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  1. #1
    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    Interesting read about Cables

    I got a second set of Analysis Plus speaker Cables yesterday and unlike my first pair, they sound like pure crap! They sound a little bright and the bottom end is muddy. I suspect its due to the cable needing to be broken in. I have a friend who has a breakin machine but he wont be back in town until Jan 4th so I'm just going to have to do it the old fashion way. Also I took my inner-connect cables to Mr.Peabodys house for the shootout and when I got them back home they too sounded like crap when I put them back into my system. So as I was searching the net to find some answers I ran across a very good article on Cardas Audio's site that I thought I would share. I learned a big lesson about moving my cables...never to do that again.


    Cable Break-In

    by George Cardas

    There are many factors that make cable break-in necessary and many reasons why the results vary. If you measure a new cable with a voltmeter you will see a standing voltage because good dielectrics make poor conductors. They hold a charge much like a rubbed catís fur on a dry day. It takes a while for this charge to equalize in the cable. Better cables often take longer to break-in. The best "air dielectric" techniques, such as Teflon tube construction, have large non-conductive surfaces to hold charge, much like the cat on a dry day.

    Cables that do not have time to settle, such as musical instrument and microphone cables, often use conductive dielectrics like rubber or carbonized cotton to get around the problem. This dramatically reduces microphonics and settling time, but the other dielectric characteristics of these insulators are poor and they do not qualify sonically for high-end cables. Developing non-destructive techniques for reducing and equalizing the charge in excellent dielectric is a challenge in high end cables.

    The high input impedance necessary in audio equipment makes uneven dielectric charge a factor. One reason settling time takes so long is we are linking the charge with mechanical stress/strain relationships. The physical make up of a cable is changed slightly by the charge and visa versa. It is like electrically charging the cat. The physical make up of the cat is changed by the charge. It is "frizzed" and the charge makes it's hair stand on end. "Teflon Cats", cables and their dielectric, take longer to loose this charge and reach physical homeostasis.

    The better the dielectric's insulation, the longer it takes to settle. A charge can come from simply moving the cable (Piezoelectric effect and simple friction), high voltage testing during manufacture, etc. Cable that has a standing charge is measurably more microphonic and an uneven distribution of the charge causes something akin to structural return loss in a rising impedance system. When I took steps to eliminate these problems, break-in time was reduced and the cable sounded generally better. I know Bill Low at Audioquest has also taken steps to minimize this problem.

    Mechanical stress is the root of a lot of the break-in phenomenon and it is not just a factor with cables. As a rule, companies set up audition rooms at high end audio shows a couple of days ahead of time to let them break in. The first day the sound is usually bad and it is very stressful. The last day sounds great. Mechanical stress in speaker cables, speaker cabinets, even the walls of the room, must be relaxed in order for the system to sound its best. This is the same phenomenon we experience in musical instruments. They sound much better after they have been played. Many musicians leave their instruments in front of a stereo that is playing to get them to warm up. This is very effective with a new guitar. Pianos are a stress and strain nightmare. Any change, even in temperature or humidity, will degrade their sound. A precisely tuned stereo system is similar.

    You never really get all the way there, you sort of keep halving the distance to zero. Some charge is always retained. It is generally in the MV range in a well settled cable. Triboelectric noise in a cable is a function of stress and retained charge, which a good cable will release with both time and use. How much time and use is dependent on the design of the cable, materials used, treatment of the conductors during manufacture, etc.

    There are many small tricks and ways of dealing with the problem. Years ago, I began using Teflon tube "air dielectric" construction and the charge on the surface of the tubes became a real issue. I developed a fluid that adds a very slight conductivity to the surface of the dielectric. Treated cables actually have a better measured dissipation factor and the sound of the cables improved substantially. It had been observed in mid eighties that many cables could be improved by wiping them with a anti-static cloth. Getting something to stick to Teflon was the real challenge. We now use an anti-static fluid in all our cables and anti-static additives in the final jacketing material. This attention to charge has reduced break-in time and in general made the cable sound substantially better. This is due to the reduction of overall charge in the cable and the equalization of the distributed charge on the surface of conductor jacket.

    It seems there are many infinitesimal factors that add up. Overtime you find one leads down a path to another. In short, if a dielectric surface in a cable has a high or uneven charge which dissipates with time or use, triboelectric and other noise in the cable will also reduce with time and use. This is the essence of break-in

    A note of caution. Moving a cable will, to some degree, traumatize it. The amount of disturbance is relative to the materials used, the cable's design and the amount of disturbance. Keeping a very low level signal in the cable at all times helps. At a show, where time is short, you never turn the system off. I also believe the use of degaussing sweeps, such as on the Cardas Frequency Sweep and Burn-In Record (side 1, cut 2a) helps.

