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.
mkgus
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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.
the perhaps aptly named sleepwalker raises this criticism:
 Tell us you can’t hear the difference between a lousy Walmart 24 AWG “speaker” cable and a decent audiophile 12 AWG speaker cable, or a lousy 50 cent dollar store interconnect with 1000 pF per foot capacitance between your preamp and amp, compared to an audiophile cable with 12pF per foot capacitance? Or is it “all good” as long as you shake the magic chicken’s foot at it?


The entire thrust of my argument is that its not what you measure but what you hear that counts. So its just beyond goofy trying to say I can't hear a difference. I mean, you miss that one, you are lost. As in wrong planet. Lost. 

But the quote of mine sleepwalker takes issue with is saying electrical measurements are "irrelevant". On that one word I will say, maybe "not decisive" would have been better. Or technically better still, "occasionally helpful but hardly sufficient". But we don't write purely for technical accuracy. We award points for style too. Either way, doesn't change the fact that the only useful means we have of judging audiophile cable performance is by listening. Its simply beyond question. We buy these things to listen to music. Not to hang on the wall beside a printout from a scope. 

We stand by irrelevant.

And not to say Truth is a democracy, but we are heartened to see a clear preponderance of comments in support of our position.

How you "shake" your "magic chicken's foot" sleepwalker you can keep to yourself. TMI. 
I've tried diy single-core & branded cables, and I have heard differences, consistently. Ditto with various branded cables. I'm saying different, not better, worse, etc.
I've often wondered what the real issue with cables is: do people object to *expensive* cables because they are expensive, ergo snake oil, or do people object to the idea that differently constructed wires result in different sound?
If it's the first, I've found that cables tend to be expensive when they sound good in a number of systems. The production price can be a secondary consideration.If it's a matter of rejecting the idea that different cable constructions affect the sound, it becomes a religious topic.
“I ask this question......how sophisticated must a system be to truly hear the difference in sound from a modestly priced cable and the super expensive ones? Is it just a matter of money?”

I’ll play devil’s advocate. In order to obtain a “sophisticated system,” one must not overlook cables. I often hear people say, “don’t spend money on cables, save it and put it where you’ll get better bang for your buck, like speakers.” I’m not sure I agree with this completely. Yes, get good speakers, but then go on to bring the rest of your system up to spec and that includes good cables. Even if you have the best speakers, you’ll never realize their full potential until you give the rest of your system the attention it deserves. Based on comments from others, when they have swapped a decent pair of bookshelves into their “sophisticated system,” they were blown away by just how good a mediocre pair of speakers can sound.

“I have noticed the members with the most technical knowledge here seem to have less expensive wires than the ones with less knowledge.”

I like to believe I have technical knowledge - two engineering degrees and an engineering license. A funny twist on your quote is that while I do have very inexpensive cables, I have put a significant amount of time and effort into DIY cable efforts. When I say “good” cables I don’t necessarily mean expensive - just good in the sense that they compliment your system and that one has put in the necessary amount of time and trial and error to get a lot out of their system. My latest escapade was changing some tweeter speaker cables from small gauge, solid core with a poor dielectric to the same wire with an air dielectric. Wow, the improvement it made!! Harsh treble that makes you want to turn down the music is no more. 

So while I don’t currently spend a ton on cables, I recognize their importance and go to great effort to pick the right ones. Sometimes you do have to spend a little bit - pure silver is expensive - no way around it. 😃