Any audible difference between cheap and expensive BNC cables?

I recently added a Naim streamer (streaming from an SSD NAS) to eliminate my PC (and fan noise) from the equation, plus remove the need to run a USB across the room from PC to DAC. It already sounds better than my previous PC>USB>DAC setup and is connected with a cheap $6 Monoprice BNC to RCA S/PDIF that I nabbed on Amazon.

Would there be any audible difference if the cheap BNC to RCA was swapped out with a higher end BNC to BNC S/PDIF?

I've gotten huge gains from upgrading speaker cables. Upgrading my interconnects between sources and amps on the other hand produced negligible results. The dealer I bought my turntable from has a NORDOST Silver Shadow BNC to BNC at 50% off for just under $300. I'm just wondering what kind of difference, if any, I'd get in sound from upgrading. The Monoprice cable was supposed to be temporary but it sounds good so I'm on the fence about upgrading now since I've always been told digital is digital and buying expensive digital cables that pass the same 1's and 0's doesn't make any difference.

I'm on board with upgrading if it makes an audible difference but want to make sure I'm spending my monies wisely so I'd like to hear some opinions of people who have tested different S/PDIF cables and what, if any, changes they experienced. The DAC has RCA and BNC S/PDIF inputs but the streamer only has BNC out so I have to at least be BNC on the Naim side. The DAC side could be RCA or BNC.

Any thoughts?

Showing 4 responses by samiamnot

I ended up ordering the Nordost Silver Shadow BNC. The reviews are all positive ones but still vague comments like "music became more real sounding", "very fast cable", "makes digital sound less digital", "open and detailed", "detailed with natural sound"...

All similar reviews with different buzzwords. Maybe that's a good thing and means it consistently delivers across various setups. Suppose I'll just have to wait until next week and hear for myself.

Thanks for all the input.

@tantejuut It looks like that company is in Canada so I’d probably have to deal with import duties and I don’t know what else if I wanted to return it. I also haven’t heard of Take Five or VH audio. What do you mean by low level detail? I’m unsure of the terminology. Are we talking about attack time here?

@cleeds The dealer is out of state so it’s not as easy as stopping by the shop to borrow one for demo. However, they do have a gracious return policy without restocking fees so I will mostly likely order it from them and just eat the return shipping costs if I don’t notice an improvement.

@blueskywalker I get that a bad signal will cause issues. I’m just unsure if the Monoprice cable is actually producing a bad signal since I don’t know exactly what jitter sounds like or if it’s something that the human ear can even hear. I read an article on jitter where the author wrote that he had to take measurements and examine graphical readings since they were too subtle to be heard by ear. I do agree that in theory it seems like BNC to BNC would be superior to BNC to RCA since, well, having to of the same termination just seems better than mismatching. I’m just unsure if I have a jitter problem in the first place so I might be addressing an issue that doesn’t exist.

@steakster The Nordost cable I’m considering is BNC to BNC and they provide RCA adapters should I ever need them. With the option to go BNC out of the streamer and BNC into the DAC though, I wouldn’t have any use for them with the current setup.

@lowrider57 I understand with speaker cable that you'll get different sound from different materials, e.g. silver producing a brighter sound that copper. But that's analog. With a digital signal, how can the sound be colored differently from cable to cable. Don't mean to be so clueless but if a good cable can carry a signal without jitter problems, wouldn't it sound the same as any other cable that doesn't have jitter problems. Hearing "differences" is just kind of vague. Can you elaborate?
The verdict is in. It made a surprisingly nice improvement in sound. I wanted to give it a decent amount of listening time before coming to any conclusions.

@blueskywalker I don't think it sounds at all different after a couple weeks of listening than it did right out of the box. The necessity to burn in a BNC cable is baloney in my opinion, at least to my ears, or at least with this particular cable. Doesn't sound any better now that it's got a good 200+ hours on it. I left signal running through it 24/7 for the first week and noticed no change. Still don't.

After swapping in this new cable I immediately noticed a change in sound. It wasn't like when I upgraded to nice RCA interconnects either where I was straining to hear a difference. The change was subtle but not subtle at the same time. As in, there wasn't a drastic change in the overall sound, but the little changes it made really added up to a better listening experience.

I noticed the most change in the details of the mids and especially the highs in terms of speed. Now I get the "very fast cable" comment that one reviewer said. The pluck of a guitar sounds so much more crisp, but not in the way that it's just brighter. It sounds sharper and, well, "faster". I especially notice with electronic music. For example, at 2:48 on the song Luminous Beings by Jon Hopkins, there are these little click sounds in the song that I can only describe as razor sharp now. Swapping in my old cable makes them sound less snappy, resulting in them sounding somewhat dull. And the veil on the mids that was lifted from upgrading to nice speakers cables seems to have been further lifted after installing the new cable. I didn't notice a big change in the low end, however the new detail I'm getting from the mids and highs seems to be giving the low end more room to do it's thing. I know that's not technical terminology but it's the best way I can describe it with my limited knowledge of audio terminology.

Lastly, the soundstage is more holographic on my loudspeakers but also fixed a problem I was having with my HD800 headphones. I upgraded the stock tubes on my headphone amp a while back to NOS 1959 Grey-Shield 6922's which made my HD820's sing with the most amazing soundstage. However, it made my HD800's which already have a huge soundstage sound thin and lifeless. Somehow the switch to the new cable got rid of the problem of making my 800's sound thin and lifeless and now I can enjoy both sets of heaphones on that headphone amp. Don't ask me how. I was certain that after hearing the better soundstage on my loudspeakers that it was going to make the HD800's sound even more thin and lifeless but the opposite happened.

I was not a believer that a digital cable could make a difference. I was almost certain I'd be returning the cable but my opinion has changed. I've finally gotten to the point where I can happily say I'm done upgrading that system indefinitely. The system is dialed in so nice with such good synergy now that I don't want to change a thing. Phew! Never thought that day would come.