Cabling actuality
Mar 20, 2010 at 10:29 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 47

Peter Pinna

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I have found that the people who believe that different cables cause headphones to sound differently are absolutely correct in their thinking (or, so it seems). Now, I am probably guessing right when I guess that some of you are saying "Duh, Pinna!" while some others are saying "Oh no, another one who has let his imagination run away with him."

I have always suspected that different relatively equivalent cables cause a different sound in headphones. How I seemingly validated this thinking was not by re-cabling my headphones. I have always used the stock cables on headphones. I will probably change in that regard based on my recent experience which I will share with you.

It's a simple story, really. Recently, I came across a coiled headphone extension cable which I had purchased several years ago. I connected this extension cable to my Pro 750's stock cable and then to an amp. This cable made my Pro 750 sound quite different, it caused an audio quality that, for lack of a better description, sounded "plastic-ish" and stifled. There was also a "veiled" sound and a limiting of the highest and lowest frequencies. I "A/B'd" a few times to analyze and compare the different sound qualities.

I have considered the possibility that two reasonably equivalent headphone cables would sound way too similar for almost anyone to discern the difference between them. I have also considered the possibility that there would be a discernible difference between them. I have always tended to buy what I believed to be high quality audio accessories. Because of this tendency, I am sure that the headphone extension cable written about in this post was one of, at least, reasonably high quality. And, because I believe this extension cable to be of, at least, reasonably high quality, it was mildly surprising to me to find out that it caused a different sound quality to my Pro 750. I wrote "mildly surprising" because, actually, I was, to some extent, expecting the possibility that the extension cable would cause a difference in the sound.

Because of the experience written about here, I am going to be looking into eventually re-cabling my Pro 750. And, I will probably re-cable future headphones I purchase.

I would like to read suggestions from other members pertaining to what cables you have found that sound best with the Pro 750 as well as other headphones. I don't want a cable that adds or subtracts "warmth" or limits detail or "colors" the sound. I need to hear, as much as possible, the actuality of what the recording engineer intends for the listener to hear. I think I am hearing "actuality" now with the stock cable but it wouldn't surprise me if I hear even more detail and other sounds (that were "masked" when utilizing the stock cable) with the right cable.

It makes sense, now that I think about it, even though I had some doubts before. I have found that different grades of speaker cable causes speakers to sound differently. So, why couldn't it be the same for headphones?
 
Mar 21, 2010 at 1:46 AM Post #2 of 47
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I'll get in and comment before any chance the thread is trashed, as threads on cables are these days. I liked, but wasn't fully satisfied with the HD-800s after I bought them, even after balancing them. I rigged up a nice copper cable with some connectors from APS and the result was a more pleasant sound, with a touch more bass, but the treble still didn't have that magic touch that I got from Stax. I thought that what I really needed was an electrostatic HD-800. However, as someone was selling an un-used APS V3 cable on the forums, I thought I'd take one more shot at it and see what a (mostly) silver cable did to the sound. I'd sensibly bought 2 pairs of connectors from APS, so I was ready with my soldering iron the day it arrived. The result was exactly what I was looking for: The treble opened right up, without sacrificing the qualities of the rest of the sound. Switching back to the stock cable, the sound becomes dry and unpleasant in comparison.
 
Mar 21, 2010 at 1:57 AM Post #3 of 47

SillyHoney

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Peter, I'm a neutral guy in "cable theory". From time to time people go against each other in this forum for whether or not cables make difference.

Can you do me, and for many other people here I believe, a favor? That can you do some blind A/B test? It's not I don't buy your claim but I believe blind test will eliminate the placebo effect.
 
Mar 21, 2010 at 2:17 AM Post #4 of 47

Necrolic

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Quote:

Originally Posted by SillyHoney /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Peter, I'm a neutral guy in "cable theory". From time to time people go against each other in this forum for whether or not cables make difference.

Can you do me, and for many other people here I believe, a favor? That can you do some blind A/B test? It's not I don't buy your claim but I believe blind test will eliminate the placebo effect.



