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  #1  
Old 05-24-2010, 03:18 PM
Dizzi45Z Dizzi45Z is offline
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Default OT: Cable Hype...

Okay. So I am purchasing some more cables and I just can't help but ask about the cable hype. Just curious about what people's verdicts are nowadays.

Personally, I think cables are way hyped up. I remember when I bought my first Monster Cable ($60 bass cable). I thought the bass was going to sound so much better. I plugged it in and honestly didn't really hear any difference. I've heard people go as far as talking about making sure you find out which direction your cable sounds best in . There never seems to be anybody really showing any tests that prove these differences.

Obviously, you need a well designed cable. But beyond that, I just think it's all hype. I doubt the large majority of professional audio engineers could hear any difference between Hosa/Whirlwind cabling and Monster/Mogami Cables.

Perhaps I could see it mattering most on guitar cables if there really is someplace where it could actually make any difference.

What are your thoughts?
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Old 05-24-2010, 03:55 PM
netnoggin netnoggin is offline
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Default Re: OT: Cable Hype...

Just a note in case you aren't aware - the website in your signature is throwing a malware alert in Avast:

Quote:
Infection: HTML:Script-inf
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Old 05-24-2010, 04:22 PM
Dizzi45Z Dizzi45Z is offline
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Default Re: OT: Cable Hype...

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Originally Posted by netnoggin View Post
Just a note in case you aren't aware - the website in your signature is throwing a malware alert in Avast:
Good to know. I'm going to check it out. Thanks.

Edit: You are definitely right. It looks like my website has been hacked or something. Thanks again for letting me know.
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Old 05-24-2010, 05:53 PM
netnoggin netnoggin is offline
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Default Re: OT: Cable Hype...

Glad to be able to help.

As for your original question, Good logic and common sense goes a long way with cables in general. Most of the advantages advertised for cables contain a grain of truth, which the marketing team amplifies into a "major breakthrough" or a "won't believe your ears" difference.

Take for instance some improvement that lowers capacitance past what is normally deemed acceptable. With a cable you are talking about distributed capacitance - distributed evenly along the length of the cable. So a three foot patch cord is simply not going to exhibit anything other than a minute improvement compared to say, a 30 footer. But it's technically still an improvement, so you can't deny them that claim. But given all the variables that impact a cable's ability to do it's job - transparently transfer audio frequency electrical signals from one end to the other - this "improvement" probably wouldn't even be measurable, let alone audible.

There are some basics for a given cable purpose that I look for, but the minute I see someone saying a cable "sounds better" my BS meter starts ticking up. There are very specific, scientific ways to determine if a cable is or is not affecting the signal in question. If a company shows underlying scientific proof that their cable excels overall, good for them. But you've probably noticed this information is absent in most marketing. Instead they resort to telling you things like how "open" or "transparent" or some other unmeasurable thing a cable is. The more they rely on these tactics, the less I am inclined to buy.
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Old 05-24-2010, 06:18 PM
aus scott aus scott is offline
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Default Re: OT: Cable Hype...

I worked in retail selling HiFi gear years back - and when guys (it was always guys) came in to 'audition' cables if you lied to them about where the expensive cable was - they heard the 'positive improvement' in the direction you said it was, not where it was supposed to be...interesting. But they were prepared to shell out LARGE amounts of money for these things, even when you'd disproved the theory to them. Something about belief psychology?

Scott

Last edited by aus scott; 05-24-2010 at 07:17 PM. Reason: spelling mistake....ooops
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Old 05-24-2010, 07:51 PM
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Default Re: OT: Cable Hype...

The hype thing is true of the whole audio industry. Just enough specs. to make buyers feel like they are making an informed technical decision mixed up with "PRO" endorsements and undefined jargon.
Almost all these audio companies would get laughed out the door if they tried to use their spec. sheets to bid on a serious project like a Sat. comm video/audio system.
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Old 05-24-2010, 09:06 PM
Dizzi45Z Dizzi45Z is offline
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Default Re: OT: Cable Hype...

I was just reading about Sample Rates in a Mix magazine article and it was talking about a theory by Ethan Winer regarding why people think cables sound different.

quote:
He writes, “I am convinced that comb filtering is at the root of people reporting a change in the sound of cables and electronics, even when no significant change is likely. If someone listens to their system using one pair of cables, then gets up and switches cables and sits down again, the frequency response heard is sure to be very different because it's impossible to sit down again in exactly the same place. So the sound really did change, but probably not because the cables sound different!” /quote
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Old 05-24-2010, 09:16 PM
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John_Toolbox John_Toolbox is offline
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Default Re: OT: Cable Hype...