    A small amount of energy is retained in the stored mechanical stress of the cable. As the cable relaxes, a certain amount of the charge is released, like in an electroscope. This is the electromechanical connection.


    Many factors relating to a cable's break-in are found in the sonic character or signature of a cable. If we look closely at dielectrics we find a similar situation. The dielectric actually changes slightly as it charges and its dissipation factor is linked to its hardness. In part these changes are evidenced in the standing charge of the cable. A new cable, out of the bag, will have a standing charge when uncoiled. It can have as much as several hundred millivolts. If the cable is left at rest it will soon drop to under one hundred, but it will takes days of use in the system to fall to the teens and it never quite reaches zero. These standing charges appear particularly significant in low level interconnects to preamps with high impedance inputs.

    The interaction of mechanical and electrical stress/strain variables in a cable are integral with the break-in, as well as the resonance of the cable. Many of the variables are lumped into a general category called triboelectric noise. Noise is generated in a cable as a function of the variations between the components of the cable. If a cable is flexed, moved, charged, or changed in any way, it will be a while before it is relaxed again. The symmetry of the cable's construction is a big factor here. Very careful design and execution by the manufacturer helps a lot. Very straight forward designs can be greatly improved with the careful choice of materials and symmetrical construction. Audioquest has built a large and successful high-end cable company around these principals.

    The basic rules for the interaction of mechanical and electrical stress/strain variables holds true, regardless of scale or medium. Cables, cats, pianos and rooms all need to relax in order to be at their best. Constant attention to physical and environmental conditions, frequent use and the degaussing of a system help it achieve and maintain a relaxed state.

    A note on breaking in box speakers, a process which seems to take forever. When I want to speed up the break-in process, I place the speakers face to face, with one speaker wired out of phase and play a surf CD through them. After about a week, I place them in their normal listening position and continue the process for three more days. After that, I play a degaussing sweep a few times. Then it is just a matter of playing music and giving them time.



    frenchmon
    Music...let it into your soul and be moved....with Canton...Pure Music


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  2. #2
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    Nice reading. Thanks frenchy.

  3. #3
    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    Yeah I thought it was a pretty good article.....I will never take cables from my system to another house again unless I am moving.

    frenchmon
    Music...let it into your soul and be moved....with Canton...Pure Music


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  4. #4
    Forum Regular FLZapped's Avatar
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    If you measure a new cable with a voltmeter you will see a standing voltage because good dielectrics make poor conductors. They hold a charge much like a rubbed cat’s fur on a dry day. It takes a while for this charge to equalize in the cable.
    Short the conductors together, charge gone. What you have is a basic capacitor:

    http://www.answers.com/topic/capacitor

    No magic here.

    Cables that do not have time to settle, such as musical instrument and microphone cables, often use conductive dielectrics like rubber or carbonized cotton to get around the problem.This dramatically reduces microphonics and settling time, but the other dielectric characteristics of these insulators are poor and they do not qualify sonically for high-end cables.
    These two things, while somewhat related, do not have the relationship the author is trying to build.

    Rubber is not conductive, unless heavily loaded with carbon. Carbonized cotton is. But the purpose is to mitigate the triboelectric effect - which I guess you could label as cable microphonics, but it is technically incorrect because the effect comes about from friction inside the cable when it is flexed. This condition cannot be undone by "break-in." It does not apply to microphones, unless you are talking about the cheapie crystal mics they used to supply with those old Wollensack reel-to-reel tape recorders.

    The high input impedance necessary in audio equipment makes uneven dielectric charge a factor.
    The author seems to forget that the OUTPUT impedance of most equipment, like a pre-amp, is extremely low (Between 50 ohms and a couple thousand ohms) and will swamp any cable effect - including that so called charge he talks about. It is demonstrated here:

    http://www.fortunecity.com/skyscrape.../145/ouch.html

    You also need to understand that the test involved VIOLENTLY striking the cable to produce any output from it. The minuscule vibration a cable might experience during use is inconsequential.

    The rest is just absolute bullcrap, like the above is and not worth commenting on.

    -Bruce

  5. #5
    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    What about this part?

    A note of caution. Moving a cable will, to some degree, traumatize it. The amount of disturbance is relative to the materials used, the cable's design and the amount of disturbance. Keeping a very low level signal in the cable at all times helps. At a show, where time is short, you never turn the system off. I also believe the use of degaussing sweeps, such as on the Cardas Frequency Sweep and Burn-In Record (side 1, cut 2a) helps.


