Most cables have the arrows aimed in the direction of signal flow. That is, the arrow points where the signal is going, not where it came from. In most cases, the arrow would point towards the preamp from the CD player or from the CD player to the DAC.
Having said that, a few cables are labeled just the opposite of this. As such, you might want to contact the manufacturer of the cables and / or post what specific cables they are. Someone that is familiar with that brand may be able to help you here. Sean
In most cases yes. The lines are designating one end of the cable be inserted into the source and the arrows point away to the preamp. The preamp cable arrows will point to the amp. etc. In my experience the correct orientation will sound best.
Both posts above are correct. For the layman like myself, plug the interconnect with the arrow always pointing towards the input of whatever component. Remember:arrow from output ---- to input.
Thanks..Kimber silver streak from CD source and Zu Cable oxyfuel from DAT source into integrated amp..Thanks
Not sure I could follow all this but, if in doubt, always have the arrows facing up.
One fry short of a happy meal,
On some shielded designs you will see directional arrows which corresponds to fact that the shield is connected only at one end. In this way, the sheild is not responsible for carrying the return signal, hence it functions as a true shield. The directional arrows would therefore denote which side the shield is grounded at (usually at the source end).
Frankly, other than in the above case, I've never heard a single plausible explanation for why directionality matters in non-shielded designs.
Oxia, obviously you have never listened to the difference directionality makes in signal wires. Plausible explanation? Haven't got one other than the work of Duncan on micro diodes in material caused by dragging it through the die one way.....This would not explain why continuous cast material is still directional now would it? Just use your ears and don't worry about the reasons for directionality to be an issue.....Hint, the direction that allows the tallest stage height is the correct directionality.....Oh, hate those arrows as it is dark behind gear and tiny arrows are hard to see so like to use a green "Load" band on wires I make....
Actually, in the past I have tried listening to analogue cables plugged in both ways. It's this kind of behavior that makes my non-audiophile friends question my sanity :)
In some rare cases (like some van den Hul cables that were shielded in the manner described in my earlier post) I did notice a qualitative difference when swapping ends. In general, I found a subtilely lower noise floor and a resultant improvement in clarity one way versus the other, which I speculate is due to optimizing the grounding of the IC's shield relative to the source and destination components. But this was in a certain case that concerned cables with specific characteristics: they were not only shielded, but also had an asymmetrical construction from end to end.
I can't say I've ever heard a significant or demonstrably repeatable difference with non-shielded cables, although I don't pretend to have done any serious experimentation or have extensive experience in this regard. In the end, I guess I've resorted to trusting my ears that the directionality of cables in these cases was of no audible significance (and yes, I acknowledge the limitations of my own hearing and my system).
Please note that I'm not disputing anybody who says that they can hear a difference. I'm just saying that I couldn't in many cases, and particularly in the cases of the non-shielded designs I've tried. This is one of the reasons why I'm yearning for a "plausible explanation" of the phenomenon, to see if there's an objective rationalization that can cut through the "he said, she said" anecdotes. I do thank you for offering Duncan's diode theory, which is interesting to mull over. However, taking the devil's advocate stance, I have to express some skepticism that most (dare I say "any") manufacturers whose cables carry directional arrows have done any of the following:
1. Tested their raw conductors for diotic characteristics.
2. Ensured that the orientation of all the internal conductors used in their cables are aligned with respect to their diotic properties.
3. Tested the diotic effect of their finished cables before applying the directional arrows.
PS: Thanks also for the tip regarding stage height. I'll have to go back and try it. The funny thing about this hobby is that despite my rationalist, objectivist leanings, in the end it tends to go out the window and I will try almost anything just to see for myself if it works.
