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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. Hifiearspeakers
    Wow! A leveled response that doesn’t sound ideologically driven! Color me pleasantly shocked.
    SpeakerBox likes this.
  2. sonitus mirus
    The math showing how a cable can make an audible difference is no mystery with analog signals. If the measurements can be provided, the difference can be calculated.


    For digital signals, there are specifications that should be adhered to for the specific application. Again, all of these parameters can be measured and verified.

    The problem I see is mostly with perspective. Most people refer to the cable as changing the sound when something is noticeably different, but it is typical that some distortion is already present, only that perhaps some cables allow this distortion to be audible. The distinction is important when discussions are made concerning how different cables can improve sound quality. Is the problem the cable or the source of the distortion?
  3. Sonic Defender Contributor
    I don't agree, I am talking about in real-life audio listening, not research based experiments of length of cable runs that exceed what any reasonable person will ever encounter in home audio. And to be very clear, my all in caps absolutely no difference was referring specifically to metal types.
  4. Sonic Defender Contributor
    That doesn't mean a calculated difference is audible. Think about the sensitivity of the hearing system and the concept of minimal difference thresholds for detection. In your hand hold a single baby bird down feather. Can you really feel the weight? Add a second one, then a third. Each new feather adds weight that can be measured, but your brain is less sensitive to these tiny changes and only at a certain threshold can a difference be detected by the brain. Hearing is like that as well. Very, very, very small differences can be measured by devices, that does not imply our hearing brain is equally sensitive and it is a common fallacy to assume that it is. Just because you can measure it, doesn't mean that you can hear it.
    gopack87 and CoryGillmore like this.
  5. sonitus mirus
    I completely agree. I didn't mean to imply otherwise. I was attempting to show that any audible changes would require a significantly different cable with regards to its physical properties.
    Sonic Defender likes this.
  6. TheSonicTruth

    Hold on: If I am sitting in an equilateral triangle with two speakers(8 feet beween the speakers, and eight feet from my seated position from both speakers), the amp/receiver sitting in between the speakers, with almost an entire 50' roll of AWG18 basic speaker wire going to the left speaker, and a more reasonable 10' of that same AWG18 wire to the right speaker, you'd dam well better believe I expect the right speaker to be at least a couple dB louder.

    On the other hand, if I wire the left speaker with 10' of boutique cable cost me at least $10/foot, and 10' of the same AWG18 basic wire to the right speaker, as above, I'd probably be hard-pressed to measure - let alone hear - any difference(volume, tonal quality, etc.) whatsoever.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2019
  7. Sonic Defender Contributor
    Gotcha, my bad. Cheers.
    sonitus mirus likes this.
  8. castleofargh Contributor
    but it is real life. we're at a point with portable gears where IEMs can have the impedance of a pair of speakers while going loud with 2mV. it's a mess. my very first experience of cables(beside defective ones) making a noticeable difference was with a security door at my local grocery store. out of 2 cables for my overly sensitive customs, one would end up causing a significantly louder noise when passing that door(to the point that I got scared of passing it with my IEM in my ears, so.... louder!). I can only make educated guesses as to why, with a different DAP all was almost completely quiet. yes it's a weird anecdote and it most certainly involved weird gears. but it was with pretty famous gear discussed on headfi and it definitely was real life stuff.
    the first 1000$ IEM cable:dizzy_face: I got to try, was especially made for a given IEM, and to this day I don't know what the hell it was or what were the electrical specs, but the change in loudness and frequency response was so obvious, I'm talking several dB without a doubt. it was a literal EQ cable for that IEM. was it worth the price? of course not. plus it was on the fat side, and it was super stiff. you'd have to pay me to go out with that mess plugged to my IEM. and again, yes it's just a super weird anecdote, but again it's a weird anecdote about a popular product. and I'm me, by that I mean that I didn't actively seek differences or weirdo... I mean audiophile cables. I can only imagine the strange stuff that regular consumers of that type of gears came to experience over the years.

    I'm obviously not trying to make a case for expensive cables and saying "go get that cable it will expend your soundstage and tighten your bass". you can see how weird my examples are on purpose. my point is simply that audible differences are possible even with readily available audio gears. and because of that, we shouldn't act like those cases do not exist. and that's really as far as I plan to go. to me cables are just cables, I want them to have about the right specs for my use and I'm happy. if I'm being honest, I also tend to care about the plugs more than the rest of the cable. but my concerns with plugs aren't audibility so it's irrelevant.
    Maxx134 and Hifiearspeakers like this.
  9. bigshot
    I'm with Sonic Defender on this. When someone asks if cables with different kinds of metal (copper, silver, gold, unobtanium, etc.) sound different, the answer is clearly no. Arguing that there might be an audible difference if the cable is 800 feet long, or if it is used in a manner it was never intended to be used just muddies the water and confuses people. The question is being asked in the context of a home audio system. They are really asking, "If I buy a silver three meter mini jack interconnect, will it sound different than a copper one?" The answer to that question is an emphatic all caps NO. Full stop. That's all you really need to say.

