A butt-load spent in cables - how much improvemt?

We spend quite a bit in cables for our systems, I'm wondering how much overall sonic improvement we get from cables? Let me explain my thought.....

I'm very happy with my current cabling (IC's, PC's, digital coax, and speaker cables). I was thinking about removing ALL of them and putting in ALL the original stuff I started with (stock PC's, cheap Monster IC's, Monster digital coax, and Monster XP copper speaker wire).

Then listening to the system to see how much degradation in sound I would have. Has anybody else thought of doing this or has done this?
Just do it. No one will laugh.
Depends, as always, on the system. On my recent interim system consisting of my current Wadia, an Ayre AX-7e and B&W 804S speakers (no isolation gear or any of the other stuff I have now) I was using all kinds of low end cable with no issues (bettercables speaker cables, interconnects, Transparent basic Musiclin)k. When I moved up to my current system configuration I nearly went deaf from the horrid sound. I upgraded the cable and all was well. In the end, the improvement was beyond measurement.

Monster cable and power products will make your face melt (and not in the Jack Black good way).
I'm very happy with my current cabling

Me too...I use stock PC's, stock balanced XLR IC's and Monster speaker cable for surround speakers. I do use a power conditioner to get rid of AC line noise and to maintain appropriate voltage and it did make a small difference but apart from that I don't sweat or worry about what kind of copper wires to use between gear or those that connect them to an outlet.

If simpy changing a cable makes a huge difference then it says more about the robustness and matching of the system components themselves than anything else. Good properly matched gear should not change presentation dramatically because of a different piece of appropriately shielded/sized wire that connects it to other components or supplies power to it. Just my two cents.
Great setup. Those alcoves for the speakers/sub might pose some significant bass management issues have you considered adding bass traps in the corners at the back of the alcoves?

I see the fronts of your speakers are brought forward from the edge of the wall- so edge diffraction should not be so much of an issue...nevertheless you might get a better imaging withe the speakers forward a bit more.

Strictly speaking you should close the gap between the frame and the center channel (make sure no gap) - a picture frame sometimes works well - a gap will give you edge diffraction issues and reduce the imaging.

I really like this room and setup...it looks awesome and that 71" screen has me drooling!! I hope my suggestions are taken in the spirit they are offered...just passing on some experiences...suggestions only and no criticism intended on what is one of the more impressive HT setups on A'gon. nice job.
The results of every double-blind cabling test ever performed speak for themselves. The reluctance of proponents/salesmen of expensive cabling to engage in such testing speaks volumes.
The "how-much-improvement" depends---Lots of money and lots of exuberance/expatiation can make us happy; unfortunatly it seems to never end. I was reading an ad for 6ft. biwire at 17k. Then I think for those cables one should have near that amount in speakers--that amount in amplification--that amount in the front end,be it analog or digital.---Oh ya, ics to match. I think the parts need to be of similar quality to match the cost of wires. Meaning I think good wires improve good parts;but I think the "good parts" come first.---upgrading each as part of the journey.---I find I need a "fix" every 6months to a year, as I go along. Wires for me are last in the chain of money spent.I don't have a problem with those whom think differently.
Bring your speakers out more. You have the space. I'm certain they can match the room acoustics much better if you experiment a little.
Also, this is a VERY inexpensive tweak.
As to cables, my feeling is Home Depot extentsion cord can sound as good as $1000 speaker cables. I have experienced it myself. Sometimes the expensive stuff merely sounds different, not better. There was a A/B comparison done by Absolute Sound a fre years ago and HD extension cord was near the top with multi-thousand cables. No kidding.
Please do compare and post your results.
Good Luck.
You never need apologize for conducting your own back-to-back tests of what works best for you. If you put the old cables back and are pleased with the results, you can re-sell your expensive cables and save a bunch of money. If you find the expensive ones sound better, you can give yourself some peace that your money was well-spent.

While hardly unique to high-end audio, we can apply enormous psychological pressure to ourselves to conform to others' expectations. Heaven forbid that we not be sophisticated enough as trained listeners to not hear "obvious" differences! People we don't know might whisper behind our backs about our being country bumpkins or such.

It is very difficult for us to separate advertising hype, fads and fashions from what we really hear. However, I wish more people would do what you've proposed. Haul out the old stuff and do a reality check - compare it to the new. Then choose the one that makes sense to you.

