Ok, which cables do you consider to be neutral?
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How can you be sure a cable is neutral? The only was you could be positive that a cable does not color the sound, is to know what your system sounds like with no cables.
My reference is live music, not some reference system. If a combination of components sounds right, then I guess you could say it is neutral. I can't really just point to the cables.
While I like many cables, of those I have tried, my favorite single brand of cables is Siltech. Are they neutral? I don't know. Do they make the sound realistic in my system. Absolutely Yes.
Some post in regards to cable and power cords amaze me also, I do expect to someday read a post where the poster has gone out and bought a PC, and now wants to know what system he should build around it, he may get a few answers on it. On the other hand (neutral) products are not the design goal behind many amps,preamps,cdp's and other audio gear that we audiophiles and non-audiophiles buy and love. Some of the most sought after gear in the world are (voiced) to have left/right of neutral if you will type of sound, doesn't seem to make their buyers think less of them, on the contrary, they may ITHO think that a system which is neutral has no life and does not move them at all. Which is right and which is wrong? As the above posters asked, what is neutral? Is it what I think, or what you think? With so much sonic signature in our systems (that we seek out) what would a neutral cable matter?
Audioengr, you have long exhibited a complete lack of understanding when it comes not only to cable, but many other issues. I guess the user name does not insure reliability.
Why do you continue to propound these things that anyone with ears can tell are inaccurate? I am not an engineer, nor do I possess 'golden ears' but I have heard the fallacy of your statements over and over again.
We have had these disagreements before when I asked the question about what makes a bigger difference, new componants or very good interconnect or speaker cables? My experience shows that cables can make differences which are beyond belief. You poo pooed the whole ideal. Inspite of the fact that you could not measure the difference every one of the people I had come over and listen was amazed by the huge difference.
Since that test I have replaced my Aragon 8008st with a Krell FPB 200. The improvement was significant, but I'm not sure if replacing a $2000 amp with a $6000 amplifier was as big an improvement as the Purist Dominus interconnect.
Silly theories such as the 'neutral vs. tone control' will be disproven once science catches up to technology. Just because you don't know how to measure this difference doesn't mean it isn't there. Did gravity not exist before Newton? Did mold have no value because Pasteur had not discovered Penicillin? These dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants claiming to have understanding are preventing honest 'seekers' from learning the truth.
No such thing as neutral, especially when matching many parts as a whole. There is no known reference as to what a master tape "should" sound like (even a memory of the live event does not qualify due to the recording chain, which does not even come close to duplicating the sound heard @ such).
What this leaves us with is synergy between components, listening rooms and cables (tuning a system to personal taste).
"I do expect to someday read a post where the poster has gone out and bought a PC, and now wants to know what system he should build around it, he may get a few answers on it."
I never posted, but kind of did this very thing the last time I downsized (sold or stored all of the system components except for a CD player, however I kept all of the original cabling).
So, in effect I built a new system from the ground up with nothing to start with but the cables (plus a CD player, an equipment rack and the power conditioners:-).
Never really thought about it this way before.
Has getting as close to what you would think is the real thing fit into the equation or is that being neutral?
Some cables just do not work with systems or speakers I would think. Atleast that is what I have founnd in my system. I also do not weigh much into having a cable for 30days. In some cases I can tell within the first week weather they are going to be right.Sometimes In the first day. Then there are others which I cannot put my final impression on because there is that something that just does not come off correct. It is only after an extended period I figure it out then they are gone.
I have a passive controller. I never thought of cables as being tone controls. If I wanted tone controls I would get an active Pre-Amp. I would rather just have what is what I would think to be the regular presentation as the Engineer had settled on being the final version. I could always add an EQ if I felt I needed one.
When *any* cable is introduced into a system, the signal path has to travel through that cable. Once this happens, neutrality is impossible, audioengr, because the signal is inherently degraded in the mere process of *moving through* that path.
As a result, there is no neutrality, and therefore there is no "absolute sound."
I disagree 100%.
If you terminate most any cable with the nominal load and source impedances that it would see during normal operation, most all of them will pass signals with phenomenally high levels of linearity. It is the impedances of each component being linked together combined with the electrical characteristics of the cable itself that we hear, not the cable itself. That's why "Cable A" may bomb / sound horrible between the Super Deluxe 2000 and Whiz Bang 1000 but works great between the Whiz Bang 1000 and a Golden Jalopy 1500.
