Analysis of speaker cables
An AES paper describing a study of amplifier-cable-speaker interactions:
Nelson Pass' study - not as rigorous, but equally illuminating:
Too technical for our understanding.
Nice technical articles but they are not really helping us. In Fred Davies paper, a slight difference at 10kHz of about 0.2dBV. Can we honestly admit 1dB difference in loudness is discernible? The Passlab papers concluded by saying "A few guidelines have emerged here, but the final judgment belongs to the user". Well, we really don't need a research to know that.
I am unable to tell the difference and I don't think any of my friends could though they say it makes a difference. But somehow this myth continues to live on.
I think that's an escape clause, the people who sell his products also make a lot of money from cables & he doesn't want to get in trouble with them.
Originally Posted by STHLS5
My personal take on the "cable thing" is that there may be an audible difference with specific combinations of amplifier and speakers, but that doesn't correlate with price and doesn't imply that the same kind of difference will be audible with a different amp/speaker combination. But that's just opinion, which is why I'm interested in actual measurements.
Unfortunately, no one yet has found ways to measure cables to expose anything less than gross differences. Fortunately, our ears are very effective devices to discern differences small and gross.
Cables do sound different for various reasons and the only effective way to determine the result and the value of these differences is to try the cables in your own system.
I think cables and their effectiveness are very system-dependent. But in my view there's a limit to the amount one should spend on cables. I once knew someone who spent around US$15,000 on speaker cables and interconnects, which was only slightly less than the cost of his whole system at around US$25,000.
My advice to him was that he should have spent US$5,000 on cables and US$5,000 on soundproofing his listening room instead, that way he'd have saved US$5,000. He wasn't too pleased.
More than C, I & R
There is more to cables than capacitance, inductance and resistance! There is still much that science cannot explain. It is like an amplifier that measures textbook linearity in the lab but does not sound good to one's ears while another amplifier that measures not that well might sound more 'musical.' Yes, there is also this concept called system synergy, system dependance, etc.
I'm going to weigh in on this subject one more time and be done with it. This probably won't clear the Moderator, but here we go:
I'm a believer in Intelligent Design, that we were created by a higher power-that would be God. That being said, I don't think there is a measuring device on this Earth that could be as discerning as the Human ear, which God made.
I'm also a professional trombonist and can hear differences in pitch as small as 5 Hz. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not being boastful-I have to be able to do this to play in tune with those around me and to stay employed. That being said, why would some of you think that I, or many others who've been blessed with fine ears, couldn't hear the difference between two speaker cables?
We'll agree to disagree, I'm sure. But no two people hear alike, nor do we know exactly what other people are hearing when they listen.
Principal Trombone, Nittany Valley Symphony (www.nvs.org)
State College, PA
When we talk about cable are we talking about plain wire within a reasonable length or some high end cables with their "little network" buried inside them?
Before we worry about what science might not be able to explain, I'd be interested to see how far we can get with the properties that can be explained by science, especially the extent to which audible effects correlate to measured parameters. And if we can't establish a correlation, then (barring expectation bias) we need to ask what else should be measured.
In reply to the last post, I think we should be thinking of cables and termination (i.e. impedance-matching rather than plugs!) as closely related ingredients but not lump them together.
So the purpose of the thread is to dig for technical info that equips one to understand what is going on when there is an audible difference. This leaves aside the question of whether or not a measured difference is audible... though as (when listening to music) it is possible to hear the effect of small changes in the position and toe of speakers it seems likely this is also true for other ingredients (guess!).
Tone pitch vs. loudness
I think everybody is able to hear differences in tone pitches and has at least a "feeling" that there is something wrong when an instrument is untuned (of course not as good a you !!). This is part of our incredible hearing system and brain. You with your almost perfect musician hearing and your long experience are also able to tune it without using any
Originally Posted by KT88
But the example doesn't seem to fit for our speaker cable discussion. A speaker cable never changes the pitch of tones. It may only change the loudness over the frequency in a very very small degree.