    I took cable in my system to anothers house for a shoot out. After returning and installing the cable, the sound was muddy as heck. Only after a few days of playing music and leaving my system on did the sound start sound like it did before I moved the cable. And that was before I found and read the article by Mr. Cardas.

    How would you explain that? Not disputing anything you said, just looking for answers. Thanks.

    frenchmon
    Music...let it into your soul and be moved....with Canton...Pure Music


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  6. #6
    Forum Regular FLZapped's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frenchmon
    What about this part?

    A note of caution. Moving a cable will, to some degree, traumatize it. The amount of disturbance is relative to the materials used, the cable's design and the amount of disturbance. Keeping a very low level signal in the cable at all times helps. At a show, where time is short, you never turn the system off. I also believe the use of degaussing sweeps, such as on the Cardas Frequency Sweep and Burn-In Record (side 1, cut 2a) helps.


    I took cable in my system to anothers house for a shoot out. After returning and installing the cable, the sound was muddy as heck. Only after a few days of playing music and leaving my system on did the sound start sound like it did before I moved the cable. And that was before I found and read the article by Mr. Cardas.

    How would you explain that? Not disputing anything you said, just looking for answers. Thanks.

    frenchmon
    Unless it can be repeated and quantified, there is no way to verify nor explain what you are claiming. It's just an interesting story at this point.

    -Bruce

  7. #7
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    Last night, I decided to re-install a cartridge that I took off of my turntable a few months ago. I listened for maybe 2 hours and thought it sounded bad enough that I assumed I would remove it again, today. After another 3 hours or so of listening, I decided it sounded pretty good and it can stay. My tentative explanation is simply re-adjustment of my ears.

  8. #8
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 02audionoob
    Last night, I decided to re-install a cartridge that I took off of my turntable a few months ago. I listened for maybe 2 hours and thought it sounded bad enough that I assumed I would remove it again, today. After another 3 hours or so of listening, I decided it sounded pretty good and it can stay. My tentative explanation is simply re-adjustment of my ears.
    Night vs day listening is the reason this happened. Slow and sluggish night ears would be my guess.

  9. #9
    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    In other words its all in your head. I'm not buying it. I guess speaker cables and interconnect cables beak in is all a lie as well.

    frenchmon
    Music...let it into your soul and be moved....with Canton...Pure Music


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  10. #10
    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 02audionoob
    Last night, I decided to re-install a cartridge that I took off of my turntable a few months ago. I listened for maybe 2 hours and thought it sounded bad enough that I assumed I would remove it again, today. After another 3 hours or so of listening, I decided it sounded pretty good and it can stay. My tentative explanation is simply re-adjustment of my ears.
    It took a total of 5 hours for your ears to re-adjest?


    frenchmon
    Music...let it into your soul and be moved....with Canton...Pure Music


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  11. #11
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frenchmon
    It took a total of 5 hours for your ears to re-adjest?


    frenchmon
    No...it was fine for most of the 3-hour session. The 2-hour session was the troublesome one.

    My theory is that I got used to the new cartridge to the point that I liked it better. When I listened to the old one, it grated on me at first but I again got used to it and liked it.
    Last edited by 02audionoob; 12-21-2009 at 08:28 PM.

  12. #12
    Suspended Smokey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frenchmon
    In other words its all in your head. I'm not buying it. I guess speaker cables and interconnect cables beak in is all a lie as well.
    A lie might not be the right word. More appropriate definition would be a flawed concept.

    Just think about this for a second........

    In any field of electronics, if a cable show any change of specification over time (such as break-in), it will be labeled undesirable and discarded. But in audio branch of electronics, this phenomena about cable is accepted and promoted. Ever wonder why?

  13. #13
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    There's quite a few thiings I'm not sure about anymore. Cables being one of them. I have been researching speakers lately also. It would seem the boxed concept is not necessarily based on the best sound reproduction, but rather aesthetics and profit. Of course, any electrostat fan will tell you a "monkey coffin" is no good. I want to know for myself. I think I'll build a apir of open baffle to find out.

    As far as the cables go, I have never spent top dollar. I have heard Kimber and the like, and they sound good. My DIY solid core will give any of those a run for the money. Believe me, they sound good...

  14. #14
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smokey
    But in audio branch of electronics, this phenomena about cable is accepted and promoted. Ever wonder why?
    The answer is that the basic specifications don't tell the whole story.

    rw

  15. #15
    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smokey
    A lie might not be the right word. More appropriate definition would be a flawed concept.

