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Do audiophile electrical engineers use kilobuck cables?

post #1 of 66
Thread Starter 

Electrical engineers. In theory, if they are employed, they would be reasonably well off enough to buy high-end kilobuck cables. Also, if there is anyone who is trained in understanding the requisite physical principals that govern the supposed electrical advantage of cables which cost a lot of money, it would be electrical engineers.

 

What I am wondering is this: Has a real electrical engineer ever existed who also insisted on spending thousands of dollars on audiophile cables, interconnects, usb connectors, spdif cables, etc.. ?

 

Cheers

 

EDIT: To clarify, it would have to be somebody not directly related to audiophile cable manufacturing. The monetary connection is a conflict of interest.


Edited by ab initio - 5/22/14 at 5:52pm
post #2 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by ab initio View Post
 

Electrical engineers. In theory, if they are employed, they would be reasonably well off enough to buy high-end kilobuck cables. Also, if there is anyone who is trained in understanding the requisite physical principals that govern the supposed electrical advantage of cables which cost a lot of money, it would be electrical engineers.

 

What I am wondering is this: Has a real electrical engineer ever existed who also insisted on spending thousands of dollars on audiophile cables, interconnects, usb connectors, spdif cables, etc.. ?

 

Cheers

 

EDIT: To clarify, it would have to be somebody not directly related to audiophile cable manufacturing. The monetary connection is a conflict of interest.

 

I am an electrical engineer. Do I think it is import to spend $$$ on the cables?   Answer: it depends

post #3 of 66
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Digitalchkn View Post
 

 

I am an electrical engineer. Do I think it is import to spend $$$ on the cables?   Answer: it depends


Cool. Depends on what? Bring the math, baby.

 

EDIT: first off, what kind of $$$ do you mean?

post #4 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by ab initio View Post
 


Cool. Depends on what? Bring the math, baby.

Well. There are as many opinions as there are people involved.  So not having done exhaustive field studies in every aspect of cabling and interconnects I can only offer my person opinion from my personal and professional experience. In other words, my disclaimer is that I can offer you my opinion.

 

In my opinion:

1. high quality cabling is critical for analog signals.

2. quality cabling is critical for digital I/O only to the point that digital data gets across correctly.

 

As this answer is somewhat vague and has potential to spawn countless debates I shall leave it that... for now

post #5 of 66
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Digitalchkn View Post
 

Well. There are as many opinions as there are people involved.  So not having done exhaustive field studies in every aspect of cabling and interconnects I can only offer my person opinion from my personal and professional experience. In other words, my disclaimer is that I can offer you my opinion.

 

In my opinion:

1. high quality cabling is critical for analog signals.

2. quality cabling is critical for digital I/O only to the point that digital data gets across correctly.

 

As this answer is somewhat vague and has potential to spawn countless debates I shall leave it that... for now


Yeah, that's a real teaser of an answer :p

 

I agree with both of your points. In fact, #2 is common sense for anybody familiar with digital systems.

 

What I want to get at is what constitutes "high quality cabling"? I cannot think of any reason why something with reasonably high wire gauge, good shielding, quality connectors, and reasonable length (like these) wouldn't be orders of magnitude beyond the limits of human perception in terms of signal transparency. The monoprice cable I linked has a 16 AWG twisted pair cable with 98% shield coverage and corrosion resistant connectors. And its pretty short. These are all of the electrical characteristics I would expect to make an excellent connector for a voltage bridging connection such as line level audio signals. Yet, folks in the Cables and DBX-free forum call me an a-hole because that cable only cost 7 bucks. Why? What could some esoteric audiophile cable costing $1000/meter improve upon for a line level 10-22kHz bandwidth-limited audio signal?