While i do agree that some cables may have a higher DA ( dielectric absorption ) factor, have slightly variable series resistance, varying levels of reactance, etc... most all of them are capable of passing signal without major problems on their own. What makes the big difference is the fact that the terminated and source impedances are changing as both amplitude and frequency are varied. As such, the cables themselves are acting as impedance transformers between the two mating components. How good of a job the cable can do in terms of minimizing the reflections between the two impedances while allowing maximum signal transfer "wins". That is, as far as "system transparency" goes.
Cables that lack this ability ( in a specific source / load combo ) will result in some type of "colouration" being presented. This is due to a greater amount of reflections altering how the signal is transferred and how the circuitry responds to those reflections. Changing either the source or the load component could produce drastically different results.
When all is said and done, it is more a matter of system synergy / circuit stability / personal preference than any other factor. There are no "best" cables because their are no perfect sources or loads. Sean
1. So lacking in interest as to cause mental weariness; "a boring evening with uninteresting people"; SYN. deadening, dull, ho-hum, irksome, slow, tedious, tiresome, wearisome.
1. In a tedious manner; "boringly slow work"; SYN. tediously, tiresomely.
1. Extreme dullness; SYN. dreariness.
ultralingua (english vers.)
"Neutral" to the ear of an audio equipment designer, or anyone else for that matter, may not be as such to yours. That's probably why there is no definitive audio product posessing the absolute truth. It's all subjective. And personal. And most important, IMHO, it's fun (a pastime, not a life's ambition) to indulge yourself in acheiving the best system you can afford, cables and all. Nothing too amazing about it, is it?
Bravo Audioengr! Wished I had seen your post sooner. Audioengr has nailed it done! About time someone said this as succinctly as you. I even go so far to say that when shopping for audio gear, not only should one take their own music to audition gear with, but also, and perhaps more important, your own cables! At that, I recommend using the most neutrally, transparent cables you can find. That way you get to hear the gear for what it is and honestly determine whether the piece of gear or system being auditioned fancies your listening preferences. Neutral and transparent cabling takes away the editorial issue of most cables.
There are tons of great "sounding" cables out there. They work with well with certain systems to one degree or another. Then, there are some great cables available that work great with virtually any system. These offerings reveal the glorious synergy of well-chosen gear or the weakness of poorly designed gear or a miss-matched system. With great sounding cables, chasing the rabbit can go on and on and it seems you never quit get to the music. Close, but no genuine cigar. Its easier to change cables every month to six months than address what may be the real issue poor gear or system synergy.
With great cables, there is no chase and the result is not close, its magical. If one has taken the care and time to define their listening preferences and to assemble a system that reflects those values, you find yourself captivated by the music only rather than music that directs your attention to the gear. Personally, I hate listening to gear and wires.
I recently received a comment about how one of our cables revealed a weakness in their analog front end. I thought, Finally, somebody gets it! Normally, one would say the cables are at fault. Rather than blame the cabling, this individual was familiar enough with their system to recognize where the real fault was. They now have the opportunity to address the real issue rather than go on chasing the cable rabbit and never really fixing the problem. Bravo to that person!
Well, my point and intention was more about philosophy than theory. Anyone can either learn from it, agree with it or disagree with it. That is fine with me. I have no interest to engage in a "theory" discussion other than to say balancing electrical parameters for a given application, topology, insulators and conductor quality are important. How we apply these criteria is not open for debate which is what usually happens when a discussion on "theory" comes up. We do what we do and our cables are what they are. Our offerings are for ears that love music instead of being scruntinized by minds that entertain theory and/or crunch numbers. If this seems to be an easy out, I regret that it's seen that way but, so be it. I mean no disrespect or offense here, just wanting to be to my point.
Throw the theory and other things aside,
I totally agree with Ridgestreetaudio and Audioengr.
If the cable is well designed, it should perform well in all systems. A good cable should enhance what you already have. i.e. A better cable can bring you more detail and image without changing the tone. IMHO, that would be the ideal "neutral" cable - a cable that is capable of producing same volume at all frequencies passing from the source.
However, some cables do add more than just clean sound to the music. i.e. If a system is too bright ( I see a lot of comments here on audiogon ) then listeners would look for some "tone down" cable. If a system is not enough bass, the listener would look for a cable to add "punch and volume" in the bass. The cables they're looking for is not neutral but just to help the system match issue.
Being able to make DIY cable myself, I'm now have a better understanding of finding the right combination for a bright system, neutral system and dark system. The cable for neutral system will work any the well matched system.
If I walk into a hi-fi store, I'll definitely bring my own "neutral" cable as the reference point.
