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Newbie - WOW!! Cable does make a difference???!!

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

CORRECTION to my observation in posting #4 below. 

 

 

************************************

I consider myself very much a newbie.  My first degree is in electrical engineering and while I read a fair bit about audio, I've always been skeptical about cables making much of a difference. I was perusing at a headphone store here in the orient in my travels and built a relationship over three days as I dropped in to take a break.  No one was in the store today and so the guy running the store pulled three different cables for the HD650 that I really liked.  (It is the old HD650.)

 

So I tried three cables:

Stock

Low cost DIY

High cost custom

 

He swapped the cables but touched nothing else.  When I asked what I was supposed to hear, he said, "Don't let me tell you.  You tell yourself what you hear."

 

The stock has the standard HD650 sound that I've really liked the past few days.  The low cost diy (some kind of double purity copper or something) had a smidgen greater clarity which was obvious but wasn't too great a difference.  Then the High cost custom just made the HD650 jump in clarity - more torward the HD600/HD598 direction.  The difference was huge.  I was so sure that this is something I just made up in my mind so I had him put on the standard HD650 cables back.  CLEARLY more muffled.  The difference was amazing - almost like having a different headphone.

 

Turn out that customs were his own that is made by a local custom cable maker that makes only cables.  We then talked cable and he had Cardas, Zu etc but sold them after he started having cables made by this custom maker.  

 

These cables cost more than the HD650 so that just seem a bit crazy to me as a newbie.

 

BUT as a first introduction to cable differences, I am now a believer - at least in the part from the headphone to the jack.

 

Wow!

 

UL


Edited by ULUL - 4/19/13 at 8:43am
post #2 of 15

now repeat the same thing blind folded.

post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

Good point.  I should try that if I have time but will need an objective 3rd party to make sure that the cables were switched and my comments matched the cables.   But I think my observations are correct because I was skeptical and had every reason to not hear the differences.  But in this case, it was just too distinct to ignore.

 

UL

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by frix View Post

now repeat the same thing blind folded.

post #4 of 15

You'll need to take it to the Sound Science forum though as discussion of blind testing is verboten here.

 

se

post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 

IMPORTANT CORRECTION: 

 

I went back today to the shop. And realized that I made a significant error, which the guy pointed out. 

 

The custom cables are BALANCED calbles out of an XLR. We were using a headphone amp that could also provide balanced output.  He was showing me the difference of the entire cable system - but I only looked at the material.  My fault of course.  I was also comparing a balanced vs unbalanced output on the same amp and the difference probably overwhelmed the cable difference. So please THROW out my entire observation....except the part about where there was still a difference between stock and low cost DIY.

 

Apologies about that bit of excitement.

 

UL


Edited by ULUL - 4/19/13 at 8:53am
post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by ULUL View Post

The custom cables are BALANCED calbles out of an XLR. We were using a headphone amp that could also provide balanced output.  He was showing me the difference of the entire cable system - but I only looked at the material.  My fault of course.  I was also comparing a balanced vs unbalanced output on the same amp and the difference probably overwhelmed the cable difference. So please THROW out my entire observation....except the part about where there was still a difference between stock and low cost DIY.

 

 

XLR was likely louder and you wear simply reacting to that, cables balanced or not all sound the same.

post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Graphicism View Post

 

XLR was likely louder and you wear simply reacting to that, cables balanced or not all sound the same.

 

Maybe you should stop jumping to conclusions and submit a link that justifies your statement, whether or not you believe cables "all sound the same".


Edited by yage - 4/22/13 at 7:48am
post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Graphicism View Post

 

XLR was likely louder and you wear simply reacting to that, cables balanced or not all sound the same.

 

That must mean half of all headfiers are living in cloud cuckoo land, including me, because I have easily heard differences.

post #9 of 15

Unless the volume levels are very carefully matched, listeners will almost always prefer the louder component.

 

So if the audition did not match the levels, then the conclusions are meaningless.

post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Speedskater View Post

Unless the volume levels are very carefully matched, listeners will almost always prefer the louder component.

 

So if the audition did not match the levels, then the conclusions are meaningless.

 

Which also means that in this instance we cannot make any conclusions about whether the cables made a difference.

 

EDIT: Really folks, I know cable skeptics and believers like to self-select data points based on their biases, but IMO the skeptic declaring victory here is being a bit premature.


Edited by yage - 4/22/13 at 6:58pm
post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by nigeljames View Post

That must mean half of all headfiers are living in cloud cuckoo land, including me, because I have easily heard differences.

 

It's more like 1/4 but unfortunately yes, some people get carried away with woo and like to play Barbie with their headphones.

post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Graphicism View Post

 

It's more like 1/4 but unfortunately yes, some people get carried away with woo and like to play Barbie with their headphones.

 

Or some people have tin ears and can't be helped. happy_face1.gif

post #13 of 15

You my have missed this link in the 'Sound Science' section about how very difficult it is to make headphone comparisons (let alone cable comparisons).

This is well worth reading.

 

The Relationship between Perception and Measurement of Headphone Sound Quality

post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Speedskater View Post

You my have missed this link in the 'Sound Science' section about how very difficult it is to make headphone comparisons (let alone cable comparisons).

This is well worth reading.

 

The Relationship between Perception and Measurement of Headphone Sound Quality

 

Thanks for the link. So in the blog (and the presentation as well), the author states that

 

Quote:
The results provide evidence that trained listeners preferred the headphones perceived to have the most neutral, spectral balance.

 

So trained listeners know what they prefer - which is (generally) a smooth frequency response. It's quite apparent that people can tell what sounds good to them. I think the key issue here is what's more important - what measures well or what sounds 'good' to a listener? I tend to place a little bit more emphasis on listener experience with an eye towards measurements, which I think is a reasonable model. A lot of cable skeptics tend to discount (IMO) the listener experience too heavily or altogether, which is a sad state of affairs as far as the hobby goes. To me, measurements can tell me what equipment is engineered or designed well. It doesn't necessarily tell me whether I'll prefer that piece of equipment over another. Correlation does not imply causality. I also think this speaks, somewhat, to Tyll's article in Inner Fidelity. Perhaps the measurements we're making can only explain part of the story. There could be some factor we're missing that can explain how we rate sound quality that we've yet to discover or capture.

 

In any case, I think we've pretty much hit the limit with the types of experimental setup used in the paper. I'd like to see something that uses a more neurocognitive approach where the subject is less aware of the type of testing going on - perhaps to see how a testing environment could influence the outcome or perception of sound quality and/or to determine which parts of the brain are activated when we perceive 'good' sound quality. I think there would be a lot of interesting results from such studies. As an example, I remember attending a presentation about a DARPA project that used a brain-machine interface to detect whether or not a trained analyst saw an important feature in images being displayed at a rate of a few per second. This is too frequent for humans to consciously observe any such features, yet from their findings the analysts could detect, with surprisingly good accuracy (I believe 80 - 90%), that there was a landing strip or launch pad or some other intelligence-worthy aspect contained in the image based on a specific pattern of brain waves.

post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 

THe human ear is incredibly sensitive, able to detect very subtle changes.  (i.e. My sons are proficient relatively advanced amateur classical pianists and when they practice, we can detect very subtle changes such as tiny off pace rhythm etc.  Same with violin timbre - difference between a $1,000 and $10,000 violins may not show up on frequency charts but can be clearly discernible sometimes. )   I have always believe that things like tonal qualities etc may not show up on frequency charts or othe rmesaurements tha tmay not measure quality, but does measure quantity. 

 

UL

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