to know more.

In short, "brightness" is about the most difficult to quantify quality of a sound, and it is certainly not close to good enough to look only at frequency response.

If you want a bit more detail here it is. The human voice box when creating sound is an example of a forced damped harmonic oscillator, similar to a spring holding a weight while a motor drives the system where there is air resistance. This type of system is governed by a type of equation called a second order differential equation. Remarkably, the same type of equation governs electrical systems known as LCR (standing for inductor-capacitor-resistor) circuits when driven by an AC current (just google comparison between LCR circuit and forced damped harmonic oscillators, it won't take long to find a proof of this). Electrical cables have long been known to act with capacitance, inductance and resistance. They are therefore LCR circuits. When you apply an audio signal, you have your AC current driver. So, mathematically electrical cables are startlingly similar to the human voice box. ****When a change in medium causes such a difference in the voice box, it would be foolish to think the same wasn't true of an LCR circuit.**** (THIS IS THE POINT I'VE BEEN MAKING ALL ALONG, NOW SUPPORTED BY A PHYSICIST--THAT THE MEDIUM OF CONDUCTION AFFECTS THE SIGNAL IN AUDIBLE WAYS.) Particularly as changing the medium in the voice box only really effects the damping factor, while the material of the cable effects all three of the main parameters in the electrical system.

So there you have it--evidence of a physical basis for differences in sound between cables. OBJECTIVE evidence. Well, as is your habit, I'm sure you'll label this informed response from a physicist "pseudo-science," or dismiss it some other way so that you can maintain your beliefs. Jeez, there's no talking to some people.

lo fi's picture

I'll deal with your last point first. It's exhausting having to respond to your constant misrepresentations of my position on this topic, but I will press on. You are the believer and the one who is making the claims here, and I am sceptical of them. I wish you could try to understand that much at least. That doesn't mean that I am dogmatic about it. I am open to the possibility that audio cables might sound different, but this will require objective evidence or proof for me to be convinced.

Your posts have been short on that but big on subjective claims. While the quote from the Brandeis University study that you keep citing might very well be "basic physics", it does not state or even imply a link to your claim that audio cables do sound different. I strongly suspect that it is you who has made this link rather than the scientists, and you've run with it.

I'm sorry if you find my counter arguments inconvenient, but if you're going to make questionable claims in the comments section of an internet publication, then you should expect to be challenged. Alternatively, you could go preach to the converted or have a conversation with yourself.

However, the latest quote that you have provided looks more promising. So if you could provide me with the name of the physicist and the source of the quote, then I will investigate further and report back.

Long-time listener's picture

"Reading your latest example, you appear to be doing the same thing here that you did with the quote from the Brandeis University study. That is, creating a link between the example and your claim that isn't apparent."

You need to read it again: Once again you are trying to weasel out of having to accept clear reasoning and arguments so you can maintain your skepticism. It is the physicist who makes the direct link, not me, and he does so by citing the physical and mathematical reasons why we SHOULD ASSUME that cables will sound different. If physics and math are not objective enough for you, I'm not sure what would be; your "skepticism" here is in fact taking on the characteristics of belief. His comment, that "when a change in medium causes such a difference in the voice box, it would be foolish to think the same wasn't true of an LCR circuit," mirrors exactly my claim that it would be bizarre to imagine that cables DON't affect sound, since signals are always affected by the medium of their transmission. You can be as skeptical as it pleases you to be, but physics objectively backs up the assumption that there WILL be differences. It is your skepticism of this idea that is now shown to have no basis in physics.

Long-time listener's picture

If I may, I would like to clarify the ideas I've mentioned about memory and blind testing. Blind testing has its own flaws. Most participants take part in small group experiments, and most of them are not listening to their own systems, and are usually listening to unfamiliar music as well. They don't have time to become intimately familiar with the sound of the music, the system, or the cables, and therefore can't make clear distinctions when called upon to do so. The example about recognizing a very familiar voice after a long interval was germane in that respect. We actually don't have very good visual memory either, even though sight is often considered a more primary sense than hearing. I can't remember the face of my girlfriend well enough to draw a good sketch from memory, for example, or to verbally guide someone else to do so. The visual cues that allow me to recognize her aren't always available consciously (in my conscious memory) to that extent. But put her in a group of other girls, even if chosen from around the world to look as much like her as possible, and I will certainly not pick the wrong girl. I don't have to refer to a photograph and then switch as quickly as possible to looking at the real thing (as people who conduct blind tests believe we have to do—switching between sources as quickly as possible). That is because even very, very incomplete memory--and our immediately, consciously available memory is very, very incomplete--can still serve as an accurate guide—it does so because we rely on certain salient, specific, and memorable features through which we sufficiently characterize our subject to allow us to make the necessary distinctions. I'm very familiar with the sound of my system and certain pieces of music, too. I have built up a memory map, a characterization of the system, based on features such as the relative amounts of bass and treble, its level of detail, etc., etc. If the cables are changed, I'll recognize immediately that there's been a change—sighted OR blind. But put me in a normal blind listening test—under the conditions described above—and it becomes more questionable. Blind listening tests may remove certain possibilities for bias or error, but they introduce new variables that themselves can render the subjects' normal listening and discriminatory abilities ineffective. The intense focus--and the immediate switching between sources that is believed necessary in blind listening--I believe actually interfere with our ability to characterize the system's (or the cable's) sound as we would under normal conditions. We therefore don't have an adequate memory map for making the distinctions. Like a magician who intentionally causes his audience to commit errors of attention--focusing on the wrong thing--I believe that blind listening, unintentionally, does something similar. Further, it asks us to remember a lot--much more than we can accurately remember--in a very short period of time, whereas normally our auditory memory of our system, and the music and cables, would be built up slowly, over months of relaxed listening.

lo fi's picture

Would you please stop making ridiculous accusations. I am not trying to weasel out of anything. As I told you in a previous post, I am not a scientist. It follows then that I am not a physicist either. I did read over your post a few moments ago and realised that I had confused your content with that of the unnamed physicist. I amended my post accordingly but you had already posted your reply. However, I don't accept your enthusiastic interpretation of his response that we "SHOULD ASSUME that cables will sound different". You're extrapolating wildly again there.

So if you would provide me with the name of the physicist and the source of the quote, then I will follow up and get back to you. However, you cannot expect me to accept what you have provided as evidence until I have the opportunity to read his quote in context for myself.

Long-time listener's picture

"I don't accept your enthusiastic interpretation of his response that we "SHOULD ASSUME that cables will sound different". You're extrapolating wildly again there."

I'm not extrapolating, wildly or otherwise; I'm simply paraphrasing his own quite clear and direct comments, in which, among other things, he said it was nonsense to think that people who hear differences were just imagining them.

Oh, I'm sure you'll get back to me all right--after you've searched for niggling, unimportant, off-topic phrases that you can claim show evidence of contradiction, etc., etc., etc., while ignoring the main point, etc., etc., etc.

Rather than arguing a lost cause, since physics is on my side, you'll be better off at this point to spend your time researching what kind of cables will optimize the sound of your system. Hints: If you want warm and forgiving, go for copper; if you want more transparent and detailed, though possibly slightly unforgiving, go for silver.

Can't waste any more of my time on this. Cheers...

lo fi's picture

Were you paraphrasing or quoting this physicist who shall remain nameless? This is an important distinction and goes to the credibility of your post. So which was it, and why haven't you disclosed his name and the source of this information? Unless you can meet these minimum requirements, then I'm afraid that neither physics or credibility is on your side.

