Apr 17, 2017

Audiophile Cables: Opinions on value. Myth?

I've reached a point in my audio quest where my interest and curiosity is going beyond what my growing collection of headphones can satisfy. The latest example of this is my recent endulgetment in audiophile cables, specifically speaking, 8 core OCC Silver Litz Braided cables.
Have you gone down this rabbit hole? Do you hear a difference? Is it worth it? I'm curious what your experiences are.
My experience: I studied audio engineering in university. The science side of my brain constantly tries to remind me that the differences I may perceive, if any is negligible, or placebo. Nevertheless, I had a custom set made that terminates to a 3.5mm TRS on both ends so that I can try it with all the heaphones I own that have detachable cables. As a caveat, the last time I went to an audiologist to get my hearing tested, I was able to discern up to 18khz. So... not perfect hearing. That was 3 years ago. I don't know where my hearing is now.
With that said and with all my logic telling me I shouldn't really hear any difference, my experience says otherwise. Immediately there was an undeniable difference in amplitude. This made A/B testing a bit difficult to get the volume leveled. Once I figured out the matched volumes, I proceeded to analyze the sounds coming through my headphones. There is a discernible change in sonic properties. It's slight, but unmistakenly there. Since this is my first and only audiophile cable, I can only speculate what other cable designs do to the signal.
The thing is, when changes in sound properties is slight like in this scenario, the more those subtle differences are subject to be increasingly affected by the listener's physiology. The unique pinna of our ears affects how we discern positioning and the space that we're in. A slight change in the mid frequencies may make a sound perceptually really close for one person while the same sound might feel not as close to someone else.
What I heard with my cable is a slight boost in the mid-high frequencies. It didn't affect anything else. Soundstage stayed the same. Stereo separation is the same. However, to someone else, the same change in the mid-high frequencies may open the sound stage because that increase in mid-high matches how their pinna filters sound waves that are far away before it enters their ear drum.
Perhaps this must be why some people hear great differences when they switch to different cables. (Small changes in signal / huge perceptual effect).
What it's worth: To me, personally, the gains in signal clarity is nice, but that's achievable with a modertely well built cable specially for short runs from a desk amp to your chair or the floor if you enjoy your music laying down. If the desire is to get those subtle differences in sonic properties, a well implemented EQ works much better for that I think. I won't be selling my cable. I actually like the boost that it gives, but now that my curiosity is satisfied, these will be the first and last audiophile cable I'll be purchasing.
Of course I say that now, but I guess I can never say never.
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If the included cable was poor to begin with... maybe
If the included cable was properly made and doesn't add greatly to the impedance of the headphone... no
Value... eh... yeah I'm not touching this one!
been in the hobby for 30+ years.
cables will change the sound of a system given there is enough accuracy & resolution, to begin with in that system, to discern the differences.
the vast majority of the cause is noise.
noise comes from EMI ( electromagnetic interference) in the radio frequency spectrum.
cables act like antenna, pulling in unwanted frequencies that will effect the sound.
this can also be generated by any external source that affects an electrical circuit by way of induction, electrostatic coupling, or conduction.
transformers (like the typical torroidal commonly found in audio equipment) are known to generate this type of noise.
there is also noise in the the power line.
a good cable can filter some of this noise (common mode rejection).
this why some good quality power cables can make a system sound different, even when nothing in done to treat the mains power from the service panel of the building.
Well as an engineer, why not check the cable properties and compare with the stock cable? Then you could have a better guess as to why you are hearing a difference.
Juka
I don't have the tools available to me anymore. I work in the graphics industry now. *shrugs* -- Also, there have already been independent studies in the cable properties I didn't feel necessary to repeat even if I could. For me, the only remaining curiosity is in whether I myself would be able to perceive any differences that others have claimed. I'm just sharing my personal experience in my own trials.
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