All these are my opinion based on my own experiment and experience. Your results will vary according to your listening conditions.
What i can't understand is how someone like Audioengr can say and believe what he did when he understands ( i think ) how cables and signal propagation works. I can understand how S23chang and Ridge Street Audio could make and / or agree with such a statement, given that ( i'm assuming here ) they don't have the technical background and / or test equipment that Audioengr does. I know that Steve aka Audioengr knows / understands / has experienced the effects of loading / signal reflection in his work. I don't understand how he could disregard the effects that this has on sonics / loading & transfer characteristics. I also don't know how he could overlook the variances that one can run into from component to component and system to system. As such, my comments were primarily aimed at Steve aka Audioengr, especially since he was the one that opened this can of worms.
According to S23chang: "If the cable is well designed, it should perform well in all systems. A good cable should enhance what you already have. i.e. A better cable can bring you more detail and image without changing the tone."
What is being said here is that a cable can be good even though it doesn't transfer all of the information that was fed into it. A better cable will lose even less signal / convey even more information without altering tonal balance. Well, guess what ? I think we all agree with that premise in basic theory. What i think that most of us here would like to know is how do we find these cables and know which ones they are ? If it is not something that we can measure and / or quantify by some type of physical or electrical characteristics, we are right back to trial and error and ludicrous claims based on marketing hype and / or personal preferences. Sean
"We have had these disagreements before when I asked the question about what makes a bigger difference, new componants or very good interconnect or speaker cables? My experience shows that cables can make differences which are beyond belief. You poo pooed the whole ideal. Inspite of the fact that you could not measure the difference every one of the people I had come over and listen was amazed by the huge difference."
I never said that cables could not make a big difference. In fact, I believe that they can make a HUGE positive difference, if they are neutral cables. Non-neutral cables can change the sound, but not in a positive sense. What I actually said in the initial post was that I believe that trying to find SYNERGY between particular cables and particular components was a fruitless proposition.
Sean - Robert (of Ridge Street) and I have come to the same conclusions for a reason. It is experience. When you design a truly neutral cable, any system that it goes into benefits from it. The cable is really like no cable at all. There is really no "synergy" between components and well-designed cables. People sometimes ask me whether my cables will sound good with their components. I frankly don't know how to answer this. They expect me to have a magical file listing certain components that play well with certain cables of mine. All I can answer is that my cables are neutral and extremely revealing, so if they have a poor sounding component in their system, it will likely reveal this component. The trick is to replace the offending component rather than wasting money swapping cables until you convince yourself that it sounds better.
At least if you are starting with neutral, low-loss revealing cables, you can pretty-much rule-out the cables as the cause of any objectionable system performance, with perhaps the exception of noise issues, such as hum and RF pickup.
"What is being said here is that a cable can be good even though it doesn't transfer all of the information that was fed into it."
No, what I said was that certain cables do not mate synergistically with certain components, at least without degradation of some sort, such as dynamic compression or HF roll-off. In other words, cables that are said to be synergistic only with a particular component are usually "tone control" cables.
"A better cable will lose even less signal / convey even more information without altering tonal balance."
No argument here.
"Well, guess what ? I think we all agree with that premise in basic theory. What i think that most of us here would like to know is how do we find these cables and know which ones they are ?"
Unfortunately, you have to take the word of either: a reviewer, a trusted friend, or a manufacturer and ultimately try the cables for yourself. However, if you are not a super-sleuth, you may still have an offensive component in your system that you have not identified and thus end-up in the vicious circle of cable swapping etc.. I try to help as many customers in this sleuthing as I can but it is difficult to do this remotely. One thing that I am doing is offering a "reference source system" to try with a refundable deposit down. At least with this source, you KNOW that the source not the problem. Then the only things to consider are the preamp, the amp and the speakers.
"If it is not something that we can measure and / or quantify by some type of physical or electrical characteristics, we are right back to trial and error and ludicrous claims based on marketing hype and / or personal preferences."
I never said that a neutral cable did not have measurable quality metrics. They certainly do and I believe in these metrics, such as capacitance and dielectric absorption for an interconnect cable. Furthermore, I believe that I am nearing the point of diminishing returns for these metrics. Not all quality metrics for cables are easily measurable however. The quality of the silver wire for instance plays a big part in the neutrality and quality of an interconnect cable. I have my theories as to why this is and I know what to do to make the silver sing, but I have no effective way to measure this, at least which makes any sense at audio frequencies.
