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  1. #1
    nightflier
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    I can hear a difference!

    OK, I'll admit that I've been a disbeliever for some time. I can hear slight difference in speaker cables, but analog cables have always been a wash. Well I was over at a friend's house last weekend helping him set up a fairly decent Arcam receiver and he had bought inexpensive Kimber PBJs for interconnects because he had read that they were more detailed. I just dismissed them and made a comment that they looked cheap and weak, although I did like the convenience of working with such thin cables in what was certainly a very tight space behind the equipment rack. Anyhow, I usually show up at these affairs with a healthy complement of my own cables just in case they forgot to buy the right ones, so I had some cables to compare.

    I challenged my friend to hear a difference between any of the cables. We did a series of blind A/B tests between Dayton cables, Monster Cables, and a more expensive Audioquest cable. Sure enough there was little difference but the PBJs had an edge, a brightness to them that was pretty consistent. To my friend this sounded as brighter/crisper so he felt vindicated. I wasn't convinced and asked if I could borrow a pair.

    So this whole week I've been comparing them with every one of my cables and I have to admit, that what I consider edgy, could be considered more detailed. In any case, I can confidently say this for myself: there is a difference. Trust me, I tried everything I could think of to "prove" to myself that there wasn't, but there is. In my most revealing system, the difference is noticeable and repeatable, although on a lesser receiver there is no difference. I still don't like the sound of the PBJs, but this was certainly a revelation.

  2. #2
    Sure, sure... Auricauricle's Avatar
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    So, now, you have your working hypothesis....Now, can you set up a double blind experiment and enroll a bunch of people for making this formal?

    Still, great of you to post this, nevertheless....
    "The great tragedy of science--the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact."--T. Huxley

  3. #3
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightflier
    So this whole week I've been comparing them with every one of my cables and I have to admit, that what I consider edgy, could be considered more detailed. In any case, I can confidently say this for myself: there is a difference.
    Unfortunately, many engineers view cables in a vacuum. They look at the basic metrics, compare that with theory and cannot find a reasonable reason why they should make any difference. In the real world, however, they become part of a system. That system contains characteristics that may be more sensitive in one way or another to different cables. Such is not necessarily a good-bad or poor design sort of thing either. My electrostats present arguably the most challenging load of any speaker - highly reactive - where lower DC cables than zip offer real audible benefits. Similarly, I eschew using my preamp for use with CD playback. The player has sufficient gain and low impedance to drive the amp directly. The sound does not suffer from going through an otherwise superfluous gain stage - but does require exceptionally low capacitance so as not to roll off the top.

    In my experience, when one IC is brighter than another, it is most often an artificial brightness caused by interactions between the components or insufficient trapping of RFI. Dark is good. Naturally, there are exceptions like phono cables where higher capacitance may be desirable for a given cartridge / arm combination.

    Welcome to the larger, more challenging and more fulfilling world.

    rw

  4. #4
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Good for you NF.

    Could it simply be that the PBJ's are deliberately designed to induce such an effect?

    I've heard differences in cable too. I've just never been terribly "wowed" by the differences to a point where they've worked their way onto my purchase list. Slight phase or FR minutia in particular isn't something I even focus on when I'm enjoying music. Though it can be when I'm not.

    Gotta admit, I haven't heard any differences in soundstage or imaging attributable to cables yet. Or it's been too small to notice - acoustic memory and all that. Those differences might impress me more...

    Actually, I would love some suggestions for cables known for enhancing soundstage...

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Good for you NF.

    Could it simply be that the PBJ's are deliberately designed to induce such an effect?

    I've heard differences in cable too. I've just never been terribly "wowed" by the differences to a point where they've worked their way onto my purchase list. Slight phase or FR minutia in particular isn't something I even focus on when I'm enjoying music. Though it can be when I'm not.

    Gotta admit, I haven't heard any differences in soundstage or imaging attributable to cables yet. Or it's been too small to notice - acoustic memory and all that. Those differences might impress me more...

    Actually, I would love some suggestions for cables known for enhancing soundstage...
    I recently acquired a whole system from a neighbor. It originally had Kimber 8tc speaker cables ans well as PBJ interconnects. He replaced them with Synergistic Research Interconnects and Speaker cable and there was a world of difference.

    When I got everything, I hooked it all up with my Tara Labs ICs and Prism speaker wires for a week. I then swapped out for the SR cables and once again, big difference. Can't say Soundstage specific but big overall improvement and control.

