"Do Cables Really Matter?" Event in Florida Saturday

Saturday, February 4, 11:00am–1:00 pm, Encore Home Entertainment Systems (2115 Siesta Drive, Sarasota, FL 34239) is hosting Joe Perfito, president of Tributaries and Clarus Cable, for a discussion on the importance of cables.

Jay Victor, the designer of Clarus Cable, will be joining the discussion via Skype promptly at 11:00am from the factory in China. Refreshments will be served. Click here to RSVP.

COMMENTS
cgh's picture

It's eerily quiet here....

Decibel's picture

Honestly if you can't hear the difference between certain cables, then your hearing has issues or you don't have well trained ears. I replaced a Kimber 4PR (nice dry balanced sound) with an Audioquest Type 6 connected to Paradigm Monitor 7 V4 in my bedroom. I was having a problem with a room mode, boomy bass around 50 to 65 Hz. Hooked up the Type 6 and bass was out of control. Even more exagerated. It was so bad I had to change back. Put a sock in the port which killed dynamics. Sold them and bought a pair of JBL Pros with horn tweeter and 2 15inch woofers per side (4x15 inch total, and bass problem solved. nice tight, controlled bass. Love those JBL Pros. Audioquest makes great wires, I bought many more after.

AllanMarcus's picture

This post was hilarious! I loved it. Keep 'em coming.

A. Hourst's picture

try to put the sock directly in the electrical socket, you should save money.

Monophile's picture

“Honestly if you can't hear the difference between certain cables, then your hearing has issues or you don't have well trained ears.”

I completely agree with you. After I replaced my ordinary cables with audiophile-grade cables, I began to experience earth-shattering orgasms. This is because my new cables now allow me to establish a telepathic link—via UFOs—to the Loch Ness Monster. May God be praised!

hb72's picture

I absolutely second Decibel's statement.

all cables influence the sound to some extent (even the type of usb cable between an ipad and an arcam irDAC does - which I really do not have an explaination for, but it is quite audible with a 35$ version made by the californian manufacturer mentioned by Decibel).

and before the fundamentalists ("current is current", "and as long as the cable is long enough it is a perfect conductor..") have their say, I must add I have carefully improved the overall sound by replaceing several standard cables (IC, digi: optical & electric, LS, power) with some better ones from AQ, Furutech, Supra and it is so much more dynamic, musically expressive, smoother (or more furious when source dictates that) than with standard cheapo stuff that in no case I'd move back to standard.

dalethorn's picture

Cleaning up the power sources is a big plus.

mrkaic's picture

Dear friend, just to clarify -- have you studied science, e.g. physics or quantum chemistry?

hb72's picture

I studied physics.

You?

Btw: science is not to proof preconceptions or false convictions by a meaningless experiment, but to look closer (proper measurement) and try to understand (proper theory), which usually leads to more questions than answers.

mrkaic's picture

Funny, I studied physics too. It is surprising that we have so different views about this issue.

drblank's picture

You do understand the concept of lowering the noise floor? Any way that noise can be removed, reduced is critical in anything having to do with audio playback, audio recording systems.

I always refer to the experience of someone like Bob Ludwig, who spends his entire life around mastering audio. he's in a highly controlled mastering studio that's got decades of listening experience, he also has mastered more albums than just about anyone else, and he's amongst the most sought after. He has done his own measurements and listening tests with cables and he switched from what was considered the standard brand of cable for recording studios, Mogami, to a high end cable mfg. Transparent because he HEARD and MEASURED a difference and it was noticeable enough to rip out all of the cables in the entire studio. SkyWalker Sound did something similar but they switched to MIT cables. and believe me, these guys are NOT going to spend enormous amounts of money unless they are proven that there is an actual improvement in sound quality. So, I kind of look to these people that do have trained ears, that do have pristine listening conditions that are listening to the first generation recordings before they get passed down to the consumer.

Lowering the noise floor is VERY critical in audio, and anything that can be done to reduce or eliminate it is worth doing, providing it fits within one's budget.

mrkaic's picture

You do understand the concept of lowering the noise floor? Any way that noise can be removed, reduced is critical in anything having to do with audio playback, audio recording systems.

Yes, I understand it very well. And I know that it is often misunderstood.

For example -- there is a 1-1 correspondence between the SNR and the number of bits in digitally encoded audio. If you lower the number of bits, you increase the noise floor (i.e. lower the SNR). I wrote a piece of code to "mangle" digital music by reducing the resolution, i.e. the number of bits. If you go from 16 bits to say 11 or 12 bits, you do not hear any difference, despite the fact that the nominal SNR is much lower at 11 bits than at 16. You can do it yourself if you don't believe me.

