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Since its inception ten years ago, the Harbeth User Group's ambition has been to create a lasting knowledge archive. Knowledge is based on facts and observations. Knowledge is timeless. Knowledge is human independent and replicatable. However, we live in new world where thanks to social media, 'facts' have become flexible and personal. HUG operates in that real world.

HUG has two approaches to contributor's Posts. If you have, like us, a scientific mind and are curious about how the ear works, how it can lead us to make the right - and wrong - decisions, and about the technical ins and outs of audio equipment, how it's designed and what choices the designer makes, then the factual area of HUG is for you. The objective methods of comparing audio equipment under controlled conditions has been thoroughly examined here on HUG and elsewhere and can be easily understood and tried with negligible technical knowledge.

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Analysis of speaker cables

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  • #16
    As a sceptic, I've spent over 40 years playing with and comparing cables. I don't convince myself about anything, I listen, observe and form an opinion. I've got nothing to prove to myself and I can easily hear differences between cables. Sometimes these differences are small but sometimes gross differences are apparent and I like nothing better than to find an inexpensive cable that sounds better than an expensive one. I'm not taken in by packaging and price.

    Occasionally, customers will want to try cables in their own systems to form an opinion and choose. If there were no differences, they wouldn't be able to decide but they always can. It would have to be a naff system not to show differences unless they are very similar cables.

    I liken it to fine wine. You can't measure any differences between fine wines but they all taste different and connoisseurs spend serious money over flavours that elude me. Could it be that the connoisseurs are delusional ?

    Cables have often been measured and sometimes the figures of resistance, inductance and capacitance give a clue as to how the cables will sound. Nothing magical there !!!

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    • #17
      What I hear you saying is that you and your customers are sure that you can hear differences among speaker cables. I don't doubt that you and many of your customers are sure. But, again, if there really were an audible difference, wouldn't some rigorous double blind study (ABX or whatever) have confirmed this? Think about those many folks who would love to have convincing evidence that an audible difference exists: makers of high end speaker cable, reviewers of speaker cables, many audiophiles, etc. Makers of high end speaker cables, in particular, would stand to make lots more money if they could brandish such evidence in their ads. Yet no one, that I'm aware of, has ever used a double blind test to confirm this claim.

      Bruce

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      • #18
        The debate about whether there are audible differences between speaker cables, reminds me of the debate about "facilitated communication": the claim that children suffering from nonverbal autism could communicate using a keyboard or ouija board together with a facilitator who would guide their hands as they made the keystrokes. The facilitators were often parents, who of course very, very much wanted to believe that their children were in fact communicating in this way. These parents were absolutely convinced that facilitated communication worked. Yet when this was subjected to careful blind testing, no evidence of communication by the children was ever found.

        Our sense of hearing is so subjective and so bound up with our brains, it's no surprise that what we think we hear can be influenced by what we want or expect to hear.

        Bruce

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        • #19
          Over the years we have carried out countless 'blind' listening of cables and other items in the hi-fi chain and customers can always hear differences. In fact, blind listening is usually the way we conduct all our comparative demonstrations. All that is, apart from speaker comparisons. If the differences are not apparent, the system must be very inferior or the hearing is impaired.

          Of course, differences are often very small but audible and it's up to the individual to determine if the differences are improvements and if they are worth paying for.

          Comment


          • #20
            Changes that can affect sound

            Cables can sound different if you alter their resistance, capacitance, impedance beyond the normal level or by adding HF network. That's the reason I asked if are we talking about wires or other features to the cables. An equalizer can do the same job. I believe by including a high quality equalizer it can reverse your opinion about expensive cable A and cheap cable B.

            ST

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            • #21
              Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
              Over the years we have carried out countless 'blind' listening of cables and other items in the hi-fi chain and customers can always hear differences. In fact, blind listening is usually the way we conduct all our comparative demonstrations. All that is, apart from speaker comparisons. If the differences are not apparent, the system must be very inferior or the hearing is impaired.

              Of course, differences are often very small but audible and it's up to the individual to determine if the differences are improvements and if they are worth paying for.
              Very well said. I have said something very similar many times. There are always differences, sometimes improvements and sometimes not. Sometimes it correlates with expense and sometimes not. It's up to the consumer to determine whether or not the differences are an improvement and whether they are worth paying for. If you don't hear any differences then by all means don't buy them, I do so I will.

              Comment


              • #22
                I agree with Art K and hifi_dave. Exactly the same reasoning applies to power conditioners, isolation feet, cones and other such tweaks which lead to subjective improvements in sound.

                Ultimately, we all vote with our wallets.

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                • #23
                  Fine. Maybe somebody here can list down the names of the cables, price, design, termination and the so called improvement. Anything is fine by me, if it can really improve my system.

