Gramophone Dreams #82: IKIGAI Kangai-level cables, dCS Lina headphone amplifier

Decades ago, when I was peddling million-dollar sound systems, an astute potential customer asked me: "If I buy your very expensive system, what will I get that I'm not getting with my less expensive system?" Smiling my best fatherly smile, I whispered to his ear, "Goosebumps, tears, and laughter."

With a slightly worried look, he asked, "How much did you say those silver cables cost?"

Thirty years later
Changing audio cables always changes the sound of my system, sometimes a lot but usually just a little. Typically, the sonic effects of cable changes are modest shifts in focus, tone, or transparency. But sometimes during blue moons I've seen a new set of cables turn a blah, dull, fuzzy system into a macrodynamic, microdetailed one. Or turn a cool, mechanical-sounding system into something fierce and mammalian.

I would never blame an audiophile for thinking that specialty audio cables sound mostly the same and that buying expensive wires would be foolish. That view is justifiable because it reflects most audiophiles' experience. I felt that way myself until one day in the 1980s I went off-piste and experienced my first silver-wire cables from Kimber Kable.

Ray Kimber, who I met somehow through the Audio Amateur magazine crowd, called to suggest I try a loom of his new braided silver wire. His cables turned my well-behaved, even-keeled system into a macrodynamic, microdetailed fantasia. No wolves or mammoths appeared, but the clouds vanished, and the sun came out.

Before that silver sun came out, my system was wired with various gauges of generic Mouser "hookup wire," which I had discovered by using it for point-to-point wiring in the amplifiers I was building. Mouser's stranded polyvinyl-coated copper did not appear to stifle or grossly pollute signal currents, so I began fashioning all my interconnects and speaker cables from it, in my preferred colors, with Switchcraft connectors.

Changing from Mouser copper to Kimber silver interconnects and speaker cables threw a brighter, purer light on every recording. Atmospherics and the specters of performers became a more prominent part of the listening experience. Equally noticeable was how silver added something akin to a shimmering halo around the stereo apparition. I found these enhancements appealing and worth the extra cost.

A few years later, I switched to hair-thin, hand-drawn Italian silver wire from Audio Note Japan (now Kondo). Those wires, which were made entirely in-house, took data retrieval to an extreme level that forced me to coin a new descriptor—"LSD-spiderweb"—which referred to the surfeit of detail I experienced. Changing from almost-free copper to Kimber and Kondo silver was like switching from aspirin to windowpane acid provided by Owsley Stanley III. I tried those top-shelf silver cables with middle- and bottom-shelf components and discovered that their effect was pretty negligible with the bottom-row stuff but sometimes dramatically effective at upping the excitement factor of midlevel components. As a result, I have no qualms about using $4000 interconnects with a $2000 integrated amplifier.

I've been experimenting with wires since the 1970s, yet I have never experienced a compelling, frisson-inducing system at any price level that had not been carefully cable-curated.

IKIGAI Audio Kangai-level cables
Forty years later, during the summer of '23, a musician/audio dealer friend named Steve Davis (currently of Analog Matters, an importation and distribution firm located in Ormond Beach, Florida) sent me a loom of Kangai-level wires from Dutch manufacturer IKIGAI and urged me to try them "quick, just for fun" before he took them to an audio show. The last time Steve asked me to try a product, it was the Falcon LS3/5a, which I reviewed in 2015 and bought immediately. Because Steve has famously good taste and waited eight years to send me another product, I decided to give his IKIGAI wires a try (footnote 1).

A pair of 0.75m Kangai-level interconnects costs $3610, and a 2m speaker cable pair is $9400. Which means that "just for fun," I wired my floor system with approximately $20,000 worth of 5N silver/24kt gold conductors. I was eager to see what these thin, flexible, well-constructed cables would do to the sound of my system, which had been carefully curated with Cardas and AudioQuest wire.

The Japanese word "IKIGAI" translates loosely to "reason for being," which suggests that their designer-manufacturer—Jeffrey Dam, in the Netherlands—is either exploiting Japanese philosophy and aesthetics for marketing purposes (possibly a good idea) or abusing hyperbole (as all manufacturers have a right to do). Either way, it's obvious that Jeffrey Dam feels confident in what he has created and builds with his own hands.

IKIGAI cables are offered at three levels. The entry level is called Sugure (Japanese for "excellent"), which is all stranded 5N silver fitted with ETI Research connectors. (IKIGAI's DIN Phono and BNC connectors are made by Furutech.) The midlevel IKIGAI, which I tried, is called Kangai, which means "emotion." Kangai adds more strands, some in 24-karat gold, and a more complex strand-weave armature. IKIGAI's highest-level cable is named Kinzan (gold); it adds more strands, more varieties of stranding, and TIG-welded connections.

Before I seriously engage with any cable product, I need to know that it is thin, compliant, and gentle on my components' rear panels. If it lays neatly and does not attract dust bunnies, I fall in love. If it recovers above-average amounts of raw energy from a file or disc, I contemplate a long-term relationship.

IKIGAI's Kangai-level wires passed all those tests, but most notably and uniquely, they put a fun, frolicking dynamic charge on every sound coming from my speakers. They made lesser cables seem drowsy and constrained. The Kangai-level IKIGAIs brought to my system a fresh-air clarity and a "Lights, camera, action!" vibe that equaled or exceeded AudioQuest's Thunderbird, which specializes in those things.

But the IKIGAI's way was gentler. Its temper was more relaxed than that of the AudioQuest and more ethereal than a full loom of Cardas Clear Beyond, which, in striking contrast, keeps its bare feet planted in black soil under a yellow sun. In my system, Cardas Clear Beyond makes its best magic in the mid- and lower frequencies. IKIGAI's Kangai-level cables made their best magic in the mid- and high frequencies, where their exceptional delicacy made opera, choral, and orchestral recordings extra pleasurable.

The main thing that separated the Kangai-level IKIGAI cables from others I know, however, was how much charged, scintillating energy they wrung out of recordings. If your system leans toward cloudy or drowsy (which my systems rarely do), IKIGAI wires might elevate vivo and transparency.

The dCS Lina headphone amplifier
Established in 1987, dCS is a British company (footnote 2) that today projects a products-for-the-educated-class aura similar to the ones Linn and Naim have projected since the 1970s. Linn and Naim became famous for making analog products then later mastered digital. For nigh on 36 years, dCS has been widely respected for the sonics and engineering quality of its digital products. While it's part of a suite of products that includes digital parts—a DAC and a clock—this dCS Lina headphone amplifier is dCS's first all-analog amplification product.

The luxuriously matte-black Lina retails for $9750 and is designed to be part of a trio of matching components. The others are the Lina 2.0 Network DAC ($13,650) and its associated Master Clock ($7750). When used together, these components make up a three-tier, monolithic stack of serious-looking black boxes that weigh almost 50lb and that, purchased together, cost $31,150. dCS seems to have created this iconic-looking black monolith to further establish their brand in the global community of headphone aficionados. Walking around CanJam NYC 2023, it was easy to spot these unique, triple-decker monoliths from across the room. In use, it felt like an end-game headphone system. For this column, I listened only to the headphone amp and not to the DAC/Master Clock combination.

According to the published specifications (footnote 3), the Lina amplifier is a solid state, class-AB design capable of delivering 2W into 30 ohms or 0.48W into 300 ohms with balanced 'phones, or 1.6W into 30 ohms and 0.2W into 300 ohms with unbalanced. dCS doesn't specify the Lina's gain, which can be switched between Low and High from the front panel. Low is for sensitive, easy-to-drive headphones and IEMs.

