Detecting differences among cables

Obviously, one of the great audio controversies is whether after a very low bar threshold there is really a detectable difference among cables, whether transmitting power or signal.  Skeptics (I'll label them "nay-sayers") generally state that any discernable audible differences whatsoever are wishful thinking; many audiophiles state that most definitely various well-designed cables can cause clearly distinct differences in the resultant sound -- provided the rest of one's system is sufficiently refined to be able to deliver a level of performance otherwise good enough to hear them.

I have belonged to the latter camp for the past 20 years.  At that time, my equipment dealer loaned me four different speaker cables to try.  I had no favorite among them when I began my evaluation one afternoon.  By the end of that day, it was evident to me that the Transparent Audio cable sounded the best -- better than both the speaker cable I had been using and the three others I was trying out.  Over the ensuing years, I generally purchased well-reviewed, but hardly outrageously expensive, interconnect and power cables whenever I bought a new piece of gear.  I was always pleased with how my audio system sounded afterwards; my practice had served me well.

AXPONA 2019 was a real eye-opener for me when I attended a 30-minute demo of competitive high-end power cables sponsored by Audioquest.  Two things became starkly evident: all of them caused the music to sound much better than when an ordinary 12 gauge power cord was used; and there were discernable differences even among those very expensive power cords.  Both to my ears and to those of most of the other members of the audience at that session, the Audioquest and Shunyata cables resulted in a more musical sound -- but not identically; the Nordost and one other cable whose manufacturer I forget were less clear and less musical.  Can I describe how they were less?  Not specifically anymore, but I still remember that they were.  As a consequence of that demo, I decided to upgrade my interconnects between my preamp and my power amps and my speaker cables.

One take-away from that demonstration was that, to hone in on what might be an audible difference between two cables, not only must the rest of one's system be up to the task, but also the music played has to be well performed, well engineered, and well reproduced in the media serving as its source.  What I did was to choose outstanding source material in which I selected certain short and distinct passages that provided me the opportunity to discern various attributes such as inner detail.  An example of this is the brief chorus in Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" -- "this world is only gonna break your heart".  The only part of that sentence I could clearly make out effortlessly before I started my upgrade exercise were the "k" in break and the words "your heart".  Other examples I used ranged from how a small percussion instrument sounded in Ludivico Einaudi's "Life" in his In A Time Lapse album to the overall realism in terms of "being there" and identifiable dimensionality of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson introducing "Ghost Riders in the Sky" in their VH1 Storytellers album.

I spent a lot of time, effort and (unfortunately) dollars in my determination of my new cables.  Ultimately, what I chose were Wireworld's Silver Eclipse speaker cables and Equinox (XLR) interconnect and Shunyata's Delta XC power cable connecting into a Shunyata Denalit 2000/T power distributor (my amplifiers have integrated power cords).

The improvement in the audio quality of my system became very evident.  All the words of the "Wicked Game" chorus, for example, are now clear and easy to understand.  Instruments sound a bit more real, as do voices.  These new cables also have had one more benefit which both my wife and I find astounding.  Heretofore, whenever we watched a movie, we needed to have subtitles displayed in order not to miss hearing/understanding some of the dialogue.  No longer!  The improved clarity of the sound is so profound that in most cases we no longer need those subtitles.

In conclusion, I tend to think that the "nay-sayers" probably fall into two categories.  There are those people who simply don't own systems good enough to enable the differentiation that is there and those who do own excellent equipment but don't expend the effort necessary to design a conclusive trial that would enable them to hear that differentiation.  However, my own experience has provided me with the proof that there really is a difference among cables and that this difference is discernable. 

Attacking posts have been reported.

the next point in the list of variables and not really mentioned yet, is that ear/brain systems are also unique and varied from one another.

that EQ or hearing intelligence is a real thing, by any standard or known capacity to contemplate the subject.

And this is a part of the core of why one may hear differences and another may not.

Next point is we all have an ego loop aspect tied to our hearing, and this is the part where we preload ’word shapes’ (if you will) into the mental hearing que, and this is used to speed up word recognition into a real time phenomena.

Eg, if a word starts with an ’r’, then the que starts loading the r words, as the rest of the word enters the brain/mind/etc.

When we understand that this is how speech recognition happens in the mind, we can then begin to understand how the mind loads a ’rim shot’ sound or a ’cymbal’ sound or a ’horn’ sound, and so on, and we ’superimpose’. It also ties into the dance and beat function of well as sex, fighting, etc...

When we relax that function and reach for ’intelligence applied’ and actually listen/hear ( to learn a new language, etc), we end up having to take time to cognate... instead of placing pre-loaded ’already known sound-shapes’ upon the incoming data points --as they are taking shape in the mind.

It is the hearing equivalent of the sight phenomena known as Pareidolia.

" Pareidolia was at one time considered a symptom of human psychosis, but it is now seen as a normal human tendency."

Nay sayers will usually attempt to turn that around and say that audiophiles who hear differences, are making it up.

But they fail to take into account that they are masking things and not countering it in their listening. that they superimpose what they know with their own internal pre-load of sound shapes... and do not hear differences. And they may lack the skill set to fix such a impropriety.

And are thus trapped by their own incapacity to get past this component of themselves. Ear-Q is trapped by their IQ, and so on.

A less capable person’s personal version of the Dunning-Kreuger effect.

We all have one, in various forms, in us, at given times. We all reach at given times...and we eventually encounter our own versions of these phenomena/functions while in-extremis in various states of mind and stressing.

In this case, their given traits, the given cable nay-sayers traits.. come flying at audiophiles like a misshaped Don Quixote..

But wait....there's more....
Again, its all down to listening skills. For example, for years (1973 to roughly 1985 or so) I was absolutely convinced there's no way cables can make any difference. Not interconnects, not speaker cables. Certainly not power cords. Just no way! 

Also back in the 80's firmly believed that if two CD players measure flat (which they all do) there's just no way there's any difference between them. 

Sure enough, when I went at first and tried to compare I heard no difference. Later on, after many months of comparing different things, it was getting easier and easier to hear the differences. Not only hear them, but describe them. 

All through the months trying to figure this out I would drag my wife to see if she was hearing what I'm hearing. Time and again she would say one sounds better. Better how? Just better. More expensive. Other one sounds cheap.  

Bear in mind she had no idea which was which, or how much they cost (high end dealers tend not to use price tags much), or anything. All I did was say hey I think I hear a difference tell me if I'm crazy or not. 

Only after we did this a bunch of times did we start talking about prices, is it worth it, etc. For a long time it was nothing more than can we hear any difference?  

All during this time I was reading Robert Harley, trying to learn all these audiophile terms. At one point we were at Corner Audio in Portland and the old guy says hey try these things, which were expensive little squares with some carbon fiber you put under the speakers. Sure enough, wow, greater clarity, better detail, improved dynamics. Timbre improved, ie each instrument sounds more like what it is. Imaging was more focused, both L to R and front to back. From these stupid little squares. 

My wife heard the same thing. She just didn't have the words to express it. Lacking the words brings doubt, since we just don't seem very able to know what we know until we have the words to say what we know. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. I've since learned there's a branch of psychology that questions whether we even have the capacity to know something without knowing the word for it. Which opens up a whole chicken or the egg thing. We report. You decide. 

Anyway, bottom line, its beyond settled that these differences exist, that some things sound better than others, and that we can hear and choose and evaluate. 

Once we develop the necessary listening skills- and lingo. They go hand in hand. 
Is there any way Tammy can create a category that holds all the pulled posts?  They would lack context, but it would be so good.