3 things I learned from using MANY interconnect cables


At last, I am posting here for the first time! I got so much help from this forum and always felt a bit guilty about not contributing.

Over the past several years, I have used the following interconnect cables: Audioquest Golden Gate, Audioquest Columbia, Audioquest Sky, Monster Interlink 300 MkIII, Harmonic Technology Pro Silway (I have used both Mk I and Mk II), Silnote Morpheus, Anticables (the original version), Tara Labs RSC, Nordost Heimdall, Straightwire Crescendo, and Chord Anthem. They were all purchased used and I always had 2 or more pairs to compare at a given time although I didn’t have these cables all at once. Through the journey, I learned the following:

1. The price was NOT indicative of the sound quality unless you go very cheap (less than $100). I think this point is self-explanatory so I am not adding any elaboration.

2. Disconnecting and re-connecting the cables had a very positive impact on sound quality, which will affect any AB comparison. If you are comparing two pairs of cables that had comparable sound quality, the new cables will sound better because the connection would be fresh.

3. In my experience, the cables were NOT system dependent. This might raise some eye brows as it goes against the commonly held belief so I am going to explain a bit here.

All I am saying is that I have never seen a case where my preference order of two sets of interconnect cables got reversed when tested on two or more components (e.g. cable A was better than cable B on amp X but cable B was better on amp Y, etc). With any AB comparison I ever did, the better cable always won no matter what component I was testing them on.

Oh in case someone is curious, the best pair of interconnect cables I have ever used was Chord Anthem. It had a wider frequency range and a more natural tonality than others. And I would rather not add the qualification "but it was the best only in my system" because of the 3rd point I made above. Cheers!
johnson0134
A refreshing viewpoint...Thanks!
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Very interesting and refreshingly objective.  Chord is now on my radar although relatively rare here in the US.  Very nice post!
Thanks for the observations.  I’m  certainly struck by the impact on sound a single IC pair can make.  Encouraging to read your comment about equipment independence of IC performance.  A courageous post, even!  
@johnson0134: I am curious: what IC was the runner-up to the Chord Anthem?
@johnson0134, I will try the Chord Anthem. You should try Cerious Technologies Graphene Matrix IC’s.
Agreed lancelock. I am a believer in Cerious Technologies wires. Argue as you will about graphene etc, but they just sound really good.
johnson0134 do you mean if you swap ic A between various components in your system that it always sounds the same?For instance ic A between Dac and pre sounds exactly the same as between pre and amp?Just curious:)I always have a preference as to where the cable sounds best.
Johnson 0134 your number 3 reasoning will get disagreement here at Agon, many here including me believe cables  are systems dependent....
I think he's saying that cables are listener dependent.  Can't argue with that. 
Choice of cable is dependent on system and personal taste.

You have had only limited experience.

You may contact Dave of Zenwave to ask for free trial of his excellent D4 IC cable.

https://zenwaveaudio.com/contact-us/

It will blow away Chord Anthem.

Thomas
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I would be interested in an overall top five list of cables, and a separate top five list of cost-effective cables.   Thank you in advance for your efforts. 
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Sometimes, the pseudo-science  on these forums is astounding ...

"It had a wider frequency range..." Really? What exactly do you mean by this? Did you measure it using appropriate technology? Is a wider(r) frequency range actually a good thing?

See: http://www.hi-fiworld.co.uk/amplifiers/75-amp-tests/147-frequency-response.html


Dont rule out Blue Jeans which is Belden, which is what by far most recording studios are using to get the music onto the recording medium to begin with.
To the OP’s three points:
1. Unfortunately, doesn’t hold true in my system, though I overall prefer one of two of equal price for most recordings. In other words, two most expensive were best
2. Doesn’t hold true if your connectors are clean. Also, cables, especially more complicated ones, need some time, which varies, to settle, so they sound slightly worse right after re connection.
3. To simplify, holds true in my system, but the difference depends on where you put them in the chain.
Hats off to you for going through so many! I agree on the price thing, disagree on the second point, and can't comment on the third, but see the logic. I think most of the time we're not hoarding cables we didn't already like much in the hope they'll come good in a different system.
How many of the interconnects you tried were *marked* as directional and did you find any correlation between “directional” ICs and “non-directional” ICs? 
I'm with @geoffkait on this one, a variable that should be discussed.
Actually, it's been discussed to death already.
Oh, it’s been discussed. It just hasn’t sunk it yet. 😳

Pop quiz later.
@ rnabokov

Sometimes, the pseudo-science on these forums is astounding ...

"It had a wider frequency range..." Really? What exactly do you mean by this? Did you measure it using appropriate technology? Is a wider(r) frequency range actually a good thing?


I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion just yet. Find below a quote from a comment made here by Bob Smith...

https://www.dagogo.com/audio-blast-schroeder-method-interconnect-placement/

And the most relevant part is below ( though reading the whole comment would help give you a better idea about the Schroeder Method, a exciting new idea in cable configurations that has many extremely happy users here on Audiogon....see that below....

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/doug-schroeder-method-double-ic ).....

