I am a fan of Chris Sommovigo's Black Cat and Airwave interconnects. I hope he does not mind me quoting him or naming him on this subject, but Chris does not mark directionality of his IC's. I recently wrote him on the subject and he responded that absent shunting off to ground/dialectric designs, the idea of wire directionality is a complete myth. Same with resistors and fuses. My hunch is that 95% of IC "manufacturers", particularly the one man operations of under $500 IC's mark directionality because they think it lends the appearance of technical sophistication and legitimacy. But even among the "big boys", the myth gets thrown around like so much accepted common knowledge. Thoughts? Someone care to educate me on how a simple IC or PC or speaker cable or fuse without a special shunting scheme can possibly have directionality? It was this comment by Stephen Mejias (then of Audioquest and in the context of Herb Reichert's review of the AQ Niagra 1000) that prompts my question;
Thank you for the excellent question. AudioQuest provided an NRG-10 AC cable for the evaluation. Like all AudioQuest cables, our AC cables use solid conductors that are carefully controlled for low-noise directionality. We see this as a benefit for all applications -- one that becomes especially important when discussing our Niagara units. Because our AC cables use conductors that have been properly controlled for low-noise directionality, they complement the Niagara System’s patented Ground-Noise Dissipation Technology. Other AC cables would work, but may or may not allow the Niagara to reach its full potential. If you'd like more information on our use of directionality to minimize the harmful effects of high-frequency noise, please visit http://www.audioquest.com/directionality-its-all-about-noise/ or the Niagara 1000's owner's manual (available on our website).
Fsonicsmith My hunch is that 95% of IC "manufacturers", particularly the one man operations of under $500 IC’s mark directionality because they think it lends the appearance of technical sophistication and legitimacy."
Question: Why on Earth would anyone in his right mind mark his ICs or speaker cables or fuses with arrows just to lend "technical sophistication and legitimacy" to his products? You know, since many or perhaps even most audiophiles are JUST LIKE YOU and don’t buy into the whole wire and fuse directionality thing. Hel-loo! Please refer to my post last week regarding PATHOLOGICAL SKEPTICISM on one of the fuses threads. Further, Audioquest, a strong advocate of wire directionality, is hardly a one man operation. One more thing, fuses aren’t marked for direction, that’s left up to the user to decide.
In fact, your argument is similar to the argument that most high end cable manufacturers cryogenically treat all their cables to lend technical sophistication and legitimacy to their products. 😀 If that’s true how do you explain the cable manufacturers who don’t advertise they Cryo their cables? Answer at 11.
I personally think it’s just a question of how competitive you as a manufacturer wish to be and how hard you want to win Best of Show.
Further, Audioquest, a strong advocate of wire directionality, is hardly a one man operation.
I apologize for sounding rude, but please read carefully before you pipe-off. I specifically contrasted AQ as a "big boy" operation. As to the rest, I don't mind your perspective a bit even though it is not my own. I am hardly an objectivist. I spout the old chestnut, "Not all things that can be measured count and not all things that count can be measured" more often than most people sneeze. I too bought into directionality of all IC's and cables. As I said, Chris Sommovigo made me less certain. As to fuses, does the name Roger Modjeski ring a bell? Please (carefully) read this; http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=105425.0
It’s always great when some excitable new person comes along and starts a new thread on wire directionality, especially when he is a skeptic. It’s a little like telling the same joke over and over to someone with a memory disorder - even though he’s heard the joke before he still laughs heartily. A good time is had by all. 😛 Let’s rock!
But the OP specifically excluded single ended cables from the discussion. That’s why he also included fuses in the discussion. Fuses, as far as I know, are not single ended. The OP is discussing wire per se.
What I gathered from Chris’s article is that: *He hears a difference but doesn’t feel it’s a "life or death" difference. *He fairly certain it’s not due to diodic effect. *He cannot explain it except that it’s not due to diodic effect so simply move along folks, nothing to see here.
How nice that he can relieve us of this "life or death" burden.
Here is a related article on the matter dealing with objectivity vs subjectivity. What I like most about it is the shot of a t-shirt that states: I am an engineer. To save time, just assume that I’m always right!