Audioengr: "No, what I said was that certain cables do not mate synergistically with certain components, at least without degradation of some sort, such as dynamic compression or HF roll-off. In other words, cables that are said to be synergistic only with a particular component are usually "tone control" cables."
The comment that you responded to here was meant as a response to what S23chang said, not what you had said previously. He said that a good cable would work in any system and a better cable would give you more of what the good cable already offered without altering the tonal balance. I simply pointed out that if one cable "bettered" another cable, one of the cables was simply "losing" more info than the other ( all other things being equal ).
Other than that, i think that you are still missing the point that i was trying to make. We are not listening to any single component in a system. We are listening to a conglomerate of equipment that are all loading into and reacting to one another that can be summed up as being equivalent to Thevenin's Theory. System A is no better than System B even if System A uses "neutral" cables / coloured electronics and System B uses "flavourful" cables with "neutral" electronics. We hear the end result. If both systems are deemed to be "accurate" and / or "musical", etc..., then it really doesn't matter HOW we got there. The end result is the same, we just took different paths. The fact that changing a cable CAN alter the sonics / electrical characteristics of a system / component simply means that synergy DOES come into play and IS measurable.
As a side note, try measuring the actual load impedance that a source sees during dynamic use conditions with various cabling. You can even try this with the same cabling of different lengths. Make sure that you vary the amplitude of the signal as you are doing this. Then compare their waveforms using a dynamic passage of music on a storage scope and / or tone bursts at each frequency extreme. Once you get done scratching your head, then swap in a different source or load and do it all over again. Then come back and talk to me about "universal cabling". I think you'll have a slightly different opinion and outlook on things.
To sum it up, what you'll find is that the input VSWR that the source sees changes as the amplitude and frequency are varied. When you find a cable that can "buffer" these variations that the source sees, this cable will tend to present a consistent sonic "flavour" due to the fact that the source sees a consistent load. The cable is NOT "flavoured" so much as you are now hearing the effects of consistent loading characteristics of the source device itself. It is helping to negate the varying levels of reactance of the load component that the source would otherwise have to deal with. In effect, it is acting as an impedance transformer. Whether or not one likes the "flavour" that such a cable provides, power transfer and signal linearity are probably operating at or near peak efficiency. That is, so long as the impedance being presented to the source via the cables "transformer action" is to its' liking. Changing to a different cable will present a different impedance / level of reactance and therefore cause the level of power transfer / signal linearity to be altered. Depending on the load component and cables being used, the sonics could get better, worse or have varying levels of consistency due to the aforementioned variations in input vswr as drive levels / frequency are varied.
Too bad we live so far apart. Between your Digital background and my RF background, i'm sure that we could come up with some real "wonderous" stuff. We might want to kill each other getting there, but it would be fun and i'm sure, quite enlightening : ) Sean
Sean, If I understand correctly, the bottom line and simplicity of your question is how do you determine a cable is, in and of itself, neutral enough to have no discernable signature of it's own given the current resolution that can be obtained with electronics. If that's your question, it does need an answer.
The only way I know how to answer that question at this point is to work with my clients on a case-by-case basis and tell them what my experience tells me they should hear with our cabling in their particular system. It's time consuming but, so far, that has worked very well.
What that requires on my part is that I have to have a pretty good scope of how different gear sounds. That has taken me years to learn and is an on-going process. In case you're wondering if I've heard almost every piece of gear there is to be heard, the answer is no but I've had the opportunity to hear a lot. I have enough experience to have a good clue about how different topologies sound, how different capacitors, diodes, resistors, ICs, transistors, tubes, wire, and etc. sound. Given this experience and what I believe makes for a neutral cable, I believe I've acquired enough knowledge and credibility to make the claims that I make about our products. I'm confident enough to risk being fool enough to let others purchase our offerings and welcome they're judgments. So far, we're still here and I trust we'll be around for the long haul.
If this seems like a pretty cumbersome answer, it probably is. I wished I knew a simpler way to answer it but this is the best, however awkward, I know for now. I think I should say thanks for bringing up your question like this because Ive not really entertained to any real degree your question. I am now entertaining it seriously if theres a simpler answer that is still helpful to our clients, it sure would save me a hell of a lot of time!
Kindly and Sincerely,
In response to the original post, cable differences go deeper than coloration. Two cables can be equally neutral on chromatic scale, yet differ greatly in macro/micro dynamics, noise floor, speed, clarity, detail resolution versus smoothness, and quality of imaging. Assuming that you can locate neutral cables, there is still a wide variety of performance attributes to consider in system balancing.
