The deal with high end cables
Feb 15, 2011 at 12:55 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 16

maddox6912

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[size=small]So im kind of new to the whole expensive audio thing and the main thing that has been bugging me is the talk about cables.[/size]
 
[size=medium][size=medium][size=medium]Some people describe different cables having better sound stage, bass response, clearer highs. How does this happen physically?[/size][/size][/size]
 
[size=medium][size=medium][size=medium]I understand the inductance, capacitance and the resistance of the cables are the main causes.[/size][/size][/size]
[size=medium]But does it have such a big impact as to justify 100>$ price tags ?[/size]
 
[size=medium][size=medium][size=medium]And has someone done a proper analysis of these expensive cables using a spectrum analyser with FFT?[/size][/size][/size]
 
[size=medium][size=medium][size=medium]My experimental test setup would be something like this:[/size][/size][/size]
 
[size=medium][size=medium][size=medium]sound source                              cable of interest     [/size][/size][/size]
[size=medium](white noise or a sweep ----------------------------------------------->FFT analyzer[/size]
[size=medium]through the auditory[/size]
[size=medium]rage)[/size]
 
[size=medium][size=medium][size=medium]And then compare the different responses among cheap and super expensive cables.[/size][/size][/size]
 
 
[size=medium][size=medium][size=medium][size=medium][size=medium][size=medium][size=medium]I'm a electrical engineering student but I don't have these expensive cables to test this, but i do have access to a spectrum analyzer and a function generator.[/size][/size][/size][/size][/size][/size][/size]
 
[size=medium][size=medium][size=medium]Has someone attempted something like this before?[/size][/size][/size]
[size=medium]I'm really keen on finding out the results.[/size]
 



 
Feb 15, 2011 at 1:14 AM Post #2 of 16

Amnesia87

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I'm assuming you are referring to headphone cables.
 
The whole thing is a game of diminishing returns.
 
You can experience a large improvement if the default cables are of a fairly low quality, but with a good set of cans, which usually already ship with pretty good cables, it's not going to be nearly as noticeable. Then it starts getting into what specific headphones they are connected to and the source that's feeding them.
 
As to worth, is it worth upgrading to a $200 cable on $100 headphones? Probably not, though depending on the headphones, it probably could result in a decent improvement in sound.
 
Could you improve the sound of your $1500 with a $200 cable? Possibly even if it isn't a large change, and then it may not even basically be an improvement, just a change, but when dealing with extremely high end gear, its all a matter of matching up different pieces of equipment to tune it all to the sound you are looking for. No cable, and no equipment is going to be truly neutral, there's always a bias somewhere, so a cable in general would be more for tuning than straight forward improvement.
 
No one is arguing that the cables aren't marked up, but alot of what you are paying for is the materials (high end jacks aren't cheap, neither is pure copper or pure silver (Moon Audio for example uses copper and silver that is 99.99998% pure) proper shielding, the actual manufacture of the cable (there's many different forms of stranding), and then the labor involved with hand assembling the cables to ensure the best quality. These companies still need to make money.
 
Feb 15, 2011 at 1:27 AM Post #3 of 16

Bigrock2150

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I'd love to see you get your hands on some of those cables to finally put the debate in it's place. I'm one of those who don't really believe in the "power" of expensive aftermarket cables. If there is a change in sound it must be so miniscule that it would seem upgrading your headphone would be more beneficial. I guess if you had the best headphone money can buy and you were looking for any increase in sound signature, buying expensive cables would make sense.
 
Even then, I have my doubts (like so many others in this forum).
 
Feb 15, 2011 at 1:54 AM Post #5 of 16

mikeaj

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Have you heard of RightMark Audio Analyzer, the audio benchmark suite?  It just sends a variety of test tones out of the output chain (DAC -> amplifier, etc.) and reads them through the input chain of the audio device you're testing.  Of course that's not quite an ideal test setup, but it is what it is.
 
http://audio.rightmark.org/index_new.shtml
 
Here are some RMAA results where somebody tested using different cables in the signal path.
 
http://rmaa.elektrokrishna.com/Various/Comparison%20-%20Cables.htm
 
edit: in fairness, if the cable in question is going directly to the headphone (or speakers) load, then the impedance of the cable may be non-trivial compared to the impedance of the load.  The above line-out line-in scenario tested is not as sensitive to differences in cable impedance, if they exist, since obviously the line-in has a much higher impedance than most headphones or speakers.  Of course, with the relatively short cable lengths for headphones, the impedance of the cable is pretty negligible.  And even were the impedance not negligible, you'd just be losing some volume and very slightly altering the FR.  Most strange high-frequency effects you could think of are not going to be significant here, especially since we're interested in the audio frequency range.
 
