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Proposed Test: Cable Differences

post #1 of 56
Thread Starter 
Obviously with the opening of a Sound Science forum, cables will remain a heated and prevalent discussion on Head-Fi. In fact, I heavily contemplated posting in the other cabling thread already created here. This idea is different though; I'm not here to debate but to discover.

Basically, what I'm proposing is a purely objective, scientific test to measure the affects of alternate cables on the frequency response of equipment. The test would use the scientific method and read like a lab report - there would be a procedure, abstract, materials list, independent and dependent variables, results and analysis, and a conclusion.

The set-up, I imagine, would measure the frequency response of an amplifier using a few different sets of interconnect cabling. The source, source material, amplifier, power supply, and power cabling would remain identical between tests. Only the interconnects, measured separately on the same pair of input jacks, would change in the experiment.

I figure that, in recognition of cable believers, interconnects should be chosen in a manner of opposites. For example, tests could begin with silver and copper cabling, as these varieties are supposedly of contrasting sound signatures; therefore yielding a more apparent effect on the amplifier's frequency response.

Again, I propose this test with interest, not agenda. Reading through my posting history, you'll see that I neither condone nor endorse cabling as a viable source of upgrade. In reality, the idea of the test was created to remove the subjective elements of double blind testing from cable testing. To me, DBT is useful (in audio) for putting audiophile wizards to shame, but can't necessarily prove or disprove the existence of cable differences. (besides the human element, DBT ideally requires separate pieces of equipment to realistically compare components - removing the controlled nature of a proper scientific experiment).

Anyway, I lack the technical know-how and equipment to carry out the experiment, but make my proposition hoping its procedure will be refined and eventually conducted. The results would certainly be interesting, and controversial to say the least.

Regards,
Nick
post #2 of 56
I think that as part of the examination of cabling, some form of listening test(s) should be involved. As it is claimed that the human ear can detect differences that are, as-yet, invisible to our electronic analysis, it would be useful to see whether these differences are repeatably detected.

And I would STRONGLY disagree with you that a double blind trial has little scientific foundation or accuracy. Do you really know what one is? It would be very, VERY easy to conduct a DBT cabling experiment, using entirely the same setup, it would just require at least 2 people (probably 3) to perform it to satisfaction.
post #3 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stewtheking View Post
I think that as part of the examination of cabling, some form of listening test(s) should be involved. As it is claimed that the human ear can detect differences that are, as-yet, invisible to our electronic analysis, it would be useful to see whether these differences are repeatably detected.

And I would STRONGLY disagree with you that a double blind trial has little scientific foundation or accuracy. Do you really know what one is? It would be very, VERY easy to conduct a DBT cabling experiment, using entirely the same setup, it would just require at least 2 people (probably 3) to perform it to satisfaction.
I meant that a DBT test should be used to supplement the objective results, rather than be used in isolation. As I've said, a double blind test can't prove or disprove the existence of cable differences - it can only prove whether or not the human ear can detect them.

Your first point, as well, is why I stressed the need for testing cables in a manner of opposites. It is indeed possible that, detail, sound stage, and imaging are difficult or impossible to test using readily available equipment. But if a cable at all affects the frequency response of an amplifier, then the results should be easily measurable. Thus, I suggested beginning with copper and silver wires, as these supposedly alter the bass, midrange, and treble in opposite ways.
post #4 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by M0T0XGUY View Post
I meant that a DBT test should be used to supplement the objective results, rather than be used in isolation. As I've said, a double blind test can't prove or disprove the existence of cable differences - it can only prove whether or not the human ear can detect them.
Well, that's what the issue is, surely? I mean, there are physical differences between the cables, and there have been measured differences in their electrical properties, as shown detailed in a few threads here. The issue is whether this makes the big differences in sound quality, and if people are claiming to hear those differences, that can be thoroughly tested with blind trialling.