If Chris has more than one fuse in his system, one reason why he might dismiss the difference between fuse directions as small is because some or all of the other fuses are in the wrong direction, hurting the sound, thus reducing the effect of flipping one fuse around. If the system has only one fuse the results should be quite pronounced, all things being equal. It would not hurt to have all the cables running in the right direction as well for a proper test. Unless the tester is aware of these variables and makes the necessary arrangements it’s like shooting blanks in the dark. I have a strict policy to never let a skeptic test anything.
don_c55711 posts07-30-2017 5:20amSingle ended interconnects are directional because they are grounded at the source end only, for lowest hum pickup and resulting low noise.
+1 for Don, there’s a "technical" reason behind it, others are just making out something from nothing.
Unless you have some of the 30 year old Audio Technica, Hitachi, Linear Crystal cable, (LC-OFC) of years gone by, which was "truly" crystallised lc-ofc copper "very fragile", trouble was if it was bent more than 30 degrees it cracked the crystal structure and sounded worse, because there was a diode effect at the crack points. http://www.hifido.co.jp/photo/10/586/58660/b.jpg
With today’s quality RCA interconnects, it’s because most of them use 2 core inner cables "with an earth shield only connected at one end." This end should be leading to the poweramp end of signal direction, dumping any RF caught by the shield at the least sensitive end of the component lineup.
This just in! Are Anti Cables an example of a one man operation? Maybe. In any case this is the Anti Cable statement on wire direction. Let’s call it Exhibit B. This is taken from the FAQ page of the Anti Cables website. Since the Anti Cables are marked for the correct directionality one can assume Anti Cables, just like Audioquest, controls the manufacturing process, no?
Wire Directionality? As an electronic engineer I struggled with this topic for quite a while because it did not fit into any of the electrical models I have learned. It simply does not make sense that an alternating music signal should favor a direction in a wire. One of the great things about the audio hobby is that we seem to be able to hear things well before we can explain them; and just because we can’t explain something, does not mean it does not exist.
While wire directionality is not fully understood, it is clear that the molecular structure of drawn metal wire is not symmetrical and it is this physical difference which is consistent with which direction the wire sounds better. When the directionality is “backwards” there is a loss of resolution, cymbals sound like a spray-can and are truncated, voices are grainy and lack presences, and bass is less defined. When the wire directionality is “correct” the music is more relaxed, pleasant and believable. Once you hear the difference, you will never want to have to listen to wire backwards ever again.
All ANTICABLES products have the correct directionality marked with an arrow.
Direction Almost all speaker cables, in fact almost all audio cables, be they for digital or analogue are, in our experience, directional in that the sound will be better with the cable connected in a specific direction. Chord speaker cables should be connected so that the print on the cable reads in the direction of the signal. In effect, the C of Chord should be nearest the amplifier. The fact the cables are directional is a subject of much debate but our experience is that these differences range from slight to quite marked. One of the main areas that can be affected by the direction of the cable is timing and coherence. With the cable connected in the correct direction the sound will be more articulate and involving.
More fun...here we go... You quoted Chris S. who wrote to you;
"the idea of wire directionality is a complete myth"
Not necessarily, from a
perspective, but the idea that any directional deviations (based on wire is drawn or finished, etc.) can be heard in even the most resolving system is a delusion propagated by clever marketing campaigns, IMO. BTW, since you are newer here, I will point out the most vocal "forum expert" on this directionality subject apparently lives off the grid and listens to a Walkman, so he doesn't even use wires. Also, get ready because if you don't believe then either your system or your ears will be judged inadequate.
Not to speak for George, but speaking for myself, yes, in some cases your ears will detect a difference, such as loss of dynamics or non-repeatable distortion. When you investigate with a 'scope, you will find high frequency trash being amplified along with the signal, which will compete for power allocation within the amp (causing loss of dynamics), or it may beat against the signal (causing distortion). Thus we have an aural effect which can be easily measured.
This method of connection (shield to the insensitive end) has been used in pro audio since Cain first cryo'd Able's tubes.