Being a subjectivist myself, I'm amazed that a certain amount of subjectively audible phenomena in our hobby, are not magical as I initially thought -- but are quite well known to engineers working in different fields (and obviously engineers working in our field). In cables, for instance, many things I discover by trial & error correspond to measurable differences that, say, a RF engineer would probably know about (i.e. shielding, signal transmission). :)
Oxia, some cable guys care about QC and yes I pay big bucks to have the directionality of the twisted pair set so one leg goes one way and the return goes the other. I make up a set, break it in on one of my break-in engines and document the roll after listening.....Image height is very easy to hear with solid core wire and much less so with stranded wire which is likely a jumble of directionality to the point that it will not focus nearly as well as solid core.......With the exceptions of Omega Micro and TG Audio I don't know of anyone who is completely addressing the issue, but there are a number of new wire companies out there......
I'll shamelessly ride on the coat tails of Bob here and say that Ridge Street is another company that tests and observes directionality of cabling. With our offerings I don't so much hear specifically image height but an overall sense expanse to the sound stage. I also notice that the sound is less coherent if the cables are not oriented in the right direction. To make certain and as Bob mentions, with stranded wire, forget about it. With solid core, you do very well to pay attention if you're manufacturing cables and/or auditioning or testing cables.
In a very few instances, I wouldn't be surprised if some cable makers are just slapping arrows on to make their product more substantial looking. I've heard two occasions where the same product model sounded slightly different (one definitely better than the other) when the directional arrows were observed. Reversed both cables and the performance traded places!
In manufacturing and with the end user, it is expensive and time consuming to assure proper directionality but my ears say it's worth it.
To Rcrump and Ridgestreetaudio,
Thanks Bob and Robert. I'm glad to see that you both employ a methodology for determining and labelling directionality on your cables. Despite my personal beliefs as an objectivist, I am certainly not militant about it and I accept that others have different views and methods that work for them. Whether your methodology is based on objective measurements or subjective trials is not as important, in my mind, as the fact that your methodology is consistent and repeatable. And for that, you both should be applauded.
I know what you mean, and can sympathize. I personally believe that there's little magic in audio and that the more we approach it as a science and try to educate ourselves on how and why things work, the smarter we become as consumers.
Impedance matching is a good example of a parameter that if understood and scrupulously adhered to, would go a long way to prevent component mismatches and "bad synergy". It amazes me when people select gear without regard for impedance matching, based solely on anecdotal evidence that the individual component(s) had at one time sounded "good" in a stranger's system. Thus equipped, they might try to mate a passive preamp to an amplifier with an input impedance of <10K Ohms, using a 1m length of IC with unknown capacitance. Then when the results are a rolled off treble and lack of dynamics, they'll grasp at straws seeking one particular component to blame. Or they'll simply brush it off as "bad synergy". The latter is true or course, but there is a perfectly logical explanation for it, if one tries to seek it out. The issue to me is not simply a debate between the merits of subjectivism versus objectivism. Rather, I see it as a willingness to be open minded and to learn, and to use all methods and sources of knowledge at your disposal to become an educated consumer and listener. Like in the case of cable directionality. Some hear it, even though I couldnt in most cases. I dont have all the answers for why it happens they way it does, but Im doing my best to learn. However, I do admit that in the absence of scientific evidence to the contrary, I will trust my ears. And I'll point my cables in the direction that sounds best. :)
Cables made with TSP (Twisted Shielded Pair) wire, include a high and low signal conductor, so the shield is separate and ought to be (and is) grounded at one end only. I use such directional wires as intended with the arrow pointing away from the signal source, but I can't say that I detect any difference the other way around. It probably depends on whether your rig has grounding problems that the shield can help with.
However, all the talk about "noise floor" in connection with this subject, and many others, is a bit academic IMHO. On every recording that I own (even LP's with surface noise) I can always tell when the recording begins (just before the music starts) from the background noise that is in the recorded program. My system's noise is significantly lower than the typical recording, so I do not consider it to be a problem needing fixing.
El: If you found another source for your 45's other than the "pulls" from the juke-box at the local corner pub, you too might have a lower noise floor : ) Sean
Sean..."In the recorded program" not caused by playback (as with LP surface noise).