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I just recieved my Monoprice 24G 1.3a spec HDMI cables today, THEY ARE HUGE. PQ and AQ is great but I don't think I need the mssivly huge cables. I might have to order the other 1.3 spec cables. As for Monster, as long as there is a cheaper alternative that does as good of job, I will never buy them.
 

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Can You Tell The Difference? I Can't

A long post - give it a miss if you're in a hurry :rolleyes:

I recently did a blind test at my home with a friend, comparing each others IC cables (he has some very expensive Cardas cables he's replacing due to a house move) and comparing them against the freebie phono leads I got with my old Technics mid-fi system. We wanted to see just how much difference they made.

I stripped my system down to the minimal stereo setup (Linn Unidisk SC, 2x Linn AV5125 amps, 2x Linn Akurate 212 speakers, driven 4 channels active on each). We spent a day swapping ICs for each other, listening to our favorite tracks, and making notes.

The result was that neither of us could consistently tell the difference between Linn Black, BlueJeans Belden 1505F, and his expensive Cardas Golden Reference cables. This didn't surprise me a great deal, because they're all well-engineered cables.

What was really surprising was that we couldn't tell the difference between these and the unshielded no-name freebies either! Perhaps we might have done if all the gear had been plugged in and switched on, because of the EM noise it all makes, but with a minimal system we couldn't tell.

My friend was puzzled and a bit angry, because when he bought his system, he was told the cables were so much better than any others, and would enhance any good system (he loves music, but isn't really a hifi geek). So we repeated the blind comparison of Cardas vs no-name freebies using good quality headphones (Sony MDR SA5000 through Graham Slee Solo amp), and still couldn't tell the difference.

So from now on we're both now going to stick with the lowest price, well-made cables we can find :)

On a Linn forum I visit, some members spend hours comparing various expensive cables, listing them in order of preference, and describing how different they are from each other. But it seems to me, that if the ideal cable has no effect on the signal at all, then a not so good cable is adversely affecting the signal. If this difference is audible, as they say, then for a hierarchy of, say, five cables, each audibly better than the last, the audible difference between the best and the worst cable must be at least five times greater than the threshold of audibility - enough so that even my cloth-ears should be able to detect it.

The Cardas Golden Reference cables are near the top of most of the lists I've seen, and the Belden 1505F and Linn Blacks are several (supposedly audible) steps down, so we should have easily been able to tell the difference between them if there really is an audible difference between all these cables. And, of course, by this reckoning, the no-name freebie phono cables ought to be worse by many times more than the audible threshold...

Of course, in the electronics lab, where all our hifi kit is made and measured, we can also measure the various thresholds of audibility and discrimination of our ears for the different modalities (frequency, tone, loudness, noise, distortion, etc). The measuring instruments have much finer resolution than does the human ear in each of these modalities, so you'd expect them to be able to measure the differences between these cables, if they're audible - but they can't. There doesn't appear to be any significant measurable difference in the performance of well-made cables used within their intended limits (reasonable length, loading, etc). Considering that this well-known, tried and tested physics and these measuring devices are what has given us such wonderful hifi equipment in the first place, it seems unlikely that they could fail to match the ear on the simplest test of all - listening to a piece of wire.

Then there are blind tests - if the audible differences are so clear, a good blind test that removes as many distractions and interferences as possible, should easily verify them, or at worst, should give a statistically acceptable confirmation... but since my own experiment, I've done some searching for blind-test results, and although there are quite a few online, I have not found any that even minimally confirm an audible difference between well-made cables used within their limits.

When I have described the above findings to the cable enthusiasts, they generally criticize blind testing, and suggest that lab measurements are 'not the whole story', but no-one has yet responded to the argument about the summed audible differences between the 'best' and 'worst' cables.

To cut a long story short ('too late!' I hear you cry), everything I can find points to the perceived audible differences between well-made cables being caused by something other than the physical properties of the cables themselves.
 

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Discussion Starter #163
As discussed earlier in this thread, there are no double-blind tests that can confirm the differences between a very expensive cable and any "good" cable (used as intended), just as you mention in your post.

I read Stereophile magazine (a friend subscribes) where they are constantly reviewing and singing the praises of expensive cables (1000s of $), but not a single double blind test - which would be easy to do with a cable (I can understand where they don't do it with equipment because it can require a complicated setup, but even then it's possible).

I believe that they simply wish to continue to promote these esoteric (and expensive) products to justify their "habit". And I guess there's nothing wrong with that. Lots of people drive expensive cars that perform no better than less expensive ones for example. That doesn't mean that all of us must buy expensive cars (or cables), if all we wish to do is to get from point A-B.
 

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I would like someone to fill a room with professional musicians ( I trust their hearing ) and do some blind testing. I seriously doubt anyone will. It would debunk an entire industry. The audio mags would have a serious problem tring to sell advertising for cables. If people know what they are listening to it is suprising what they think they can hear. Don't tell them and all of a sudden the differences deminish.

I find that quality electronics , a well "tuned room" good speaker design have a lot more influence on the final sound quality than the brand of cable used , provided the cable is of reasonable quality.
 

