Tuberoller's Cable theories
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Tuberoller

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No,I don't think my opinions are so important that you should want to hear/read them.I have auditioned literally hundreds of cables and have learned some things that have saved me and people who do value my opinions some time,money and frustration.I think my experience as a Journeyman Electrician, an audio enthusiast and sometime dealer gives me a unique perspective.

I am not a cable skeptic.I know that cables do make a difference,be it good or bad,and can completely change the sonics of an audio system.I do however,understand what fuels the fires of skeptisism towards the cable industry.It is the completely outragous claims and rediculous prices that some makers heap on us.there are some really good cables out there that are being marketed in some really,almost criminal ways.I'll tell you that the cable business is easliy the most profitable amongst the high-end audio products.I'll also say that not one cable maker actually manufactures his own cable.Yes,they assemble cables and do sometimes design cables and have them built to specification,but most often they buy an off-the-shelf cable design and make it their own.I have been to some major audio and electronics shows over the past few years and have been able to meet and talk with many of the cable manufacturers.most are decent people and really have an interest in doing things in an honest manner and really want to make the best product.Some think that people like you and I are the biggest chumps walking.At the NY Home Entertainment Show last month I suffered a rude awakening in an after-hours audition in one of the high-end cable maker's rooms.This asswipe joked aloud about how he had simply added an attractive outer sheath,a different connector that actually costs him less,and changed the wire color of his least expensive cable and tripled the price.this was after I had agreed to sell his cables.I'm still trying to get out of my deal with him as you read this.I am not shy about my distrust of manufacturers/distributors and you need to take into account that I am a dealer and I do sell audio gear.Understand as well that I am not for sale.I do what I do cause I like doing it,I don't need the money.that said,I'll get to my theories.

Interconnects:
I am of the firm belief that interconnects should be considered a system component.These can make a great system sound bad but not a bad system sound great.They are as important as any other component in your system and should be carefully chosen.I think there are some outstanding bargains out there and some huge rip-offs as well.the conductor material of the cable is far more important than is given credit.the stories you hear about silver not working well with some components is true.The same is true for some of the Cryo and teflon treatments as well.I have never heard a Cryo treated interconnect that I would spend money on.I wish I could tell you to stay away from some of the cable makers that make silly calims about their cables,but some of those same makers produce some really great cables despite the hype.The best thing I can tell you is to audition.TIP,cables suffer from diminshing returns worse than any other component that I know of.I have found several times where the cheapest cable in a maker's line sounds the best(Kimber).Stay away from strange new Technology that sounds too good to be true,it is.Connectors are of very little sonic benefit,they either make contact or they don't.


Power Cords:

I was a huge skeptic of power cords that claimed to improve sonics and dynamics.I found my system to be less suited to power cord improvements.My listening room has it's own isolated and hard-line conditioned power supply with an earth ground.Power cords make no improvements in my system.My Dad's house was a different story.I tried one of the more popular cords that many here at head-fi have been using and heard some noticable improvements.At a friend's apartment a power cord made such a big difference that we both we "shocked"( that's a joke).It did make a big difference.This is one of those things that I think has to a least be tried.I have also noticed that power cords and line conditioners seem to complement one another rather than work against one another.I have tried some big buck power cords and have not heard any worth the huge prices.Keep in mind that there are only six US manufacturers of power cable,most of the cable suppliers buy from these.there have been no amazing new developments in power cable design that I am aware of that would warrant super high prices.Hospital grade stuff is usually the best way to go and is always cheaper.I use it everyday.Tip,I doubt that most of you guys have actually seen a "hospital grade" outlet.Next time you are in a hospital take a look at the outlets that are used to plug in EKGs and other essential machines,you will instantly see what I mean.Taylor-Dunn makes nearly all the true-hospital grade outlets.they are not cheap and they grip so hard that you need a huge connector to remove the plug.Also most Hospital grade outlets require a dedicated ground,if you ground these in the same manner as a standard home outlet you nullify most of the benefits.

Speaker cable:

Beat me up now, cause this is the grand rip-off.most major speaker manufacturers think this is a big joke.Don't think so,keep in mind that Radio Shack zip wire made Stereophile's recommended components list.I have heard some really expensive speaker cable that sounded amazing,I bought it and used it for several years.I tried some new cheaper cable last year that sounded just as good.It cost $0.40 a foot and I bought it at Home Depot.The very best cable I have heard cost $75.00 for twenty feet minus the connectors.The sonic differences in speaker cables are so difficult to hear that I would label speaker cable as a "tweak",something you would try in an already optimised sytem.please don't spend big bucks here.TIP,your speakers are screaming for better placement.

