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Thread: The Cable Dialectic

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    WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)/Member Sponsor [Technical Expert] garylkoh's Avatar
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    Lightbulb The Cable Dialectic

    About the two most controversial topics in high-end audio are the analog vs digital debate, and the cable debate. We went through over 200 posts in the analog/digital dialectic without a food fight. May be we can get through this one as a civil discussion too!

    So, here's the thesis: All competently-designed cables will sound the same.

    We went through an extensive thread here: http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showth...8-Cable-Theory
    and proved that for competently-designed loudspeaker cables (at least 14awg = 0.1ohm resistance), the inductance, capacitance would not result in anything that is remotely audible in terms of frequency response, phase shift, or levels with all the simulations done by Amir.

    Here's the anti-thesis: Cables sound different - we can hear the difference when we use different brands of cables because of reasons that we cannot or don't know how to measure.

    There have been studies into temporal smearing as a possible explanation of the degradation of audio signals caused by cables and passive components.
    http://ta.org.ru/archive/articles2007/kunchur1.zip
    The sensitivity of the human being to perceive time-smear has been examined by several studies:
    http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=13627
    http://ip565bfb2a.direct-adsl.nl/art...oral-decay.pdf
    .... leading to a threshold of 6 microseconds having been identified as the threshold of temporal audibility, which may be within the range of influence of a cable.

    If you are a cable subjectivist, this MAY prove you right. If you are a cable objectivist, this may also prove YOU right. The point of this exercise is not to convince one or the other to change his or her mind. The point of this dialectic is to discover something for ourselves. In the analog/digital dialectic, I did all the work, setting up a system that was equally optimized for analog and digital, and the audience just listened.

    Here's my hypothesis - every different amplifier/loudspeaker combination will respond differently. Hence, there is no one "perfect" loudspeaker cable for all systems. This exercise should be easy/cheap enough for anyone to try. If you don't take the effort to try it, DON'T post here. If you do try it, and hear no difference, you have learned something. If you do try it, and hear a difference, you have learned something.

    We will build two "competently designed" loudspeaker cables at the extremes of the spectrum of "competently designed". They will have sufficient thickness for sufficiently low resistance, not extreme in capacitance or inductance. You will start with a 50ft piece of CAT5e cable. I pick CAT5e cable because the specifications are tight enough that any brand you buy should be similar enough.

    Here's the 50ft roll I got from the local Radio Shack:

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    Then, I cut it into eight 6ft pieces (assuming that 6ft is enough to reach from your amplifier to your speakers - if not, you might need more cable):

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    The idea is to make two pairs of loudspeaker cables.
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    WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)/Member Sponsor [Technical Expert] garylkoh's Avatar
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    Next, pick out 4 of the 6ft pieces. Make sure that they are all aligned in the same direction (check the printing on the cable). Strip off 4-inches (10cm) of the external insulation to expose the internal wires:

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    This will expose the internal wires. There will be 4 pairs of 26awg wires:
    1. orange + white with orange stripes
    2. brown + white with brown stripes
    3. blue + white with blue strips
    4. green + white with green strips

    You want to separate all the individual wires. Then take one pair of cables, and twist all the solid color wires together and all the white with color stripe wires together from two cables:

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    Strip 3/4" or 18mm off the end of each wire, and twist them together. This is what will result:

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    Do the same thing for the other end, and you will end up with one high-capacitative run of wire for one channel:

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    Make another one, and viola - you have one pair of loudspeaker cables.
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    WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)/Member Sponsor [Technical Expert] garylkoh's Avatar
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    Next, take the remaining 4 lengths of cable, and again strip off 4" (10cm) from each end. This time, don't unravel all the 8 wires internally completely. Just unravel enough so that you can strip 3/4" off the insulation and expose the copper.

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    You will twist together the 8 wires for each of the 4 cables - keeping them separate.

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    Do this for all 4 cables, and you will end up with four individual cables. You will use a pair per side, with separate runs for +ve and -ve.

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    Now you have two pairs of loudspeaker cables - one pair twisted together, and another pair where the +ve and -ve are in separate runs. With 8 strands of 24awg - they are equivalent of 15awg. More than enough for any current-hungry loudspeaker.

    Now, listen to the two pairs of cables, and post your impressions.
    Last edited by garylkoh; 11-28-2011 at 02:42 PM. Reason: Corrected awg
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    WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)/Member Sponsor [Technical Expert] garylkoh's Avatar
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    Oh, just in case Amir wants the numbers, for CAT5e, the first pair will give you about 630pF and 0.2uH. The second pair will give you 15pF if they are loosely coupled and 1.7uH.
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    Gary, no, I haven't tried it yet ..., but a possible crucial parameter you haven't specified is whether to use solid core or multi-strand type. Also, I note that it is possible to purchase shielded multi-strand, as yet a further option.

    Frank

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    John Siau of Benchmark media tested a couple of speaker cables.
    His aim was to demonstrate that they don't make a difference at all.
    But measurements proved him wrong.
    In fact the CAT5 ones prove to have superior performance: http://thewelltemperedcomputer.com/KB/AudioCables.htm

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    [WBF Founding Member] Gregadd's Avatar
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    You might want to tin the ends of those wires with a a little wonder solder.
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    Site Founder And Administrator Steve Williams's Avatar
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    Next, pick out 4 of the 6ft pieces. Make sure that they are all aligned in the same direction (check the printing on the cable). Strip off 4-inches (10cm) of the external insulation to expose the internal wires:
    OK Gary, I have to ask the question

    Are you suggesting that the CAT5e cable (or any cable for that matter) is directional
    Steve Williams
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    WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)/Member Sponsor [Technical Expert] garylkoh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gregadd View Post
    You might want to tin the ends of those wires with a a little wonder solder.
    This is not a permanent solution, and as we go along, and if ppl hear the difference, we will be re-using these 8 pieces of wire in different configurations - so no solder.
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    WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)/Member Sponsor [Technical Expert] garylkoh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fas42 View Post
    Gary, no, I haven't tried it yet ..., but a possible crucial parameter you haven't specified is whether to use solid core or multi-strand type. Also, I note that it is possible to purchase shielded multi-strand, as yet a further option.

    Frank
    There are different configurations and types of Cat5. But Cat5e is specified as stranded, and unshielded.
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