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.
A quick meta-study of all those blind tests in the link above suggests the following:
1. It seems like a marginally dispositive group of people could distinguish and prefer lamp wire (and jumper cables!) from purpose-built audio cable.
2. in A/B tests, you get a smaller, but consistently rank-ordered preference between purpose-built cables. Unfortunately, they don't release the subject-level data, which would be the only way to know if there is significance.  In one study there was an interesting coincidence between the rank preference ordering and an instrument measurement (was it 'transform function'?)

3. A/B/X tests tend not to support the idea that individuals can distinguish between cables or amplifiers (even cheapos), but, unsurprisingly,support the idea that speakers are distinguishable.
4. It was interesting to see a study that actually suggested the power cables were more distinguishable than interconnects and speaker cables.  That was  a surprise, and I'd like to see someone replicate it.
5. All the studies have small numbers, and should be treated skeptically (see 2)
There was also a reference to a blind test run by a studio that resulted in rewiring with Kimber Cable.  No details provided.
I think we all have to acknowledge this has been done, and what it suggests for our alleged impressions of our lovely and expensive hardware.

There is simple and there is simplistic, you may want to acquaint yourself with the difference.

Taras, I do appreciate your posts. I was making a joke about cable elevators proving gravity. It is funny that NASA nor any Cosmologists can't explain gravity. Basically If something is lighter than air it floats, heavier it falls. I believe NASA will have a lot of explaining to do soon! 
Well, NASA picked Analysis Plus cables.

From Analysis Plus

NASA recently contacted a number of high end audio cable manufacturers, searching for an ultra high quality flexible cable to allow one of their lasers to be mobile. Our Big Silver Oval and Solo Crystal Oval speaker cable were the only cables which met NASA’s specs for things like rise time and low impedance, under extremely demanding loads. We are very proud to provide NASA with our cables. This is the letter we received after their initial testing.

Hey Mark,

Searching the speaker wire industry for an appropriate transmission line has been difficult with the rarely posted figures.

I appreciate the fast response and shipping. They arrived on Friday, but only yesterday did I get to test the wire types. I unbraided the very ends and attached a stub of flat copper so that I could bolt them on our posts.

Our operating condition was 250us to 1ms 120A current pulses at 80V into our laser diodes. That puts our load impedance below an ohm. I’ve attached a photo of the silver oval prepared. The wires performed very well and are a viable substitute for the stiff flat we currently use.  The output of Big Silver Oval looked the best and is most similar to our flat wire.  Silver Oval 2 showed a little bit of oscillation at the beginning of each pulse but was well within a stable range. These are the only two speaker cables we have tested that meet our requirements. I like that its nearly as small as our flat also (which is 10mm x 2mm).

No the application is not confidential.  The laser’s a high energy, narrow line-width 2um pulse.  It can be used for wind profiling, CO2 measurements, and other things. If you need something official though, I’d probably need to talk with others.

I can provide some (attached) but you’ll see in our final assembly that you can’t see the cable itself.  We had to wrap it in a neoprene insulator for protection and requirements. We have three sets of these for our system (3 laser pump sources). The cable does work very well for our application. The clamp image is how we translate the oval cable to a high current connector. Our length is about 10 feet.

Will order 100 ft of Big Silver Oval to ship to NASA, LaRC, Building 1202, Room 223, Mail Stop 488, 5 North Dryden Street, Hampton, Virgina 23681.

Hope that helps, Paul

Paul J. Petzar National Institute of Aerospace


I was making a joke about cable elevators proving gravity.

Sorry if the response took the shape of a lecture but was in a rush this morning and just threw out what was in essence a rough draft that I didn't get back to edit ( the time limit on edits on this site is a bit on the tight side...and the dog ate my homework too.... ) Was hoping to have some fun with that by responding in kind ( to a nicely delivered funny ) but failed miserably. Again, much sorries.