As I had promised (please refer to Grimm Mu1 thread and Fee for Audition thread under Digital for more context), I am going to share my experiences using different AES/EBU cables in my system. I am going to gloss over the general question of whether cables, especially digital cables make a difference. I am always careful in choosing my components, and unless something makes a tangible improvement in sound, I will never pay for something. If something makes an improvement, I do evaluate if it’s worth the asking price, and only then do I purchase it. So it’s up to you to decide if something is worth the price that you pay for. Also, please note that, these findings apply to my system in my room and may not translate into the same findings in your system.
Now let’s go into what I heard in my system. I had the following AES/EBU cables. The Mogami cable, Shunyata Omega cable, Nordost Odin 2 cable and the Sablon cable. Unfortunately I was unable to obtain the Jorma design cable as I was unable to reach the cable company either through phone or email. I am not aware of any other dealer who carries it near me.
There is a significant difference between the basic Mogami and the rest of the cables. The difference is easy to discern in the bass. There is simply more texture, dimensionality, and clarity that is missing in bass with the Mogami cable. This is unfortunate as this is the cheapest cable. The rest of the cables are closer to each other. It takes a bit of back-and-forth of listening to discern the differences.
First up was the Shunyata cable. This is an excellent digital cable which is extremely natural sounding. Everything sounds clear with a nice sound stage. The sound stage extends beyond the speakers with a nice depth to it. There is a sense of fullness to the sound, more fleshed out, but in a very natural way. This is the first cable that I had for evaluation (this belongs to my friend). I will be very happy with this cable, if it were my only option. This cable retails for around 4.5 k.
Next step was the Nordost Odin 2 cable. I understand that there is a significant jump in price as this cable retails for over 12 K. The difference between the Shunyata and the Odin 2 cable is more subtle. The primary difference is in the sound stage. The sound extends well beyond the speakers and front to depth soundstage is increased compared to Shunyata. There is also more detail and air at the top end. There is slightly more dynamics with the Odin 2 cable on back-and-forth listening. Please note, these differences are not in your face but subtle. Whether this is worth the price difference is something only you can decide.
The last cable that I had was the Sablon cable. The other cables measured 1.5 m but the Sablon was 1 m. I could not test if the length of cable makes a difference as I did not have the same cable in different lengths. (Please refer to Grimm Mu1 thread for context.)
The Sablon cable brings a lot of nuance to the entire spectrum of sound. The bass is taut and has a lot of finesse. String instruments reveal a good amount of inner detail, whether it’s plucking or bowing. Percussion sounds realistic. It nicely brings out the textures and extremely accurate with regards to tone and timbre. The mid range is extremely clear and well presented, which is one of the strengths of this cable. The top end is clean and extremely accurate. It has an uncanny ability to make the softest sounds really fleshed out and clear. If are a Pink Floyd fan “Hello Colonel, how are you tonight” never sounded this clear, it’s like you are on shrooms.
This is how I would compare the Shunyata, Nordsost and Sablon. The system plays a huge role in laying out the differences. The bass is similar in all the three cables, they go deep, feel taut and have a lot of textures. It’s the midrange and highs that sound different. Nordstrom has a very neutral and sweet presentation that is very inviting. It sizzles in the top end and has superb dynamics. The other two cables cannot touch the Nordost in the highs. The Sablon shines in the midrange. It has one of the most accurate midrange sound and sounds really organic. The nordost is close but Sablon wins the midrange. The Shunyata is close to the other cables but does not sound better. So what did I choose? The sizzling dynamic Nordost or the realistic sounding Sablon?
I always believed that the highs are most important for music to sound alive and imparting the feeling of being there. But Sablon changed my opinion, it’s the midrange that gives the sensation of live music. The Sablon made the music sound more alive than other 2 cables. The difference with Nordost is subtle but definite. The other important thing especially for me was tone and timbre. I play violin and I value tone and timbre (reason for the choice of my speakers) as the most important attribute.The Sablon again wins this. Of course the price is the icing on the cake. So I have decided to buy the Sablon. Of course, in your system and for your ears, the outcome may not be the same. My recommendation is to try before you buy especially considering the price of the these cables.
@svenjoshthanks so much for this comparison! Really helpful. Congrats on arriving at an informed and cost effective decision. Two questions I have:
1) Can you comment on the upper frequency differences between the Omega and Sablon, along with how each does with presenting “air” and a sense of unconstrained, free-flowing top end? If a component doesn’t do well in this area it’s game over for me, and that is what I found was lacking when testing the Aurender N20 in my MU1 thread. Sounds like the Nordost clearly wins in this department but wondering if you could comment on how the Omega and Sablon compare in this area. And,
2) How do the Omega and Sablon compare when it comes to soundstage width and depth?
