You are right, it has been done to death! And it hasn't really been resolved, probably because most everyone has some interest in the outcome. First and foremost the folks who make their living off PC sales who probably report hearing huge differences, then the folks who have invested large amounts of money in cable already purchased who tell how it made a great difference, but when you ask 10 different folks what the differences are you will get 10 different answers (some of which are nonsensical), the cynics who demand DBT's to prove that differences don't exist, and a few open minded folks who will actually listen before they reach any conclusion.
IMHO there can be small differences depending on actual application and these differences may or may not be differences that make a meaningful difference to you in your system.
I would suggest as was suggested in yesterday's PC thread that you read up on the actual subject (not just seek out opinions) try a few different cords on some of your stuff (audition, don't just buy) and reach your own conclusions.
I think Newbee gives you some really solid advice. Sometimes someones better may not be yours. Cables are so subjective(like most of this stuff) and your miles may vary.
Some equipment responds a little to enhancements and some just doesn't.
I will recant an experiment I tried with 6 friends. I asked them all to come over for a sit down with my system. Then I told them we would change to different cables and everyone would record their feelings on any differences perceived. Well, I acted like I changed cables but in reality, I didn't do anything. Without fail, everyone of the participants reported changes for the better or worse. Not one person said they didn't perceive a change. Not one.
The kicker was these were all experienced audiophiles with nice systems of their own. It convinced me that a lot is "Just in your head." I think if something costs more especially, somehow its got to be better.
I took this experiment a step further by actually changing a set of very good performing cables (IMO) for a set of the cheap cables that come with stuff like Sony. Here again, it varied from better to worse! Go figure.
Give it a try sometime.
I do believe there are differences in cables. However, the differences are not all that great within the respected cable community of solid barands. I feel a lot of the audiophiles use them as tone controls which really skews opinions. Some do sound more musical to me. I guess this story is go with what makes YOU happy. There's no accounting for opinions and tastes.
Some cables do make a real difference, and some are hype. The point is that for you to tell the difference (at a given level of cable quality) your equipment must be at least as good, otherwise you may not hear the improvment and will conclude that the cable is deficient.
Newbee, Bigtee and Nsgarch have given you good advice. IMO, the bottom line with cables is determining at what price point (for you and your system) you are better off spending the money on component or speaker upgrades vs. cables. You may also consider, DIY offers a relatively inexpensive avenue to compare different (but not necessarily better) cables, and also to learn a little about cable construction and the goals of cable design.
When they hang a man, does he ask how good the rope is?
Here's something I suggested to a friend (instead of pushing my own doga):
Try an assortment of inexpensive (whatever that means to you) powercords (or any other cable product).
Do you hear a difference? If so, explore moving upmarket...otherwise...
if you can, establish a relationship with a dealer who will agree to loan you cables for a weekend. put on those CDs/LPs you've listened to a million times and see if anything jumps out at you: are you hearing details you never heard before? is the bass better? is the overall tonal balance improved or just altered (some cables allegedly have a 'mid-bass bloat')? etc.
by the way, in the interest of full disclosure, I do think that going up from 'zip cord' cables can improve the sound.
If the manufacturer put a $300 power cord in the box and increase the list price by $300, as a customer, would you like to pay for it without a choice? There are so many power cords in this world, and all have their own character. So, which one do they force you to buy? By the way, $300 is only a low to mid-grade cable!!!
Many people say they are not that good with their ears and don't believe they can hear the different.
Let me tell you. If you are on the phone with your buddy and you can hear whether he/she is happy, sad, tired, angry, sick .... then your ears will be able to pick up the different when you try different "good" cables on a "good" system.
If you talk to you other half for 20 seconds on the phone and still ask who I am talking to, then forget about it.
If you ask if a cable worth that much, then it will be a totally different question. So, for the original question, cable upgrades are real, rip off.... may be.
Go for a test hear yourself.
i thank you all for the advice, im still not sold but will probably end up trying it out if possible before buying.
In my system, Powercords make dramatic impact from unlistenable to heavenly joy. If you can not hear a different or only hear subtle diferent between powercords than something is wrong with your system. Any high resolution system will greatly benefit from good powercords (not subtle). I went from stocks, $200s, $500s, and $1000s, and WOW!
If you try them just watch out! You may remove the cable from its packaging, install it, and think "Damn, that's a good looking cable! It looks so cool in my system!" Subconsciously you will want to hear a difference for the better so you can just keep the cool looking cable in your system, or you may think that because it looks like it is of so much higher quality than the stock one that it must also make your stereo sound better... And you listen and you think it does.
I'm not anti-cables but I bet this scenario happens so much more than any of us would want to admit.
There are real improvements with thicker and different cable designs. Whether these improvements are significant enough depends on your hearing ability.