And thanks for the unsolicited cable advice but I'm good. I believe that my audio cable and interconnects are all made from copper wire. Silver-plated copper wire seemed like an extravagance to me.

Third time's a charm as they say so all the best for your latest departure.

Long-time listener's picture

As I told you in my first post, that was a quote from the physicist.

As I told you in my second post, the phrase "Should assume" etc. was a paraphrase.

Do you really not understand English, or do you just live to argue and annoy people? You're clearly not reading to try to understand what I'm saying, but to pick out words and phrases you can argue with. An indication of your character.

lo fi's picture

I understand English perfectly well thanks and acknowledged my misunderstanding in an earlier post. Misunderstandings do occur as your posts attest. The important thing is to acknowledge them, which is something that you are clearly incapable of doing. The use of quotation marks would have helped but thank you for clarifying nonetheless. I note that you still haven't revealed the physicist's name and the source of the quote. Are you unfamiliar with the usual practice of ascribing a name to the person whom you are quoting? I or anyone else who might be interested, can't assess its authenticity until you provide that information, and I'm certainly not going to take what you say at face value. And please spare me the character assessment because you are in no position to do so based on your form.

lo fi's picture

What you regard as a flaw in controlled blind testing is actually its strength because it is attempting to eliminate the very biases and familiarity that you are referring to, which could potentially corrupt the results. Remember that its only objective is to establish whether partcipants can hear differences or not. It is not testing auditory memory. And unlike a magician, it is not trying to trick anyone.

Long-time listener's picture

..by lumping "biases" and "familiarity" together. Please show that you've thought about things a little more thoroughly, otherwise no one will take your posts seriously...

lo fi's picture

I'm not the one with the credibility problem here and being deliberately oblique won't help you to overcome it. I suppose I could have addressed each of your points as I have done with your previous posts, but I saw no need to do so in this instance. The reason being that you're just rehashing the same points that I have already addressed. And comparing visual memory to auditory memory isn't relevant.

I will add that we don't have the luxury of setting the rules for the numerous tests that we sit and undergo during the course of our lives, so why should a controlled blind test involving audio components be any different? If the prospect of undergoing such a test makes you uncomfortable, then don't subject yourself to it. No one is twisting your arm.

Long-time listener's picture

My point is this:

"What you regard as a flaw in controlled blind testing is actually its strength because it is attempting to eliminate the very biases and familiarity that you are referring to..."

No, blind testing does not attempt to eliminate familiarity, because blind testing, or any testing of this type, cannot function without it. You have to be FAMILIAR with the sound of the original system before you can adequately judge whether the introduction of different cables has made any difference. I was clearly and obviously saying that that kind of familiarity can only be achieved through months of repeated listening sessions with your own system, and not through the brief time allowed in blind listening situations.

"And unlike a magician, it is not trying to trick anyone."

I clearly wrote "unintentionally," indicating that blind tests were NOT TRYING to trick people. CAN YOU REALLY NOT UNDERSTAND ENGLISH, YOU INSUFFERABLE NITWIT, OR DO YOU JUST LIVE TO ARGUE AND ANNOY PEOPLE?

lo fi's picture

"No, blind testing does not attempt to eliminate familiarity, because blind testing, or any testing of this type, cannot function without it. You have to be FAMILIAR with the sound of the original system before you can adequately judge whether the introduction of different cables has made any difference. I was clearly and obviously saying that that kind of familiarity can only be achieved through months of repeated listening sessions with your own system, and not through the brief time allowed in blind listening situations."

I'm sorry but this is a complete misconception and you have totally missed the point of my post once again. Eye tests and hearing tests are both examples of objective tests. Have you ever undergone either? If so, were you feeling familiar with the testing environment? Unless you're undergoing them on a regular basis, say, a couple of times a week, which would be extremely unusual, then it stands to reason that the environment and testing procedure would be unfamiliar to you. I find it unfathomable that you cannot comprehend that a controlled blind test of audio components is just another type of objective test. It is not testing your auditory memory or your familiarity with the testing process and the audio gear that is being utilised for it. Those factors are not only irrelevant to the objective of the test but unwelcome variables to be excluded from it.

Your magician analogy is a poor choice and I merely exposed it as such. The purpose of a magic trick is to deceive. The purpose of an objective test is to gather data. They have next to nothing in common, including the unintended consequences that you're conjuring up which appear illusory to me.

I see that you have resorted to personal abuse which is a sure sign (as if I needed one) that you've lost the argument. Let me assure you that I have not enjoyed participating in this exchange. It's been a test of my patience and resolve, but I make no apology for taking your posts apart and exposing your flawed reasoning and analogies, misrepresentations and self-delusional claims.

So take a chill pill and please don't even think about replying.

Long-time listener's picture

"I find it unfathomable that you cannot comprehend that a controlled blind test of audio components is just another type of objective test. It is not testing your auditory memory or your familiarity with the testing process and the audio gear that is being utilised for it. Those factors are not only irrelevant to the objective of the test but unwelcome variables to be excluded from it."

Allright, I see you really don't understand English, since I didn't say that blind testing was testing "auditory memory" or "familiarity with the testing process." It absolutely does require, however, that you first become familiar with the sound of the equipment being used in the test. Blind tests ALWAYS give participants a chance to become familiar with the sound of the equipment being used--otherwise what would be their basis for comparison of any possible change in sound when a cable or other component is changed? I just don't think the degree of familiarity they allow is sufficient. I also think blind tests require us to use our auditory memories in a different and less reliable mode than we do under normal circumstances. Those were my two main points, since you haven't understood them yet.

So familiarity with the sound of the gear being used is not "an unwelcome variable," it is the foundation on which blind audio testing is based. I'm sorry, but you clearly lack a basic understanding of the concepts you're trying to advocate. As for the physicist I quoted, the point was the physics--the scientific concepts--that were quoted. It doesn't matter which physicist stated those concepts, since the concepts stand on their own as hard science, and aren't dependent on the individual who states them. Or do you imagine that one physics textbook will say one thing, and a different one will say something else? You'll do better to familiarize yourself with those concepts and understand how they apply to audio. What he said was pretty simple and straightforward, actually, since he included helpful examples to illustrate the scientific concepts for people like you who don't understand science. The example he gave--the apparent change in the pitch of your voice in a helium environment--was a precise parallel to what happens in audio when the conductor of a cable is changed. That's why he gave that example. Please just read the posts and try to understand them first before spouting off any more nonsense. As for who has a credibility problem here, you should know that it is not up to you to judge that, but the other readers of these posts.

lo fi's picture

"Allright, I see you really don't understand English, since I didn't say that blind testing was testing "auditory memory" or "familiarity with the testing process."

I understand it well enough to make a monkey out of you. I'm mystified by your latest reply. It's confused of course - nothing new there, but it doesn't seem to have a point or at least not a new one. I didn't accuse you of saying that blind testing was testing auditory memory or familiarity with the testing process. However, I did say this: "It is not testing your auditory memory or your familiarity with the testing process and the audio gear that is being utilised for it. Those factors are not only irrelevant to the objective of the test but unwelcome variables to be excluded from it." And I stand by that statement.