                  ST

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                  • #24
                    $7,250 Pear Anjou cables vs $43,000 Transparent Opus MM SC cables

                    Well if you can tell the difference between these two cable then you can always collect the 1 Million dollars from James Randi organization. Something which even the CEO of the cable companies seemed reluctant to do.

                    ST

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Originally posted by STHLS5 View Post
                      Anything is fine by me, if it can really improve my system. ST
                      The point is, I think, that to a greater or lesser extent the cable interacts with the other components of the system. And that's the conclusion I took away from the two studies linked to in the first post (however that's just two studies, and it's very likely there is other research that can shed light on this topic).

                      There is no "silver bullet" that will magically improve everyone's system (that's the kind of snake-oil salesmanship that has turned you and others off, and quite rightly so). Thinking that something will "improve" a system is probably the wrong mind-set - the best one can do is eliminate problems that are degrading the sound quality... and those problems will vary a lot from one system to another.

                      But it seems just as silly to deny that there may be an audible effect when a component has a measurable effect on audio-band frequency response (and other measurable criteria).

                      Where objective information isn't available, the best one can do is healthy skepticism as advocated by hifi_dave. If you're being asked to pay a hefty premium over the cost of the materials and labour that went into a product, just say "no thanks".

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Speaker cable tester - a DIY project for about $20

                        Some quarter century ago, as the cable phenomena was gripping audiophilia, I found myself torn between the natural desire to improve the fidelity of my system and incredulity that cables could make the huge claimed differences. As I've mentioned many time here, based solely on observing how I myself react, I believe that if there is more than about one second of silence between comparing A with B the accuracy of reliable, 'scientific' conclusions drawn about A v B is greatly diminished. Maybe even impossible. Sure, there may well be a difference - I'd expect that - but is the difference certainly due to the characteristics of A v B or to the test method itself?

                        So, I wanted to compare my bog standard QED 79 strand (or similar non-audiophile cable which I still use) against any other cable I could lay my hands on, which to be honest as I wasn't going to buy any, was not a comprehensive market research. The essence of my comparator is that there is a completely silent switchover from A to B. There is no break in the music (ok there is for about a thousandth of a second which is inaudible), and to be absolutely sure that there has been a switchover from A to B, there was an LED which only illuminated after the circuit had indeed changed over. Any 'degradation' of subjective or objective characteristics due to the switching elements (and I don't believe that there was any) would be common to A and B so in my opinion could be utterly ignored.

                        If you're interested I'll make a sketch and give you a parts lists. The results, which as I've said were not based on a wide ranging selection of cable which may well have given a different outcome, settled my mind on this matter.
                        Alan A. Shaw
                        Designer, owner
                        Harbeth Audio UK

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                          If you're interested I'll make a sketch and give you a parts lists. The results, which as I've said were not based on a wide ranging selection of cable which may well have given a different outcome, settled my mind on this matter.
                          Yes please!

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            It beats me that cable sceptics will readily accept that components, such as resistors and capacitors from various manufacturers, can sound different when they have similar specs, yet they don't believe that cables with wildly different construction will sound different.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Cables used inside the amplifier.

                              Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
                              It beats me that cable sceptics will readily accept that components, such as resistors and capacitors from various manufacturers, can sound different when they have similar specs, yet they don't believe that cables with wildly different construction will sound different.

                              I am not so sure that different capacitors really alters the sound. After spending close to the price of the CD player itself I could hardly tell if the blackgate and Auricaps helped. My preamp designer told me not to waste time changing the stock capacitors. He said the design puts the limit to the parts used.


                              Anyway, back to cables. This is the picture of the wire used inside an amplifier.



                              How do you think a 10 feet cable going to improve this? Wouldn't it be the best to connect these wires directly to the speakers' terminals?

                              ST

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                Cables and atoms

                                Thanks for the picture. You've highlighted the standard cable used to connect the circuit board to the amplifier's output terminals. But you can take a number of steps backwards from those cables. Have a look at the copper foil tracks on the amplifier's PCB, barely a mm or two wide and wafer thin. What about them? Shouldn't they be rewired with fancy or at least thick cable? And another step backwards .... to the semiconductor junctions inside the amp's power devices .... you need to see them under the microscope. Shouldn't they be fattened up somehow?

                                Here is a PDF of an electron microscope photo of a semiconductor device's output wire. The picture is not scaled, but we're looking at a joint that is perhaps a thousandth of a mm across. That joint carries the current from the working part of the transistor - the pn junction - to the metal pins of the transistor that we can see from the outside, so it is by far the weakest link in the current carrying chain to your speakers. Here is an example of the external transistor case that we see; the working junction and its tiny wires are buried inside the case.

                                Although those visible external transistor connection pins are fat, the actual working part of the device is only atoms thick .... surely we should bear that in mind when becoming over anxious about cable? Is it not the weakest part of the chain which defines the performance of the entire signal chain?
                                Alan A. Shaw
                                Designer, owner
                                Harbeth Audio UK

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