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Thread: The truth about interconnects?

  1. #1
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    Default The truth about interconnects?

    This thread is concerned with audio interconnect cables.

  2. #2
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    Default Directional cables? How? Why?

    I suppose that all the discussions on the speaker cables subject, applies here as well. All that is really needed is a length of good thickness copper wire. Mechanically, the interconnect has to also allow for a good quality, robust electrical connection to be made, so there need to be good quality end connectors at both ends of said wire. All else is probably in the unheard/unverifiable category, unless there is some impedance matching circuitry in the interconnect, in which case the comparison isn't apples and oranges anymore.

    A question to which I suspect I know the answer - most interconnects are sold on the basis that they are directional, and there is a specific end for the source and the other then for the signal receiver, like a power amplifier, so that the interconnect is aligned with the signal/current path. Is this just clever marketing? Because to my knowledge, electricity doesn't care a jot about directionality?

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    Default Interconnects may require a shroud?

    Just a suggestion. I've no actual knowledge. But I believe an interconnect differs from power leads and speaker cables in that they transmit very low-level signals, and are therefore subject to picking up interference that can actually be audible. So I believe an interconnect ought to be designed with some sort of shroud, like aerial coax, to block most of this.

    I guess any old coax with suitable plugs would do.

    The directionality thing might be due to the manufacturer's intention to ground only one end of the shroud (it's supposed to be the amplifier end), when the return signal flows through its own wire rather than the shroud itself, as is the case with ordinary coax.
    Ben from UK. Harbeth Super HL5 owner.

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    Default Cable directionality?

    Yes, Ben, you are correct about directionality being, in most cases, determined by the end of the interconnect where the shield is joined to the signal common. It isn't that the cables won't work if installed in the opposite direction, in fact, it might be desirable to so in certain applications. If you have a system with only one 3 wire component; lets say that component is your preamp. You could arrange the interconnects such that all the ends with shield and signal common bonded together terminate at the preamp. This would minimize your chances for group loops and the resulting hum caused by them. If you have all double insulated (2 wire) components, or a mixture, you would just follow the recommended directionality. The idea is to ground the shield at the source, and therefore, away from the signal's intended destination.

    That said, there is another theory espoused by marketers saying that the direction that a wire is drawn in, which would be opposite the direction that it GOES ON to the spool and the same as the direction is COMES OFF the spool is audibly superior. PS Audio is one large cable manufacturer that makes this claim. Most bulk cables have directional arrows as well. In a DIY situation; the user has a choice of which end to bond the shield, or both, or neither for that matter. Perhaps the arrow is just there as a suggestion or to promote consistency. To my thinking, all audio cables (except for umbilical from separate power supplies) carry alternating current. This is true whether you're talking about power cables, interconnects, or speaker cables. Any directionality would have to be seen as "Diodicity" or the tendency for a conductor to pass current in one direction while attenuating it in the opposite direction. This would be a fatal flaw for any audio cable.

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    Default Cable directionality and change in sound quality?

    Quote Originally Posted by Diminish View Post
    To my thinking, all audio cables (except for umbilical from separate power supplies) carry alternating current. This is true whether you're talking about power cables, interconnects, or speaker cables.
    Just to satisfy my curiosity - I thought that interconnects/speaker cables which carry signals as opposed to power have a low enough voltage/current for the current to be direct, and that only direct current would work to drive, for example, speakers. Or am I wrong (quite likely ), hence this post.

    About the directionality issue - the point of ground hum would be obvious to the ears if the volume was low enough? But other than ground loop caused noise which would be of a gross kind, would there be any other change in sound quality caused by directionality? The brand name product literature seems to claim that to be the case if one sees the installation directions. Is that just clever marketing?

  6. #6
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    Default Cable directionality ...

    I think all the talk about directionality is bull. . . IMHO just my 2 cents.

    Bought a Supra directional cable and the yellow Van Den Hull cable and found no difference in terms of advantage. From my experience, once you reach a certain build level or material quality, the price-performance ratio quickly drops off. I use the yellow D-102 III Hybrid mainly because it's the cheapest high-quality cable I could find that sounds nice and actually looks quite good.
    There is an audible difference if you compare the D-102 to the el cheapo generic cables, but once you reach the level of the VDH, for me it's really a personal choice.

  7. #7
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    Default Directional cables for AC signals?

    Kumar "I thought that interconnects/speaker cables which carry signals as opposed to power have a low enough voltage/current for the current to be direct, and that only direct current would work to drive, for example, speakers. Or am I wrong (quite likely ), hence this post."

    Interconnects and speakers cables both carry an alternating current. It is this alternating waveform that represents the music you hear through your Harbeths or any other loudspeaker. If you're not comfortable with this explanation or my qualifications in giving it, let me submit three indirect proofs: #1) watch your full range driver cone: it goes both IN and OUT does it not? #2) manufacturers often list spec.s for capacitance and inductance for their audio cables; DC is not effected by either of these electrical properties. #3) If your amplifier actually did output a substantial amount of DC, for any length of time, your speakers would be long gone! You'd be talking to the warranty department rather than the Forum.