    Just think about this for a second........

    In any field of electronics, if a cable show any change of specification over time (such as break-in), it will be labeled undesirable and discarded. But in audio branch of electronics, this phenomena about cable is accepted and promoted. Ever wonder why?
    I think your argument is flawed....read what you wrote and think about it.

    frenchmon
    Music...let it into your soul and be moved....with Canton...Pure Music


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  16. #16
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    So when buying used non-DBS powered cables, do we need to consider the synergy of previous systems cables were used in?

    .......jra

  17. #17
    It's just a hobby
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    Quote Originally Posted by frenchmon
    Yeah I thought it was a pretty good article.....I will never take cables from my system to another house again unless I am moving.

    frenchmon
    Mr. Cardas has achieved his objective because using his logic moving cables in anyway will necessarily traumatise them, its impossible to perform any serious form of camparative evaluation as some form of movement is a given in such scenarios, thereby enabling the punter fall back on that so lovely audiophile cop-out, "oh but you have not heard in my system".

    My take, yet another knock to credibility in the audiophile world. My question, how on earth does the manufacturer of such cables manufacture and consequently verify they up to spec, given that they are so delicate and any form of movement traumatises the cable .
    It's a listening test, you do not need to see it to listen to it!

  18. #18
    It's just a hobby
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    It seems there are many infinitesimal factors that add up.
    Now that's another good one, infinitesimal factors that add up to become finite, how many must they be for that to happen?
    It's a listening test, you do not need to see it to listen to it!

  19. #19
    Forum Regular FLZapped's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frenchmon View Post
    In other words its all in your head. I'm not buying it.
    OK, lets start with some visual illusions:

    Visual Illusions

    Now lets move on to aural illusions:

    Shepard Tones

    Tri-Tone Effect



    Quote Originally Posted by frenchmon View Post
    I guess speaker cables and interconnect cables beak in is all a lie as well.

    frenchmon
    Yep.

    -Bruce

  20. #20
    Forum Regular FLZapped's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat View Post
    The answer is that the basic specifications don't tell the whole story.

    rw
    No, but they can be used accurately predict what will happen, you just don't want to admit it.

    -Bruce

  21. #21
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FLZapped View Post
    No, but they can be used accurately predict what will happen, you just don't want to admit it.
    In your world, I am convinced that such is the case. You wouldn't understand had you taken additional years to respond.

    rw

  22. #22
    Forum Regular FLZapped's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat View Post
    In your world, I am convinced that such is the case. You wouldn't understand had you taken additional years to respond.

    rw
    Time elapsed has nothing to do with it.

    Yes, my world includes the likes of Tesla, Ohm, Faraday, Maxwell, and so forth. I think I'll keep my world as you put it.

    -Bruce

  23. #23
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FLZapped View Post
    Yes, my world includes the likes of Tesla, Ohm, Faraday, Maxwell, and so forth. I think I'll keep my world as you put it.
    I don't recall anyone of those guys doing an in-depth analysis as to the real world effects of different cable dielectrics. How much teflon were they using back then? You assume that we must necessarily know all there ever is to know about what affects the sound quality of a cable. I don't share that position.

    I'm delighted you can prance a list of names, but - why do you think that identifying additional factors to cable audibility (to which they have not been exposed) is in any way counter to their laws? Nature is full of non-linear behavior. Your world relies entirely upon theory. Which works great until it doesn't. When it doesn't fully explain a complex system. Direct human experience has always filled that gap. And made things better.

    rw

  24. #24
    You play. I listen. Enochrome's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smokey View Post
    A lie might not be the right word. More appropriate definition would be a flawed concept.

    Just think about this for a second........

    In any field of electronics, if a cable show any change of specification over time (such as break-in), it will be labeled undesirable and discarded. But in audio branch of electronics, this phenomena about cable is accepted and promoted. Ever wonder why?
    Nuff said. You're right that is hardly ever taken into consideration.

    I feel, besides proper exclusion of RFI, that cable markets is hocus pocus. I did an A/B of Kimber Kables and some cheap Audioquest and I could not hear the difference. I just recently took off the Kimber and replaced it with a cut up outdoor power cord ("white lightning" method) and it sounds great, durable, and cost me $11 for 20 feet from Target.

    Now interconnects are different, because the connectors can make a difference. YOU GOT TO PLUG BEFORE YOU CAN PLAY!!

  25. #25
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    By dropping large sums of cash on cables there is the expectation of improved sound yet that expectation can be a contaminating effect upon one's judgement of actual performance.

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