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How do I convince people that audio cables DO NOT make a difference

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by 3602, Apr 4, 2010.
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  1. bigshot
    Perhaps you don't understand our intent. We aren't trying to convince anyone. We're simply pointing out misconceptions and explaining how sound reproduction works. It's up to the reader to absorb that and be convinced. Many people aren't capable of that. I don't know about other posters, but I tend to speak past those kinds of people to the lurkers. They might get benefit from the information, even if the person I'm replying to doesn't care. I don't need validation, but I'm always open to solid information that I don't know about yet.

    Not all opinions are created equal. Some are backed up with facts, and others are completely made up. I make an effort to only speak about things that I know about. Not everyone is that careful.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
  2. TheSonicTruth

    Actually, the only things you and Gregorio, and I, disagree about is the loudness wars and the necessity of remastering older albums.
  3. bigshot
    That is going to be a very difficult thing to pin down. There is no such thing as soundstage depth with headphones, because the speakers are right over the top of your ears. With loudspeakers, there is a physical distance between the listener and the transducer. That is where the depth comes from. Soundstage depth is a physical acoustic reality. There are delays in sound reaching your ears, sound reflecting off walls and the ability to locate the source of a sound in space by turning your head. None of that exists with headphones. All you get with headphones are secondary depth cues... reverberation and echo and phase baked into the mix. And none of that has anything to do with the headphone design. Any headphone with high fidelity will reproduce that as well as any other headphone with high fidelity. Most of the discussion in headphone forums about soundstage is people focusing on secondary depth cues in the music until they convince themselves that their headphones are creating it.

    This is something I didn't really think about until I got a 5.1 system. Multichannel is all about the interaction of multiple sound sources with the room to create a sound field... which is a fully dimensional type of sound stage. If you think about it, mono through headphones is sound coming from one point right in the middle of your skull. Stereo through headphones expands that to a straight line from left to right though your head. Stereo speakers is a plane of sound ten feet in front of you. 5.1 is a plane of sound extending left and right and front and back. Atmos is a cube of sound field all around you. Each one is a higher degree of directionality and space. You really can't go there without more speakers and physical space around you.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
    SilentNote, CoryGillmore and Maxx134 like this.
  4. Hifiearspeakers
    So are you saying that different headphone brands and models, as long as they’re high fidelity, won’t consistently produce a different size/depth of soundstage amongst one another because the speakers are too close to the ears?

    So something like the Focal Utopia will cast the same soundstage depth as the Sennheiser 800/800S? Or am I misinterpreting what you said above?
  5. Maxx134
    I think we all agree the Utopia cast a smaller overall image than HD800.
    I think he meant comparison of headphones to speakers,
    as well as noting or aluding to distance as a factor.

    It's not coincidentall that the drivers of the HD800 are further away than most headphones, causing a greater image and soundfield propagation within the cup space.

    My mistake, I meant specifically image distance, or how "forward" the headphone sounds, not other soundstage aspects.

    Do you have an HD800 or another open headphone? The image depth is more noticable on open cans.

    I currently can manipulate this to a degree, but not fully control it yet.
    Both my Dennon7200 & HD800 have more depth than stock.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
  6. CoryGillmore
    I personally think soundstage is a meaningless word in regards to headphones. Pretty much every headphone I own, rather open or closed, sounds like it's coming from right next to my ears. It's one of those words people use to invent improvements when buying an expensive headphone cable etc. "Oh well it may not be a measurable difference but this totally subjective thing that isn't measurable (soundstage) is waaaay better since I bought this $500 cable.
    SilentNote likes this.
  7. Maxx134
    I feel these few headphones can make the sound most away from your ears.

  8. bigshot
    Yes. I've heard a lot of headphones and every one of them all sound like the band is inside my head. Even with binaural recordings, the sound can't be located further than right in front of my head or right behind, usually flickering back and forth. (the shaver demo) Almost all of the distance cues with headphones are embedded as reverb or reflections captured in the recording or mix, not because of the headphones.

    Do you have access to a good listening room with loudspeakers? Play the same recording in the room and then listen to the same thing with headphones and you'll clearly hear the difference. The same goes for the difference between 2 channel speakers and multichannel. It isn't a subtle difference at all.

    I have Oppo PM-1s and Sennheiser HD-590s myself.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019
  9. gregorio
    I can't speak for what bigshot meant but I'd like to answer this question anyway.