High, on the other hand, is for difficult-to-drive headphones, including such planar magnetics as the 47 ohm, 89dB-sensitive Abyss or HiFiMan's 80 ohm, 83dB-sensitive Susvara. According to the section labeled "Drive" on the dCS website (footnote 4), "The Lina amplifier's design is optimized for 60 ohms, as that is where the headphones on the difficult to drive end of the spectrum sit."

dCS says that the Lina amplifier will drive "the full 14VRMS"—RMS is for root-mean-square, which you can think of as the average voltage output; the peak output voltage will be higher than this by a factor of about 1.4—into impedances as low as 45 ohms, to ensure that headphones that require voltage are adequately driven. "The Lina Headphone Amplifier employs a topology that is sometimes called Super Class A or Class AA. This allows the amplifier to drive an impressive maximum of 4.5W per channel continuous into 45 ohms, while maintaining the excellent linearity typically associated with a Class A amplifier," John Giolas, VP sales and marketing at dCS, told me in an email.

"Like the rest of the dCS range, the Lina Headphone Amplifier uses a hybrid power supply. It features a toroidal mains transformer. This is then followed by switch-mode power supply elements, which work well at supplying the consistent DC voltage the circuitry inside the amplifier requires. The only flying lead connection inside the unit is from the transformer to the power supply circuitry—everything else is contained on the single flex rigid circuit board."

The Lina headphone amp includes three analog inputs: one stereo pair of unbalanced RCA, with an input impedance of 48k ohms; one stereo pair of buffered (high-impedance) balanced XLR; and one stereo pair of "unbuffered" balanced XLR for use with low-impedance source components including the Lina DAC. The unbuffered input utilizes shunt feedback to reduce common-mode distortion.

On the front panel are three headphone outputs: two 3-pin XLR—one each for right and left channels, plus one 4-pin XLR—and one 0.25" (6.35mm) headphone jack.

Tools for fun: My plan for this Lina report was to keep my listening system stable and reproducible by others. That meant using Denafrips's Terminator Plus DAC feeding AudioQuest's Thunderbird interconnects, alternating with the HoloAudio's Spring 3 DAC connected with Cardas's Clear Beyonds.

Footnote 1: JD Ikigai, Lorentzstraat 75, Roosendaal, The Netherlands. Tel: +31 (0) 620626025. Email: Web: US distributor: Analog Matters/Big Ear Consulting LLC, 1453 Rt US 1 North, Unit 32, Ormond Beach, Florida. Tel: (800) 752-4018. Email: Web:

Footnote 2: Data Conversion Systems, Ltd., Unit 1, Buckingway Business Park, Anderson Rd., Swavesey, Cambridge CB24 4AE, England, UK. US distributor: Data Conversion Systems Americas, LLC, PNC Bank Bldg., 300 Delaware Ave., Suite 210, Wilmington, DE 19801. Tel: (302) 473-9050. Web:

Footnote 3: See and

Footnote 4: See


cognoscente's picture

Is this for real? Is this serious? You get goosebumps, tears and a laugh (only) because the equipment you using is decadently expensive and disproportionate in relation to everything else? And not because the emotion in the music? So it's about the equipment and not about the music? So only the richest can enjoy music? Get goosebumps, tears and a laugh? You can buy them? Btw how expensive are the pants you are wearing? The clock on your wrist? What arrogant and condescending to everyone else (not having these cables and headphone amplifier). Fortunately it says nothing about all those other music lovers.

Glotz's picture

He is serious.

It delivers the technical performance enough to bring the emotional content out in music.

This particular systems does that. There are many more less expensive systems where HR feels the same way.

But you know that already, right?

cognoscente's picture

I also get goosebumps, tears and a laugh when the right music is played from the 400 euro Denon mini set at my parents' house. It's about the music and the memories, sadness or joy it can evoke. The equipment is secondary (although I admit that music played from the built-in speakers of an iPhone does not work for me, but a 400 euro set certainly does).

miguelito's picture

No the price itself has nothing to do with it. It is about discovering components that improve the perception of tone, texture, and emotion. Yes you can hear all those things even with old 78s - actually incredibly so. It is all about searching for the components that give you more goosebumps, tears, and laughter as you appreciate the music you love. And in some cases those components happen to be more expensive.

cognoscente's picture

I'm just putting thise prices into perspective, if you still don't find such prices absurd, then you don't find such prices absurd. Simple!

cognoscente's picture

As in another article, a Krell mono amplifier for the price of 2x an Audi A1 or even 2x the price of an Audi A3, and even more expensive than an Audi A6 (which is an expensive excellent hell-of-a-car). And then you only have a power amplifier and you still need all the rest of the set. I no longer see the reasonable relationship between all things. It is no longer in proportion with everything else.

miguelito's picture

Regardless of the price. It just doesn't do what I value in sound.

miguelito's picture

Do you find the price of a $300k performance car absurd? Do you find the price of a $15k cartridge absurd? So the questions are:
1- Is there something those items offer that cheaper items don't - the answer to that is yes, but you might not have a use for that;
2- Is the price/performance worth it to you? You are the only one that can answer that;
3- Even if you agree that those items offer something special, is that something you want? You can only answer that;
4- Is the price justified? Rare items have many aspects to their build so in reality that is a very difficult question to answer;
5- Can you afford them? Or can you not afford them so you're trying to convince yourself that there's no difference?

What I will say is this: I have never met a serious, honest audiophile who can actually listen critically (most don't know how) that has not experienced the impact of cables. If you tell me that hookup wire sounds the same as a Kondo cable, something is amiss with you.

cognoscente's picture

I also get goosebumps, a tear or a laugh. At a live concert or at home (my very musical and transparent set), but also on a Denon mini set of 600 euros. Yesterday I saw a broadcast on TV about "when does music give you goosebumps". No one there talked about the equipment, just aspects of the music.

miguelito's picture

None of this implies that you can't get goosebumps and tears with lower-priced equipment.

My personal experience - based on the sound I like - is that higher price is a necessary condition but not sufficient. I have listened to plenty of stratospherically priced systems that I would not pay $10 for (unless I can pay $10 and sell it back for $1M). I find that very careful curation is - for my taste in sound - absolutely necessary, but I also find that those components that really make it for me are rather pricey, unfortunately.

And no, I am not charmed by the price, mainly because - to be honest - I can easily afford it.

AJ's picture

No the price itself has nothing to do with it.

Except for those familiar with science ;-):
Price has everything to do with it...and a great reason to spend whatever makes one happiest. Backed by science.


AJ Soundfield

ChrisS's picture this one,

Look at the people in the groups that they study...

20 year olds!!!

AJ's picture

Evidence that 30+ year old men become immune?

ChrisS's picture

Data collected on 20-30 year olds vs 50-60 year old subjects...

Look at what's being studied.

What do you think?

AJ's picture

Marketing, bias, etc. is being studied. I think your belief that >30 age immunizes old audiophiles against this is not evidence based.
The evidence is that price-marketing for, including cables, wines, etc. affects human perception. Thus audiophiles have cover for spending whatever they need to please themselves.

ChrisS's picture

...experience makes a difference.

But you won't know that from these studies.

The test groups are so small and the age range so narrow that the data and conclusions reached by this study and the one I cited have nothing to do with me and most of the readership here.

AJ's picture

Then cite your evidence that "experience" makes a difference vs marketing and bias.
Otherwise mere wishful thinking belief.

ChrisS's picture

...of 20-30 year olds to the general population is fanciful thinking.

And incorrect.

The scientific method is the evidence.

AJ's picture

Except you have none. No evidence

ChrisS's picture

...not evidence.

ChrisS's picture huge, but

the buying power of 50-70 year olds is not insignificant.

AJ's picture

That's exactly who cable marketers are targeting. The guys with the most hearing loss but belief they don't ;-)

AJ's picture

We do know what all that "experience" earned you

ChrisS's picture

...hearing aids, Depends, corneal implants, and metallic joints, we spend billions on home entertainment products, portable hi-fi, recorded media, and live shows.

Who are the losers?

The have-not's, poor shoppers, and lousy marketers.

AJ's picture

Not the marketers. The "experienced" sure have lost vs the 20yr olds though, as the evidence clearly shows ;-).

ChrisS's picture

Just the lousy marketers, like the ones who tried to sell us Crystal Pepsi, Windows Vista, etc.

Ortofan's picture

"Mouser" wire he used? AFAIK, Mouser is a retailer/reseller, but not a manufacturer. For example, they sell hook-up wire produced by such companies as Belden and Alpha. Saying Mouser wire is akin to saying eBay wire - it gives no information about the actual maker of the product.

ThomasK's picture

Back in Sound Practices, Issue 8, Herb specified the use of "Carol PVC hook up wire" in one of his DIY projects. Carol seems to have been absorbed by General Cable and the product is currently offered by Digikey.

Glotz's picture

Is just lamp wire.. it doesn't need validation.

creativepart's picture

"A pair of 0.75m Kangai-level interconnects costs $3610, and a 2m speaker cable pair is $9400."

This makes no sense. What kind of 6' speaker cables can cost $10,000? There are no moving parts, not really any materials that can cost that much. Add up the MSRP of the products in the most recent issue of Stereophile, just this one issue... it's ridiculous. Obscene even. $10,000 cables, $80,000 amps, $75,000 speakers. Jim Austin needs to read the writing on the corn flakes. This has gone too far - like the designer watch markets. Bring back the Budget Audiophile column.

Anton's picture

"Piece of gear X" is great. It does everything I could hope for from a piece of gear at its price, but, of course, does not reach the level of performance seen in it's more expensive counterparts.

I generalize, but that's kind of our Hi Fi creed, is it not?

miguelito's picture

And possibly you need to improve your listening skills... :)

Archimago's picture

In an era where we have hi-res content and the ability to objectively measure noise levels, frequencies, time-domain performance very far beyond the capacity of human ability (especially as we get older!), let's be honest with ourselves about whether cables really make a difference.

I know "classic" audiophiles don't like to think about the power of psychological effects like expectation bias (especially with $$$ gear), or contemplate dreaded blinded control testing (single blind, double blind, ABX doesn't matter). But you can't just shove these important ideas under the rug as if they don't matter. It looks ridiculous to the general educated, skeptical, tech-savvy public in the 21st Century!

After all these decades without any evidence that $500 cables (much less $2000 or $4000+) are "better", beyond say otherwise good $50 OFC interconnects with good connectors, or 12AWG copper speaker cables, or USB/TosLink/coax digital cables built to spec, and we continue to have no repeatable objective evidence that very expensive cables make a difference, isn't it time to just stop hyping this stuff?

Perhaps it's time to accept with humility that claimed dramatic differences are simply in the mind of the beholder and matters of opinion/faith. Claims about this or that level of emotionality ("Goosebumps, tears, and laughter.") are akin to testimony derived from a certain kind of faith built up by companies and perpetuated by advertising dollars?

Anyone can enjoy and buy what they want of course, so I'm not saying companies don't have the right to make expensive cables. But let's not disparage some no-name "Mouser" cable decades back as somehow inferior, thus one should spend hard-earned money, else we're "missing out", on these $4000+ wires unless there's actual evidence. To do so would simply be frankly dishonest. In fact, it should be important for writers like Mr. Reichert to specifically point to what Mouser "hookup wire" cable, or equivalent today he's talking about in order for others to evaluate for themselves.

Can we trust Mr. Reichert and his impressions from decades back? Is there "magic" in those cables? If so, it should be no issue for the writer to be open and specific for those who want to compare for themselves to the IKIGAI or AudioQuest Thunderbird, etc.

Laphr's picture

That sheer circularity is amusing. You just concluded that without an external proxy for it, a phenomenon may not exist. Without something to look at, it's inaudible. Why? Apparently just because you say so.

If it 'looks ridiculous' to the you, speaking for the 'generally educated, skeptical, tech-savvy public in the 21st Century!' then don't buy it. But please, in either case stop speaking without evidence for things you can't verify.

I happen to be that generally educated, skeptical, tech-savvy public in the 21st Century, which is why I naturally find your reasoning specious.

John Atkinson's picture
Archimago wrote:
Perhaps it's time to accept with humility that claimed dramatic differences are simply in the mind of the beholder and matters of opinion/faith.

The "Hard Objectivist" line is that all audible differences between audio signal cables are due to differences in L (inductance), C (capacitance), and R (resistance).

However, there are other factors that affect a cable's electrical performance: The first three I list are properties of the cable itself; the second three are properties of the system in which the cables is used. Yes, these are all secondary effects, but if R, L, & C are the same (not that they often are), what else is left?

1) [Four decades] ago, Professor Malcolm Omar Hawksford of the University of Essex in the UK derived from first principles the conclusion that there is an optimum conductor diameter for audio signal transmission. (See "The Essex Echo," Hi-Fi News & Record Review, August 1985.) I've yet to see a refutation but perhaps coincidentally, many of the "audiophile" cables tend to use conductors of this diameter.

2) As an electrical field can't exist in a conductor and the audio signal represents a varying electrical field, it must travel in the dielectric medium surrounding the conductor. The primary effect of the dielectric is to reduce the speed of transmission, though it remains a significant fraction of the velocity of light. But as a cable is nothing more than a stretched out parallel-plate capacitor, and the adverse effects at audio frequencies of using a sub-optimum dielectric in capacitors are well-documented, isn't it reasonable to suppose that the dielectric can't be ignored in audio cable design? Would an engineer use cheap PVC or expensive Teflon in a capacitor? Certainly the best-regarded audio cables use "well-behaved" dielectrics.

3) The electrical signal is maintained by the flow of electrons in the conductor (the velocity of those electrons is surprisingly low). Does the mechanical structure of the conductor affect the behavior of the electrons? I remember the English engineer Stanley Kelly telling me how, as a junior member of the British team developing radar in the 1940s, it was his job to pound pure copper busbars with a rubber mallet until their resistance dropped to the specified level.

4) With unbalanced interconnects and components, grounding problems are endemic. (When I measure the performance of review components with the magazine's Audio Precision test set-up, the first thing that is always done is to try all the different possible ground arrangements to get the lowest noise. With some components, changing a ground connection can increase the level of hum and RF noise by a factor of 10.) The lowest noise may not be achieved with a typical coaxial cable. It may be necessary to run a separate ground reference wire and connect the shield to just one rather than both chassis. The system's noise level may well change depending on whether the shield is connected to the source component or the load component. Either way, the electrical signal will be changed and, possibly, the sound.

Any feedback amplifier has two input ports: first, the "input" jack; second, the output terminals are the input to the negative feedback loop. Except in systems where impedance matching is employed, it is normal to load a source component with the high input impedance of the next component. In a system, therefore, you are hanging a cable terminated in a high impedance from one of the source component's input ports. There are two system-dependent effects that I can think of and, of course, there may be more.

5) As the cable is terminated with a high impedance and its shield may or not be a very good shield at RF frequencies and as the cable will always be immersed in an RF field, it is possible that at frequencies where it best behaves as an antenna, it will inject RF energy into the source component's feedback loop in an unpredictable manner. Some "audiophile" cables use a weave to reduce RF pickup; others use an RC network; others don't do anything. Perhaps that may be one reason why they might sound different in different systems and locations.

6) Take a 10 foot or so length of coaxial interconnect and terminate one end with, say, 47k ohms to represent a typical load impedance. Terminate the other with an RCA plug and hook into your preamp's line input. Turn the volume up and bang the cable with a suitable blunt instrument. You will find that some cables are very microphonic, other not at all. Some cables, therefore, will inject an electrical analog of the soundfield in which they are immersed into the source component's feedback loop, again with unpredictable results. (I believe Bill Rasnake at Fluke, has done considerable experimentation into cable microphony.)

Some, none, or all of these factors may play a role in cable "sound." What I don't understand is why someone would dismiss any of them out of hand. What I hope is that an engineer who cares about sound quality might want to investigate cables further.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Anton's picture

When Herb says, "A few years later, I switched to hair-thin, hand-drawn Italian silver wire from Audio Note Japan (now Kondo). Those wires, which were made entirely in-house, took data retrieval to an extreme level that forced me to coin a new descriptor—"LSD-spiderweb"—which referred to the surfeit of detail I experienced"

Is that part of the optimum diameter you mention?


Has anyone been curious enough to attempt to measure the various aspects of cable you describe?

I honestly don't think that's asking too much.

If we can have a one third rated power test, why aren't we using "bang it with a mallet" tests, or trying to figure out the claimed features of a cable.

Seems to be an area of the hobby ripe for the examining.

I like nice cables and all, but we dance around a ring and suppose, while he unsought answer sits in the center and knows.

This situation is like a Samuel Beckett play: we all await the blind listening Messiah who can tell (any?) cables apart without a priori knowledge and price of what's being considered. I see why people can remain unimpressed.

Laphr's picture

He just told you someone who did, Anton. There are others. But since *you* can't hear these effects, what difference does it make? What's the point of demanding that it be explained in other terms you'll reject too?

Or if you did accept some other terms, wouldn't your *then* hearing their effect be bias?

Anton's picture

Sorry I triggered you by expressing some curiosity.

Laphr's picture

But do play the victim.

Glotz's picture

But one test does- listening tests over time with several different examples to listen through.

Oh wait- Is this what that is here, HR?

Yes, he shared his honest observations & insights for years about so many brands. Herb has experience performing listening tests. I trust the Herb.

Look at all of the reviewers that have grown to understand cables from a use perspective. I won't tell you what reviewer has learned to change their perspective over time, but there a lot of them. And I love that.

They are the last vestige of truthful intent in journalism outside of the science periodicals. All that don't appreciate what this magazine (and TAS) for music and it's appreciation, I worry for them and last of monthly periodicals that matter.

Cables and their special powers come out in the systems they were intended and at price points (and performance levels) that have never been heard before. State of the art and its pursuit are upon us right now. AudioQuest Dragon to grounding boxes from CAD or Shunyata. Or the Niagra series from AQ... So many great designs leads many superlative reviews. It may seem fake, but it ain't. It just expensive to make and the market wants it.

And even from the measurements that JA takes every month. The last few years have shown so many advancements and leaps into unknown performance territory. -140db noise levels came about from a ton of different advancements in technology. Parts quality also has seen new strides from more manufacturers than ever before and even older technologies like R2R DACs are seeing refinement not possible years ago.

While I am looking at the new Holoaudio Cyan 2 R2R DAC for purchase soon, I still use a lowly $200 Schiit Modius, with about $800 of AQ cabling that I bought on discount. (Balanced, of course.) It takes me all of 3 seconds to tell you that stock usb, coax and analog output cables sucked and yes, using better, affordable cabling teleported the unit's SQ to at least a $500 unit. I can use these new cables in a new system upgrade later. It was a smart set of purchases.

Anton's picture

If I ground the same way with ‘lamp wire,’ Shunyata grounding wire sounds superior?

Glotz's picture

More of the lack of it.

I used the example as a totally new technology sector within audio. Grounding is becoming a new art and one that directly affects how here noise and probably how we will measure it in the future.

cgh's picture

John, I appreciate your thoughtful comment!

teched58's picture

By all means enjoy writing for Stereophile. But please don't traffic in what you full well know is a heaping helping of nonsense.

Treating readers like they don't know anything is not the way to build trust.

John Atkinson's picture
teched58 wrote:
By all means enjoy writing for Stereophile. But please don't traffic in what you full well know is a heaping helping of nonsense.

Thanks for reading my comment, teched58. I would appreciate you listing anything I wrote in the comment that is factually incorrect.

BTW, regarding one of the points I made, I once took part in a blind test where I could distinguish A from B to a statistically significant degree. It turned out that A was an interconnect with the shield connected to ground at the source end and B was the same interconnect with the shield connected to ground at the receiver end.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

teched58's picture

I mean, unless you know more than all the physic profs you studied under and all the EE profs I studied under, while you may be *strictly* correct an some level -- an INAUDIBLE level, to be sure -- your arguments are and will be unpersuasive to the vast majority of engineers. That (too!) is a fact.

Cables are only audible when they are effed up. You know it, I know it, the lamp cord knows it.

The only ppl who don't know it are some readers of SP and TAS.

P.S. I haven't commented on the $$$$ aspect. While it's true that spending so much money on cables is gauche, you guys have a business model -- pretty much the only model you can go with and have a shot at surviving. So I get why you review high priced kit. The likes of DEI Holdings and Harmon aren't buying ads to push midfi..

Laphr's picture

Translated: If I can't measure something, you can't hear it. And if I won't measure it, you are the fraud. "To be sure."

That arrogance is the central fallacy of audio halfwits.

teched58's picture

I would rather be called arrogant than bereft of knowledge about the hobby which I pursue.

Laphr's picture

And yet you're the troll who can't support your own bald-faced assertions. Claiming technology, they ignore when it eventually calls their name.

Set the technology and physics aside. I'd just like you to rationally defend the rhetorical trajectory in your series of remarks.

Glotz's picture

No response, Ed? Back your comments up!

AJ's picture

I once took part in a blind test where I could distinguish A from B to a statistically significant degree. It turned out that A was an interconnect with the shield connected to ground at the source end and B was the same interconnect with the shield connected to ground at the receiver end.

...for confirming blind listening aka "Trust your ears" as a valid way to test for audibility

FredisDead's picture

"3) The electrical signal is maintained by the flow of electrons in the conductor (the velocity of those electrons is surprisingly low). Does the mechanical structure of the conductor affect the behavior of the electrons? "

John Atkinson's picture
FredisDead wrote:
"3) The electrical signal is maintained by the flow of electrons in the conductor (the velocity of those electrons is surprisingly low). Does the mechanical structure of the conductor affect the behavior of the electrons? "

The crystal boundaries in the conductor increase the resistance - that is why Stanley Kelly had to pound the copper busbars with a hammer; the hammering tends to eliminate the boundaries - and some say that the boundaries can act as diodes.

FredisDead wrote:

Thanks for the linked article. Very informative - and I loved the John Travolta analogy. I have made the link active to make it easier for people to read it.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

FredisDead's picture

or something similar before. I remember reading a similar article about two years ago. When I chose to respond in this thread I just did a search using the words "misunderstood flow of electricity through wire". Having no scientific education since my first semester of undergrad in 1978 I don't pretend to understand 90% of it but my impression is that electricity does not travel inside the wire but instead works due to electrons vibrating on the surface of the wire. The take-away for purposes of this discussion is that all who believe that there is nothing complicated about audio cables due to cables only having three important characteristics ought to re-think things.
It seems to me that If how electricity works is widely misunderstood than there are implications for all aspects of audio and not just cables.

thethanimal's picture

John, I'm confused by the "optimum conductor diameter for audio signal transmission". The mathematics in The Essex Echo article was a bit over my head (it's been too long since PDE in college), but I did see the conclusions stated 0.8 mm was the optimal diameter for a conducter, which is 20 AWG. Is this meant in context of an interconnect or a speaker cable? Is this meant for a single stand, or the equivalent diameter/AWG of stranded cable? Thanks.

AJ's picture

Professor Malcolm Omar Hawksford of the University of Essex in the UK derived from first principles the conclusion that there is an optimum conductor diameter for audio signal transmission. (See "The Essex Echo," Hi-Fi News & Record Review, August 1985.) I've yet to see a refutation

Hi John, hope this finds you well.
So our old friend John E aka JNeutrons refutation was insufficient?


What I hope is that an engineer who cares about sound quality might want to investigate cables further.

What would you suggest, other than a controlled "trust your ears" listening test?


