Are current audio cable designs superior to 1980s designs?

(I'm reposting this question under a new title because the original was vague, misleading, and elicited irrelevant replies).

Been using the same pair of 1980s AudioQuest rubber-encased XLR cables between pre and power amps since 1987 with good results -- good in the noncomparative abstract, that is. Components have come and gone, but the AQs have remained the sole constant. Until Morrow's recent Reopening Sale gave me an excuse to play with a more contemporary design. Just made the switch and I know the Morrow burn-in can be prolonged. Plan to set FM tuner overnights to "white noise" rather than BBC human voice signal to speed the process.

Question: to what degree do you believe balanced interconnect designs have improved over the past 30-40 years? And, price range being the same (adjusted for inflation), would you expect the current lean, lightweight Morrows to outperform the old, heavy-duty AudioQuest design? Morrow says they will, but what do this forum's many cable experts think about it?  
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As I said upfront, same question, different title. I don't know about you, but my own decision whether or not to read a given thread depends on the title. If the title doesn't properly describe the substance of the question, I will either never know or will quit reading.

Same principle as a newspaper headline. Bury the lede and lose the read.

Older AQ cables from the later 1980s mostly tended to lobb thick generic copper strands together thus blurring the results, IMO. Today in some of the better AQ lines, they do source nice copper from a well known provider and design changes with added dielectrics with less noise and changes in detail, sound stage, clarity, tone.

Both can sound nice for different reasons. Some like that older blurred image sound, others prefer more detail and separation. Let your ears be the judge. So many companies and spins on designs, gotta try to know.

Sure, there have been changes and new designs in the past 40 years. There are loaner program services offered like the TheCableCo to help try before you buy.  The service comes at a price vs. reading and guessing.  
You're questioning whether cables have improved in 40 years? No. Cars, tires, toothpaste, lightbulbs, computers, phones, homes, (5000 items later) and speakers are better. Cables for some strange reason are just the same. Even socks are better. Underwear. But not cables. 

Sorry, having trouble taking this question seriously. Its that far out there. Even with the cost inflation thing. Its just nuts. Cables are so much better its hard to believe. 

Ted Denney alone has developed, brought to market, and improved beyond three different technologies- Active Shielding, Quantum Tunneling, UEF- each better than the last. Each generation so much better the worst cheapest version of the new generation outperforms the prior best most expensive model. That's improvement any way you want to slice it.

That said, never underestimate the talent of an audiophile to find some pure crap to throw his money away on. DYODD.
Simple question, simple answer, and just what I wanted to know, so thanks millercarbon. Are the cable refinements audibly superior or just conceptually niftier? Your assurance is enough.

FMI I will go study the Ted Denney evolution. Sorry, ignoring cables for decades and only lately paying attention again.What's objectively better, what's just for show? Because the audio equivalent of Rolex would be anathema to me, and veterans here can help to steer me right.
I think if you get a cable cooker and then cryogenically freeze them as a secondary operation those old cable will be just fine.
  Seriuosly now copper is copper and there is a lot of money wasted on it that could be far better spent elsewhere in the audio chain to yield better results.
 I find regular zip cord, normally I use 12g because there are some serious systems I push at times, with good soldered connections at each end work just fine. Buy a better driver, recap your crossover or get a Xilica and leave those expensive money pit wires on the dealers shelf.
I did a little experiment about a month ago. I had accumulated a nice 1970’s vintage system for my home office space, where I’m spending more time then ever since COVID-19. This system consists of the Luxman 50th Anniversary pieces from 1975 (M-4000, C-1010 and TU-110) and Pioneer CS-T8 speakers.

For the experiment I left out the other sources (Micro BL-91G and Nakamichi 700II) and only used FM signal (BBC radio 3). I hooked up these pieces with the type of generic signal cables and zip cords that were commonly used back then. So called ’audiophile’ cables hadn’t been invented yet, although the first Monster cables (the ones that turned green inside the insulator, remember?) were just being launched. The idea was to play the system as the original owners would have done in the ’70s. Sure enough, it sounds really nice, the musicality these Luxman pieces were renowned for is most evident. But it also sounded rather veiled, with plummy, ’one note’ bass and rolled off in the treble. Perhaps what you might expect from stuff this old.

Then I removed all those generic cables and replaced them with some of the modern cables I use with my other systems. These are modestly priced ’budget’ cables, like Kimber Select KS 1010, Nordost Heimdall and QED Silver Anniversary speaker cable. Nothing really fancy, but well regarded cables. What you will then hear is a complete transformation. Suddenly this otherwise identical system sounds much closer to what we regard as modern high end, with the kind of see through transparency and frequency extension that goes with it. And the size of the soundstage has exploded in all directions. That’s the impact of well engineered modern cables, even on electronics over 45 years old. And I couldn’t even change the power cables, which were still captive in those days. I guess it shouldn’t have amazed me, but it did. Unfortunaly I couldn’t try the effect of my top cables (JPS Aluminata) as these are all balanced, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if these ’old’ pieces would gain from that too.

With hindsight it’s amazing the audio community disregarded the importance of wiring for so long. But the industry has done its best to make up for lost time and profit. The current pricing in high end cables (and much else in audio I might add) is so ludicrous - even offensive - you need a strong stomach to navigate this ’market’, which is full of expensive crap waiting for the next sucker. Caveat emptor!

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There’s dozens of controlled blind listening tests out there that answer this question beyond any doubt.

The fact you’re using the same cables since 1987 also must have some relevance to your question.

So why does it need to be asked again? And again? And again? And again?

What is it that you might expect ’improved’ cables to do?

Ask yourself why is it that after 50 years of alleged (advertised as, alluded to, supposed, suggested etc) continuous ’improvements’ that wire from decades ago remains indistinguishable from wire today?

