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2359glenn | studio

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by silent one, Mar 9, 2012.
  1. L0rdGwyn
    Happy Thanksgiving to all! Enjoy your turkey and good company. We are having peking duck :)
  2. JazzVinyl
    Happy Thanksgiving all!!

    We usually do a Ham, but have a bird in this year.
    Are expecting 16


    chrisdrop, GDuss and L0rdGwyn like this.
  3. L0rdGwyn
    I decided a few years ago there are appreciable differences between headphone cables. At the time, I was making some comparisons on the HD650 between the stock cable and a cable I had made with some cheap silver plated copper wire I bought from China. Well, lo and behold, the stock cable sounded significantly better. Once I realized that, I sought out better materials to build a new custom cable, Moon Audio Black Dragon cable, Furutech rhodium plated connectors, Eidolic rhodium plated 1/4" plug. At the time I found this cable to be better than stock and have used it ever since. I made a similar cable for ZMFs. I haven't gone down this rabbit hole any further since, I am curious if there is something of a cable "plateau" where once a cable is of good enough quality, the incremental improvements disappear. Will likely take this further and buy or make some better cables in the future to find out.

    I am a science-minded person myself :) and I have not found a plausible explanation. Believe it or not, researchers are not doing their PhD theses on the perceptible changes associated with cable swapping, or the subjective benefits of DACs with a tube output stage, etc. Maybe some of these topics have scientific answers, but scientists are probably not very interested. Based on my recent experiences though, I am now rejecting the measurements more readily than I used to. There is something that isn't being captured.

    Here are some cables I have made, a sleeved cable for the Focal Elear I owned for a very brief time, and my HD650 cable. I honestly don't know if I will ever braid and sleeve a cable again, VERY time-consuming, I'd probably rather shell out the insane prices for nice headphone cables.

    20171008_115910.jpg DmTicVMlSDqjAtnmMYYz_IMAG0021.jpg
  4. GDuss
    I've spent a fair amount of time on the Aeolus comparing the stock ZMF cable (the flat one) to the stock cable that comes with the Audeze LCD2C and then to a ZMF 2K. As much as I would like to say there is no reason a headphone cable should sound different, they do in my opinion. The most notable difference is going from ZMFs stock cable to the 2K.

    Given that enjoyment of music is a subjective sensory experience that is likely influenced by many factors, I would imagine that differences in headphone cables would be more apparent than differences in interconnects. Why? You interact with the headphone cable while using it, and you don't interact with an interconnect. This is not to say that there is no difference between interconnects (or power cords etc), just that the potential for other factors to influence your perception of a headphone cable is greater. In my case, one of those factors might be the color of the cable


    Could there be an element of "purple placebo" here? Sure. I don't think it's all placebo, but how do you prove that? With blind testing, having someone else swap out the cables and see if you can identify which is which? That would help, and maybe I should run that experiment. But as we all know, enjoying music can be a multi-sensory experience. That's why there are light shows at many live music events (I posted about this on the Aeolus thread). Does the music sound the same whether there is a light show or not? Yes. Do you enjoy it more if there is a light show? Yes. So I think with headphone cables there can be both actual sound differences and then also influences from other senses. It probably also helps that I got the cable used for a good deal :smile_phones:.
    chrisdrop and L0rdGwyn like this.
  5. L0rdGwyn
    Very good points! Certainly it is a multifactorial experience. What was so striking to me about my headphone cable revelation was I expected my silver-plated copper cable to sound better, but the stock HD650 cable was the winner, subverting my confirmation bias, making me more confident my observations were accurate. You are right, blind testing is the best way to get the "truth". But perception is reality, right? If I allow my confirmation bias to go unrestrained and I buy a $5,000 power cable, and I think it sounds better, then it does sound better! A worthwhile upgrade :) I think some audiophiles operate in this state, I at least try to keep the bias under control as best I can, especially when evaluating a subtle change. Sometimes though, the differences are so striking that I throw the placebo effect out the window.

    I was thinking about my experience with the Lampizator Amber 3 earlier today and trying to find some analogy to describe the significance of the differences I heard. It truly changed my perspective on DAC topologies, tube output stages, the value of objective measurements, and the place a DAC takes in ones audio chain. I settled on this comparison: take the HD600 and HD650. Very similar headphones, similar drivers, same manufacturer. When evaluating these two headphones subjectively, without measurements, would anyone ever tell you what you were hearing was a placebo effect? Obviously not, the differences in frequency response are easy to discern, even if the headphones are of the same family and have a similar overall character. I would say the differences I heard when comparing the Amber 3 to my suite of solid state DACs was on the same order of magnitude. It was very striking. When hearing differences of this significance, I feel confident ruling out a placebo effect, without blind testing.

    Okay, I'm rambling, but something I have been thinking about a lot lately since I am dropping a large sum of money on a tube output DAC :ksc75smile:
  6. A2029
    Here are a couple potential reasons why different cables can have slightly different tonality IMO:

    -Cable length - The longer the cable, the greater the wire resistance and the higher the cable capacitance
    -Distance between conductors within the wire - This affects the capacitance between each of the wires within the cable
    -Wire shape - Again can affect the capacitance between wires
    -Number of strands per wire - Affects various parameters such as the skin effect and small effects on cable resistance
    -Type of material - E.g. Higher conductivity metals decrease the resistance of the cable. Just like in resistors, wires have some very small non-zero resistance which means that they exhibit both thermal noise and current noise as a resistor does. For thinner wires, thermal noise increases and current noise may also change (but minuscule).

