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Physical/scientific aspects behind cable sound. Discuss. - Page 6

post #76 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by cotdt View Post
balanced interconnects have hum cancellation, useful against things like ground loops. a noise signal that is common to both the + signal and - signal will be cancelled. the useful audio signal is inverted so they add up rather than cancel. it won't do much for RF frequencies, though. you have shielding for that.

but the headphone (or speaker) output of a balanced amp is no longer a balanced signal, since you no longer have 2 signals (+, G, -) but a single combined signal to each driver (+ and -). thus there will be no difference in the headphone cable itself but the amp outputting the signal has been "enhanced".
Very good description. In essence, a balanced pair is only useful in cancelling common mode noise and will improve on the SNR. But it all based on "actively" cancellation of the out of phase common mode noise. The cable itself does not do anything. Without a "balanced" amplifier, a balance cable is not very useful.

In the case of the headphone, the driver signal is comparatively high. A balanced driver might be beneficial but the effect might not be as significant as in the preamplifier.

This is especially true in instrumentation where you need to measure a very small signal. I can also see benefit in the studio as a lower noise floor allows you to have better dynamic range.
post #77 of 87
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tin ears View Post
Good discussion on cables, but what about the RCA/xlr connectors?

Isn't the connection the weakest link, regardless of what type of cable being used?

Wouldn't a hardwired/soldered connection be the best solution either by hardwiring components together or by building one component that has both the source and the amp and then hardwiring that directly to the speaker's crossover?

Do you cable nonbelievers feel the above might, at least, be true?

Sovkiller has a good point, but what if we were already dealing with the world's best audio components and had no other place to turn in the quest for better sound?

Or, let's say you were the world's best builder and designer of audio equipment and you were going to design and build the best system in the world and didn't care if you sold it or not. Would you build it in one box with all connections between source and amp hardwired with as short a connection as possible, or would you build seperate boxes and use cables with connectors?

The recent Stereophile review of the $16,000 Krell integrated amp got me started with all this. Apparently, krell has come up with an entirely new way to connect Krell components called the CAST system. The reviewer felt it sounded better than both the balanced and single ended outputs. I wondered after reading this, why Krell didn't just build their cd player into the integrated amp and eliminate the connection all together. The most obvious answer to me at least, is that people probably wouldn't buy it, because it brings back the old idea of the low fi, one box solutions.

I guess I am taking the long way around saying that I think companies like Krell, Bel Canto, Cary, VTL, Sim, Classe, Audio research, Macintosh,Ayre etc, etc all ready make great sources and amps. Why not start putting them together in one box and eliminate the cable fuss and cable expense? The second tier players are starting to do it. The only reason I can see to run seperate boxes is if you believe in the potential for monoblocks, up close to the speakers.
Just trying to see if I can expand upon what you're saying tin.

Ideally I think it would be best if a high end audio company would design an entire system to work together from source to speaker. This way, they can take into account the specifications (things like input and output impedance, etc.) of the components they're using and they can more successfully integrate them as a whole. The result should be a sound that's more true to what the manufacturer intended.

In reality, seperates are popular because you can swap out components and upgrade as you see fit. Individual companies can also specialize in a certain component instead of spreading their resources everywhere. There's also a sense of accompishment from putting together your own system. As it is now, companies must design their components as black boxes since they never know what they'll be hooked up to. They just need to make sure they operate reliably and consistently. Cables can be considered a weak link of a system, but they're necessary in order to make seperates viable.

If you guys have ever opened up and worked on speakers and amplifiers, you'll see that many components are hooked up with the same wire you see in electronics hobby kits (albeit slightly heavier gauge). Traces on a PCB aren't anything special either. They're just conductors. On one hand, you can conclude that wires don't make a difference. On the other hand, you can argue that the manufacturer factored the kinds of wires they used into their overall design so in the end it still sounds the way they intended.

If you believe the former, then fancy wires between components are overkill (assuming they're sufficiently shielded as to not induce noise into the signal). You're going to connect cables worth several grand to wires worth only cents. Why bother?

