Phono cable, are they really different?

Going to VPI from SME, will need some RCA to connect from junction box to phono stage.

Was thinking of using a spare pair of Audience AU24 I have since used phono cable are not common and usually pricey. Are phono cables really constructed differently and if so what's the difference? Will I be better off building myself a pair instead of using a regular RCA cable?

What do all of you VPI owners use? Anyone compared both and heard any difference?
I use Discovery Essence for my phono cable. I am happy with the sound. I've heard Discovery is used for wire on the VPI?. Anyway, I like it - haven't compared to the better phono cable though..
My experience has been that the signal from your cartridge is especially susceptible to EMI. I had a phono cable from a very well known company and everytime I tried to use my TT there was background noise from a radio station. I switched to another cable and the problem went away.
So, I would say that there are two things that make a phono cable different from a regular IC. It needs better sheilding and many arms require a din plug. Other than that I would say that the differences in the different brands are the same as the differences in any IC. Which means some people will claim that changing from one to another is as significant as buying another pair of speakers and some will say that it will have about the same effect on your audio system as painting your walls a different color.
The Discovery Essence is a good reco, I used it happily for a couple of years. It was a huge step up from the Transparent Reference MC phono cable I had been using. VPI does use Discovery cable inside their arms.

Currently I'm using a pair of Nordost Valhalla, mainly because I was very impressed with a Valhalla power cord, and saw a pair of Valhalla interconnects for sale with RCA>XLR connectors, which fit my VPI arm to BAT phono stage. I'd heard that it's best to use the balanced inputs on the BAT phono stage. Is the sound better than the Discovery? Different, not really better. It's faster and more transparent, but has lost a little musical weight.

I think the Audioquest DBS cables a winner especially when conducting a weak phono signal. The DBS minimizes the great affect the insulation has on a weak phono signal. You get an open , coherent but detailed sound with a great sense of space.
With my Aries 2 equipped with Koetsu Urushi I use Harmonic Technology Crystal Silver Phono Cable.

Excellent extension and natural detail.
You should try the audience and see how it sounds. Is the audience sheilded, if not that may be you only problem.

I have used harmonic truthlink with great success on my VPI and transparent ref phono.
I am like John above and currently using Valhalla and it sounds fantastic - at the price it should :)

The VPI i/c is supposed to be very good as well at a resonable price.
VPI email me today and state that they do not use Discovery cable in their arm nor their phono cable. This is contrary to what I have read on discussion forum, but maybe VPI switched vendor recently. Or maybe VPI just doesn't want people to buy straight from the vendor.

I am aware of EMI/RFI issue that weak phono signal has to battle and phono cable should provide better shielding than vanilla RCA cables. But what about impedance or capacitance? What's the typical cartridge output impedance/capacitance and is there a need to match up phono cable to your cartridge to minimize top end loss for example?

Wondering if any cable manufactures have a white paper on this topic.
Linn makes alot of turntables and they offer your choice of two analog interconnects, one black and one silver. Mint 1.2 meter pairs of the basic black sell for about $45 used. Linnies get a pair free with every purchase so they don't get no respect. They're beautifully built and they are shielded. My first pair solved my TT hum problem. Also great for replacing way more cheaply made cables like Nakamichi supplied with their tape decks. Google deeply or visit Linn and you may find specs.
VPI must have switched vendors then, because two years ago Mike at VPI told me they DID use Discovery cable in their JMW arms. Maybe when they started making their own cables they stopped using Discovery, who knows?
IMHO, one really great RFI shielded cable is Ortofon, blue cable with N8 copper wiring....

BTW, I use this with Ortofon Rohmann and Holfi Battriaa SE.
Yes, they can make a significant difference. Although I am not generally a Nordost fan, their dedicated phon cable using their Valhalla interconnect is exceptional.
I would assume that VPI wants people to use their cable which is made by Discovery Cable (I think).

Just like Dell selling their monitors, but not wanting you to know that they are just Sony monitors with the Dell name.

That would be my guess.
Is the VPI pretty much the least expensive RCA-RCA phono cable out there? I've just picked a used Well Tempered Record Player, so I'm in the market for a cable. I'll be using it with a Denon 103R and, while I want something of good quality, even the $200 VPI cable is more than 10% of my system cost just for that cable alone. Is there anything made by Signal/Blue Jean/Speltz or something else in that $100 price range that would be suitable?
Well, I just got words from Pure Note this morning my Cerulean, a great cable by the way, is not designed for phono application. My table is not here yet, so I can't experiment with my Audience or Pure Note.

Like Rello suggested, AQ with DBS should be a good choice. I wonder what else is out there without costing an arm and a leg, say $500 or less used?
Maybe I misunderstood but, I thought that Semi was asking what makes a phono cable different than a regular IC. If I did misunderstand, and the question was" what are the differences that you have heard when using various phono cables and what about DIY?" then I would say that I have only tried 3 different ones. Of the 3, I had problems with RFI and build quality using Kimber, the one that came with my Graham arm was fine but, ended up using and preferring Audioquest.

You read most of my mind. I was wondering what made a phono cable unique other than EMI/RFI rejection ratio. Take digital cable for example, it is designed with different impedance all together.