I also understand that you were lamenting in your "A further note on blind testing and memory" post, that blind testing did not provide test subjects with sufficient opportunity to become familiar with the equipment and music being used. And that you see this as a flaw in the objective testing process. You explained this in the context of your own experience and I quote:

"I'm very familiar with the sound of my system and certain pieces of music, too. I have built up a memory map, a characterization of the system, based on features such as the relative amounts of bass and treble, its level of detail, etc., etc. If the cables are changed, I'll recognize immediately that there's been a change—sighted OR blind. But put me in a normal blind listening test—under the conditions described above—and it becomes more questionable... The intense focus--and the immediate switching between sources that is believed necessary in blind listening--I believe actually interfere with our ability to characterize the system's (or the cable's) sound as we would under normal conditions. We therefore don't have an adequate memory map for making the distinctions."

You clearly regard auditory memory and familiarity with your sound system and music as important, or perhaps even essential to your ability to recognise changes in your cables - "sighted OR blind" is your audacious claim. Has the possibility not occurred to you that the controlled blind listening test has simply found you out? But this is entirely speculative because I am under the impression that you haven't participated in one.

It's glaringly obvious that it would not be in your interest to participate in a controlled blind listening test because as I have said, it endeavours to remove the kind of "familiarity" to which you are accustomed, from the testing process. It attempts to standardise the environment as much as humanly possible. Test subjects are not afforded the luxury of developing a "memory map", as you call it. You clearly regard or more accurately hope, that this is a disadvantage or a flaw, but it doesn't follow that this unfamiliar environment and testing process will affect the test subjects adversely, and cause them in some way to under-perform. The flaw that has pervaded your reasoning throughout our entire exchange and is evident again here, is that you are viewing this process through the prism of your own subjective experience and belief.

Of course you would be far more comfortable undertaking such a test free of any rigorous constraints, but that would be serving your purposes rather than the researchers. As I said in my earlier post, we don't get to set the rules for objective tests of any kind. If we did then they wouldn't be objective now would they? You can always continue conducting your own subjective "sighted OR blind" listening tests at home, where you can confirm over and over again in your mind that you really can hear differences between cables. You could do this however and whenever you like. You could even fudge the results because there will be no one there to oversee your methodology, verify your data or peer review your findings. No one will know or care but you.

"It absolutely does require, however, that you first become familiar with the sound of the equipment being used in the test. Blind tests ALWAYS give participants a chance to become familiar with the sound of the equipment being used--otherwise what would be their basis for comparison of any possible change in sound when a cable or other component is changed? I just don't think the degree of familiarity they allow is sufficient. I also think blind tests require us to use our auditory memories in a different and less reliable mode than we do under normal circumstances. Those were my two main points, since you haven't understood them yet."

I see that you've suddenly become an authority on blind testing - thanks for enlightening me. I think we can safely assume that the testing process will be thoroughly explained to the test subjects before they take part in it. They might be given one or more trial runs. It depends on the particular test as methodologies vary. Rest assured that the participants will know what to do. I think it's also safe to assume that having never participated in one, you couldn't possibly know if the degree of familiarity allowed is sufficient or not. You're just speculating as usual. And you're turning reality on its head by claiming that auditory memory is less reliable in a blind test than under normal circumstances. We've already been over this - auditory memory is unreliable per se, and blind testing attempts to minimise this in the testing process as I've previously explained. So I'm afraid that it's you - not me, who is showing a profound lack of understanding here.

"So familiarity with the sound of the gear being used is not "an unwelcome variable," it is the foundation on which blind audio testing is based. I'm sorry, but you clearly lack a basic understanding of the concepts you're trying to advocate."

This statement is so misguided that it beggars belief and doesn't warrant a serious reply.

"As for the physicist I quoted, the point was the physics--the scientific concepts--that were quoted. It doesn't matter which physicist stated those concepts, since the concepts stand on their own as hard science, and aren't dependent on the individual who states them. Or do you imagine that one physics textbook will say one thing, and a different one will say something else? You'll do better to familiarize yourself with those concepts and understand how they apply to audio. What he said was pretty simple and straightforward, actually, since he included helpful examples to illustrate the scientific concepts for people like you who don't understand science. The example he gave--the apparent change in the pitch of your voice in a helium environment--was a precise parallel to what happens in audio when the conductor of a cable is changed. That's why he gave that example. Please just read the posts and try to understand them first before spouting off any more nonsense. As for who has a credibility problem here, you should know that it is not up to you to judge that, but the other readers of these posts."

No, that doesn't cut it - not at high school, not at university and not even here. You are being deliberately evasive by not disclosing the name of the physicist that you have quoted, and the source from which you obtained it. Now you can stop insulting my intelligence with these lame-arsed excuses and provide me (and anyone else who is interested) with the opportunity to check the veracity of the quote, otherwise I'll just assume that you've lifted it from a cable manufacturer's website.

This argument was over several posts ago and despite your three previous overtures to leave, you've kept coming back for more. I have no doubt that you will reply to this post with another face saving attempt to have the final say. Well you're welcome to it. I have no desire to engage any further with someone who has a propensity for misunderstanding, misrepresentation, flawed and confused reasoning, self-delusion and intellectual dishonesty that borders on pathological. I can deal with the pathetic insults, the incessant use of capital letters to emphasise a point and the unhinged outbursts, but your failure to concede when the flaw in your reasoning or example has been exposed for all to see, or to acknowledge when you've been corrected for a falsehood, misrepresentation or self-contradiction is telling, and goes to your character, mental state or both.

I will leave you with an analogy seeing that you are so fond of them. You are like a bloodied and beaten boxer who just won't stay down for the count. The fight was over in the fifth but you keep staggering to your feet, still swinging and missing. Although it's hard to watch, we just can't avert our eyes while hoping that it will end.

Well it ends here for me at least.

Long-time listener's picture

lo fi says, "You are being deliberately evasive by not disclosing the name of the physicist that you have quoted, and the source from which you obtained it."

No, I'm not; as I told you, physics is physics. The concepts of hard science stand on their own merit, so the name of the physicist is irrelevant. But since you can't argue with physics, you are hoping to drag in irrelevancies to try to win the argument or sidetrack the discussion. In fact, it's most likely that rather than checking his "bona fides," you probably hope to smear his name in the same way you have tried to smear mine--accusing me of "falsehoods," etc. (when actually all I've done is provide factual evidence from physics). So I don't really want to be responsible for dragging another party into your little vortex of craziness. Anyway, it doesn't matter whether Einstein said E=MC2 or someone else; it's equally true either way since it's physics. The basic ideas about electronics and circuitry I quoted are the same. They're hardly going to be questioned by anyone--except you I guess. I've clearly shown that there is a basis in physics for the fact that cables sound different. Why don't you just deal with it? All you have to do is give up your earlier position and change your ideas, then you can be on the side of science instead of the side of ignorance.

Unlike the hard science that I introduced into this argument about cables, my ideas about blind listening are exactly what you say they are--"speculation." I have always said "I think" when referring to what I believe are problems with blind testing methodology. So just calm down and don't go into a three-page rant again. I'm just suggesting ideas that I believe are valid and could be considered by you and others here. What I say can neither be proven by me, nor disproven by you, without extensive follow-up research, so just let it go. It's a secondary issue anyway since I've already shown a physical basis for the difference in sound between cables. But by denying that it's essential to become familiar with the sound of the equipment, you've shown you don't understand what happens in blind testing. Again, if listeners cannot become familiar with the sound of the first set of testing gear, how can they make any valid comparison with the sound of any new gear that is introduced? Familiarity is an essential part of the methodology.

