Cables Are Crazy, what do you think?

I have been in several arguments with my best friends father on the subject of high end audio components and cables. He is a DR. of physics and mathmatics and always takes the stance that cables just transfer information and should show no effect on sound performance. He does stipulate that depending on the material used can change what information is transfered. He is no audiophile and I have tried to sit him down and show him what does happen when you do use different cables but he never seems to make the time to let me prove to him that different cables have different sounds. I know cable make a huge difference in a system, but does any one know how I can verbalize that to a DR. of physics with more intellegence then it just sounds different with different cables?
Don't even try. He will just not let you.
When asked, I will tell people what I hear, that's it. If they're genuinely interested, they are invited to sit down and listen to what happens in my system. Some will only ask to start an argument though. The only appropriate answer is a shrug at that point.
Enjoy what you're hearing.
Agree. Give it up. You'll just get frustrated and he'll never admit that he's hearing anything different because to do so will mess up his long-established belief system.
Next, try to convince your "DR." [sic] friend that the earth is the center of the universe.

Seriously, if you want to prove to him that there is an audible difference you need to speak his language. Show him the physics behind your claims. Empirical evidence trumps subjectivism.
It's a circular argument. You can't prove that you hear differences or explain why he does not. If you like it that is all that matters.
never try to teach a pig to sing
He is correct cables are supposed to transfer information with no effect on the signal. Problem is cables due effect the signal therefore impose there own sound on the system.
just explain that the jackets that are the prettiest, always sound the best.
Go to Home Depot or Lowes and buy a bunch of different brand extension cords.They sound different too.I hear a difference in cables.Cords are Expensive tone controls along with Power cords.JD
Tell him to read up on triboelectric noise and get back to you.

Yes, give up. Why should he take time to validate your point when it is not important to HIM? Most engineers I know who are also audiophiles start out as skeptics, and only come around to the value of cables (if they ever do) when faced with the empirical evidence from their own ears that they can improve the subjective performance of THEIR OWN SYSTEM. Suspension of belief and years and years of formal training and successful application of physical principles requires a significant reward!

The best lay explanations of why cables "improve" sound reproduction has more to do with what they don't allow to happen to the current and signals coursing behind your sound system than what they actually DO or DON'T DO to the SOUND in the absence of complex EM fields, i.e. are they acting as active antennas or passive pipes. With that said, my experience is that silver has a "different" sound signature than copper, but that may be beyond mine or your ability to explain to the good Doctor. I am sure it has something to do with "skin effects", but may also just be that silver wire makes a different kind of antenna than a copper wire???
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Just ask him why he would think that two cables with different RCL characteristics (Scientific chatter) WOULD sound the same.

Actually, don't even bother. I've found that those with scientific backgrounds NEED science to tell them what they are experiencing. They will NOT trust their own judgement. There is NOTHING you can do that will EVER change his mind.

It's OK though, because it does take all types to make the world go 'round. The world would be a boring place if we all thought alike.

Why would you start this conversation in the first place?
I assume that it is of very little interest to the other person. You can't explain it. Other person has very limited knowledge in this field. Beside he doesn't get this whole "Audiophile" crap. He just saved big on car insurance.

One turkey also tried to explain its life philosophies -
Well, it was one day before Thanksgiving.
Ask him whether RF can impact sound performance. If he says "yes," then tell him that certain power cables reduce the amount of RF coming into the system. QED.
Don't bother as most people with physics degrees and most engineers do not readily accept that cables can make anything but the very slightest of differences to analog audio signals in a properly designed system. This is not new...just accept it and get on with life. If $1000's spent on cables work for you then enjoy but don't expect many scientists to share your convictions. A typical scientist when faced with a huge difference between one adequate speaker cable and another will simply assume something is wrong with the equipment or its combination rather than attribute significant audio properties to the cable ( you know - amp instability - complex low impedance speaker loads => rightly or wrongly scientists view cables as being passive in analog audio applications).
Thanks for all the input. I think my favorite is Jaybo with the prettiest jackets sound the best. I have played around with many cables and I can tell the difference and I will continue on my quest for a complete system that sounds best to me. Thanks again
If Peter Walker of QUAD did not believe that wire affected sound I do not think your friend will...

