• 12-02-2003, 09:14 AM
    Monstrous Mike
    The Great Cable Debate -- Reloaded
    If we are going to talk seriously about the nature of the electrical properties of an audio cable with respect to audibility, I think we need to come up with some common ground.

    I have mentioned this before as a fact we need to establish. And that is, a theoretical perfect cable will transfer a signal from A to B without any change to the signal whatsoever. Since no cable is perfect, then all cables must degrade the signal is some manner.

    Secondly, there is a general assertion by some that there are audible properties of a cable that cannot possibly be measured by electronic test equipment. Well I have some experience on very sophisticated electronic devices. In my navy years, we had passive sonar systems that could detect audible signals in the ocean that were actually below the ambient noise floor. Thus, I find this assertion very hard to swallow.

    In my own personal experience, I have noted the deficiences of several AV cables. A speaker wire run was too long for the gauge, an interconnect was damaged, and a video cable run was too long adding video distortion. So obviously, you can use an inferior or incorrect cable and notice audible and visible degradations. This is not up for dispute I expect.

    But if you take a group of exotic cables and a gang of audio enthusiasts to test them, the results are invariably a wide array of opinions on the sound of those cables. And to add to the fun, it is likely that the opinions change depending on the amount of information the testers have on the cables like the brand, price, etc. And blind testing would likely further change the results.

    Perhaps us engineers are delinquent in our explanation as to why all these people hear different sounds when listening to different cables. It could be that we haven't invented the right scientific test equipment but I doubt that.

    So in end, 12 gauge zip cord is simply not accepted by audiophiles as suffucient for speaker wire. Therefore, there must be something that this wire is doing to the signal to make it audibly noticable.

    It may very well be that the simple fact that nobody to date has pinpointed this deficiency of a simple zip cord, even in a so-called "high resolution" system, could mean that it is not deficient at all.
  • 12-02-2003, 09:58 AM
    Swerd
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Monstrous Mike
    …Perhaps us engineers are delinquent in our explanation as to why all these people hear different sounds when listening to different cables. It could be that we haven't invented the right scientific test equipment but I doubt that.…

    You touch on a good point. We have all heard frequent anecdotal reports of listeners who claim to hear differences in sounds of audio playback systems due to different cables in the system. Because the standard measurements of cable electrical properties, accepted by the electronics industry at large, fail to explain these perceived differences, perhaps the perception is the only thing that varies and not the electronic properties.

    Electrical engineers don't usually measure differences in human audio perception. That field is still in its infancy as a science.
  • 12-02-2003, 03:51 PM
    E-Stat
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Monstrous Mike
    Secondly, there is a general assertion by some that there are audible properties of a cable that cannot possibly be measured by electronic test equipment.

    I think you are misstating the objection. I believe the problem is not so much that the audible differences cannot be measured, but rather the current testing methodology does not adequately duplicate the environment in which the cables are used. I find this situation no different than that of THD analysis in the 70s. Thirty years ago, I took my AR integrated amp to the McIntosh clinic where I was presented with an impressive looking harmonic distortion plot of the amp. Based on the results, Gordo Gow and Julian Hirsch would conclude that this amp was a very low distortion amp indeed. The test equipment wasn't lying, was it? Of course not. Sonically, however, the AR amp proved to be a disaster in the real world. We have since learned much about dynamic sorts of distortion such as crossover notch and transient intermodulation distortion, neither of which would ever be revealed with such tests. I'll take a "higher distortion" Pass Labs amp over a Crown DC-300A any day.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Monstrous Mike
    Perhaps us (sic) engineers are delinquent in our explanation as to why all these people hear different sounds when listening to different cables.

    Amen, brother.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Monstrous Mike
    It could be that we haven't invented the right scientific test equipment but I doubt that.

    Or, choice "B", we haven't invented the right scientific tests that measure the components as a system reproducing dynamic musical content. You can make any pickup measure the same lateral G cornering response as a Ferrari, but you will find substantial differences in dynamic behavior.

    rw
  • 12-02-2003, 10:15 PM
    mtrycraft
    I believe the problem is not so much that the audible differences cannot be measured, but rather the current testing methodology does not adequately duplicate the environment in which the cables are used.

