Can anyone explain clearly in either common parlance or technical terms the difference between a $1,000.00 cable and/or speaker wire versus a $20.00 (or so) one? What does wire "do" in an expensive cable/wire that an inexpensive cable/wire does not? Does it conduct more or "better" electricity?
Some attribute it to skin effect, some say its conductivity of the material (therefore the ned for 7N copper or silver), some say it's the way the strands and the dielectric minimizes capacitance and shield RF.
I once entered into a discussion on this topic with a well-respected gentleman in the high tech field who supposedly invented the piezoelectric print head and has 90+ patents under his belt. He started the topic yet soon afterwards he tore me an asshole and that evening went downhill real fast.
Voodoo or not, keep an open mind. Start with reasonably priced stuff and let *your* ears be the judge.
Nearly everyone would like to think he or she has made the best choices, if not, certainly the most cost effective ones. The more one pays for something, the higher its perceived value. Better cables should have shielding from RFI. This likely costs more than unshielded cables. Other cables will vary in capacitance and impedance based on length, materials, configuration etc (more expensive materials and production costs will increase the cost of a cable). Signal conveyance can also be affected by the way a particualr cable is insulated as wellas by the gauge of the conductor and how it is twisted. The variations in capacitance and impedance will slightly change the sound, for better, or for worse, in someone's own opinion. If they paid alot for the cable, it would likely sound better than if they paid less. If they like the looks of a particular cable, it likely also sounds better too. Just my opinion on this one. Try starting with a basic cable within your budget, and then consider what you might be looking for (detail? bass definition? imaging?) and try to tweek you system accordingly before auditioning different cables. Happy Listening,
Cheap Bic and Golden Dupont cigarette lighters serve the same purpose, but one is 'a-bit' more expencive:-) Many people like Prada, LV, Cavalli, but Polo is just as good and serve the same purpose. I bet that if you're able to alter labels RadioShack to Cardas, you'll have a great profit(never seen any serial numbers on wires LOL!) as many chinese manufacturers already stuffed up with Pradas, Cavallis, LV etc...
Llanger - I'm afraid you won't find an answer here. It was asked many time before and every time cable nay-sayers jump in while audiophiles who actually own and enjoy better quality cables are wise enough to stay away.
I believe much has to do with the dielectric used to insulate the conductor and the manner in which it interacts with the formulation of the conductor. Certainly there are reproducible sonic differences between designs and mnuafacturers. I personally have seen this demonstrated to both uninformed or inexperienced, as well as knowledgable and experienced listeners on several occasions.
Exactly what I was trying to convey. Differences in naterials, insulation, conductor size and composition, and manufacturing result in measureable differences in impedence and capacitance. These differences will alter the sound from dark to bright, and from slurred through smooth to detailed. I recommend starting with a well made, good copper, affordable cable and then adjusting for what one wants in the sound . . .brighter and more detailed (consider silver). . .darker backgrounds (consider AQ Midnight). . (more bass consider larger conductors)..and lots of others to one own taste and budget. However, I would NOT attach a $2000 cable to a $350 amplifier and expect a megashift in amplifier performance. I would consider dedicated lines well BEFORE I spring for expensive power cords; I am sure others will weigh in on this, but please let common sense and blind listening tests direct your choices.
"is this when "quality" electrons make a difference??"
That's right. As we know electrons only shake in place at AC when electric charge moves. Young electrons shake eagerly while old stale ones don't want to shake. All is in the electrons! Wanna buy some?
Wires are like ice cream. They come in all different flavors. The good ones are the ones that sound best in your system. Cost is not an effective determiner of end performance. Great sounding wires might cost just a few dollars or thousands.
One feature that clearly matters in many cases is whether the wire is shielded or not. Unshielded wires can pick up noise from nearby electronic devices more easily. Digital devices, switching amps, and power amps or other household devices with large power transformers and RF noise from radio waves are the common sources. LOw level signals like that from MC or even MM phono carts are most susceptible, though line level sources including the signal from pre-amp to power amp can be affected in a quite negative manner that may or may not be apparent from listening by these kinds of EM and RF fields.
