The Science of Cables

It seems to me that there is too little scientific, objective evidence for why cables sound the way they do. When I see discussions on cables, physical attributes are discussed; things like shielding, gauge, material, geometry, etc. and rarely are things like resistance, impedance, inductance, capacitance, etc. Why is this? Why aren’t cables discussed in terms of physical measurements very often?

Seems to me like that would increase the customer base. I know several “objectivist” that won’t accept any of your claims unless you have measurements and blind tests. If there were measurements that correlated to what you hear, I think more people would be interested in cables. 

I know cables are often system dependent but there are still many generalizations that can be made.

Showing 12 responses by erik_squires

And speaking of nonsense, when you gonna be calling NASA ?

I'll leave that up to people who have something to sell. If past experience shows anything, NASA has a very open mind right until claims become unproveable.

What @taras22 has posted reminds me of the dark energy and cold fusion "white papers" I have seen, which of course always turn out to be nonsense.

A survey of a lot of different areas of physics, devoid of any practical ability to use them. That is, for all that writing you have no model which suggests cable construction, measurements or expected results when implemented. It's just a verbose knitting together of irrelevant subject matter.

I'm not saying cables don't matter. I am saying that they can be explained by far simpler models, IF they work.

Given the cheapness of equipment which can measure at 36 bits and 96kHz or better, and cheapness of storage, you'd think a cable manufacturer would have produced hard core proof signals were altered at the end points, and have charts of measurements of it to explain what's happening. We don't. We have wildly different models and stories, from skin effect to you name it.

What little I have heard in cables, it wasn't worth a lot of money, and in my mind easily explained with simple answers.
There’s nothing I’ve ever heard in a cable that could not be explained by simple AC circuit analysis, and assuming amplifiers had more output impedance than claimed.




Produce an explanatory model and exemplar cables based on any of what you have written and then you'll have something to write about.

I believe some cables show a difference. I’ve had blind (but not double blind) tests between Wireworld and Mogami.

My guests were able to hear the difference I did but we completely disagreed as to which was better.

Value of cable difference to me? Maybe $30. Actual costs difference: $300.

I could explain everything I heard by assuming WW had more capacitance and my amp at the time had more impedance than I expected. Nothing there required an explanation of the overlap of Maxwell's equations and the great pyramid of Giza.

I have never bought expensive speaker cables since then.
Oh, no @elizabeth is losing all audiophile cred.

If things are too bright or too dull, you need a whole new speaker and amp combination. That’s how you do it. << giggle >>

She’s right. This is why I push people to

  • Invest in good room acoustics
  • Use tone controls,
  • DIY your own speakers so you can get a feel for how you can alter the sound directly,
The use of cables to make basic changes in frequency response is the most expensive and least effective method we use.
Even though not all tone controls are created equal, the audiophile purists is really a financial masochist.


I agree that cables are super easy to measure in terms of R, C and L.

I think that what's not well understood is their effect on the final output. I've heard speaker cables behave in such a way that makes me believe amps and speakers are more susceptible to these than we think. I've heard a lot of cables which "enhance imaging" do so by cutting the treble.

In the mean time, snake oil proliferates and people pay outrageous sums of money for essentially tone controls, with noise blocking.

Pretty much why I use balanced, pure silver cables with shielding and build my own. Cheap, very very good sounding. If I need a tone control I'll use ... a tone control.


Not science:

I mixed up a bunch of rare and expensive herbs in my kitchen, and they cure the common cold in 2 weeks, guaranteed! 

The idea that science or engineering block discovery is nonsense. So, make up a batch, cure a bunch of people and then find the method of effect. How and why does it work? When does it not work? How much better is it than chickens soup?

That is science.

Science is great, but it is built up on observation, measurement, hypothesis, conclusions.

I look forward to seeing this occur more regularly in amp and cable design.

Snake oil sales men on the other hand write long, meandering pieces with claims that either cannot be tested, or have unproven applicability to the subject at hand. For instance, discussing the micro-crystaline architecture of insulators at near absolute zero, and using that to somehow conclude that electrons flow with less friction at room temperature cables.

My favorite take on this, of course, is the long long quacking, followed by not hearing a damn thing different, and then having the quacks claim it’s my ears.

So you spent half a billion dollars developing this new winding technique and only the top 0.0001% of ears can hear it? Wow. That’s a good investment.  Or, just as bad, claims for major engineering or scientific breakthrough, which cannot be described in engineering terms, either by their results ( frequency, amplitude, phase, noise ) or by the characteristics ( resistance, capacitance, inductance, insulation value, common mode rejection ratio).


teo :

No one is arguing against art.

Just don't come to me with reams of science sounding stuff and then claim your stuff can't be tested or measured, or that you are a maverick.


Truth can be said in a single sentence.
I have to say there's nothing more confidence inspiring than lack of brevity.