    That is absolute nonsense. Based in misinformation and misconceptions of reality.
    The environment is just an excuse, nothing more.


    Sonically, however, the AR amp proved to be a disaster in the real world. We have since learned much about dynamic sorts of distortion such as crossover notch and transient intermodulation distortion, neither of which would ever be revealed with such tests. I'll take a "higher distortion" Pass Labs amp over a Crown DC-300A any day.

    That higher distortion Pass is probably below detection as well, just as the Crown. Of course you came to this conclusion through the results of DBT listening?




    Or, choice "B", we haven't invented the right scientific tests that measure the components as a system reproducing dynamic musical content.


    Or we have. Some just cannot accept the limitation of their hearing ability, or the difference between perceiving something and really hearing something. Hard to prove someones imagined perceptions. No test will do that. And, there is really no need to measure imaginations. Hearing, on the otherhand can be measured and has been for a century.


    You can make any pickup measure the same lateral G cornering response as a Ferrari, but you will find substantial differences in dynamic behavior.

    And that has nothing to do with audio.
  • 12-03-2003, 05:42 AM
    skeptic
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by E-Stat
    Thirty years ago, I took my AR integrated amp to the McIntosh clinic where I was presented with an impressive looking harmonic distortion plot of the amp. Based on the results, Gordo Gow and Julian Hirsch would conclude that this amp was a very low distortion amp indeed. ... Sonically, however, the AR amp proved to be a disaster in the real world. We have since learned much about dynamic sorts of distortion such as crossover notch and transient intermodulation distortion, neither of which would ever be revealed with such tests. I'll take a "higher distortion" Pass Labs amp over a Crown DC-300A any day.

    Or, choice "B", we haven't invented the right scientific tests that measure the components as a system reproducing dynamic musical content.

    Your AR integrated amp must have been defective. Mine still sounds fine.

    Crossover notch distortion was well known long before the AR amplifier and was known before transistors. Why do you think they have those bias control pots in the output stages of tube amplifiers? The problem was easier to solve for vacuum tube amplifier designers than for designers of early bipolar transistor amplifiers but they were overcome by companies like Dynaco and Marantz and with the introduction of MOSFET power transistors, it became a moot point.

    The Crown DC300 and DC300A have very high slewing rates which should yield very low TIM even by today's standards. This was due to their excellent power supply design.

    It is easier to test wire for its electrical properties and describe it completely than any other electrical device. The fact that dynamic properties of amplifiers could not be described completely by steady state measurements was an oversight. Given the vast array of test equipment and the inexpensive cost of computerized analysis of captured waveforms, it should be duck soup for any electrical eingeeer who wanted to seriously study the exact nature of waveform distortion produced by interconnecting wires, to perform such tests. The fact that nobody has undertaken such a study for audio cables means that those who would benefit the most from demonstrating the existance of such distortions, the manufacturers themselves, have no desire or need for such testing. They know that they can't prove anything significant and there is no reason to shake the confidence of a market that is so unsophisticated it will take all snake oil claims at face value in a mad dash to buy the most expensive cables it can afford regardless of any technical merit.
  • 12-03-2003, 06:09 AM
    E-Stat
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mtrycraft
    You can make any pickup measure the same lateral G cornering response as a Ferrari, but you will find substantial differences in dynamic behavior.

    And that has nothing to do with audio.

    The point is that there can be a difference between static and dynamic performance in either. Static THD measurements with audio components are not a reliable indicator of anything.

    rw
  • 12-03-2003, 06:28 AM
    E-Stat
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by skeptic
    Your AR integrated amp must have been defective. Mine still sounds fine.

    May you enjoy the purity of class B amplification at low levels.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by skeptic
    The fact that dynamic properties of amplifiers could not be described completely by steady state measurements was an oversight.

    And held as the gospel truth for decades until the EEs finally figured out how to measure what was heard from the outset.

    rw
  • 12-03-2003, 07:24 AM
    skeptic
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by E-Stat
    ...until the EEs finally figured out how to measure what was heard from the outset.
    rw

    Real knowledge is built brick by brick and is hard won.