I also tend to like wires with network devices that attempt to maintain constant electric properties like impedance by design regardless of length, etc.
It gets a lot greyer after these few things to me.....
DNM reson ICs are inexpensive, simple, and golden in my estimation however are not the best choice in some applications where a shielded wire is called for.
Even teh inexpensive networked ICs from MIT are very good. These are also shielded I believe.
06-22-11: Lloydc Unfortunately, no one can predict whether a particular cable will improve your system.
A good example of this would be a comparison between two interconnect cables, one having high capacitance, and the other having low capacitance.
If these cables were used as line-level interconnects, and driven by a component having high output impedance, the low capacitance cable will have GREATER bandwidth/faster risetime/faster transient response than the higher capacitance cable, as a result of its interaction with the output impedance of the component that is driving it.
That same low capacitance cable, if used as a phono cable in conjunction with a moving magnet cartridge, will tend to have LOWER bandwidth/slower risetime/more sluggish transient response than the higher capacitance cable, as a result of its interaction with the inductance of the cartridge.
Same cables, exactly opposite effects depending on what is being connected. And if those cables were compared while being driven by a line-level component having low output impedance, those particular effects would disappear. Is it any wonder that cable threads are so contentious?
There are plenty of cable manufacturers that will allow you to choose which cable will sound the best to you. Try them out in your home for 30 days and return them if you don't like them. You only end up paying for shipping both ways. It will save you aggravation from spending any amount on a cable that you are stuck with instead of enjoying. I did this with about ten different cables and chose the best one for my ears and my system. I'm glad that I went to all of the trouble. It was actually fun. Try it, you'll like it.
About 20(?) years ago while purchasing a power amp, the dealer compared a few cables for me and my friend, not telling us the brands or price. We both agreed that one cable clearly sounded better. Turned out to be a Van den Hul. Neither of us were/are audio experts, but we both greatly preferred the same cable with this amp. My only point is, cables do sound different for whatever reason. Not sure price has much to do with it.
I'm like Nonoise. I pay what I believe gives me the most bang for my buck. Rok2id is fortunate where he can't hear a difference, so he doesn't need to spend money in that area. Same goes for having a boom-box or separates. You pay whatever amount necessary for what quality you want to hear.
I don't think the OP of this thread is necessarily a troll. They did buy cables, and may be looking for something as to what they should hear, and why. Understanding it isn't easy unless you understand some electronic technology. The science and theory is complicated for most.
Llanger, I'm afraid this is not the right website for this question. You'll just have to leg it to your nearest physics department if you want an answer.
Here, there are too many people making real money selling these cables. You know how people get when you mess with their meal ticket.
I've even managed to receive lectures on quantum mechanics here, even as the "lecturers" admitted that it was not their field.
I don't know a single physicist that spends money on magic cables. There must be some somewhere...
The astonishing thing is that if cables made the difference claimed by the $1000 magic wire crowd, it makes you wonder what they are doing wasting their time with audio, they should be rewiring hospitals and nuclear power plants, it seems.
Mostly everything I hear can be measured. I think we need to try to come up with a way of interpreting these measurements, or new ways of measuring, but that is easier said than done.
Sometimes these cables can measure differently in and out of systems.
A cable carrying a lower level signal will usually be easier to identify the difference. Also, a longer length may show more of an audible difference.
Those throw away cables that come with some equipment usually deserve that description.
I've had cables that were over a hundred dollars that made noise just moving them. I'm guessing music vibrated those wires, and added some bad audible characteristics. Some throw away cables did it so bad, I did through those away for sure.
