After gathering a lot of information on this forum about headphone amps and headphones this is my first post. I would like to share with you some interesting findings as a thank you to all the things I have learned on this forum.
So here it goes:
There is a lot of debate on this forum about whether or not a headphone cable (or any other audio cable) can improve the sound.
I have been researching the phenomenon of audio cable sound since 20 years and have discovered which parameters make a good cable to my ears.
All cables I build are my own design and made of solid core silver wire with cotton isolation and these will outperform any commercial available so called “high end” cable on the market.
I understand why a lot of people argue that there is no sound improvement in using a “better” headphone cable. This is mainly because (apart from not believing in the phenomenon) a lot of the commercially available after market cables are really not (or marginally) better than the standard cables on your headphone; the so called “snake oil” hyped cables.
There is however a simple way to build extremely good performing audio cables with minimal cost (especially compared to commercially available designs). If you are interested and not afraid to experiment please read on, otherwise stick to your stock cable and don’t complain anymore…………
So what are the important design goals for a sound conducting cable?
1) Silver wire over copper wire. Reason: not so much the higher conductivity but more important the lower resonance because it is a softer metal (use a heat treatment in your own oven, or cryo if you have money to spend, this does help a lot). The + and - wire that are next to each other in a headphone cable do attract and repel each other when an electric signal (AC) is being applied to the wires. This causes resonance also called “wire cry” that influences the electromagnetic field and impairs sound quality.
2) Solid core over stranded. Reason: the conductive path in stranded wire does jump from one strand to another, thereby crossing a more or less oxidized surface of the strand. Copper oxide is a semi-conductor and has a memory effect. This does degrade the sound. There is however an optimal wire diameter due to the “skin effect”; if you need a bigger wire diameter just use several single coated wires in parallel.
3) Isolation with the best possible dielectric value. A well known cable isolation material is PTFE or Teflon which has the best dielectric value of all plastics as far as I know. But there is a more simple and cheaper alternative that has a dielectric value that is twice as good as PTFE and that is plain Cotton! Just buy cotton cord (the one used in hoodies) where you can pull out the center piece, slide it over your conductor and you are ready.
4)No braided mass or - conductor around your signal carrying conductor. Best way is to twist the + and - wires together.
To understand sound transport in cables you must know that the “sound” travels not exactly through the conductor but also in the electromagnetic field around the conductor. Let me explain: An electric AC signal generates an electromagnetic field around itself that travels through the isolator of the cable. This electromagnetic field will be altered (damped) by the material it must travel through. If this field is influenced than it will also influence the electrons travelling through the conductor; thus changing the signal. This is the exact reason why the isolator is more important than the conductor. This is also the reason why braided isolated cables are no good to audio.
Please use this information as you wish and report your results in this thread for us to learn.
Edited by Supersurfer - 9/28/11 at 11:47am