Eek... I was a cable believer, until...
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halcyon

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I must clarify few points.

First of all, Bangraman, thank you for your contributions. I should have said this the first time, but better late than never...

Just as it is difficult to admit to having heard differences between cables in a forum where nobody believes in such differences, it is likewise difficult to admit having NOT heard differences in a forum where many people rave poetically about the differences. You have done the latter and I respect and admire your pursuit of personal truth and honesty.

I have also personally battled with this question for some years now. I was initially a very strict cable disbeliever. After having studied some basic electrical pinciples about audio cables, I was even more so.

However, after having studies psychoacoustics and having read up on listening studies that contradict what measurements would make you think about cables... I'm now a doubter rather than a disbeliever.

I can't claim universal "no differences" nor can I claim "yes, differences are abundant, just listen to them!".

I have personally taken part in both IC and speaker cable blind listening tests. Sometimes I have heard absolutely no difference between an entry level good cable (i.e. 250 USD) and a zip cord. Sometimes I've heard a difference and not only have I heard it, but I've heard it under blind conditions and my impressions have correlated almost 100% with other listeners in the blind test (I say almost 100%, because no two listeners have identical vocabulary to describe auditory experiences).

For me, the differences, when they've been audible, have been very slightly audible and more to do with imaging/soundstage/placement issues or apparent roughness/microdynamism of the sound, rather than high-end/low-end extension/sibilance.

Can I honestly say that I could always reliably differentiate between a zip cord and a higher priced cable that I have once been able to distinguish sonically?

No, I can't.

The differences are so subtle for me personally that not only do I have to absolutely believe in my ability to hear differences, I'd also have to listen like a machine.

Now the first point is important: If you don't believe in the _possibility_ of differences, it makes very little sense to conduct any tests to begin with. This would just be a null test. While a good test methodology can rule out results where people are imagining differences, there is no test methodology available that can correct for not hearing differences that are already there. If you don't even believe in the possibility, you're not going to hear them in the first place, even if they are there (basic psychological test procedure).

As for listening like a machine - unfortunately, hearing is not a machine.

For example, it is well known in the audiology (hearing measurement/diagnosis) community that the above 11 kHz hearing sensitivity can be as much as 15-30 dB off depending on the test day (same test subject, same controls, same test signals, etc).

Also, it is well known from both neurological testing and psychophysical testing that senses adapt to unchanging or slightly differing signals rapidly over time.

This means that the initial differences even if audible, quickly become inaudible, untill we get a new baseline for our echoic memory to which new incoming sounds are compared to.

Our sense are, after all, difference engines: they calculate (if you accept the computing analogy) differences to previous temporal signals.

There are no absolute baseline reference signals that we can always detect accurately under all conditions. What we hear, is based on the previous sounds we heard just previously (effect on echoic memory) AND what kind of high level schemas (categorisation imprints) and long term auditory memories we have learned.

So, listening experience is a combination of what you heard just before (short term memory, to simplify the memory model here for the sake of discussion) + what you've heard/scrutinised all throughout your life (long term auditory memory). Of course hereditary, occupational, disease and anatomical features play into this as well.

So, to make a long story shorter: to be able to hear really small differences every single time they are played back to me, I should be able to function like a machine (in a repeatable/consistent manner). Unfortunately, hearing doesn't function like this. It's (likely) impossible to make it function like this.

The echoic memory / adaptation of senses -part is the reason why quick switching is often detrimental to detecting very small impairments between two audio signals.

You can test this for yourself, if you don't believe me.

Find a large enough difference that you can detect between two signals in a normal ABX setup.

Then try doing 100 repeats of listening and see your accuracy scrore drop as a function of number of repeats.

Two factors come to play here: sensory adaptation and attention control. The sensory adaptation you can't control, unless you listen to say, white noise/silence between tests (i.e. neutralize the baseline). The attention is something that one can learn to control, but is very hard for most humans on repetitive tasks.

Also, it should be noted that quick switching is just a way to switch between test signals.

It doesn't automatically include/exclude ABX.

ABX is a way of trying to identify X as test signal A or B.

It can be done with very rapid back-and-forth switching (often detrimental in small differences, esp. as the number of switches goes up).

... OR it can be done with "slow switching": listen to A for week, listen to B for week, listen to X for week and the push the button to indicate that X was either A or B. Take three weeks off and repeat.

For small signals, the neurological and psyhochological literature implies that "slow switching" could be in many cases much more useful method to find really small differences among signals.

Now the last point: if the differences are so small that one can only hear them every now and then and even then they are not huge - does it really make any sense to be bothered about them?

I think this last point is highly subjective, this is a hobby after all.