Thankfully Peter believed in other things like speaker design!
As applies to anything else controversial in audio: For those that can hear the difference, no explanation is necessary. To those that can't(or refuse to) hear a difference, no explanation is possible. You will run into many in life that choose to remain ignorant, rather than admit they are wrong. I complete agree with Elizabeth.
I agree with the opinion sometimes offered that if you don't hear a difference with hi-end IC's/Power cords, that maybe your system is not 'resolving' or 'high resolution' enough. Lower-end components add their own colorations that would swamp any difference in cables.
Doesn't matter what degree you may have. If you don't know that you need to sit in the sweet-spot and actually listen to the music coming from the system you will never hear any difference in cables. Most people just don't have the patience to sit down and actually listen to the MUSIC coming out of the system, let alone try to listen for the subtle clues cables make.
Assuming he is interested at all, your test should strive to prove to him that you can tell a difference rather than to prove to him that he can tell a difference.

I would be much more interested in such a test if I were him. I know I am much more interested in finding out if you can tell a difference than if he can because you have said you can and you listen to music and he may not really be into music.

I have participated in this kind of thing several times with widely scattered results.

The easiest was with the diamond I bought my wife when we were engaged. I had looked through the diamonds and picked out two that were of good quality, cut and color. One was a little larger by carat size and had a bigger face. The other was slightly smaller and had a smaller face which was mostly smaller due to the better shape of the cut it had rather than the carat size. Both diamonds were good, but the smaller one out sparkled and out shown the larger one due to its far better shape. (The proper shape of the smaller one put more diamond below the face and caught and reflected light better than most diamonds which are improperly cut to have a large face to fool people into thinking they are getting their moneys worth.) The diamonds were attached to little cards with the identifying information listed on the back. I told her I knew which one I liked but that she should pick from the two. She picked the smaller one with the bigger sparkle. I was happy with this and the salesman was very intrigued at how this was proceeding. We were both thinking the same thing when he asked if we would like to see if she could pick the diamond out after swapping them around. I said yes and that I was certain she would be able to do so. We swapped the diamonds around while she looked the other way and she picked it 3 out of 3 times. We had the right one. Although it is not particularly big, (it's less than a carat), it shines particularly bright and people have noticed it and commented on its brilliance. I don't wear my jewelry myself and am not particularly interested in it, but that diamond is brilliant.

In college, we were talking beer preferences when I stated the heresy that there wasn't much difference between the mass produced American rice water beers they claimed were so different from one another. I mean there just isn't much taste to be had in Busch beer or Milwaukee's Best. (We called it the Beast, it was cheap and available.) We poured the beer in two glasses and noted which was which. Most couldn't identify the beers correctly 2 out 3 times. They were somewhat disappointed. I then told them that I believed I could tell the difference and this got the whole thing going again. I was able to identify the Beast at least 2 out of 3. I told them that I was only able to do it not by flavor differences but because the Beast had more of a watery consistency and the carbonation was different. I can't recall if it was flatter or had bigger bubbles but it stood out. I went back to drinking Olde Heurich.
You will run into many in life that choose to remain ignorant, rather than admit they are wrong.

Exactly my point. Both points of view see the other as ignorant and there is a simple explanation for the divergence.

The scientist likely knows enough basics about analog audio and audio electronic design standards to know that if a change in speaker cable makes a big difference then something is incorrect about the equipment design, quality or choice of equipment. (for instance...coupling a low impedance complex speaker load to an underpowered or unstable amplifier that is struggling to drive the load correctly. A situation where there are likely issues whichever cable is used and with audible differences in distortion that occur due to small variations in music and volume levels)

In the above, the non-scientist quite logically ascribes any observed differences to what has physically been changed - so the "new sound properties" are immediately attributed to the new speaker cable versus the old one. This seems quite sensible unless one is aware that the way equipment performs when connected (consistently or not in response to slight changes) is almost entirely determined by the equipment design/selection rather than something as basic as the wire connection between them. Generally appropriate design and equipment matching will normally minimize wire differences and changes due to slight volume variations to the point of insignificance.

So, as you can see, both points of view are correct depending on "where" you attribute audible differences. One says "Gee my amp and speakers don't work well together - even the slightest change in a wire causes large audible differences". The other says "Gee, WOW, AWESOME this speaker cable is detailed, brighter and has much more PRAT then the my old one.".

Both are right in their own way.
there is only one truth and many, many
uneducated opinions and fake claims.
White is white & black is black .
No grey or anything else in between.

If you don't think it is mental ,
try to dress the future bride
in the most expensive black dress.
try to sell a $20 IC, PC or speaker cable in plain,ugly doesn't
matter that this cable is as neutral,
transparent, without coloration as it can possibly be.
What matters is, that it is just to cheap to be any good.
It is sad but true. And there is nothing that you or I can do about it.

