Yes, The Quality Of Your Cables Does Matter

Discussion in 'Accessories / Connections' started by DonnyThompson, Mar 1, 2015.

  1. Audiofreek

    Audiofreek Active Member

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    I did find a site for Rapco Horizon but it seems they no longer make that cable.
    I would like to be able to measure the difference as well as hear it.
    Perhaps we'll try orienting them East to West as well other directions, ha, ha!
     
  2. Audiofreek

    Audiofreek Active Member

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    Oh, it has to be a full moon as well.
     
  3. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    What kind of test could you run though? As there is no processing or amplification involved all you can measure is capacitance, DC resistance, impedance. You will need some specialist test gear, and will come up with a huge amount of data as you repeat the test at different frequencies. It won't tell you very much at all, but will let you plot the drop off in HF, but that will depend on the loading too!

    If you use adaptors each end to let you get access to the cable on the test gear, musical instruments, mics and amps, then you are adding the performance of the adaptors - so the test will be subjective anyway!

    If we all sent one of our own XLR-XLR cables to a central point, the best conclusion might be cable 26 crackled when wiggled, and cable 22 was very stiff. If you fixed a mic in one place, fixed a person in front of it, so the distance remained constant and then pressed record, and said the same words many times, then edited out the gaps would you hear a difference and be able to say wow! wasn't 16 exceptional? Nope. Totally pointless.

    I pay attention to a few people in the technical world, who's words are proven in the business. Alan Parsons is one - his opinions on mp3s are quite plain. If you see him live, there is no trace of crazy products. I envy his studio mic box and the places he works, yet on stage very normal stuff. When he endorses a bit of cable, that is the time to start believing in magic.
     
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Shows you what I know about cable testing around a bunch of engineers , lol. I would do it the old fashion method where you plug it in and if we can't hear a very obvious change, its not worth the fuss. I suppose one could set up some sort of consistent source and feed it into the daw. To rule out variables, I suppose a few ways of routing between the pres would help a bit. But truthfully, if its takes a microscope to hear cable, I couldn't be bothered to even talk about it.
    Cable has never been more than good ends, length and the right specs for the task to me. Heavy or light gauge and so on. Although I've read not to mix gold to silver ends but maybe thats beside the point.
    In a blind test, 4 out of 4 times we picked out one brand over the rest.

    Ironically, did another test with a $6000 clock considered to be huge improvement and no one could tell the difference.
    Did another test with summing ITB vs OTB and the change was subtle, not worth the investment. This of course was what I wanted to find. Neither was better , just slightly different. Not until you start adding copper does this change become a question. Which is why I use very short cable for everything I can.

    Cable seems to be important.
    Its not something I obsess over, or like talking about but I'm game to try it again.
     
  5. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

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    One thing we are all forgetting is that the sending and receiving equipment has a huge influence on how cables behave in any given situation. If you take a connection from output A via cable C to input B, then if A has zero output impedance and B has infinite input impedance, then even if C were made of lengths of wet string you would get perfect information transfer from A to B (at least in signal terms).

    In practice, of course, A is not zero (usually by design) and B is not infinite (ditto), so the cable properties begin to play a part in the signal transfer. Ironically, the yesteryear practice of 600 Ohm sources driving 600 Ohm loads allowed a greater range of cable properties before signal degradation than do today's low-ish output impedaces driving high-ish loads. Such is progress.

    There are other important properties of cable, for example, interference rejection, capacitance per metre and how capacitance changes with movement (generating handling noise in some situations). However, many of the other cable properties such as characteristic impedance and voltage standing wave ratio (VSWR) are relevant at r.f. but not usually at audio frequencies. That said, one pre-amp I had for review some time ago went into h.f. oscillation when a certain make of cable was connected to its output, causing a "fluffiness" in the audio, so these cable properties cannot be ignored in all situations.

    The upshot of all this is that looking for audio differences between cables is not really meaningful unless you use the same sending and receiving equipment for all the tests. That means it's not particuarly useful for anyone to say cable X is the best of a list of makes and types unless he/she specifies the gear used for the test, and it's perfectly possible that with different gear another cable may perform better.
     
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  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    My main goal with cable is that I don't want to "hear" it... and by that, I'm talking about some kind of "esoteric" sonic difference that is maybe there and is maybe not, that some claim to hear and others do not ....

