SH Spotlight FYI, How to judge interconnects, power cords, speaker cable, etc. Let's share techniques together..

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Jan 31, 2019.

  1. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    Pro audio gear has moved to word clocks, external timing units that can supply sync to all the appropriately equipped digital gear in a studio. This prevents the necessity of every device capturing and regenerating the timing information for it's own internal usage. This is been the standard for the last decade or so - maybe at some point "audiophile" gear will catch up.
  2. auralden

    auralden Forum Resident

    It was my good fortune to meet an audiophile who pointed me in the right direction when assessing cables. The hardest aspect to reproduce is not the accuracy of timbre, the quality of the treble or the bass, etc - it is the ability to reproduce spatial information (what we call soundstaging, imaging, holography, 3D, etc) that gives us a feeling that the musicians are 'performing' in front of us.

    Many highly rated audiophile recordings are 'live recordings' which convey this sense of space. However, even studio multi-track recordings can reveal the spatial information as 'heard' by each of the individual microphones, if your system is properly setup.

    Once this is set as the primary goal, any new cable (or for that matter, a component or accessory) that is introduced into your system should bring you one step closer towards the goal, rather than away from it. The other attributes such as timbre, treble, bass, can be tweaked to your taste by adjusting other aspects of your system (positioning, resonance, reflections, etc).

    What worked for me once I found one cable that did this, was to change the entire loom (power, interconnect, speaker cable) to the same brand and model/range which reinforced everything.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2019
  3. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    Hopefully you don't mean that you had everything loomed together, power, signal and speakers, right? Power lines should be separated from high impedance, unbalanced cables.
    auralden likes this.
  4. auralden

    auralden Forum Resident

  5. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    Whew, that's good to hear! When I was wiring studios and PA racks, that was rule #1 - power on one side, signal on the other, cross them at 90 degrees.
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  6. ChrisScooter1

    ChrisScooter1 Forum Resident

    Athens, GA
    When we were demonstrating high end audio gear, we would make some concessions to audio treatments to the room, to obviously attempt to show the gear in the best light, but we also wanted to be realistic with our clients. Often high end listening in a customer's home was always an aesthetic compromise (typically with a spouse). Therefore, it made almost no sense to do high end treatments in our demonstration room when almost zero % of our clients were going to have highly engineered acoustic treatments or design in their homes. Instead, we would offer advise on ways to make a room both a pleasant listening and living environment; a semi sonic and aesthetic "fung shui." We would advise clients what to avoid (like putting a $10,000 speaker right next to a sliding glass door) and ways to hang framed patterned textiles as wall art in strategic places to cut down on nodes, peaks and standing waves. Best design advise we would give, since many of our audiophile clients tended to be book worms, would be to line the back walls and the walls behind the speakers with book cases. The randomness of the book thicknesses make for excellent acoustic diffusers and looks and functions like a home.

    I get the appeal of a well designed acoustic environment for high end, critical listening, but I'm with you Steve; most of our favorite music was recorded and mixed in less than ideal audio circumstances, yet, no one can argue that the "vibe" of any studio was and is probably more crucial to the creation of great art, regardless of the studio's sonic "idealism." Musicians like to be in spaces that inspire them and provide comfort; even if the listening environment is less than ideal.
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  7. ChrisScooter1

    ChrisScooter1 Forum Resident

    Athens, GA
    Here's another real world situation we encountered at our high end audio shop that involved both a positive and negative encounter with some standard, OEM, plastic "red and white" RCA cables.

    Our bookshelf and mid level floor standing speaker demo room had a rack of basic CD player/integrated amp/AV surround receiver demo equipment, plugged into a programable/switchable gear selector panel that fed another speaker selector switchable panel that then fed 15 + L/R feeds over mid-grade Audio quest speaker wire installed in the walls and out a wall panel connector so that we could display a range of bookshelf and two way floor standing speakers and switch between them all.

    So we have nice solid core copper speaker wire (same brand/length/type) feeding all the speakers, two switching systems with programable relays and real world/every day/decent electronics running the speakers. We found the CD player we used to demo (can't remember the exact model, but probably a Denon or Marantz, maybe a Rotel) to tend to be too strident, and we found that fresh OEM plain RCA cables that came in the box to actually provide the most musical presentation. Each time we'd go with a higher end RCA cable (Audioquest Diamond Back or similar) it always made the demo's we did a little too harsh. But the key was to have a fresh RCA cable...we would swap it out about every month, which was easy to do since we always had tons of this stuff lying around. We had an interesting thing pop up to help teach us this...