    Again, the only cables in an audio system that do *not* carry AC are the umbilical cables that attach an outboard DC power supply to the component. (It is possible to have pulsing DC that constantly changes in amplitude, but never crosses the Zero Axis and never reverses direction.) An example of this would be "ripple" on a power supply; a decidedly bad thing for audio.

    Another thing that might confuse you is the fact that speaker binding posts are often marked (+) Positive and (-) Negative. Don't confuse this with a battery, these markings refer to the polarity of the alternating waveform produced by your amplifier. The designer has it figured out that a positive going pulse should produce a compression, rather than rarefaction, and cause the cone to push outwards. The speaker will still work with the leads reversed, but polarity will be inverted 180*. This is audible to some people. If you invert only one speaker, then it becomes very audible. To me it sounds like you're listening inside the tank of a milk truck.
    Now, with regard to your questions about directionality: I'm not sure if it was my response that you were seeking, perhaps not. In my first post to this thread I identified two different aspects of cable directionality. The first refers to the practice of bonding of the shield to the signal common in an RCA interconnect. The idea, here, is to prevent ground loops or an alternate path for current to flow to ground. Generally, you would connect the plug with the shield / common connection to the *source end*. This would channel any noise picked up by the shield away from the signal's destination. This is the same in shielded power cables (bonded on the line side). This is more of a termination strategy; quite different from the claims of actual conductor directionality made by some manufacturers. What they are saying is that; a "directionality" (or favored direction for current to flow) is imposed on the individual strands of copper as they are drawn out of the casting machine.

    I believe that this is specific to OCC, Ohno Continuous Cast, or "single crystal" copper. If you go to the PS Audio website, they state that directionality is easily established by listening tests, and that they listen to a sample of every spool that arrives at their warehouse. PS Audio is far from the only manufacturer to make such a claim. Personally, I am sceptical of this, as stated earlier. If a wire conducts current better in one direction than the other, it is acting as a diode. Since all audio cables carry alternating current, this would not be a good attribute for a conductor to display. In all fairness, I would like to point out that this type of directionality is specific to OCC copper. I don't claim to have any knowledge of what is happening on the atomic level.

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    Default The danger of DC to the speakers

    Quote Originally Posted by Diminish View Post
    let me submit three indirect proofs: #1) watch your full range driver cone: it goes both IN and OUT does it not? #2) manufacturers often list spec.s for capacitance and inductance for their audio cables; DC is not effected by either of these electrical properties. #3) If your amplifier actually did output a substantial amount of DC, for any length of time, your speakers would be long gone! You'd be talking to the warranty department rather than the Forum.
    This is digressing from the subject of this thread, but I am no engineer and electricity is an even bigger mystery to me than mechanical things that tend to be visible, just curious and with enough knowledge to be dangerous - another way of saying little :-))

    Would not the speaker moves be triggered by changes in the level of even DC current passing through the voice coil, thereby varying the levels of electro magnetism which is what moves the speaker cones?

    {Moderator's comment: god forbid that there is any DC current passing through the speaker. DC at the speaker's input would move the coil/cone away from the natural rest position to another *fixed* position either offset inwards or offset outwards from rest depending upon how much current. Music superimposed on that non-central offset point would then be asymmetrically reproduced i.e clipped when loud because the cone would be able to travel further in either the ingoing or outgoing direction following the music. DC current and loudspeakers are a disastrous combination. A DC signal will heat-up the voice coil and if sufficient, fry it.}

  9. #9
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    Default Cable cents (sense)

    A good quality RCA cable will only cost a few euros. So that's a non issue.

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    Default Trust me about cables!

    Quote Originally Posted by espakman View Post
    A good quality RCA cable will only cost a few euros. So that's a non issue.
    Hi,

    A excellent RCA will sometimes cost a few hundred Euros... so it will be important!!! Believe me.... It's a FACT!!!

    kind regards
    Michael
    Michael

  11. #11
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    Default Expensive cables are a waste of money

    It is a fact that some cables cost this much. It is not a fact that they sound any better. They are a waste of money.

  12. #12
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    Default Differences?

    Regarding this.....there's no significant sonic differences between amplifiers

    Does this solely refer to fidelity or are we throwing imaging/sound stage in the mix too ? Genuine question, I don't troll !

    I'll put my cards on the table, I use a Croft 25R/7 combination and also have a very recently Quad serviced 34/304 and believe the two latter qualities to be improved with the Croft. Absolutely love the Quads too mind !

  13. #13
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    Default Facts?

    Quote Originally Posted by hifi 87452 View Post
    Hi,

    A excellent RCA will sometimes cost a few hundred Euros... so it will be important!!! Believe me.... It's a FACT!!!

    kind regards
    Michael
    Michael
    What is a fact? That there are simple RCA cables that are grossly overpriced? Or that they are measurably superior to cheaper conductors of electrons?