    If they want to clarify their use to let us know that they plan to use the interconnect to play their iPod on Earth using headphones on the moon, then they can let us know and then we can explain all the trivial exceptions to the rule. But it isn't being "un-scientific" or "sloppy" or flat out wrong to assume that people are talking about typical home audio components in typical application. And spewing out a laundry list of irrelevant details isn't being more thorough and it definitely isn't being helpful.

    If there might be an exception with deliberately out of spec IEMs or something, we can ask for the precise situation and equipment list up front, so we can give a definitive answer and not force them to parse it all out themselves from bits and pieces of answers to questions they never asked.

    Clarity is a virtue.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
  10. gregorio
    But we don't act like those cases don't exist. A condition of the statement "different cables don't make any difference" is the assumption that both cables are actually appropriate for the task. Isn't it self evident that you wouldn't try to use 20ft of ethernet cable as speaker cable? You're IEM example is the same, although admittedly not as self-evident: If your IEMs have a particularly low impedance then the appropriate cable is one with an appropriately low resistance, it's still exactly the same situation/condition, the only difference is that it's not as self-evident because a cable designed/intended as an actual IEM cable might have too high a resistance for those particular IEMs.

  11. castleofargh Contributor
    of course. it's not like the little red arrow on the super expensive cable is going to break the laws of physics anytime soon. but take the average Joe, he tried different cables, and at some point, found one that made a dramatic change for whatever reason like the weird stuff that happened to me. that's all he knows, that cables sometimes do make a difference. and this is even more likely if we add almost anybody who "tested" 2 cables the typical sighted way with a long pause between each samples and some distracting manipulations, which resulted in him "hearing" a difference with his eyes. if you take this community at large they have or think they have experienced cables making audible changes. if I was still in their shoes, when reading "different cables don't make any difference", I'd go "ok so this guy doesn't have a clue what he's talking about". and nothing you guys would say after that would have any chance to be accepted by me.
    it's not a new disagreement we have, @bigshot is the all time king of such one liners. I'm naturally tempted to stick to facts as much as I can and assume that people reading the forum aren't all idiots so they'll be able to draw their own conclusions. sometimes I admit that an oversimplification can help carry a message across, even more so if the alternative is a 2 pages research paper that most people will not bother to read. but in this specific case, I don't think this is helping or convincing anybody because the statement contradicts the one thing they believe they know for sure. it's a bad approach IMO.
    it would be better to acknowledge differences and explain clearly how they probably are negative changes. which is usually going to be true and will without a doubt get an audiophile interested. then the guy who just cares about how he feels can still get high on weirdo silver single core garden hose with a battery stuck to the side for no reason. while others can start to consider that when they do get significant changes in sound, one of the cables is probably bad for the task at hand. that would be a massive step in the right direction compared to assuming that all changes are objective improvements if we subjectively like them.
    Hifiearspeakers and CoryGillmore like this.
  12. bigshot
    I cut to the chase because if I don't the explanations end up spending more paragraphs on the rare exceptions to the rule than the simple and direct answer that is what the person is looking for 99% of the time. You have to think of the psychology of the average audiophile... High end audio salesmen have already worked on them, planting seeds of doubt... "Is .05% THD too much? Will .02% THD sound better?" "The word 'lossy' worries me. I don't want to be "losing" anything from my music!" "Have I achieved 'synergy' between my cables and my DAC?"... They have been trained carefully to exhibit symptoms of OCD. When they ask a question, they don't want a bunch of caveats and footnotes, they just want to know if buying a new cable will make a difference with no ifs ands or buts. I answer that question directly. It's the correct answer 99% of the time.

    If they offer more information about their particular equipment, we can take that into consideration. We had a guy in here with IEMs that required a non-standard amp. He didn't indicate up front what he was using so he got a generic answer. As he offered more information, the recommendation got more specific, until he knew what kind of amp he needed to get. We get there eventually if we need to. Every answer doesn't need to consider every possibility. That just results in dense paragraphs of "if statements" that make people's eyes glaze over.

    Concise is better to start with. If someone wants to dig deeper and understand more, that is for the second or third round of posts.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019
    SilentNote likes this.
  13. Hifiearspeakers
    Generalize much? Maybe you should listen to me more, since I’m Asian, specifically Oriental, and you know we’re good at STEM.

    Maybe you should just take a break for a while because you sound jaded, worn/out, and awfully haughty. It’s quite amazing how accurately your self-given nickname describes your demeanor.
    TheSonicTruth likes this.
  14. bigshot
    What's your problem?
  15. Hifiearspeakers
    Stay classy! You represent your side very well. If there were more in here like you, with your patience and lack of contempt towards new participants in this thread, I’d peruse this thread often. Unfortunately, you’re clearly a highly outnumbered minority. So I’ll show myself out now. I’m not into floggings and group abasement anymore.
    SpeakerBox likes this.
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