Yes, DBT could also be used to supplement other results, but if somebody can demonstrate that it is possible to reliably hear differences, then that is rather useful. Admittedly, you can't use it to prove the negative, (that they make no difference) but you could very easily use it to prove the positive...
post #5 of 56

be individual not dictated to.

good luck to the OP!

seeing really is believing i guess, why not listen for yourself with your own ears and some cables, after all is anyone elses opinion that important in the grand scheme of things?

i have never understood people getting scientific on the sonic differentials expressed by various people, as it never satiates or changes anyones own beliefs anyway

let me tell you this, if i had two cables. and one sounded better to me than the other. and then the next day a newsflash came on and stated that there was now categoric scientific proof that all cables were exactly the same, you think i would throw out the better sounding cable and keep the other one on their say so? - i couldnt care less

thats like the U.K. government constantly telling me violent crime is on the decrease right after another fatal stabbing - it just contradicts what the guy on the street is actually experiencing

cables do make a difference, at least thats my story and i am sticking to it!

p.s. with my IC's i am on a propagation delay of 87% speed of light, whats yours?
post #6 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quaddy View Post
let me tell you this, if i had two cables. and one sounded better to me than the other. and then the next day a newsflash came on and stated that there was now categoric scientific proof that all cables were exactly the same, you think i would throw out the better sounding cable and keep the other one on their say so? - i couldnt care less
Okay, fine, but what if it was put to a test to see if you could REALLY hear the difference? Take out any sort of placebo effect, and can you really hear the difference between the two. What if then, you realised that it was all the smoke and mirrors that you had bought, and not any better sounding cable.

Nobody is disputing that people do really believe they can hear the differences between some cables, but the placebo effect is real, ubiquitous, and serious, and it is very possible that the effects have nothing to do with the cable at all.
post #7 of 56
This has been the idea for decades, with no luck....not an easy task, specially when you have an opposed belief...

Anyway good luck trying to find a test that will not be dismissed later on by the subjectivists for this or that reason...
post #8 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by stewtheking View Post
Okay, fine, but what if it was put to a test to see if you could REALLY hear the difference? Take out any sort of placebo effect, and can you really hear the difference between the two. What if then, you realised that it was all the smoke and mirrors that you had bought, and not any better sounding cable.

Nobody is disputing that people do really believe they can hear the differences between some cables, but the placebo effect is real, ubiquitous, and serious, and it is very possible that the effects have nothing to do with the cable at all.
i agree that placebo is real and alive, in fact i think its a very strong influence and percentage involved in everyday listening upgrading, equipment etc

its not a dirty word, at least not in my vocabulary, more of an unavoidable death and taxes type entity

but i take that as read and fathom that in, placebo is like a free bonus upgrade thrown in with your cable purchase! embrace it!

and i have no idea how you would verify and quantify if i could tell this fabled difference you speak of in a blind test - thats harder than it sounds in practise i am sure.

apart from anything else it sounds like too much hard work and too much of a distraction away from the music for what the result will achieve, its not like discovering a new species, were the world is going to sit up and take notice.

we, who believe are here indulging in our passion and hobby, harming no-one, wasting our own money if you see it like that, we bother no-one for burden of proof, force no one to undergo scientific tests to prove if you non believers, or neutrals can tell us that there is no difference.

you want us to prove there is, why not have us ask you to prove there isnt a difference? i could state that i simply don't believe that you can't tell the difference! see how hard and frustrating it becomes?

i understand your core point of wanting to get an absolute scientific answer once and for all, i agree that would be interesting.

but i strongly believe in its bit parts, in essence this has already been done and documented in the areas of electrical engineering, materials science, chemistry, metalurgy and other fields associated with the various materials used to affect sound in our equipment.

is that any good for you?

neverthemind - we can agree to disagree, it makes neither one of us a bad person

yours,
B. Molko
post #9 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stewtheking View Post
Well, that's what the issue is, surely? I mean, there are physical differences between the cables, and there have been measured differences in their electrical properties, as shown detailed in a few threads here. The issue is whether this makes the big differences in sound quality, and if people are claiming to hear those differences, that can be thoroughly tested with blind trialling.