As for sound difference, I was interested in difference between dedicated phono vs. generic RCA cable. Take Audience AU24 for example, Audience also makes phono version of this highly popular cable. Is it just better shielding? We all know dielectric does change sound, so how does it sound when compared to stock AU24? Same applies for other brands like Harmonic and Cardas.

As for VPI & Discovery cable, I also thought VPI did not want people to go straight to the source. But Discovery web page made no mention of phono cable, what gives?
Also, for those who have din to RCA phono cables AQ makes the LeoPard. I use it with My Avid SME. Again the DBS frees the weak signal from the dialectric effects of the insulation. Plus it is very difficult if not impossible to break in a phono cable. With AQ DBS there really isn't a need for break in.
I have heard VERY substantial sound differences between phono cables. I'm trying to force myself to remember that more often than not, they both sounded great, just different. For example, my most recent comparison was Cardas vs Graham. One was richer with deeper bass, the other more detailed, quicker and a bit more refined and clear in the mids. Hard to choose. But I'd be happy with either one.

Trying to lose the "audio nervosa" and just enjoy...

Outlaw Audio sells truly great interconnects at unbelievably low prices. OCC Copper, twisted pair, dual shielded, quality RCA's.

Half meter pair $34.95, or 4 pairs for $119.95!

Before wasting a ton of money, read this Q & A from the Outlaw website:

Q. The PCA cables list "OCC" copper as a main feature. What is OCC copper and how is it different from conventional oxygen-free copper?

A. The OCC process for refining copper was developed and patented by Professor Ohno of the Chiba Institute of Technology in Japan and is licensed to our manufacturer for use in the production of wire and cable products for the audio/video industry. In conventional processing, hot molten copper is poured into a cooled mold for extrusion, resulting in multiple, fractionated crystal structure. While the copper may be "pure" in the sense of measuring gas impurities in the copper in comparison to standard copper refining techniques, Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) has undesirable effects that lead many to use more expensive materials such as silver for their conductive strands. As developed for A/V cable use, the OCC process utilizes a heated mold for casting and extruding, with cooling taking place in a separate process. The result is a larger crystal size and increased purity that approaches the 6N, 99.9998%! Looking at it another way, traditional copper has oxygen impurities of 200 to 500 parts per million (PPM), while traditional OFC copper reduces that to less than 10 PPM. With the OCC process, the figure is cut in half to less than 5 PPM of oxygen, and less than 0.25 PPM of hydrogen (compared to 0.5 PPM for OFC). With these results, the OCC process creates "ultra-pure" copper, and thus the acronym for the copper material is more properly known as "UP-OCC", for Ultra-Pure, Ohno Continuous Casting. Summarizing the benefits of the UP-OCC material used in our PCA cables you get the following:
• A true unidirectional copper crystal that is as free from impurities as possible to prevent corrosion
• Flexibility and fatigue resistance without impairing conductive characteristics
• Low electrical resistance
• Rapid signal transmission

We are proud to be one of the very few brands to offer UP-OCC products.

Q. What is the construction of the PCA interconnects?

A. We are firm believers in the use of twisted, twin conductor construction for analog audio interconnects. This type of construction is superior due to the natural hum and noise reduction when twisted pairs are used, something not possible when coax type construction is used for audio applications. In addition, the use of twisted pair construction allows us to build semi-balanced style cables, where the ground is lifted at one end. This allows for a further degree of noise immunity not possible when coax style cables are used for audio applications. To further increase the transparency of our cables, the PCA interconnects are designed in a "dual-symmetrical" configuration, with two separately jacketed conductor paths for each side of the cable.

Q. How do you handle shielding?

A. The PCA cables have a dual shield system to isolate them from RFI and EMI as well as the digital noise that permeates today's complex audio/video systems. A 100% coverage copper foil shield, as opposed to the less expensive aluminum shield used in competitive products, is the first line of defense, covered in turn by a high-coverage copper braided shield. This dual system gives the maximum possible defense against both high and low frequency intrusion into the audio signal path.

Q. Anything else?

A. The PCA cables have an internal fabric braid and the outer covering is a tough, clear PVC jacket. The connections are made with silver content solder and high quality locking connectors are used.
Oops - I hit send on the previous post accidentally before finishing it. What I was going to add is that the Phono signal is different in that it is a very low voltage compared to CD or other front end signals. So it is much more susceptible to RF interference, and simple loss through cable resistance, and distortion through any cable anomaly.

The Outlaw PCA cables' construction with full double shielding and OCC copper (minimal crystalline structure) are therefore excellent for phono use. (I do have a VPI table, too.)
I originally purchased VPI's phono cable with the purchase of my Scout TT. Detail was good, but there was this nagging hum in the background that I could never pinpoint. I found later that I was picking up 60 cycle house current because the cable was not properly shielded.
The solutions:
+ Purchased 2 pair of interconnects from full copper shielding with locking RCA's)Stiff enough to hold out in front of you.Go see...
+ Grounded TT, phono pre-amp and tonearm base in the usual fashion to a copper rod driven 6 ft in the ground outside.
Now there is a dead quiet background providing a very musical top to bottom sound.
I have a VPI Scoutmaster going into a Supratek Chenin and I use Discovery Essence. So far I've been very happy with the results. The difference between that and a pair of Homegrown Silver Lace ICs I was using before was subtle but noticeable.