Yes, cables do make a difference -- regardless of price...

I thought you may find this interesting…or not.  I know, another "cable post".  Disclaimer up front — I am a believer that cables can make a difference in the sound that you hear from your system.  With my speakers, like most high(er) efficiency speakers, I can hear large and small changes made to the system components — and cables are part of that system.

What I want to share is an exercise that I went through with my better half in setting up her recording equipment that she will be using to record audio books.  The hardware part of the system is simple:  Audio Technica Cardioid Condenser Microphone AT2035 connected with a XLR cable to the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 preamp.

We started with the XLR cable that came with the microphone and recorded the short introduction of the book she has been contracted to record.  Then she recorded the same section using each of the our XLR cables I have on hand:  Vovox Excelsus, Mogami 2549, Gotham GAC-3, and Grimm TPR. Each of the cables have the same Neutrik connector and are very good studio cables that I have used in my system at one time.

Listening through headphones via the Scarlett 2i2, it was super easy to hear distinct differences in these cables.  The differences were not small and very apparent.  In the end, the Mogami cable was the winner — it seemed more open and warmer than the other cables and suited the tone of her voice the best. I have heard similar differences from these cables in my stereo system but not to the significant degree borne out by this exercise. 

To keep going, today I replaced the $10 USB C to C cable that I bought as an “upgrade” from the Scarlett 2i2 to a MacBook Air with a $70 Audioquest Forest cable. We were more than surprised that with the AQ cable in the system the drop of the noise floor was very significant and the blackness of background made the sound even more crystal clear.

The purpose of this post is not to promote or compares cables, just a public service posting for those of you who do not believe cables make a difference.  They really do affect how your system sounds (positive or negative) and if you cannot hear a difference then maybe looking at the transparency of your system is a place you should examine.

Imagine peace everyone.


I commonly hear people say that they want their system to sound like the "real thing".  But of course that is never going to happen since you do not know what the "real thing" originally sounded like.  What you mean, I suspect, is that you want it to sound like your interpretation of what you think the "real thing" should sound like.

@crozbo It helps a lot to use recordings you made yourself, because you were there when it was recorded, huh! 😀

If you even get a chance to try equipment that supports AES48 (which is likely a bit more expensive) I'd be interested to hear if you still hear the same differences.

When the standard isn't supported, the shield of the cable becomes the signal return path, just as it is in an RCA cable. So its more susceptible to noise and the construction of the cable itself. Not only that but you lose immunity to ground loops. Cable immunity and immunity to ground loops are two things that the balanced line system is supposed to eliminate, along with reduced noise (Common Mode rejection of noise; CMRR).

So if the standard isn't supported, you're likely to hear cable differences. I think this is why the single-ended vs balanced thing is an on-going thing in high end audio since so little of high end audio equipment supports the standard.


I know that cables make a difference sometimes but the acoustic treatment of the listening area always makes a huge difference way more than any cable . I had a set of transparent audio reference cables for many years and I must say that benchmark media speaker cable did not sound worse or different.

Cables make a major difference with the effect increasing with your systems ability to resolve but with power cables I think it’s much more physics with build quality and wire gauge than with interconnects. I’ve yet to hear a better resolving $300-500 12ga cable beat a <$40 10ga cable from Amazon on a power amp. Some make it sound “cleaner” but it won’t allow the amp to pull out as much detail and richness. It just makes it sound more analytically clean and sanitized with less detail. Need to step up massively in price (15x+)to get the same or better performance with 10ga+ equivalent cables. This is on a mid-$10k’s system with a $8500 power amp and ~$20k speakers connected by ~$1k speaker cables. Just stupid how much many cable companies charge for their jewelry.

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I am always intrigued by these discussions. I keep hoping to learn something new beyond "I'm convinced" and "to those who naysay," etc. Some kind of useful tidbit...but there really is nothing new so far. There are some mildly flawed studies that compare cheap RCAs versus XLRs in AES. There are also broad claims from authority: some smart guy uses special cable woven from yak hair soaked in silver nitrate, blah blah.

But, critically, if you think you hear changes in the tonality that should be measurable and not just by ABX tests, but with a decent ADC that itself measures well. Just record the DAC output or the speaker output (using a calibrated mic), swap cables, and do a null test by comparing the signal spectrums. It should be evident in those measurements as to why you think you hear a difference.

And competent and scientifically sophisticated cable manufacturers (as well as power conditioners, etc.) would be trumpeting their product measurements all day long if they in fact had any clear measurement differences to promote.

I have seen some research work on people being able to detect sounds outside of the typical 20kHz window, though it seems largely irrelevant to music reproduction, so while there might be yet-to-be-understood science out there, the default intellectually honest posture is wait-and-see while instead focusing on what we know impacts audio reproduction.

In any case, I have a BSEE and MSEE in information theory and signal processing, as well as PhD work in cognitive science and am very skeptical of the ideas and claims made here concerning cables.

Positive claims should be backed by Missouri-like resolve: show me!