As for doing a blind listening test at home, that would be ideal, for me or for any other listener. All that would be required is that I not be allowed to see at any time which cables are being used (hence "blind" testing--hope you're following this). As long as that condition is fulfilled, the test is valid, and in fact would be even more effective, since I'm very familiar with the sound of my own system, and any possible change in sound would be more readily apparent than if I was listening to a more unfamiliar system in a laboratory. The same is true of you or anyone else. This is a very simple and obvious point; I just restate it in the hope that you'll understand it this time.

lo fi's picture

I had no intention of revisiting this thread or posting again, but having read Tyll Hertsens's Big Sound 2015 Wrap: What I Learned blog entry, I feel compelled to add this postscript. I'll leave the ranting to you as usual but I can't guarantee that it won't be less than three pages long. I know that you have been following Big Sound 2015 and presume that you probably read it too. If not, then I think it is essential reading for you and anyone else who shares your conviction about audio cables.

Before I get to that, I'll deal with a few points from your last post. So your latest implausible reason for refusing to provide me (and anyone else who might be interested) with the opportunity to examine the source of this so called "hard science" that you have quoted in support of your claim, is that you fear I will attempt to smear the person's name? You are reaching here and not only is it a ridiculous excuse, it only makes me more suspicious. If the evidence was as compelling as you would have me believe, then you should have no hesitation in making it available for scrutiny. Clearly the concepts of authenticity and verification hold no meaning for you. Neither does authorship apparently, if you are seriously suggesting that it would not have mattered to Albert Einstein if he hadn't received recognition from his peers and the wider world for his profound equation.

"I've clearly shown that there is a basis in physics for the fact that cables sound different. Why don't you just deal with it? All you have to do is give up your earlier position and change your ideas, then you can be on the side of science instead of the side of ignorance."

Sigh. No you haven't and I have dealt with it - repeatedly. There may be a basis in physics for the possibility of cables sounding different, but it is not a fact that they do sound different in actuality. The "hard science" that you have provided in support of your claim fails to establish a correlation between the composition of different audio cables and audible changes in the sound that they transmit (audible means able to be heard by the way).

"But by denying that it's essential to become familiar with the sound of the equipment, you've shown you don't understand what happens in blind testing. Again, if listeners cannot become familiar with the sound of the first set of testing gear, how can they make any valid comparison with the sound of any new gear that is introduced? Familiarity is an essential part of the methodology."

You're misrepresenting my position again. As I said in my previous response, "I think we can safely assume that the testing process will be thoroughly explained to the test subjects before they take part in it. They might be given one or more trial runs. It depends on the particular test as methodologies vary. Rest assured that the participants will know what to do. I think it's also safe to assume that having never participated in one, you couldn't possibly know if the degree of familiarity allowed is sufficient or not. You're just speculating as usual."

"As for doing a blind listening test at home, that would be ideal, for me or for any other listener. All that would be required is that I not be allowed to see at any time which cables are being used (hence "blind" testing--hope you're following this). As long as that condition is fulfilled, the test is valid, and in fact would be even more effective, since I'm very familiar with the sound of my own system, and any possible change in sound would be more readily apparent than if I was listening to a more unfamiliar system in a laboratory. The same is true of you or anyone else. This is a very simple and obvious point; I just restate it in the hope that you'll understand it this time."

I have no objection to you or anyone else doing blind listening tests at home but that is not a controlled blind listening test, and therefore not scientifically verifiable - do you follow? Neither was Tyll's Big Sound 2015 by the way. Given that we've been arguing over the absence of objective proof for your claim, I think that the blind testing of it should be as scientifically rigorous as possible. I also don't accept your assumption that your familiarity with your home sound system will improve your chances of passing a blind listening test of your audio cables, as Dr Sean Olive's findings show hereunder. Note that I provided his name - I'm funny like that.

Here's a link to Tyll's Big Sound 2015 Wrap: What I Learned blog entry:

http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/big-sound-2015-wrap-what-i-learned#...

Some notable take-aways from Tyll's blog entry:
Big Sound 2015 was not "headphone science";
Auditory memory lasts for between four and 10 seconds;
Blind listening tests "fundamentally showed that people found it extremely difficult to tell the differences between gear; while sighted evaluation allowed people to develop preferences - albeit in accordance to their personal taste";
Blind listening testing is "really only useful for professionals evaluating small details, and really shouldn't be used by casual listeners or enthusiast n00bs";
The differences between amplifiers and dacs is objectively small;
Audio cables were not tested because the participants declined to do so on the basis that if they could not tell the difference between amplifiers, then they certainly would not be able to test the differences between cables;
Transducers and ancillary electronic equipment are more important "driver(s) of sound quality by far" than audio cables;
Audio cables can make a small difference in sound but cable enthusiasts and manufacturers alike exaggerate it.

I take Tyll's comment about cables making a small difference in sound as his attempt to not alienate the segment of his readership who are fervent "cable believers" (such as yourself), and the company that kindly provided him with the cables for his project. However, Tyll's personal observations regarding cable comparisons (which can be found at Innerfidelity) are equivocal at best.

I presume that you think Tyll qualifies as someone with the kind of critical listening skills that you value so highly. He is a respected headphone reviewer and authority who combines his subjective impressions with objective measurements. I couldn't imagine him emphatically claiming as you do, that he can hear the differences between the sound of cables "sighted OR blind", and that these are just as apparent to him as differences in sound between loudspeakers. Nor could I envisage him failing to disclose the names of the people whom he quotes and his information sources, let alone refuse to when repeatedly asked to provide them. His credibility would quickly evaporate if he were to carry on like that - just saying.

In his posting titled Blind Vs Sighted Listening Tests, which can be found in the comments section following Tyll's blog entry, Dr Sean Olive (aka Tonmeister) who is the Director of Acoustic Research for Harman International and President of the Audio Engineering Society (and I presume the kind of professional that Tyll has in mind), states that:

"When the audible differences become difficult to discern that is where I think controlled listening tests have a the biggest role because other factors (level differences, auditory memory, expectation biases, etc) can swamp out the small effects you are trying to measure.
The notion that blind tests make us less sensitive to measurable differences has been addressed in an experiment I conducted back in 1994, which was reported in an AES preprint "Blind vs Sighted Listening Tests" We did a blind test on four loudspeakers and repeated the same test sighted a few days later using Harman employees. In the blind tests listeners responded to loudspeaker effects, as well as program and loudspeaker position effects. In the sighted tests, listeners were influenced by knowledge of the speakers they rated (the scores when up for the big expensive JBL products) but were less responsible to program and positional effects. When they saw the products you could modify the sounds (via program and loudspeaker position) but listeners didn't change their ratings.

The visual clues of the loudspeakers clearly affected their expectations and sound quality judgements.. They were less sensitive to changes real changes in sound quality when the products were in plain sight, I suspect in the sighted tests, people knew they were listening to the same loudspeakers and decided to give the same ratings regardless of where the speakers were positioned or what programs were played,

see http://seanolive.blogspot.com/2009/04/dishonesty-of-sighted-audio-produc... "

This is further confirmation that auditory memory and expectation bias are unwanted variables that controlled blind listening tests are designed to eliminate. Further, the results of Dr Olive's tests refutes Tyll's observation and your belief that blind tests affect our ability to discern differences in sound. The testing methodology employed by Dr Olive and his research team also addresses your concerns regarding unfamiliarity with the testing process, equipment, environment etc.

