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Where does quality change to snake oil?

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 
I have a question for the cable builders out there. Now, when looking at consumer brand cables, where do you think the line is from a high quality cable to a cable that is snake oil? I hope I am explaining it correctly. Do you think there is a point or this is just an opinion?

I have decided to start building my own cables and this question popped into my head.
post #2 of 39
There are two problems - the first is that to manufacture high volume cables requires a completely different mindset from boutique (or, quality at any cost). The concept is 'Good enough', because 95% of the purchasing population couldn't care less.

Second is marketing, selling, and delivery costs which, oftentimes, costs more than the product itself. If you have the budget, you can sell a camel a toothbrush, but making a living JUST selling cables is very difficult.

This doesn't even start the discussion of up-front material costs, design time, etc. that seems to be called 'snake oil', when it really is just a business expense factored into the cost to deliver that product.

Where it *may* be excessive is where cables exceed 15% of your total system, or where the cable is more than 25% the cost of the headphone. OF COURSE, there are exceptions to those values change from person to person, but that is my rough guideline.

The hd650 is one example where 1:1 works pretty well, especially balanced, where the $1400 hd800 cable does NOT work well for me, so, it really is headphone dependent.
post #3 of 39
When the manufacturers or distributors prove them to sound better in proper blind tests, that's when we can draw such a line.
post #4 of 39
I think pabbi1 is spot on when mentioning marketing. When a company really wants you to buy an expensive cable all common sense has to go out the window and they rely upon suggestion, implied superiority, and customer gullibility.

Turning a set of phones dual-mono and providing gold plated connections, etc., is rational, but believing adverts promising the moon from a cable change is quite frankly very naïve.

(In my opinion).
post #5 of 39
quality parts are expensive - feel expensive and looks expensive.
Add it all, sometimes the cost is quite justifiable.

However when they use weird "tech" speak and then dishing out weird terminologies, thats where things start to get iffy.
post #6 of 39
The line is drawn when your system isnt transparent or resolving enough to hear a difference. That may be $10 or it may $10,000. I cant say I know the correct percentage, but I would say your cables probably should only cost 10- 20 percent of your setups worth to get the most out of it.
post #7 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by KingStyles View Post
The line is drawn when your system isnt transparent or resolving enough to hear a difference. That may be $10 or it may $10,000. I cant say I know the correct percentage, but I would say your cables probably should only cost 10- 20 percent of your setups worth to get the most out of it.
I disagree. "Transparent" and "resolving" are two of the most over-used and ambiguous trade words used in the audio market today.

In my opinion, you draw the line at the point where they start using weasel words like the above mentioned ones and pseudoscience to market their product, and have mark-ups to match their inflated language. I'd say that's a good indicator that the product is snake oil.
post #8 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by KingStyles View Post
The line is drawn when your system isnt transparent or resolving enough to hear a difference.
I think you're forgetting something in there.

Ears have a resolving power too...... and apparently the vast majority of Head-Fi'ers all have above average hearing. What are the chances they are all correct? Pretty damn slim.
post #9 of 39
Lets keep it simple. If you can hear it in your system, they arent snake oil. If you cant hear it in your system, then they are snake oil for you. Maybe some one else has a system that they do make a difference in so for them they arent snake oil.
post #10 of 39
I started out with an Audigy 2 ZS and PX100.

Now I have a Gamma2/M3 both powered by Sigma11's feeding HD650's.

The interconnects are a USB cable that came with a camera and some cheap RCA's that came with a DVD player.

I can hear stuff like foot movements and page turns in piano music. I can hear stuff I've never heard before in music I've listened to for the last 30 years. I can definitely hear bad recordings.

Why do I need to spend 2 or 3 hundred dollars on cables?
post #11 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by KingStyles View Post
Lets keep it simple. If you can hear it in your system, they arent snake oil. If you cant hear it in your system, then they are snake oil for you. Maybe some one else has a system that they do make a difference in so for them they arent snake oil.
'Hearing' a difference isn't all that simple.

This is the DIY forum, where there is a big difference between the actual sound vibrations produced and how the sound is perceived by a suggestible listener.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBSCIX View Post
I have a question for the cable builders out there. Now, when looking at consumer brand cables, where do you think the line is from a high quality cable to a cable that is snake oil? I hope I am explaining it correctly. Do you think there is a point or this is just an opinion?

I have decided to start building my own cables and this question popped into my head.
Back to the OP......

This is a question only you can answer. Build something cheap. Build something expensive. Measure them both. Listen to them both. Decide what is best for you.

But I strongly urge you to do listening tests as blind as possible. If you think you can hear a difference, prove to yourself that it is a real difference, rather than just a subconscious expectation of better or worse sound.
post #12 of 39
If it's not measurable, it's snake oil. Other than that the quality of mechanical parts should be considered. Everything after this point is at your own peril...
...although I still enjoy overkill and boutique gear, I'm just a realist.
post #13 of 39
By no means do I subscribe to the "must spend 10-15%" rule, as every cable decision I make stands alone. I do know I prefer my $100 grover RCA over the stuff thrown in the box, which is OK for testing and such, where I also have some $50 XLR as backups to my $150 APS (bought years ago) every day players.

Oh, and my Quail power cords, at <$30 each are definitely 'good enough', even if I do have 6 of them.

Now my balanced hd800 cable was about $400 (for $1400 phones), of which is $100 cost outright for the Furutech connectors (builder cost), so, yes, a little bling, but matching my Furutech connectors on the amp.

So, to recap, my ACTUAL % is:

Stat: IC ($150), PC (2x $30), HP Cable ($0) = $210
Dynamic: IC ($100), PC (2x $30), HP cable ($400) = $560

Based on the total system: CD ($2300), Amp* ($600), Headphones hd800 or he60 ($1400) - Total $4200

So my current range is 5% on Stats (dedicated HP cable) to ~13% on dynamics. That is where there is zero snake oil, imo. VERY little bling (and none without true functional purpose) but no weakness, either.

*Depends on amp (Liquid Gold or eXStatA: Vulcan or Raven $1500) DIY - which would be 3x if commercial versions.
post #14 of 39
If you heat the cables in the oven, the snake oil will become more fluid and improve the tonal balance of the cables! I kid!

I do believe cables influence the sound of a setup, however I believe that common sense should be used and spending huge amounts of money in a cable isn't wise. Many times it's much better to just upgrade your source, amp or phones!
post #15 of 39
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beefy View Post
Back to the OP......

This is a question only you can answer. Build something cheap. Build something expensive. Measure them both. Listen to them both. Decide what is best for you.

But I strongly urge you to do listening tests as blind as possible. If you think you can hear a difference, prove to yourself that it is a real difference, rather than just a subconscious expectation of better or worse sound.
I was just asking for opinions on the subject. I don't have some cables where I am wondering if they are really good or snake oil.
What I meant is, we see cables out there that are high quality and their price reasonably reflects what they are built from. Others are sporting price tags where the price has nothing to do with the material. This may also be an opinion as some use really expensive snake oil cables and others use cables that are high quality for reasonble price.
I think it is time to start building my own for my own system....
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