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.

crozbo

Bad cables make a bigger difference than good cables, and beyond a certain level of build and materials quality, good cable make very little relative difference compared to other huge factors like the quality of the source component and the acoustic qualities of the room itself.

Correcting room acoustic deficiencies yields vastly superior sonic benefits that anyone can usually hear right away. So if you purchase a well made pair of cables and spend a few hundred dollars on them, or a few thousand dollars on them, you won’t hear "better" or "worse" sound, you’ll hear subtle differences.

There is a huge placebo effect with things like cables (assuming the cables are appropriate for the gear you’re connecting them to), and another huge potential for good old confirmation bias. If you like what you hear, then great, keep them and move on, but if you think that more money equals better sonics, you’re most likely just fooling yourself. Beyond good build and materials quality there is no correlation between price and sound quality.

I once placed a bet that no one could rank a series of cables by price in a controlled setting where they had no idea which set they were actually listening to. This has been tried before-- can’t be done once you eliminate the confirmation bias. So buy what you want and like what you like, but the wild claims made by cablemakers are about as reliable as those made by any other industry loaded with snake-oil salesmen-- vitamins and supplements come to mind-- huge claims constantly made, and a growing body of hard scientific evidence that almost all of those claims just do not hold up when tested with any degree of scientific rigour.

There are usually better ways to make your system sound better than fussing endlessly with cables-- unless you’re using some really bad quality or outright defective cables-- the differences will be akin to trying two really good cabernets -- you go with what tastes the best to you, hopefully, and not just blindly assume the more expensive one is necessarily the better one. "Better" is subjective, NOT objective.

I should also footnote this comment by mentioning the laughably obscene profit margins enjoyed by many cable makers that sell their products in the four and five figure price ranges. P.T. Barnum personified. 

Well this thread sure ran longer than a few mic cables 😅

Main discrepancy is revealed by the term belief. Belief is best applied to things that can’t be experimentally assessed. While it’s obvious for some pursuits, it doesn’t need to apply to comparing electronic playthings in lieu of properly controlled analyses.

If a person declines applicability of scientific methodology over an assemblage of anecdotal opinions based on invisible perceptions, and that person is an adult, a change of mindset might be less likely. This in no way is limited to audio stuff.

There seems to be high correlation between folks who think audible difference between cables is predictable and folks who do not prioritize properly controlled assessment to demonstrate said predictability being reality. Those folks may think they have a firm grasp on the scientific method, however, which can be a complication for level exchange of ideas moving forward.

There also seems to be correlation between folks who understand scientific methodology, and folks who get flustered over the aforementioned mindset saying audible differences in cables is definitely predictable.

 

Adults can be challenging to educate (convert?) on the scientific method (including experimental design and statistical analysis; never mind the psychology element behind preference studies…) if they already… believe… they have a firm grasp on how it is supposed to work.

That is the process - not just the pattern - why cables and all other discrepancies about predictable difference in audible sound - can’t be sorted in one short exchange of thread back-and-forth’s. It really should be that easy, and that neutral.* 😬

 

*neutral in the emotional denotation of the word, and not the array of ways in which it’s applied to audiophilia 😜

Post removed 

Audio is not immune to the basic law of diminishing returns. With apologies for a Captain Obvious moment, the difference between a Kia Kona and a Porsche Macan that differ in price by, say, $60k is greater than that between two super cars that might differ by $400k in price.

My system is good enough that my enjoyment improved when I swapped out Amazon cables and interconnects for $500 worth of Mogami and Carnare products. Would I get as good an ROI then going to $10k worth of cabling? Surely not, as my whole decently thoughtful rig cost me less than $5k.

This is economic reality that is probably true in principle for every part of a home system’s audio chain, There’s no tire in the world that will make my VW Taos lap the Ring as fast as a WEC HyperCar.

PS Audio’s Paul McGowan gives helpful answers to emailed questions in his YouTube channel. Long before he made any speakers, that was the component he recommended to a questioner who asked about the single best component investment that would improve listening enjoyment.

That makes sense because it’s all about moving air, so cables must matter, but only in proportion to the quality of the rest of your components.

 

 

 

 

I think size matters I am 10 gauge kind of professor.but there are some that claim the majority of electrons hover on the outside wires mostly.bigger has less resistance.now what about shielding copper. braided aluminum ect.solid wire verses stranded then how many strands.do you put it on a drill and spin the plus and minus to make it spiral.so many options.enjoy the music ant the stimulation of the cerebral mind experimenting it will keep you young.