    Bullcrap on the other hand emerges full blown from thin air. Anyway, that's how the audiophile cable industry did it.
  • 12-03-2003, 11:19 AM
    mtrycraft
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by E-Stat
    Static THD measurements with audio components are not a reliable indicator of anything.

    rw


    How so? It ain't measured static. What is the evidence that THD in music is sooo much different that it has audibility issues different from sine wave data?
  • 12-03-2003, 12:17 PM
    Mwalsdor_cscc_edu
    Mike, your desire to establish a "common ground" is all well and good but then you quickly use your post as another opportunity to support your POV. If we agree that cables - like all components - will not transfer a signal from A>B without any change then what we are discussing here is the effect of that degradation. We can debate till the cows come home the degree of the degradation or it's effect in one system but as established in your ground rules, it's there.

    As far as mentioning your Naval background. You're trying to use one application of knowledge on another AND expecting the same result. While there may be similarities or a lesson learned isn't it faulty logic to think the end result would be identical.

    Regarding your claim about 12awg zip cord.I'm confident that comparison has been conducted many times. Remember, many of us preceded the advent of "Hi-End cables". Everyone used zip cord in the 60-70's. Eventually, as new products became available end users found some of those products to enhance the playback performance of our systems and add to our replay enjoyment. Before making a permanent change I'm sure most conducted some "tests" to determine the effect, and possibly even "measure" the degree of the variable. What you disapprove of is the protocol used and the effects reported.

    MikE
  • 12-03-2003, 01:09 PM
    skeptic
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Mwalsdor_cscc_edu
    As far as your mentioning your Naval background. You're trying use one application of knowledge on another AND expecting the same result. While there may be similarities or a lesson learned isn't it faulty logic to think the end result would be identical.

    Oh NO MikE, you mean we have another JR on our hands? You mean Monster Man has morphed into Jon Risch? Say it ain't so MikE, say it ain't so.
  • 12-03-2003, 01:46 PM
    E-Stat
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mtrycraft
    How so? It ain't measured static. What is the evidence that THD in music is sooo much different that it has audibility issues different from sine wave data?

    Static as in unchanging tones. Averaged over time at that. You might have one amp that generates instantaneous notch or TIM distortions that gets evened out as to not exist using such critieria. The Crown ICCHH-150A preamp looks REAL good on paper, but sounds like fingernails on chalkboard.

    rw
  • 12-03-2003, 01:48 PM
    Mwalsdor_cscc_edu
    Kind Sir
    Would it be unreasonable for me to ask you to support this claim? MikE
  • 12-03-2003, 08:03 PM
    Norm Strong
    [

    Perhaps us engineers are delinquent in our explanation as to why all these people hear different sounds when listening to different cables. It could be that we haven't invented the right scientific test equipment but I doubt that.

    So in end, 12 gauge zip cord is simply not accepted by audiophiles as suffucient for speaker wire. Therefore, there must be something that this wire is doing to the signal to make it audibly noticable.

    It may very well be that the simple fact that nobody to date has pinpointed this deficiency of a simple zip cord, even in a so-called "high resolution" system, could mean that it is not deficient at all.[/QUOTE]
  • 12-04-2003, 04:54 AM
    skeptic
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Norm Strong
    [

    Perhaps us engineers are delinquent in our explanation as to why all these people hear different sounds when listening to different cables. It could be that we haven't invented the right scientific test equipment but I doubt that.

    Normally, scientists and engineers would work with audiometrists to set up Double Blind Tests to determine IF there are circumstances where there ARE audible differences, under what circumstances they occur, WHAT their subjective nature is, and then correlate them to measured electrical differences. They would debate whether these differences are an improvement and whether or not they could be achieved by other means or whether or not there is something unique about reducing distortion with "improved" cables. Their findings would be published in respected professional journals, repeated by others, and their methods and results debated by their peers to challenge their conclusions to see if they held up to the scrutiny of others skilled in their science. It would be expected that this would be done by those with an "improved" product to sell to justify to the market the added cost it would impose. But no such effort at proof has ever been undertaken? Why? Because it isn't necessary. The market is falling all over itself without such proof. And if an attempt were made to obtain it and it couldn't be proven, those potential customers whose confidence they are obtaining something of value might decide not to buy them and profits might decline. In other words, why risk killing the goose that's laying the golden eggs?