Yes, DBT could also be used to supplement other results, but if somebody can demonstrate that it is possible to reliably hear differences, then that is rather useful. Admittedly, you can't use it to prove the negative, (that they make no difference) but you could very easily use it to prove the positive...
True. I still like the idea of using frequency response as a means of comparison. Perhaps a double blind test could be sanctioned as a preliminary experiment followed by an objective test such as the one I described. It's really more of a curiosity thing for me - I've never been able to reliably discern cable differences, but want to know of their existence or nonexistence definitively.
post #10 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quaddy View Post
but i take that as read and fathom that in, placebo is like a free bonus upgrade thrown in with your cable purchase! embrace it!
I don't really see it like that, if I am paying my good money to the cable company, and then am doing the improvements with my own brain...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quaddy View Post
and i have no idea how you would verify and quantify if i could tell this fabled difference you speak of in a blind test - thats harder than it sounds in practise i am sure.
Quantifiable is going to be impossible. But qualitative should be very easy. All we are looking for in any one test is a difference that an individual can reliably identify from sound alone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quaddy View Post
apart from anything else it sounds like too much hard work and too much of a distraction away from the music for what the result will achieve, its not like discovering a new species, were the world is going to sit up and take notice.
Didn't James Randi have a $100,000 challenge on this very field not long ago?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quaddy View Post
you want us to prove there is, why not have us ask you to prove there isnt a difference? i could state that i simply don't believe that you can't tell the difference! see how hard and frustrating it becomes?
True, proving a negative is nigh-on impossible, and yes, in an argument like this, it is tricky. But a single positive study would show a great deal, and a whole raft of negative ones likewise, in the other direction...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quaddy View Post
but i strongly believe in its bit parts, in essence this has already been done and documented in the areas of electrical engineering, materials science, chemistry, metalurgy and other fields associated with the various materials used to affect sound in our equipment.
I can't remember the quote, but there was a scientist in the late victorian era, I believe, who said something along the lines of "in 50 years, there will be nothing more to discover about anything, because we will have found it all". It's cool to find out new things, and to discover the reality about things.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quaddy View Post
neverthemind - we can agree to disagree, it makes neither one of us a bad person
Cool.
post #11 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by M0T0XGUY View Post
It's really more of a curiosity thing for me - I've never been able to reliably discern cable differences, but want to know of their existence or nonexistence definitively.
As I mentioned above, very VERY hard to prove a negative. But then, equally, if you get some of the cable guys claiming to hear huge differences between these cables, a series of negative results would be pretty damning...

However, If the differences ARE so real and obvious, we could prove that it is possible to hear some differences in an afternoon or two, the more militant "cables are bunk" camps would shut up for a while, and we could have some FAR more interesting discussions.
post #12 of 56
Heheh, I still have my Test cables lying around from the Blind Cable Taste Test.

-Ed
post #13 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Edwood View Post
Heheh, I still have my Test cables lying around from the Blind Cable Taste Test.
How does a blind cable taste?
post #14 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by stewtheking View Post
Didn't James Randi have a $100,000 challenge on this very field not long ago?
$1 Million I believe, specifically a challenge aimed at Pear speaker cable. Randi insists he buy the cables at retail himself, since otherwise they can be rigged. Also that loser pays. (His standard conditions). Once Pear backed out, the price of the Pear cables themselves is so high no one would fund the challenge.
post #15 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by wavoman View Post
$1 Million I believe, specifically a challenge aimed at Pear speaker cable. Randi insists he buy the cables at retail himself, since otherwise they can be rigged. Also that loser pays. (His standard conditions). Once Pear backed out, the price of the Pear cables themselves is so high no one would fund the challenge.
And yet when you look at Pear's web site they are no less optimistic in their claims than they were before they did a runner, Fremer, rightly would not pony up for the cables - though in the cause of full honesty when you look at the interchanges between Randi and Fremer and Pear nobody behaved terribly well, actually there was a lot of childish behaviour all round - shame really it would have been a interesting test.

But here is the irony, some cable achitectures really do behave measurably differently, in the Audioholics speaker cable test the Goetz cable ($250 for 10ft) unlike the others did not have a significant resistance increase with higher frequencies. This means it really did have a flatter FR. Perhaps audibly so ?

However this may not be quite so important for a few reasons

1) The relatively low level of high frequency components in music - if you do a spectrum analysis on a piece of music when you get to 19K the energy is generally at least 40 to 50db down on the 20 - 1000 range.

2) The relatively low sensitivity of human ears to high frequency sounds compared to sounds in the 2k to 5k range see the Fletcher-Munson curves ( ~ -26db or ~ 8 to 16x less sensitive

In the normal musical ranges (normal) speaker cables though they may measure differently in absolute terms have the same kind of response profile.
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