Tyll prefaces his blog entry with: "WARNING: This is not headphone science. This is just a very, very complicated headphone anecdote."

Tyll observed that "blind testing essentially made you blind to the small differences between gear... For example, most folks experience significant anxiety when faced with the small differences during blind tests—a lot of self-doubt can appear in the listener's mind, which leads to confusion and indecision. Also, when a listener begins to believe they've identified one of the selections, they then begin to superimpose a bias on that selection. The only way to combat these issues, it seems to me, is long experience with the technique of blind testing—and even then it's very hard"

The Big Sound 2015 participants were involved in a "somewhat structured listening event" as Tyll described it, that played out over the internet. So it's not at all surprising that they experienced a heightened level of performance anxiety that would not be present in a controlled blind listening test conducted away from the glare of public scrutiny. With regard to Tyll's observation that participants would overlay bias on a selection that they believed they had identified, I can't help thinking that this is a consequence of the challenging and intensive testing process that Tyll devised for his participants as much as anything else. It did involve comparisons of different headphones, amplifiers and dacs over the course of a few hours that would probably be exhausting for most of us. However, if for example, the objective of the test is only to determine whether differences in a small selection of audio cables can be heard or not, then this simplifies and shortens the testing process considerably; thereby reducing the likelihood of the kind of issues arising that Tyll describes, and negating the need for participants to have extensive experience with blind testing that he proposes as the only solution.

Tyll observed that "Despite the difficult blind listening experience, the Big Sound participants went on to sighted listening tests, and over the course of the remainder of the day would express fairly clearly their preferences and reasons for preferring one amp over the other."

It's also not surprising that the participants found it easier to identify "the small differences between gear" and express their preferences during the sighted listening tests. What is surprising however, is that Tyll appears to have fallen into the sighted listening trap of downplaying the effect that visual clues can have on "expectations and sound quality judgements" of the participants, as Dr Olive has explained. Tyll seems to assume that blind testing has in some way impaired the participants ability to hear the objectively small differences that he acknowledges exists between gear (with headphones being the exception), rather than entertain the possibility that it has confirmed just how small these differences actually are. Perhaps they are so small that they can't be differentiated by hearing alone.

I think that castleofargh's rant which can also be found in the comments section, sums up the fundamental problem with your position and echoes my frustration with it:

"if subjectivists had an actual listening method that was effective, objectivists would obviously use it too. the point was never to be an objectivist or to glorify blind tests in all their forms...

in conclusion, when I need a screwdriver and use a shovel, it's not OK for me to just go and blame the shovel for not being a good screwdriver.

“Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves.”
Richard Feynman"

There really shouldn't be any need for me to repeat this yet again but given your penchant for misrepresenting my position, I don't want anyone else who may unwittingly stumble into this tiresome exchange to be left in any doubt. My subjective experience with different audio cables tells me that they do not sound different. The available objective evidence aligns with my perception. The evidence (and I use the word loosely) that you have provided in support of your claim that different audio cables do sound different, does not prove that there is any correlation between the composition of different audio cables and audible changes in the sound that they transmit. This goes to the heart of the matter. That is, there is a dearth of objective evidence supporting your claim that these differences can actually be heard.

If such proof should ever come along, I won't be slumping into a depression over it. I will accept it along with the limitations of my own hearing because I don't have a vested interest in it remaining unproven. That's the fundamental difference between your irrational approach to this topic of discussion and mine. However, until that day comes, I will remain justifiably sceptical of the kind of exaggerated claims that you and other "cable believers" perpetuate without any credible evidence to support them.

My work here is done. I will not be returning to this thread nor reading your inevitable reply replete with strawman arguments and pretzel logic. Enjoy your cables and take comfort from knowing that your belief/delusion survives for as long as it remains untested.

Relevant links for you to explore if you are at all interested:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/486598/testing-audiophile-claims-and-myths

http://nwavguy.blogspot.com.au/2011/05/subjective-vs-objective-debate.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56xPMqZmejU&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Long-time listener's picture

Well, now you're back again, despite having declared, like a macho action hero, that "it ends here." You stalk away in victory, declaring that you have left me bloodied and beaten (I'm fine, by the way). You just couldn't resist another 10-page rant, could you?

lo-fi sez:

"Clearly the concepts of authenticity and verification hold no meaning for you. Neither does authorship apparently, if you are seriously suggesting that it would not have mattered to Albert Einstein if he hadn't received recognition from his peers and the wider world for his profound equation."

I didn't suggest anything of the kind, since my point had nothing to do with how Einstein would have reacted. And I wasn't "suggesting" anything; I was stating a fact: "physics is physics." E=MC2 is verifiably true, and would be just as verifiably true whether Einstein had discovered it or someone else. [Flame deleted by John Atkinson]

lo fi's picture

Notwithstanding the fact that you stormed out of this disagreement twice threatening never to return, only to come back for more, I honestly didn't have any intention of returning here. However, Tyll Hertsen's excellent Big Sound 2015 Wrap was so apposite that I felt compelled to bring it to your attention. I did explain that in my last post but you seem to have overlooked or ignored it.

I must admit that curiosity got the better of me today and I thought it might be mildly interesting to see how you responded to that post. Having read it, I realise that I shouldn't have bothered.

With regard to your "physics is physics" assertion (for it can hardly be called an argument), I'm flabbergasted that I have to explain this to you at all, let alone repeat it, but In physics or any other academic discipline, a theory might as well continue to exist only in the mind of its creator if it is not published. If an academic paper is published then it follows that there must be an author who has written it. Now ask yourself this, how could you possibly know of the existence of Einstein's equation, let alone refer to it, had it not been published and attributed to him? Simply put, you couldn't. He is the theoretical physicist who developed it and is credited for it, which is appropriate. E=mc2 is synonymous with him. This isn't a discussion about the plot line for Good Will Hunting, where solutions to complex mathematical equations mysteriously appeared on a blackboard at MIT courtesy of a janitor who happened to be a genius. In the real world, academic papers are published along with the authors names - okay?

It is apparent that you know the name of this so called physicist to whom you keep referring, but you have chosen not to disclose it for implausible and bizarre reasons. Personally speaking, I don't care whether you disclose it or not; that really is beside the point. The point being that a quotation from an unnamed source which cannot be verified isn't acceptable as proof of your claim. I hope that you come to understand the need for this essential requirement someday.

I wonder if you explored those links that I provided. It wouldn't surprise me at all if you didn't, as they are inconvenient for you to say the least.

Merry Christmas.

Long-time listener's picture

Sorry, the information I quoted from the physicist is not a "theory" -- it's just basic physics. If you knew more about physics, you'd recognize that. The analogy he included about the way a person's voice changes when they breathe helium was intended to illustrate the physics he was discussing by providing a direct parallel--illustrating the way waves are changed by being transmitted through a different medium (in that case, helium; in the case we're discussing, a different conductor). So I am not going to provide his name . . . [flame deleted by John Atkinson]

The point is, he was discussing points about physics that are well established, but not familiar to most audiophiles, who simply look at frequency response and assume that since most cables have a pretty flat response, they must all sound the same.

[flame deleted by John Atkinson]

lo fi's picture

You're the one who cited Einstein's equation. I merely pointed out to you that it didn't exist objectively awaiting someone to discover it who just happened to be Albert Einstein. It wasn't some archeological relic, it was his profound idea and he received due recognition for it. Anyway, yes I've read the "basic physics" that you quoted as proof of your belief that different audio cables do sound different, and the problems with it that I have highlighted for you previously still remain.