Digital cables:

How could these possibly make a sonic difference?I don't know, but they do.Don't even bother to ask me.I tried one of the high-end digital cables between the MF DAC that I have been auditioning and things sounded better.I tried an even more expensive high end cable and things sounded..... no better.I think any improvement of the in-box cables will suffice here.I have tried some other digital cables and have found some to offer better connections and improve TV picture quality but not by much.Digital cables make me wanna scream cause the improvement they offer makes no real sense but it's there.like I said, don't bother asking me.


These are my opinions.Yours may be different.I value each and every one of you guy's opinions and I usually buy all the stuff that I see raved about here.I have owned or auditioned nearly all the headphones,amps,power cords,cables,sources and music that head-fiers recommend to one another on this site on a daily basis.I try to keep myself out of the debates involving specific gear(other than my temporary lapse of sanity in the Philips HP890 controversy,which I hope I helped resolve) so that I maintain an apperance of nuetrality.I didn't mention any specific brand names here(except for Kimber, which I don't sell Jude) because of my obvious conflicts of interest.If you must flame ........
 
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eric343

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Thanks for the *very* informative article. Outlaw PCAs and Quail all the way


I'd always wondered why there was so little speaker cable advertised at "audiophile grade" prices- now I know!
 
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Nezer

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Excellent write-up and I think that many here will appreciate your experiences and advice. Inevitably, however, some will not.

I must ask though your opinion of headphone cables. Would this fall under they speaker category or are they special due to the different power requirements between loudspeakers and headphones? If they are different would speaker cables on high-efficiency loudspeakers make a greater difference than on low-efficiency loudspeakers? Perhaps this is an area that needs further review.

Another tip about cables in general (not just audio cables but computer cables, etc). The mark-up on wire is simply amazing. When I worked in a computer shop we would pay under $1 for a printer cable that we would sell for $12. This type of markup isn't uncommon at all otherwise all printer cables would be selling for under $2. I'm sure the same holds true in the audio cable market.

I'm convinced the offerings from Monster that can be found at the local Best Buy for around $20 cost no more than $1-$2 to manufacture and the store has a mark-up of at least $5 over what they pay wholesale. I also believe that Monster tightly controls pricing with their retailers. This is one of the benefits to having such a strong brand identity.

I also have a hard time swallowing that a $1000 IC pair really cost anywhere near that in time materials and R&D. The mark-up that has to be in that level of cable makes me think sometimes that I'm in the wrong business. Outlaw has *very* reasonable IC prices and they somehow manage to turn a profit (or at least seem to think they can). These guys could have just as easily sold the PCAs at 8-10x the price but they didn't (thankfully).

I think that a portion of the high-priced cable market is to add mystique to the product. There is psychology at play in many cases here. My ex is an artist and one time I convinced her to put insane price tags on her art for a show. What she was selling for $20 was now markted at $120. The crazy thing is that she actually sold *MORE* art at this price point than the lower price! For some items there is more percieved value if the price is high. I think this holds true in the cable market as well. Of course, folks like Tuberoller come along and offer honest advice (more is not always better) and shows those willing to listen the light.

I also think it would be an uphill battle trying to convince someone that $40 Outlaw PCAs beat thier $1500 snake-oil ICs with the fancy color and new-improved cheap-ass connectors. For some reason Jag owners seem to forget how much more often they are in the shop compared to a Toyota.
 
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eric343

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How true... I'm just worried about the proximity of this thread to the "$50 VD Power Cord" thread- I don't want the inodes to start fighting


I've noticed that too- an audiophile friend of mine (the guy with Krell and planar speakers) once heard a Hansen board I'd built - hardly the best headphone amp in the world, especially with the META42 around - and commissioned me on the spot to build him one. And refused to pay less than several times what JMT charges, while commenting that I could sell it for several times more than that.

Crazy audiophiles
 
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I am a firm believer in interconnects, I am willing to invest a good amount ($300ish) on those. Connectors do matter, WBT midlines rock!


I don't know about power cords, pretty skeptical, but interested in the Chris Ven Haus , Bolder, and Tekline cords.

So which would you say are the gems (price/performance) of speaker and digital cables? I was all done with Cardas Crosslink, hell it wasn't much improvement over Monster teflon insulated ones. And for coax, I used Audioquest video cable. I am extremely skeptical when it comes to digital cable. I have no experience with toslink cables, any recommendations?
 
