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6 Ethernet Cables Compared

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

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.

 

 

 

 

Black:

 

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.

 

 

Green:

 

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.

 

 

Yellow:

 

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.

 

 

Red:

 

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.

 

 

White:

 

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.

 

 

Blue:

 

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!

 

 

 

post #2 of 16
Excellent review, Sir! You've provided a great service to the headfi community by coloring in this blank page on an important aspect of cables design. Bravo! wink.gif

My one remaining question is what color would you recommend for listening to Wagner operas?

Cheers
Edited by ab initio - 4/1/14 at 3:38am
post #3 of 16

MUST REPLACE ETHERNET CABLE :wink_face:

 

Great thread. 

post #4 of 16

I was hoping you would also review Purple and Pink, so this review was extremely disappointing to me, as clearly Purple and Pink offer the best coloration (especially Pink, which is why most gear builder burn in their gear using Pink noise, and is a cross between Red and Yellow, the PRaTiest ones in your review). I would thus suggest to anyone reading this review to take it with a grain of salt and try the Pink for themselves before settling for a sub-par color like the ones reviewed here.


Edited by elmoe - 4/1/14 at 8:53am
post #5 of 16

Nice!  I laughed.  :)

post #6 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by JR2014 View Post
 

Nice!  I laughed.  :)

ditto

cheers

post #7 of 16

post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ab initio View Post

Excellent review, Sir! You've provided a great service to the headfi community by coloring in this blank page on an important aspect of cables design. Bravo! wink.gif

My one remaining question is what color would you recommend for listening to Wagner operas?

Cheers

 

Thank you ab initio. 

 

An aubergine cable would absolutely be the best match by far. I say this in keeping with the established Head-Fi tradition of pontificating about things that one has no personal experience with since I don't listen to Wagnerian opera and have never heard an aubergine cable.

 

However personally, if I had to listen to Wagnerian opera I'd use the red cable just to get it over with sooner.

 

 

Cheers


Edited by Omphalopsychite - 4/1/14 at 3:32pm
post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by elmoe View Post
 

I was hoping you would also review Purple and Pink, so this review was extremely disappointing to me, as clearly Purple and Pink offer the best coloration (especially Pink, which is why most gear builder burn in their gear using Pink noise, and is a cross between Red and Yellow, the PRaTiest ones in your review). I would thus suggest to anyone reading this review to take it with a grain of salt and try the Pink for themselves before settling for a sub-par color like the ones reviewed here.

 

Thanks elmoe.  Unfortunately I didn't have a high-quality Purple or Pink available.  The only ones I found were of very cheap quality and a different length so I didn't feel the comparisons would be valid. 

post #10 of 16
A real shame, though understandable.
post #11 of 16
Note to self: pick up better Ethernet cables
post #12 of 16
I'd be curious to see if a Peltier cooler would help improve the sound for any of those cables. Cooling the cable should help the electrons to flow more freely and improve SQ, right?

biggrin.gif
post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

I'd be curious to see if a Peltier cooler would help improve the sound for any of those cables. Cooling the cable should help the electrons to flow more freely and improve SQ, right?

biggrin.gif

why stop there? why not put the entire rig in the fridge? Im currently trying to get my room to sub zero temperatures, and it definitely improves sound quality. However, I have found that the SQ becomes more analytical, and lean. Almost cold sounding, but I still need to do more testing.

post #14 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Omphalopsychite View Post
 

1 April 2014 Loch Stahkenberyl NSW

 

Blue:

 

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.

Great work! It's truly amazing that so many areas and factors that many people would consider to have no affect on sound quality actually can and do have a real impact. Thank you for opening my ears to this formerly overlooked factor.

 

As stated in the quote you rated the blue colored cable as the best overall, however there are many, many different shades of blue cable available and I am concerned about getting the best match for the music I listen to most frequently.

 

So here is a simple two part question:

 

a) would navy blue cable be a good match for sea chanties?

 

b) would reggae require a red/yellow/green striped cable? And if so, where would one find such a cable?

 

Thanks again.

post #15 of 16

I needed a new RCA cable recently, so I called a very big hi-fi store here and asked for a recommendation. After explaining what I'd be using it for and my price range, the gentleman gave me one. Then I realized I'd forgotten to measure the distance between my player and amp, so I didn't know the length and said I'd call him back. Between measuring and calling back, I looked at the website and decided on a different one based on the color. The specs were very slightly different, but I wanted a dark color.

When I called back to place my order, I told him which I wanted. And he said, "Excellent choice. That one's actually better than the one I originally recommended because ." I said, "That's great news! I chose it based on the color." And he laughed long and hard. I bet you customers drive him crazy about the details of these things, and he was simply relieved to have a buyer who sees it for what it is.


Edited by Claritas - 4/6/14 at 2:51am
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