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Thanks to the advice of TECHNOKID in suggesting to read the post called:

Cables, Power Bars & etc... When I click on the Long Cable Test.... link I couldn't help but be at awe when I read the results. I'm a happy camper now.

Thank You again for the suggestion Technokid.
 

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IMHO the quality of cables matters even less when you are talking about digital cables - i.e. TOSLONK or digital coax for audio. You are sending 1s and 0s and if the wrong numbers are sent it will be pretty easy to tell.

I was in a dollar store in my neigbourhood a couple of days ago and I picked up some TOSLINK optical cables for $1.99 each - remember when these were $30 or more, even for the cheapest ones?
 

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Wow now that luck 1.99$ I remember paying 49.99$ for digital coax last year. Unreal how prices keep dropping. I couldn't believe when I went to Leon's, Brick and seen the prices on HDMI male 120.00$. Really outrageous prices. Yes they were Monster ones.
 

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I was in a dollar store in my neigbourhood a couple of days ago and I picked up some TOSLINK optical cables for $1.99 each - remember when these were $30 or more, even for the cheapest ones?
I never even thought of looking at the dollar store for TOSLINK cables. My original one broke the other day and just for laughs I looked at FS and BB and the options were $120 for the "premium" and $45 for the "Regular".

Ended up ordering from monoprice. $5 including shipping.
 

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MAny computer stores can get you cables for low prices. I got mine in ottawa For about 15$ a cable, fat 6"ft suckers with gold connectors. FS and BB equivilent for my system was going be $600 for monster and i got hooked up for under 70$

Now i have no need to put the tv on wheels so that when guest come over i can show them the 600$ of monster cables hooked up to my 800$ plasma! :) AFter all if your gonna blow 600$ on wires you better show them off to your buddies!
 

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One extreme to the other...

I took the time to read this post from head to toe and I find the extreme quite unbelievable. Start with Mons$$$$$$$$ter good looking show off cable for creating discussion amongst ones priviledge guess. No wonder one would think of using an AV cart on wheels! At that price, just like your china the only use is for show off! No wonder some people don`t mind showing pics of their high priced gear with spagetti like visual of their (monster) cables.

Now, the other extreme! Cable supplied with the component and dollar store cable! Cables at .099, 1.99????????? Quality connector (1) cost more than that!!!!! There is extremes and there is balance!

To be considered when buying quality (not high end or over priced but quality) cables:
1. quality connectors is a must...
2. sealed or permanently mounted connectors are very seldom good connectors...
3. quality and construction of the cable will determine its conductivity and EMI capability.
4. If you have a quality connector, you usually can open and then you see quality of workmanship: quality of wire used, quality of the solder, the care taken for finishing the job!

I can`t believe people involving thousans of dollars in their fancy system and turning around out of saving a few bucks and buying .99 or 1.99 cables! Unbeilevable!! Go to an electronic parts wholesale store and price quality (not high end) connectors, cable to make your own and that should give you a good idea of the minimum price you should pay for a half decent cable. Yes, their is a limit for abuse but people should realise there is also a limit on the savings when you want to connect your so call quality electronics! Do you really think your high quality AV will really spit HIFI with your low budget coat hanger conductor????
 

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Off Topic:

Does connecting a DVD player with coaxial audio cables give you better sound quality than RCA white/red cables? Just realized my TV has that audio connection and never knew what it was until now. Worth buying the cable?
 

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talldude123:

We have an FAQ on Cables and Connections here:

http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/showthread.php?t=76085

And yes, digital coaxial cables will sound better because they will give you DD5.1 surround. If your TV has the output, it is strictly for OTA reception, and the broadcast must also be in 5.1, and your AVR must be 5.1 capable at least. Analogue red and white will just give you stereo or 2.0 surround.

Connect the DVD player directly to the AVR for DD5.1 audio, not "through" the TV.

Back on topic, please.
 

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To be considered when buying quality (not high end or over priced but quality) cables:
1. quality connectors is a must...
2. sealed or permanently mounted connectors are very seldom good connectors...
3. quality and construction of the cable will determine its conductivity and EMI capability.
4. If you have a quality connector, you usually can open and then you see quality of workmanship: quality of wire used, quality of the solder, the care taken for finishing the job!

I can`t believe people involving thousans of dollars in their fancy system and turning around out of saving a few bucks and buying .99 or 1.99 cables!
For speaker wire, and other analog connectors you might have an argument there. If you can find a digital (optical/coax/HDMI/DVI) cable that cheap, and it works - guess what? It works. If information is not being delivered properly it will be easily visible, or audible.
 

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Humm... Property of the cable (impedance, LRC factor etc...) and conductivity of a cable are important factors for quality signals. Now, you are saying (and I have read it to from other on the site) that it doesn't matter so much with digital. Digital, HD signals are of higher quality of analog signals shouldn't therefore use better quality cables? Most of those signals are using coax type cable for which frequency capability is also a big factor, LRC again shielding etc... Wouldn't a cheaper cable neglect some of the quality ability required for optimum end results? All those factors are translated by increased $$. We also have to reailsed the even if dealing with 0 and 1 instead of signal modulation, there is still a frequency carrier involved which could still be distorded when low quality is used. