Audio Cables Science or Religion?

Discussion in 'A/V Interconnects, Cables & Power Conditioning' started by gene, Apr 14, 2003.

  1. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

    gene
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    <font color='#000000'>I have just written a new article that discusses how different people view cables. &nbsp;Please join in the discussion and feel free to add your take.

    http://www.audioholics.com/techtip....ce.html</font>
    gene,
  2. Guest Guest

    Guest
    <font color='#000000'>I've been building my first 'real' HT/Music system for about the last year and a half.  In the course of building the system I've been scouring magazines and forums for information to help me build a decent system w/out spending too much money.  I just had an interesting expeirience with speaker cables that I thought I might share with you.  (I just read the rather scathing rebuttal of the AudioQuest 'FAQs')

    My sytem is basically a Denon 3802, Panny CP72 DVD A/V, and Paradigm Monitor 7s L/R, CC 370 Center, Boston Accustic rears.

    I had originally wired the system using a plain jane 16 to 18 gage speaker cable.  I originally bi-wired the fronts (I know that's a whole other diss.).  A freind of mine had access to an employee discount from Monster Cable and could get anything at about 70% of list.  So without too much research I settled on Z2 bi-wires for the fronts and a Z2 center.  Seemed like a #### of a deal.  It took about 3 months to get the cables and in that time I kind of became dis-enchanted with the whole exotic speaker cable thing.  I thought that with my system I probably wouldn't be able to hear much of a difference and worse my girlfriend would think that I was really foolish!  I became resigned to the idea that it would be mostly a cosmetic improvement.

    We got the cables a week ago and hooked them up.  When we sat down the next day to really listen to the system.  My girfreind (very skeptical) surprised me and told me within the first track we listed to that she could hear a difference and thought that it sounded much clearer. I had to agree.  We were listening to the Buena Vista Social Club DVD Audio 2 channel stereo track.  We listened to several DVD-A and CDs, and I really think there was a significant audible improvement.  The speakers seemed a tad forward on the highs but with good clarity and detail before the cables.  They could be a little fatguing to listen to for long durations with music at high volume.  After the cable swap the highs were less forward with more detail and not fatiguing at all.

    Now I personally believe that Monster is one of the worst offenders when it comes to cable marketing vodoo.  Much of the 'specifications' for their cables is a buch of marketing lingo dressed up as engineering that makes it impossible to tell what they really are doing in their cable design.  However their cables made a real sonic difference in my system.  Maybe the old cables had some defects, or its just the difference in gage.( I wouldn't know because Monster doesn't give the wire gage in their 'spec')  Also the idea of using cables as tone control (attenuating high frequency) seem to be a poor way of compensating for system defficiencies (sp?).  However, I think that the previous cables were potentialy causing the highs to be distorted (non-linear impedence vs. frequency?).

    I think that after my experience that if one were to find good quality ( I know that's the hard part!) cables for the $100-$300 range they would be a good purchase.  Of couse companies like Monster make it almost impossible to tell what kind of quality your getting.

    In doing a little more reaseach I came across a decent white paper on a cable company's site that you may want to check out.  The company is called Analysis Plus.  I ran across a review of their cables on Hometheaterhifi.com and a few other sites.  There short story is that they were/are a communications cable company that in the process of testing other cable companies speaker cables realized that most didn't perform well.  They decided to get into the market.  They approch seems to be very egineering/scientifically based.  In addition their cables seem to be not that expensive.

    Check out their white paper.  I'd love to hear some response on it.

    Mike</font>
  3. audioengr Enthusiast

    audioengr
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    <font color='#000000'>I have to be one of the minority of cable manufacturers that has applied engineering and science to cable design. &nbsp;I can do this because I have designed electronics and interfaces for a number of large computer companies for the last 25 years. &nbsp;I don't claim to have all of the answers, but my studies seem to support my theories pretty well so far, based on the performance of my cables as judged by numerous customers and reviewers.

    Frankly, it is really difficult to operate in a field such as audio cables that is dominated by so much hype and pseudo-science. &nbsp;If I were not such a perserverent person with faith in myself I would have abandoned this pursuit 10 years ago. &nbsp;Instead, I have challenged myself with finding some of the answers, including new methods of measurement, new ABX tests and solid correlation between measurements and listening tests. &nbsp;I plan to perform some of these tests this summer, when the cable trade typically slows down.

    Something else to think about: &nbsp;If an engineer is really talented and bright, why in the world would he waste his career doing audio cables when he could get stock options and a $100K+ salary at various fortune 500 computer companies? &nbsp;I've already had such a career.

    Best Regards,
    Steve N.
    http://www.empiricalaudio.com</font>
  4. Clint DeBoer Banned

    Clint DeBoer
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    <font color='#000000'>Good feedback. I think it's important to understand the point of all of these recent discussions at AH as well... Namely that we're not saying cables never make a difference. What we're against is unscientific and false claims made by quasi-scientific voodoo peddlers out to make a buck off the unsuspecting.