When it comes to cables, I am open to the majority of concepts that can't be explained or measured by electrical engineers. I DO find it difficult to ignore the advice/philosophy of the maker of the cable on hand. Until recently I was using Chris Sommovigo's Airwave single ended cables between my tubed preamp (Audioprism Mantissa) and tube amp (ARC VS110). I liked the sound I was getting without any experimentation of cable orientation. The sound was not as etched/precise as through my Homegrown Audio Silver Laces but not specifically lacking in any regard. Now, Chris just shipped me a pair of balanced Airwaves to go with my new ARC Ref 6 and ARC Ref 150se. Maybe this time I will experiment. What is one to do with unmarked cables, there are 4 possible combinations of orientation if my rudimentary math skills are correct and I don't know that four combinations can be remembered well from an auditory-brain standpoint. Not knowing when my custom made (one man operation!!!) cables would arrive from Japan, I bought an $80 pair of Mogami Gold Studio XLR's too. I bet they will sound fine. Guess what-no directionality is labeled. Oh no, that means the recording studios are F'ing up too! OK, that was weak-recording studios DO F up the recordings we nonetheless shell out our hard earned money for and suffer.
today’s quality RCA interconnects, it’s because most of them use 2 core
inner cables "with an earth shield only connected at one end." This
end should be leading to the poweramp end of signal direction ...
That isn't consistent with what manufacturers recommend, and neither is it what has worked best in my system.
fsonicsmith What is one to do with unmarked cables, there are 4 possible combinations of orientation if my rudimentary math skills are correct and I don’t know that four combinations can be remembered well from an auditory-brain standpoint?
>>>>All you need to do is try reversing one IC or speaker cable at a time and listen at each step for an improvement or a degradation. Same for fuses, try reversing them one at a time and judge whether the sound got better or worse. This method eliminates the worry about auditory memory. It only takes a few seconds to reverse a cable. If you’re unsure whether there’s an improvement or not keep moving to the next cable or the next fuse and come back to it later.
footnote: since all wire is directional we also have some other problems. The wire in transformers is directional, all internal wiring in components is directional, all wire in capacitors, resistors, yup, directional. All internal speaker wiring and crossovers, you guessed it, directional. All power cords are directional as well as house AC wiring, not to mention tonearm wire, internal cartridge wiring, headphone cables, did I miss anything?
To answer your question: I was having a lot of trouble with my system about 20 years ago, when I moved into a new neighbourhood, perfect in every way but RF. I tried a shotgun approach, which worked, but I don't remember isolating this particular variable and testing it by itself. But the theory is sound, which is why it was one of the things in that shotgun.
How will you do that? You can’t flip balanced cables end to end. All you can hope is the manufacture assembled the ends with the wire direction the same for each balanced cable.
Doh! This dumbass goof on my part demonstrates my lack of experience with balanced cables despite my 40 years in the hobby. Well, I guess I am relieved. Less audio-nervosa! I can just go with the flow. Get it? "Go with the flow". Ha, I kill me.
This method of connection (shield to the insensitive end) has been used in pro audio since Cain first cryo’d Able’s tubes
If by "insensitive end" you mean the amplifier end - as George stated - then you are completely confused.
First, we’re talking here about single-ended connections. Pro-audio uses balanced connections.
Second, the purpose of the extra shield is to minimize noise. One way to do that is to have all grounds at the same potential. To best achieve that, you need to tie all the shields together at one common point. What common point do all components in a system share? The source, of course.
I have never seen a manufacturer of SE cables that uses the extra outer shield designate cable direction in any way other than the shield being connected at the source end.
So are you saying if the ICs, as you described above, are reversed end to end you can hear, should be able to hear, a difference? If you can hear a difference then you surely can measure it, correct?
Depends how good you are at hearing something that can be measured.
If they are reversed and the shield is then dumping the RF noise at the source end, you "may" hear it as not as black a background as the right way around, I stress "may" depending on the amount of RF noise around your area.