Ridgestreetaudio's way of making the "neutral" is based on data you collected and not based on physical property of the cable you make. This is a good approach and I've done the same myself to determine what's "neutral" to me. What you're doing is helping your clients learn how to match their system (As I mentioned in my previous post.) On behave of your clients I would thank you for your effort(I actually never audition your cable before) of making everyone enjoy their system. This is exactly what Sean said:
"If both systems are deemed to be "accurate" and / or "musical", etc..., then it really doesn't matter HOW we got there. The end result is the same, we just took different paths."
In another words, a cable doesn't have to be neutral as long as the system is neutral.
This is the my first thought when I became an audiophile and it is still my strong believe. Regardless of what speaker, amps, preamps, and cables you have, as long as the source is the same then the output should be the same with slight difference is detail and presentation.
i.e. A violin should sound like violin but detail and imaging can vary. However, many folks disagree with me because they believe in component dependent rather than end result.
S23: Since each component will influence the sound, both on its' own and due to the inter-action with other components, everybody is right. That's why i have a hard time writing reviews for equipment i.e. change the combo of equipment and you'll change the entire presentation. We are not hearing any specific aspect of any given component, but how that one component responds and causes responses with the other components in that system. That is why it is called "system synergy" i.e. we hear the entire package as an end result. If we wanted to be fair, we could also call it "component compatability" since one change affects the whole system but those changes are directly related to that one component swap. By "component", i'm including ANYTHING that signal passes through and even the AC supply to some extent. Sean
PS to Audioengr: If you can perform the tests mentioned above between an amp and preamp with the amp driving highly reactive speakers, you'll really see what i was talking about in terms of the load "modulating" the source and different cables and length of cables compounding or buffering this effect. Given the amps that you have, it may do better than others with this though as i have a good amount of confidence in the designer of these specific products.
Sean, have you demonstrated the dynamic loading you describe? Have pictures(not those kinds:))?
One other point is many of the sonic qualities used to describe the differences beteween cables are identical to those you would expect to describe the sound between a system in and outside of an rfi environment. Terms like "dynamic compression, zippy-highs, no bass" etc. probably mean that rfi to some extent is entering or overloading the input stage or even causing oscillations in an output stage. That would explain why some cables work in some systems and not others, it depends on each components resistanse to environmental factors which will change depending on the loading to each other.
A cable with good shielding may have a higher capacitance that the output stage doesn't like, that's why a good component should be able to drive significant capacitance, then differences between well sheilded cables will be negligible. So in difference to these cable manufacturers claims, picking a good component first will eliminate the never ending cable search, just find one with good sheilding and construction.
"In response to the original post, cable differences go deeper than coloration. Two cables can be equally neutral on chromatic scale, yet differ greatly in macro/micro dynamics, noise floor, speed, clarity, detail resolution versus smoothness, and quality of imaging."
I agree completely. The confusion has to do with the definition of the word "neutral". In this sense, I use it to mean a cable that imparts no sound of its own. This is much more than just a flat steady-state spectral response.
Sean - what I do in my own reference system to eliminate most of the "dynamic loading effects" is the following:
Preamp with very low-impedance output - 7 ohms
Power amps with very low impedance output
Speakers with flat impedance response - 3 ohms
Cables with extremely low loss and dielectric absorption
This way, I have a reference system that is extremely tolerant to differing loads. The interaction between components is small. This way when I mod different components, I can insert them into the system and really hear the improvement and not spend all of my time troubleshooting and swapping other components to get a good synergy. I want to eliminate as many variables as possible.
I do have one known issue. The power amps need significant current to stay dynamic. A passive linestage proved to be dissapointing to me.
At HE2003, I used all tubed components in our active system. Here, synergy between speakers and amps was very significant. Once we found this synergy, the magic happened. However, as always, using our cables avoided having the cables "add" any sonic signature of their own. And we used 15-foot unshielded IC's too.
Long before Copernicus,mathematicians were trying to predict the movements of the planets; their efforts never proved successful. Galileo arrives and proves the movement of the planets can never be predicted until the solar model has the sun at its center. Your arguments are like the mathematicians of old; you will never find the answer because your basic premise is incorrent. Traditional engineering principals do not work with cable design.
Our discussions about cable design problems with physicist and engineers have always reached the same conclusion: "To solve these problems you must develop a new technology and ultimately your own science". After 10 years of research we have succeeded, but the answers lie far outside the box of traitional engineering. Faulty methodology never yields successful results.