Put a blindfold on him. Play the same thing with a good cable and a bad cable. See if he can tell the difference.
Cables do transefer signals but what type of noise do they create or get rid of in the process? If he can't hear the difference then he can't hear well or he doesn't listen. My neighbors aren't audiophiles or videophiles but they can tell the difference easily in a demo on power cords with the plasma and the cdp. They are in amasement and one of them wants a shunyata power cord for his plasma now.

$100 goes a long way and can get just a little bit of happiness after all.
Your Dr will be relying on scientific theory, which in turn means models of reality that simplify reality. Any scientist that thinks his models completely explain reality is an arrogant pompous ass, not a scientist. Discussing cables with EEs can be very frustrating (though I am one myself). Their models are proven over and over again to be incredibly useful for designing equipment that when built will probably work. But the standards of a microwave or a dishwasher working are not as exacting as we audiophiles strive for. Our ear/brains are more exacting as regards small phase distortions than any EE model allows for. The EE is always discarding terms and issues as being inaudible, when he has no real basis for doing so, other than the desire/need for an implementable answer. Phase issues are perhaps the most important to get right. Some phase distortions are completely benign as the ear/brain may be very used to decoding them. Others may completely interfere with our enjoyment of the music because our ear/brain cannot make sense of it without real effort, which leads to fatigue. The EE models were never designed to achieve the level of perfection we strive for, and so serve only as guides, not truths. We are left to experiment and draw our own unverifiable conclusions. Sometimes we are deluded, for sure, but I think that mostly we are right about what we believe we hear.
Very nice response Redkiwi.
I think the cable industry in general has started to accept that the dielectric (insulation) can have as much of an effect on the quality of a cable as the metal conductor can.

EE's should have a basic understanding of dielectrics and the reason why surrounding conductors with PVC vs. polyethylene vs. teflon vs. air vs. a vacuum would affect sonic performance. They also know that conductor metal, purity, gauge and geometry all have consequences. Termination quality is also important as is connector quality. You put all of these variables together and it makes perfect sense that cables can sound very different from each other.

Still, anyone who has actually spent any real time listening to various cables on a good stereo knows that they make a difference and that's really all that matters.

As for blind testing, it simply puts the listener in an unnatural stressful state where the anxiety of the test serves to block the listeners ability to hear things that are obvious during casual listening. It proves the limitations of the testing methodology more than anything else.

I have always believed that long term blind testing would remove most of the anxiety associated with standard blind A/B testing and result in more meaningful and interesting results. Admittedly, it would be harder to do though.
EEs will acknowledge that many things have an impact on how a signal travels through a wire, but the point I am making above is that their training encourages them to dismiss these things as inaudible.
Just do what I did. I know cables can make a difference. Last night, I was curious. I played Steely Dan's Goucho album, then I swapped the stock cable from the MMF-7.1 with a Kimber Hero cable. Played the same side of the album, same volume setting. My girlfriend was blown away by how much of a difference the sound was. The soundstage just opened up, bass was more extended and tighter. Everything sounded much better. And she wasn't even sitting for a critical listening. It was night and day. So, I'm looking for another cable..... Preferrably a .5 meter
My search for the IC, Speaker cables, PC etc. Ended long time ago.
I still buy/try some cables, but more out of curiosity then anything else.
My opinion on this is solid. Cables are different, but the differences are chosen by manufacturer and characterized by the choice of the materials used in the design. Reference standards are low or non existent. Cables are way overpriced. Audiophiles attitude about the importance of cables made the cable companies bolder in their selling tactics. If one can sell a phone call for $20 or $30 that claims to improve your system then how hard would be to sell a wire in very nice jacket for hundreds if not thousands.
You must have noticed that these kind of threads get a lot of attention while .... let say , acoustics, proper setup, components evaluation, etc.
It is funny that a cable manufacturer can charge as much for a "wire" as a respected, known and talented designer of electronics, analog or speakers.
To is just amazing.
But like everything else, it is a personal choice.
This is only my personal opinion and I absolutly understand that it might and
probably is different then most here.