Anyone who has heard those early commonly used speaker cables that were 22 to 24 gauge wire can see why there are good and bad cables, that can make a difference. If you could get a 20 to 30 foot length of this stuff, Try it. You may be surprised how bad something can be, even if cables now sound the same to you. Cheap 12 gauge sounds so much better, it's unreal. So that shows it does exist.
Glass Audio, or Audio Express I believe, was the one who measured new cables (some years back) for a big box stores in house brand, and they had a lot of distortion. They looked good though, and I wouldn't want them in my system, even though they looked nice.
Now comes the 100 dollar, vs. 1000 cables. I'm usually satisfied with cables that cost a lot less than thousands. This is where I find than something else in the system will give you more in return. Or buy a second system for a bedroom, or somewhere else in your home.
Trebejo, Jim Thiel had a degree in physics, and though I can't say for sure that he actually spent money on magic cables, he did have some prefered cables that he would diplomatically recommend for use with his speakers.
So Elizabeth, you've deemed that this is either a Troll, or at least a trollish question.
It seems fairly reasonable and honest question to me. Can YOU explain in common parlance or techniocal terms the difference" - or is it just easier to use it as an excuse to attack the OP.
Why not just say as you've done before the (sniff) "apparently your ears or your equipment can't tell the difference so good for you" (sniff) response.
Just because you see a need to respond to every thread doesn't make your opinion any better than anyone else's - just FYI.
Anyway - to the OP - cables are made out of all different materials, in varying quantities and qualities, using various methods of combining them. Everyone claims they're better than others, and have found some semblence of the Holy Grail.
Is there a difference in sound - yes; is it major - not really; do some components sound better with some brands than others - yes; is there hype, bullshit, smoke and mirrors involved - yes; can you get "great" performance for "good" money: yes.
And don't be afraid to ask reasonable questions, even if the self-anointed feel it necessary to provide self indulgent opinions.
Snofu3 - It is not a need to answer every question, on my part as well, but rather irritation that OP asked a question that was beaten to a pulp on this forum. Any attempt to search in archives would reveal it. Yes, it is trollish question.
I'm a bit surprised at the rancor and ill will (by some) that this thread engendered. I'm not sure what "troll" means in this arena, but I'm pretty sure it is used an animadversion. As for the responses...I like Ncarv's, and Bifwynne's "quality electrons" replies. Hey, I know there is difference between a Sony receiver and Krell FPB amplifier (microfarads of capacitance and all that), but the "wire thing" does have me addled.
I disagree 100%. It is all about the connection. Without a connection to the next step in the audio chain the wire and its make up is irrelevant. Bananas are the best or was it spades?.... no wait I think I meant bare wire. Tinned or not, copper or silver or gold? OHHHH Brother!!!! and what about interconnects RCA, XLR or BNC OH My! . . @ ^
How many of you have actually compared sets of cables? I'm curious because so many people have strong opinions about cables, yet it seems an awful lot of those opinions have been formed by reading others' comments or simply one's own hunches.
I ask whether you have conducted comparisons between entire sets of cables since that is the most effective way to hear distinct differences between cables, and to hear them as the designer intended, as a network for the components. Piecing together such a network one cable at a time would, I believe, for those with some hearing loss, prove futile as they might not hear the distinctiveness of the individual cable. However, swapping entire sets proves so different in sound that it is likely even those with some hearing loss would still catch that difference.
My guess is the large majority of audiophiles have not done so. Many mix and match, which effectively kills any legitimate comparison, not knowing precisely what any given cable is doing. Others likely don't want to spend the money, take the time, etc. to conduct such comparisons. I would not be surprised if less than 10-15% of audiophiles actually conduct such comparisons. If so that would explain the ongoing failure to reach any consensus about cabling.