Not necessary, I don't think there's many people here that will disagree a crappy quality cable will distort sound. What comes into question is that after a certain point can things really be improved upon?

That $5 extension cable likely was poorly built, and therefore has trouble properly transmitting a signal. However, a let's say $20 extension cable is probably at least properly put together, and therefore fully transmits the signal sans-distortion.

The question is, after you pay enough to get a cable that will transmit a signal without distortion, do cables really make a difference?
 
Mar 21, 2010 at 5:40 AM Post #5 of 47
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Quote:

Originally Posted by SillyHoney /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Peter, I'm a neutral guy in "cable theory". From time to time people go against each other in this forum for whether or not cables make difference.

Can you do me, and for many other people here I believe, a favor? That can you do some blind A/B test? It's not I don't buy your claim but I believe blind test will eliminate the placebo effect.



I'd take a test on a copper vs silver HD-800 cable in my rig any day. The copper cable has been disassembled though so I can't readily test it. Someone in PM described similar characteristics to it to me from the DHC copper cables though, so it would be easy to test. The difference in the treble is quite clear to me.

It might be worth adding here that I'm fiddling around with cables after having already fairly settled on my main rig. The cabling is really the finishing touches. With a non-portable rig I'd still recommend buying better components before buying cables of any kind but as you start heading towards four figures it's worth considering for sure. One except I had though was my TF10s. I thought that instruments sounded very harsh, and blamed my iPod. However, after plugging the iPod into my main rig, and finding no harshness, it turned out the TF10 cable was responsible. Replacing it with a Null Audio one fixed that. I wont be buying UEs again, however.
 
Mar 21, 2010 at 6:32 AM Post #6 of 47

Uncle Erik

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Necrolic /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Not necessary, I don't think there's many people here that will disagree a crappy quality cable will distort sound. What comes into question is that after a certain point can things really be improved upon?

That $5 extension cable likely was poorly built, and therefore has trouble properly transmitting a signal. However, a let's say $20 extension cable is probably at least properly put together, and therefore fully transmits the signal sans-distortion.

The question is, after you pay enough to get a cable that will transmit a signal without distortion, do cables really make a difference?



If there is distortion, you can use a DMM, oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer, or other equipment to measure output directly from the amp and also from the cable. With some of the more sophisticated equipment, you can overlay the results and see where they diverge.

If no meaningful difference is found, then you have to assume that there is a force beyond resistance, capacitance and inductance that affects the cable. Further, this mysterious force has effects that do not affect resistance, capacitance or inductance. Moreover, the implication would be that virtually piece of electronic equipment, audio or not, is compromised somehow by its wire composition. Not only that, but no one has ever been able to substantiate these mysterious forces with something like a light bulb or an electric motor. After all, how does electricity know whether it is in an audio cable or in the winding of an AC motor? It doesn't. So the wire in an AC motor should show signs of cable effects just the same as a RCA interconnect.

In other words, something that would fundamentally overturn physics as currently understood.

It is possible, however very unlikely. Given that electricity is involved in a great deal of scientific pursuit, it is remarkable that these differences never turn up anywhere besides audio cables. Even more remarkable that this view of cables is pushed heavily by people who make money from selling them.

I hold a dim view of sighted listening tests. Being able to see the cable introduces a raft of human biases and expectations.

Besides, if you hear the difference, why do you need to see the cable?

If the difference is heard, then vision has nothing to do with it.

So you have to take vision out of the equation if you want to know if you're actually hearing something.

As far as I know, no one has ever identified a cable unsighted.

The reasonable conclusion is that cable differences are psychological.
 
Mar 21, 2010 at 7:08 AM Post #7 of 47
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Peter Pinna /img/forum/go_quote.gif
It's a simple story, really. Recently, I came across a coiled headphone extension cable which I had purchased several years ago.