    There are some decent folks out there making appropriately-priced good quality cables and not marketing them with false hype and pseudo-science, but they seem to be in the minority.

    For those selling their cables at over $100/ft, I think some detailed specs and test results should be provided to show how they differ from good-quality cables at 1/10 the price. If a difference is obvious and perceivable, it is certainly measurable.

    And then there is the bottom line. We want to educate, but basically people have the right to spend their hard-earned money on whatever they want. We're not trying to save the world, but we would like to inform people of the potential for scams.</font>
  5. Dick Hertz Enthusiast

    Dick Hertz
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    <font color='#000000'>The whole cable thing is just overloaded with hype and falsehoods. It doesn't help that the so-called golded eared types claim to be able to hear the difference between silver and copper wire, between teflon and vinyl insulation, or between gold and nickel connections. Then there's cable &quot;break in&quot; which is a whole 'nother can of worms. I've asked the question, &quot;Just exactly what happens to a cable to break it in?&quot; The answers are &quot;skin effect&quot; and &quot;copper lattice integration&quot; and all sorts of lame BS that doesn't translate in any meaningful way to audible differences. How 'bout &quot;directionality&quot;? You mean to say that once a cable (without an external ground) is used in one position, that it won't work just as well if you reverse it? Gotta follow the arrows, right? &nbsp;And the great thing is the cable gurus do all of this with sighted testing. Who said anything about placebo effect? In any truly scientific field, the way cables are tested would be laughed out of the building. What are these cable guys afraid of? Either the audible differences are as &quot;dramatic&quot; as they often claim them to be, so they can be easily identified by anyone with normally functioning ears 100% of the time or just the products of an overgrown case of &quot;audio nervosa&quot;. &quot;I know what I hear&quot; is a common reply. That's fine. Now show me you can identify the better sounding cable in a blind test in some statistically meaningful way.</font>
  6. Pat D Audioholic

    Pat D
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    <font color='#000000'>There are so many strange ideas, many of them expensive, in audio and it is good to see someone who tells it as it is.  Unfortunately, many people take any argument against their beliefs as flaming

    My friend, Eyespy, has some interesting material on audio myths and psychoacoustic references, as well as some links, on his website.  He has quite a nice system and himself uses some audio jewellery (as Dr. Floyd Toole called it), but makes no claims it improves the sound.

    Eyespy's site</font>
  7. Bprest0n Enthusiast

    Bprest0n
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    <font color='#000000'>Good article, so who are you referring to when you say &quot;audio forum cult hobbyists&quot; &nbsp;[​IMG]

    Do the letters AA ring a bell?</font>
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 23, 2014
  8. Guest Guest

    Guest
    <font color='#000000'>Ahhh, yet another article that warms the cockels of my heart.  I couldn't have said it better myself Gene! [​IMG]

    I myself was briefly swayed and drawn in by the allure of fancy exotic cables.  I spent my money and realized I really didn't need to spend so much.  Since then I try to build my own if it seems cost-effective.

    I like &quot;audio jewelry&quot; just as much as the next guy, perhaps even moreso, but there's no cable out there that looks cool enough to justify the hundreds of bucks they expect people to fork over.  And if cables' audible effect is less than what I would hear from a slight twist of say an EQ knob, why the heck should I care?  Aren't people interested in BIG improvements, not ones that MIGHT be audible if you were REALLY TRYING?

    I also wonder why people are so quick to point to the wire as the component MOST responsible for what they are hearing, even when scientific evidence shows that the wire may not be effecting it that much.  When I've done critical listening (which isn't very much fun) I noticed that I was concentrating so hard on one thing (the vocal, the ride cymbal) in isolation that each play of the song seemed different and consequently I felt one component sounded different than another.  Certainly there are more variables at play than expensive wire alone.  But this doesn't get the attention like cables do for some reason.

    Apparently it's more fun to buy a new toy for many people, even if said toy is as boring as a length of copper!  It takes all kinds I guess...

    Anyway, keep giving 'em HE-LL Audioholics!</font>
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 23, 2014
  9. Guest Guest

    Guest
    <font color='#000000'>This voodoo stuff in audio (not just related to cables) is due to very slack rules from governing bodies and marketing people knowing that the amount of people out there with the knowledge to know these claims are crap are few. &nbsp;How many people out there find out that there is such a thing called skin effect yet actually research it to find out it has no difference in baseband audio signals (at least audible difference) and makes differences starting around RF frequencies?