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Although I would say I am not in total agreement in some areas to Tuberoller's findings I read his opinions with interest and respect because he has taken the effort to try many cables.
Unlike the thread recently with Ricky where we are blinded by theory and no experience.

I do wonder though if Tube's electrician backgound is slightly predisposing him to not accept that AC cords can make a real difference. Although he did mention other peoples system were noticeably effected. I do use PS Audio Power Port wall outlets which are modified hubbels and do grip the plug much tighter.

I guess the most challenging finding to me is the Home Depot .40
cent per ft. generic cable that competes with the better speaker cables around, like to hear how that compares to good $600 pair like my AP Silver Oval cables or AZ Satori etc. And yes the best free tweak is speaker placement (to hell with room appearance consideration)

There is no argument that cables can be outrageously expensive,
so make sure you don't go overboard here compared to other equipment purchases.
 
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One thing to be aware of while trying out different cables is system synergy. Just because one cable doesn't work in your system doesn't mean it won't work in another.
 
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thanks for posting your thoughts on this subject, tuberoller. I think it's interesting that you don't like speaker cable (at least not much); that certainly tells us that you have listened to all of this stuff carefully. I have not yet made my way into the speaker world (except in audio shops and my dreams), so I haven't been able to experience this stuff for myself, but I think I'll take your advice and hold off on buying speaker cable until after I've got most everything else optimised. If I ever get a nice speaker rig going.
 
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Tuberoller

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My backround as an electrician does affect my opinions about products like power cords but not in the ways that you would think.I know and understand the value of technologies like Oxygen-free wiring and cryo treatments.I also know that neither of these or any of the many other technologies that were developed for the electrical industry has any real application in the audio world.I promise,you will never hear any improvement in your system using any type of cryo treated wiring or cable.these technologies were developed to cut costs and allow long runs of wiring with very low voltage drops.I can't argue that power cords don't work when the results can be verified with a voltmeter connected to the circuit indicating a greatly reduced voltage drop.Power cords work,but not in all systems or in all dwellings.


I think more people know the truth about speaker wire than are willing to admit it.Mark Levinson of Red rose Music and Cardas will both soon intro very low cost speaker wiring.Mark Levinson feels that his $5.00 a foot wire will be the best available.When I was at CES in Las Vegas earlier in the year I saw many high-end speaker makers using low cost wiring.One went so far as to say the whole speaker wire thing was rediculous.I recently went to a demo of the LothX driver and horn speakers including the fabulous Oris system,all speakers were connected with simple,low cost wiring.Speaker wire is a tweak at best and only in an already optimised system.


headphone replacement cables and extensions are the real deal.they can make huge sonic differences,not always good.They seem to be very system dependant.Some cables work well with the HD580 some with the HD600 and some better with solid-state amps and some with tube amps.I recently sold a replacement cable for the HD590 to a head-fier.I will admit that I don't like these phones but I tried this cable with those phones and actually found myself enjoying them.In this case the cable completely transformed the phones.Don't use an extension unless you must.I have tried a few of them and only one didn't kill the music.move your chair closer
 
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I am pretty much in agreement with Tuberoller's idea's. My experience has been that there is no way to predict if you will get an actual improvement in sound with any change you make in your system, until you make the change. I also have found that a change in your system may not be real, even though you would swear it is. When you make a system change the first thing you do is sit down and listen to your system with a degree of interest you did not have until you made the change. Suddenly you hear things you had not noticed before. But, is the fact that you are really paying attention responsible for what you are hearing, or was it the change to the system you made? Could be either. The important point is to consider that it was possible the change you heard was due to your focused attention, not the latest tweek.
 
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I have a theory regarding cables. No matter which cable we're talking about, a cable change will make (from an electrical standpoint) only a small change in the signal. Low-level signals (such as line level) that don't already have much of signal are affected the most, as are headphone cables (since headphones are rarely driven by more than a watt). Speakers, on the other hand, are usually driven at tens to hundreds of watts (thousands in rock concerts).
 
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It's interesting to note that cable manufacturers like to point out how wire can be subject to skin effect and current bunching but I have yet to see one of them link specific perceptible differences in sound quality to any of these highly publicized phenomena.

Maybe we should start asking them questions like this:

What does current bunching sound like? What does skin effect sound like? Does it suppress the upper frequencies? Add noise? Make cows fly?
 
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I have only two minor points of disagreement, the rest, agreement.