Noteworthy in the above is the fact that the Capacitance doubles and the upper Cutoff Frequency (where above which the signal begins to be attenuated) almost doubles. So in the event that we “double-up” our audio cables, we actually extend their bandwidth – albeit we are talking in the region of radio frequencies so there is no real benefit there with respect to extending the fundamental audio bandwidth.

What IS significant though is the fact that all of the above leads to a potential reduction in reflected energy and/or standing waves within the cable, and that is because of two primary factors. By lowering the Character Impedance and consequently, raising the Cutoff Frequency, we “push” or force any potential reflections up to twice the frequency at which they would otherwise occur. That then leads to two other outcomes. First, higher frequencies find it more difficult to propagate down the length of any conductor due to the “skin effect,” and are therefore usually attenuated more with respect to those that occur at lower frequencies. As a result, lower magnitude levels of reflected energy translates into less interaction with the Source and Load circuits. That means less potential for the formation of any associated Phase Distortion artifacts as outlined above.

What is being talked about is the cable generated and cable specific noise that occurs in cables, and which can be reduced by simply expanding the bandwidth of the cable. And please note that it was this particular issue that pushed tele-communication companies to adopt fibre-optic networks ( the old wire networks were producing so much cable generated reflection that it was obscuring signal when under heavy load).

And btw it is this extended band-width that seems to the basis of the success of the Shroeder Method style cable ( and shameless plug...our own cables which have a very unusually broad bandwidth )

Hope I expressed that correctly/clearly.

How many people have 300-mile interconnects? Or 3000, for that matter.
@geoffkait

Johnny has 5 apples, Suzie has 3, how many apples does Bob have?

Summit your answer to win a cable comparison!

Happy Listening!
Here’s one for you. Bill has ten marbles. Paul takes three of Bill’s marbles. John takes two of Bill’s marbles and two of Paul's marbles. Then he gives two back to Bill. How long before Bill loses all his marbles?
johnson0134,

You are of course absolutely right. So right in fact that I would think anyone who actually bothers to do what you've done would have to agree. Most of the people who disagree turn out to not have spent much time doing the work to know what they are talking about. The remaining doubters pretty much all fall into the category of haven't yet figured out how to evaluate the one thing being evaluated so that instead of looking for the best component they are looking for the best band-aid. Only they haven't figured that out yet.

Well there is one more category, but it is thank God a category of one.

Anyway the connection observation is important enough I've mentioned it to people many times. Especially when comparing something like a fuse its important to first remove the original, clean everything, and reinstall BEFORE attempting to compare with anything else.

Another thing I thought you might mention, though not surprised you missed it as its fairly subtle. Simply handling a cable, wiggling it around connecting and disconnecting, is enough to affect the sound. Disconnect a cable, wiggle it real good, connect it back up again. Listen as it takes a few minutes for the sound to settle back in.

Its actually kind of funny people thinking cables are system dependent. Like the laws of the universe aren't really laws, they're a little different every where you go. Right. Good one.

Nice observation. You are on the right track. Want to hear something really good, try any wire with Synergistic Research on it.
IMHO, manufacturers claim the holy grail of neutral sound when, in fact, many have a house sound. I can tell a Nordost cable from a Shunyata, Audioquest or Audience. (Nordost will be faster but not as full bodied as the others--and the others have differences as well). On the other hand, companies like Stealth make cables with different conductor material, each having a different sound. Thus the only way to find out which cable sounds best to you is to try it in your system.   
gpgr4blu"manufacturers claim the holy grail of neutral sound when, in fact, many have a house sound."

Every component within a Music Reproduction System has an individual, quantifiable, distinct sound, characteristic, and identity there is no such thing as any component being completely neutral, accurate, and free from distortion.
@clearthink:

Yes, and so do each and every specific instrument that the musicians play and so do their individual choices of "stuff" they use to enhance their instrument to get the "sound" they want.  As the writer of "The Buddy Holly Story" film had the actor who played Buddy say,  

"Because he doesn't know what it is, and I can't tell him. That's why. How's he going to produce what I hear? It starts with me. Your complex system here-Heck, it works fine for you guys. But we're a little band, three pieces. I write the songs. There's no formal arrangement. We'll make a sound together, and when it feels good, we put it on a tape. Now, if your producer could do that, then you'd owe him $75,000, not me. Is that right?"

Read more: https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=buddy-holly-story-the  

So, what you are saying is that a person needs to set up a system in his or her ROOM and listen and make changes until they get the "sound" they like.

"Sounds" about right to me.  And sorry, I still don't buy the cable thing, but whatever turns you on is fine with me.

Cheers! 
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Clearthink
Agreed. All components have their own sound. Sometimes the manufacturer of a component claims its component provides neutral sound, others do not. My point was that cables too have their own sound and should be utilized to work with the system that one has to reach the result that one desires

Its actually kind of funny people thinking cables are system dependent. Like the laws of the universe aren’t really laws, they’re a little different every where you go.

Laws of the universe are created by one designer.

Audio components are manufactured by many designers:
- who partner with other designers of gear at audio shows that bring out the best in their product.

Also, these designers of audio components:
- hear differently.
- use different parts in the component build.
- use different speakers when auditioning.
- have different power delivery in their shops.
- have different listening rooms.
- etc, etc.