AJ Soundfield

JohnnyThunder2.0's picture

defender of measurements. ASR sycophant. Envious that he cannot hear the difference that so many others with more perceptive and developed brains can. Envious of what he cannot afford. You had been missing from the comments section for a while and we didn't miss you. Go away. To quote JA2 about another troll , you are a mostly a malign presence here.

teched58's picture

...who these persistent "you're just jealous you don't have 100k to pitch away on cables" posts come from.

Why would a random reader be so invested in supporting bling?

Maybe some of these people are dealers or otherwise in the business themselves?

JohnnyThunder2.0's picture

interest in writing nice things about speaker cables because I am a dealer, you're incorrect. I'm not a dealer or in any way affiliated with the audio business. I have no friends in the stereo business. I am lifelong music lover. I have a modest system that has been bettered by proportionately priced audiophile cables. The issue isn't cost as I've heard you nutballs turn your nose up at cables that are in the hundreds. So give it a rest and read ASR where you can all have a laugh at us idiots that can hear things you can't.

Anton's picture

If ASR didn't exist as a foil for sycophants of the other stripe, it would be too difficult to actually address issues brought up by the great 'in between' of audiophilia.

I love ya, Johnny, but this is some kind of bullshit here: "Envious that he cannot hear the difference that so many others with more perceptive and developed brains can. Envious of what he cannot afford."

Trivia: can you recall Stereophile ever saying two components sounded the same?

miguelito's picture

I understand the skepticism. I have a PhD in Physics myself and understand that people have a hard time explaining the reasons a silver litz wire like the Kondo ones makes any difference. However, the scientific method is NOT about fitting what we see to our preconceptions, but to experience and experiment, and if we actually hear a difference, then figure out why that difference exist. Just saying "If the Audio Precision analyzer doesn't show a difference there is none" falls short when you actually CAN hear a difference. And saying "A difference cannot exist" without actually trying is a religious copout, not a scientific statement.

And I will add: People need to develop listening skills. There are many audiophiles that adhere to the concept that anyone should understand how to listen. This is not true at all.

teched58's picture

Since you mentioned it, I was just curious.

(As many readers know, EIC JA2 also has a physics Ph.D. And JA1 has an undergraduate physics degree, IIRC. Me, I'm just a humble B.Sci.EE.)

Glotz's picture


miguelito's picture

I worked on an experiment at Fermilab called KTeV. My hardware work was on the charged particle tracking chambers (plus theoretical and math work to determine the parameters I was measuring). The three CKM constants I measured were incorporated in the standards because they were the most precise measurements at the time (I graduated in 2001). They might have been superseded at this point, I don't know.

cgh's picture

We're about the same age. I was PPPL and focused on computational MHD (macro) and vlasov-poisson systems (micro) with applications for a large tokamak at UCLA, not so much the experiments being built at Princeton just given the geometries I focused on. Small departure into computational nonlinear GR before going to Wall Street, like many math / physics at the time, and didn't really look back... and thankful I didn't given how things have gone given hep-th and noodle theory. It always cracks me up how people in these comments spout endless pablum about various quant degrees and how they may or may not apply to talking about cables with any authority so I applaud your honest response.

miguelito's picture

How else could I afford the stuff I currently own! :) Anyway... Physics is fun, I miss it a bit but enjoy what I do now.

And I have to say I find this chasm between those who "measure" and those who "listen" rather stupid. I have heard differences in sound that cannot be explained by the rudimentary measurements an AP unit can do - which are precise in what it measures but woefully incomplete in my opinion. There is clearly something we are not measuring, and I don't know what that is, but I think it is related to very small differences in transient response. The ear is an extremely precise instrument, especially in its time domain response. If it weren't we would have likely not survived evolution.

cgh's picture

You're spot on. I got into building (mainly) classical guitars around 2009. Luthiery has taught me more than I can convey about the psycho-acoustic aspect of sound quality. Initially I went a bit overboard measuring everything, but thankfully there are some great guitar (and violin) makers that saved me some time.

I miss physics at times, more nostalgia than wanting. I see where it's at and I feel like I dodged a bullet. I can't tell you how many interviews I've had in recent years where AI or ML factors in, since the kids feel like they can't get grants or post-docs if they aren't doing trendy susy or AdS/CFT or ML applications to cosmology. We were the tail end of a golden age.

Ironically, the guy that got me into physics as a young kid is the same person that got me into audio. Sometimes when people say something derogatory about math and its utility I'll remark how even in my 40's I still get paid to solve PDEs, which is true.

teched58's picture

Thanks, Miguel. Now I don't have to worry that you're gonna go hungry.

Anton's picture

What brand of wires did you use?

miguelito's picture

Kondo silver for everything except CrystalCable silver for turntable -> SUT

AJ's picture

I worked on an experiment at Fermilab called KTeV.

Cool. Then you must be not only acutely aware of this, but why


AJ Soundfield

Anton's picture

I am all in favor of taking a scientific approach.

Can you think of a way science may be able to look into this cable conundrum?

That would be a great start. You mention that we have sighted preference, would science stop there?

miguelito's picture

Electrical signals are actually carried by the electric and magnetic fields AROUND the conductors. As such, you would expect that cable geometry and the electrical properties of the dielectrics used affect how signals propagate. You might say "Well this all boils down to L, C, and R", which is true in the steady state, but transients could in principle behave differently. This, I hypothesize, is what makes cables sound different.

Case in point: Kondo uses silk as the dielectric around their silver wires. And many other companies use all sorts of interesting geometries and dielectrics.

There's an interesting video on YT's Veritasium channel "The Big Misconception About Electricity" which goes over this.

cognoscente's picture

This kind of pricing is pure decadence and the tone of this article is pure arrogance. Some people have really lost sight of the reasonableness and proportions of things.

Some prefer to buy a 94 points wine (average of 8 experienced professional tasters) for 200 to 300 euros the bottle just because it is a Grand Cru, because it has prestige (the insecure and inexperienced of the new rich), and leave a 97 points wine for 55 to 80 euros the bottle is only because it is not a Grand Cru. Fact! (the 2022 Bordeaux vintage). Which wine would you buy?

(BTW Grand Cru is a qualification from 1855! so...)

A 1k to 2k Seiko is just as well made (all in-house) and works just as well, perhaps even having a longer lifespan than a 10k - 20k Panerai, Ulysse Nardin, Cartier, IWC, Omega just to name a few . A metal Seiko tells the time just as well as an golden Panerai, Cartier, IWC, Omega. Which one would you buy?

And aren't we talking about an A. Lange & Söhne here? A Bugatti? And who buys that?

(iBTW I once received a 10k Ulysse Nardin automatic as a gift and it lagged 10 minutes every week, even after repairs in Switzerland, a 400 euro quartz Seiko does that better)

But indeed, some would rather buy and drink a Château Cheval Blanc 2022 than a Chateau Branaire-Ducru 2022. To each their own...

Anton's picture

Plus, who still goes by that dopey "100 point" rating system.

Numbers, letter grades...arbitrary 'objective' appearing ratings for a subjective experience.

I bet you have a good palate, though!!!

Glotz's picture

But not hifi. It should be reasonably priced, like his wine. Right?? Lol.

Pure hypocrisy slathered with irony.

With Cog's long list of aristocratic values seem to leave out musical playback. There's many words for that. Pure bullshit seems to fit first.

Laphr's picture

It's all so predictable, Glotz. The joylessness, the want of creativity and imagination, the pedantry and arrogance. Always descending on the world like some flat, churlish virtue. If I can't enjoy it neither shall you. And by god you'll hear of it, at inflated length, over and over, in someone else's space.

Glotz's picture

Inability to appreciate the differences in stereo equipment must also lead to those that cannot appreciate wine or watches. Or autos.

Or all things because their value system is so off and lacking several important facets.

Anton's picture

Forbidden subject?

bhkat's picture

The difference between expensive audio gear(or wire) and expensive watches is that if one buys watches judiciously, one can sell them a few years later for more than what they paid. There will be no expensive wire that does that.