    The best thing I have experienced for Soundstage improvement is the speakers that came with the system. They are old Counterpoint Clearfield Continentals (early Von Schwiekert). They lack bottom end slam but do reproduce the bass accurately. I am considering selling my Danes and keeping these. Waiting for the Counterpoint NPS-400 amp to be repaired before final decision.

  6. #6
    Suspended Smokey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat
    Unfortunately, many engineers view cables in a vacuum. They look at the basic metrics, compare that with theory and cannot find a reasonable reason why they should make any difference.
    Well, that works well with any other branch of electronics. So why not with audio?

    Transparency in cables is easy to achieve by following few simple rules. It only becomes hard when trying to use a cable as an equalizer.

  7. #7
    Forum Regular Kevio's Avatar
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    I don't think you'll find an engineer or theory that would say cables don't make a difference. What you'll find is claims that, in most circumstances, cable performance is not a significant contributor to system performance.

    The rub is in how you define significant. I don't think many engineers appreciate that some people have ears that are far more sensitive than most of the test equipment in an engineers lab.

  8. #8
    Forum Regular luvtolisten's Avatar
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    Non Beleiver

    Thank you for starting this thread NF. I agree with the above statement. I still think marketing, whether conscious or sub conscious plays with what you actually hear or think you hear. Until I see documentation, by an objective group, (and not by the manufacturer), I will remain a non believer. But to be honest I have never done an A/B comparison on a system over $1500, so perhaps I am ignorant, yet still, where is the data that supports there actually is a difference?

  9. #9
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smokey
    Well, that works well with any other branch of electronics. So why not with audio?
    Why stop there? In the real world, electronic components interact with each other. While all cables "work", some work more effectively in a system. Isolated testing also ignores another real world presence: RFI / EMI. While the cables themselves don't "sound" any different by themselves, they can be effective transmitters of all sorts of noise that may affect downstream components. The differences you hear are manifested by the amplification stages in various ways.

    Quote Originally Posted by Smokey
    Transparency in cables is easy to achieve by following few simple rules.
    If all you listen to is a cable, I would agree. As for me, I listen to a system where cables taken on active contributing roles. Systems add variables which create a more complicated scenario. It also depends upon your objectives. If all you seek is "professional sound reinforcement" quality, then indeed the task is quite simple.

    Quote Originally Posted by Smokey
    It only becomes hard when trying to use a cable as an equalizer.
    Who does that?

    rw

  10. #10
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by luvtolisten
    Until I see documentation, by an objective group, (and not by the manufacturer), I will remain a non believer.
    Skepticism is a good thing. I was quite skeptical about the effect of aftermarket power cords until I listened to some in my own system. I really didn't want them to make a difference, subtle as it was.

    Quote Originally Posted by luvtolisten
    ... where is the data that supports there actually is a difference?
    There are too many variables for any such tests to be useful for any given system. Unfortunately, it is a case of matching. A greater challenge is that many folks don't know what "better" really sounds like. The result is often less "impressive" sounding. Grunge-free high frequencies initially sound duller. Wider dynamic range sounds less loud. Unfortunately, many folks use professional sound reinforcement systems as the model to duplicate. I find unamplifed musical venues offer more demanding examples. Take your pick.

    I get a regular diet by listening to the wife play her baby grand. She and I listened to a symphonic wind concert over at the local university where she teaches a couple of nights back. That was a tasty treat. Reproducing the layered depth, dynamics, nuance and air of the live event is quite difficult to achieve. In opposition to another event we heard there using sound reinforcement that was hard and edgy sounding devoid of any depth. Vocal articulation was poor. You knew immediately you were listening to amplifiers and speakers.

    rw

  11. #11
    Forum Regular Kevio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by luvtolisten
    But to be honest I have never done an A/B comparison on a system over $1500, so perhaps I am ignorant, yet still, where is the data that supports there actually is a difference?
    I haven't either. But I admit haven't put much effort into it.

    As for evidence, there's the psychological: Objective as we might fancy ourselves, cable appearance, cost and recommendations from others will affect what we hear. As for the technical, there have been well-executed double-blind tests that demonstrate some people are able to repeatably hear the difference between cables. But with the subtlety and psychology involved I think it's really hard to distinguish improved sound and different sound. To the delight of skeptics, occasionally these tests have resulted in lamp cord beating out the expensive stuff.

  12. #12
    Suspended Smokey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevio
    II don't think many engineers appreciate that some people have ears that are far more sensitive than most of the test equipment in an engineers lab.
    How could that be since ear works in logarithm scale where test equipment works in linear scale. Not to mention earís variable sensitivity over the audio frequency range.