    Absent genuine proof, manufacturers have become expert at very clever advertising. They each have one or more diletantes of some arcane aspect of physics or material science who present long winded diatribes of some esoteric theory which is a complete mystery even to most electrical engineers (some examples being strand jumping, Fermi Velocity, oxygen free copper, single crystal conductors, teflon dialectric--it's endless), make no actual performance claims, and offer retailers large incentives to sell their product by whatever means they want to resort to. The market is not merely technically unsophisticated, it is also very naive to marketing techniques and so in an era of significant disposible income and nobody wanting to be considered technically ignorant, the suckers just keep coming and coming.

    Some months back as a example of what I am saying, we had someone post here about having received some expensive speaker wires as a gift. He had for some reason a need to strip back the outer jacket and insulation to find to his amazement that it was nothing more than number 12 zip cord in a fancy package (I don't remember the brand.) When he contacted the manufacturer, they made no bones about it and freely admitted that's what their product was. They offered him a full refund but he decided to keep the wires anyway because "he liked the way they looked."

    Between 1984 and 1995, I personally purchased and installed more than one million dollars worth of wire for my employer who happened to be the world's largest research consorteum. I purchased these products as part of my function as both electrical engineer and project manager for a wide variety of power distribution and telecommunications projects. It seemed for a while that I had every wire peddler in America in my office at one time or another. In frank discussions with their sales reps and applications engineers, before the profits to be made in the audiophile wire market were so apparant, not one single one ever suggested that there was any value in these esoteric cables. Quite the contrary, they were unanimous in their dismissal of any claims for their advantage and the largest of the bunch told me that while they manufactured every kind of wire that exists and would custom manufacture whatever I wanted if they hadn't already had such a product, I'd be wasting my money. They may have changed their tune since, but I'll stick with that advice from the only truely authoritative unbiased sources I've ever consulted on the matter.
  • 12-04-2003, 09:56 AM
    pctower
    Very well done.

    While I may, based on my own unscientific and illogical reasons, reach different personal purchasing decisions than you, I think you have presented a very informative picture of the cable industry and debate.
  • 12-04-2003, 06:39 PM
    Debbi
    I keep coming back to the point...
    ....that if wiring is that important, why do quality receiver and amp manufacturers use dime store wiring in the internal wiring of their products....apparently they are not very concerned. I know someone will respond that internal wiring is not as important since the runs are shorter....and what about the cheap looking wiring in most expensive speakers? ...obviously the result of expensive cable runs can be no better than the signal sent from the point of origin, and ultimately the signal that eminates from the speaker.....so talk Mcintosh, Krell, Denon, Yamaha and Paradigm into upgrading their wiring first....
  • 12-05-2003, 12:05 AM
    mtrycraft
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by E-Stat
    Static as in unchanging tones. Averaged over time at that. You might have one amp that generates instantaneous notch or TIM distortions that gets evened out as to not exist using such critieria. The Crown ICCHH-150A preamp looks REAL good on paper, but sounds like fingernails on chalkboard.

    rw

    Finger nail on chalboard? How was this established? Unreliable listening? That is the only possibility, nothing else.
  • 12-05-2003, 05:36 AM
    pctower
    My "unreliable" listening experience with the Crown pre-amp and the DC-300 was back in the late 70's when I owned both and my sole source of information from the audio press was your recently deceased idol ("everything sounds the same") Julian Hirsh.

    As much as Julian tried to hoodwink us all into believing that any ole' mass-marketed Japanese inport would do just fine so long as it had enough bells, whistles and flashing lights and that all amps really did sound just the same, I simply couldn't stand the dry, brittle a-musical sound of the the Crown electronics over time and decided to search out for something that would create an enjoyable and "musical" listening experience.

    I have no idea what replaced the Crowns, but even to this day I remember why I got rid of them. Fingernails on a chalkboard is a very apt description of what led me to unload them and to once and for all stop reading Julian Hirsch. Maybe the high-end press that I later began reading was full of junk science, but unlike Hirsch, it introduced me to gear that allowed me to achieve the listening enjoyment I was seeking but that remained elussive as long as I believed Hirsch was a good source of advice.