The trick I have often used is to raise my existing speaker cables in the middle with a high back chair (you need at least 3 feet for this test). This forces the electrons to go uphill and over a big bump in order to reach the speaker.
If you can hear the difference caused by this effect then it is probably worth upgrading your cables. Myself, I have such poor hearing that it is not worth the extra money.
IMO, popular opinion has it backwards, if your equipment is well designed and in good condition, the engineers will have built in significant power conditioning betwixt your incoming ac line & the dc buss immediatly downstream, power cord & other minute effects to incoming voltage will be minimal. If you have old equipment with worn out capacitors ,or the designer skimped on conditioning, you may hear more of a difference. If you are on good terms with a local repair shop, it is very easy to hook up an osciloscope to the dc buss in your equipment and detect any differences. There is no magic to this one, if you can't see a change in dc voltage level on a scope, your equipment can't see it either.
I agree, it is difficult to understand a manufacturer skimping on the power cord of a $3000.00 amp. Power cords and other tweaks are still relatively new to high end audio and their impact can't always be predicted or even understood, using the rigors of applied science. Engineers, like all scientists, like to build components using sound scientific principles. Throughout history, the greatest resistence to anything new, especially if it can't be proved, comes from the scientific community. No disrespect, but IMHO the thread by Jeff_jones demonstrates that thinking.
Due to the prodding of people I trusted, and over a period of time, I tried a number of cords in different configurations with little improvement, then one day everything clicked, the improvement was unmistakable, I was hearing subtleties and even instruments I had never heard before on my cds.
again thanks for the feedback, i can tell from the wide range of responces that this is not an open or closed debate. i did however find bigtee's blind test very intresting.
Spend your money on the equipment!
Spending it on interconnects/PC cord is no a wise choice of investment.
Though I do agree that the better interconnects and PC cords DO sound better, they are not the best bang for the buck when one could spend one's cash on better electronics that will be better than the lesser electronics and a bunch of expensive interconnect.
I stick with entry level interconnects that are well known like Nordost Blue Heaven, or Kimber PBJ/Hero.. even KCAG.
Though if you have an amp or whatever you really enjoy, a cord might do something for you...
As for chairs etc, I find the biggest change is when I wrap the speaker cables around my neck. Tight enough and the sound just makes me swoon! Whoo Hoo...
Perception is reality: you decide.
I'd rate the cable importance in this order.
1 - IC from source to pre
2 - IC from pre to amp
3 - Speaker cables
4 - Power Line conditioners(not cables but still relate)
5 - Power cords
The best interconnect should reside between your source and your preamp(or integrated).
And by the way, good cables make a difference once the rest of your system is good enough to show it. Otherwise with crappy components don't expect difference between cables to be big or to exist at all.
I think Elizabeth is correct, that is until one reaches the point where changing equipment represents more of a horizontal movement than a vertical improvement.
At that point, a system, regardless of its specific make up (of components, speakers, cartridges, etc) is definitely capable of revealing the very real differences in cabling. And so I believe that is the time to begin this exploration, and probably not before. I also believe that at this point in system development, no further changes should be made in equipment until the cabling is brought up to a similar level as (the already high quality level of) the equipment.
I basically agree w/ Audphile's ranking, except I think #4 should read: Dedicated circuits (if possible) and then powerline conditioners (if necessary.)
Nsgarch, that's right. Thank You.
The most important change is to rewire up to the power generating palnt with audiophile cable. What's the cost of a couple of hundred or a thousand miles of cable compared to perfect sound?
There is never going to be consensus in regard to this. Everyone is going to have different experiences. Some homes (for whatever reason) benefit from better power cords, or even powerblock, regenerators, and the like. I saw a review here of a Purist cable where the reviewer concluded that using that cable was a bigger improvement than buying a better amp for the same price.
People are not going to agree, but IN MY EXPERIENCE all better cables make a difference. It doesn't matter what the power company used to get the power to your house. I have replaced all the circuits, cables and outlets, and then the PCs, and all of it was an improvement. Next, I would like to run copper underground from the pole to my breaker box. Maybe I'll buy one of those upgraded breaker boxes for $3000 too.
Here is a copy & paste from a thread by Bigjoe, I went to the website mentioned and must say that I was amazed to hear someone so high up on the audiophile "food chain" speak this way about cables:
"This is a link to Roger Russell's web site where he gives his thoughts on wires & cables & reports on blind testing that was done, if your not familiar with him he was a audio engineer for many years & from some of the gear I own that he designed I'd say a damm fine engineer too.
If you are of the belief that big buck cable's are not worth using you may get a chuckle but if your a firm believer then you might be bummed out, anyways here's the link if you care to read about wires.