So, yes, I understand the SNR very well and no, I don't think that it is very critical in audio playback (recording is a different story).

hb72's picture

There are also many sources for noise or distortion entering the system via analog "doors". I have once massively reduced distortion of my little system by removing an analog IC between cdp & amp (parallel to cdp>dac>amp) and replacing the digital 75ohm cable from cdp to dac with an optical one, despite optical is widely considered inferior to electric connection. Multiple earth i suppose.

mrkaic's picture

There are multiple points of noise. Grounding is often a huge problem.

A. Hourst's picture

There will also be a conference from the automobile manufacturers association about the importance of the fuel tank filler hose.

m-sevs's picture

Wonderful

mrkaic's picture

Cables matter so much. Also, don't forget to buy some of those cable lifters and make sure your cables are "directional".

While you are at it, please go to some national labs and tell physicists working there that they should get directional cables to improve the accuracy of their experiments. Sadly, when I worked in Brookhaven national lab in the 1990's, our team was blissfully unaware of the importance of "directional" cables. Where are all helpful audio enthusiasts when you need them?

corrective_unconscious's picture

Both in the sense of "what gear were you connecting with said cables?" and "what experiments or research were you performing there in the 90s?"

Is there such a thing as "military spec" cables? If there is (there is) then why is there?

I heard from a tech - I have never checked for myself - that typical coaxial cable can have fairly substantial deviations from 75 ohms. And that's a perfectly mundane aspect of a cable....

And don't pretend you were only mocking audiophile cable directionality - you are mocking the idea of audiophile cables, period. For the record I think they can make a difference, although you can't know what cable might perceptibly help a given system, and I have a hard time imagining spending tens of thousands of dollars for the audiophile varieties.

drblank's picture

probably more for durability and useable in different environments so they can withstand things like wide temperature range. humidity range, durability more so they can last the rigors of military usage. The Military doesn't give a squat in how well one can tell the difference in the quality of a recording necessarily. So, military specs is more for operating environment and durability. So, they might actually be pretty good cables, but they aren't designing them to SOUND better. I don't know of too many military personnel that are going to use high end Stax, Audeze Headphones or high end speaker systems out in the field.

The same thing with professional sound reinforcement.. their biggest concern is durability rather than sound quality. Reason? A typical concert is way higher dB level than what one can withstand, so they are causing hearing damage, so after 15 minutes, your hearing is trashed, in most cases. So quality of sound takes a back seat at a concert that has a sound reinforcement system. They certainly aren't going to use cables that are $1000 a meter, that's for sure. They have long cable runs, so cost is an issue too.

corrective_unconscious's picture

My example of coaxial cables which depart from their most basic spec of impedance shows this - in many cases that departure will have an effect. My old Cobra Cables which could make certain amplifiers blow up also show this. That's an effect, to put it mildly. Then there's the simple relationship between cable length and (classically) recommended gauge - too thin a gauge for the length will have an effect. Now, the more esoteric factors like skin effect are harder to pin down, but my examples clearly show that cables make a difference.

If cables made no difference then there would not be military spec cabling, period, whether the spec only has to do with environmental factors or not. (Military spec also has to do with handling electromagnetic effects, btw, something which could come into play in a domestic situation, as can physical stresses from bending, etc.)

I don't know if any wiring the armed forces or intelligence agencies use would cost $1,000 per meter, but based on the billion dollar per unit costs of many weapons it would not surprise me if they do. Not because it would necessarily have an audible effect, but because something about its materials and / or engineering would make a difference. As cables clearly do....

mrkaic's picture

And don't pretend you were only mocking audiophile cable directionality - you are mocking the idea of audiophile cables, period.

Dear friend, you are right. I am mocking the idea of audiophile cables.

corrective_unconscious's picture

Yes, I was correct on that. And I was correct to question your claim about where you supposedly worked, too.

mrkaic's picture

You should pat yourself on the back, you correctly determined that I was being sarcastic.

As regards Brookhaven, I was there in the summer of 1992 during my PhD studies and helped (as a graduate student) with a medium energy physics experiment on the proton synchrotron.

corrective_unconscious's picture

Their proton synchrotron shut down at the end of the 60s. You should have said "alternating gradient synchrotron" for more recent efforts. But I'm sure you were there, because your command of sarcasm is definitely Brookhaven caliber.

I'm glad you're on the record as mocking the idea that cables can make a difference, as opposed to just mocking cable directionality, because as my examples show it is elementary that cables do make a difference...in quite mundane, well understood ways.

And to follow up on my other, earlier question to you: Whoever was doing what at Brookhaven in whichever decade was not using lamp cord or twist ties in your wrong-decade device, and could not have. Cables obviously can and do make a difference.