It’s always best with an interconnect that has only one end of it’s shield connected, that that end should go to the least sensitive component, not the most sensitive one.
Geoff/George, with an interconnect that has only one end of it's shield connected, but the directionality that Geoff describes is opposite to the shield end, which end should be connected to the least sensitive component?
Here is my experience. I was not convinced of this either until I used a cheap IC that came with old Adcom components as a digital cable when I sold all of mine years ago. I needed to hook up a DAC and used the Adcom clear IC with plastic molded ends make of all copper wire. We were at a friends home who wanted to hear the DAC in his system. When we were switching things around someone said hey something changed switch the cable back around. I did not think anything was different but hey what the heck, changed the cable direction and yep I heard the difference. We marked the cable direction and that is the way I used it ever since. Go figure.
jetter Did anyone think that maybe the wire just needed to settle in at the new direction, versus it was inherently directional?
That’s exactly what HiFi Tuning used to think. They used to be directionality skeptics. About ten years go. Then they discovered the truth. Which is why they now advocate wire directionality and mark their fuses with the diode symbol. That’s also why HIFi Tuning went to all the trouble to hire someone to measure fuses and publish the data. They had an epiphany, something that has apparently eluded most folks here. Good try, though, Jitter. Very creative.
Re the experience cited by Bigkidz, if I correctly interpret that the cable was used for a digital interconnection, it would not be at all surprising for the cable to exhibit directional properties in many systems, **even if** its conductors have no intrinsic directional properties whatsoever, and **even if** the cable is symmetrically designed at the two ends.
Digital audio signals have significant frequency components extending up to several tens of millions of Hz, and even higher in some cases, that are associated with the very fast transition times between their two voltage states (i.e., the "risetimes" and "falltimes" of the signals). At those frequencies even minor differences in how the connectors are soldered at the two ends, as well as other tiny mechanical asymmetries, can affect signal reflections that occur at RF frequencies as a result of less than perfect matches of "characteristic impedance" between the components, the connectors on the components and on the cable, and the cable itself. And at RF frequencies impedance matches are never 100% perfect. Signal reflections will in turn combine with and affect the characteristics and quality of the original signal waveform. Which in turn may affect timing jitter at the point of D/A conversion, depending on many component and cable-dependent variables, including the arrival times at the DAC of reflections and re-reflections. Which in turn may vary depending on the degree to which the impedance match at each of the cable is less than perfect, and therefore on which end of the cable is connected to which component. The length of the cable, the propagation velocity of the particular cable, and the jitter rejection capability (if any) of the particular DAC are among other variables that factor into all of this, BTW.
Not to mention that the Adcom cable that was referred to may not have had a well controlled 75 ohm characteristic impedance to begin with, which would certainly affect susceptibility to reflection effects.
Put simply, if the cable was used for a digital interconnection the cited experience says nothing about wire directionality.
If by "insensitive end" you mean the amplifier end - as George stated - then you are completely confused. I don’t think that I’m confused at all.
First, we’re talking here about single-ended connections. Pro-audio uses balanced connections. Quite true - unless they have to connect godless consumer gear. In which case they use balanced cabling differently connected: positive wire, negative wire, shield, instead of positive wire and shield. The negative wire of the balanced cable does the the duty of the unbalanced coax shield. Which leaves the balanced shield. If it’s connected at both ends, you have a ground loop and a potential problem. So it’s connected at one end.
Second, the purpose of the extra shield is to minimize noise. One way to do that is to have all grounds at the same potential. But that is already achieved with the negative wire of the balanced line.
To best achieve that, you need to tie all the shields together at one common point. Not so. The shields can get in the way in a careless installation. You need to avoid ground loops.
What common point do all components in a system share? The source, of course. Not from where I sit. Cartridge pins being the common point? Don’t think so.
My system is a bit unusual, I’ll admit, but here’s how I did it. I built a power supply for all 6 of the amps, with a central ground. The phono/pre is powered by batteries, and it floats. Everything else is on isolation transformers. There is exactly one ground point in the system: in the power supply. Interconnects consist of balanced cabling connected single ended, as I have indicated. My system is BLACK.