Thank you very much for your observations on these cables. I really appreciate your comments.
I was fortunate enough to spend a couple weeks with a set of Nordost Odin 2 interconnects. I observed the same things that you did. But after a few days I started noticing a whole new level of refined detail I had never before heard.
I guess high end audio has alway been like this… layer after layer of nuance as you learn and improve equipment. I was really quite surprised at what these interconnects revealed about my equipment… the complete layer I was not hearing. Unfortunately, my average component cost was about $20K and the interconnects were $17K, I just couldn’t do it without considering what improvements I could get by putting that money into better components. I will say, the Nordost Odin 2 are truly world class interconnects.
@nyevthe Sablon and Omega were similar at the top end. Both portray natural extension and decay. If I gave the impression that these sound restrained in the upper frequencies, I am sorry but that’s not the case. Unless you hear the Nordost, you will find both Shunyata and Sablon to be perfectly natural without any roll off.
As far as soundstage depth, the Sablon has an advantage especially with vocals and acoustic music as its strength is midrange. There is a subtle but distinct difference in soundstage depth and width. The Sablon is slightly more nuanced and presents a beautifully layered sound that’s addictive.
@ghdprenticeI wholeheartedly agree with your impressions on the interconnects as i have the Odin 2 interconnects for both my analog and digital. The Nordost gave a significant (component level) upgrade in my system. It was extremely complimentary with my tube gear.
(un)fortunately the differences with AES cables are not as striking as the interconnect cables. I believe the Nordost that I demoed was already broken in, not sure how many hours though.
Thanks for sharing your impressions about digital cables. Cables do make a difference and a system like yours, one doesn’t need to strain hard to discern the differences between cables. I experienced similar transformation when I switched from a basic digital cable to Acrolink 6N-D5070 II digital cable.
BTW, I just looked at your system. You deserve props for putting together a magnificent system. I am very familiar with Shindo sound…..still regret selling my Monbrison to this day. Couple of questions,
1) Are you using Shunyata PC’s instead of stock ‘grey’ cord on Shindo gear,
2 ) Have you tried Mr. T in your system
The biggest challenge back then was finding suitable speakers that can be driven effectively with a fine amp like, Western Electric 300B Limited. Now that I have heard WVL (Chicago), Cessaro (Opus - I) and Horning (Aristotle or Eufrodite) speakers at my dealer, the possibility of all Shindo system is something worth pursuing in a very near future.
“If I gave the impression that these sound restrained in the upper frequencies, I am sorry but that’s not the case.” @svenjoshno you didn’t give that impression at all, I was just interested as to whether there was any difference on these fronts at all.
I’m decided, I am going to buy a Sablon AES!
@svenjoshit does make me wonder how the Sablon XLR analog interconnects might perform against your Odin 2 analog interconnects…. Any chance you can see if Mark would send you a demo pair? Just wondering if you might find similar findings as with the comparison of the digital cables.
Yep …. There is a reason why many audio fest exhibitors select NORDOST ODIN as their primary go-to choice of cable for their stratospheric highs and resolution , , along with CARDAS CLEAR BEYOND / CLEAR for those who prefer a slightly more warmer & silky smooth presentation but on par in detail, transparency, slam, and dynamics.
the ODIN is truly a wondrous piece …. But its prohibitive cost is a slam barrier to most enthusiasts in this forum, without prejudice to any bespoke disputed or embraced conclusion of whether the cost to performance value matrix in terms of “ is it worth it “ makes sense to its buyer.
@rudybI guess the simplest way to explain this is is digital noise, due to the fact that there isn’t any scientific data to support audible differences.
Sometimes when you stream video or watch DVDs you may experience digital noise, it’s the blocking out of parts of the picture. You can still see what’s going on but you’re losing small parts of the video.
That’s the best way I can explain it. Lesser systems and cables etc., will lose parts of the picture/sound but these losses will only be profound in revealing systems.
Hope this helps, but about 50% or people can’t hear a difference. They’re just cloth eared, just like the people who eat to live compared to those who live to eat.
@lordmelton'digital noise' ... meaning ... bits or bytes get lost or altered during transfer from one end of the cable to the other end? In that case we would not be able to transfer a software file without errors. But we are ... gigabytes without error. I wonder why with audio we start to lose bits?