Note that none of this requires you denigrate the one you don't pick. You are not writing your thesis for your PhD, nor are you declaring what is good and noble for the world at large. You're simply choosing some wire for your stereo.
I have found that it is much easier to hear a downgrade in performance rather than an upgrade. When doing cables, this is particularly easy, rather than having to switch out a big component. The "wow" factor is really evident on the downgrade, so swapping around should give you a definite answer!

Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon?
I would not want to be forced to do a blind test.

I've spent to much on cables. Of all I've owned I like the Monster Sigma retro the best. I've tried a few expensive brands (will not mention the names). I've also heard cables that cost 6-7 times what the retros cost at retail. The guy who had me listen to these cables insisted they made a hugh difference. I heard nothing. If I had it to do over again I would probably stay away from the expensive cable game. It is amazing to me the claims made by people about cables. Keep in mind folks, many times people hear all this extra detail due to cables. This is after the very music they are listening to went through hundreds of feet of the cheapest cables available at the studio or concert venue. Cables that are being walked on and not properly cared for at all.

That being said, if you can truly afford it - go for it. My feelings about the cable game are the same as vman71. That is do they do anything at all. When I am being 100% honest, I honestly can't give you a definitive answer. I can tell you for the last 2 years when I need a cable I go directly to Frank at signal cable. I have not been disappointed yet. I also don't sit and wonder how much better my system would be if I spent $20,000.00 on cables. I've heard a system that had that kind of money tied up in the cables. All I could think while I was listening was this should sound better. I thought this because it did not sound any better than mine. We had the same amplifier and the same phono cartridge.
I also hear a marked difference when downgrading the cables,components. Maybe because the new stuff usually has to go through a lengthy break-in period before you notice the improvement. The older cables need basically a short "settling" in period, so the ear has less time to adapt.
I wouldn't dream of going back from my MIT EVOs. Saved a good while to get them and appreciate them every time I listen. Saving again for Oracle V1.1s. Will start with Cd to pre. Looking forward to it!
Jimmdavis - Yup.
Keep in mind that while some listeners can hear a big difference in cables, others can't. I wonder if those who can't don't have their systems set up correctly, with respect to speaker placement etc. Also, some systems are not fussy about cables...it's all sort of relative.

I once put a virtual dynamics power cord (Power 3) on my CD player and everything changed, including the bass became too strong; even my wife commented on it and she usually cannot hear any differences in upgrades. I ended up using a virtual dynamics nite power cord on the player and love it. Then one day, the cord developed an open circuit while I reconfigured it and I was forced to use the stock cord while the nite was sent back to Canada. Wow, I was back to mediocrity.

Everyone and every system is different. If you switch back to your original cables and do not notice anything, by all means sell your expensive cables and invest in more music. It's all a matter of opportunity cost...good luck and let us know how you make out.
It seems to me that cable performance is non price hierarchical but rather to do the power in you house and the way your system matches to the wire, RF rejection, etc.
Seasoned wrote (regarding audibility of cables): "I wonder if those who can't [hear] don't have their systems set up correctly...."

While there were some softening modifiers added afterwards, I think this is the type of comment we need to avoid. While not in-your-face, the clear insinuation is that if you can't hear a difference, there must be something "wrong" with your system.

There are a lot of variables that impact how a systems sounds. Your room may be plagued with RFI and mine not. You may have a poor connection at an electrical junction box buried in your wall a couple of rooms away and I may not. Your speakers may be more reactive and present a difficult load to an amp sensitive to such issues while another system is more stable in this regard.

And we haven't even got to the psychological issues yet or the fact that different people do not prioritize the importance of various audio cues in the same order.

The goal is that each of us ends up with a system within our budget that makes us happy, not the other guy. To that end I think we need to remember that our choices are nothing more than that - ours.
I think that is a great response Mlsstl. Clean power, rf rejection, component matching etc., have so much to do with cables. You can't just stick an expensive cable in somewhere and say it sounds better because you want it to either. If people better understood and were open to dialogue on the issues of what the cables relate to in terms of current, rfi and the rest of the system, I think there would be less bad blood in the camps that argue over these things

After all, many things make little bit of difference, including what time of day you play your stereo. That doesn't make me tell people that they can't possible hear anything if they listened to something in the middle of the day on a hot afternoon though.