I'm somewhere in the middle. I don't agree with the skeptics that say they don't and can't make a difference. I also don't believe those who describe hearing orgasmic differences in them. I've had highly resolving systems for more than 20 years and have auditioned many, many cables. In my experience, differences are subtle and their value to one's musical enjoyment is completely subjective.
Listening is accepting-
invite him to the local stereo shop for a test drive.
04rdking- Obviously the sound of your pipes has not affected your (or your girlfriend's) hearing. One of the nice things about Kimber's products is their consistency. As you step up in their product line, you'll find all the same great qualities(transparency, freq extension, dynamics, great sound stage, etc), just more of it, and Kimber never rapes you in the process. I'm using the KS-1130's and have had everything between them and the Hero. When I was using a CAL Alpha/Delta combo, I had an Illumination Orchid and was in love with it too. Their interconnects/cables just do such a great job of getting out of the way of the music! It was strange how much better a 1M Orchid sounded than a .5M though(digital can be funny at times).
Rodman, On long rides/trips, we use ear plugs. Plus my King isn't near as loud as her Dyna...... We both ride..... I play acoustic guitar, she plays piano.... Life is grand... She also has perfect pitch, which can sometimes be a problem..... "your G string is flat"..... LOL

Got another cable on the way....
Sounds like a little piece of heaven to me(Harley, Kimber and a musical wife). Better watch it with the G-string jokes though: You might get your A__ in a crack! HMMM- Wonder if my girl would sound any more musical, tied up with my KS-1130's?
Ask your brainy friend a few questions:
1. What does cable loss refer to?
2. What is meant by a wire's field effect
3. What is impedence?

All of these are recognized wire integrity issues affecting signal quality, how could it not affect high end sound?
"All of these are recognized wire integrity issues affecting signal quality, how could it not affect high end sound?"

The question is how to prove that it effects the sound. Anecdotal testimony doesn't do it. What you hear I may not. That's why this is a question with no ultimate answer.
Checkout this study done on two different cables.

I did not check everything but several of the results are exactly what I would have expected based on physics. The zip cord is not as good and one of the wel known disadvantages of thicker wires versus many small wires will indeed be a slight roll off above 15 KHz (skin effect). This appears on the plots. Phase difference will also be expected to be higher due to the wire separation in the zip cord (the wires are close together in the Clarity 7) - again the results look intuitively correct.

Bear in mind that a 9 KHz square wave has frequencies well up into the 100 KHz range (as it is square) - so I am not sure of the relevance of this plot - or the one with resonance.

All in all I woudl support the claims that the Clarity 7 is better than the zipcord - although this is mainly true from 15 Khz to 400 KHz. As for me I can't hear above 15.5 KHz so I am not sure if I shall be switching from my monster cables ( basically zip cord or not different from zip cord ).
I guess my general point was that cables can exhibit differences which can be measured.
I guess my general point was that cables can exhibit differences which can be measured.

Yes and the measurements can be explained by science too. 100% agree.
high end cables are todays version of an equalizer, with the frustration of trial and error.
invite him over for some blind testing. He swaps the cables, you identify them. Do it 10 out of 10 times and he'll have to admit you're right.
"invite him over for some blind testing. He swaps the cables, you identify them. Do it 10 out of 10 times and he'll have to admit you're right."

I would be surprised if anyone could do that in a controlled test.
HiFi is a hobby. As with any other hobbies, It comes down to your disposable income, and how much of it you are willing to part with to get the difference you are looking for.

We all would like everyone to agree w/ us, but that seldom happens. No need to argue over it. If he refuses to keep an open mind, not much we can do.

Does your Dr friend bug stamp collectors about why they waste money on useless old stamps? Or question people with supercars when a Honda Civic gets to point A to point B just fine? Or question grown men why they play with chu-chu train sets in his garage/basement? Why drink wine when beer is cheaper? Does he think of the arts as waste of time and effort?

But let your DR friend check out a set up like this:

I am SURE he'll hear a difference. After he hears/feesl the difference, then ask your doctor friend if there is a scientific measurement for 'sound stage', or 'texture', or 'tonality', or 'fluidty'.
Or better yet, ask him describe the difference in shades of green he sees..

Sometimes it is still hard to verbalize the difference you hear/'feel'. Science has a hard time explaining things we see/hear/feel/taste/smell...

Yes, cables are crazy expensive, because cables are crazy expensive to manufacture. VERY few cable companies own foundries to refine copper/silver and the associated manufacturing process that it takes to produce 'audiophile' grade cable.
Spoolyt says "cables are expensive to manufacture". Really? Dealers buy them at 50% of retail so the manufacturing cost has to be substantially less than that for the manufacturer to make a profit and, I wonder, how many manufacturers just put a pretty cover and fancy terminations on stock cable and mark it up 1000%.
Actually, I found that plugs make a bigger difference than does the actual cable. Check other posts on this site.
Actually, I found that plugs make a bigger difference than does the actual cable.

Absolutely agree.

When I put the ear plugs in I can no longer hear my wife screaming at me.