I have compared three AES cables between my Auralic Aries G2.1 streamer and my Tambaqui DAC. A basic Blue Jeans balanced cable (one of a pair), a Network Acoustics Muon AES, and my Kubala sosna elation AES. No surprise the Blue Jeans cable was bad by comparison. I don't know if this is even proper, using one of a Balanced pair as AES. Anyway, the NA and KS cables were both escellent, with the KS a winner. Just sounded more lifelike and relaxed, but very resolving.
Now with my Grimm mu1, I compared the NA with the KS. both still excellent, and again I chose the KS Elation. The rest of my cables are KS Realization, so maybe there is a synergy there. As a value, the NA Muon cable is excellent.
Oh, and I don't even try to explain the reason better cables or internet filters make a difference. But I can hear it, and that is what matters to me. Noise I expect, and tone of the materials. I have always liked all copper cables in my system. In our hobby, using any thoughts above hearing makes little sense to me. Of course that makes it subjective by nature I guess. If science supports our observations on hearing all the better. If it can not yet quite pinpoint the exact reason that is fine by me also. But science can not and will not contradict what I can hear. Kudos to those that experiment and report their findings with all the options available. Shame on all those who don't believe it even if they have not heard it. Science seems to be the number one reason (excuse) people are comfortable with less expensive (and less pleasing to my ears) systems. Everyone has their price point, I get that. But there are gains to be had on any level.
@lalitkI consider myself as an inbetweenist. I have a hard time ’believing’ stuff when no one can explain it. I understand that cables can have an impact on sound in the analog domain (although even that is already hard for me :) ). I already have a harder time with power cables. And then even harder with digital cables. I doubt if a $2k USB or FTP cable really preserves the bytes better or has less jitter than a good quality ’standard’ USB cable. The OP hears better "texture, dimensionality, and clarity" ... that makes me wonder how the digital bytes were transferred differently to create that impression?
I have done A-B tests. I friend of mine has the expensive high end power cables, a special power conditioner, heck he even has audio fuses. It is fun as a hobby, fun to just own it, admire it, read on it, listen critically. It is just that I did not hear any difference between the normal fuses or the audio fuses. Lucky me ... I can invest in other fun stuff. :)
Be glade your sitting on the fence, you’ve more money to spend on things that do make a difference in life. Stay clear of that everything makes a difference crowd. I prefer engineering with science to placebo with ear training. Also tired of hearing about return policies as a sales ploy. There is humour look at the used market do you think any of it is because… It didn’t make a difference ? A person waits too long or can’t return that 5 large piece now it’s 15 hundred used…has to feel good Lol 😱
Let me start off by thanking you for being open and transparent about your position on cables. There are many that don’t hear difference between cables or feels the need to spend more money on cables that others able to hear a difference. As you pointed out, it is a hobby and then; there is that pursuit of audio nirvana. Back to your query, if you’ve already done A-B test so that should settles the matter for you, right? I guess you’re still curious…there are many explanations out there but I do find this article by Nordost quite informative. At the end of the day, what really matters is your own ears, your system and the expendable income.
@rudyb: I understand you are skeptical to trying after market cables. Obviously your choice, be happy. Please let people interested in the topic discuss amongst themselves. No reason to interfere and put them down. Please step away, participate in topics of interest to you. Please ignore topics that do not interest you. Thank you
@svenjoshThe effort taken to test and to post is appreciated. And an audible improvement is gained that is worth the investment, that is great.
I was just wondering if someone would be able to explain what changes happen in the digital domain during cable transmission. Of course I Googled, but even the Nordost site is very fuzzy and non scientific about it. "The better cables will bring about a lowering of the noise floor, which will translate to an increase in the clarity of a recording’s ambiance." That is an open door.
OK, not everything needs to be explained ... it is like @lalitksaid "But I can hear it, and that is what matters to me."
Your feedback is appreciated. Shindo dealers and few users I conversed with, always advocated the use of ‘grey’ stock cord with Shindo components. I kept Mr. T in my system after trying out many revered power conditioners. To my ears, isolated transformer based power distributors renders the most transparent and uncolored sound. Based on your experience, I am going to try a heavier gauge power cord on Mr. T :-)
@lalitk lol, seems we both read that same article. (EDIT: I thought it was by Nordost but that was just an add, the article was by gcaudio.) I thought it somewhat written in laymen’s terms, not very scientific. I guess there’s no point in discussing this further from the technical angle, let’s enjoy the music!