I think we understand each other now.

mrkaic's picture

You googled "Brookhaven accelerator" and copied a search result without really understanding what accelerators do. Alternating gradient synchrotron is simply a type of a proton synchrotron. But anyhow, I don't really care what you think about my stint at Brookhaven.

What I do care about is the fact that we both agree that I mocked the idea of audiophile cables. I hasten to add that I will keep mocking it.

corrective_unconscious's picture

To try and back up very sketchy assertions.

So, did you use lampcord to connect the various devices "you" used at Brookhaven? I note you failed to mention what devices connected with what were in use there. Because it wasn't lampcord.

I clearly questioned the amount of money involved in audio cabling, but as my examples above show there's no question that cables affect sound...sometimes even whether the (mostly vintage) amp will cook itself from all the capacitance.

mrkaic's picture

Dear friend,

I am glad you want to learn some physics. The main "device", if you can call it that, is always a target. We bombarded the target with high energy protons. The target was stationary, encased in a lot of concrete for safety, and connected to a bunch of detectors--not with lampcord, but not with audio cables either :)

You are right about one thing, in accelerator physics it is never "you" or "I", since all work is done in groups, sometimes rather large groups.

Finally, please explain how "all the capacitance can burn an amplifier". I would be very glad if you could draw the circuit in question and show some calculations. Many thanks in advance.

corrective_unconscious's picture

Clever little crock-like. All of your replies.

For more on the infamous Polk Cobra cables burning up (perhaps poorly designed) amps I suggest you try the Polk forums. That's just one (extreme) example of how cables can make a difference in sound.

In fact, didn't you post this?

"Working on my PhD I recall
"Submitted by cgh on February 11, 2017 - 8:12am
"Working on my PhD I recall executing massively parallel Fortran on Crays (and IBM SP3s) from the Unix shell to solve certain classes of partial differential equations. Even screwing up a password involved getting on the phone to the Sys Admin at Lawrence Livermore or Berkeley who didn't differentiate between me and the guy doing top-secret nuclear simulations. Today I (rather, the kids that work for me) run CUDA on GPU grids and write to a cloud. While I have a certain nostalgia for sitting in my basement waiting hours for QBasic programs on, at best, a 486 to produce fractal images (which I my iPhone could do in a second now), which is similar to my nostalgia for listening to really bizarre music at all hours on those ESLs, I have zero nostalgia for those old Crays."

dalethorn's picture

Was Brookhaven advising the Japanese "We got got you a real deal on cheap cables for the Fukushima project - enjoy the savings." ?

mrkaic's picture

No. I am glad you ask pertinent questions.

Mrubey's picture

Single most profound change to the sound of my system was when I replaced the stock power cord on my Audion Silver Night 2A3 amp with a Triode Wire Labs 7Plus 7 gauge cord. It was not subtle at all. It was a pretty amazing expansion of every sound parameter for the better. And it was already really good.

cgh's picture

Once you adjust for the VonHelmhotlz-Frobenius resonance of every cable the Dillard-Schwanz transfer function should be approximately linear in the cubed-root of the cube of the impudence provided they are samarium-doped fullerene tubes with air cores that are maintained at 5 degrees K. Smoky soundstage with a spacious and almost oaky three dimensional timbre. Leathery bass with light, citrusy trebles, and almost ghostly mids aurally redolent and reminiscent of freshly cut garden hose.

rschryer's picture

Finally. Someone who understands science.

georgehifi's picture

Power cables are a hoax.
Interconnects and speaker cables "can"change things by causing filters, this depending on output impedance and input impedance's of the equipment. In well thought out equipment they won't do much either.

EG: a preamp with 1ohm output impedance into a poweramp with 1kohm input impedance all interconnect should be equal with this scenario.

Cheers George

hb72's picture

Personally I am interested in *is* or *is not*. Rather the latter seems true in your example (last sentence).

And i do not care (so much) about what your oscilloscope says but more about what my ears and brain make out of the sound. Note that Sound stretches over 3 decades or 10 octaves in frequency and lets say 90dB SPL. Plus: Ears & brain are exceptional tools w.r.t pattern recognition. Visual sense is a whopping one octave and ca 60dB in intensity roughly. The point being we can hear much deeper into the sound signal than we can see into a visual signal.

For example there is a rather young scientific discipline attempts to uncover otherwise hidden patterns in noisy signals using sonication I.e. transformation of said signal into audible frequency range, and using human ears & brains for pattern recognition.

Have you ever seen a fake painting of a well known masterpiece? Have you ever heard a very very good guitarist imitating Jimi Hendrix? Why is it we can hardly distinguish very good fake from original painting but can tell fake from real Jimi Hendrix in a few seconds?