Capacitors with the same values from different manufacturers cause sound to vary. Different materials are used. Same with cables.

What’s really weird is engineers who think that all laws of the universe are known.  Or that the known ones are fully understood.
@roberjerman

For me the runner up was Harmonic Technology Pro Silway. But I have a feeling many people would prefer Audioquest Sky or Columbia actually. To me, they sounded a bit too smooth, pleasant and soft compared to other brands
@lancelock
Thanks! I will try Cerious if I ever see it coming up here for sale

@jtcf 
"do you mean if you swap ic A between various components in your system that it always sounds the same?For instance ic A between Dac and pre sounds exactly the same as between pre and amp?Just curious:)I always have a preference as to where the cable sounds best. "

No that's not what I meant and I don't have a lot of experience with putting in the same pair of cables at different points in my system as I usually have a DAC directly connected to a power amp.

What I meant was that when I had two different amps and two different pairs of IC cables, one pair sounded better than the other on BOTH amps, and it has been always the case. That's ALL I am saying.
@jayctoy 

Yup I know. And I don't mind people disagreeing with me :-)
And maybe my understanding of the definition of "system dependent" is different from that of others and maybe even wrong. I am just trying to report my observations in case they are helpful. Proving that I am right doesn't...interest me much.
@elizabeth 

The personal observations other members posted here meant something to me and helped me more than any professional review I've read. That's why I shared mine here. Just to contribute a little after many years of getting free help from other members. I am totally fine with people disagreeing with me or even finding no value in a post like this as I believe (and hope) this can be helpful to some people.

@rnabokov I guess I should have written "I felt like I was hearing the upper and bottom frequencies more clearly with these cables". Never meant to be scientific. And I am open to the possibility that all this is in my imagination ;-)
@inna 

About more expensive cables being better than others IN GENERAL, I am actually open to that possibility. I was only saying the price wasn't a reliable indicator of sound quality with the cables I have personally used. I am only reporting my observations and experiences. Sorry if I sounded like I was trying to make a general statement.

About #2, I am actually pretty confident that the idea (=disconnecting and freshly connecting cables) will help in many other systems. I just made fresh connections of ALL of my cables (IC, speaker,  power cords, etc) and the improvement I am hearing is VERY noticeable. And I don't believe the tips of all my cables are dirty or faulty. The idea really doesn't cost anything so one might as well try it and see what happens.
@motokokusanagi

Yes you are right; we don't hoard all the cables we purchase. I don't think my wife would understand it although she's generally very understanding toward my hobby, and even encourages me to buy the top of the line (and expensive) stuff :-)
@geoffkait 

All of the ones I tried had the signal flow printed on the cables and I never bothered experimenting with going against what the manufacturer was telling me to do. But it would be interesting.
Arrows are traditionally used. Lettering doesn’t mean anything. If there aren’t any arrows then you have to try both ways. From what I gather relatively few cable manufacturers control their cables for directionality, which requires them to keep track of the direction of the cable during the entire production.
@millercarbon "Simply handling a cable, wiggling it around connecting and disconnecting, is enough to affect the sound" - That’s interesting and I would love to try it. But I don’t know how easy it would be to separate these two different actions (re-connecting vs wiggling). Honestly I would not have paid much attention to such a proposal ten+ years ago when I used to believe everything in audio forums was kind of fairy tales. But many of them turned out to be true in my experience; except the 16 bit vs 24 bit difference - I was never able to pass a blind test even though I thought I was hearing a difference when I wasn’t "blinded". 

"Want to hear something really good, try any wire with Synergistic Research on it." - Funny you mentioned it because I literally JUST got a power cord from SR, my first time using their product. A wonderful improvement it brought about!
@geoffkait 

Ah ok but all of them had an arrow printed on them. 
But were they shielded? Because that’s a separate issue. 
I think I should add some clarification to point #3. If "system dependent" means someone might prefer cable A while another might prefer cable B, then yes, I agree that cables are system dependent, wholeheartedly.

What I meant in the original post was simply that there was no preference order change between two pairs of cables ever happening to me, given that my taste in sound remains constant. That's all I was saying.
@roxy54
@soix
@ghosthouse
@lancelock
@shkong78

Thanks for the kind words and suggestions. It was my first time making a post here and didn't know the discussion thread would get active this quickly :-(  I honestly don't think I can keep up with all these new comments and respond to them when I am summoned. So I just wanted to thank you guys before I disappear for a while.

One final comment: I don't think the purpose of a forum like this is to compete against each other on proving who's right. I believe it's rather finding a solution by working TOGETHER so we can accomplish our common goal - enjoy the music in excellent sound.

Take care! Tschüss! 안녕히 계세요!


Johnson 0134 , you did well on your thread and post, especially for the first timer, don’t disappear, this is how we get good info on a bit disagreement,... thank you for the thread and your post....We are all winners😀
Food for thought: standard interconnect cables aren’t really shielded. Gotta wonder why signal ground had been taken for granted as not needing a shield (chassis ground). There is a better way. Shielded twisted pair cables with the shield being chassis ground. That’s how I’m wiring my system.