@thynameI am not seeing@rudybput anyone down. He simply asked a question and the only person who attempted to answer with the slightest amount of technical information was @lalitkwith the link he posted.
Last I checked this is an open forum, and @rudybdid not violate any of the forum rules. Think you should refrain.
@jeffstrick: you should refrain from posting in threads you are not interested too. Do you have anything to offer on the topic? Let’s see: what do you think about cables? Which AES/EBU cable are you currently using, and connected to what? Thank you so much!
@jeffstrickand @rudybSince you wanted an explanation, I will try. I do not want this thread to go away from its intended purpose so I refrained from discussing further.
When we talk about digital to digital transmission, there are several varieties of transmission. I am just going to confine to PCM transmission. We all assume that it is the same 1s and 0s without understanding or realizing that there are multiple varieties of transmission of this signal. The most straightforward PCM format is designated as NRZ-L, for non return to zero level. In this format, the level directly represents the binary value: low level = 0, high level = 1
But there are many varieties of PCM
NRZ-M ( non return to zero mark). 1: no change in level from last pulse. 0: level changes from last pulse.
NRZ-S (non return to zero space). This is the same as NRZ-M but with the logic levels reversed. 1: level changes from last pulse. 0: no change in level from last pulse.
Bi-Phase-L (bi-phase level). The level always changes in the middle of the pulse. 1: level changes from high to low. 0: level changes from low to high.
Bi-Phase-M. (bi-phase mark). The level always changes at the beginning of each pulse. 1: level changes in the middle of the pulse. 0: no level change in the middle of the pulse.
Bi-Phase-S (bi-phase space). This is the same as Bi-Phase-L but with the logic levels reversed. 1: no level change in middle of pulse. 0: level changes in the middle of the pulse.
DBi-Phase-M (differential bi-phase mark). The level always changes in the middle of the pulse. 1: no level change at beginning of the pulse. 0: level change at beginning of the pulse.
DBi-Phase-S (differential bi-phase space). This is the same as DBi-phase-M but with the logic levels reversed. 1: level change at beginning of the pulse. 0: no level change at the beginning of the pulse.
It is possible for an error to occur somewhere in the transmission process. One way to increase the reliability of transmitted PCM signals is to add a checksum bit to each piece of data. For example, in an eight-bit byte, seven of the bits can be used for data and the last reserved for a checksum bit. In one method, the checksum bit is determined by parity (meaning an even or odd number). In even parity checksums, a 0 or 1 is added to make the overall number of ones (including the checksum) even. In odd parity, a 0 or 1 is added to make the overall number of ones odd.
This error is signal-to-noise ratio. This error is influenced by capacity (bandwidth) and timing. This is calculated by C = R Log (1 + S/N).
So there is no way any digital signal (which you describe as simple 1s and 0s) will sound the same. The cables that reduce the errors more sound better. This is a very simplistic explanation. I recommend you do more research on digital to digital transmission. You will be amazed that things like cable length can greatly determine the quality of signal. Search for hdmi and cable length needed and you will be surprised by how changing length can change what you can watch.
@thynameyou are just an instigator. You think your gear makes you special?
So I have a Cardas Clear AES in my cable bag as I do not use AES as I have Taiko Audio Extreme Server connected via USB to my Less Loss Echos End Reference DAC via Zavfino Silver Dart Graphene XLR to my Norma Audio Revo 140-B Connected via Transparent Audio Super speaker cables to Sonner Legato Duo speakers.
@jeffstrick: Chill dude. Read again what I wrote above. I will copy / paste it below. I was simply asking someone else, not you, to refrain from posting in topics that are of no interest to them, and let the others freely discuss the topic at hand. Or any topic for that matter. Very politely. How is this being an “instigator”, or “special”, or “unofficial moderator”? Chill, control your anger. Learn to manage it.
And you don’t even use AES/EBU. As you said. Why even bother in this thread. Unofficial moderator much? The irony
@rudyb : I understand you are skeptical to trying after market cables. Obviously your choice, be happy. Please let people interested in the topic discuss amongst themselves. No reason to interfere and put them down. Please step away, participate in topics of interest to you. Please ignore topics that do not interest you. Thank you
@svenjosh Thanks for trying to help demistify the possible causes that make that digital cables can sound different. Just to clarify, it was not my intention to create turmoil here, which seemed to have happened. I am genuinely interested in how come digi-cables can sound different. There have also been other digital threads on this forum and also there the debate quickly ran out of hand.