 

 

What about the stock cable on my HD280-pro headphones? It's 3 ft, coiled, stretches up to 10 ft. The connector is gold plated (corrosion resistant). I believe it is a pair of twisted pairs, sheilded. My headphones are nominally 64 Ohm and Tyll measures the headphone response, distortion, and impedance to be this. The frequency response is rolled off -20dB by 20kHz. The distortion somewhere between 0.1 and 1% from 40Hz -- 6kHz. What possibly could a fancy cable upgrade provide that would be audible? an extra 0.1 dB at 20kHz (which I can't hear over 19kHz anyway)?

 

If there are some special worst case scenarios where a cable or interconnect can provide an audible difference, I'd really be interested to know what they are, but as it stands, I cannot devise a "killer sample" scenario for any reasonable setup where good quality cables are already in place.

 

Cheers


Edited by ab initio - 5/22/14 at 6:35pm
post #6 of 66

I don't know... there are a lot of specializations in electrical engineering and many have little to do with nuanced understandings of analog electronic systems, electromagnetics / wave propagation, instrumentation, or something perhaps related, particularly not when it comes to nonidealities at a very low order of magnitude. Most designed systems of interest can be analyzed in ways that make working approximations that are less close to the fundamental physics and materials. Fewer yet have tested these things for themselves or know more firsthand. If you're going for some kind of appeal to authority, you should probably cast the net narrower.

 

Besides, what about the psychoacoustics?

 

That said, I can't imagine many going for the ones backed by heavy pseudoscience marketing.

post #7 of 66

Not exactly an electrical engineer, but I am a theoretical physicist.  I use whatever is around because honestly, with my set up it does not matter whether or not I have Toxic TOTL cables or stock cables; I have more major bottlenecks than my cables.  Every other electrical engineer and physicist who likes audio that I know personally also tend not to use kilobuck (audio) cables.  Using kilobuck cables for high fidelity data transmission or rectifying a hydrogen maser power supply is a different issue all together. 

 

That being said, there is a difference between physics/engineering and audiophiles.  Physicists and Engineers use science to construct whereas audiophiles tend to deconstruct as they should.  Listening is ultimately a subjective experience.  You can't really measure something like listening; that'd be like chemists trying to measure why a certain recipe tastes good. 

 

Tldr: do it if its worth it to your ears and to your wallet.  Experiment, go to meets and make friends in the hobby.  You'll have some pretty disappointing failures and some soaring successes, but thats the way it is. 

 

Also, I think you are fundamentally misunderstanding what an electrical engineer is, probably ala Nwavguy (who happens to be an electrical engineer).  There are very very few electrical engineers trained in audio stuff relative to the total pool of people who have EE degrees. There are also very very few professional physicists (theoretical, computational or experimental) who deal in audio.  The most famous and the only professional physicist I knew of shared lab space with my friend while he was a grad student at Harvard; he went deaf from experimenting so much in the early 60's or 70's from what I recall.  I don't know of any electrical engineers who were formally trained in audio stuff (maybe LFF?). 

 

There is a big difference between understanding what is happening in a cable and understanding what something happening in a cable does to the human perception of sound.  If anything, it's probably more of a Neurologists field than a Physicists or an Engineers. 


Edited by zomgpront - 5/22/14 at 6:45pm
post #8 of 66
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeaj View Post
 

I don't know... there are a lot of specializations in electrical engineering and many have little to do with nuanced understandings of analog electronic systems, electromagnetics / wave propagation, instrumentation, or something perhaps related, particularly not when it comes to nonidealities at a very low order of magnitude. Most designed systems of interest can be analyzed in ways that make working approximations that are less close to the fundamental physics and materials. Fewer yet have tested these things for themselves or know more firsthand. If you're going for some kind of appeal to authority, you should probably cast the net narrower.

 

Besides, what about the psychoacoustics?

 

Even without specializing in a closely related topic within EE, don't all students take the fundamentals of E&M and circuits as part of their degree programs? Isn't part of the classwork justifying the simplified formulas by starting from first principles, estimating the order of magnitude of higher order terms, and setting criteria for when those terms can be safely neglected?