    And let's not even start the whole &quot;break in&quot; issue... what a crock!</font>
  10. Bprest0n Enthusiast

    Bprest0n
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    <font color='#000000'>Sorry Brian, but Audioholics already started debunking the &quot;break in&quot; issue &nbsp;[​IMG]

    Take a look here:

    Audioquest FAQ Debated</font>
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 23, 2014
  11. Guest Guest

    Guest
    <font color='#000000'>The way I look at it if I can hear a marked difference in cables then I don't care about the theory. I have spent thousands on cables over the years and can easily hear differences in my system. Some of you might think I am crazy but hey its my opinion an my money. Just like some of those high-end wine drinkers out there... [​IMG]</font>
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 23, 2014
  12. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

    gene
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    <font color='#000000'><table border="0" align="center" width="95%" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tr><td>Quote </td></tr><tr><td id="QUOTE">The way I look at it if I can hear a marked difference in cables then I don't care about the theory. </td></tr></table>

    Miles;

    Nobody is arguing that cables can sound different. &nbsp;However, we are questioning many of the claims these &quot;exotic&quot; cable vendors make to justify their prices. &nbsp;Most of the claims these vendors make are based on half engineering truths, misapplications of engineering principles, or just plain wrong. &nbsp;The problem arises when they convince the unknowning of their so called &quot;theories&quot; to lure them into buying their products.

    What makes matters worse is when a cable vendor deliberately does things to the cables such as ultra high capacitance and/or inductance, to make them act as tone controls. &nbsp;This is why we expend such an exhaustive efforts on cables by making consumers aware of these issues.</font>
    gene,
  13. Guest Guest

    Guest
    <font color='#000000'>See the lastest entertainment at the ''Asylum.&quot;

    Cable Asylum

    I guess Teflon is now obsolete. [​IMG]</font>
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 23, 2014
  14. Guest Guest

    Guest
    <font color='#000000'>The thing with cables and interconnects is the maker(s) often try to say that their cables do things science cannot explain. &nbsp;

    One example is to say that capacitance is irrelevant since resistance is all that matters. &nbsp;Basically what we are trying to achieve is the least coloration possible. &nbsp;Colorations from cables in 4 different ways:

    resistance
    inductance
    capacitance
    interference (of any sort)

    the first 3 come down to proper design and construction. &nbsp;Using the right grade of metal (i refuse to go into the copper/silver debate), the right construction (whether it is zip, coax style, twisted pair, etc), and the right termination (using a pin made of aluminum isnt exactly a good thing). &nbsp;Your goal in this stage is a feat of compromise, get the best balance of each while striving for the lowest readings possible.


    Now interference, can be anything from corrosion of copper wires (that green stuff is NOT conductive), to emi emissions from other cables (mains cables mostly). &nbsp;for the corrosion, through the cable, replace it if you think it's affecting anything (anyone who honestly buys the &quot;strand-jumping&quot; theory should be fine with this corrosion since it should alleviate &quot;strand-jumping&quot; one way or another), but for the termination, ALWAYS solder. &nbsp;I can't stress it enough. Crimps are good, but a solder connection will stop air from reaching the contact point or the wire. &nbsp;No air, nothing to make oxides with (corrosion).

    To deal with the emi interference, all you need is a good shield. &nbsp;Grounded foil shields are quite common in the telecom industry (the cables have a special ground cable on each end that attaches to a ground lug on the equipment on each end. Some new ones have special jacks and cable connectors so there is no need to run a wire to a ground lug, also gives a better ground). &nbsp;Trust me, when you have 1200 phone lines in 2 square feet of equipment face, emi interference is the highest priority. &nbsp;If it's good enough for them, it's definately good enough for us.

    But, if you want to drop your money on a cable due to its looks, or any other factor then go ahead. &nbsp;Just remeber that everything physical can be measured, and measurements don't lie.


    ---
    About wine, you can chemically ananlyze wine to know how it will taste too, it's just prohibitively expensive. &nbsp;Same goes for cigars, beers, foods, etc. &nbsp;



    And yes, I do use zip cord...why? &nbsp;It works. &nbsp;No frills, no surprises, it just works. &nbsp;And look inside your speakers sometime.


    laters, peace all.

    -Nutz</font>
  15. Guest Guest

    Guest
    <font color='#000000'>I forgot one other thing...if a speaker cable cannot do what it's supposed to on it's own merit, it needs to be re-designed.

    I am talking smack about Zobel's being added to the cable to stop oscillations. &nbsp;That is just ridiculous that such a thing needs to be added to a cable. &nbsp;Zobel networks do have their place, and that place should be either in an amp or inside the speaker. &nbsp;I would lean more towards having it in the speaker, if an amp has one, they are just expecting people to do bad things to it.

    It's like if a tick is biting you...do you just numb your arm somehow or remove the tick? &nbsp;I'd say remove the tick, since the cause of the issue is gone instead of being covered up. Much like the pains that amp is feeling will be numbed through applying that zobel, when replacing the offending cable would be a better solution.

