This is clearly self-parody from a publication that I gather is serious about audio hardware, right up to the edge of woo-woo imperceptible stuff, but probably not over that line.
A lineup of digital interconnects, which by definition are either perfect or have obvious signal dropouts, combined with language like "neutral without sounding bleached, dynamic without sounding piercing, detailed without sounding analytical" is a comical amplification on what I'm guessing is their usual review style.
This is The Absolute Sound's equivalent to the fake HN frontpage that makes the rounds now and then.
Evidently, I was too quick to give them the benefit of the doubt. It seems most of the defense around audiophile-grade digital cables is that they "reduce jitter" (which somehow then translates to noticeable changes in different areas of the audible spectrum that can be described in wine-spectator terms) – does anyone have a good link or explanation on this principle?
This is an RCA coax cable for ~$3000 a meter. The article is not about laughing at such a silly idea.
Unless TAS is actually The Onion of the audio world, I don't think the editor's choice linked here is self-parody or self-aware.
Here's an other one, $1700/m: http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/enklein-prairie-fir...
Or these $5000/m pieces of wonder: http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/enklein-orion-relea...
Please note that all three of these cables are intended for digital interconnection (AES or SPDIF), not analog. These "reviews" are not uncommon, and yes you'll get the same stuff for HDMI. You'll also get recommendations for $7200 speaker power chords: http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/crystal-cable-absol...
 for a mere $350/m for instance http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/nordost-releases-fi...
The solution is obvious, buffer, error correct and reclock your data before you turn it to analog again. Expensive USB dacs do this.
People thinking digital can be forgetful of the fact that with a regular USB connection, 8% loss on the channel is no problem because corrupt data is simply resent. Audio has a realtime constraint. Another problem with defending based on jitter is that jitter is pretty hard to measure, you need expensive specific measuring hardware.
Anyway, this explains why shielding can be important for audio USB cables. It does not explain why the cables are over $15. A reasonable explanation could be that the demand for very high quality cables is so low that it's unfeasible to sell them for less than $100.
But, if the world of audiophiles was really so rational. Then these reviews would go like this: This $10 cable is nice, but it sounds muddy. This $100 cable is nicer, it has more clarity. This $1000 cable is really good, the sound is very clear.
There would be only 1 sonical property, the clarity, lack of which would be caused by jitter. But, that's not the case. The reviewers describe the cables as if at a wine tastery where every wine has different ingredients and qualities.
I have no explanation for that, but the implication of malice.
For another example:
One of the best value rooms in Munich featured Marten Django L loudspeakers at €6900/pair, Nagra electronics, and the surprisingly affordable Purist Audio Genesis Series cables including a $300 interconnect, $375 speaker cable, and $250 Vesta power cord.
from here - http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/a-quartet-of-new-ca...
Here is that power cord on sale - https://www.thecableco.com/Product/Vesta
edit - I'm going to stop looking through that website, it is making me upset. They have a 1m power cable called avatarII for $16,950 from some criminally deranged outfit called pranawire - http://www.thecableco.com/Product/Avatar-II
[Add to cart]
(edit: upvoted for the informative link, in any case)
He says the difference is "subtle".
I had an friend who made up some 'artisan' Ethernet cables on a whim, they had arrows indicating the direction of enhanced data flow, so you plugged the arrows facing "in" to your client, and "out" for your server. There were some cables that had been balanced for both in and out packets but they were twice as expensive.
But no, all we're allowed in a supposedly free market is $3 DX junk, $3 DX junk marked up to $15 at the brick-mortar store, or $700 audiophool stuff.
I've a big thing for cables with braided outsides, so the audiophool stuff fits the bill when it's priced sanely.
I like the cable you're describing. If you start selling them, I might buy one.
You might know this already, but I'll mention it anyways because I was looking at it recently: there exists something called "ultra flexible wire" that has a very high strand count compared to normal stranded wire. For example, standard 28 AWG wire has 7 strands of 36 AWG, but ultraflexible 28 AWG has 41 strands of 44 AWG. This makes it considerably more flexible.