Summarizing, "should be" might be good enough for those not interested or sensitive, or for standard signal transmission, others might try and hear a difference when listening to their favourite music.

mrkaic's picture

You claim to hear differences between cables. Would you submit to a blind test? Let me try to guess your answer: in this case blind tests have no scientific validity, because "audio is different".

hb72's picture

Sure I'll do a blind test.

Blind test is ok, but often it takes a while to get a real picture w.r.t. "better" or "worse". Spotting "differences" is alot easier, provided there are some. :)

drblank's picture

don't have the same output impedance, and neither do speakers. That's why some cables work better than others with regards to interconnects between pre amps and power amps, and also from power amps to speakers. Some cable mfg will even tell you that just because they might have a cable that's more expensive than another doesn't mean it's going to sound better regardless of the equipment you are using, that's why they might have a variety of different cable designs and they just price them more based on mfg costs. Some electronics mfg will even not recommend certain cables because they might cause damage to the amp. Spectral has this issue as they have high bandwidth power amps and some cables can actually fry the output stage due to the specs of the cable. that's why they have specific designed cables they offer customers that are specifically designed around their electronics.

Speaker impedance changes depending on how much current your are driving to the speakers. Electrostatics vs dynamic drivers, for instance typically have much different impedance levels under different loads.

mpb020479's picture

I think I'm gonna love the comments in this thread.

NiceVic's picture

Hey Hourst, I worked for a few years for an automotive company that made filler hoses. There was actually a lot of science and engineering in it, but also getting the compound just right was something of an art as well. So a bit like cables!

And yes, we did have conferences. And performance was an issue, especially in very cold temperatures. We even had a scandal with a product that would occasionally burst into flames. Not all hoses are the same and they don't perform the same.

I never worked for a cable company though so I don't know if any of that is relevant. And I appreciate you were just being funny. But sometimes there is more to manufacturing than is obvious to the end user.

A. Hourst's picture

Personally I like my fuel tank hose cryogenically treated!
:-)

drblank's picture

freezing metal will change the grain structure. I don't know how much it changes the measurements, but it does change the grain structure, so there might be something to it. I'm sure if you took a cymbal that drummers play, there might be a different audible difference if they cryogenically freeze them the issue with that is is it cost effective and will it improve the sound.

But cryogenic freezing is done to make metals (copper, etc.) stronger, that's why they cryogenically freeze brake rotors for racing cars. It makes them stronger. yeah, copper is a malleable metal so maybe it just makes them less likely for a strands to break, which does happen with cables if they are not handled carefully. That's why some people are VERY careful as to how they handle expensive cables, they don't want to damage the wires by constantly bending them.

I hope that these companies have done measurements internally during their design process when they do something like cryogenically freeze their products. It's just an added cost and I HOPE that it does make some improvement, even if it's just for better durability.

mrkaic's picture

Dear friend, at room temperature the biggest part of resistance in metals comes from collisions between electrons and phonons (i.e. lattice vibrations) and not because of impurities/defects in crystals. For copper at room temperature, the resistance is around 98% due to phonons. So, unless you keep(!) your cables deeply frozen wile playing music, cryogenic freezing will not help you.

cgh's picture

What were The big topics when everyone got together to talk about the performance of their hoses? Skin effect?

Music_Guy's picture

Everything that is different is different by definition. I believe that different cables can impart/reveal differences in the sound...whether or not I can perceive them. I can stomach some of the claims by the manufacturers. High-end cables look cool as audiophile jewelry. But I can't take the prices!!! There is no economic model that justifies the prices; at least not one that involves manufacturing/development cost and reasonable mark-up. It's a case of: How high can we go with the right marketing image? We just have to find customers for whom money is no object. sheesh!

(Maybe I am just jealous wealth-wise.)

hb72's picture

I guess prices have come down on the cheap side e.g. for power cables where 100$ meanwhile gets you something clearly better than stock. And the crazy prices (Harmonix) I understand is a global program for redistribute wealth from those who have and must have the best to those who tweak & tinker. Nothing wrong.

David Harper's picture

The reason for the astronomical prices are to convince the gullible audiophile of the superb, superior sound quality that the wire imparts. This strategy acts as a powerful enhancement of the placebo effect. Which is what all of this nonsense is actually about.

tonykaz's picture

Cables have far more profit than all the rest of the Audio System and they sell very well.

They don't take up Warehouse Space.

Everybody buys em, they even have plenty of extras hanging in their closet/drawers.

It's an easy to hide up-grade ( from wifey ).

People love the "pretty" cable packaging. ( suckers fall for that all the time ).

They are really easy to invent and have exclusiveness.

It's a product that can't be proven to be bad sounding.

It's an Ideal Audiophile Product.

