How can we hear the difference in cables in a bad room?


Hi after spending the last months measuring my room with REW and reading about room acoustic in small rooms.
I began to wonder how we can hear differences in equipment when the frequency respons in most rooms are bad.

Just think about it! a power cable - why can you hear a difference? is it a timing issue, noise? are the human hearing much more sensitiv to delay / phase issues than frequencies.

If you have knowledge in this area then I would love to be educated (:

Happy new year to all of you. 


martin-andersen
Hi Martin. Unfortunately if you have a bad sounding room you will be wasting your time and money with little tweeks like trying different cables and even most components with the exception of speakers. You must solve the room problems first. That’s just the way it is. The room is really the foundation of your audio system.
A great source of info and education on room acoustics and just how big the problems can be is "Acoustic Fields" www.acousticfields.com They are room treatment specialists. Recording studios, listening rooms, home theater etc. The owner Dennis Foley has a great Youtube channel where he teaches all about this stuff. Very informative! I have learned a lot from him. Of course they offer solutions but even if you can’t make use of the products the free education he offers is invaluable. Check out his videos and lots of other good stuff on the site.
If you can fix the room then find speakers that work well in the room only then will you get real results with things like trying different cables, differences between amps etc.
I have found that open baffle speakers can mitigate many room issues. I have Emerald Physics EP 2.7 open baffle speakers and they have controlled dispersion thus don’t bounce much high and mid energy off the side walls and ceiling. They really took the sound in my room to a whole new level. I’m very satisfied! Other good ones are Spatial Audio (same designer as EP) Pure Audio Project, there are others.
Also there are books on acoustics and high end audio. I wish more beginners would read some books on the subject. It would save a lot of confusion and asking on forums can be more confusing sometimes as you will get so many conflicting opinnons. Here are a couple of books I like. Robert Harley’s "The Complete Guild to High-End Audio" fifth edition.
And Jim Smith’s "Get Better Sound".
Good luck and Happy 2020.
Sometimes the room gets a bad rap. There are lots of reasons a system might sound bad. Blame it on the Rolling Stones.
The rolling stones are just bad musicians. 
LOL! Ya there is no fixing bad music.
It's Only Rock' n Roll , but I like it.
Another good book I have if you really want to get down in the weeds is "Master Handbook of Acoustics" sixth edition by F. Alton Everest and Ken C. Pohlmann. It covers how the human ear/brain perceives sound as well as many other audio topics.
I really need to improve my English and sorry for that.

My room ain't so bad that I can not hear the difference between cables and other equipment.

I have treated room. it's not perfect but it's the bass I am having trouble with.

My question was more like a "why can we hear such small changes when a typical frequency in a small room looks really bad in the area 20-400 and most rooms also have a very uneven decay time RT60" 
Listen in near-field position.
Simple.
Probably because a major portion of the sound (with conventional speakers) is direct, assuming that you are facing the speakers.

DeKay
Just think about it! a power cable - why can you hear a difference? is it a timing issue, noise? are the human hearing much more sensitiv to delay / phase issues than frequencies.

If you have knowledge in this area then I would love to be educated (:


People love to make up reasons why. Being at it going on 50 years now my preference is to go with what works. While the rest are enjoying arguing about why I'm enjoying sounds they can only dream of. Actually maybe not even dream. If their imagination is as stifled as their intellect that would stand to reason.

My experience, after trying lots of frankly pretty lame stuff, like a telephone book under or over a CD player, one day got a set of Black Diamond Racing Cones. The improvement with these things was so spectacular I could hardly believe it. Seriously, literally, hardly believe it.

So I started taking them around with me everywhere. Well they fit in the pocket easily enough. Must have tried them under literally at least a hundred different components in almost as many systems. CD players, tuners, tape decks, pre-amps, amps, speakers, budget to extreme high end you name it. 

A few examples just to drive home the depth of meaning of "you name it". A Goodwill $5 all-in-one with hair thin wires going to cheesy speakers sitting on the classic this plank across two trunks is my furniture, and this steamer trunk is my coffee table, if you get the picture. A friends Pioneer integrated near the top of a stack of at least half a dozen things (VCR, CDP, Tuner, etc) stacked one on top of the other, rats nest of wires and dust devils behind with two unequal length lamp cords running 20 and 50 feet to speakers in a room with a sliding glass door between them. And one of my favorites, the car audio retailer who let me put them under the crossover network of some speakers on his demo panel. Just loosened the screws, stuck em in there, tightened back down, and heard it.