USB/headphone cables made from this wire could be quite a compelling product.
I would imagine ultra tiny diameter wire would suffer from strength issues and fatigue failure. Something like copper plated steel "copperweld" made into litz wire would be pretty awesome. OR would it? Gold plated into ultra fine diameter stainless steel insulated individually and braided into a LITZ wire.
Litz wire is not cheap, even the Chinese stuff is significant fraction of a buck per foot.
If you'd like to see a cable that costs $600 and is fairly priced the Pasternack company sells truly exotic aerospace microwave cables that are quite expensive. You know, to hook up the antenna on your space probe, that kind of thing. Built by hand, individually tested and swept on a network analyzer, that kind of thing. I buy .mil surplus stuff, made by them, from ebay (not new). And going the other way if you do broadcast engineering, $600 is a rounding error when installing a 100KW rated feedline for a TV station. $600 worth of high current service entrance cable for AC power is a depressingly short length. But $600 for a USB cable is impressive in a totally different way.
What's more likely: that the lack of such a cable is the result of market disruption, or that there simply isn't a market for a cable like that?
Most likely I'll get a wireless charger for the phone before I'm able to buy my "super cable". At that technological point, audiophiles will discover that taking a green magic marker and drawing a circle around the wireless charger unit makes the battery charge quicker...
If you can handle a death metal analogy, it's why more people listen to In Flames than Sacramentum.
Psychoacoustics are still very much apart of the audiophile world; although, the internet has helped reduce the hype to some degree. People believe whatever they perceive and aren't inherently objective.
A/B tests do crop up from time to time in various audio / video communities (AVS and some car audio forums hold some pretty objective events) but science doesn't always provide an answer people want to accept.
Psychoacoustics is the study of how people interpret sound -- things like loudness, limits of perception, how localization works...
I think what you're talking about would better be described as placeboacoustics.
FWIW the standard of audio and video is double-blind ABX sessions, not merely A/B (and ABC/HR for "fine-grained" comparisons)
> AVS and some car audio forums hold some pretty objective events
HydrogenAudio's community is (or was when I still visited) all about objective testing.
It was interesting that there was a preference for the higher priced cables. It is too bad that I did not save my votes to see if my poorly trained ears matched what the others preferred. It is hard to say if there is justifiable benefit in spending big money for cables but I would say it is worth spending a little bit more than the cost of lamp cord based on this test.
With the digital cables to me it seems like a high data rate, low error rate and decent buffering system is all that is necessary for good sound. Given the data rates required for audio (even SACD is in the low MiB/s range) a cheap USB cable should do the trick.
The stuff in that article makes monster cable look like a bargain.
Audio is so subjective anyway. You'll never win an argument with these people. You just have walk past them and try not to laugh. It's the same as the issue on wines. Doesn't matter how many double-blind tastings you do, some assholes will just sleep better knowing they're not drinking shit I made in my bathtub, even if it tastes the same a Bogle sauvignon blanc.
"An audiophile uses music to listen to stereos."
Have audiophiles gotten The Onion treatment yet? Seems like such low hanging fruit.
It's not. "Audiophiles" are generally off the deep end, the only serious (as in seriously committed to reality) community I've ever seen is on Hydrogenaudio's forums. And they're generally strongly disliked by those roaming sites like TFA.
Christopher “Monty” Montgomery, the creator of Ogg and Vorbis and founder of Xiph, is also awesome. He's slowly but surely doing a series of videos + article support on digital media which is accessible to anybody and very interesting: http://xiph.org/video/
 due to stuff like http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=1144..., how dare they require ABX testing?
Really, "laugh at the audiophiles" is a fun game that comes along every so often, but nothing really changes and people stay irrational. This comes as no surprise to a few people and for some reason continues to surprise the vast majority.