Tony in Michigan

ps. Cable guys are the only ones making any money. ( except the headphone guys )

DougM's picture

Every time this subject comes up, out come the Internet experts who, just because they know a little bit about voltage, current, resistance, capacitance, and inductance, know more than everyone else. Any reputable scientist will tell you that there is far more to yet be discovered than has been. Just because we don't yet have the technology to measure why these audible differences exist doesn't mean they don't exist. It reminds me of the speaker experts who can build a better speaker using off the shelf Scanspeak drivers and x-over components than companies that have spent decades on R&D.
Yes, there are companies who make poor expensive cables and speakers at exorbitant prices, but that hardly makes them all suspect. I don't like cable companies who use voodoo science to prove why their product is better than another, but once again, this doesn't diminish the fact that there are audible differences. Yes, I find some products stupidly overpriced, which is why I have a choice as a consumer to determine what value I place on anything I choose to buy.
There's also the law of diminishing returns where, just as in musical instruments, as the price increases, the perceived difference decreases.
If you don't hear any differences then don't waste your money, but don't insult those that do hear a difference.
This also reminds me of the physics experts who "prove" in their YouTube videos, with their charts and graphs, that there are no audible differences between alder and ash bodied solidbody electric guitars, or between maple and rosewood fretboards, when millions of guitarists worldwide know otherwise. I can hear differences in two examples of the exact same model guitar using the same woods and other parts, because every piece of wood is unique. This is why custom builders use the tap tone method to voice each instrument they build.

Solarophile's picture

I am curious.

What company do you recommend making cables not based on voodoo, not stupidly overpriced? Some audiophiles would name companies like Blue Jean Cables... What's your favourite?

mrkaic's picture

Any reputable scientist will tell you that there is far more to yet be discovered than has been.

Dear friend, could you please cite some of those reputable scientists? Are you a scientist yourself?

cgh's picture

This question was posed by Hilbert in 1900 as part of his "24 problems". He ultimately decided to retract it and we now have his "23 problems". Riemann Hypothesis, etc. It was shown to be true using large scale simulation only in the last ten years. The research team that proved the result demonstrated that it is true 93% of the time at 90% confidence and contradicted no less than 80% of the time. This was the same team that, in 2001, demonstrated mathematically that "wherever you go, There you are".

corrective_unconscious's picture

Postulated dark energy and dark matter say otherwise...something unknown is making up the majority of the universe. That's "majority unknown," literally.

mrkaic's picture

Dear friend, could you please cite some works about the dark matter? How was it discovered? I would also like to see an exact quotation of your statement that Any reputable scientist will tell you that there is far more to yet be discovered than has been.

While you are at it, you may wish to check out the logical fallacy of equivocation to make sure that you use the word "more" in an unambiguous manner. "More" in the sense of more dark matter that "regular" matter does not imply "more" in the sense of more knowledge than lack of knowledge. I know it is subtle, but I can do that for you :)

Allen Fant's picture

Our first deduction is that cabling does make a difference!
As above, secure your power source and possible conditioning based upon locale. Then, start your journey by replacing the stock power cord (PC). The result(s) will not be subtle.

Allen Fant's picture

2nd Note;
I, personnaly, would not buy anything junk-sourced (in part) to china.
Happy Listening!

Solarophile's picture

What junk source? Do you mean recycled? How do we know our iPhones and MacBooks don't have some recycling to them?

As for China, what's the problem. Most high tech things are from China anyways. So long as QC is good, let's not make any gross generalizations.

barw41tst's picture

The Chinese are very obliging, they will manufacture any thing you want from junk to the highest quality you can imagine, it's all up to you.

Decibel's picture

The sciences of today are the myths and legends of the future.

PaulMiami's picture

Once upon a time, back in 1977, when I was sweeping floor as a summer job at Peter McGrath's Sound Components and the ML-1/ML-2 was new, cables did make a difference because most of the cables then in use were just really cheap, with very thin gauges, lead returns on zip cord, plastic connectors ... But since then things have gone to another extreme. I've had some very expensive cables, particularly when I had a Spectral system, but now I'm pretty happy buying cables from Bryson. They use the best Van Damme raw materials and do a great job terminating them. They look great, work great, sound great and most important will not unnecessarily damage your equipmemt or your bank account.

jporter's picture

I have found that using properly tanned human skin as an additional wrap for both speaker and power cables has increased the transparency of my system. If anyone wants to come over and blind test this I would be very appreciative. I changed my room around and I now need some longer runs of cabling.

corrective_unconscious's picture

That's where "skin effect" comes from. Always wondered.

smileday's picture

"JBL Pros with horn tweeter and 2 15inch woofers . . . "

A possibility: due to large bass radiating area, the speaker is more directional at low frequencies. In that set up, the directionality helped reducing effect of room mode.

hb72's picture

I have interpreted the 'JBL Pros' as being dipoles, but might be wrong on that.