So lets guess that a speaker cable is responsible for a small drop of loudness over 10k. Are you able to hear that? Does this change the signature of your instrument? Do you hear a difference if somebody plays a trombone behind a very light curtain? You are able to detect a fault of 5Hz, but are you able to detect a drop in loudness of 0.1db?
Given the myriad ways in which our senses fool us, why would anyone believe that he CAN hear the differences among cables, without the support of some well designed double blind studies? Has any such study shown that a listener can in fact hear differences among cables? I'd love to know.
Originally Posted by KT88
Why would anyone believe that they can't hear the difference between cables ?
If you have a pair of Harbeth speakers, they are perfectly capable of revealing any differences. Obviously, some cables sound pretty much the same as others but there are differences and there are good and bad sounding cables. Whether you want to pay for those differences is another matter but good cables needn't be expensive.
Now you hear it, now you don't
Like most audiophiles, I too believed in cables, voltage stabilizers and tweaks. I too heard differences in different cables. However, every thing changed due to two events.
Many years ago, I replaced my ordinary speaker cables to a reasonably expensive one. I was amazed with the difference. I did my own comparison over a period of the time and found out the expensive speaker cables sounded better. At that time, it was without terminations, just bare wires as recommended by my amplifier's manufacturer. Everyday, I would switch cables to be absolutely sure which one was a better sounding cable. I finally settled for the more expensive cable.
After many months of listening with the finest cable that I could afford, one day my left speaker's tweeter wasn't working. Upon checking, I found out that the wire came off. That's when my opinion changed about cables. To my horror, I was listening for many months using the cheap cables. Obviously, during the many cable switches I must have forgotten to change the cable back to the expensive one. For at least six months, I was listening to a cheaper cable without realizing my mistake and yet heard improvement in the sound.
The second event was when I noticed a small filament type bulb (incandescent light bulb) dimming/flickering very very slightly. My TV or other equipments weren't affected. After, being sure it was due to power supply from the utility company, I called the utility company. First they blamed my internal wiring but after checking, they found it was one of the connections on the pole far away from my house was not secure.
Whatever it was. I did not hear any difference in the sound quality. I am talking about voltage dips that affect a bulb yet it did not affect my sound.
I am still using an industrial CVT(Cetronic power) and power stabilizer(Watford control) but that's to stabilize the power supply to 230V for my CD palyer. It doesn't affect the sound.
Nevertheless, at the same time I am also cautious because Bob ( a professional musician) and Dave's (a hifi dealer) observations. They know what's music is and Dave probably had tried various amplifiers and speakers combinations. Could there be something else? Something that I can tell the difference 100% correctly each time I am asked to guess?
And this is just for laughs..
You're correct - I have heard, used and sold hundreds of different cables over the years. I never stock anything, whether it's equipment or cables without auditioning it first.
I stock cables from a couple of Pounds/metre to many Pounds/metre and all are chosen because they are good value. I am not a believer in paying Megabucks for cables because I have a good idea of some of the manufacturing costs and can often source cables that are equally as good but at a far lower price.
Even with an average system, the differences between cables is usually perfectly audible but it's the customer's responsibility to choose which to purchase based on sound and price. It's very rare for a customer not to hear a difference given decent demonstration facilities. The choice is whether the differences are improvements and are they worth paying for ?
We are all very familiar with how easily our senses -- hearing, sight, taste, etc -- can be fooled. It is so easy to convince ourselves that we can hear a difference, when we are expecting to hear a difference. That being the case, it would seem prudent to be skeptical when it comes to claims about speaker wires. If there really were an audible difference, wouldn't some double blind tests have confirmed this? Wouldn't some high end speaker wire manufacturer have conducted such a double blind test, in order to promote their expensive cable? As far as I know, no one has ever confirmed the existence of audible differences among speaker cables using a rigorous double blind test. As I said earlier, if any one knows of one, I would love to hear about it.
Originally Posted by hifi_dave
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 !!!
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.
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.
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.
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.