Meanwhile, sane audiophiles make reasonable purchases and still manage to enjoy music immensely. There's a fine line between sane quality and insane irrationality.
In this case I take comfort that the irrationality is self-punishing. If you're that dumb, you deserve to be sold a $700 usb cable.
Few people would ever say something like, "if you're that blind, you deserve to not be able to read books". But what's the difference, really?
I'm not claiming to be better, here. I do the same sort of thing myself. But I find it very damned weird that we've decided this one attribute is acceptable to discriminate against, while so many others are not.
I wish we would treat all social issues in this manner. The world would be a better place. Provably, I think.
Many of the people here are seeing evidence to the contrary (such as the reviewer trying to "refute" ABX testing) and saying LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU, so I don't know what more anyone can do.
(I'm still not sure whether people rich enough to afford these cables wouldn't be smart enough to listen to evidence, but that's entirely another point)
You're thinking of diamonds, but we're talking about tarot cards.
In this case, there's no difference between this $700 cable and a $5 cable from Amazon Basics. It's not about what's important to the person, it's about them not realizing they're being ripped off.
There are examples and references in "Thinking fast and slow" by Daniel Kahneman.
So the sellers of the $700 digital cable actually sell more enjoyable experience to certain (gullible) people, and do it exactly by putting an exorbitant price tag and raising hype around an otherwise ordinary USB cable. They are not in business of selling exact sound reproduction; they are selling exquisite experiences. And for an experience, emotional details are more important than the dull objectivity of spectrograms.
Imagine that you receive a pen as a gift from your loved one, nicely wrapped and solemnly handed. Compare it with an experience of owning the very same pen model which you hastily bought in a store for $10 because you needed something to jot with. The elevated joy of using the gifted pen is not in the pen, but in you and your experience, your memory. Same applies to audiophile equipment, collectible postal stamps, etc. The material thing just serves as a reminding token.
Now, the question is do the people who buy $700 cables not knowing it's equivalent to a $10 cable get more enjoyment than the people who know they're equivalent and buy the $10 cable?
If so, that's somewhat sad for us educated people. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.
The buyer might even never need to plug the cable in :)
Memories are nice, but I want them to be mostly real.
Satire is better when it has some air of plausibility, but as you said, audiophiles have already taken up all the material there.
> The Ultima Signature Mat incorporates unique hand laid-up polarizing filaments creating tremendously rapid vibrational energy decay and a new ultra-thin metallic coating which dissipates static build-up in real-time while the disc is spinning.
Yes, you put that thing on your CD before you put said CD in the audio player, magic happens and sound is good. $250. According to "user tests" it improves CD and SACD sound quality, fails to improve DVD image quality but succeeds in improving DVD audio quality.
Hypothetical review of such cables:
"This wire lends a liquid transparency to strings. The fluid quality of horns has to be heard to be believed. There is a silvery quality to the brass, with no sign of the hard-edged, coppery sound normally associated with speaker cable...."
Also, I am in love with that superconducting cable idea. You could make a fortune with the razor-blade model selling audiophiles "special" LN2 on a subscription basis.
The USB-IF should deny a USB license to every cable manufacturer who doesn't do this right.
(USB power plugs, for example)
It has to be 12 hours of brown noise, followed by 12 hours of pink noise, followed by 24 hours of white noise.
Really, the amount of misinformation around here about basement orchestra break-in procedures is astounding.
"Audiophile" nonsense is a prime example of how consumer protection laws don't work if you invoke any kind of pseudo-science in your marketing.
If you think about this stuff as changing the physical sound, it's completely bogus. If you think about it as changing the subjective experience of hearing the sound then it works for some people.
And that, to me, is a really interesting point: anybody who would buy this stuff is automatically in the category of people for whom it can actually work. Those of us who recognize that the "science" behind it is complete crap won't get any benefit from it, but we won't buy it either.
Certainly audiophile advert sniping is fun if you're bored and have the time available to do so.
The advantage Monster has is that their stuff is reliably good and widely available, even if it is obscenely overpriced.