The friends rats nest was the hardest to hear, mostly because he wouldn't shut up and stop telling me how it couldn't possibly work long enough to hear anything.

Oh and by the way, you asked about power cords. Same deal. Only using Cones because that's the one been tried the most by far. But same exact deal goes with power cords, speaker cables, interconnects. Same. Exact. Deal.

Again, I am happy to let others go round and round endlessly jibber jabbering about why. We report. You decide.

The only answer that I can see that fits all the evidence is the one you already gave: "the human hearing much more sensitiv" which is right, only you then went on to limit this with phase and frequency. 

Which may or may not be right. Again, not playing that game. Even if it is probably right. Because why? What's the point? Being able to nail some nerds question on a forum no one reads anyway? 

What definitely is true is people can hear these things. Remember I said hundreds of systems? Countless times here is what would happen. The dude who proudly bought it all sits and strains and doubts and questions and goes back and forth. Meanwhile honey in the kitchen who never even came in the room shouts out, "Is that the 4 again? Because his voice sounds so much better with that one! Get the 4!" Dude goes right back to straining, face scrunched up even more now.

Am NOT kidding. Am NOT making this up. Happened so many times its NOT funny. (See: What is wrong with audiophiles?) 

The only thing in all of this that makes any sense is things like cones and power cords, fuses, Omega E-mats, TPC, ECT, HFT, Cable Elevators, there are all kinds of different ways they can affect the sound. And you can argue and argue about what they are. Does. Not. Matter! Point is they make an audible difference. Which if honey can hear it, then for sure you can learn to hear it too.
My room and, especially, my set up sucks.  But the benefits and toll taken by cables are easily heard.  I think the neutrality of the system as much as the technical proficiency - detail, taughtness and such -play a part too.   A colored system will easily cover up any subtle cable benefits whether it’s the equipment or the room.  It’s how badly they are colored and do they complement each other that matters.  
Hi OP,
I've thought about this and read a little bit.


I think the answer is that our brain spends a LOT of time and effort filtering out room acoustics. There's been research done for instance on how much more tiring having a meeting or studying in a bad sounding room is. Your brain is literally splitting energy between hearing speakers, hearing the room, separating one from the other and also attempting to learn and assimilate more data.


Based on visiting a few audio conferences I've come to the conclusion that people vary a lot in how sensitive to this they are. 

For me, my audio room HAS to be well treated, and after a day of working in an open cubicle environment, to my brain it is like going to a mountain top and being able to see for miles. It's soothing.
Here's a really good way to show what I'm talking about. Take a recording of people talking in a room, or just of your system playing music.

Then listen on head phones. Magically, you hear all the room acoustics for the first time, and once you practice, you can learn to hear it in the room in real time.

What this shows to me is that we do hear those room acoustics, but our brain is actively routing them into the trash for us.
I think the answer is that our brain spends a LOT of time and effort filtering out room acoustics.


Well, no. No way. 

I mean, a lot of time? So think about it. Please. For like ten seconds.

Proto-human hears slithering snake about to strike. But the photo-human brain has to spend a lot of time filtering out cave acoustics, vs tree limb acoustics, vs... BAM! Snake bite. No more photo-human. Hey! You! Out of the gene pool!!

Not to mention every speaker, amp, wire, and component ever made sounds nothing like the real thing. Every single one of em brings its own full menu of distortions, omissions, and artifacts to the game. If our brains had to spend any time at all filtering out all these differences we'd never even begin to be able to enjoy listening to music. Wouldn't even be music, at least not as far as our overburdened brains were concerned. It'd all be indecipherable noise.

Whatever it is and however its done the one thing we can be sure of is its lightening fast. Or at least faster than a snake.
I encourage everyone who is interested to actually do some research instead of knee-jerk responding to a topic brand new to them.

Best,
E
Erik, +1.

It is no different from other sensory fields. You can read a book just fine under the imperceptibly flickering light, as your eye works hard to position for the text you want to read, while the flickering causes it to overshoot and undershoot position, placing extra burden on image processing, and on the extraocular muscles, leading to early fatigue, and for some people, headaches.

To the op, whether one believes cables make a difference or not, what you would be "detecting" is a difference. That does not mean you have made your system good, just different. Better of course does not mean good. I think you can use your own judgment on whether many of the audio adjectives and effects assigned to a particular cable type are viable.

Miller, you may get more traction with your posts if you didn’t start them by extolling your personal perfection while insulting everyone else. To be honest, after this paragraph, I didn’t read anything else in that post:

While the rest are enjoying arguing about why I’m enjoying sounds they can only dream of. Actually maybe not even dream. If their imagination is as stifled as their intellect that would stand to reason.