For XLR, TRS, etc. I make my own cables. I have used many different types of cable, and if they are in good condition, not too thin of a gauge, and wired properly, they all sound the same. I've opened up some retail cables that had really bad soldering in them.

Depending on the purpose, I may or may not pay more for the higher end computer cables. Firewire cables are worth paying more for, usb cables usually aren't.

Ultimately, a properly wired studio is much more important than expensive cables. I would rather have homemade cables that are exactly the right length than "Monster" cables that are coiled up with an extra 10' of cable sitting at the bottom of the rack. Keeping data and audio cables away from power cables is also often overlooked, they should cross each other at 90 degree angles, and never be run parallel to each other in the same conduit.

Power is probably the most overlooked aspect of studio wiring. An example is a studio that has apogee wide eye word clock cables, but uses the cheap $1.99 plastic power strips from ax-man.
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Old 05-24-2010, 09:20 PM
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John_Toolbox John_Toolbox is offline
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Default Re: OT: Cable Hype...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dizzi45Z View Post
I was just reading about Sample Rates in a Mix magazine article and it was talking about a theory by Ethan Winer regarding why people think cables sound different.

quote:
He writes, “I am convinced that comb filtering is at the root of people reporting a change in the sound of cables and electronics, even when no significant change is likely. If someone listens to their system using one pair of cables, then gets up and switches cables and sits down again, the frequency response heard is sure to be very different because it's impossible to sit down again in exactly the same place. So the sound really did change, but probably not because the cables sound different!” /quote
Funny I just read that too. That theory holds a lot more water than a lot of the marketing hype out there.
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Old 05-25-2010, 11:17 AM
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Default Re: OT: Cable Hype...

A quick overview of cables and the hype.

For audio cables there are several factors at play - I'll go over each one.

There are, essentially, 4 types of shielding:

1. Stranded: just strands of wire run along the cable between the jacket and the dialectric (we'll get to the dialectric in the next section). This is an indication of a crap cable. Avoid at all costs.
2. Spiral: wires are spirally wound around the dialectric. Better than stranded, but still should be avoided, as flexing the cable can introduce gaps in the shield, allowing RFI/EMI through. Again, avoid if at all possible.
3. Braided: wire is braided around the dialectric. This is the typical 'pro' cable and is what you want for a typical system.
4. Foil: a full foil shield around the dialectric. This is almost the best shielding, but is for installation only, as flexing the cable repeatedly can break the foil and allow RFI/EMI through.
5. Foil/Braid: a combo of the last 2 types. This is the best you can get but, again, it's mostly for installations, as the foil is susceptible to breakage when flexed.

The dialectric is the material between the shield and the conductor and is made of plastic/rubber - the type of plastic/rubber depends on the quality of the cable. Better cables have thicker dialectric and are made from plastics/rubber that are non-conducting. Plastic and rubber can be a conductors, despite what some may think. Cheap cables use cheap materials for the dialectric that has impurities which can conduct electricity or is too thin to properly isolate the conductor (the wire that carries your audio signal) from the shield. Or they simply use plastic that has some conductive properties. If you're adventurous, you can see this in action - cut up a cable, remove the jacket and the shield but keep the conductor and trim the dialectric back enough from the conductor to attach a clip from your multimeter. Connect a terminal of the multimeter to the conductor, making sure it's not touching the dialectric, then connect the other terminal to the dialectric. Set it to measure resistance in ohms. You shouldn't get a reading - meaning that it is unable to measure any conductivity between the conductor and the terminal on the outside of the dialectric. Crap cables will show a measurement. You can do other tests like passing an audio signal to the conductor and see if you get any measurement at the terminal connected to the dialectric, for instance.

The inner conductor should be as thick as possible, within reason (thickness of 20-24 guage is typical in good cables. Anything above 24 can be questionable - but that can depend on a lot of things - snakes usually have thinner wire, etc. to be able to pack a lot of channels into a small diameter snake. This is why buying good quality cable with a good dialectric is important in those cases.

My experience is that brands like Canare, Mogami, Belkin and a few others are solid, but that can vary in their product line. Looking for the factors above will generally tell you how well a cable is made.

Good bulk cable runs about 75¢ to $1.50/ft. For example - Canare GS-6 guitar cable at 83¢/ft:

http://www.performanceaudio.com/cgi/...ducts_id=10386

Any more than about $2/ft for bulk single cable and you're getting into possible hype territory. Obviously pre-made cables cost a bit more, as there's labor involved - however that can depend a lot on whether the cables are molded (a machined process) or hand-soldered. Hand soldering obviously is more costly, but is almost always better.
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