 

I'm pretty sure that most electrical engineers know immediately that transmission line effects are essentially non-existent  in audio, yet that is one of the fallacies purported by cable-believers to explain why the flashier expensive cable sounds more airy or whatever. is a few picofarads of cable capacitence or a couple microhenries of self inductance really going to cause more than 1 dB of rolloff in the audioband, or cause any properly designed amplifier to oscillate wildly? Zero people, including every single cable manufacture has been able to show any case study where those types of causes (which their esoteric designs try to address) have an audible effect.

 

as far as pyscoaucoustics go, I'm not really concerned with what people think they hear. I'm worried about whether it is physically possible under any circumstance that the only possible audibly transparent cable costs $1000 (or even $100).

 

Cheers

post #9 of 66
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by zomgpront View Post
 

Not exactly an electrical engineer, but I am a theoretical physicist.  I use whatever is around because honestly, with my set up it does not matter whether or not I have Toxic TOTL cables or stock cables; I have more major bottlenecks than my cables.  Every other electrical engineer and physicist who likes audio that I know personally also tend not to use kilobuck (audio) cables.  Using kilobuck cables for high fidelity data transmission or rectifying a hydrogen maser power supply is a different issue all together. 

 

That being said, there is a difference between physics/engineering and audiophiles.  Physicists and Engineers use science to construct whereas audiophiles tend to deconstruct as they should.  Listening is ultimately a subjective experience.  You can't really measure something like listening; that'd be like chemists trying to measure why a certain recipe tastes good. 

 

Your analogy is incorrect. I'm talking about whether a chemist can measure whether or not different recipes taste different. This is not subjective. This is physical.

 

Tldr: do it if its worth it to your ears and to your wallet.  Experiment, go to meets and make friends in the hobby.  You'll have some pretty disappointing failures and some soaring successes, but thats the way it is. 

 

Also, I think you are fundamentally misunderstanding what an electrical engineer is, probably ala Nwavguy (who happens to be an electrical engineer).  There are very very few electrical engineers trained in audio stuff relative to the total pool of people who have EE degrees. There are also very very few professional physicists (theoretical, computational or experimental) who deal in audio.  The most famous and the only professional physicist I knew of shared lab space with my friend while he was a grad student at Harvard; he went deaf from experimenting so much in the early 60's or 70's from what I recall.  I don't know of any electrical engineers who were formally trained in audio stuff (maybe LFF?). 

 

No, I'm not misunderstanding what an electrical engineer is. Electrical engineers apply the fundamentals of electricity and magnetism to solve real world problems. If they are going to apply the fundamentals of E&M, they had better learn something about it at some point. I'm pretty sure every EE has learned about Maxwell's equations at some point. I'm not saying all EE's know audio. I'm picking EE's because the transmission of electrical signals in cables falls into their jurisdiction.

 

There is a big difference between understanding what is happening in a cable and understanding what something happening in a cable does to the human perception of sound.  If anything, it's probably more of a Neurologists field than a Physicists or an Engineers. 

 

I'm concerned with the physics of sound reproduction and the physical limitations of sound detection. This is not subjective.


Cheers

post #10 of 66

Quote:

Originally Posted by ab initio View Post
 

 

I'm pretty sure that most electrical engineers know immediately that transmission line effects are essentially non-existent  in audio, yet that is one of the fallacies purported by cable-believers to explain why the flashier expensive cable sounds more airy or whatever. is a few picofarads of cable capacitence or a couple microhenries of self inductance really going to cause more than 1 dB of rolloff in the audioband, or cause any properly designed amplifier to oscillate wildly? Zero people, including every single cable manufacture has been able to show any case study where those types of causes (which their esoteric designs try to address) have an audible effect.

 

 

 

The term transmission line has multitude of definitions, depending on the application. I've seen it used  loosely in the context of simple "wire" connection to high frequency digital communication interconnect to power lines. I think what you might be trying to say that for audio applications the distances involved do not result in cables looking like a distributed element that could gives rise to reflections if not properly terminated. For audio frequencies (let's say <= 100KHz) I think no one would disagree that unless you a running your headphone cable across the country you are not like to encounter any reflections.