We all have to *try* to be reasonable!
Good point Mlsstl - My choice is not to purchase ANY expensive cables/power cords.
Mothra - yeah, like here in Montgomery, AL. High here was 104 today - Alabama Power generated record amount of electricity-that prolly can affect the sound!
My best listening on my system is usually after 11:00 P.M. Obviously because there is less garbage in the AC.
I agree fully with Shardone that a good properly matched gear should not change presentation dramatically because of a different piece of cable.
In the 60's and 70's there were several very musical sounding systems (Thorens/Marantz/Quad ESL 57) around, while people were using ordinary... zip cords! Why should we replace cabling with super expensive stuff when there is balance in sound?

In a well-matched, ultra-low-power, single-tube, single-driver system, with clean isolated battery power (lemon/CU/ZN), ideal feng shui, purified air, properly oil-suspended granite floor slab, and fibonacci-sequenced room proportions... you really shouldn't need actual cables, as they interfere with the natural electrosonic energy path. So I've done the only sensible thing, and eliminated those damn thangs altogether. My plebian neighbor claims he can't hear the pure sound, but evidently he's never really developed his critical listening skills.
I believe the expression is "...a boat load of money..." rather than "butt-load". But wait, are you incarcerated?
Jim Davis has the right of it. However if you spend more and hear a difference, then you do, and thats all that matters! Can you imagine Mike Lavigne, with his excellent system, with lamp cord as speaker cables... He would be mortified but the vast majority in a DBX test would NEVER hear the difference. A sad but true fact. I think Randi has a million dollars for anyone who can hear the difference.
I wonder what group of people participated in the double-blinds. It may be the masses. For example in double-blind tests, the results show most people can't tell the diff between Coke and Pepsi. A friend of mine said I couldn't tell the difference on that as well as some other items. I proved him wrong in every case. I think it would be the same with cables as well.

I think it's the same with audio. My wife says she can't hear any differences in my various audio setups. I can clearly detect differences in cables alone. I found the differences became more pronounced the more I upgraded my system. I'm running a Krell now and find it's very sensitive to not just cables but to any sort of source. On my previous two systems (Marantz and NAD) the differences were noticeable but considerably less than the Krell.

Cables have inherent capacitance and conductance. These attributes and resistance are the components of a filter. With high input impedance you can imagine the multiplying effect this is going to contribute the filter parameters. My ears tell me there's a difference and scientifically there's a basis.

regards, David
I don't think anyone will argue, for instance, that capacitance will affect sound. However, it's not going to cost a lot of money to simply find a lower or higher capacitance cable.

Where people start to wonder what is going on is when the cable makers start to use a lot of other "science" to explain why you should spend thousands of dollars on their product. R&D costs something,ads and small part manufacture are issues for making small quanities of anything (though they don't have machining costs in cable manufacturing generally) but wire is fairly cheap.

The very idea that 30K speaker cables exist scares a lot of people.
Bin, I would go one step further and contend not only that the vast majority would hear no difference in a double-blind test, but that the vast majority of those who claim they CAN hear a difference would likewise fail said double-blind test. This has been pretty well demonstrated and documented.
I have a system consisting of speakers with extreme revealing properties, and a power section that matches it. I can distinctly hear the difference between cables.

They go, from transparent as my other gear to real garbage mouths. The hierarchy is not cost dependent. The worst I've had was a $9,000 speaker cable. The second worst was a $7,000 speaker cable. The best I have heard, meaning I don't hear them, have been $25 per foot DIY ribbon speaker Cables. and $1.00 per foot interconnects.

Power cables are a different matter.
Well, i think it s pretty well documented that DBT's are unreliable themselves. I am the last person to argue in preference of high cost tweaks, but I think neither the DBT or the non-DBT community likes to admit that everyone is a little bit right.
Makes sense as those 9k cables are basically funding an R/D effort to tailor the sound with R,L,C, and dielectrics tuned for a particular voicing. These cables are far from "neutral", despite their best efforts to sound that way.
Mothra, I'm sincerely curious as to what you mean by "well documented that DBT's are unreliable themselves". Unreliable at doing what?... because the only thing a double-blind test (as applied to audio) claims to do is determine whether a person can distinguish a sonic difference by hearing alone. Participants in the test are given ample opportunity to identify the difference between conditions 'A' and 'B', and that's all the test aims to determine.