  14. #14
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    Default Simply unsubstantiatable

    Quote Originally Posted by hifi 87452 View Post
    Hi,

    A excellent RCA will sometimes cost a few hundred Euros... so it will be important!!! Believe me.... It's a FACT!!!

    kind regards
    Michael
    Michael
    This statement is the kind of hogwash that does not belong here. Unless said tongue in cheek. Given the background, I somehow doubt that.

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    Default Just test it

    Quote Originally Posted by Kumar Kane View Post
    This statement is the kind of hogwash that does not belong here. Unless said tongue in cheek. Given the background, I somehow doubt that.
    Well, our little A-B switch-over box would make quick work of a comparison of the most exotic RCA cable against a piece they give away with all-in-one systems, perhaps costing a few pennies to make.

    We really don't need to enter into any sort of stressful intellectual debate about such a matter. We have the tools to prove or disprove. (See Shock-horror amp thread).

    Again, no-one is trying to make a fool out of personal beliefs that do not stand up to scrutiny, nor impact on audio seller salaries. I can't prove, and I have no interest in proving, that fine Barker shoes are objectively any better made or more comfortable than fine Loakes shoes. I like them and that's all that matters.

    The issue is striking a sensible balance between ones dearly held personal beliefs, objective or not, and those beliefs masquerading as universal truths used to modify the behaviour of others, unjustifiably.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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    Default I'm a man, not a hifi mouse

    Quote Originally Posted by willem View Post
    The whole business of these magazines is to induce reader anxiety.

    What we have seen here thus far is that under controlled conditions these alleged differences tend to disappear. The only issues that remain are input sensitivity, load independence and power to avoid clipping.
    I have not read a hifi magazine in years (I have and I assumed their opinions on sound signatures to be valid from experience).

    Pretty much every item examined is described by it's sonic prowess, even down to speaker cable terminations. I recently swapped out some uber cheap banana plugs that would loosen from the terminals or unscrew within their own two piece construction with some that I got in a large hardware chain, the new ones were $25 for two pairs and these have a much better construction.

    Anyway I swapped those out without any consideration, without any anxiety regarding the sound and yet years ago along with a hifi magazine I might well have juggled with price vs performance and implemented such a change and sat there and checked to see if the bass was still tight, if the music still flowed.......

    Edit: I actually sold some relatively inexpensive (or is that expensive?) audio cable, it was way too inflexible (a clue to what it was) to be practical, I got $250 for two 15 ft lengths, more than I paid for it, the $ went towards my C7's, I was using $4 worth of cable in its place with no discernible sonic difference though I have since swapped that for my very original Linn K20 that I had on my TV set up, I feel it looks better than the cheap stuff in its clear sheathing.
    Getting to know my C7ES3

  17. #17
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    Default Cables tested and some deep insights into the scientific method

    See here for a multitude of tests of cables of various kinds: http://archimago.blogspot.nl/2015/06...mmary-non.html

  18. #18
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    Default Cable metaphysics

    Quote Originally Posted by willem View Post
    See here for a multitude of tests of cables of various kinds: http://archimago.blogspot.nl/2015/06...mmary-non.html
    Wonderful. Karl Popper (who was nominally the senior professor in my university department, but I never saw him once - he was probably locked in his room thinking) would not appeal to AS's approach to audio objectivity.

    His famous thing about falsifiability is unlikely to resolve the cable issue, which I consider on a par with achieving peace in the Middle East.

    I think the only way to resolve the cable problem is to agree with everyone, especially Willem, and disagree at the same time, leaving the thing firmly in the realm of metaphysics.

    We can then get on with our lives.

  19. #19
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    Default Buyers remorse

    I should add that one of the certainties in life is that the audiophile with make at least one cable purchase that they come to regret.

    But you may disagree and I may be wrong. And you may be right. Or wrong. Is that statement falsifiable? Who knows?

  20. #20
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    Default $$$ rule in cable land

    This is what I have learned:

    A cable does three things to a signal: it attenuates the signal, it contributes its own inductive and capacitive reactance, and exposes the signal to electromagnetic energy.

    The resistive losses at the distances we are talking about are pretty nil. One needs to make sure to get the right gauge for the length of run but beyond that this it is not a big deal. The capacitive and inductive losses are also pretty nil in my opinion. One brand of cable might vary in capacitance and inductance vs another because of the physical construction but many don't publish their specs so it's hard to know how much variability is out there. I don't hear audible differences when it comes to very small differences in capacitance and inductance. Do others? Maybe they do. Lastly, if you have a lot of RF in the home the shielding can be very important.

    The cynic in me sees this as a way for companies to increase their margins, so be it. I am all for free enterprise, no one is going to die having purchased an expensive rca cable. However, as a consumer the burden of proof is on them to prove to me using measurements how their cable is better than something like belden which by the way is what the pro studios use. So far no one has come close to doing that. Caveat Emptor!

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