    Actually, I should have learned my lesson about Hirsch when I bought a Tanberg tapedeck based on his conclusion that he could not distinguish a recording on that deck from the original. When I brought the deck home I was shocked at how much of a difference there was and how lacking the Tandberg was. Despite numerous experiements with different tapes and many trips back to the dealer, the stark difference between original and tape (which the esteemed Julian Hirsch couldn't detect) never did vanish.
  • 12-05-2003, 06:51 AM
    Mwalsdor_cscc_edu
    1 Attachment(s)
    Two Manufacturer's take on Internal Wiring
    This subject has been discussed many times and I’ve shared this before but for those unfamiliar… In the last four years I’ve had numerous conversations with two designers on the subject of internal wiring: Craig Uthus, designer/President of Moth Audio and Alan Yun, designer/President of Silverline Audio.

    Alan Yun is a designer of loudspeakers, ranging in price from $1,500>$35,000; he also manufactures his own line of speaker cables and interconnects. In conversations with the distributor that sold me the Silverline Sonatinas I learned that Alan uses the same wire in his cables that he also uses to internally wire his speakers. Included with my speaker purchase were two complimentary 10' runs of Alan's speaker cables and his interconnect. A couple of years later I contacted Mr. Yun about his new Sonatina II as I was curious if the new upgrades could be incorporated into my speaker. We discussed the modifications in the new speaker and eventually the internal wiring of his speakers. As a speaker designer he felt the internal wire was a valid consideration, finding good results with the wire selected. We parted company on the choice of conductor; he prefers copper, myself silver. And so he encouraged me to experiment if I was so inclined. We also discussed other upgrades, such as the copper Edison-Price binding posts. I came away with the distinct impression that he felt the collection of these ancillary elements do affect the signature of his finished product. In this respect our POV was quite similar.


    Craig Uthus designs single-ended triode amps that have a retro appeal and a respect for modern applications of the SET philosophy. He also designs single driver speaker systems. The circumstances involving my connection to Moth Audio was quite different from the purchase of the Silverline. Foremost, the amp I purchased was not a stock product like the Silverline; instead it was a custom project that Craig elected to build for me. We discussed many of the internal parts; resistors, caps, potentiometer, secondary winding of the OPT as well as internal signal wire as possible upgrades. I told him I wanted to use pure silver as signal wire and contacted various suppliers / manufacturers before selecting Bob Crump. Bob had sent me products to demo in the past and was happy to supply the same wire he uses to hookup his 10k “Blow Torch” pre-amp for my project. Aside from amplification components he also designs cables and power cords. Bob's wire consists of a separate run of small gauge [22awg] solid silver wire [signal] and a silver-plated copper Wonder Wire [current]. He provided me very specific instructions along with the wire for Moth, including the wires directionality. In the course of our conversations I’d asked Craig about the captive power cords in his earlier designs. His response gave me the impression that the I.E.C. facility in the new designs was based more on customer requests than a personal endorsement of that product type.


    Three months later the amp finally arrived and I was tickled pink about the build quality, looks, performance, heck it even came in a wooden shipping crate. It's cool as hell and the heart and soul of my system. Then some months removed I receive an email from the wire supplier, Bob Crump, informing me he thought my amp was "wired backwards". At least it appears so from the photo I posted in a review. So I contacted Craig at Moth about the allegation. Well, he was not the least receptive to my inquiry. He told me "it was wired correctly". That regardless of my wishes or the instructions given by Mr. Crump, he felt it simply wouldn't matter what wire was used. Strangely, this was never mentioned in our earlier conversations. I respect his professional opinion but didn't appreciate that he compromised our agreement on the specifics of the build process, knowing that the customization was a key element of the purchase. I admitted to him that I had no idea which of the two configurations would be "best" but that I respected Bob's reputation and experience on the subject and wanted it corrected.

    Craig did not offer to "fix it" or compensate me and we've not spoken since. And honestly, I wasn't about to ship my amp back cross-country for such a simple procedure, even if I'd discovered it the day it arrived. It was more the matter of his "professional integrity" that pissed me off. I eventually had the amp wired correctly and in all honesty the difference was so slight [least my initial impression] that I forgot about the entire matter. I will say I do feel better about getting it "to spec". I realize I would have been better served if I had tested both configurations myself [as well as all the other custom passive parts] but the intent wasn’t to build the amp myself or get involved with a DIY project. Instead, I wanted to take an existing design and fine-tune it, which Craig was willing to do. So there is my limited experience with two manufacturers who have a different POV on the internal wiring of their components. One who considers the internal wire in his speakers to have an effect and another who doesn’t believe the difference [if any] is audible.

