1 April 2014 Loch Stahkenberyl NSW
One aspect of cable technology which I feel is sorely neglected is that of cable colour. Audiophiles consider cable construction, materials, etc. but often disregard cable colour, typically settling for plain-vanilla black cables. I decided to try and provide some definitive information that hopefully can help others avoid less than ideal choices of cable colour.
I chose to test six high quality CAT 6 RJ45 Ethernet Networking Cables which were identical in all parameters except for the colour. I used these cables to connect the NAS to my music server so they are at the beginning of the chain where the differences should be most audible. I numbered the cables and had my wife switch them out of my sight (she's an angel the way she puts up with my expensive hobby!). She was instructed to choose the cables at random and allow for repetitions. I should note that I'm colour blind, I hope that doesn't make this test a DBT and it gets removed.
My test rig consists of:
Muse LanDisk NAS w/SanDisk Ultra Plus SSD > Test Ethernet Cable > custom PC Music Server > USB Cable > Questyle CAS192 Mini Dac > Questyle CMA800R Headphone Amp > Sennheiser HD800 headphones > Ears > Brain > Me
All music was in flac format, and Foobar the player.
I spent many hours listening over several days. The music was all classical as it comprises well over 95% of my listening and I'm most familiar with the genre. I was quite surprised at the differences.
With the Black cable the sounds were slightly dark and veiled and somewhat muddy. They are quite organic although not as organic as the Green cable. The PRaT is quite poor compared to the Yellow. And some counter-intuitively, the black cable doesn't excel at portraying the space between the instruments, i.e. the 'blacks'.
Still, it's a good match for music like Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht or Mussorgsky's Иванова ночь на лысой горе. Over all, compared to the Blue and even the Red, several of its weaknesses are quite noticeable. We miss a lot when settling for Black cables.
The Green cable had the most organic sound. It's a good match for pieces such as Beethoven's 6th Symphony and much of Grieg's work. Unfortunately the notes had an elongated oval shape which I found quite unpleasant and they decayed quite rapidly. Also, as a consequence of the less than desirable note shape the articulation of voices wasn't very precise which I found distracting on many vocal works. And although soundstage is exceptionally high, it is quite narrow.
The Yellow cable was striking. It is quite warm, although not as warm as the Red. It had the best PRaT, and immediately noticeable was the exceptionally wide soundstage. Whereas on most recordings the soundstage is spread across about 150 degrees, with this cable often the soundstage was so wide it actually wrapped around the back of my head. The impression that some of the instruments were actually behind me was rather disconcerting, like sitting in the middle of a circle of performers. Also the soundstage was exceptionally deep which on some recordings was like listening to the music in a hole.
With the Yellow cable the notes were rather triangular in shape. This was most notable on pieces where the notes have sharp attack such the Soler harpsichord works. The contrast to the Green where the notes have an elongated oval shape was pronounced. The shape of the notes made for exceptionally clear articulation of voices. Even though it's the king of PRaT, its deficiencies in other areas keep it from the top of the list.
The Red is a very fast cable. It's Ferrari-like fast, easily the fastest of this group. It's also quite punchy and has the broadest frequency response. It really digs out those low lows with exceptional grip and the high highs are scintillating.
It has good PRaT, exceptional dynamics, good air, the notes are well-formed, and the soundstage is quite wide. However it isn't very neutral, rather it's exceptionally warm which affects the accuracy of the timbre. With its speed it might be a not be the best choice for classical music but with rock and electronic music it should sizzle.
The White cable is easily the most transparent. However it is so transparent that at times it was as if one could see right through the notes. This was most noticeable on works such as Mahler's symphonies where the notes lacked the substance and solidity needed to convey the weight of the music. However with Debussy the effect of the diaphanous notes was pleasant as it was with some New Age Ethereal music.
Somewhat paradoxically one area where the white cable excelled was in the 'blacks', i.e. the space between the instruments. Here the cable's transparency really enhances the emptiness. It is a palpable void, not just mere silence. Quite impressive.
The Blue cable is quite crisp, neutral, very elegant and linear, and the notes are exceptionally well formed. Nothing 'blue' about the sound of this cable! While perhaps it isn't the best in any one area, it definitely has the best combination of PRaT, soundstage, transparency, musicality, dynamics, resolution, air, and other important criteria. It works exceptionally well with a broad spectrum of classical music, from monumental orchestral works to solo guitar. Easily my top choice.
I hope you find this information useful, I know the comparative listening really opened my eyes (ears?). At first glance it doesn't seem possible that the cable colour would influence the sound. Then it occurred to me that perhaps Quantum Chromodynamics comes into play, since the colour of the quarks play a role analogous to that of electric charge. Strange things happen at the quantum level.
Thanks for reading!