Feb 15, 2011 at 3:12 AM Post #8 of 16

carledwards

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Expensive cables do have a significant, noticeable effect...on your bank account. On your sound, not so much.
biggrin.gif

 
Standby, though. There will be people along any minute to tell you how they hear a huge difference.
 
Feb 15, 2011 at 3:32 AM Post #9 of 16

yifu

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Well expensive cables might have better treble extension.... at 100KHz where your ears cant hear. The deal with expensive cables are basically just looks and build quality and also people not wanting a "cable bottleneck" which doesnt even exist. As long as the cable look goods to you and build quality/soldering is good, then it would probably do. There really is no point in these kinds of threads.  
 
Feb 15, 2011 at 3:43 AM Post #10 of 16

ph33lix

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Purity of conductor materials and dielectric factor of the insulation materials play a part in sound quality, that much I can agree.
But one mumbo jumbo I refuse to accept regarding cable OCD is the notion of "directionality". When it comes to AC signals, why does "directionality" (if any at all) matter?
In any case, if you do go down the road, you can be assured that you'll have me as an audience!
 
What I can suggest you try is testing the difference between default cables of some popular headphone models (that you can afford for now) and some pro-audio stuff (priced more realistically) like Mogami 2534 and/or Canare L-4E6S (arranged either in 2 conductors for signal, shield for ground or 1 conductor for signal, 1 conductor + shield for ground combination).
These cable manufacturers put detailed electrical characteristics like capacitance, resistance/m and such which can help provide you with very objective results.
 
Then perhaps next time when you've got more cash, you can test some of the hocus pocus cables to see what's all the hoo-ha about.
 
Feb 15, 2011 at 3:57 AM Post #11 of 16

maddox6912

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First of all,...spot on!!!
 
Quote:
High end cables will help your penis grow an extra 2 inches.


 
From what I think:
 
1) Each cable has its own characteristic series inductance and parallel capacitance(This is a fact).
2) The headphone that these cables drive also has a series induct ace and a parallel capacitance.
3) Now when these two "systems" are connected together the two systems transfer energy from one to the other.(The energies transferred at different frequencies depends on the values of the earlier mentioned capacitances and inductances.) (This might be the "tuning" that people talk about)
 
 
 
Resistance is also important.
 
Now the fun question:
 
What if someone measures these values for a very high end cable, and a cheap cable.
Then find out the differences in the capacitance and inductance values between the two, go to radioshack and and buy some inductors and capacitors to compensate the cheap cable so it essentially has the same values as the expensive one?
 
This might be slightly harder in practice but doable.
 
As far as the high purity gold and silver is concerned it only reduces resistance.
and what this does is reduce the energy dissipated as heat in the cable.
 
 
EDIT: if i get some time and money I will try this
atm im a final year poor arse uni student who went broke after buying some triple fi 10 pros
biggrin.gif

 
Feb 15, 2011 at 12:33 PM Post #12 of 16

jcx

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Feb 15, 2011 at 3:15 PM Post #13 of 16

nick_charles

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Quote:
 
 
[size=medium][size=medium][size=medium]sound source                              cable of interest     [/size][/size][/size]
[size=medium](white noise or a sweep ----------------------------------------------->FFT analyzer[/size]
[size=medium]through the auditory[/size]
[size=medium]rage)[/size]
 
[size=medium][size=medium][size=medium]And then compare the different responses among cheap and super expensive cables.[/size][/size][/size]
 
 
 
[size=medium][size=medium][size=medium]Has someone attempted something like this before?[/size][/size][/size]
[size=medium]I'm really keen on finding out the results.[/size]
 


I've tested some cables crudely but only up to the $139 level vs 77c freebies and a few decebt cables in-between,
 
My chain was Source(CD Analog outputs) ----USB ADC-----Wav file -----FFT FR analysis (Audacity or CEP)  diferences very small , there is my thread on this
 
http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/405217/my-cable-test-enterprise
 
the cure for insomnia.
 
I tried to get some high end cable manufacturers to lend me cables they all declined !
 
 
Feb 15, 2011 at 4:39 PM Post #15 of 16

Uncle Erik

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See if you can order a cable that has a return policy and test it. Also, maybe one of the believers around here will lend you one to test. Or maybe buy a used one off Audiogon, test it, and put it back up for sale at the same price.

I wouldn't expect to find much in the measurements, however. No one else has.

One interesting point is why cable manufacturers don't perform these tests and use the results to show why their products are worthwhile. Curious, isn't it? A good set of tests would help sales. You don't have any trouble getting facts and figures from a car dealer, do you? If you asked the Honda dealer how the Accord stacks up against the Camry, you aren't going to get a bunch of vague testimonials.
 

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