It's easy to sit and theorize or pontificate about topics like cables. It costs more (at least temporarily while dollars are tied up with extra cables) and takes more effort to do comparisons of entire sets. Therefore, most people don't do it. Simply put, that is one reason why most people are nowhwere near their best sound, despite their perception that they are. A fair number of audiophiles are simply cheapskates, concluding that they can have near SOTA sound with very little input monetarily. They glom onto the belief that wires are wires because it's more comfortable to avoid considering a heavy expense for something deemed uneccessary. I used to be that way and used all the arguments in existence for not considering cables as a serious component. It was not until I actually DID comparisons that I was proven wrong. This all occurred prior to reviewing, so there was no vested interest in the decision. I tied up thousands of dollars temporarily in securing sets of cables to compare. THAT was the definitive breakthrouh which redefined my understanding of cables. It also took me from being a hack stereophile to a serious system builder.
Steve, I disagree with your comment regarding conductors. Part of my analysis in review of the Wire World cables was comparison between identical geometries and total gauge but differing conductor materials (copper vs. silver ofc); sizable difference in performance. I would never recommend that the serious audiophile neglect conductor material in exploration of cables. Briefly, I have consistently found that silver conductors are typically "thinner" sounding, very detailed but lacking in some tonal richness and macrodynamic weight, having some affinity to SET amplification. Copper conductors are typically more robust sounding, having more macrodynamic weight/slam, a darker or more robust character but sometimes might be considered not pristine enough or not detailed enough.
There is a huge performance spectrum between makers of cables of either conductor type. One cannot assume that because a favorite cable maker has a great copper conductor cable the silver will also impress or vice versa. One simply has to compare to know.
In the end all theoretical discussion proves impotent to improve a rig. Those who summon the money and the time to make comparisons of entire sets of cables are those who will advance the most in the establishment of their rig. The payoff is a system with utterly enchanting sound, quality of experience beyond what was deemed possible.
It does not take much effort to look up websites like Shunyata, MIT, etc. who offer some data regarding their designs. I have also found that those who don't want to seriously consider cables will readily dismiss such data/findings. That, then, leaves us back at the first square, which is: Are you going to actually conduct some comparisions or not? If not, then there's little of practical benefit in chewing over the theory when such simple means of confirmation/disproof is readily available.
Even after several reviews of technical nature with cable manufacturers they will all admit that there are aspects of cable design where things are influenced sonically but we can't "prove" why they are influenced. Perhaps one aspect of design can be isolated, i.e. dielectric or conductor material, but as of yet no one has been able to measure the hyper-sensitive differences which the marvelously designed ear can detect. So, if you're looking for a cut and dried answer prior to exploring/experimenting with cables, it'll be a long wait. I suggest you get practical with the issue, because your system will not improve until you do. :)
I was going to edit the post briefly, but there seems to be a glitch somewhere which does not allow it at times;
I ammend thus: Rather than suggest thinness in sound like SET amps, read some poorer SET amps. Also my concluding thought is too strong. One can certainly improve their rig via other means, but will likely remain hindered if the quality of the cabling is not explored.
Can anyone explain clearly in either common parlance or technical terms the difference between a $1,000.00 cable and/or speaker wire versus a $20.00 (or so) one? What does wire "do" in an expensive cable/wire that an inexpensive cable/wire does not? Does it conduct more or "better" electricity? Llanger
I'm surprised that with 39 responses, no one explained the difference between mains electricity and electronics. Power cords and power lines are built to transmit mains electricity. In the US, this is electrical current that alternates at 60 Hz, and is kept at a narrow range of voltage ideally from 110 to 120 VAC.
Electronics, on the other hand, is an elaborate system with the use of a combination of devices (e.g., diodes, triodes, resistors, capacitors, etc.) to amplify voltage fluctuations (which are known as *signals*) to perform tasks. In simple electronics rudimental signals trip a relay, close a switch, adjust temperature, etc. The task of signal transmission in audio is far more sophisticated. The musical performance is encoded to represent all the notes, all the frequencies of the instruments' and voices' overtones, the amplitude of each note, and the tempo at which these notes are played. There is a separate encoding and fluctuation for each of these.