If it was my job, of course I wouldn't be bothered about it, unless the success of the job dependent on that very last 1% of performance (it rarely does, in my experience).

However, as it's a hobby and an exercise to learn more about sounds, equipment and my own hearing, I personally remain intrigued about the potential differences, even when I think I hear them, but am not convinced if they really are there or not.

best regards,
halcyon
 
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post-781028
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meat01

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Whether one thinks there is a difference or not, I am impressed that this forum can have mature, respectful discussions about the subject.
 
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post-781040
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Steve999

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Yeah, I have to give the dude who runs the place a lot of credit (even though I don't share his views).


Quote:

Originally Posted by meat01
Whether one thinks there is a difference or not, I am impressed that this forum can have mature, respectful discussions about the subject.



 
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post-781045
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bangraman

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Let me outline the testing procedure so you guys fully get what I'm doing.


There was no back and forth evaluation. Going back and forth in a beer tasting will not be effective, but going from one beer to another ONCE will immediately highlight any taste differences. Gargle with water, have a rest, repeat. That's exactly the approach I took to this cable testing. Secondly, I inserted a high degree of control in the test so that I have dependable results.


The Set-up:
I was trying to use the XA777ES but I have problems with it, so I used the Sony SCD-XA333ES SACD player primarily for testing. This is pretty cheap in rarefied hi-fi senses ($1,600 USD equivalent TSP in the UK early last year) but effective. It has multichannel analog outs and also 2-channel outs. The front two channels are active at the same time as the 2-channel outs in redbook playback. I hooked up the front two channels and the 2-channel outputs to the two inputs of the Stax SRM-007t amp. The SRM-007t has an input selector switch on the front panel which allows pop-free, gapless switching between the two inputs. A Stax SR-007 Omega II phone was connected to the amp.


The controls were two pairs of Nordost Red Dawn 1m and Atlas Navigator 1m. These were in turn hooked up between the player/amp and tested using the technique below. No difference between the two outputs of the Sony and the input switches of the Stax being apparent, I started the testing.


Testing involved various tracks of Norah Jones' Come Away With Me. While not the best recording, I know it well (I actually had it before it became a hit) and the relatively sparse arrangements make it easy to concentrate on voice, piano and incidental instruments in that order. I didn't listen for extension changes because I though that would be pointless. What I did listen for was attributes frequently mentioned in cable reviews: Staging and texture. One track was listened to until around half way to three quarters, and then the input was switched. There was a brief break, then the test was repeated but the other way. For practical reasons I took a break between evaluations. However the comparison between the two interconnects under test were always conducted in the same way.


Cables concentrated upon in my last two tests were:
Atlas Navigator All Cu 1m ($400)
Nordost Red Dawn 1m ($350)
Atlas Navigator 1m ($280)
Profigold PGA4201 1m ($25)
Stock cable 1m? ($?)


Most specifically the test was set up to highlight differences between the higher end cables with the Profigold and stock cables. I could not however tell any difference between any of them. It was not even a 'maybe I heard something?' doubt. They all sounded the same.


To re-cap, the above set-up gave me the ability to instantaneously switch between two sets of interconnects being fed from the same source (as referred to in control test) without a break in the sound. This is the first time I've had this capability.


I understand the phenomena you're referring to, but everything else I have encountered in audio has resulted in a discernible change in a rapid-switch (not a to/fro but a single switch) situation, and not once have I had need to resort to mentioning variances in hearing, etc. I would question why in cables I have to make special allowances.


Previously when evaluating cables, for me at least there has been a lengthy delay while I unplug/re-plug the interconnect then start playback again. I would say that it is far more possible for psychoacoustic errors/assumptions to creep in with this method of evaluation. I repeated the tests using this method as well, from both outputs of the Sony. This time I could not be sure. Rapid switching is undoubtedly a more accurate method of detecting change since the ear does not have sufficient time to re-calibrate.


Or, the differences may indeed be there but be too small to make out. In either case I am still left questioning the value of even mid-priced cables such as the Red Dawns.
 
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post-781057
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Ctn

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Quote:

Originally Posted by lan
I don't consider sight the same as some of the other senses because taste, touch, and hearing can be related to pleasurable experiences. For comparing pics, going back and forth quickly is the preferred method. For things that are experiences, which are more analagous to taste, touch, and hearing, switching too fast doesn't work in my view.

Take bike riding. The transition period is like mounting the bike. There's no way you can make a good comparision just in that time frame. You have to ride the bike around for a little.

Take beer comparision. Going back and forth between 2 beers will ruin the taste of each. You won't be able to appreciate each in its entirety.