Glotz's picture

Cables go through wear and tear that watches do not.

Some companies do give nice trade-in values for cables, but that is not the intent of the market. It does not deal in rarity, like watches.

Anton's picture

Did you say it backwards?

cognoscente's picture

This is not my experience, a watch (for your wrist) that you bought for 6k in 2016 can now be sold for 5k, you can then say I wore a 6k watch for 1k for 8 years, but you have to buy an 8k buy the clock back for the same quality.

The same for audio, I sometimes see second-hand equipment for sale where they now ask almost the same price as the purchase price 20 years ago. But who buys something like that? Not me.

I was once at a dinner party when someone said he had bought a Ferrari as an investment. When I said it doesn't work that way unless you bought a unaffordable very limited edition. His wife in particular looked crestfallen as if she had been fooled. I continued by saying if you like driving a Ferrari, you should definitely do so. But not as an investment.

bhkat's picture

Only if you buy the wrong watches. If you buy stainless steel Rolexes, the right AP's, and Pateks, you get more money back when you sell.

The Tinkerer's picture

I own several Seikos and a few Omegas as well. They aren't even close to being the same. Whether the experience of wearing them or the time they keep; my Omega's are far more luxurious and vastly more accurate.

But my quartz G-shock is the most accurate watch I own, even among the quartzes. Does this make it the "best"?

I can make a steak faster in the microwave; doesn't mean it will be better.

Herb appreciates nice things. He uses his vast experience to contextualize them for our reading pleasure. I trust Herb. I have heard MANY of the same speakers and pieces of equipment that he has, over the years. It still amazes me the incredibly strong agreement my own observations have with Herb's. In different states, different rooms, often different music, nearly always months of years apart. What an incredible data point that is! An even better data point: I'm not alone!

I likely won't be affording a RUF Porsche or Koeniggsegg in my current lifetime, but I don't need to diminish either of those cars/brands. I've never driven either and am not exactly cross-shopping them with my own purchases. Why are there those in audio who feel the need to gatekeep the point of "reasonableness" of cost or value? Always with the perfect knee of cost/value laying with their OWN selections and not higher.

To sum up my kindly neighbor who is 17 with an old dual TT and deeply used Realistic speakers and Stereo Receiver, "You're all f***en nuts."

So why can't we all just be happy nuts and not gatekeeping nuts?

ChrisS's picture

...vehicles of any kind.

Then there's people who buy nothing but...

Go figure.

Coke, anyone?

ChrisS's picture

If you don't like the price, the hype, the way it sounds, the color, the way it makes your ass look HUGE...

Then walk away.

Go shop somewhere else.

ok's picture

..if hardcore "objectivists" have ever listened to different cables. All I hear from them is second hand "scientific" speculation about how impossible that thing actually is. Have they tried cable swapping and heard no difference whatsoever? Have they heard a difference and rejected it a priori as placebo effect? Or do they think that cable swapping is a shame and refuse to try anything other than straight missionary stock cables?

cognoscente's picture

Of course anyone can buy Château Cheval Blanc wine, A. Lange & Söhne clock or a Bugatti car, especially if they can buy all three, then it is in proportion. At least in purchasing power I mean. It remains decadent and out of proportion in relation to all things, what the actuel product does. At some point it is only about status, prestige, wanting to be closer to God (something that is btw also just a concept, invented, not real). But if it makes you happy, it makes you happy and that's what it is alll about; your happiness, right? And if you need a 300k stereo set for that to enjoy music, to get "Goosebumps, tears, and laughter" then you need a 300k set. Simple!

cognoscente's picture

if you need a 300k stereo set to enjoy music, for "goosebumps, a tear and a laugh", what does that say about your ears, your psyche and about your emotional sensitivity. Your emotional threshold?

miguelito's picture

I can connect with the music and enjoy it even with a tiny radio. Actually I still have my small radios and there's a magic to listening to classical music on an FM radio that is appealing to me.

BUT... Don't fool yourself thinking that expertly-curated $300k systems can't possibly give you more insight, goosebumps, tears and laughter... They can and they do.

If most people can't afford that, well, that's life buddy! You can't possibly tell me that a $1M Ferrari drives the same as a $20K Toyota. Noone will dream of saying that.

ChrisS's picture

...and what we do is called shopping.

ok's picture

..means trickle down economy - money for the intermediate and work for the poor that is. Do you suggest that the rich should keep their gold in their closet?

cognoscente's picture

I call "wanting only the most expensive of the most expensive" emotional and spiritual poverty. It's poverty.

I choose balance, reasonableness, proportionality of things, and therefore peace. That's what I call (emotional and spiritual) wealth and development. Cultivation as you wish.

ChrisS's picture

...the disposable items at a dollar store that end up in the landfill or polluting the water and air good economy or healthy.

groig076's picture

HR has succeeded (with this column) in showing how many of us read this sort of... stuff. As usual, anything to do with expensive Cables and such will produce a number of blowbacks. Most don't have the $$$ but there is that 1% that do. To them, enjoy. Arrogance? Yes, but you should be used to it by now (with most of HR's writings).

David Harper's picture

..."most don't have the $$$..."
Not necessarily always the case. Being super-rich doesn't mean they're stupid. Some the the top 1% would never consider these wires.

groig076's picture

Not implying anyone, at any level, is 'stupid'. My apologies if it was taken in that context.

creativepart's picture

I contend that Stereophile needs to exercise greater editorial restraint.

Issue after issue gives maximum attention to the highest cost products. That results in the market setting ever higher future pricing. If an amp company creates a great new amp then they must price it according to their competition's pricing and it's an upward cycle. Especially, if the really expensive stuff is getting all the quality coverage in magazines.

Along with HiFi publications, I have also read automotive magazines for decades. Certainly there are plenty of $1+ mil super cars available, and the magazines occasionally cover them, but they cover the entire market from the least expensive to the merely very expensive in every issue. It's a wide range in every issue. Not, all super cars all the time.

Sterephile has fallen into that trap - driven by distributors and advertisers - to review and test "super hifi gear" all the time. It should be obvious this turns off a majority of subscribers. I'm sure they hear these complaints loud and clear after every issue is published. My question is, when will they respond with more balance in the reviews they seek out and publish?

ChrisS's picture

...feature "cheap fidelity".

Go shop elsewhere.

creativepart's picture

There are plenty of web sites that...

Who said anything about websites or shopping?

ChrisS's picture

Why? Are you looking for bargains?

If you are looking for bargains, look more thoroughly into the Stereophile reviews.

There's plenty.

Laphr's picture

"Who said anything about websites or shopping?"

Exactly. This is the Argument Room.

ChrisS's picture

"Argument Room" is uncivil and gets nowhere.

Gets as tiresome as a bunch of 5 year olds yelling "He hit me!" and "He looked at me!"

Does nothing for the hobby and music enjoyment, hifi community development, and the exploration of technological advancement.

There's no joy about 5 year olds bawling and spitting on each other.

Go somewhere else.

Laphr's picture

These comments threads become a place for the small minds of deaf people to vociferously attack the magazine without cause. As you say, this does nothing for the hobby and enjoyment of music. It does nothing to develop the hifi community. It does nothing for technological advancement.

In fact, it denies and obscures technological advancement.

It has become an Argument Room, which is bullshit. I was being sarcastic. I agree with you.

JohnnyThunder2.0's picture

all magazines feature high priced content. They do not put shitty Chevys on the covers of car magazines. They do not wear Old Navy on the cover of Vogue or GQ. They do not smoke 5 cent cigars on the cover of Cigar Aficionado. Architectural Digest doesn't cover a typical apartment with furniture from Target. Speak for yourself. I like reading about the exotic equipment and the stuff that I can afford (my last amp purchase was from an Art Dudley review of a 5k amp. PS-I use 1k interconnects and speakers cables with that amp.)