I don't need to be expert in physics to recognise that (a) it does not prove that there is any correlation between the composition of different audio cables and audible changes in the sound that they transmit, and (b) that your refusal to provide details of the source of this quote beyond saying that it comes from a physicist, is both inadequate and absurd for the reasons that I have already given.

The fact remains that there is a dearth of objective evidence supporting your claim that these differences can actually be heard.

hb72's picture

Not sure, do you still think *all* cables sound the same? Really all? And then to anybody, regardless of personal listening skills?

And if not, do you expect there is any magic threshold (of some kind) below which differences are not audible and above which they are?

I personally find it much easier to assume (and to defend) that everything has an influence on reproduction quality, but many things are hardly noticeable for most. However many small differences, when accumulated, can make a significant difference to most trained listeners (=audiophiles).

lo fi's picture

Rather than have to repeat myself to you too, I refer you to my many posts here which I hope will clear up any misconception you have regarding my position on this topic.

hb72's picture

perhaps unclear: >> << are meant as hyphens to indicate a citation of one of your earlier posts, referring to Long-time listener.

care to reply to the body of the posting?

lo fi's picture

With respect, I did reply to the body of your posting. If you care to read over my exchange of posts with Long-time listener, I think you'll find that I have directly or indirectly addressed the questions that you have posed in your first paragraph. I really don't feel inclined to repeat myself yet again.

hb72's picture

I did read most of it and I am most happy to learn you intend to purchase a quality IC. Be prepared to notice a slight shift in some aspects of sound(quality) hopefully towards a clear improvement. :)

lo fi's picture

You'll be the first to know if I do. ;)

kevon27's picture

I recently replaced all the wiring in my clock radio which cost only $5.00 with pure silver wire from Audio Quest and now my $5.00 clock radio Blows away my friends $80,000 setup..
The sound is now Hyper 4th dimensional. The bass from the 2 inch speaker goes below 15hz @ 120 db.
The Micro dynamics are so incredible that I can hear on a CD the producer burping in the mixing booth. I never heard such clarity.
All of this new life to my music because of cables and wires from Audio Quest.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Boy, am I glad that I do not own a clock radio!

dalethorn's picture

There are a lot of people who take black-and-white positions on subjects like these, not realizing in a lot of cases that they've forgotten the basics - for example, to make sure all of their components' connections are clean and free of the small amounts of corrosion that aren't usually visible. Then there are the electrical interference issues, AC line noise etc., which can subtract even more from the sound quality. Good quality cables can make a difference in both of these cases, even before one gets to the more esoteric issues.

Allen Fant's picture

Nice pic! Kal.

feel free to talk more about the gear in your system.

Like it or not guys, cables and power cords, DO make a difference.
One should budget 10-20% of retail cost of one's system on cabling.

lo fi's picture

You can believe what you like about audio cables, power cords and how much people should budget for them, but there is no factual basis for your assertion - just sayin'.

kevon27's picture

Since my $5.00 clock radio is now way better than a $80,000 audiophile system thanks to AQ, I'm replacing all my home electrical wiring with Audio Quest silver speaker wire. I don't care about building electrical codes, all I want is performance.
So far I'm done with the family room. BOY WHAT A Difference. My 720p Vizio looks better than a high end Samsung 4k TV. Colors that were cold and clinical are now warm but with a pop of 3 dimensionality.
Incredible. Audio Quest you've done it again.

corrective_unconscious's picture

I've never heard of a $5.00 clock radio. It must be vintage, tube model, which would probably explain your great results with it after tweaking....

Long-time listener's picture

"...my $5.00 clock radio is now way better than a $80,000 audiophile system..."

Kalman Rubinson's only claim was that the cables made a "noticeable difference." I seconded that view, but feel differently about the importance of "noticeable differences" than Mr. Rubinson. Neither of us is claiming that silver cables will make a clock radio sound better than an $80,000 audiophile system.

Your misrepresentation of what we are saying isn't funny, but it is unintelligent, and if you're trying to prove your lack of intelligence, you've succeeded very well.

kevon27's picture

If you are one of those "Smart" people who get sucked in with Highend cables marketing and actually buy them.. Who is really the "unintelligent" one?

Long-time listener's picture

Well, I guess I should have known better: You're one of those people who doesn't respond with a single word to what people actually say, but sarcastically spew your own opinions about on the web for the egotistic joy of seeing your own words in print, and just keep repeating themselves.

Neither Mr. Rubinson nor I are responding to cable marketing; we simply hear what he said were "noticeable differences." The list prices of most of the equipment he has are in the thousands of dollars, and at that level, the difference between two DACs will fall into the category of "noticeable difference" -- sometimes only barely noticeable. At that level, cables will sometimes make about as much difference as a different DAC, though the difference in performance of different speakers is far greater.

As for insulting people, I admit it, I can only "try", and can't match your performance in that regard. And you obviously think that makes you a superior person. So, with regard to your intelligence, I rest my case.

dcolak's picture

Of course you "hear noticeable differences," that is your brain trying to justify the money lost.

hb72's picture

I must say I am somewhat irritated by these cable confusions. Apparently the cable thing is a conspiration (or two?), and both sides believe those on the other side are plainly wrong, i.e. they are mislead victims of the obvious cable conspiration.

Now, how to tell whether what seems to be a conspiration is in fact a REAL conspiration, or not?

I think there is a very strong indicator: believe. A fresh impartiality vs a deeply rooted conviction (about quality differences or there lack of): and TBH, the latter I do not find to be a very useful starting point to an unclouded personal judgement upon percieved SQ differences, whether big or very small.

now which side is relaxed here, and which is not?

Kal Rubinson's picture

Nope. In fact, I close by pointing out that ".............. new, clean contacts are always better."

Long-time listener's picture

You're clearing getting things backwards: Mr. Rubinson, who obviously feels pretty indifferent about cables, bought the new ones because he heard "noticeable differences." What he heard justified the cost, not the other way around. But you refuse to listen to what people actually say, and of course turn it around backwards--that's your brain trying to justify your smug stubbornness.

dcolak's picture

He was indifferent about cables and then decided to spend over 10K USD so that he can later say "oh yes, I hear... unicorns singing?" lol

Long-time listener's picture

Thanks, you're making my case for me. As I said, you don't care what people actually wrote or said. You substitute your own words -- "unicorns singing" -- for what Kalman Rubinson said, and then say that what he did or said was ridiculous. Anyone can put ridiculous words or claims in someone else's mouth and then say "how ridiculous." I know it's a lot tougher to make a rational, sensible argument based on facts, but it's OK, I'm sure someday you can learn to do it if you try.

dcolak's picture

Yes, it's so rational to spend 10K USD on 6 cables. Lol

They must sound great /s

Long-time listener's picture

As I clearly said, IF you have the money, and if they make a noticeable difference, etc., then it is rational. If you personally don't, or would have to sacrifice financial security for it, then it's not. Is it rational to spend 10 million on a yacht? If you've got the dough and you enjoy it, yes. If you don't, it's not. Jeez, lighten up and stop insisting that others cannot and should not buy cables. Maybe you should also tell them how much is "rational" to spend on a total system, and above that it's irrational, huh.

dcolak's picture

No reason what so ever to put 10K USD on cables when any other non malfunctioning, undamaged cables would do the same for 100 USD.

hb72's picture

I guess I have read that somewhere above.

cables, as much as any other component in a hifi system, have more or less mild design flaws, are not just perfect resistors but are be represented by somewhat complex mix of resistors, coils and capacitors (of less then ideal dielectric material), are mechanically coupled (oh: affected by mechanical vibrations, RF Radiation) and so forth. they may be capable to transmit an impulse without smear or not, and even their resistance plays a role in attenuating feedback from the LS's voice coils, and connections may add a contact resistance which often is not just a plane ohmic resistance but has some diode-like behavior, which adds to harshness, unnatural "s".
And yes, all this is more than audible to those who care to compare.
Plus: the science bit related to cables has been established long before it has been applied to hifi, which slowly started to my knowledge somewhere late 70s, 80s. perhaps this delayed intro to the hifi-world was because it isn't strictly required for pure functionality (do I hear a tone or not; note stereophiles want more than that) but simply helps to improve sound quality and raise it to a different level. Listen yourself..