 

So with that out of the way, it's important to relate things in terms of impedances on both ends of the cable. For low impedances picofarads and microhenries *may* make little difference or little perceptible difference. For high impedances they could make a world of difference. So the context varies depending on whether you are talking about heaphone cable vs say an RCA cable.

post #11 of 66
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Digitalchkn View Post
 

Quote:

The term transmission line has multitude of definitions, depending on the application. I've seen it used  loosely in the context of simple "wire" connection to high frequency digital communication interconnect to power lines. I think what you might be trying to say that for audio applications the distances involved do not result in cables looking like a distributed element that could gives rise to reflections if not properly terminated. For audio frequencies (let's say <= 100KHz) I think no one would disagree that unless you a running your headphone cable across the country you are not like to encounter any reflections.

 

Yes, exactly.

 

So with that out of the way, it's important to relate things in terms of impedances on both ends of the cable. For low impedances picofarads and microhenries *may* make little difference or little perceptible difference. For high impedances they could make a world of difference. So the context varies depending on whether you are talking about heaphone cable vs say an RCA cable.

Okay, these are good points. So in the case of an RCA cable, you've got something like a 75 Ohm source  driving something like at 2 kOhm input impedance (probably more like 10kOhm?).  What does something like 10 meters of W2549 do to the signal? cable capacitance is given by K0 = 76pF/m, K1=11pF/m. Inductance =0.8µH/m. DC resistance is 0.058Ω/m. We can construct an RLC circuit out of this and find it's frequency response, right? is anything less than 20Khz affected by more than 0.1dB?

 

Cheers

post #12 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by ab initio View Post
 

 

I'm worried about whether it is physically possible under any circumstance that the only possible audibly transparent cable costs $1000 (or even $100).

 

 

 

.... I personally have doubts that the end-product cost has a direct relationship to the electrical properties of the cable. The performance-per-$  is all over the place because there is no standard agreement on what we want our cables to behave like.

 

BTW. This standard does exist (somewhat) for very high frequency cable applications, but I haven't seen anything analogous (pun intended) for audio.

post #13 of 66
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Digitalchkn View Post
 

 

 

.... I personally have doubts that the end-product cost has a direct relationship to the electrical properties of the cable. The performance-per-$  is all over the place because there is no standard agreement on what we want our cables to behave like.

 

BTW. This standard does exist (somewhat) for very high frequency cable applications, but I haven't seen anything analogous (pun intended) for audio.

:D

 

Cheers

post #14 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by ab initio View Post
 

Okay, these are good points. So in the case of an RCA cable, you've got something like a 75 Ohm source  driving something like at 2 kOhm input impedance (probably more like 10kOhm?).  What does something like 10 meters of W2549 do to the signal? cable capacitance is given by K0 = 76pF/m, K1=11pF/m. Inductance =0.8µH/m. DC resistance is 0.058Ω/m. We can construct an RLC circuit out of this and find it's frequency response, right? is anything less than 20Khz affected by more than 0.1dB?

 

Cheers

 

In this case, that's correct . BUT bear in mind though that resistances and inductances are no constant with frequency. You must have seen some reference to the skin (and maybe even proximity) effects. These tend to increase the impedance (real and imaginary parts).  The numbers above do not reflect this.

 

BTW. The loss that I calculated for this system is 0.38dB @ 20KHz


Edited by Digitalchkn - 5/22/14 at 8:22pm
post #15 of 66
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Digitalchkn View Post
 

 

In this case, that's correct . BUT bear in mind though that resistances and inductances are no constant with frequency. You must have seen some reference to the skin (and maybe even proximity) effects. These tend to increase the impedance (real and imaginary parts).  The numbers above do not reflect this.


Yes. The skin effect makes the cable's resistance increase with increasing frequency. but I'm pretty sure that it's been shown numerous times in this forum that the skin effect is negligible at audio frequencies for a reasonably sized cable.

 

Cheers

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