    This room probably got used the most, at least 10 + demos a day, so we knew the room and a good portion of the gear really well. And we sold TONS of great, affordable speakers out of that room. B&W, Sonus Faber, a home brew bookshelf our owner designed (I still have a pair which I love), Vandersteen coaxials and 1c's, along with Center channel and surround speakers. One day while doing some cleaning and organizing, we pulled the rack out and lo and behold, we realized the source relay switcher that was feeding the amp and speaker relay switcher ALSO had an OEM RCA red/white cable connecting the two. It had been so long and we rarely pulled the switchers out to see the back, we forgot it had an RCA cable connection between the two. That old OEM RCA cable's insulation jacket was cracked and crumbling and you could see the braided copper was corroded. Point being, the entire source signal was always going through that old crappy/crumbling cable for God knows how many months or years. Not really even thinking very critically, we grabbed a pair of AudioQuest interconnects (could have been just about anything) connected the two switching panels and viola, it was like the room's "cotton balls" had been removed.

    The other point being, we knew this room and the gear very well. Especially on the Vandersteen 1c's, it was like an entire octave appeared that we frankly up to that point, we didn't think or know that model could produce those frequencies. It was actually kind of embarrassing. So, we kept the nicer Audioquest interconnects on the switching panels and then we try it on the CD player output. We actually found the best, most balanced presentation for that room and that gear to be high end interconnects on the switcher and fresh OEM interconnects on the CD player. Of course we never tried to figure out how long it takes for an OEM interconnect to lose its "freshness," and we didn't really care since it provided a known place to use the piles of RCA cables we would accumulate, but we learned a lot that day. In my guitar gear days, I learned that standard off the shelf 1/4" copper/Switchcraft guitar cables would lose their high end sparkle over non scientific theory was, non oxygen free copper cable would corrode and deteriorate over time, creating higher capacitance and thus, gradual high frequency loss over time. My hunch was OEM interconnects probably had the same shelf life.

    But regardless of my theory, the change from that old crappy OEM RCA cable to AudioQuest (probably Diamond Back, which was a fave of ours) was enormous. What was already a successful demo room, now we were showing just how good a pair of $1000.00 floor standing speakers could sound with modest gear and a strategic use of musical and affordable interconnect cabling; a combo of off the shelf OEM cables and higher end interconnects.
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  8. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

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  9. ChrisScooter1

    ChrisScooter1 Forum Resident

    Athens, GA
    Love it!
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  10. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    I used to work at an audio-video retailer. The only item with higher margins than cables was extended service contracts. Also, they used to send me to CES and CEDIA - mostly because I am genuinely fascinated with technology but also because I don't drink, gamble or play golf and would spend every moment actually on the show floor looking at product. But in the evenings, I would go to the parties for the free food. And the cable companies threw great parties, presumably made possible by selling a few bucks worth of copper and plastic for hundreds.

    I was not invited to any of the extended service contract company parties - I can only presume they were held at golf courses or "gentlemen's clubs."
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2019
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  11. Tim Lookingbill

    Tim Lookingbill Alfalfa Male

    New Braunfels, TX
    Funny you should say that just as I forced myself today (cuz I really believed it wouldn't work) to pull out my old 2000 Mac Powerbook and record "Taking It To The Streets" off the Best Of The Doobie Brothers CD through my '72 Sansui solid state amp headphone output recording with free Coaster app that only runs on OS 9. 2001 was the last update of this app. I downloaded it off the internet. Thought it was gone forever.

    This Doobie Bros CD is the worst sounding when it comes to full dynamics especially the kick drum and murky midrange which is pronounced in the song mentioned. The kick drum sounds like a bass guitar string tap. Peak of that tap is at 80-90Hhz where it drops off to form pointy ant hill shape bass response.

    I used my Sony headphones to make adjustments to the Sansui's Bass/Treble and overall volume. Set gains in Coaster, transferred the recorded CD standard file to my MacMini OSX and what took me hours to try to fix in Audacity took me only minutes recording it off the Sansui using only its dynamic adjustments with much better results than the original CD and my own efforts in Audacity.

    Both digital AND analog should be praised. I saved so much time figuring this out.

    This is the song in question...

    Last edited: Feb 3, 2019
  12. Norco74

    Norco74 You can tell me by the way I walk...

    This article is a bit contradictory as all serious cable manufacturers are exactly doing this: trying to tweak these RLC (resistance, inductance, capacitance) parameters for optimal sound quality, providing connections that will not deteriorate over time and rejecting as much external interferences that could be introduced in the signal or power paths.

    Signal is altered by whatever piece of wire it’s going through as it could act like a filter. Cables has their own impedance not only resistance as the article suggests at one point.