Wire for electricity has very few requirements--it has to have low resistance, be able to transmit lots of current, and be insulated so it doesn't cause short circuits or electrocute the user.
Audio signal cables (interconnects and speaker cables) have a much more complicated job. Ideally they must convey all the various signals (which are minute voltage fluctuations) in time with one another (with the challenge that signal speed varies with frequency), keep the amplitude of each accurate, minimize (ideally prevent) signals from being absorbed by the dielectric to be released back into the signal path later, and have near perfect rise time (which requires frequency response somewhere past 1 GHz). High end audio cable is optimized for signal transfer of all frequencies. It is more challenging to optimize all audio frequencies to travel coherently for ultimate audio signal performance than it is to deliver up to 15 amperes at a constant 115 volts AC.
Even a power cord for an audio component has requirements that general power cord does not--you want to provide as consistent and noise-free power provided to the components as possible. To that end, high end power cords are wound, shielded, and/or woven to reject noise in the electrical lines that can degrade the sound quality of the component receiving the "dirty" sound.
So there's your basic answer. The primary job of electrical wire is to transmit a relatively narrow range of electrical power at a fixed voltage. The primary job of audio cables is to transmit an incredibly complex time-dependent array of electronic signals covering ten octaves of frequencies while rejecting electrical noise that can compromise the musical aspects of the signal quality when it reaches its destination--loudspeakers.
06-24-11: Johnnyb53 Ideally they must convey all the various signals (which are minute voltage fluctuations) in time with one another (with the challenge that signal speed varies with frequency), keep the amplitude of each accurate, minimize (ideally prevent) signals from being absorbed by the dielectric to be released back into the signal path later, and have near perfect rise time (which requires frequency response somewhere past 1 GHz).
Johnnyb53, while your well written post is, IMO, completely correct from a qualitative standpoint (i.e., if quantitative considerations are ignored), as I've mentioned in response to similar posts you've made in the past it is incorrect and misleading quantitatively.
Risetime need only be fast enough to not have audible effects within the frequency range of human hearing. As you know, that is nominally considered to be 20kHz, but even if we apply a huge margin to that figure, 1GHz is still thousands of times faster than necessary.
Furthermore, it is thousands of times faster than the bandwidths of the speakers, the source material, the source component, most electronic components, as well as our ears, so even if cable bandwidth were vastly lower than 1GHz, and cable risetime correspondingly slower, it would not affect overall system bandwidth and risetime to more than an infinitesimal degree.
Finally, I would maintain that for reasonable cable lengths the claimed need for time alignment is speculative at best, as even the audible frequency having the slowest propagation speed (20Hz) still propagates through wires at approximately 5 million meters per second (with the propagation speed of higher frequencies approaching the speed of light). See Figure 2 of this reference.
06-24-11: Almarg Johnnyb53, while your well written post is, IMO, completely correct from a qualitative standpoint (i.e., if quantitative considerations are ignored), as I've mentioned in response to similar posts you've made in the past it is incorrect and misleading quantitatively.
Qualitative was the nature of the OP's original question. He was unaware of the qualitative functional difference between a refrigerator power cord and interconnects between a preamp and amplifier. You don't have to agree with how important the difference is, but the purpose and functions of the two kinds of wires is fundamentally different.
As for calling me "incorrect," that's rather presumptuous for what is a matter of opinion supported by research on both sides. Some very bright lights in audio base their designs on ultrawide bandwidth, including Soulution, Symphonic Line, Odyssey Audio, Spectral Audio, Kimber Cable, Zu Audio, and many others. If you disagree with them, write a letter and set them straight.
Test reports that chart frequency response and square wave response show that risetime is visibly slower on amps that start rolling off at about 20KHz. For example:
06-24-11: Johnnyb53 Some very bright lights in audio base their designs on ultrawide bandwidth ...