Here are a couple of books I like. Robert Harley’s "The Complete Guild to High-End Audio" fifth edition.

Highly recommended!
@martin-andersen - the answer to your original question...
Hi after spending the last months measuring my room with REW and reading about room acoustic in small rooms.
I began to wonder how we can hear differences in equipment when the frequency respons in most rooms are bad.

IT IS VERY DIFFICULT !!!

So - treat your room to some sound absorbing or deflection panels before you even start with cables of any type. You may also need bass traps

Once room anomalies have been dealt with then you can start with cables. Otherwise the subtleties of cable experimentation will be significantly more difficult to discern and prone to poor choices

BUT WAIT ! - are ALL your components capable of resolving to the same level ???

If not, replace components that you suspect are of a lower resolution
- errrrr - isn’t that a bit rash???...
- YEP !!!, but that is the approach of many audiophiles

However - many of todays lower priced components are very good BUT severely limited by their own power supplies.

This is where the power cables come into play...

After experimenting with several of my "budget" source components
- I ( AND OTHERS) have observed that significantly better performance is attainable simply by upgrading the power cable on budget components.

As an example - I replaced the power cable on my $300 mini system and my Bluesound Pulse Mini remote speaker and achieved a significant improvement in dynamics, image and bass performance.

The Pulse Mini endeavour was a particular "triumph" because it was conducted in the audio store where I purchased it and the resulting improvements were observed by the owner of the store an his staff, who all could not believe such improvements could be attributed to a simple power cable upgrade.

Once you have the treatments and power cables taken care of then you may stand a chance at hearing the more subtle improvements other cables may make in your system.

I liken power cables to the "plumbing" in your home - without great plumbing, what comes out of the tap is only a fraction of what is actually possible.

I will add that components that contain very good power supplies (like amps) will need extremely good power cables in order to hear a similar level of improvement, whereas, a component with a lessor quality power supply and only a reasonably good power cable may be attributed with a more discernable improvement.

Implementing a single model/make of power cable for all components may not be the best way to invest your hard earned money. 

So choose your power cables wisely.
 
Hope that helps - Steve

+1 Steve @williewonka 

I will add that components that contain very good power supplies (like amps) will need extremely good power cables in order to hear a similar level of improvement, whereas, a component with a lessor quality power supply and only a reasonably good power cable may be attributed with a more discernable improvement.

For making the point that even top level equipment benefits from good power and good power cables.

"...placing extra burden on image processing, and on the extraocular muscles..."
Assuming that flickering light is the only "abnormal" condition during this reading, is it extraocular or intraocular in this case?
Extraocular which controls eye positioning. The flickering causes issues with eye positioning.
This was good as it made me look it up. Quick PubMed search produces mostly articles about accomodation response to flickering (and comparisons of different frequencies at that). I could not find anything about extraocular muscle involvment, though. The articles I skimmed are a bit old and had only abstracts without the section method.

Is there some explanation of the mechanism for this extraocular muscle involvement with flickering? Maybe repositioning after being fooled that the object moved slightly?

Not much to do with audio reproduction, but interesting to think about, anyway.
When reading or similar visual work, you eye uses high speed movements called saccades to change the visual focus point. When reading the movements are small but fast and regular. Most of the body of work on this was done in the 90s, but re-emerged as a topic in the later 2010's as solid state lighting emerged as the next dominant technology. From a paper:

The results are consistent with the view that flicker has two distinct effects on reading, both of which are potentially disruptive. The first relates to an increase in the number of prematurely triggered saccades, which are, as a result, less accurate. The second is an increase in the number of saccades perturbed in flight, which land short of their intended target. These two mechanisms may have different consequences for readers, depending on their reading style.

No, not related to audio, but related to how our perceptive systems can adapt to non ideal circumstances and how even though adapting, the situation is non-ideal, requires addition processing, and leads to fatigue, even though everything seems "okay" on the surface. This was a point argued above w.r.t. brain adoption to room acoustics.
audiozenology,

Thanks, I completely forgot about saccades as a term.

Given the magnitude of the flickering light presence everywhere, it is interesting that not many articles about its effects can be easily obtained on PubMed. It may be that more of that research is funded by the industries rather than by the traditional bio-science so it ends elsewhere.

If I understood this abstract correctly, my semi-wild guess about "being fooled" is semi-correct. Makes me semi-proud.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9503913

At the same time, to stay in the audio realm, this one connects saccadic eye movements, fooling, and auditory stimulus in one neat mix. 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23637981