Tag Archives: Audioquest

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Getting what you want

When we set out to prove one thing or another we arrange tests to prove our theory.

For example, if you’re trying to prove there are no differences between cables or amplifiers there are any number of ways to prove that. One would be the difference or null test where an identical signal is passed through two samples: say an expensive audio interconnect vs. a cheap one. If there were actually a difference it would show up on the scope as such.

Since we know that changing input cables—a high-end version vs. a dimestore copy—on a power amplifier in a highly resolving system is easy to hear, the null test should show the difference. Yet, it may not. Do we then conclude there are no differences?

If our goal is to understand why we hear a difference then it’s incumbent on us to dig deeper. Our hypothesis didn’t give us the results we were looking for. Our ears detect a difference our meters and methods fail to uncover. The proper conclusion is not to stop there but to march forward until it can be satisfactorily explained.

Garth Powell of Audioquest proposed a method that just might have some answers. Since the change we hear comes out of the loudspeakers and affects the entire audio chain, it’s only logical we measure the entire chain to seek differences. This would involve using a microphone to capture the output of the system and then comparing the recorded files to find the differences. It’s essentially the same test I have done any number of times with the microphone in my iPhone which more than adequately picks up differences.

I haven’t the time nor the interest in performing these tests with any scientific rigor, but perhaps someone else wants to grab the flag and climb the mountain. It would have to be performed on a system where we actually do hear a difference.

Proving what we already know might be valuable to someone.

Just not me.

 

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Interconnects and speaker cables matter

Yikes. After yesterday’s brave venture into the hornet’s nest of opinion about power cables and how they matter I can only just imagine the brouhaha today’s post is likely to elicit.

Fact or fiction: interconnects and speaker cables matter. As in yesterday’s post, you already know my answer. But, there are several burning questions.

Do they always matter? How come some people simply do not hear differences? Are audiophiles the only group that buys into the idea of cables making a sonic difference?

Let’s start with the last question first. No, certainly audiophiles are not the only people concerned with cable quality. At a minimum, engineers, recordists, and scientists pay close attention to the quality of their cables in an effort to get the lowest noise results. Proper shielding, balanced, and well-built connectors are a must for any serious pro. Do they also worry about the type of conductors and geometry of the design? Not many, but they do want to make sure they don’t muck up a job because of a noisy or broken cable.

And why do some not hear a difference? In my experience, it’s all about setup, system, and intent. While at RMAF a young group of fellow YouTube channel contributors approached me with folded arms and a challenge. They had purchased at Best Buy the cheapest USB cable they could find. Their challenge to me was to prove to them a difference between their cable and my high-performance cable mattered.

“No problem,” said I and invited them to Music Room One after the show. Within the first 30 seconds of the comparison the looks of shock on their faces was a sheer joy to me. Here were four bright young men intent on being right that cables cannot matter, yet open-minded enough to actually give it a try. After demonstrating the differences I left the room and their leader proceeded to test them with blind ABs and the group fared well: 70% accurate choices. Not bad for inexperienced listeners. (Yes, listening is a learned skill).

Do they always matter? No, they do not. I have had numerous experiences with systems that seem agnostic to the signal cables attached to them and I am not certain why. I’ve heard Bill Low’s Audioquest Boombox comparison of cables and the differences are stark and clear. Yet, I have also worked with in-home setups using good speakers where we could not tell the differences between zip cord and high-performance wire. My guess is that the room and setup were masking subtle differences normally heard.

Whatever the case, it’s obvious to me that for the most part cables—interconnects and speaker—matter.

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