I understand Shannon’s data capacity theorem. With PCM audio however we are way on the safe side ... even the max AES/EBU spec stream of 24bit/192kHz is still less than 10Mbps, which should be easy to handle, USB2 is specced at 480.
You heard the difference, so there must be a difference. Could it really be that with all digital cables the data reaches the other end corrupted, as your explanation suggests? (This should by the way be easy to measure.) But with some cables less so than with others? Which makes their sound can have improved texture, dimensionality, and clarity? I wonder if maybe there can also be other reasons, ones that lie elsewhere than in the digital domain?
Yet, what matters most is if one can hear the difference. To understand how it is caused merely is to satisfy ones (my) curiosity.
You didn’t cause any issues. Questions, explanations, debate and answers have always been welcome at Audiogon.
I was at a dinner some years ago with some really smart people (definitely not me) where part of the room was contemplating investing in the company represented by the other part of the room.
One of the key leaders in the company in question also happened to enjoy music and while he didn’t have an elaborate system by some standards, he was a streaming only user. This was in the earliest (pre JayZ) days of Tidal. Unprovoked, when he found out I was also streaming my music, he became quite animated and we had a terrific conversation. I came away with a quasi explanation that satisfied my curiosity and also has guided my streaming decisions since. I asked the question why some streamed music sounded different than the same track from the same hard drive streamed differently. At the time I was struggling with why USB feeding a Berkeley USB to SPDIF converter sounded better than USB direct to the same dac.
The explanation he gave was well over my head but it was clear to me he had given it a great deal of thought. He explained that not only does ethernet and USB data transmission have error correction built in, it was designed to deal with the errors because there errors are a foregone conclusion. The premise is that errors are to be expected because they will ALWAYS be present so the protocols were designed to deal with the presence of errors. The reason it isnt a big deal with most data is that the absolute timing of the data and more importantly, the lack of requirement for CONTIGUOUS data isn’t necessary in most applications. If a one billion dollar electronic transfer from bank to bank begins “on-time” and concludes 1 millisecond later than expected, it isnt a big deal. In fact, its a desired outcome in that it is likely that the data was error checked. Now, imagine streaming music. It absolutely requires proper buffering. FULL STOP. You cant have the data stream begin and then “error check” on the fly. Jittery at best, drop outs at worst. SO, how is the buffering performed, how much of the data is able to be buffered into memory, what and how is the data streamed from the buffer and what/where/method is the clocking/reclocking performed? There was alot more to the conversation and todays streamers/dacs do a wonderful job with the challenge. Some do it better than others and some do it completely differently.
Anyway, fast forward to today. We are still in the process of understanding why certain materials, lengths of cable, shielding or lack thereof along with which method of transmission provides the best results and which do not. But it is audible. Ive tried to buy equipment from companies that seem to have a grasp of the importance of timing, lower jitter and clocking. The good news for us all is that most of what’s available today does a decent job of dealing with the aforementioned. Its when we get to the point where we are trying to maximize performance. The bits are bits camp just simply havent explored the topic deeply enough to understand how much there is to be discovered.
@rudybyou are welcome and keep the curiosity going. It depends on your dac and how much buffering it can do and its internal methodology but yes, in general, the fewer steps, processes and handoffs will typically result in fewer challenges.
$5k spent today represents bleeding edge from 10 years ago. Read up about products from Innuos, Antipodes, Aurender, Grimm and Taiko on the streamer side of the equation and Audio Note, Bricasti, DCS, Holo, PS Audio and Totaldac on the dac side of the equation. No two do it the same way but each of these companies (and there are many others) are pushing the boundaries of what is possible. For instance, Audio Note isn’t doing much different today than it did 20 years ago but they don’t try to manipulate the data, they just want a well clocked spdif data signal. Six figure systems are anchored by Audio Note dacs. Try things, listen and see what you think. If you hear no differences then you are done. If you hear differences that are pleasing…then the $$$ problems begin. LOL. Best wishes.
Some people hear night and day differences between USB cables (I did when I utilized USB) and some hear night and day differences between AES/SPDIF digital cables (I hear differences, just not night and day)…it all depends on your environment and gear.
I understand guys ... apparently there are differences in the data transmission capabilities of digital cables and depending on the quality of the rest of the gear some may hear it and some may less so. Listen and let your ears and your wallet do the talking.
@nyevI am not sure if I can get a demo pair of Sablon interconnects since I am not in the market for interconnects. Nordost Odin 2 interconnects are one of the very best and I am very reluctant to replace them.
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