Thanks for the link. For years, before I actually invested in high end components, I read "Stereo Review" and "Audio" magazines simply because I found them fascinating (translation: I had no money). Still, I developed opinions based on, what I thought was, good old fashion horse sense. I had tremendous respect for Julian Hirsch of "Stereo Review", who claimed that all well made amplifiers sounded alike. When I finally decided to dive in, my mind was pretty much closed to tubes, interconnects and tweaks in general. I am now a firm believer in those very things, not because of measurable data, but because my system has IMO evolved musically because of them. My basic components have remained unchanged through several upgrades and changes in ancillary equipment.
Studioray: I think the Big Joe thread is a bit outdated as he referred to cable comparison tests held in the first half of the 1980's. In this decade audiophile grade cables were emerging. Monster was the leader in that field at that time but I was never convinced of the sonic qualities of Monster cables from that period. My personal opinion is that cable comparison tests should be performed with current state-of-the-art cables and using the cable comparator from Wireworld's David Salz. It should make a difference if you are using zipcord or a high quality audio cable, whether it is used as interconnect, speaker wire or powercord. I am fully convinced of this. The differences are quite subtle (not like day and night!) but they can be heard, even by non audiophiles. The equipment should be discriminating enough to expose these differences (higher midfi to high-end gear, not the lower midfi stuff).
here's something to really make you nuts-
i have upgraded transparent cable several times according to budget constraints, and each time i noticed an incremental (pleasant) improvement in the sound. then 6 mo.ago i ordered the next level up which would have been ref-XL (w/MM technology), but due to some confusion the dealer got ref-MM instead. this error resulted in a complete transformation in the sound quality- a BIG improvement in bass, soundstage, layering of instruments, etc. we worked something out on the bill because there was no way i was going to send this wire back- the improvements were definitely at the level of replacing components. BUT, can i recommend that someone invest $19k for speaker cables? there's no way, unless $$$ is simply not an issue. but as far as the law of diminishing returns goes, in this case i experienced an exponential improvement instead, so go figure. i can only tell you what happened...
Great and tragic at the same time; great when a cable can bring you closer to the music, tragic when it costs $19k.
I've had similar experiences with Shunyata and Siltech. It wasn't until I climbed farther up the chain, than I thought would be reasonable, that I realized that exponential leap.
French_fries: I totally believe your report because I've had similar experiences myself, even with optical cables. But your description hints at something I'd actually be willing to bet money on: namely that you have a great system already (you don't reveal what it is) but if that were not true, those advances in performance might never have gotten to (through?) your speakers. (Was I right?)
Which is why I always caution people not to attempt to upgrade their cabling beyond the level of their components. Doing that won't improve the performance of the components, and the potential of the cables will be lost.
The flip side, is when one upgrades cable(s) (even by accident ;~) and major improvements result, then one can only conclude they'd underestimated the capabilities of their equipment, and NOT that the new cable added some kind of performance factor. Cables are just conduits. That's their only job. Some do it better than others.
I'm selling my Purist Audio Dominus AES/EBU digital cable now. It is a very good cable, but I think the Wireworld Gold Starlight, which I also own (which cost much cheaper than the PAD!) has more PRaT and sounds more lively (less laid back). It is not so refined as the PAD, but to me more satisfying. This illustrates the relative importance of "better" cable with regard to sound quality.
I went through a cycle of investing heavily into cables, and deinvesting. I had a 10.000 usd value of cable system (Nordost valhalla ic and pc, eldrod pcs, siltech lsc). Now I had cables made of solid core copper leads as pc and ic and goertz veracity mi2. Their total cost is about 500 usd (new price). While I was building up my cable system, I always heard improvement which justified the horrible price for a meter or so cable. Now, I think, that maybe I lost some small fraction of frequency extension, but I have a tonally more right soundprint. There is no rule what you could establish, so much influenced this game by unkonwn factors, like personal taste, wealth, equippment-sinergy. None the less, I think, there is two rules important: 1) buy used always, and than you could easily get rid of cable which once you thought was the most important investment of your life. 2) What is important is to put the amplifier-loudspeaker synergy right for your expectations. Once that is right - at whatever price level - than you dont really need invest into cables. Cables is used - at least I used them - for shifting the tonal character of the system by emphasising treble, midrange, bass etc (what ever you percieve as a factor to need to make better), and rationalise as increase of resolution (which is to a certain extent, but maybe at the price of supressig other elements of music). One, you found the right sinergy between you speaker and amp, you dont need anymore such band aids. Still, if one has money still could buy nice audiophile cables ...
"What is important is to put the amplifier-loudspeaker synergy right for your expectations. Once that is right - at whatever price level - than you dont really need invest into cables." Ajahu, that is some of the best advice I've read in a long time, in my humble opinion.