    I'm talking about "hearing" nothing - other than the signal that I'm routing through it.

    As long as I can get optimal gain, lowest possible noise, interference, hum, buzz, distortion, with no crackling - or any other various little gremlins, then I'm happy.

    My intention - when I first started this thread, was to say that the quality of the cables we all use does matter, but not in any kind of "subjective" way.

    It wasn't really meant to delve into the "sonic character" of cable; other than the "character" of signal being defined as getting signal from point A to point B to point C as quietly and with as much gain as possible - and without any unwanted artifacts.

    It wasn't my intention to say that one cable "sounds" better than another, beyond what we all want out of our cables, and to that end, I still believe that quality does matter, and that cheaper cables have a higher propensity for adding unwanted characteristics, like crackling, or hum, or RFI.

    To me, to my own definition, a good cable doesn't "sound" like anything at all... it's a vehicle to route signal as transparently, as accurately - and as quietly - as possible.

    I don't want to "hear" anything - other than the signal itself.

    So perhaps, I should have been more specific, and stated that quality cable matters - not because it "sounds" better, but because it performs better than lower quality cables are known to, and lasts longer than the lower quality cables tend to.
     
  7. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    This sound so much more sensible - we swap a mic type and hear a difference, same if we swap loudspeakers - HUGE differences, and why I still have the monitors I bought in the early 90s - I know them pretty well, and can make judgements. I bought a pair of smaller, popular monitors (Genelecs) and they're doing service in my edit suite, wasted really - I just didn't like the sound. I've recently discovered my various interfaces do sound very slightly different - and have decided it's there, but small enough to not really make me change anything, but cables just work, or don't - if they are decently made with sensible quality components. I hadn't even though about gold v silver from the negative aspect, and dissimilar metals are a physics/chemistry problem that is real - however, my only concern with cables is down to pin quantity, not quality. I have 3,4,5 and 6 pin XLRs that all look the same until you try to plug them in!
     
  8. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

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    I see a lot of argument from authority:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority

    Sometimes smart people believe crazy things. Just because someone knows how to turn the knobs to make stuff sound good doesn't mean they understand the science of perception and psychoacoustics. Or that they understand how to do a proper blind test and why a blind test is even needed. Again, wire is drop-dead simple, and trivial to measure. If someone wants to believe Wire A sounds better than Wire B even though they personally don't hear a difference, that's okay with me. But that's as close as it gets to the Emperor's New Clothes. :D

    --Ethan
     
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  9. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    So in this particular case, Various Cable Brands> U87ai>Millennia M-2b>RME ADI 8 QS>DAW
    The difference was not subtle.But I'm not about to believe it will be repeated. I've not done that test again. Could it be that we all had a mojo day?

    I also expect to not hear difference in Ricks studio because my gear and power is different.

    What is also interesting in regards to this test.
    I also notice an improvement in converter stability . The S/N on my system is stunningly quiet when I group a big Furman power conditioner > APS Backups> Converter together as opposed to bypassing the APS backup. The back-up completely eliminates the remaining dirty power I can hear when audio is traveling.

    I now make it a point to always use an independent APS with converters .

    When I did this test through this system, I indeed heard the Accusound cables as different from all the rest.
    Why, I have no idea, but I do believe it has something to do with what you just said. Other electrical products in the chain
     
  10. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

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    I meant to add, Yes, full agreement with everything Boswell said. Though any competent "prosumer" gear will have an input and output impedance suitable for reasonably long lengths of standard wire.

    Also, audio gear oscillating with certain loads is a problem, though only with incompetent gear. I've seen that with overpriced audiophile power amps and overpriced audiophile shielded speaker wire. Speaker wire doesn't (usually) need to be shielded, and that just increases capacitance. So couple lame wire with a lame amp design and you get ... oscillation!

    But the notion that wire can have subtle (or not so subtle) differences in clarity and fullness, as I see claimed all the time, is pure fiction. Whatever gear you have, send 1 KHz then 20 KHz sine waves from the output device, and measure the level at both ends of the wire with a high-impedance voltmeter that has a useable response to 20 KHz. If the 20 KHz loss at the far end of the wire is less than 1/4 dB or whatever compared to the sending end, but you think you hear a difference, that proves it's due to faulty perception.