Because it's not illegal, and it would be ridiculous for it to be illegal.
The seller knows damn well their device does absolutely nothing to improve audio quality. They know they are profiting from deliberately misleading buyers. Every time this happens, they make almost $695 profit.
So, why is this not illegal?
The problem is, there's probably no good way to legally argue that it doesn't improve their audio quality, since audio quality is obviously incredibly subjective, especially when most of the buyers are probably very satisfied.
That is exactly what's wrong with this industry: it convinces people that something entirely provable and quantifiable by math and physics, is in fact unmeasurable and qualitative. It's not limited to "audiophile" nonsense of course - there's all sorts of herbal remedies flooding shelves at your local store which rely on this non-exist fuzziness.
Most buyers are probably very satisfied, but I'm sure if it were a painkiller they were buying, they would be horrified to learn later that it was just sugar. The difference is that in "audiophile" nonsense land, the manufacturers would still be openly advertising it as containing sugar.
I don't think so. I genuinely believe that these people do perceive more enjoyable audio from their systems than if they had purchased cheaper components. Sure, you can prove that they would fail blind listening tests, but that goes for the vast majority of things (cars, clothing, perfume, computers, etc.).
> The difference is that in "audiophile" nonsense land, the manufacturers would still be openly advertising it as containing sugar.
That would depend highly on the exact wording the manufacturers used. I doubt they tend to lie about the actual chemistry of the cables. They probably do use gold, or silver, or whatever. Claims about "smoother" or "clearer" sound aren't really disprovable, and are essentially claims (often accurate) about how the owner will perceive the sound. Even the directionality crap is basically a subjective claim. I haven't researched the exact wording of many manufacturer's sites with a lawyer's scrutiny, but this one seems pretty innocuous from a legal standpoint: http://www.audioquest.com/hdmi/hdmi-slinky
Factors like attenuation and shielding matter in certain circumstances, but not for a meter of USB.
If USB cables make a difference, then there is probably an argument for doing something else (not ignoring the problem because USB cables must be 'perfect'). Like putting the DAC and computer driving the DAC in the same box and connected by I2S with the DAC as the master.
There are some good articles on the Audiostream site about why 'bit perfect' doesn't cut it in the context of audio:
DAC is hard. Moving a couple megabits of data five feet over a cable with multi-millisecond buffers is not hard.
I don't think it's even possible to use USB for 100%-throughput unbuffered data. I call bullshit on the eye pattern affecting playback.
Just because a difference technically exists in some circumstances with an oscilloscope does not mean it makes a difference in normal use cases.
Also wow that site called wireless a 'potential long-term health risk'.
When you talk about jitter introducing significant distortion based on packet timing, that's something that can only happen in two ways: either the audio receiver is using an absolute garbage clock, or it's using an absolute garbage and shortsighted algorithm for adjusting its clock rate, and not trying for a stable sync. The quality of transceiver and cable components is not a factor.
A passive cable can't change timing. The only question is whether the signal gets through in an intact form and can be locked onto. Any kind of difference you can have from working-cable construction is completely overshadowed by things like cable length.
There's no "who knows" about it. The change in output due to changes to the signal on the cable is well understood.
The reason this sort of thing is considered to be ridiculous is not because the signal on the cable can't change. As you say, it's all analog at the bottom. However, with a digital system, any change is either corrected in the receiver or shows up as a massive error. That is to say, you never get subtle errors. You either get perfect data transmission, or you get a horrible glitch that even the most tone deaf person can hear.
And with audio, errors caused by digital transmission, mainly clock jitter, can be quite subtle: introducing low-amplitude unwanted signals into the analog reconstruction.
Clock jitter is an interesting point, but I can't see how the effect could possibly be perceptible, given that the clock in question is running at an order of magnitude or two faster than the audio sample rate, and any jitter in the signal due to the physical cable will be orders of magnitude smaller than that. Those "low-amplitude unwanted signals" would surely be in the megahertz range, far beyond any possible human perception.