In the case of electronic components having ultrawide bandwidth, such as the Spectral products, that means a few MHz, not anything remotely approaching 1GHz. And the basic rationale for that wide bandwidth is, presumably, to avoid undesirable sonic effects that are within the bandwidth of our hearing, which is far less than 1MHz.
If a cable having a bandwidth in the GHz range sounds different than a cable having a lower bandwidth, then given the bandwidth limitations of the speakers, the source material, the source component, the other electronics in the system, and our hearing, the reason for that sonic difference is not the cable's GHz bandwidth.
Test reports that chart frequency response and square wave response show that risetime is visibly slower on amps that start rolling off at about 20KHz.
Yes, of course. I never said anything to the contrary. As I know you realize, bandwidth and risetime have an inverse relationship. Therefore a frequency rolloff that begins too close to the audible frequency range will result in risetimes that are visibly slow when viewed on a time scale that is meaningful with respect to the bandwidth and risetime of our hearing mechanisms.
So it would seem, but here is some food for thought. Audio is all about signal transfer. Is it cost-effective to spend crazy money on components and then lose signal speed and coherency to budget wires between the components? Could it be more cost-effective to get spend less on the components and then get better cables so that more signal arrives intact at your speakers?
06-24-11: Almarg As I know you realize, bandwidth and risetime have an inverse relationship. Therefore a frequency rolloff that begins too close to the audible frequency range will result in risetimes that are visibly slow when viewed on a time scale that is meaningful with respect to the bandwidth and risetime of our hearing mechanisms.
The risetimes are visibly slower even when the component bandwidth stretches out to 100 Khz. Each component with such a bandwidth slows down the incoming signal by that much more.
I have four cables and three components between my turntable and my speakers, for 7 in all. Each component slows down the signal a little bit. By having > 1GHz bandwidth on the cables, I minimize the slowing of the rise times as the signal is passed from the source to the speakers. You may decide that 1 GHz is overkill, but it shouldn't hurt, and the cables (KImber Hero and Zu Wylde) are pretty affordable. The Kimber Heroes are rated out to 8 GHz and I got them at a pawn shop for $50/pair.
06-24-11: Johnnyb53 You may decide that 1 GHz is overkill, but it shouldn't hurt, and the cables (Kimber Hero and Zu Wylde) are pretty affordable. The Kimber Heroes are rated out to 8 GHz and I got them at a pawn shop for $50/pair.
Actually, that would be 8 MHz for the Kimber Hero, not 8 GHz, 8 MHz being a much more reasonable number.
In any event, I have no issues with the approach you've taken. The reason I took exception to some of the statements in your initial post is that IMO mis-identification of the technical reasons for sonic differences between cables, whether by consumers or manufacturers or writers of marketing literature, can result in needless overkill of certain parameters, or focus on the wrong parameters, which in turn may dramatically increase cost without providing any sonic benefit. Although of course it may sometimes provide a marketability benefit, and a profitability benefit. :-)
I consider that some cable effects are simply unexplainable, and that having no explanation is much better than having one that is speculative (at least without it being qualified as such) or misleading or incorrect.
I actually did a careful experiment. I was a non-believer. and Sean, formerly on Audiogon, loaned me a set of cables to test.
I was using AWG12 zip cord. I forget exact;y what the test cables were, but they were a well regarded "exotic" brand.
I set up two identical Dynaudio speakers, close together,one with my zip cord and the other with the exotic cable. I connected the same (mono) signal to each channel. Now, by using the balance control on the preamp I could listen to one wire, and then the other in quick succession.
After quite a bit of listening I concluded that the exotic wire sounded very slightly better than the "junk" zip cord. I am not sure I would pay much for the difference. Nevertheless, when I reconfigured my power amps to monoblocks adjacent to the speakers I did spring for exotic wire. I have no idea if it was necessary, but the wire length was so short that the cost was not great.
You are paying for some one that come up with an idea to make the cable sounds or conducts better. In instant, better material, insulation, thickness of the calbe, keeping electron flowing straight...and the list go on and on...