Long-time listener's picture

Absolute nonsense. For starters, just to take one example of things that make different cables sound different, silver is a better conductor than copper, and so of course there will be less signal degradation. And there are many other factors that affect the sound of cables. No one is claiming these differences are as large as the difference in sound between speakers, only that in many cases they are in fact audible--and therefore worth spending money on if you have it to spend.

But for those of you who prefer to use rusty clothes-hangers as interconnects, since they're cheaper, and cant' hear any difference, no one is trying to make you buy good cables. But don't make claims that go against simple physics--like the fact that some metals have better conductivity.

lo fi's picture

There is no objective proof that different audio cables sound different or that a silver plated copper conductor will transmit more sonic information than a plain old copper conductor. You are asserting what you have chosen to believe rather than the facts here.

hb72's picture

yes there is: here you'll find 24 soundfiles created by playing one song over each of these cables and recording the results. be prepared to dump all your convictions:

http://www.connect.de/ratgeber/soundfiles-gratis-download-analogkabel-25...

If you manage to not hear a difference.. than I really suggest to upgrade your system.

lo fi's picture

I don't have any convictions about this subject to dump but I do try to approach it with a modicum of common sense. You seem like a believer, however. How else could you have overlooked the fundamental flaw in your example if you weren't?

Listening to sound files that purportedly reveal sonic differences between different cables on different audio systems introduces a myriad of variables which render this test invalid. Further, listening to recordings of different cables on your sound system, is not unlike trying to compare the picture quality of different televisions by watching videos of them on your television. It's an exercise in silliness really and obviously doesn't constitute an objective proof.

No, I'm afraid that you're going to have to do better than that, and you could start by providing verified results from controlled double blind tests. Good luck with that and thanks for the unsolicited advice on the state of my sound system.

hb72's picture

sorry, that is not true.

the recordings were made on one single equipment, the only thing that has been changed is the interconnect cable.

The sound files therefore can only prove the existence of differences, or, else, the absence of any difference (in which case you would be right). If they were all identical (except for some noise in measurements) we would need to conclude that cables have no influence on the sound.

Since they ARE QUITE DIFFERENT we can & must conclude that these cables (=the only difference between all 24 recordings) indeed affect the sound.

This is evidently true, regardless of the equipment used to listen to the files, unless of very poor quality.

And yes, I am a believer. I also believe in a few other things that are evidently true, which I have observed in many different occasions. 1+1=2 for example (many times observed!).

Note, the wav files can also be converted into data files, and differences can be analyzed (fft), plotted, in other words put into visual proofs, too.

More than offering this to you I cannot do.

lo fi's picture

The point being that you and I for example, would most likely be listening to those sound files on different audio equipment, which introduces variables that cannot be eliminated from what we are hearing and thereby renders the test inconclusive at best and invalid at worst.

It is also a fallacy to suggest that your cable test offering can be likened to a simple mathematical truth that is universally accepted. Clearly this test is anything but incontrovertible.

If that's the best you can offer as proof of your belief that different audio cables do sound different, then you've fallen well short of accepted testing standards, which must be conducted and repeated in a controlled environment and subject to independent verification.

hb72's picture

to prove 2 things are ABSOLUTELY IDENTICAL (=your claim!) is difficult as it requires a proof in many different aspects/environments/qualities, whereas proving 2 THINGS ARE DIFFERENT is very easy as it only requires prove of difference in ONE aspect/environment/quality, e.g. hifi system, music, pair of ears. this is what the sound files deliver.

how narrow does this get here?

lo fi's picture

I'm sorry but I made no such claim. You either misunderstand what I wrote or are deliberately misinterpreting it. I'm also finding your reasoning incomprehensible to be honest. And I do wish that you would stop invoking the word "truth" as though it is on your side.

hb72's picture

.. audio cables sound different.." somewhere earlier in this thread?

If you want a fully scientific test, do one. I for one can tell an apple from an orange without double blind test.

I admit a scientific test would be nice to do, but, thinking it through, it is complex: if 5 disbelievers choose to disbelieve, and 5 believers reproducibly recognize some files and are able to distinguish between better and worse, and are (within limits) able to tell whether one file has been played twice in a row (and not another similar one), where are we at then? Statistics?? Should & can statistics be used for such absolute claims? what if the sound files were different spoken texts in a very exotic foreign language (remote Austrian dialect) and all files would sound the same to all Chinese testers, and statistics would fully and undoubtedly "proof" that. Would it really be the same text then? In other words, the disbeliever's' ability and willingness to judge need to be proven too. difficult.... So disbelievers would need to be excluded from the test if they cannot distinguish between two examples that are v. similar but not from different cables, but one created from another file, and modified in ... too complex, sorry.

Why use statistics for something that is actually obvious? I think pragmatically: one person who can reliably distinguish between the worst and the best sound file proves your statement wrong. I have done that - to myself.
You could do that too, if you would try and chose to listen to them. Or else, your choice.
In the end it's about better more joyful music reproduction, and I, being a convinced believer, think and know I have more options to get more joy out of it, than I would do otherwise.

lo fi's picture

that there is no objective proof to support the claim that audio cables do sound different, and the test that you have referred to doesn't change that fact. I'll now leave you to your ramblings. ;)

hb72's picture

re-reading your post: "Listening to sound files that purportedly reveal sonic differences between different cables on different audio systems ..."

As logic would suggest, to ensure comparability only ONE SINGLE system has been used for recordings, and only the ICs have been swapped.

lo fi's picture

and are erroneously proceeding from there. I thought I had clarified that for you in my second reply but apparently not.

The example you have given cannot be accepted as objective proof that different audio cables do actually sound different for the reasons that I have already given, regardless of your enthusiastic embrace of it. Our disagreement has now well and truly run its course.

dcolak's picture

Silver cable sounds different than a copper one?

One of the two is a shitty cable that should not be used.

No cable can influence the sound, unless it has a defect, either made by chance or intentionally by the manufacturer that is using its cables as an EQ.

Stop drinking the coolaid, it's just lame.

Long-time listener's picture

Let me explain this. Waves are influenced by the medium through which they are transmitted. A poor transmission medium will result in some degree of signal degradation, however slight. For example, water is not a very good medium for radio wave transmission compared to air or vacuum. That is why, sometimes, for deep habitats or certain land-submarine communications, where a signal must travel a long distance underwater, ultra-low frequency (ULF) is used--long wavelengths are attenuated to a lesser extent than high frequencies. That is basically the same reason why you hear the bass from your neighbor's party stereo better than the treble (they may have turned up the bass, but if you're in the room, you'll still hear the treble better than you will across the street).