Am I the only one that finds this thread a little smelly? Audioengr starts the thread knowing full well it will serve as a promotional vehicle for his product. Robert, from Ridge Street, joins in so he won't be left out. Then Corona weighs in with his usual pseudo-scientific babble. I recommend audiogon delete it.
Audioengr: The system that you've built and use for reference purposes ties in with Leme's response about gear selection. Having said that, do you think that your gear / system is representative of the majority of components / systems in use today ? I don't and that's why i disagree with the majority of your statements. Those theories and statements are based on optimal conditions with gear that is designed to the "nth" degree. Since most people lack the technical insight that an engineer does, their selection of gear is more likely to be less optimally matched and / or designed. Looking at your statements based on the assumption of near perfect conditions, i might not disagree as heartily as i do when i take reality into account and think about the types of systems that most people are running. Sean
PS... How many parts are in the crossover network of your speakers ? You probably don't have enough fingers and toes to count them all.....
Maybe this will help; it took us three years to build a ported dynamic speaker with no x-over. Every speaker manufacture we took the project to said it was inpossible. The major reason the speaker works is due to a huge advancement in power cord design. This shows an inherent relationship between power cable performance and its effect on the total system. Without a stable power flow nothing else can function properly.This synergy thing is a bunch of dung, there is a reason for everything and when it is beyond our understanding we call it synergy etc.
I know it is hard to grasp without hearing the reality but A-Bs are difficult to do over the internet mabe you and Audioengr can figure that one out.
There are many strange relations in the audio chain that contemporary engineering has not accounted for and the more I say the more bazaar it is going to appear.
Nrchy/Sonic_genius/Nighthawk: FIY, cable business is very hard to make a buck because lack of customers. Audio is a luxury hobby not neccessity. Many of them has a real job other than this hobby. However, they're very proud of what they design(or something they found) and they're trying to prove that their idea works.
exactly like Corona said
If you don't read this why you come?
and obviously there are some hidden secrets where you need to find out yourself otherwise they wouldn't be able to stay in business.
Sean is correct, I don't have equipment to test any of the DIY cables I built myself since I'm not in EE or a real hifi shop. I only work with a 99 cents plier, a radio shack twizzer and solder iron and a good set of ears : )
Btw, I did have ME degree more than a decade ago but I've never work in the ME field. I'm currently in CS field.
Here are some hints:
I have found that solid core gauge size has more sonic signature (based on the resonance frequency response) and insulation (vibration damping) and shielding (dielectric)has more influence in noise reduction. The electrical property (resistance and capacitance) will have greater influence on pace and rhythem (pace). The purity of the material (metallurgy) will increase the detail over all.
The statement above is based my own findings from DIY IC and speaker cables. I have not applied the above on AC cords yet.
For all the DIY folks, you can try to build the most suitable cable with above conclusion in mind and you'll be happy with the results or you should have a good idea of what type of cable you own and what needs to improve.
Audioengr's original post and replies to it like Sean's constitute what I think is an interesting and important question.
As an engineer, I'm well aware that the putting together of optimized systems is normally done by a design team that would never dream of leaving it to an untutored end user to shape through mix and match.
As stated already in this thread, audiophiles usually match gear on sound and much audio gear is designed according to idiosyncratic engineering principles, therefore the end result is that the connecting cables become a battleground for the subtle mismatch of electronic parameters, as in Sean's detailed reactive loading description.
Audioengr's original argument is that IF you match components well enough, including with tubed systems, that it is at least possible to get the cable influence out of the equation. Obviously cables need to be as well designed as possible (re S23chang) but the HUGE dependency of system sound on cable parameters can be avoided - unless you give up and admit that your goal is not to optimize the accuracy of sound reproduction but just to color the whole system according to your own whims ..make that..tastes.
Personally I think this is a goal worth working for (if achievable). The way forward would involve manufacturers taking a substantially more active position in determining system match for their own components and in publishing those data. Audiophiles can hardly be expected to do it, and nothing will happen when everyone insists that 'its all a matter of taste'.
"if a 15 foot run of cable can be readily had from Empirical, why does everyone else have so much trouble making a standard 3 footer that should have 5 times less 'signature'"
The answer is simple. Most manufacturers of cable do not have a clue about the physics. It helps to have almost 30 years experience doing hardware engineering design. I have been researching cables specifically for almost ten years, including computer simulations of IC's and speaker cables. These really help one understand the physics without the need to build hundreds of prototypes. It eliminates much of the trial-and-error. If you see a manufacturer of cables that uses a similar design for IC's and speaker cables, this is the first indication that they don't have a clue....