    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat
    If all you listen to is a cable, I would agree. As for me, I listen to a system where cables taken on active contributing roles. Systems add variables which create a more complicated scenario. It also depends upon your objectives. If all you seek is "professional sound reinforcement" quality, then indeed the task is quite simple.
    I really think that pretty much sum up our differences when pursuing cables. You seek cables to be a contributing factor in sonic of your system, where I seek cables that minimize that factor. So next time you say "Who does that?" when it comes to using a cable as an equalizer, I will point you to this post

    As you said there are alot of [uncontrollable] variables in an audio chain. But at least in the cable loop a listener can exercise some control over that variable by keep it transparent

  13. #13
    Forum Regular Kevio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smokey
    How could that be since ear works in logarithm scale where test equipment works in linear scale. Not to mention earís variable sensitivity over the audio frequency range.
    I'm not sure I understand your question. Are you saying that the technical demands of audio systems should be obvious to all? Or are you saying that test equipment is more sensitive than ears? I don't believe either statement is true, by the way.

  14. #14
    abNORMal IBSTORMIN's Avatar
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    Trust YOUR ears only.

    Quote Originally Posted by luvtolisten
    where is the data that supports there actually is a difference?
    If the data says there is a difference, but YOU can't hear it, don't spend the money on the higher priced spread. Data can be manipulated and everyones hearing is different.
    If the data doesn't say there is a difference but you think it sounds better, spend the extra money. It is really about what YOU like, not what someone else likes. Ask opinions of people you know and trust, but it really comes down to: Trust your own ears only!

  15. #15
    abNORMal IBSTORMIN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smokey
    It only becomes hard when trying to use a cable as an equalizer.
    If what you are trying to say is: Instead of searching for transparency, trying to "equalize" a system, make a bright system not so bright, or the reverse, I agree. It can be done, but you have to know what each brand of cables do and almost have to compare them in your system, which is tough.

  16. #16
    Meh. Brett A's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IBSTORMIN
    If the data doesn't say there is a difference but you think it sounds better, spend the extra money. It is really about what YOU like, not what someone else likes. Ask opinions of people you know and trust, but it really comes down to: Trust your own ears only!
    It's good to find a place on the internet where people are reasonable like this.

    My experience with interconnects has been that they do sound different from one another. In some cases, it's not subtle-even those ignorant about audio systems have noticed. I'm referring to switching out a $40 set with a $250 set.

    It's been such a part of my experience with this hobby, that the "debate" doesn't usually interest me. (but here i am anyway).

    I think some people who are committed to being non-believers spend more time and energy convincing themselves that they did not hear a difference because that is what "science" is telling them is the "truth".

    It all comes down to your (or my) personal experience, not what someone tells you to think.
    Amp Shanling A3000-> speakers Vienna Acoustic Mozart Grand CD Rotel RCD 991 AE TT: Well Tempered Record Player-> AT OC9MLII -> Jolida JD9. cables from AQ, Siltech, Bogdan, Signal DH Labs, etc...
    Some pictures of it all

  17. #17
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smokey
    You seek cables to be a contributing factor in sonic of your system, where I seek cables that minimize that factor.
    I'll rephrase that. I acknowledge that cables have an audible effect in the real world of interactions between electronic devices and speakers. I neither seek nor avoid the fact. I simply acknowledge it and move on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Smokey
    So next time you say "Who does that?" when it comes to using a cable as an equalizer, I will point you to this post
    What do you mean by that? I use bass traps as equalizers in the main system and use a third octave EQ on the subs in the HT.

    Quote Originally Posted by Smokey
    As you said there are alot of [uncontrollable] variables in an audio chain. But at least in the cable loop a listener can exercise some control over that variable by keep it transparent
    Exactly! Experiment and empirically determine which cables damage the signal integrity the least bit when used in your real world system! Simplistic and isolated analysis of RCL characteristics, however, is completely incapable of doing that!

    rw

  18. #18
    Sure, sure... Auricauricle's Avatar
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    "It all comes down to your (or my) personal experience, not what someone tells you to think".

    Sho 'nuff!

    Believer: "Do you think God exists?"
    Atheist: "I don't believe so. You?"
    True Believer: "You better believe it!"

    (Additions, ad nauseum, ad infinitum, requested....

  19. #19
    nightflier
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    Well I've been doing some reading on cables, especially what people have been saying about Mapleshade cables. Apparently, the PBJ cable difference I heard is a lot like what people are saying about Mapleshade cables. So that got me thinking: both cables are super thin and unshielded. Now I'm wondering if the differences I heard can be attributed to that specific fact. For example, Pierre Sprey attributes much of the haze in other cables to the dielectric used and says that by eliminating that, the cables reach a higher level of clarity.

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