The Cable Dialectic

May 30, 2010
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#41
Here's my hypothesis - every different amplifier/loudspeaker combination will respond differently. Hence, there is no one "perfect" loudspeaker cable for all systems. .
Trying to keep on the spirit of the dialectic - just my sighted experiences on this subject.

Some systems are more sensitive to cables than others - curiously in my experience the more "neutral" the system is the more you notice the cables. A friend of mine owns Quad electronics - Proac speakers system and the differences between cables in his system were very noticeable. Some people in this forum reported the opposite - when changing to systems with more "character" the differences between cables decreased. Systems optimized for spaciousness also are more revelatory of cables.

But most cable brands have a general specific taste, independently of the price range. A Nordost cable sounds incisive, on the border of fatiguing in some systems, with plenty of attack in the bass. A Transparent Audio cable will be fuller, with plenty of "soft" detail. Shunyata cables will have plenty of rhythm and enhance the performance, but do not sound as detailed or bass controlled as Kimber cables.

My experience was mainly with the upper range of these manufacturers, but these common traits propagate through their ranges. These common traits show, IMHO, that each cable manufacturer was pursuing a defined objective.

This post has now spoiled a possible WBF game - an interesting contribution would be if many people independently reported their opinions about cable brands without knowing of the others. If a systematic could be found we could be sure that we were really listening to something - or that we read the same leaflets!
 

garylkoh

WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)
#42
This post has now spoiled a possible WBF game - an interesting contribution would be if many people independently reported their opinions about cable brands without knowing of the others. If a systematic could be found we could be sure that we were really listening to something - or that we read the same leaflets!
That is so funny..... and so true. If you read the leaflet and then listened, I'm sure that your bias would be shifted. That's why I'm hoping that members here will construct the cables, have a listen and report what they hear.
 

fas42

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#43
Just to repeat myself, I would suggest there are two key elements in this exercise:

First, that the cables are effectively a component of the amplifier, and then of the whole system. Thus there should be quite significant variation in the results people arrive at for that reason alone.

Secondly, the mysterious behaviours of cables have mostly to do with parameters other than a simplistic viewing of the cable as a theoretician's beloved combination of steadfastly unvarying resistance, inductance and capacitance.

On a lighter note, my experiences with cables mirror Gary's to some degree: being very impressed with the flavour of the month Van der Hul many years ago. With my current meagre, very meagre setup I am using the rubbishy bits of "string" that came with the system to connect to the speakers; there are factors far more important than the construction and copper content in these that impact the sound quality ...

Frank
 

muralman1

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Jul 7, 2010
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#45
There are a lot of folks in this forum who are trained in audio, and others with a wealth of experience. If I can go on the road with my findings, I would love to entertain a number of you. In use with my system, I really want to know why all speaker wires flunk horribly save a few. The failures are so grievous, blind testing is a waste of time. I want to know what science is behind these results. If there were no winners, everyone would sigh with relief class D is bad after all. No, there is a winner, and it is a stunning winner, highlighting the best ICE amps as not just worthy, they become victorious.
 

fas42

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#46
There are a lot of folks in this forum who are trained in audio, and others with a wealth of experience. If I can go on the road with my findings, I would love to entertain a number of you. In use with my system, I really want to know why all speaker wires flunk horribly save a few. The failures are so grievous, blind testing is a waste of time. I want to know what science is behind these results. If there were no winners, everyone would sigh with relief class D is bad after all. No, there is a winner, and it is a stunning winner, highlighting the best ICE amps as not just worthy, they become victorious.
Vince, unfortunately the science is not so straighforward, the conventional measuring gear will find it hard, very hard to pick up what's going on. I'm still in the process of getting a better handle on things: one thing I would say, as Gary would echo to a large degree, is that if certain aspects of how a cable is assembled, set up or organised in a system is focused on, then almost any sort of conductive material linking components will do the job. As an example, in my very low end current setup I am using the bits of stringy rubbish that came with the system to hook up the speakers and so far they are not the limiting elements, not by a long way.

Frank
 

RBFC

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Apr 20, 2010
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#47
Gary,

A bit off the path, but perhaps not...

Have you done any experiments testing the audibility of speaker terminals not being tightened enough, so that various amounts of pressure exist within the connection? I realize that different models of binding posts, etc. might make this a limited look at this phenomenon.

Also, any limits to the audibility of poor joining of connection terminations to the cable itself? For instance, putting an RCA termination on a cable using 50% of the solder you would typically use? Any thoughts?

Lee
 

fas42

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#48
Have you done any experiments testing the audibility of speaker terminals not being tightened enough, so that various amounts of pressure exist within the connection? I realize that different models of binding posts, etc. might make this a limited look at this phenomenon.

Also, any limits to the audibility of poor joining of connection terminations to the cable itself?
+1

Frank
 

garylkoh

WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)
#49
Gary,

A bit off the path, but perhaps not...
Nope, not off the path at all - it's all relevant.

Have you done any experiments testing the audibility of speaker terminals not being tightened enough, so that various amounts of pressure exist within the connection? I realize that different models of binding posts, etc. might make this a limited look at this phenomenon.
Yes - this was the biggest variable when spades are used - different spades, different binding posts, how tight the binding posts are tightened down, it all makes a difference. Unfortunately, sometimes over-tightening a binding post on a certain spade that is sprung caused a hardness in the sound. I don't know why.... but it does. That is why I ended up using bananas - there are some who say that spades sound better, but how do I know what better is if they all end up sounding different?