That is also why silver cables tend to sound "brighter," a near universal perception among audiophiles. As a better conductor, silver attenuates the highest frequencies less over the same distance of run. Silver isn't compatible with all systems, since copper is used throughout in most of them, and they are "voiced" for copper wiring. So introducing a better conductor may in fact introduce unwanted brightness. But the fact remains that silver, whatever its disadvantages in a particular system, has better clarity, and it does sound different.

I've explained, factually, why I'm not drinking any kind of Kool-aid. Now if you could explain why, out of two "functioning" cables, one silver and one copper, one would be "shitty" and should not be used--since according to you, both are functioning and will not affect the sound to any degree? You're getting behind here, mate. Also, you say some manufacturers use cables for EQ--which means you're admitting they do affect sound. Jeez. At least get your own story straight. If the "defect" doesn't prevent them from conducting a signal, how could they possibly (according to you) sound different?

lo fi's picture

Please refrain from using "simple physics" as a launching pad for wild leaps of logic and sweeping anecdotal claims.

There is no objective evidence to support your claim that the "near universal perception among audiophiles" is that silver plated copper audio cable tends to sound brighter than non-silver plated copper audio cable. Further, there is no objective evidence to support your claim that silver plated copper audio cable has better clarity and sounds different (in any way) to non-silver plated copper audio cable - none.

Avoiding confusing such subjective claims with objective facts might go some way to reducing the perpetuation of audiophile myths, which appears rife - anecdotally speaking.

Long-time listener's picture

Sorry, I didn't mean to say "universally" -- only that "brightness" is "frequently" associated with silver cables, as can be shown by a Google search.

As for using one thing or another to jump off into wild sweeps of logic, you could review the claims made here by people on your side of the argument--attributing hearing "unicorns singing" etc. to people who never said anything anywhere near that, but in fact only made very, very modest claims.

Likewise, I did not make a single reference to "silver-plated copper."

I'm done here I guess. The anti-cable guys make the same assertions over and over, with no arguments, just heavy doses of sarcasm and rudeness in the form of vast mis-characterizations of the other side's position, as well as a big helping of wild and unsubstantiated claims of their own. It doesn't help to convince me of the rationality of their position. And they don't engage in listening--and certainly not in reading what other people actually wrote.

dcolak's picture

Please, just stop. You have *no* idea what you are talking about.

lo fi's picture

1. You said that it is a "near universal perception among audiophiles". That looks like a sweeping generalisation to me, which is based on nothing more than anecdotal information gleaned from random google searches. It's hardly a systematic survey of audiophiles now is it? Be that as it may, the claim that silver plated copper audio cables sound brighter and clearer than non-silver plated copper audio cables remains entirely subjective.

2. Whatever issues you have with the other posters here has nothing to with me. I think you would have to concede that my responses to your posts have been rational and polite.

3. I used the term "silver-plated copper cable" because that is what people are usually referring to when they use the term "silver cable".

4. What you accuse the "anti-cable guys" of equally applies to the "cable believers" in my experience. These disagreements invariably degenerate into increasingly entrenched and hostile exchanges with both sides thinking that they are right.

I have no issue with people sincerely believing that they hear differences between audio cables. The problem I have is when they try to prove it with pseudo-scientific claims, flawed logic and opinion (often misinformed) posing as fact.

kevon27's picture

You would not think it's funny. But, hey...

Long-time listener's picture

A quote: "According to our analysis, higher-frequency signals propagate more quickly down real transmission lines than low-frequency signals. BUT HIGH FREQUENCY SIGNALS ARE ATTENUATED MORE QUICKLY. [my emphasis] A 100-m length of RG58/U cable will attenuate the amplitude of a 1-GHz signal by 55 dB. A 1-kHz signal, meanwhile, will be attenuated by only 0.10 dB. The 1-GHz signal will get to the end of the cable in 500 ns, but it will be almost six hundred times smaller in amplitude."

Kal Rubinson's picture

Standard physics but notice the difference in frequencies and the length of cable used. Audio frequencies and normal domestic distances are much, much more restricted.

lo fi's picture

what does that have to do with the claim that different audio cables do sound different?

lo fi's picture

Post deleted and re-posted earlier in the thread.

Long-time listener's picture

lo-fi sez:

"Clearly the concepts of authenticity and verification hold no meaning for you. Neither does authorship apparently, if you are seriously suggesting that it would not have mattered to Albert Einstein if he hadn't received recognition from his peers and the wider world for his profound equation."

I didn't suggest anything of the kind, since my point had nothing to do with how Einstein would have reacted. And I wasn't "suggesting" anything; I was stating a fact: "physics is physics." E=MC2 is verifiably true, and would be just as verifiably true whether Einstein had discovered it or someone else. If you can't understand this, there's no point in talking to you, because you're a huge idiot. So stop criticizing me for things that I neither said, nor could possibly be imagined to have meant--by anyone except you.

Anyway, now you're back again, despite having declared, like a macho action hero, that "it ends here." You stalk away in victory, declaring that you have left me bloodied and beaten (I'm fine, by the way). You just couldn't resist another 10-page rant, could you?

Long-time listener's picture

"I don't need to be expert in physics to recognise that (a) it does not prove that there is any correlation between the composition of different audio cables and audible changes in the sound that they transmit,..."

That's exactly what it proves--that a change in the medium transmitting a wave (as when sound waves travel through a solid, liquid, or gas--or through different gases, as in the example given) will affect the wave. Not sure how many times or in how many ways this needs to be stated, but there it is. Obviously, the difference between two copper cables will not be as great as the difference between our atmosphere and pure helium. The difference between a copper cable and a silver-gold alloy cable, however, will be somewhat greater--and can be heard.

"and (b) that your refusal to provide details of the source of this quote beyond saying that it comes from a physicist, is both inadequate and absurd for the reasons that I have already given."

Once again: the ideas that the physicist was citing were not his own; they are stock ideas that were accepted long ago and have been in use and applied for many decades. And you have consistently shown that you don't understand the most basic ideas about physics or science, as shown in the following quote:

"You're the one who cited Einstein's equation. I merely pointed out to you that it didn't exist objectively awaiting someone to discover it who just happened to be Albert Einstein. It wasn't some archeological relic, it was his profound idea and he received due recognition for it."

The EQUATION did not exist objectively, but the phenomenon that it REPRESENTS, in fact, "objectively existed and was waiting to be discovered." Just as gravity "objectively existed" before Isaac Newton "discovered" it. Or perhaps, prior to that, people were dropping off the Earth for lack of gravity? Einstein and Newton were important, but the truth of what they "discovered" existed, and still exists, independently of them, and if other people had made their discoveries instead, the truth that their equations describe would still be equally true. The truth of a physical phenomenon does not depend on who discovered it! So, in any case, it is NOT IMPORTANT to name the physicist who was simply describing stock ideas that apply to our discussion. It's the truth of the physics that is important--not the individual quoting the physics. And, as I've said, I wouldn't want to subject him to your kind of abuse, your rudely insistent claims of "falsehoods," etc.

Since you can't hear, or don't want to hear, or don't believe in the difference between cables, why not just be happy that you don't have to spend money on them? You can do what you've done before, which is to claim that, verbally, you have defeated me, left me "bloody and beaten," and take satisfaction in your "victory."