    1. I am saying that no headphones, regardless of brands, models or fidelity, produce (reproduce) any soundstage at all! All headphones (and speakers) do is reproduce two audio signals simultaneously (left/right audio channels), that's it, nothing more, there is no soundstage. Soundstage isn't "produced" by HPs, it's entirely produced by the brain, it's an illusion, the result of the brain trying to make sense of the sensory input data. This sub-conscious calculation therefore has two parts, the sensory input data itself AND, what each individual's brain considers "make sense" to be/mean. In other words, the brain effectively takes the sensory input data (IE. From two eyes and two ears) analyses, correlates and compares it, and cross-references all this with a life-time's worth of memories/experience to create a resultant "image" (perception), which is effectively a best guess of "reality". There are a large number of variables at play here, for example, just the analysis of the input data from the two ears includes (amongst other things) identifying what are direct sounds within the signals and what are reflections, the relative level balance, phase/time and FR of both, comparing the input data from each ear and referencing all that against a life-time's worth of experience of real acoustic spaces. It's also worth noting that we're talking about the data input to the brain from each ear, not the actual sound entering the ears and this input data is different for each person because our ears are not all exactly the same distance apart (therefore the phase/timing is different) and we all have somewhat different pinnae, hearing and listening skills, each of which affects the FR of the data the brain then uses for it's "best guess"/"image"/"perception". Therefore ...
    1a. Neither the Focal Utopia nor the Senn 800/800S cast ANY soundstage depth. However, they do have differences in FR, differences in driver distances (and therefore timing) from the ears and also differences in other input data (not just from the ears!), which in turn can have an effect on the final perception (of soundstage). Whether these differences do affect one's perception of soundstage and if they do, in what way and by how much, is dependant on each individual's perception ("best guess").

    1. For the reasons just explained, you'll never "pin down" soundstage depth from measurements of the sound output by your HPs because soundstage depth is not a property of sound, it's a result of perception and therefore, the measurement you'd need is a measurement of perception rather than sound. Such a measurement doesn't exist and even if it did, could/would be somewhat different for each person. Therefore ....

    2. That's because you can only manipulate certain variables which can affect the perception of soundstage depth. If you're the one creating the music mix you can manipulate far more variables and to a greater extent but even then, it's still ultimately a perception, so you can only ever have some (rather than "full") control of it, some of the time, for some people. In other words, even if you achieve "full control" just from manipulating the output sound, it will only work for some, few or no others and even just for yourself, it may or may not work at a different point in time as other variables change. For example, if you use different headphones and/or, as your hearing, listening abilities, experience and perception biases all evolve over time.

  10. castleofargh Contributor
    I was going to complain that it's yet another off topic by max, but we do read about "improving" the soundstage with some fancy special cable all the time. usually the same guys who have no idea how to demonstrate that they're hearing a difference at all. if there is an audible difference in overall loudness or in FR, then subjectively we will probably feel a change in "headstage" and positioning. if crosstalk reaches ludicrous level, that will also become audible and also change where we imagine the instruments to be.
    for headphone and soundstage, please go ask in the relevant topic.
  11. bigshot
    Use of the word "soundstage" when it comes to describing headphones is usually a good indication that the person has allowed placebo effect to color his judgement.

    Soundstage with speakers requires careful setup, taking the placement and room acoustics into account, and it can be manipulated with DSPs.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019
  12. Maxx134
    I have an opinion that there is a plague amoung many uber expensive headphone cables companies, which choose to follow the trend of containing many, many, countless braiding of wires...

    Both with the left and right channels twisting together, and also within each insulated cable, many winds between the positive and neg..

    All that complexity unproven and allowing the detrimentall possibilities of both crosstalk and stray "RCL" along the way.

    These design choices are then promoted in a positive way because some unverified percieved change is mentioned
  13. bigshot
    You'd be able to tell if there was crosstalk if you just dial the balance control all the way over to one channel. I doubt that is the case though. Most wires sold for home audio are good enough to do the job they are intended for. Some are just fancier or built more sturdy than others.
  14. old tech
    castleofargh likes this.
  15. bigshot
    I remember when I first found that website. I thought to myself, how could any audiophile continue to spout nonsense about cables after reading that. But apparently they do.
    old tech likes this.
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