If you believe the latter, then anything you connect to or use to connect a system together messes up its 'karma' since the manufacturer's didn't account for them in their design. Your search for the best is one that leads to a cable that messes up the karma the least or sounds the best in your opinion.
post #78 of 87
Voxr3m

You claim to be an electrical engineer with extensive musical training in piano and violin.

Since you continue to do the rope a dope, I am going to attempt to pin you to the ropes and deliver some body blows.

Let's say you go to the finest recording studio in the world, play your violin and piano and record it on the best equipment known to man. Would the system you currently own accurately reproduce the sound of your violin and piano in all its glory? if not, are there better systems available?

As an electrical engineer, if you were to attempt to design a system of audio electronics to reproduce your recording as accurately as possible and you had an unlimited budget, and you had no intentions of selling or marketing this, would it be a one box solution or would it be in multiple boxes?
post #79 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by tin ears View Post
Since you continue to do the rope a dope, I am going to attempt to pin you to the ropes and deliver some body blows.
This type of rhetoric isn't necessary.
post #80 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by voxr3m View Post
If you believe the former, then fancy wires between components are overkill (assuming they're sufficiently shielded as to not induce noise into the signal). You're going to connect cables worth several grand to wires worth only cents. Why bother?

If you believe the latter, then anything you connect to or use to connect a system together messes up its 'karma' since the manufacturer's didn't account for them in their design. Your search for the best is one that leads to a cable that messes up the karma the least or sounds the best in your opinion.
And both of these assume that expensive cables make a difference. That's not really a safe assumption in this thread.
post #81 of 87
Febs,

Lighten up. Just a bit of cable boxing humour.

Chu,

If David Wilson of Wilson Audio voiced his $60,000 Wilson Max 2 speaker system with a $20,000 a pair Transparent Audio speaker cable, do you honestly think the Max 2 would sound the same using $.50 a meter 12g speaker wire?

If you were to shell out around $100,000 for this type of system, would you dare use the $20 pair of 12g cables and risk having it not sound as the designer intended?
post #82 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by tin ears View Post
As an electrical engineer, if you were to attempt to design a system of audio electronics to reproduce your recording as accurately as possible and you had an unlimited budget, and you had no intentions of selling or marketing this, would it be a one box solution or would it be in multiple boxes?
All components need to be separated from each other because of vibration and EMI. I would build a room with hundreds of Magix levitation feet and put every semiconductor on top of their own Magix. Then I would wire them together with Nordost Odin speaker cable. I will then wrap them all with ERS paper. The whole audio system will be 50+ meters wide, from transport to amp. Behind all components there will also be 50 meters of power conditioning.
post #83 of 87
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tin ears View Post
Voxr3m

You claim to be an electrical engineer with extensive musical training in piano and violin.

Since you continue to do the rope a dope, I am going to attempt to pin you to the ropes and deliver some body blows.

Let's say you go to the finest recording studio in the world, play your violin and piano and record it on the best equipment known to man. Would the system you currently own accurately reproduce the sound of your violin and piano in all its glory? if not, are there better systems available?

As an electrical engineer, if you were to attempt to design a system of audio electronics to reproduce your recording as accurately as possible and you had an unlimited budget, and you had no intentions of selling or marketing this, would it be a one box solution or would it be in multiple boxes?
I don't quite understand what the point of the recording studio question is but I'll try my best. Is my system going to get it 100% accurate? I wouldn't say so. Are there better systems? Probably. But even those systems are not going to get it 100% right. One violinist once said that his recordings were nice, but he lived for live performances. I think he's got the right idea. No system will capture the intensity and emotion of a live performance exactly as if you were actually there when it was recorded (visually or audibly). They can come close to the sound, close enough so most people might say it's the same, but it's not.

What you hear when playing your own violin (or any instrument) can differ drastically from what someone else hears in the audience. What I hear under my ear can be totally different from what I hear listening in the audience to someone else playing the same violin. I've played some violins where under your ear they sound nasal and anemic while 15 feet away in the audience they sound rich and full of character. I've had some violins where they will let you know exactly how you're playing under your ear, but fail to adequately project sound further away into the audience. It's up to the acoustics of your instrument and how it was made (another art).