    What makes cable choice difficult is that there is an interaction between the output characteristics of an amplifier (and the amplifier topology) with the properties of the wire. Some amplifiers may actually prefer having higher resistance wires (i.e. thin wires) attached, while others may work best with very low resistance wire. Some amplifiers may also not like wires with high capacitance, whereas other amplifiers may do best with them. Some particular cables may even act as antennas attached to the output of an amplifier and act to destabilize the circuit driving them.
  7. Monsterzero
    Since were discussing cables on this fine afternoon,allow me to interject an observation I have made. Cables are system dependent,whether it be a headphone cable or otherwise.
    I have a ZMF 2K cable,which sounds better than stock on my VO. However when I used it on my VC it sounded etched and un-natural,so for the longest time I have been using the stock cable with the VC.

    Now that I have been swapping interconnects and USB cables,suddenly the 2K cable no longer exhibits any rough edges on the VC. Why this happens I have no idea. Perhaps the 2K cable is more revealing than the stock,thus magnifying flaws in my chain?


    Just because I love a particular tube/cable/RCA/USB/DAC/headphone,doesnt necessarily mean it will sound epic in your system.
  8. GDuss
    This is a tricky discussion. On one hand you might say that if the change sounds better to the listener, then it is an improvement, and worth the money. When you only get an hour or two a day to listen to music (like I do), anything that can enhance that experience is a welcome improvement. But on the other hand, is it really ok to be paying money (sometimes a lot of it) for a placebo? And is it ok for companies to be selling placebos? If people buy it, they will sell it. I don't think there is any correct answer to this question, as you point out, there are people on both sides of the audio business (both buyers and sellers) with widely varying opinions on this.

    You can make this same argument with lots of things, one example is drugs. If a placebo makes people feel better (or makes them objectively better) isn't it worth the cost? Complex ethical discussion there.

    I think that acknowledging bias is important, because it is impossible to eliminate (without blinding). People may not be studying changes in perceptible cable differences for their PhD, but people definitely study bias as a research question. Even with blinding to try to eliminate bias, your interpretation of sound is highly biased by what you are used to listening to, or at least what you have listened to in the past. At the end of the day, bias is a factor in almost everything. But it's ok, as long as people acknowledge that it's a potential influence, they can then evaluate its influence however they choose.
    L0rdGwyn and chrisdrop like this.
  9. GDuss
    Also very true. Lots of factors at work here. Being aware of all of them is important.
  10. mordy
    Given all these factors and variables, one thing surprised me getting into this hobby: Certain things, be it equipment, tubes, headphones etc, are appreciated as top tier products almost across the board, In other words, it is possible to arrive at a general consensus about certain items that they are among top performers. Not that everybody agrees, but that a majority agrees.
    And because of this, it is possible to make recommendations to others.
  11. GDuss
    Agreed. Large sample sizes of independent opinions are one way to minimize the bias of any one opinion.
    DecentLevi likes this.
  12. Monsterzero
    To that end,the gentleman who was kind enough to send me four of the RCAs did not inform me of the pricing of the cables,so my perception would not be skewed.

    The cable that retails for nearly 900.00 is much heavier and thicker than the others,and just oozes luxury so it was hard to not have some sort of skewed perception on this particular cable. However on the other three I still do not know their prices.
    I played a reverse game with Constantin. I described what I was hearing from each cable,and asked him to guess which cable I was describing. He got exactly zero correct. :) The cable he described as being a great all around cable I did not like whatsoever. The one he described as being "the least useful in the toolbox" came in 4th out of six. The one he described as being too polite and he liked mainly for classical only was my 2nd favorite(go figure)
    We both agreed that the uber $$$ cable was the cream of the crop.

    So again to reinforce my previous post,what one person hears in his/her chain doesnt necessarily mean the same results will be heard in anothers chain.
    audiofest2018 and L0rdGwyn like this.
  13. L0rdGwyn
    I think this is the fear, that we are paying gobs of money for snake oil products. Because our brains are unreliable and prone to bias, we can be easily taken advantage of. I think this is what the more objectivist audiophiles are trying to combat, but my recent experiences have told me that the measurements are not a reliable predictor of listening enjoyment either. There doesn't seem to be a perfect solution. As far as giving placebos to patients, I think a bioethicist would argue that doing so violates the patient's autonomy, a fundamental principle of bioethics, and is a form of strong paternalism (doing it "for their own good"), a very interesting topic, but not one for this thread I'm afraid!

    I like to think I have some control over my bias when listening unblinded, but the reality is I probably don't. I try to remain cognizant of its existence, but half the fun is letting your ears take you on that wild ride :ksc75smile: like you said, the enjoyment is multifaceted. Collecting, rolling, drooling over tubes, then getting lost in the sound they create is the most enjoyable way I have found to listen in this hobby, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I once heard someone say listening to tubes is like driving a vintage sports car. It may not have the measurements and specs of the sleekest, most modern models, but it is fun as hell to drive! :sunglasses:
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2019
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  14. chrisdrop
    A brief respite from cable-chat:

    I have been exclusively on the other ye-olde GEC 6J5s for a week or so. Today, I decided it was time to give a tube a chance..

    Out of the box, these Sylvania straight glass 6J5s sound great (and quiet). NOS and 0 hours - I wonder where they will go?

    .. Tx to @Monsterzero and a kind seller, a pair of Bendix 6080s should be with me on Monday to accompany all this goodness.

    Monsterzero likes this.
  15. mordy
    I am really curious how the Sylvania 6J5G (VT-94?) compare to the GEC L63(6J5) tubes. And if you can spare a couple of dollars, perhaps you want to try the RCA 6J5 metal tubes that I found great sounding - should be available for less than $10 shipped for a pair.

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