Also, any limits to the audibility of poor joining of connection terminations to the cable itself? For instance, putting an RCA termination on a cable using 50% of the solder you would typically use? Any thoughts?
Soldering makes a VERY big difference. Not so much the amount of solder (although less is better, but not too little). What seemed more important was that the conductor had to be closely aligned to the terminal, and then solder put on. This way, the layer of solder interjecting is as thin as possible.

The solder used also makes a very big difference, and it turns out that the quality of the flux makes more of a difference than the actual type of solder. Eutectic solder can be from 3% silver up to 7% silver. Since the higher silver content require higher soldering temperature which then requires different types of rosin core/flux.

Best of all is not to solder, but to crimp with a hydraulic press or ultrasonic weld.
 

garylkoh

WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)
#51
The problem, as I've mentioned, is that the cables made by various companies sound different. In some systems, it is wrong, and then we think that the cable is a scam. Unfortunately, the cable designer does not have every amp/speaker combination possible in his world. Hence, what is right for him might not be right for you.

As an example, solder IMHO masks. So, a cable company that uses solder might do it for a particular "house sound". Doesn't mean that it's wrong.
 
May 30, 2010
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#52
It might be interesting to see which companies use what technique to terminate their cables....

Lee
Audioquest and Blue Jeans Cables are just two companies I am remembering. Surely there are some others.
 

garylkoh

WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)
#54
Different formulations of solder/rosin can be used to hide problems elsewhere. I found some solders soften or even warm the sound. In both cases, there is some masking of detail - rounding things down.

But..... I have not done double-blind solder testing, nor quick A/B comparisons. I found that quick changes of cables always sound different - even when the SAME cable is unplugged out and then plugged back in. So, I plug it in and play background music for a couple of hours to up a a couple of days before critically listening again. The only thing consistent is that I use the same 12 tracks I've used for design for the last 9 years. Well.... 4 of the tracks have changed in 9 years.
 

fas42

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#55
I found that quick changes of cables always sound different - even when the SAME cable is unplugged out and then plugged back in. So, I plug it in and play background music for a couple of hours to up a a couple of days before critically listening again
Yes, that's why hardwiring is sometimes the only option. This was one of the first characteristics that drove me crazy when I got on this strange journey over 25 years ago. It is also the same behaviour you get with a conventional potentiometer.

The trouble with using the the connection after some period of time as the reference, in my experience, is that this quality of connection is inferior to the quality of the one at the time immediately after the action of connecting.

Frank
 

mep

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Apr 21, 2010
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#56
Different formulations of solder/rosin can be used to hide problems elsewhere. I found some solders soften or even warm the sound. In both cases, there is some masking of detail - rounding things down.
Gary-I have never heard of solder being able to hide problems. If you could identify which solder hides which problems, you could market it as "magic solder" and sell it to companies that need to hide the problems the solder could cure. It seem dubious on the surface.

But..... I have not done double-blind solder testing, nor quick A/B comparisons. I found that quick changes of cables always sound different - even when the SAME cable is unplugged out and then plugged back in. So, I plug it in and play background music for a couple of hours to up a a couple of days before critically listening again. The only thing consistent is that I use the same 12 tracks I've used for design for the last 9 years. Well.... 4 of the tracks have changed in 9 years.
This I *get* because most of us know that clean connections do sound better than dirty connections and that just by unplugging and re-plugging the same cable you will "clean" the connection to a certain degree.
 

garylkoh

WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)
#57
Gary-I have never heard of solder being able to hide problems. If you could identify which solder hides which problems, you could market it as "magic solder" and sell it to companies that need to hide the problems the solder could cure. It seem dubious on the surface.
Yes, we hear about expensive audiophile solder all the time.... but no real statements about what "bad" solder will sound like. I was skeptical, but I did try the difference anyway, and thought that I heard a difference. There are various types of flux used in soldering - and searching a site like Allied Electronics or Mouser, you can get most of the available types. http://www.bellmanmelcor.com/sftsldflux.htm

This one is easy to test - build a RCA interconnect using two different types of solder, and two techniques.

1) Simple, lazy - put a blob of solder on the RCA, and on the wire. Put the two together and tack solder. Often, you have too much solder and this is where you can most hear the different solders. Use the same solder - but two different fluxes. Kester is the most convenient for this because for ever solder formulation, they offer almost every flux formulation. I find the organic no-clean the most "masking" and the old Rosin the "brightest". The water-soluble organic the most transparent.

2) The better way - tin the RCA, tin the wire. Use de-soldering wick to take off excess solder on both the RCA and the wire. (Note, desoldering wick also has flux so you have to try the various types) Use a "third hand" to hold the wire to touch the terminal. Tin the tip of the soldering iron, and tack solder the wire to the terminal.

This I *get* because most of us know that clean connections do sound better than dirty connections and that just by unplugging and re-plugging the same cable you will "clean" the connection to a certain degree.
With speaker binding posts - even how tightly you re-do the spade lug connection makes a difference. With the old Cardas posts and a lug wrench, it is easy to get it too tight. I don't know why.... but sometimes too tight sounds worse. But the effects are subtle.
 

mep

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Apr 21, 2010
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#58
With speaker binding posts - even how tightly you re-do the spade lug connection makes a difference. With the old Cardas posts and a lug wrench, it is easy to get it too tight. I don't know why.... but sometimes too tight sounds worse. But the effects are subtle.
A wiseman once told me that "tight is tight and too tight is broke."
 

fas42

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#59
With speaker binding posts - even how tightly you re-do the spade lug connection makes a difference. With the old Cardas posts and a lug wrench, it is easy to get it too tight. I don't know why.... but sometimes too tight sounds worse. But the effects are subtle.
Is the sounding worse in the direction of more detail getting through and sounding harsher, more trebly?

Frank