Now I realize that some people will confuse the question of auditory perception with that of explanatory physics, which is an entirely different issue. When listening tests fail to identify phenomena that can be measured with other instrumentation or mathematical models, this is no different than a motorcycle "failing" to get you to the moon.

Can you give an example of how a double-blind listening test would be unreliable at its intended purpose (determining how consistently one can identify an audible difference)?
no cables, no components, no stereo systems are neutral.

a trained listener can detect coloration after an extended period of exposure, with suitable sources, to any stereo system.

it is better to admit that all equipment is voiced, intentionally or otherwise, as it is sold at a price point.
Some stereo systems, because of their components, are more neutral than others. A trained listener is a person who attends live acoustic performances. If the stereo can reproduce a cello and a violin convincingly, then that is a trustworthy indication it can get other musical entertainment accurately as well.

The closer the system can approach neutrality, the more evident most cabling sucks. The majority of expensive cabling is heavily jacketed with synthetics. On a super revealing system, that insulation floods the signal with a static mess. I can prove that.

Highly obscuring cables are for what ales your source, preamp, amp, and speakers. Get those items right, and rid yourself of the need to cable roll.

Sigh. This is why i stopped posting at rec.audio.high-end. It seems the reductionist camp and the "everything is magic" camp never tire of arguing.

Unreliable and being level matched certainly sometimes.

People tend not to name what they are hearing if they don't understand properly what they are listening for or how they are listening for it. This doesn't mean they do not hear something, it only means they cannot identify it.

I remember there was a DBT test a friend of mine who is a mastering engineer participated in some time back, where people were asked to identify dithered and non dithered material. Most people couldn't not identify the sound of jitter or could not say what it was. However, when the sound of the jitter was turned up so one could hear the way it sounds and then turned back down to its original "inaudible" level, most people could tell the difference in the DBT because they knew how to indentify the sound they were listening for.

I don't have a problem with DBT's myself, I do them when I can to listen for differences in gear.

The history of DBT's has been spotty though. They have showed us apparently, that no amps sound different, that vinyl does not sound different from cassette , etc., etc. So, one can say that these were poorly conducted, but at some point something everyone knows, like that there is a discenable difference in the sound of amplifers, has been "proved" wrong by a DBT.

I don't particularly care whether people swear by them or don't and I am also suspicious by nature about tweaks, cables and other things that seem less than scientific. Since my job is in audio, I am constantly testing for audible differences. However, this process has a lot more wiggle room than determining that a motorcycle can't get you to the moon.

Appreciate the intelligent response, specifically the example of turning up the jitter effect and then returning it to its normal level. These discussions need more elucidation of that sort, and less ad hominem.

While we must consider whether or not the listener knows what he's listening for, I wouldn't say that the phenomenon you describe undermines the credibility of double-blind tests, but rather more clearly defines what they actually achieve. In other words, DBT's never proved that amps sound alike, but only proved that the test's participants couldn't readily identify the difference.

I guess we should always qualify the question of audible difference in terms of whose ear(s) we're considering. The general public wouldn't be expected to differentiate between cables, but those individuals who CLAIM they can tell the difference (like those in your example who've already heard the jitter turned up) should have little trouble discerning reliably in a blind test.
No one hearing my system first can tell me a blind test is necessary for telling for sure the difference of this amp or that amp. I had a two very respected maker amps servicing my speakers, and they both sounded nothing like each other, and neither approached the fidelity of my amps.

Like I said before, wires create distortion. Wires and ribbons cannot be improved on through insulation. They just go through make up and costume.

We tried different digital cables on a fine Audio Note SET system. One was a simple AV triwire we get with cheap video purposes. There was also a Silverline Audio, an Audio Note silver, Audio Quest, and the most expensive, a Virtual Dynamics. We had one blindfolded listener, who is an audio reviewer, and four other honest audiophiles, including me.

Without the blind folded person knowing we exchanged the wires from the cheapest to the most expensive. The AV cable sounded really good on this excellent system. The next three sounded..... No different. I was the cable skeptic of the bunch. At the time I didn't have the system I am enjoying now.
I was feeling quite vindicated.

Then it was the $900 VD's turn. To all of our amazement, It sounded decidedly more vivid. The Blind folded guy was the only one allowed to speak during this test. He too heard a difference only with the VD installed.