I'm a recable agnostic... I don't know what to think but its cool to hear both sides however contradicting they may be. Anyway I also have a coiled extension cable I purchased a while ago which is mono... ...just checking.
wink.gif


I'd love to see a DBT on different cables, DACs and amps too... I bet most if not all would fail to identify a $200 amp from a $2,000 amp when blindfolded.
 
Mar 21, 2010 at 7:23 AM Post #8 of 47

Covenant

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Uncle Erik /img/forum/go_quote.gif

In other words, something that would fundamentally overturn physics as currently understood.



That's just the problem. Physics isn't currently understood.
tongue.gif


Peter, for what it's worth, I would personally recommend either APureSound's V3 cables, or Twisted Cables UPOCC "Vortex". I've reviewed the latter if you're curious, and have owned the former twice, in the form of a HD600 cable and an Edition 9 cable.
 
Mar 21, 2010 at 7:33 AM Post #9 of 47

Kernmac

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One of the questions regarding an Ultrasone Pro recable is-Do you replace the screw in cable with an aftermarket one, leaving the existing board and left right earcup cabling intact or do you replace the lot, having a hardwired recable?
 
Mar 21, 2010 at 9:17 AM Post #10 of 47

t/sound

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Uncle Erik /img/forum/go_quote.gif
If there is distortion, you can use a DMM, oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer, or other equipment to measure output directly from the amp and also from the cable. With some of the more sophisticated equipment, you can overlay the results and see where they diverge.

If no meaningful difference is found, then you have to assume that there is a force beyond resistance, capacitance and inductance that affects the cable. Further, this mysterious force has effects that do not affect resistance, capacitance or inductance. Moreover, the implication would be that virtually piece of electronic equipment, audio or not, is compromised somehow by its wire composition. Not only that, but no one has ever been able to substantiate these mysterious forces with something like a light bulb or an electric motor. After all, how does electricity know whether it is in an audio cable or in the winding of an AC motor? It doesn't. So the wire in an AC motor should show signs of cable effects just the same as a RCA interconnect.

In other words, something that would fundamentally overturn physics as currently understood.

It is possible, however very unlikely. Given that electricity is involved in a great deal of scientific pursuit, it is remarkable that these differences never turn up anywhere besides audio cables. Even more remarkable that this view of cables is pushed heavily by people who make money from selling them.

I hold a dim view of sighted listening tests. Being able to see the cable introduces a raft of human biases and expectations.

Besides, if you hear the difference, why do you need to see the cable?

If the difference is heard, then vision has nothing to do with it.

So you have to take vision out of the equation if you want to know if you're actually hearing something.

As far as I know, no one has ever identified a cable unsighted.

The reasonable conclusion is that cable differences are psychological.



Probably giving away my age but do you guy's remember when Dire Straits launched " Love over gold " and their slogan was " Good music last longer than 2 minutes ", or something to that effect.

Well, I have found I need quite some time before I can say I like this better than that, to be sure, especially if two components are close. Yes there are black and white cases, but these are no brainers anyway. I really would need lots of time with my music, my gear, my wine and my moods to decide which cable I like, having all else the same.

To cut to the chase, I am human and very flawed in my ablities compared to test benches, ossiloscopes and multimeters. But I am very good at appreciation of music, nuances, light and shade and overall impression according what floates my boat. I place my 13 year old daughter 3 meters away and let her play her concert C flute and as she hits her vibrato my tears just flow, yet there are perfect performers that cant make me cry.

So if you give me 2 different cables, keep all else the same and do a human friendly DBT, I think over time I could correctly name A and B well made silver and copper cables.

Sorry for the detour but I think that is why Currawong could be so confident in his statement in post 2. I just know he took the time, listened to many songs, went back and forth and found what he likes best.

"For the sailor who knows not to which port he sails, no wind will be favourable '

We are human, not machine, and we love music, and... lets take aim, and take time, not take sides.

Shade.
 