You also have to take into account the acoustics of your concert hall/room. I've played in some halls where the acoustics were horrible (from a players perspective.) Sometimes you can hear the rest of your section behind you, sometimes you can't. If you totally lose feedback from the rest of your section, you lose some of your ability to lead them. Sometimes it sounds like you're ahead or behind the rest of the orchestra but you know you're not. There are a lot of factors to what you hear. That's why music is an art.

In fact, I'll go as far as saying the sound you record in a studio with a microphone a foot away from your instrument has already failed to capture the glory of my instrument. It's recording something entirely different from what somebody would hear sitting further away in the studio and most definitely further away in a concerthall. You can hear on some cds where you can tell (at least I can) that they placed the microphone right above the violinist. That gets you a clear sound from the violin. It however, is not what you'll hear in the audience sitting in the first row, second row, or even in the last row. Anyway that's getting away from the point of this thread (and possibly whatever you were trying to ask me.)

Responding to your EE question, I mentioned that ideally, I believe a manufacturer should design 100% of a sound system (from source to speaker, and possibly even the room) if they truly believe in the customer hearing what they want they intended them to hear. For example there are ways to get more out of an amp if you match inputs and outputs according to what you want to design, there's no guesswork as to what components may be hooked up, etc. Is this the best way to do things? Probably not. People like switching components and companies don't necessarily have the expertise to handle all of the design. I wouldn't design everything in one box either. There's a reason you don't place preamplifiers or sources directly on top of power amplifiers. You're going to get a lot of induced current/noise due to the power amp and your signal may not be what it should be. As an engineer, I would work to design the system so that the original signal makes it from source to speaker with as little distortion as possible. That's all you can hope to achieve as an engineer. You rarely, if ever, have the right to say whether or not it's true to the original performance. Is the bass anemic? Sounds bad. Is the treble not clear? Sounds bad. But you know what, maybe that's what it actually sounded like. You never know until you've experienced life on the other side of the mic.

If you really want to ask me what my philosophy on audio is, it's that you have to accept that what you're hearing will never be 100% the same as a live performance. Some recordings are mastered so they sound really nice to your ears but that might not be what it sounded like in person. Anything you do or add to 'improve' the sound of a system, be it a tweak, cable, source, or amp is not necessarily what's true to the recording (or even the sound the recording was trying to capture.) Sometimes what sounds good isn't accurate. Some classical recordings might sound good, but depending on how they were recorded, they're not necessarily what the performance actually sounded like.

Ok now I'm, really off topic.

Anyway, the point of the thread is to discuss any changes in sound you've heard from cables AND scientific reasoning as to why it should sound that way.

Now back to balanced cables. Some of you guys laugh at the notion that balanced cables might not sound better in home audio environments. In the spirit of the topic of the thead, please explain why that might be.

The whole reason for going balanced is the fact that with long cables, you're going to run them past amplifiers, other cables, stage lighting, audio mixing equipment, etc. You've got this long antenna picking up noise from one side of the stage to the other. Balanced cables, amps, and sources help alleviate this problem. Balanced cables in a home environment aren't going to pick up any more external noise going 3 feet than your typical unbalanced cable.

Can they help? I suppose they could in theory. Practically? I don't believe that short a run is going to make much of a difference at all.
post #84 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by tin ears View Post
Febs,

If David Wilson of Wilson Audio voiced his $60,000 Wilson Max 2 speaker system with a $20,000 a pair Transparent Audio speaker cable, do you honestly think the Max 2 would sound the same using $.50 a meter 12g speaker wire?

If you were to shell out around $100,000 for this type of system, would you dare use the $20 pair of 12g cables and risk having it not sound as the designer intended?
Transparent Audio has very interesting theory about cable. They basically think all the imperfection in sound is caused by noise and cable at short length basically does not sound different. However, they claimed the sound is very HiFi and not musical. Contrary to popular belief they think too little LC is a bad thing or high propagation velocity is not good either. Their cable's goal is to reduce noise by adding a "network" (really a Bandpass Filter) and attenuate all the high frequency and thus increase listening experience.

They are actually going against the grain with most other cable manufacturer. Their line of thinking actually have some merit. This technique is widely used in a lot of communication system. Sometimes when you go past a telephone, you'll see a box in between the telephone cable, that's a loading coil equalizing the phone line. However, phone lines are band limited to 3KHz and runs are at miles.