    Pictured is the amp as delivered from the Moth Audio.

    MikE
  • 12-05-2003, 07:54 AM
    skeptic
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pctower
    My "unreliable" listening experience with the Crown pre-amp and the DC-300 was back in the late 70's when I owned both and my sole source of information from the audio press was your recently deceased idol ("everything sounds the same") Julian Hirsh.

    As much as Julian tried to hoodwink us all into believing that any ole' mass-marketed Japanese inport would do just fine so long as it had enough bells, whistles and flashing lights and that all amps really did sound just the same,

    Actually, I should have learned my lesson about Hirsch when I bought a Tanberg tapedeck based on his conclusion that he could not distinguish a recording on that deck from the original.


    Simply as a point of clarification, the Crown amplifier and preamplifier you referred to were manufactured in Indiana.

    It is unfortunate that you didn't buy a Crown tape deck. You would have preferred it to the Tandberg by a wide margin.
  • 12-05-2003, 09:23 AM
    pctower
    After I posted, I realized my ranting and raving would be misleading. I was mixing two separate subjects - my own personal opinions of Julian and my experience with Crown electronics.

    I did know about the point of manufacturing for Crown and not only did I own one Crown tape deck, but actually two. The BIGGEST mistake I ever made was selling both. I regretted it almost immediately and have never forgiven myself. They were magnificent.

    In addition, I owned a pair of Crown's large speakers with RTR electrostatic panels on top and a large woofer in a separate enclosure below. I don't remember the model number, but selling that pair of speakers was the SECOND BIGGEST mistake I ever made.
  • 12-05-2003, 10:08 AM
    pctower
    And many other well-known manufacturers do use special internal wiring, so I don't think what particular manufacturers do is indicative of much.

    What we do know is that no one has reported valid scientific evidence that supports claims that switching similar cables of similar gauge and length can result in sonic differences.

    And then there are folks like me who "perceive" differences and are willing to pay for "perceived" improvements despite the lack of any supporting scientific evidence that we are basing our decisions on anything other than experiences resulting from factors other than actual sonic differences and in the face of a lot of scientific information that suggests our "perceptions" are due to attitudes, beliefs and expectations rather than actual sonic differences.
  • 12-05-2003, 10:19 AM
    E-Stat
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mtrycraft
    Finger nail on chalboard? How was this established? Unreliable listening? That is the only possibility, nothing else.

    That Crown preamp was the posterchild for TIM distortion. It was the stereotypical (pun intended) example of negative feedback gone wild. Take a mediocre opamp such as the lowly LM301 and overload the hell out of its open loop high frequency response and this is what you get. The PAT-4 was another dreadful design of that era.

    "Fingernails on chaulkboard" is merely my characterization of the audible results of gross amounts of TIM distortion. Describe the distortion however you prefer. High frequencies are rendered hard, thin, compressed, edgy, and are completely lacking in perceived air. A well recorded triangle or bell contains no ambience or decay.

    While it was immediately detected by the hearing of music listeners, it was much later "established" with appropriate testing once TIM was identified by Mati Otala, et. al. That would be the other possibility.

    The Crown dealer where I bought a D-150 hated the ICCHH and advised that I buy a HK Citation 11 instead. We listened to both and I readily agreed with him that the Crown handled high frequencies very poorly. It did, however, have excellent measured THD performance.

    Speaking of the Crown tape units, I sure lusted after the big CX-824. Alas, I could only afford a Sony TC-850 at the time (I was 17 in 1974).

    rw
  • 04-12-2009, 09:30 PM
    Dr.Rich
    CX824 Lust
    E-Stat:
    I was 19 in '74 and my lust and a friend of the local Crown Rep made my purchase of my 824 possible. I remember looking at the Sony 850 as well. I know this thread is from 12-2003 so it may take awhile for your reply. Maybe we have more in common. Always happy to talk to a fellow audiophile. Rich.