I dont agree with your testing methods. Bike riding, wine, beer, food are easily differentiable because of the huge differences. It's like looking at the color red then comming back a week later and comparing it to the color blue. I mean c'mon...

If you take touch, I rather quickly switch between the surfaces to test for temp differnces(esp when they are small differences) than spend a long while on each. Sight/hearing you have pretty much ruled out. Another example is taste, well how do you differentiate which is slightly hotter(in terms of chilli hot)? or if one is sweeter? or salty'r? again the same reason as the previous.

Your method works if the difference is big. But if it's small, you will be relying alot on blurred human memory.

I hope you wont take any offence but these are my views on the matter.

This is pointless and will most likely turn into a heated argument lol.
 
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post-781132
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radrd

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Quote:

Originally Posted by PinkFloyd
You gain the placebo effect from looking at the funky, uber expensive cable you've just bought and Kudos from other head-fiers when you tell them how much it cost.. that can go a long way to make something sound good and there's nothing wrong with that.


I take it you wipe your butt with dollar bills then? I'd rather not pay hundreds of dollars for shiny sugar pills.
 
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post-781318
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Hirsch

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Quote:

Originally Posted by bangraman
Or, the differences may indeed be there but be too small to make out. In either case I am still left questioning the value of even mid-priced cables such as the Red Dawns.


Put the cheap cables in your system. Keep them there. Listen to nothing but them for weeks. If you're completely satisfied with the sound, sell the expensive cables. If you've got any doubts, or think that for some reason you're not getting the satisfaction out of your system that you got previously, try the expensive cables again. If you're still dissatisfied, at least you can sell the expensive cables to raise money to buy the new amp or headphone that will solve the problem
 
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post-781759
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Howie

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Personally, I'm very tired of all those "prove that cables make a difference" threads. There's really no point in arguing. How many of us would change our minds about cables based on what someone here or elsewhere have said?

In any case, I agree with Hirsch. If you really don't hear a difference between cables, use the cheapest cables and sell all others. It makes absolutely no sense for you to use anything else. But if you do hear differences, and by that I mean good differences, it'll then be about how much the improvements are worth to you. I think it's pretty simple. Really no need to "prove" anything. It's all about enjoyment of music.
 
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post-781769
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setmenu

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Oh fun fun fun

I did carry out bangramans test a while back, with similar results.
But this was during my selection process for the perfect cable.
At the time all cable differences were quite distinctive.
I made my selection [Siltech 4/120] and have been as happy as a pig in mud since.


But that past 'test result' has always nagged at me.
Back then I was more of a subjective consumer.
But since having had experience building stuff ,where one often has to make
do with temporary lash ups with what ever happens to be laying about,I have
noted that the odd bit of nasty wire here and there has not been 'the end of audio nirvana'.

This morning I revisited bangramans test, again with similar results.
Not ideal conditions mind, background cooling fans and some small effects
from a head cold.
I tried cables separately.
I tried switching between the parallel pairs during a passage of music.
I tried switching at the beginning of the passage,replaying the section each
time.
I did get an impression of some variability in the sound, but not enough to
suit my own 'positive' criterion of the day.

This is in marked contrast to the memory of my original auditions


I suspect when I am in the market for some more cables my 'ear' will return.

But for now, for me, it seems blue cables sound the best


Which is very handy indeed!
As the Riken resistors I have ordered for my little dac passive I/V conversion stage, happen to have blue bodies also


Perhaps the truth is that most if not all audio kit sounds just 'so so' and that
fine quality is actually something the listener first need to bestow upon it,
with guidance by the high priests of hifi, naturaly.

I am sure everyone here has had days when their kit sounds 'not so good'..


Judging by the number of 'these' threads I have been reading of late,
perhaps we need a 'Metaphysics of audio reproduction' forum



Setmenu
 
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post-781796
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taoster

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Quote:

Originally Posted by bangraman
Testing involved various tracks of Norah Jones' Come Away With Me. While not the best recording, I know it well (I actually had it before it became a hit) and the relatively sparse arrangements make it easy to concentrate on voice, piano and incidental instruments in that order.

I didn't listen for extension changes because I though that would be pointless. What I did listen for was attributes frequently mentioned in cable reviews: Staging and texture.



While I like the album and think agree the importance to test with a CD you know well. I am not sure if that particular CD is the best choice for testing.

Have your also tried a CD with good cymbal texture, and something with good tight defined bass too but more importantly, a well recorded CD.
 