Definitely, the 2 15" woofers will NOT show strong directionality in bass, because of a "large radiating area": directionality requires the size of diaphragm to be (significantly) larger than one quarter of wavelength, and at say 100Hz the wavelength is 3.43m (~10yd), i.e. normally woofers are way smaller than 1/4 wavelength and therefore inevitably radiate uniformly in all directions (at 100Hz).

that is, unless woofers are configured as dipoles, of course.

smileday's picture

Directionality is not something like 0 or 1.

We see JA's horizontal response family measurement for many speakers. There is some directionality before 1/4 wavelength.

See 300Hz in the lateral response family graph of Adam Audio Column Mk III, for example. At 90 degrees off axis, there is already a few decibel drop compared to on-axis. 1/4 wavelength of 300Hz sound is 28.3 cm. The woofer's diameter is advertised as 18.6 cm.

Decibel's picture

I believe it had more to do with port tuning frequency, room accoustics and the fact that the JBLs are front ported. I also once read an interesting article discussing how large woofers have better control over room modes etc. Can't remember the details though. But anyway, bass issue was solved and it was one of the most enjoyable sysytems I ever owned. And at an excellent price to boot.

myrantz's picture

I signed up to a webminar by Mr Joe Perfito late last year when he was giving a quick 1 hour presentation about HDMI cables. Personally I find that session useful with a lot of practical applications. This presentation should be equally interesting, if not more, given a potential hostile audience.

For those who can attend, why not give them a go and attend. Listen to what they have to say first. Their idea and context of "importance of cables" and "do cables really matter" may well be very different to what is discussed actively here right now.

spacehound's picture

....of HiFi sites and now rarely post to forums or post 'responses' to subjects.

1) A 'good' cable invariably means an expensive one. This is utter nonsense as there is no 'known' science involved. So the degree of 'sophistication' needed to produce a 'better' cable cannot be known. A piece of ten cent telephone wire might sound best of all for all 'they' know. And they can't sell that for hundreds of dollars.

2) In A/B testing someone with 'good' ears or training can detect which is 'better'.
As he can have no idea what the record producer wanted it to sound like this is also utter nonsense. All it means is "Personally I like the noise it makes". It's not ANY kind of 'accuracy to the available source' quality judgement.

NEED I GO ON????

hb72's picture

what if the record producer makes an A/B test and would find A or B more realistic? would that count?

spacehound's picture

Of course it does. He has the live band or whatever in front of him to compare. We haven't. All we can say is which one we 'like' the most as we don't have that reference.

'Analog' cables CAN make a (very small) difference as they are all 'filters' to a tiny extent. A cable that filters the high end will sound 'dull' and a cable that filters the low end will sound 'bright'. But this effect is vanishingly small whatever cable you use. But if you CAN detect it, and I have, which one I find 'best' is entirely down to my preference so has NOTHING to do with high quality as we have no reference.

And the more complicated the cable is the greater this effect is likely to be. Remember, a cable is a passive device, it can't INCREASE anything. and the thicker the cable, the larger the connector is, and so on, the larger any 'filtering' effect will be, so such cables are always inferior to a simple thin one with connectors made out of small bits of 'tin'. Speaker cables the thicker the better up to a certain point as they are carrying power. But there is no need for any fancy construction, for example to avoid 'skin' effects as such things simply don't happen at frequencies anywhere near close to frequencies even 'golden ears' claim to hear.

So simple cables are likely to be the most accurate. They are likely to be the lower cost ones too of course.

So all this high priced cable stuff is nonsense.

And as for 'digital' cables such as a USB cable it is pure imagination - expectation bias. And it demonstrates that those who claim a difference have ZERO knowledge of how digital systems actually work. Which is simple enough and easy to read up on. But such people won't do that as they prefer their dreams.

hb72's picture

Of course we all have references, we all know how real pianos sound, real male voices, real female voices, real children's voices, real hi-hats, drums guitars, ambient noise, paper, leaves, etc etc. and we know if they do not sound real. Most hifi CONSISTENTLY errs a little to some side (bright, dull, overdamped mids, harsh treble, disproportioned upper bass) which comes out mote or less in all records. If all errors evenly distribute to either side of the true amount (I.e. equally often too much upper bass and too little) we can say it should be about correct. Of course that is not an absolute method, since recordings themselves might predominantly err to one side. If so, then above described method would support to find neutrality of system + source i.e. it considers even tendencies in recordings.