    I'm ranted out for the day, g'night all.

    -Laters

    Nutz</font>
  16. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

    gene
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    <font color='#000000'>Nutz;

    Your post does not match your name &nbsp;[​IMG]

    Thank you very much for sharing your sensible assessment with everyone here on our cable forum. &nbsp;I am quite pleased with everyones responses here. &nbsp;It seems that many audio hobbyists have more sensible viewpoints about cables than some exotic cable manufacturers sometimes credit them for. I agree with all of the points you have raised, and given my telecom background, I can personally vouch for the importance of twisted pair, and well shielded interconnects and sometimes speaker cables, in a very noisy EMI/RFI environments.</font>
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 23, 2014
    gene,
  17. Guest Guest

    Guest
    <table border="0" align="center" width="95%" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tr><td>
    <font color='#000000'>Nutz,

    A couple of points.

    A proper crimp is a cold weld, it is by definition, air tight. &nbsp;Unless actual liquids entire the area of the crimp, and corode fro the edges of the crimp in, then it will do no worse than a solder joint. &nbsp;I wil note that by the time this becomes an issue for a proper crimp, that the solder joint will also be corroded.

    Second, equating the phone line requirements to audio is not exactly kosher. &nbsp;Limited bandwidth signals with a limited dynamic range, with specialized grounding practice does not mean that a simple foil shield will suffice for analog audio use.

    Besides, I guess you have never heard other folks talking in the background on a long distance line before.

    Jon Risch</font>
  18. Guest Guest

    Guest
    <font color='#000000'>With crimps, yes a good crimp should be air tight, but even with the proper crimp dies (and I also suspect most people buy one of those crimper/stripper/cutter abominations that really don't work all too well), I have always seen some form of oxidation of the conductor upon loosening the crimped connector and slioding the wire out. I feel its better to have any kind of oxidation outside of the joint, and not inside. &nbsp;That is why I prefer to solder the joints. &nbsp;

    Also note that air molecules are far smaller than evporated water molecules, which are in turn smaller than normal water molecules. &nbsp;If water can get in, so can air. &nbsp;

    Given though, this point seems to have followers on both ends, and is about as religious to some as the whole burn-in debate is for some.


    About telco apps.

    When I was talking about telco apps, I was talking about T-1 lines in particular, not POTS. POTS lines vary widely in quality from region to region. POTS stands for Plain Old Telephone Service, and is used to discern from it and analog trunk lines, digital trunks, fiber, etc.

    T-1 lines have a higher standard for signal quality and reliability. &nbsp;Also T-1 equipment tend to be very high density. &nbsp;Imagine a unit the size of 3 standard sized recievers with 50 T-1 lines coming out of it...thats a capacity of 1200 callers.

    For POTS lines, the factors that can cause your crosstalk issue is quite complicated, but the major factors are the premise wiring on both ends, the switching systems used through the entire route of your call, and the presence of a PBX on either end. Some PBXs don't play well with certain switching equipment/other PBXs...which leads to a very noticable echo.

    In cross-country calls crosstalk is very common, and can at most times be narowed down to switching equipment differences. &nbsp;See in europe they use a different telephony standard than us, and the general signal parameters are quite different. &nbsp;I am not sure about what switching systems are used in the other continents however.

    Also in many rural areas the lines and switching equipment are generaly ignored until a good number of service complaints are filed. &nbsp;So it's not too uncommon to find crossbar swithes still in use (which are notorious for crosstalk).

    If you are so bothered by foil shields, european spec for telehony cable EMI grounds is a 9th wire in the cable that is only fou grounding purposes. &nbsp;Some hardware makers here in the states choose to use it on their gear though. &nbsp;Mostly in order to make their gear pass FCC testing.


    Either way, if adding extra EMI grounding makes you feel good, go for it. &nbsp;I just feel that the return would be negligible. &nbsp;I do not have the money to go to FCC labs to verify however. &nbsp;Maybe we can take to the EMI dicussion to another thread sometime.

    well, take care man. &nbsp;It's been good chatting.

    -Nutz</font>
  19. Bob2of3 Audiophyte

    Bob2of3
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    <font color='#000000'>Now can someone actually name these exotic cable companies? Where is the data that proves theses cables aren't all they claims to be.

    I'm new to this HT thing but not internet forums so I'm not bent cause I think my cable are getting flamed, I just need to get edumacated [​IMG]

    LAter</font>
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 23, 2014
  20. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

    gene
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    <font color='#000000'>Bob;

    The proof is in the pudding. &nbsp;Here you go.

    Speaker Cable Face Off

    There will be many others to follow as we are just beginning &nbsp;[​IMG]</font>
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 23, 2014
    gene,

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