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post-781798
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bangraman

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Hirsch
Put the cheap cables in your system. Keep them there. Listen to nothing but them for weeks. If you're completely satisfied with the sound, sell the expensive cables. If you've got any doubts, or think that for some reason you're not getting the satisfaction out of your system that you got previously, try the expensive cables again. If you're still dissatisfied, at least you can sell the expensive cables to raise money to buy the new amp or headphone that will solve the problem




And in the meanwhile, yes... it's my intention to stick the Profigolds in there for a while, use the XA333ES more regularly with it connected to the SRM-007, then one day switch over to one of the other cables. I need another interconnect in any case, as well as a couple of balanced ones so I was thinking of a Siltech FTM-4 Sg. It's blue (thanks setmenu
) and it's definitely a high-end cable with a proven pedigree. What I'll probably do is to burn it in on one of my other decks, then one day stick it on the XA333ES/SRM-007 combination test set-up. I'm half of the mind that so many people cannot be delusional, yet half of the mind that the test results are worrying in the extreme. If the tests once again reveal nothing, then I'll just stop buying things more expensive than a Profigold.
 
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halcyon

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Btw, the Profigold cables are really good IMHO. They actually have a working shielding (seen measurements), good clamping on the RCA and very good price!

I also use them myself on some gear.

BTW, if you want some other cables you want to consider and are willing to consider expensive ones, get a loaner pair from Empirical Audio (www.empiricalaudio.com). Their cables measure really nicely and people seem to recommend them highly. Unlike many other makers, they actually provide all the relevant measurement data for their cables and they don't hide behing mountains of pseudo-science. The main engineer is a retired ex-Intel analog designer and does tailored mods to components also.

I'd really like to hear somebody's comments in the headphone community about Empirical audio cables, esp. compared against ordinary/good cables like Profigold.

Best regards,
Halcyon
 
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bangraman

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Quote:

Originally Posted by taoster
While I like the album and think agree the importance to test with a CD you know well. I am not sure if that particular CD is the best choice for testing.

Have your also tried a CD with good cymbal texture, and something with good tight defined bass too but more importantly, a well recorded CD.




The biggest problem with trying another CD (and yes, why not next time) was that as I mentioned, there wasn't even a slight doubt in the back of my mind about the differences. See, if I undertook the test once again (as I did) by the standard method of unplug & replug, then I could not say with a 100% certainty that the cables sounded the same. Yet by this seamless switch test, I could say with 100% certainty that for example the $25 Profigold sounded totally identical to the $280 Atlas Navigator.


I've to date had no problems hearing differences between sources, amps and phones by simialar switch tests, and this is actually the very first time that I've subjected cables to such testing.


The Navigator was my favourite cable and until a few day ago I thought it was the best bang for the buck in terms of transparency. And as I said, recently is the first time that I've gone to the lengths I have to test cables. And I was expecting to hear a difference, which brings to mind the placebo effect but that seems moot as I did not hear any difference... which did profoundly shock me. My impressions had to date been made up by unplug & replug testing, which I will table as intrinsically less accurate than immediate switch A->B (Not A <-> B) testing.


Anyway, I'll keep you guys informed on how I progress. This is not a one-off thing and I do plan to evaluate the cables over a longer period now that I have a suitable test rig.
 
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post-781981
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Dane

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I really admire your courage, bangraman.

Years back, when I bought my main rig, I had a similar experience. I was obviously in contact with several shops in order to get the best deal and inevitably the cable question came up. Shop A basically told me that it would be criminal not to get these expensive cables with the units I had in mind so I borrowed the cables home together with other units and stuff from other shops. Shop B told me that as long as the cables were made of good quality, properly shielded wires ($20 bucks or less per m brings you there) and had good quality plugs it didn't matter. In fact they said that I could just build them myself or they would do it for me. So there I sat, back home, with both the massively expensive Shop A cables (which were ridiculesly thick and had black boxes mounted) and this cheap'o cable that Shop B had soldered up for me while I watched, both cables hooked up. From the remote I could switch between the two cables and I could hear absolutely no difference at all. It is my luck (and my wallet's) that the amp and CD player allowed this rapid switch.

Given how Shop A had tried to make me spend all this money on something I didn't need (I was clearly a newb), I lost all respect for them. Needless to say I buoght everything from Shop B and have been a happy returning customer ever since.

The other day, inspired by some of the threads here, I built an IC out of a regular lamp cord mounted with good quality switchcraft plugs. Then I did the test again thinking that me being more used to good quality audio now would make it easier for me to detect any difference. I couldn't hear any difference between the lamp cord and my usual DIY IC. Still, I have pulled out the unshielded lamp cord in my system because I feel uncomfortable about it - so, there you go, I'm not totally immune


My advice: Buy more music instead - it'll bring you much more joy than expensive ICs.
 
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