Structurally, the VD is very different.

The moral is, science can make a better wire. It's just that most audio wire makers are more interested in creating the most successful lure. That's what sells.
Thanks for the response Jim.

FWIW , unless I inherit cables in gear purchases,I make my own and have been quite happy.

I have some friends who changed all their power and IC cables and really felt it made a huge difference but I have yet to be convinced to go that route.
Slow train coming for me....cabling was the last "upgrade" I took on in the early development of my system. Over the years, I have come to believe that cabling is every bit as important and significant to a system's presentation as speakers...

I currently have a fully Crystal Cable ReferenceConnect wired system, (4) power cords, (2) set of interconnect and speaker wire. MSRP of the lot is iver $22,500.00. Insane? Yes, but this hobby is insane as a whole. I love them and do not anticpate changing ever (?!) again...

cables may be the last opportunity to voice a stereo system to suit your taste. most components in current production are relatively "colorless", that is they don't have any serious audible flaws.

cabling and speakers may be the only way to voice a stereo system to one's taste.
"most components in current production are relatively "colorless", that is they don't have any serious audible flaws."

I have to disagree with this statement. I've heard too many components that are colored and some do have some serious audible flaws, regardless of what cables are being used to "fine-tune" the system. IMHO
This is an eternal question there is no answer to. One side says you can't possibly hear a difference, you are imagining it, the other that the difference is manifest and obvious. Who is right, who cares. I am not being flippant in saying who cares. Second hand cable is pretty cheap and resellable. Try some good cable, even better, borrow from the cable company. If you don't hear a difference, what have you lost.
By the way, what are these DBT that knowone could hear a difference in. I have seen published trials where there was good uniformity of views, HiFi+ for example.
Me, I bought an Acoustic Zen cable set on this site, with advice from this site and I really can hear a difference. That was 4 years ago and I'm still using it. If you don't hear a difference, thats ok, I am not going to impune your audiophile credentials.
Well said, David12, this thread is just another of the "there can be no difference" versus "I hear a difference" threads. They are a waste of energy.
"There can be no difference" versus "I hear a difference" -
How about a third point of view? Mine is: While I agree that some expensive cables sound better than cheap ones, I REFUSE to spend big bucks on cables.
Joeylawn, that is another meaningful dimension. Ultimately, I suspect all of us have a pricepoint beyond which we will not go.
The closer the system can approach neutrality, the more evident most cabling sucks.

Words of wisdom.

Gee thanks Psycicanimal. :)
I read the HiFi+ review that David12 mentions. It seemed to be a well set up DBT. There were three judges, a high end audio salesman, an esoteric cable company owner and the magazine's test engineer. The last was a total disbeliever in cables. They all ended up prefering the same set of cables (set being interconnects and speaker wire all from the same company and group within the company's line). The one they preferred also happened to be the one preferred by most of the editors of the magazine. Was it a perfect test? Was honestly reported on (don't underestimate the importance of the objectivity of the writer)? I can't say. But it did open me up to the possibility that cables can make a difference. I recently bought my first pair of esoteric IC's. I had read two reviews that made them sound like they could make the change that I was looking for. Within the limits of my ability to objectively evaluate them without any of sort of blind testing I would say they made a big, and positive difference. I really like the sound much better. I would also judge that they did this by acting as low pass filters. So transparent they are not. What's new? I think we all understand that the objective of esoteric cables is not transparency. But then people buy tube equipment precisely because it distorts the sound the way they like it to be distorted. My next step is get out my real time analyzer and see if I can measure a change in the frequency response of my system. It was pretty flat before I started. It might be interesting to measure the flatness at each end of the cable.
Regalmal - "buy tube equipment precisely because it distorts the sound the way they like it to be distorted." Agreed. But sometimes I think it is that we like to imitate the acoustic reflections, frequency attenuation , etc, that we are used to hearing in a live setting with a 'good sounding' building or room.
No insult intended to tube folks. I have a couple of pieces myself. I just like to make the point occasionally that anything that changes the signal is distorting the signal. But that could be in a good way. A good analogy are sunglasses. Most people, including myself, prefer a lense that is not pure, neutral grey.
Regalma1, on snow I prefer red to see the slope changes more easily. I am now using a ss preamp and amp as finally someone has made one that accurately reproduces music. SETs do alter the music but less than anything else, IMHO.