    To bring it up to a molecular level for all cables detractors here’s a more objective article on OFC and PCOCC. Hope you enjoy.

    Oxygen Free Copper Wire Worthy of the hype? Article By A. Colin Flood
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2019
  13. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

  14. warp2600

    warp2600 Forum Resident

    I have read a study about it somewhere but I could not find it quickly now. But the main point I remember from it is summarized here (click on the link) - see misconception #2 and #3 particularly.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2019
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  15. dconsmack

    dconsmack Forum Resident

    Las Vegas, NV USA
    I’ve skimmed this thread… Just because you can’t hear a change in a power cable doesn’t mean one didn’t happen. Developing sensitivity to dynamics, frequency response, etc, takes constant effort and practice, over many years. I have noise induced hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis, but because of my practice of comparing cartridges, interconnects, phono stages and cartridge loading - all via A/B-ing needle drops, my senitivity has improved dramatically despite my hearing being worse than before I started this hobby. I’m at the point where I can tell what mastering a particular song is (if I have several versions) when it comes up on shuffle in my car. Theres no way I could’ve done that years ago. Sometimes I’ll even ask my girlfriend (who is a musician with perfect pitch and no hearing loss or tinnitus) to help me compare a needledrop to a similarly mastered CD and she can’t immediately hear any difference whereas I hear profound differences. So, how you can tell just comes down to practice and experience. I changed a power cable on my EAR 324 phono stage and heard no change, but I realize I might not have developed my sensitivity enough or even have the capability anymore to hear that type of tweak. But I wouldn’t say to anyone that if they hear something I don’t, that it’s simply placebo.
    Dave likes this.
  16. John B

    John B Once Blue Gort,<br>now just blue.

    Toronto, Canada
    Can’t see that your point is relevant or logical. You do artificial intelligence a great disservice.

    Strange concept of laughability also ;)
  17. d3adf1sh

    d3adf1sh Forum Resident

    unless it's undersized to begin with and the impedance is to high to supply the correct voltage/amperage to the equipment. or maybe signal wires were run to close and you are getting some kind of electro-magnetic interference. It can't!!!
  18. d3adf1sh

    d3adf1sh Forum Resident

    especially when all it is actually doing is turning the platter??? right?
  19. d3adf1sh

    d3adf1sh Forum Resident

    the power is not "unimpeded" all the way to the socket. each gauge of wire has a certain amount of impedance per foot. the impedance of a 6 ft cable even at 16 gauge is barely measurable compared to the miles it has traveled to get to your house. plus the romex (in the wall of your house) is 14 gauge anyway. so your point is moot. it doesn't matter if that last 6 ft is 8 gauge wire (which it won't be) there will still be impedance but it is basically NOT MEASURABLE so it wouldn't make a diffference.

    maybe if you are using frickin phone wire to connect a 1600w amplifier then yeah an upgrade would be in order. but in most cases a power cord is a power cord.

    edit: p=i*e/r ... mic drop. out
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  20. d3adf1sh

    d3adf1sh Forum Resident

    sorry p=i*e (not /r) been a long time since i had to do calculations on paper. but basically "ohms law" if you want to read up on the subject.
  21. noladaoh

    noladaoh Forum Resident

    Wine, audio, is there a difference when it comes to expectations?
    Marketing actions can modulate neural representations of experienced pleasantness
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  22. Juan Matus

    Juan Matus Reformed Audiophile

    I was having a bit of the fun. If you want in on the joke look up humanism and dataism.
  23. Norco74

    Norco74 You can tell me by the way I walk...

    Not on my iPhone.

    Too bad, it is an interesting article providing some scientific explanations about OFC and PCOPP. For once it goes beyond the argument of ‘it’s only copper or your gear or hearing sucks so you can’t hear the difference”.

    All relevant information about cable design is out there. Just take some time to read and understand it. All of the concepts are based on scientific facts. Now, what cable makers put in their marketing brochure is another thing! What the listeners claim to hear is very subjective as we are all different.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2019
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  24. tubesandvinyl

    tubesandvinyl Forum Resident

    Yes sir. Try it and hear for yourself. My vpi prime signature sounds much better with a good power cord instead of the cheap stock cord
    George P likes this.
  25. Tullman

    Tullman Senior Member

    Boston MA
    Yeah, but a lot of that was near field listening at high decibels.

    I get your philosophy of why worry be happy. Setting up a room to be acoustically better than what one starts with is pretty easy.
    Besides, why spend big big huge money on Audio Note cable, and not, for a few bucks in comparison, you can get rid of that nasty corner distortion or slap back from the wall.

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