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Steavis
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Questions raised by Stephen's reviews of cables

Thanks to Stephen M for his reviews on reasonably priced interconnects.   I look forward to future colums covering speaker cables as well.  Though a natural skeptic, I want to believe that cables make a difference, actually I do believe to an extent, stopping short of believing that very expensive and esoteric designs would make much if any difference than simply stepping up to affordable cables like, for example, the G Snakes that Stephen tested.   Some questions crossed my mind while reading the JUL & SEP columns.

 

1) How do Radio Shack cables compare with the generic cables that come with most components?

 

2)  My interconnects are Discwasher Gold-ens, purchased in the late 80's.     How do these rate against Radio Shacks, generics, & G Snakes?

 

3) Do cables like these deteriorate with age?

 

4)  I didn't see it specified in the colums, but Stephen impled that he tested interconnects between his turntable and amp.   If I were to run my own test by purchasing some G Snakes, wouldn't I have to replace the cables both between the turntable & preamp, and between the preamp & power amp? 

 

5)  I currently use 12 AWG lamp cord (about a 25 ft run) for my speakers.   This cord is fairly old, maybe 25 years.   Does this deteriorate with age?   I probably shouldn't think about it, I should just buy new and better cables.   I would welcome any suggestions for reasonably priced speaker cables.

JohnMichael
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I wanted to respond because I

I wanted to respond because I recently tried some speaker cables that in my system are better than any cable I have tried. The cables I am most impressed with are the AntiCable speaker cables. I had been using Audioquest Slate speaker cables but the Anti's were an improvement in many areas.

Other cable brands I have tried were; AlphaCore, Kimber, Nordost, and Tara Labs.

Catch22
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Cables do sound different

But, having tried countless combinations, I have reached a conclusion about cables. Every cable combination that I have tried over the years made some aspects of the sound better while making some aspects worse. Whether or not the better outweighs the worse is a matter of personal taste and preference and largely dependent on the strengths and short-comings of a given system.

Imagine an equalizer hooked up to your system and with every frequency range you choose to boost, you must lower another. You want a little boost in the bass...you gotta shave a little off the highs. That's a gross over-statement and very simplistic, but you get my point.

Are the cables simply unmasking other short-comings in the system or are they creating their own signature? That, I don't know for sure, but I lean far more toward the view that they create their own signature.

dbowker
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Yes, to all. Well, mostly

Yes, to all.

Well, mostly the deterioration part. And the cheaper they are, the more they oxidize since they have lesser insulation and, with speaker wires, are likely exposed at each end. It all makes a difference really, and luckily, it's at the lower end of the price range that you get the biggest difference in returns. If you went and bought a completely new set of ICs and speaker cables all for less than $100 at Best Buy, you'd likely;y get a dramatic lift from what you have now. $200 even more. After about $300 total for an average $1200 system and IMO you pretty much will top out.

Try the speaker cables first. If you like what you hear, do all the ICs at the same time.

Glotz
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3 & 4...some 5 too.

Yes, all cables do degrade over time, some more than others.  Check out vdh's site for a lot of really broad insight on very proactive approach on material aging.  His Hulliflex technology is a valid approach in retarding age in cables.

I'm not pushing his products over one or the other, but he does have some VERY novel and unique approaches to materials and engineering for well over 2 decades (a lot more really).  I find his mid line cables very competent for the price, but read the reviews in Stereophile. 

http://www.vandenhul.com/

See the 'articles'  link for a huge amount of amassed information.  Whether it's useful is up to you. For a noob, it's required reading... yes, all of it.

Despite hearing a slightly brighter treble and roughness around the edges, I still use my older cables in less critical applications.  I think connector stress for heavy cables, coupled with a lot of handling over the years (moves, etc) can lead to solder joints giving over the years.  In fact, one time my 15 year old MIT speaker cables  revealed that one of the biwire spades was hanging on by half of the original conductors!  Clipping, cleaning, re-terminating all of the connections led to immediate improvements. 

True dat on cheaper cables having less-spec'd materials and lower quality manufacturing.  'You pay, you get.'  Value is relative, but general quality rules apply in the manfacture of high-end anything. 

Take Cardas Clear speaker cables- their CNC machining of the connector and conductor into a forged process does eliminate a great deal of mechanical stress. And I'm sure custom forging connectors with litz-wire in such a cable isn't cheap. Trickle-down technology is still evident everywhere in high-end audio.

http://www.cardas.com/content.php?area=products&content_id=2&pagestring=...

Almost every cable company in the high-end makes great cables.  The key is find what are the sweet spots in each cable line from every manufacturer. It's awesome that there are some great value cables out there.  One system may like one cable over another, and that cable may have one preferred component application or direction, as well.

Ideally, one should try a full 'loom' when possible, but keep one 'chain' at the very least, (source-pre-power-speaker) to get an idea of how sound is conveyed in your components/system. 

JIMV
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The Best cables .....

I have ever had in my system have been tranparent cables with the speaker cables making by far the biggest difference in my setup. I cannot recommend them too highly. Cables are a thing that sound better with age, as long as the connections are clean and no wire damage has occurred. That is why used cables make sense to me.

Anton
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Break in, then decline...

I have some cabling I bought in 1993 that is just now peaking in terms of break-in time.

Now, it's time for me to start listening for when it starts to decline, I guess.

The next frontier of cable marketing will be when to replace 'declining' cables.

It will be a fine line between break-in and break-down.

 

devil

 

BigBuck
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Cables Sound Different!

If they have good internal continuity, they sound different if you unplug them and plug them in again, having abraded the oxides on the connections away.  Revelation! 

Even gold-plated cable terminations act this way - because the typical RCA or DIN connector in your precious component has tin-plated contact surfaces. 

To avoid unecessary expenditure and get the best sound, unplug and re-seat your cables once in a while.

Frfemer's article nauseated me.  Stephen's only slightly nauseated me.

BigBuck
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Cables Sound Different!

If they have good internal continuity, they sound different if you unplug them and plug them in again, having abraded the oxides on the connections away.  Revelation! 

Even gold-plated cable terminations act this way - because the typical RCA or DIN connector in your precious component has tin-plated contact surfaces. 

To avoid unecessary expenditure and get the best sound, unplug and re-seat your cables once in a while.

Fremer's article nauseated me.  Stephen's only slightly nauseated me.

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