Mar 21, 2010 at 10:11 AM Post #11 of 47

ford2

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Uncle Erik /img/forum/go_quote.gif
If there is distortion, you can use a DMM, oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer, or other equipment to measure output directly from the amp and also from the cable. With some of the more sophisticated equipment, you can overlay the results and see where they diverge.

If no meaningful difference is found, then you have to assume that there is a force beyond resistance, capacitance and inductance that affects the cable. Further, this mysterious force has effects that do not affect resistance, capacitance or inductance. Moreover, the implication would be that virtually piece of electronic equipment, audio or not, is compromised somehow by its wire composition. Not only that, but no one has ever been able to substantiate these mysterious forces with something like a light bulb or an electric motor. After all, how does electricity know whether it is in an audio cable or in the winding of an AC motor? It doesn't. So the wire in an AC motor should show signs of cable effects just the same as a RCA interconnect.

In other words, something that would fundamentally overturn physics as currently understood.

It is possible, however very unlikely. Given that electricity is involved in a great deal of scientific pursuit, it is remarkable that these differences never turn up anywhere besides audio cables. Even more remarkable that this view of cables is pushed heavily by people who make money from selling them.

I hold a dim view of sighted listening tests. Being able to see the cable introduces a raft of human biases and expectations.

Besides, if you hear the difference, why do you need to see the cable?

If the difference is heard, then vision has nothing to do with it.

So you have to take vision out of the equation if you want to know if you're actually hearing something.

As far as I know, no one has ever identified a cable unsighted.

The reasonable conclusion is that cable differences are psychological.





An excellent summary.
 
Mar 21, 2010 at 10:22 AM Post #12 of 47

aimlink

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I had a bad experience with an extension cable and it turned out that the problem was with the connector. For this reason, be careful with drawing conclusions with an extension cable experience.
 
Mar 21, 2010 at 10:41 AM Post #13 of 47
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t/sound: Good point. There was someone who posted that his father could tell blind the difference between cables on his home rig, when tested. The OPs question though should be taken into consideration, and the thread shouldn't be yet another sounding board for people with fanatical opinions.

On that topic, indeed the difference between the two cables I used wasn't huge, like a large equipment upgrade would be huge. The result was small, but significant, and mainly related to the treble. I indeed cycled through my headphone collection a number of times wishing for the qualities of each in one headphone and managed to get most of what I was looking for by changing the cable. At least two pairs of headphones I've owned didn't benefit from cable changes, incidentally: The first were the Hifiman HE-5s, which already seem to have a great stock cable. The second were the Symphones Magnums (Alessandro MS2is) which I don't feel a lot changed through changing the cable.
 
Mar 21, 2010 at 1:21 PM Post #14 of 47

Ra97oR

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My cable experience was quite shocking for me.

I bought a Null Audio cable for my TF10, due the the poor built of the stock one and wanting a L-plug. I do not expect any change in sound at all, however when I swapped it, the sound changed quite a bit, bass is less but tighter and midrange gap is filled. The sound is very unlike the stock bass heavy TF10. I would say cable makes a difference, but to what extend and how much you should pay for it, I don't really know.
 
Mar 21, 2010 at 2:00 PM Post #15 of 47

Prog Rock Man

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I replaced a Sony extension cable (the smaller one) with one from ThatCable by Loops and the sound opened up with a greater soundstage and more depth. I was not looking for or expecting any change.

4316503262_d6fc9139f0.jpg


The total cost of both cables was less than £10. The only issue I have is that some cables are stupidly expensive. But if purchasers hear a difference, no matter the reason, then so be it.

So what if audiophiles are the only people to report sound and vision differences in cables? Who else uses cabling in such a manner to make a proper comparison?

Other areas where cables are used are also subject to preferences and performance issues. Electricians to electrical engineers have products that they recommend. MK is well regarded in domestic applications. But a socket is a socket, surely? A friend works for a company that makes its own cabling in house to ensure quality and it needs to be to a military spec. They would not dream of using any old cable. But cable is cable, surely?
 

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