    --Ethan
     
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    @Ethan Winer
    @Boswell
    So in this case, are we saying that one of these products could be problematic? U87ai>Millennia M-2b>RME ADI 8 QS> .
    Again, it was not subtle meaning, from an ME pov, I, including 3 other people noticed when the Accusound cable was used the level of openness and clarity improved. We were also listening through headphones, not speakers.

    Since this test, I don't think about it but I ended up keeping the bundle that was given to me and I've never been happier.

    EDIT: NOTE, I fully agree that a copper wire is a copper wire, its simple fact.
    I'm still not understanding what part of that process effected the end result and how to identify and avoid that from ever effecting a decision.

    If its not the wire, then what happened in that sequence? Also, true or not true, how much of this goes on within our systems? Does this occur in patchbays or (no offense taken) are you just sitting back laughing at those who say they saw a flying saucer that day? :cool:
     
  12. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

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    Which interconnection were you using for the test: U87 ai -> M2B in, M2B out -> ADI 8 QS or both?
     
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    MOGAMI 110Ω AES/EBU for both analog and digital.
     
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Then the accusound for the mic
     
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Sorry Bos, I'll Clarify.

    MOGAMI 110Ω AES/EBU for both analog and digital including the singles from the M-2b to the AD.
    The only cable that was Accusound was the mic cable to the U87 >M-2b. Everything from the M-2b out was MOGAMI 110Ω to the DAW
     
  16. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    I recall using for certain, 2 other brands (Mogami and Audix) plus an old mic cable I've had since the 80's (I'm guessing it was Mogami too but couldn't see any print on it). All those brands sounded identical. The Accousound was like adding an extra notch of openness. I remember thinking something must be wired wrong.

    I don't have the U87 or the ADI-8 QS anymore, but, if we don't get an idea of why this was... when I get my studio back in operation at the lake, I will do it again just for the heck of it. Or, maybe Rick and I will see if I can repeat this again at his place.
     
  17. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

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    I wasn't there so I can only guess:

    1) The test wasn't blind, so you knew which wire you were hearing.

    2) The test used two different performances, which is a strict no-no when comparing audio.

    3) Both of the above.

    Audible changes with different wires should never happen.

    --Ethan
     
  18. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    No one is questioning straight wire here. I think we are way past this on this forum.
    This discussion, at least from my perspective (with a mastering level studio) , this situation was under a very common and fast acting situations, "grab a mic cable and lets record this. Something obviously influenced change between products and cable that are all of high quality.
    The performance was irrelevant, but also looking to be relevant in this particular test, it was too obvious a change when grabbing mic cable and in quick and common situation to lay some vocals down. I'm guessing this is pointing to what Bos is getting at.

    The end result is, I don't know why this is, but in this particular situation, I choose the Accusound because it was so quiet and open sounding, which I'm guessing has more to do with the shielding and cable lying in a control room with other factors..

    My entire studio is so quiet, I never put another second thought into this. I kept the Accusound cable and use it all the time now for both live or with mics in the studio. Hearing that was all it took to assure me that I can "trust it" all the time. Its awesome cable.
     
  19. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    My thoughts suggest something very odd happened. The fact one stood out as better to you suggests the only possibility is that the others were all degraded in some manner, because although we can't measure 'openness' it was clearly different enough to notice. My view has to be that you can't bend the physics, so the only possible solution is the cables were defective, or something else happened. Could the sending and receiving devices in the chain responded to an unexpected characteristic of the cable? We know that capacitance can have an audible impact on a high impedance source - so maybe the test conditions accidentally introduced an unexpected variable? The cable was the cause of the change, but the change was externally actioned?

    For a cable to generate a different sound as an addition to the original, it has to have active components. It can act as a filter as a passive component but that's it. Don't ascribe abilities to a component because you hear something new, that's a subjective opinion. I'm certain you heard something, but what the actual source of it was is not yet established. This is quite interesting stuff, but nothing yet has changed my opinion. I'm still thinking that cable is something people believe is magical, therefore it is?
     
  20. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    The other 3 of the four were all equal. And they were not noisier , but they were different sounding in that it was a simple call to say, toss that other $*^t into the spare bin and lets use Accusound from now on.
    Was it a shielding thing, I don't know. But, I trust that cable now. I'm thinking its excellent control room tracking cable close to consoles, tube and tranny gear and PSU around the room. What else could it be? EMF ?
     

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