1)Speaker cables. DO make a difference. And so does biamping or biwiring. Difference in materials and design do sound different.
And one big thing about the common 12guage zip type cord everyone says is "as good as it gets". NOT. I took mine in and compared it to a low end high end cable and heard the difference. Also, your cheap 12guage zip is PVC coated. PVC has components that attack the copper. Fact, sorry. ALL my speaker cords (and some lamp cords) that use the clear PVC are corroding. My original speaker cables for many years corroded completely black and green! What do you think that does to sound and connections? So you need good materials, but not super expensive stuff. Just don't get PVC covered wires. 14 guage good stuff can be under $2 or $3 a foot. Spend.

2) Power Cables. I really don't believe these will make a difference unless they have some filter ability. I might consider this if I could control the wiring between my outlet all the way the the power companies transformer. Otherwise, that $400 3' cable is a rip! But also, like speaker cables, the copper can become corroded and perhaps introduce noise. In this case, replacement with ANY new cable would make a difference in sound.

If power cables do make a difference in your system, your components power supply is iffy, and I don't care what brand or price it is.
 
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Quote:

Tuberoller said...

the stories you hear about silver not working well with some components is true.


Is there a technical explanation for this? Or, are there certain characteristics that components which don't work well w/ silver share (based on general observation)?
 
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Tuberoller

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Quote:

Originally posted by fredpb
I have only two minor points of disagreement, the rest, agreement.

1)Speaker cables. DO make a difference. And so does biamping or biwiring. Difference in materials and design do sound different.
And one big thing about the common 12guage zip type cord everyone says is "as good as it gets". NOT. I took mine in and compared it to a low end high end cable and heard the difference. Also, your cheap 12guage zip is PVC coated. PVC has components that attack the copper. Fact, sorry. ALL my speaker cords (and some lamp cords) that use the clear PVC are corroding. My original speaker cables for many years corroded completely black and green! What do you think that does to sound and connections? So you need good materials, but not super expensive stuff. Just don't get PVC covered wires. 14 guage good stuff can be under $2 or $3 a foot. Spend.

2) Power Cables. I really don't believe these will make a difference unless they have some filter ability. I might consider this if I could control the wiring between my outlet all the way the the power companies transformer. Otherwise, that $400 3' cable is a rip! But also, like speaker cables, the copper can become corroded and perhaps introduce noise. In this case, replacement with ANY new cable would make a difference in sound.

If power cables do make a difference in your system, your components power supply is iffy, and I don't care what brand or price it is.



Fred,as much as I hate to disagree with a guy that shares my name,I must.

My creed is that I will never,ever under any circumstance offer an opinion about something which I have never heard,tried or owned.I have tried bi-wiring and bi-amping and many different speaker wires.I have already commented enough about speaker wires but I'll take on the bi-amping, bi-wiring issue.

I can't even comprehend how anyone would think that bi-wiring would work.It is simply connecting the seperate driver sections of a loudspeaker with two sets of wires using the same speaker terminals as you would use with a single set of wires.Why would'nt a jumper across the speaker terminals accomplish the same thing.I have tried this to no noticable effect with many speakers.I did it again a few minutes ago using bi-wire speaker cables(Tributaries) and a set of PSB Stratus Gold "i" speakers.I wanted to verify this before I posted.I hear no difference.I don't see how anyone else could.I posed this question in person face to face to Paul Barton of PSB speakers and he just chuckled.If it works for you,fine.


Bi-amping is another story completely and has worked to outstanding sonic benefit each time I have done it.I am currently Bi-amping the PSB Stratus with a Cary SLI-80 integrated and my old standby Hafler DH500 amp.This allows me the sweetness of the tube amp in the treble and midrange frequencies and the solid state bass slam in the lower frequencies.Bi-amping is a practice which I think is not used widely enough.this can breathe life into systems where none previously existed.This setup is the best I have had in my home.The very best sounding systems that I have heard were all bi-amped.if your speakers and budget can accomodate bi-amping,I strongly recommend it.


I did say the power cords don't always offer a sonic benefit.I have heard cases where they did.I don't think that power cords are making up for some system deficiency,I think that they allow some systems to operate closer to optimum current.I can see how a power cord could be an after-thought to an equipment designer.He may never take into acount the detriments a poor cord may inflict on his design or the benefits a good cord may offer.Costs and availablity are also factors.People like you and I do things like change the cords and to everyone's great suprise things sound better.This is usually do to the fact that the stock cord was acting as a current limiter.there is no voodoo here.It makes perfect sense to me why power cords would'nt have much effect in my system and why they offer astonishing improvements in others.Big,fat, sticky tires ain't gonna make my Chevy Beretta any faster or handle any better,but they will work wonders on many other cars.The same thing applies to audio gear and power cords.
 
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