Re cable technology: What you write entertains me: cable producers try to use pure materials, ideally the most simple (single crystal silver without any errors in structure) and separate wires with a material of the most simple dielectric properties simply from no material at all. Unfortunately vacuum doesn't hold conducts in place, so compromises need to made, and it is attempted to chose a topology where conductors touch the carrier dielectric only in a few spots, otherwise conductors are ideally surrounded by air. A dielectric material is mostly chosen that is as close as possible to the simplest w.r.t. static and dynamic dielectric properties... and unfortunately the material that comes closest (PTFE) is neither cheap not easy to manufacture.

hb72's picture

Of course we all have references, we all know how real pianos sound, real male voices, real female voices, real children's voices, real hi-hats, drums guitars, ambient noise, paper, leaves, etc etc. and we know if they do not sound real. Most hifi CONSISTENTLY errs a little to some side (bright, dull, overdamped mids, harsh treble, disproportioned upper bass) which comes out mote or less in all records. If all errors evenly distribute to either side of the true amount (I.e. equally often too much upper bass and too little) we can say it should be about correct. Of course that is not an absolute method, since recordings themselves might predominantly err to one side. If so, then above described method would support to find neutrality of system + source i.e. it considers even tendencies in recordings.

Re cable technology: What you write entertains me: cable producers try to use pure materials, ideally the most simple (single crystal silver without any errors in structure) and separate wires with a material of the most simple dielectric properties simply from no material at all. Unfortunately vacuum doesn't hold conducts in place, so compromises need to made, and it is attempted to chose a topology where conductors touch the carrier dielectric only in a few spots, otherwise conductors are ideally surrounded by air. A dielectric material is mostly chosen that is as close as possible to the simplest w.r.t. static and dynamic dielectric properties... and unfortunately the material that comes closest (PTFE) is neither cheap not easy to manufacture.

kiranps's picture

I was just wondering, are there any instruments that can measure the differences in cable sound quality, if so then, this whole argument would be moot ? Right ? We have devices that can measure distortion , jitter etc why not for Cables. I guess someone needs to build one to put this whole subjective nonsense to rest.

spacehound's picture

It's impossible to measure personal preferences or imagination. And we'd need two different instruments, neither of which exist :)

Though a cash register or the buyers credit card would likely give a fairly accurate answer to how good he thinks his cable is :)

hb72's picture

you could say the same about any other hifi kit. But it wouldn't be true. Right?

spacehound's picture

But cables are the biggest rip-off of all. And people fall for it.
Look at this, after a comment here about military quality cables:

"But military cables aren't designed to SOUND good."
Of course they aren't. Cables, being passive, should not have a 'sound' at all.
And nearly all, except expensive 'audio' ones, don't.

Or this:
"I don't care what your oscilloscope says"
Well - if it doesn't show 'flat' across the audio range and a fair bit more, the amplifier or whatever you are making won't be accurate. And accuracy is the very definition of HiFi. If you don't 'like' the noise it makes, buy a different recording. Or maybe you just don't like the Beatles, no matter how good the recording is :)

Any piece of so-called 'HiFi' just plain ISN'T if it has a 'sound' of its own. It will put that 'sound' on everything you play.

Thus the need for the oscilloscope.(And a whole lot of other such instruments.) Every manufacturer will have them. If they ignore what these instruments says they are selling rubbish, no matter how much it costs.

hb72's picture

"Cables, being passive, should not have a 'sound' at all.
And nearly all, except expensive 'audio' ones, don't."

(Passive) Loudspeakers are passive too, and should not have a 'sound' at all.

spacehound's picture

1) How much live music do most of us listen to? And remember that has gone though 'processing' too, starting with the microphones.
So recorded or 'live' we have no idea what the 'provider' wanted. And HiFi doesn't even approach the sound of a live 'electronics free' performance, though many pretend it does.

2) As for cables (and all the other stuff). We who have spent much of our working lives in relevant disciplines get rather fed up with 'lay' HiFi enthusiasts telling us what we don't know. We laugh at it too, as shown by the microscopic size of the 'specialist' HiFi industry when everything else is expanding.

Do you have ANY idea of the amount of world PTFE production, for example? And if you think many of these 'specialist HiFi cable' manufacturers have the capability of making their own wire you are mistaken. Though a tiny few do, not that it results in any obvious superiority.

It's always a problem when a 'field' is partially understood by the 'man in the street'. Do you dispute medical matters with your heart or brain surgeon? Of course not.
Maybe we should all turn our skills to microbiology or quantum mechanics instead. Then we won't suffer so much 'pure noise' from lay people.

As I said, it's why I don't often get involved with such stuff now. But it's still fun to read about expensive stuff and I sometimes buy it, in several areas, including HiFi. But that's about all. Lay opinions on 'science' aren't worth the electrons. AND I'M AN ENTHUSTIAST TOO, which is why I sometimes appear. But I know what makes ense and what doesn't.

corrective_unconscious's picture

"How much live music do most of us listen to? And remember that has gone though 'processing' too, starting with the microphones."