Does their cable sound different? I don't know. But theoretically it can, it all depends on where they put the frequency cut off point. And most likely, it will sound warm. Bose system also have a natural cut off (at about 16 KHz?) as well.

If you agree with their theory (I think has some scientific merit), then you have to also agree with their view of short cable makes no different. And you also may be buying a very expensive tone control.
post #85 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick82 View Post
There are skeptics who think that just because we can't hear RFI it doesn't make a difference to the audio system. It's the same thing with power and vibration. They think that as long as sound comes out from the speakers, it can't sound any better.

Then there are other skeptics who sit where with their measurement devices and say "it's impossible for humans to hear these differences, they are too small!".

Then there are others who measure frequency response of speakers with crappy microphone. For some reason they think more "bass information" means "louder bass". They don't actually own an audio system other than a single speaker. Harvester test

Then there are others who sit there eating food and whisky swirling while chatting to friends, then they laugh and say "I don't hear a difference, hahaha, stupid audiophiles."


If the difference is subtle, you aren't going to hear a difference if you aren't interested in hearing a difference. The more obsessed you are, the bigger the differences will be.
The Harvester test seems like a perfect"straw man" type of test, i.e. where you create a false characteristic of what you are testing and then show that it doesn't exist. The tester looked a frequency response differences in what appeared to be a pink or white noise spectrum, measured from a single speaker with and without the Harvester in place. He found none. Of course PS Audio doesn't claim that there will be one and his rationale for this test was that "some " people claimed these devices gave clearer highs.

This type of debunking is just crap. He should have been looking at low levels of background noise since that is what the device purports to lower.

This is a good example of sceptics who should be more sceptical of their own claims.
post #86 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chu View Post
It doesn't matter how complex the technology behind it is.

1. It's audible, or it's not.
2. If it is audible, it either sounds better or it does not.

The engineering that goes into the results might be incredibly complicated, but the end testing fundamentally is the same. Especially when we're not past (1).
My point was not so much that the testing of phsyical characteristics of audio cables and components is complicated becasue we do no really know what types of measurements to take, but that testing human subjects in psychophical experiments is also very complicated.

The terms "audible" and "sounds better" are not as straightforward as they appear. Music creates complex multidemiensional stimuli ( frequency, amplitude, 2 or more channels, overtones etc.) changing over the smallest increments of time.

When people are asked to compare 2 musical signals as in testing 2 components, who knows to what they were actually listening and attending . One listener could have been inattentive during the first few seconds and formed a judgment based on a later portion of the signal. Another observer gould have done the opposite. They could come up with diametrically opposed judgments, each quite valid considering what they actually did in coming up with their judgment.

It's not even llike evaluating say 2 picture tubes, where you could freeze a stimulus on a screen and at least be sure that your obervers were looking at the same overall picture during the comparison.

This is not even to get into the issue of whether your observers need to be trained to listen.

Null results, i.e. no differences between conditions are more likely in the auditory suituation because it is basically a weakly controlled testing situation.

I used to do this kind of work for a living and would not want to try "scientific" testing of what people hear about audio quality. It's not so much that it would be fool's errand as that it would be very hard to do well.

I persoanlly rely on the old standby, of listing to new components etc. over time in my own set-up, especially with music with which I am familiar.

Still, it would be nice to see some progress on the psychophysics of sound and audio quality.
post #87 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by tin ears View Post
Chu,

If David Wilson of Wilson Audio voiced his $60,000 Wilson Max 2 speaker system with a $20,000 a pair Transparent Audio speaker cable, do you honestly think the Max 2 would sound the same using $.50 a meter 12g speaker wire?
I'm not Chu, but I'll answer it... As long as the fancy speaker cable isn't deliberately altering the signal through inefficient design, I would say yes.

I have a friend who does PA systems for outdoor arenas. One day his assistant left a couple of the spindles of speaker cables off the truck. He was 100 miles away when he realized it. He drove to a local hardware store and bought a big spindle of lamp cord and wired up one channel of his system with it. He ran tape over it to protect it from people tripping over the cable and shorting it out. The concert went off fine and no one knew that the cables for the left half of the hall were regular old zip cord.

See ya
Steve
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