Ortofan's picture

... (or website), one could assemble a system which includes Revel speakers, along with a Mark Levinson preamp, power-amp, digital disc player and turntable (with an Ortofon cartridge). Plus, interconnects and speaker cables from AudioQuest.
Total cost? About $55K.

JohnnyThunder2.0's picture

the review talks about one product and you change the subject to random unrelated recommendations that I truly would take the cash option for if I won that equipment on Let's Make a Deal.

Ortofan's picture

... your mentioning the Crutchfield catalog?

Corndog's picture

Galen Garies, former engineer of Belden, developed a series of cables under the brand, Iconoclast, with a focus on the velocity of the signal and how the geometry of the cable can have a measurable effect. So, there is more to a cable than LCR.

cgh's picture

I haven't thought about it, nor am I in the market for new cables, but I never understood the discussion around velocity as anything other than woo. The drift velocity in a (semi) conductor is a function of current, free electrons, and density/xsectional area of material and is on the order of 10e-8 km/sec for copper and other similar metals; so a fraction of the velocity of a number of things sharing the same dimension, much closer to how quickly my kids move when I tell them to do something.

I am always piqued by the similarities in arguments in audiophile versus luthiery circles. Some are handled much better in one versus the other camp and vice versa. Speed of sound in wood has come up often, and there's even a doodad to measure it if you don't feel like building your own doohickey called a Lucci meter. The metric is largely useless outside of marketing, at least in my opinion, which appears to be a popular opinion amongst people that have put in the time, but it IS functionally related to a number of other very important parameters in construction materials, especially violins and guitars, such as density, young's modulus; and even further related items like cross-grain and long-grain stiffness (stiffness going at the cube of thickness) and all these mechanical things having analogues in analog (is that pun or alliteration or both?) electrical circuits by way of L, C, and R. Of course building instruments is the opposite of building high-fi: in one we want to take an input signal and color is as much as possible and in the other we don't want to color it at all.

So apart from examples like shooting coherent light through ultra-cooled atoms to slow light down to several m/s, at least in our observer's reference frame, I am not sure what effect metallurgical magic that tweaks the electron density of a material such that v_drift changes by a couple of m/s while still ~10e-8 km/s would have on performance. In the world of instrument building and other sub-MHz applications it's largely a marketing term.

Corndog's picture

Galen has posted white papers explaining his designs on the Iconoclast website. At high frequencies vp is not an issue but at audible frequencies it is.

cgh's picture

Thank you for the references corndog, I read the paper and skimmed the axpona talk. I suppose I am not connecting the measurements and graphs to audible design / better conclusions, particularly around velocity (recognizing the lcr numbers in the audible range). A speaker load has varied phase behavior and impedance around its nominal values that swamp the wire's behavior and, provided the amp can handle it all, it's considered a good match. Struggling to connect Galen's numbers to clear design decisions between, say, kimber and ikigai.

Indydan's picture

For all the cry baby cable deniers in this comment section, why don't you go kiss up to your hero Amir on ASR?

noamgeller's picture

For those who compare wine and watches to audiophile cables.

-for making those 10$ wine, you need a vineyard, workers, gear, store place and lots of sun. All this costs real work and real money.

- to make luxury watches you need fine machinery, workers, lots of skill. The machinery alone is an incredible investment.

Now for making cables you need to source your favorite cable materials, a soldering iron, scissors and a heat gun. That's it, that's all there is to it.
No skills required, no piece of land for your vineyard, no super fine precise machinery for delicate work.

If you don't call this bullshit then well, go to talk to the guy sleeping on the street tonight to get some perspective.

Glotz's picture

Do you really think AudioQuest works their product with a heat gun?

Your cables definitely are, ours are not.

Anton's picture

Now we have to chase "Goosebumps, tears, and laughter."


Plus, the way Herb made the sell was masterful.

Now, we gotta find cables that do PRaT and GTL.

Glotz's picture

Very appropriate and timely- March 4th:

"In fact, though, unless a cable is very long (by HiFi standards) or the frequencies to be passed by it are well above the audio spectrum, Z0 may be completely irrelevant and R,C, and L may tell only part of the story, with significant factors like capacitive discharge effects and burn-in being either unheard of or disregarded as voodoo or snake oil and any claims of their effects being audible held to be imagination or placebo effect."

The next paragraph in the article is more directly to the point.

Roger also started XLO Technologies in 1991. A reputed cable company.

EmmaHund's picture

Good God. Is this for real?
I don't even believe you (the reviewer) can hear the difference between these and regular copper cables, which cost a hundredth of the ones reviewed.

David Harper's picture

Yes. Unfortunately it's for real. Or at least these guys think it is. Think about "pace, rhythm and timing". And about "goosebumps,tears and laughter". Be careful that your head doesn't explode.

thethanimal's picture

Your contribution has been duly noted. And since the tone and tenor of your contribution is consistent across all of your posts, can we just assume from this point on that we have all received your message? You are now free to move along to other parts of the internet where your absolutism, thrift, objectivity, and candor may free other poor souls from the shackles of beauty, art, and escapism.

MatthewT's picture

I have some hearing issues, but I'm thankful they are not anywhere near what yours appear to be. Regarding a visceral response to music, what a dry, shriveled up soul you must have.

Glotz's picture

Brilliant comment. Great voices of reason return!

miguelito's picture

As an analogy, consider wine experts. I think we can all agree that some people have developed skills that allow them to differentiate and appreciate wine to a greater degree than the general public. And those opinions are not subjective but shared by most experts - not that those experts necessarily agree on what they LIKE, but they agree on the differences perceived.

And for those that cannot tell the difference between Chateau Lafite and Two-Buck-Chuck, they can save a lot of money!

The same is true here: Some people develop listening skills that allow them to experience these differences. Herb is certainly one of those experts. That does not mean all these experts like the same types of sound, but they can certainly agree, to a large extent on what the differences are.

David Harper's picture

And some people imagine better than others

miguelito's picture

And there are experts too...

But this is the thing: You have Herb here giving you some pointers on these and other products, and if you're someone curious, or even a scientist, you might consider listening to these products and determine if the depictions here are something you can hear or not.

What shocks me, as a scientist, is the assertion that it cannot possibly make any difference, without even giving it a try. I can understand people might not want to taste a cake they cannot afford, but don't tell me the cake cannot possibly taste different.

Laphr's picture

Some people imagine everyone is as deaf as they are, and that sniping at them is reasonable.

Anton's picture

Wine experts can evaluate a wine without knowing the brand name or price.

Wine experts also judge wines using blind tasting.

I don't think the wine analogy holds up well when you look at how the experts judge blindly in one field, and require sighted listening in the other.

miguelito's picture

But it seems here noone arguing it's all the same has ever actually tried... That's the opposite of the scientific method.

Anton's picture

You claim insight on science, but we have only sighted and priced evaluations.

I am all for GTL and PRaT, just spare the phoney "it's science" stuff.

The real bottom line(s)....

If you hear something, great. That's perhaps unique to you. So, spare me the cultish inside knowledge/listening refinement stuff. That's self-congratulatory narcissism...and certainly not "science." Science implies a method.

ChrisS's picture

...and lots don't.

Take those who buy Fords, for example...

supamark's picture

Mark Phillips,
Owner of a Ford once... just once.

ChrisS's picture

...someone should blind test a Ford.

Just once.

Laphr's picture

Science implies nothing, Anton, and it exists only when a field determines how something works.

Then it needs blind scolds to get over their, er, narcissism and go learn it. What is more self-congratulatory than a troll in denial.

Anton's picture

Science is what exists BEFORE a field determines how something works.

Are you serious?

Science create falsifiable and testable data to prevent people like you from continuing to throw young women into volcanoes to please Pele so he won't destroy the crops.

Science is a method of observation and prediction to arrive at understanding.

"What is more self-congratulatory than a troll in denia?" I'm gonna need you to tell me, after you go Google "science."