You have mixed up "live performance" and "un-amplified sound." We're discussing sound quality, not performance quality. Obviously in this context, and speaking of a reference, "live sound" means there would be no sound reinforcement system, i.e., no mics or processing, as you put it. If there's a mic and electronics and speakers then it might as well be recorded as far as the actual sound goes.

spacehound's picture

In fact I mentioned exactly that in an earlier post.

Unamplified or amplified, we still receive it in our home via a 'transmission system' Be that a CD, a file (a CD is a file too, there isn't any 'sound' on it like there is on a vinyl record), internet stream, FM radio, whatever.

And microphones, microphone cables, other cables, amplifiers, (a microphone does not give a big enough signal to feed anything except a high impedance preamp) etc. etc.

So in the home we NEVER hear it 'uninterfered with'. So we haven't got a reference.
And anyone who thinks he can 'remember' what it sounded like in the open air or the concert hall when he DID hear it live is in cloud cuckoo land. And the environment you later hear it in is totally different.

And all that still applies if you played your own piano in your own room, next to the 'stereo'. and recorded that live performance. It's then a recording. You may THINK you have not altered it, but you have.

No reference anywhere.

'LISTENING' to cables is thus a total waste of time. All it ever indicates is your own preferences, which have NOTHING to do with HiFi, which means 'accuracy' by definition.
And those 'preferences' will put the cables 'stamp' on anything you hear using it.

The ONLY way to get anything like 'close' is to MEASURE the cable. If it DOESN'T have a FLAT frequency response (little else matters as all measurements are actually contained within 'frequency response' or a different way of measuring it, such as measuring 'rise time' or using a 'spectrum analyser' or measuring the famous 'LCR' - inductance, capacitance, and resistance, so often quoted, which is merely a way of estimating what the frequency MAY be after you have made it), DISCARD it, regardless of how little or how much it cost.

THAT will at least mean the impact of the cable you end up with is at a minimum even though you don't have a reference.

The same applies to every other item in your system of course, except the 'digital' parts such as a computer/streamer/'digital' cables, whatever, all which don't have a 'frequency response' as they are not producing or conducting 'sound' or even an electrical equivalent of it. That 'electrical equivalent' of sound only begins part way through the DAC chip or the discrete components that do the same thing, never before that. It is producing or conducting an electrical equivalent of 'bits', that is all. And the only 'clock' that matters is the one in the DAC. None of the previous ones do.

David Harper's picture

mrkaic and spacehound, you guys are the voices of reason. But you're making an argument that you can never win. Audiophiles hear what they want to hear. It's all in their heads. It's like pointing out to someone the contradictions inherent in their religion. Someone once said"audiophiles don't listen to music with their equipment,they listen to their equipment with music"

hb72's picture

"Audiophiles hear what they want to hear" - and likewise sceptophiles cannot hear what they do not want to hear.

However, I wonder how one can argue complete irrelevance of cables when tiniest of differences (errors) in caps, resistors, coils, and transistors make all the difference in speakers or amps, while a dielectric material in a cable shall (must?) have no influence at all (whether made of foamed ptfe or made of ghastly pvc [=the nightmare of cable believers]).

Your route (complete irrelevance) is really from a logical perspective more difficult to walk in argumentative way than mine (not irrelevant), thats all I want to say.

spacehound's picture

Afaik nobody is saying they are irrelevant. I'm certainly not.
But:
1) (Arguable but there is no way to discuss it in any sensible manner as we haven't got any 'distortion' figures for cables) The difference is so tiny compared to the other parts that it doesn't matter.

2) There is no 'known' science to it. So you can't do any 'science' in advance. Thus the only way any effect can be found is to make it completely and listen to it.

3) So you do that. You think it sounds 'better' than others or your last effort.
But as you can't know how the 'recording provider' wanted it to sound you have no reference.
Live music is no use. I recently heard a live performance of Handel's Water Music on the excellent BBC Radio Three UK FM broadcasting system. I could INSTANTLY tell it was live but I had no way of telling if it was 'accurate' to what it actually sounded like if I was there.

4) Ergo there is no way an expensively constructed (or expensively sold) cable can be SHOWN to perform more accurately that a five dollar one from Walmart.

jeffdyer's picture

Audio signals don't run up into the frequencies that suffer interference from dielectrics (which is little more than a series of tiny capacitors across the signal wires), whereas actual resistors and capacitors have orders of magnitude more effect.

hb72's picture

you are talking about audibly discernable differences or differences clearly visible on an oscilloscope?

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