|Column: The cable conundrum|
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 08:23
In a few days time I will be hosting a cable listening session in the listening room of a magazine I contribute to. And yes, we will be concentrating on listening to the difference we hear when different cables are used in the sound system.
Listening to cables, you may think is the silliest thing on earth, but if it weren't for cables we wouldn't hear and see anything at all. This is true even if you have a totally wireless audio system, and here's why.
Every component needs power and this usually means that it needs to be plugged in to a wall socket. Take away the power cable from your wireless router and there will be no sound. Ditto if you unplug your speaker cables, or if you remove the HDMI plug that resides between your Blu-ray player and TV or A/V amplifier.
All systems need cables somewhere along the A/V delivery chain, and it's my firm belief that cables can and do make a difference, and yes even power cables.
The thing is, people like me that believe that cables can make a difference in an audio system (I'm not saying that they make a system better or worse, just different), there will be someone who says that cables make absolutely no difference.
There is some scientific proof that certain cables do make a difference, and here people have proven that a power cable can make a difference (you can find the article here). There is even proof that some digital cables can make a difference. The differences in digital cables is typically due to a reduction in jitter, and better termination.
While science has proven the above, it hasn't done quite so well in proving that speaker cables or interconnect cables, specifically RCA cables, make a difference. Cable manufacturers usually offer lots of plausible, and technical-sounding reasons, but these are typically rebuked by engineers who are intelligent enough to spot little white lies when they see them.
Cable non-believers usually state that when someone spends tens of thousands of rands on cables, they will trick themselves into believing that their new Pure silver cables that have been cryogenically treated and feature connectors manufactured out of carbon fibre, and there are cables that feature all of these, which sound better. After all, not too many people will admit to spending a ton of money on cables and not hear a difference.
I'll admit that there may be some truth to this. But while I'm certain that the R 100 000.00 speaker cable I reviewed a while back did indeed sound better than cheap cables, my brain possibly was overloaded by the sheer cost of the cables and told me that super pricey cables were better than they actually were.
Fortunately the attendees to our little listening session wont be told what cables are being used in the shoot out or the price of the cables. They wont even get to see the cables, and this should mean that there will be no preconceived ideas about cables differences.
The test procedure will be simple and I'll be using two identical CD players that will be connected to an amplifier using different cables. All I have to do is switch between input one and two, and if there is a difference, those present should be able to hear it.
I'll be ecstatic if everyone hears a difference, but I'll be equally happy if no one hears a difference, too. If its the former, them I would be justified in having claimed that cables make a difference. If its the latter then I would have to re-evaluate the way I test cables, and sometimes a shake up is a good thing too. It will also mean that I could stop wasting money on expensive cables.
The only thing I don’t really want is for half the amount of people to hear a difference and the other half not to, as this will leave us exactly where we started.
I'll report back on the findings of our listening session in next column.
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