Making some simple one metre long cables would be cheap enough, even using exotic materials, and the markup is huge.
You'd have to justify it, so... maybe say the lead shields the cable from cosmic ray strikes?
This reminds of some guys I knew in the 90's when CD burners were newer that swore that the gold cdr's sounded better then the blue ones. I tried to tell them how digital audio works, but it didn't help. One of them decided the gold ones had a lower error rate. Conclusion in search of a mechanism/hypothesis.
If 16 gauge lamp cord was good enough for Paul Klipsch, then it's good enough for me.
It's a parody.
> The overall result is an extremely musical, vinyl like sound, even from CD resolutions. You don’t know what you are missing until you audition the Orion.
This is a "review" for a $5000m/m cable for digital (AES or SPDIF) interconnect.
"The difference is that cables are forever. They get better with age while components will always need to be replaced do to wear or upgraded because of improvements in technology."
Oh, and shielding. You never get shielding on cheap cables. Doesn't matter for USB, but I've never appreciated my stereo or headphones picking up an incoming call to my cell.
The difference in the cables, of course, being the quality of the construction on the plugs.
But I've bought a large quantity of cables (USB, TOSlink optical, ethernet, HDMI, etc, etc) both from Monoprice and Amazon (the "AmazonBasics" ones) and all of them worked perfectly, had sufficient shielding when warranted, didn't fall apart, etc. I've literally never had a single problem with any of these much cheaper cables.
I don't buy $15 USB cables anymore precisely because of AmazonBasics, but in general I mean, don't feel bad for spending more than $0.50 on a cable.
...unless of course they only buy direct to disc vinyl analogue recordings, or 96KHz sampled 24bit digital ones!
PS: One of my retirement ideas is to knock up monoblock 'boozehound' amplifier based on 6j5/6v6 and locally wound 'special' output transformers...
Surely you mean 192KHz!
No, really: http://xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html
It's funny every time.
What you really want is data that is all zeros... nice round, rubbery, flexible zeros, that can bounce off each other. That's impractical though.
Did you ever wonder why the zero has a line through it? That is to avoid a one going through the center and changing the parity and checksumming when bits get reordered.
One month ago, my Comcast DVR's HDMI port failed, and I had to dig out my old component video cables for my 7-year-old plasma TV. They worked perfectly, after 15 years. But the quality is no different than the $2 Amazon-branded HDMI cables. My lesson: 1) premium audio cables are bullshit; 2) premium video cables are bullshit too.
I am a retired sound engineer who spent a lifetime in major sound studios and I can state categorically that there wasn't a one cable in all those recording studios that cost more than a dollar or so per foot. Keep in mind that I'm talking about recording studios that cost in the millions and where the search for the right sound is an obsession.
A cable's only function is to carry what goes in one end out to the other. To talk about the sound altering effects of cable is heresy. They can't and they don't. It's marketing hype.
I subscribed to The Absolute Sound for many years, and found it to be useful in many respects. If you're going to put together a sound system that sounds anywhere close to realistic you need to be open minded and insanely dedicated. In this case though it seems clear they've gone off the deep end.
There is so much bullshit going on... It's really really sad.
Do some research on jplay for example:
I recently bought a really nicely engineered car, I researched the history of the engine development and last decade of its production, its awesome, long term reliability, the power train is awesome but the rest of the car is pretty good too. But marketing advertisements claimed it came with not one but two attractively dressed hot young women, donuts, and a park pass. Trying to analyze how they thought those three items will excite every member of the general public is amusing. Anyway I think one department may have been lying to me / ripped me off.
It's easy enough to see how someone who doesn't understand the basic science could be taken in by some of the claims made for these cables - what I can't make my mind up on is whether the people selling them know and understand that they're lying.
(edit: to be clear, I'm as sure as I can be that the people producing the things must know that they're liars)
Something tells me that they could se the price tag and brand while they were testing them.