It’s been well known for over a century that standard copper is one of the very best conductor materials available. High purity OFC copper could be deemed as overkill, but as it is reasonably affordable, shouldn’t we all be recommending it?

I’ve have over 30 years of experience of trying different cables and believe high purity OFC copper is all that I, or anyone else should ever need. Give or take the odd shielding issue depending upon the amplifier.

Yes, some exotic cables with odd resistance, capacitance, and inductance values may well sound different, but is that what anyone is really looking for?

I doubt it, and can only imagine what amplifier designers would say. In fact that’s not a bad idea, is it?

Simply ask the designer of your amplifier.

Providing they’re not selling their own $$ cables of course. As I learned the hard way with my experiences of Linn and Naim cabling.
Silver content in connectors (AudioQuest), control of directionality, cryogenics, polishing of conductor surfaces, cable cookers/burn in tracks, long grain copper, air dielectric, contact enhancers, suspension/elevating of cables. Most of those concepts are post 1980s.
As long as your connectors or wire isn't starting to oxidize they're fine. If you think you need new speaker wire use something like canare 4s11, for interconnects monoprice has some good ones. 
You asked a generic question, followed by several more focused questions related to your specific cables.  To your generic question; it depends on your definition of “superior.”  Connectors have improved so superior in that way, yes. Otherwise, if you mean sonically and audibly, then probably yes also but maybe not in the multitude of ways or to the magnitude that cable manufacturers would have you believe.  With power transmission (i.e., power cords and speaker cables), wire gauge seems to be the main factor with maybe some audible effects between solid core vs. stranded wire.  With small signal cables, wire gauge, geometry and shielding seem to be key factors, but you don’t need to pay a lot to get those benefits.  Many believe relatively pedestrian Mogami balanced cables sound just fine.Other stuff such as copper purity (beyond OFC), cryogenic treatment, wire direction, exotic wire shapes, exotic dielectrics, etc. seem to be audible to some but not all.  Even if you hear differences, are those differences significant, are they really improvements, and are they worth the many thousands of dollars cable manufacturers have charged over the years?  You need to listen and decide for yourself.  I went down that road for awhile, wasted a bunch of time and money I will never get back, and decided I would rather enjoy the music than worry about cables.
I'm just kind of impressed that some audio manufacturer was putting XLR jacks on the back of their amps in 1987.  Preamp AND amplifier, who was this manufacturer?  

I really hope it wasn't a pro amp like Crown or Belringer.
Preamp was Bryston BP series; amp was B&K 4420, dual mono in single chassis.Regular consumer grade components.

..."Seriuosly now copper is copper ...

Respectfully disagree, particularly when comparing low grade grainy  copper to higher grade purity OFC or smooth OCC copper within interconnects and speaker cables. On a revealing audio system it exposes the difference in an interesting and unexpected way, fwiw.  

Sitting here are the exact same interconnect cable designs in OFC and OCC grades, and swapping them on any input source or between preamp to amplifier, the difference is audible and notable with moderate hearing capability. As to what someone prefers, YMMV.   
Coming back to the original question, yes I think you'll find that cables are better made now, there is more choice, and the prices are increasingly ludicrous as mentioned before. 
Nothing to prevent you from trying out and (if convinced) purchasing used -- I think you'll have fun and that's what it's all about, isn't it!
Do you have an audio dealer nearby? Ask if you could borrow several new broken in cables and find out for yourself. 

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Cables have evolve greatly over the past decades, but what has not evolve is the general understanding in the audiophile community (some manufacturer have good clues that they keep for themself) of what makes a good cable. The lack of good scientific explanations and measurements beyond RLC has failed to move anecdotal evidence of percived cables differences into theories allowing predictable results. Also the premium price of high end cables without any explanation other than you have to try it first, has moved the whole discussion in the absurd realm of crazy audifile for music lovers.

However experimenters and DIY enthusiast, in this forum and others, have provided good rules of thumb that allows to one to build cables using modern material that outperform cables of the past. My rules rules of thumb and proposed scientific explanations are:

OCC copper and its variant are better than the copper of the past. Copper like other metals are arranged in grains where atoms are aligned in organized layers.In a cable, grains having layers in different orientations are interlock together. These interlocking region from the boundaries between grains. Electricity flows better in the grains than in the boundaries between grains, OCC copper and other variant have longer grains that provide a better path for the signal and do sound better. OCC copper was not available in the 80'.

Dielectric materials have also evolve from the past and it is generally acknowledge that air is the better dielectric material for HiFi application. This is generally due to the dielectric polarization that occurs as a signal travels in a wire. The electromagnetic field that is generated by the signal flows through the dielectric, subjecting the same to a varying field with pushes and pulls on the electrons and nucleus of the dielectric material. Air being order of magnitude less dense than solid materials, cables having a low amount of material (more air) around the conductor have a "fast sound" with music having fast and precise attack.

Some manufacturer try to charge the dielectric material to reduce this dielectric polarization. Cable burning period is the time it takes for the dielectric material to settle in and have the electrons move or settle to a position of being least affected by the electromagnetic field of the signal. Cables made of braided material tend to have little or no burning period.

Then there is the response of the cables with regard to the frequency of the signal. The resistance of any cable is not constant with frequency. At low frequency the response is governed by the diameter of the wire (bigger wire, less resistance), as the frequency of the signal rises so does resistance due to the inductance of the wire, which is not link to its diameter. You end up with a hockey stick curve. The larger the wire, the lower the resistance in the base and so the higher the base response will be. Cables are small tone controls, there is not way around it, but this is where synergy of a system comes from.

So better material, better understanding of the process involve in making cables lead to better cables being made today than before. More importantly it allowed DIY like myself to make state of the art cables in their garage. This is unfortunately not true with many other hobbies.


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