Start here:,Evidence

Man, I shiver thinking of what you think science is.

Laphr's picture

Your shivering at valid scientific patterns probably doesn't surprise anyone, Anton. That's because we all know that science stems from observations - made by say, Herb above or Dirac or Einstein - which is followed by a theory which is followed by the findings of physical research.

Now you can defensively assert the transparent strawman against someone who you've misread that because IN science science is a method, and you can go back in time to imply that I denied that, but I didn't. You simply won't abide that there isn't a science prepared for you in your special terms HERE for what's pretty darn clearly an observed and observable phenomenon. Per Herb and thousands of listeners not unlike Herb.

That nagging suspicion pains you but unfortunately this is still precisely the cause and effect science operates by. If there were that elaborated science of conductors, dielectrics, shields, terminations, fields, transmission lines, radiation, impedance, reactance, admittance, conductance, susceptance, reflection and whatever else is going on in audio wiring (prepared and presented to your special satisfaction) wouldn't you deny it?

Meanwhile audio is angrily your foil because so far in it you've gotten away with this behavior, behavior that doesn't work in too many other places.

I'm afraid that any first-grader knows that science more than implies a method, Anton. After all it largely is a method. But until that method has been developed, it hasn't, which leaves normal people to observe things somewhat outside of and try and figure them out.

miguelito's picture

that the scientific method requires that you experiment, and if you hear an effect that you didn't expect on your previous scientific knowledge, you seek an a scientific explanation for what you hear. I don't claim to have found that scientific explanation in the case of signal cables, but I am sure it exists. Possibly related to transient effects, I don't know.

David Harper's picture

really? so you are now imagining that I've "never tried"? Do you imagine that everyone who disagrees with you is ignorant of your superior experience? Or that they are always less intelligent than you are? I have, in fact, tried. My experience was the opposite of yours. But you will say that it's because my listening skills aren't as good as yours. Or that my system isn't "resolving" enough. Or some other such bullshit.

miguelito's picture

All I am saying is a large percentage of people denying the effect of cables have either never tried and/or have possibly measured some steady state behavior that might not be representative of real-life effects. This might not be you, and your listening, in your system, with your ears, does not show you any differences. But I do hear differences, and so do a lot of other people. And no, we are not all fooling ourselves.

RH's picture

What shocks me, as a scientist, is the assertion that it cannot possibly make any difference, without even giving it a try.

What shocks me is that you could be a scientist and not recognize the need for controlling well known variables, such as bias effects.

Do you not realize that everything you are writing about cables is said for every psuedo-scientific claim, every bit of woo-woo, New Age nostrums, every dubious alternative medicine. All of them have testimonials of people who "tried it and it works!" and they speak just as you do about skeptics "being skeptical before trying it themselves!"

What you've missed, amazingly given you are a scientists, is that "just trying things" is far from enough. Especially when it comes to extraordinary or controversial claims, it matters HOW you test. And if a claim is technically implausible or controversial among people trained in that field, you'd want to take a scientific approach and at least first establish there is a "there" there to begin with: In other words, see if you can distinguish these cables under conditions controlling for bias.

Once you do that THEN you've got something to explain. Until then your claims about mysterious audible differences in cables resides in the same file as "people seeing ghosts" and "people being able to see the future." You don't have to go wondering "how do they do that? I guess we'll have to wait for science to catch up!" Because it's not even been well established people CAN do those things to begin with.

So you've got the cart before the horse in your reasoning here.

But I do hear differences, and so do a lot of other people. And no, we are not all fooling ourselves.

People who think they hear ghosts and people channelling spirits and aliens say "no, we are not fooling ourselves."

How do you know you actually detected real sonic differences rather than imagined them? Did you listen controlling for sighted bias?
If you didn't, you should know as a scientist why you are jumping the gun.

thethanimal's picture

I had a croissant for breakfast, bought from Aldi earlier this week. In July of last year I had a croissant at a cafe in Paris (France, not Tennessee). I can tell you unequivocally that the croissant in Paris tasted better, yet they're both made from flour, butter, and water. I can tell you the same thing about spaghetti cooked in my kitchen vs. spaghetti in Rome. Heck, my wife can pan sear chicken that tastes better than mine, and that's using the same package of chicken and the same pan. Are you really saying that none of those observations are valid because I wasn't wearing a blindfold?

So how do you know you actually detect real flavor differences rather than imagine them? Do you eat controlling for sighted bias? If you don't, you should know as a scientist that your argument as an internal logical discontinuity.

miguelito's picture

I have no problem with blind testing, it is a better method to do an unbiased test. But saying differences cannot exist, or assuming that if you didn't hear a different with any one pair of cables, then differences cannot exist, or assuming that your system or your hearing are resolving enough, all of these assumptions are unscientific.

As I said above, I fully agree that blind testing IS a better more reliable method. There's not contradiction here at all.

RH's picture

As I said above, I fully agree that blind testing IS a better more reliable method. There's not contradiction here at all.

Yes there is, if you want to be consistent with what you (should) know as a scientist.

You criticized cable skeptics who you think have not tried cables for themselves, and then said: "And no, we are not all fooling ourselves."

But that is exactly what you'll hear from every enthusiast about every dubious unscientific or pseudoscientific claim you can name.

It's all "You can't have an opinion until you've tried it" and "we know we aren't fooling ourselves!"

So there's nothing to separate your results from every other pseudoscientific claim. As a scientist you wouldn't say "I KNOW I'm not fooling myself" if you haven't controlled for the most obvious variable, your bias....number one in the scientific handbook!

How do you move beyond anecdote to more reliable evidence? As you admit: blind testing. Also, objective tests like measurements.

Please remember that the skepticism about "audiophile" cables doesn't just arise out of thin air. It has to do with the fact that electrical cable theory has been very well known for over a century. And the limits of human hearing, including thresholds for distortion etc, are well known and tested as well. The claims made by cable companies are often wildly implausible given what is known. Funny enough, they always start with some technical story of something they say they are solving in cable design, but they virtually never show measurements showing they've fixed anything at all, or that it would be in the audible range. They just make the claim, then kick it to marketing and reviews and have audiophiles like yourself "just try for yourself" little surprise, with no can "hear" a difference.

So back to what you've said: that you KNOW you aren't fooling yourself?

How do you know? Have you measured what would be audible differences between any well made cheaper cable and a boutique cable? Have you tried listening tests controlling for bias?

If you haven't, then you don't really "know" you aren't fooling yourself, and as a scientist you'd know that.


RH's picture

miguelito, while I may seem like I'm busting your chops a bit about cables (I'm skeptical..and yes I've tried all sorts of different cables, including Nordost and others)....

...I've seen your system on Steve's video channel and I want to say you have one of the most beautiful systems and listening rooms I've seen. I'm a tube guy myself, though don't own horns, but I'd LOVE a system like yours! Cheers.

David Harper's picture

This is why I LOVE YOU GUYS!!!!

JRT's picture

I am hoping that you will be covering CanJam NYC 2024 this weekend, Saturday, March 09 (tomorrow), and Sunday, March 10. Maybe bring your JPS Labs' Abyss AB-1266 headphones (or was it the AB-1266 Phi that you have?) for some worthwhile comparisons.

ok's picture

..different things look, smell, taste and - believe it or not - sound different.

pma's picture

John Atkinson, I would rather appreciate if you tried to find a measuring method to show that audio cables change the signal in the audio band. We can definitely identify the grounding issue related to single ended link transfer, but that is not what the audiophiles are talking about. With your education and experience you are supposed to suggest and find solutions, rather than to support myths.

vmartell's picture

Indeed - most assertions sound like if cable had the capability of audio processing or even DSP in the case of digital cables. But the heart of the matter is the implausibility of the claims, which have never been directly tested as opposed to citing vaguely related studies that kind of apply, but do not put the hypothesis to the test. Ah well - cable discussions are fun to read and a great morale booster for me! But they will never be settled! :D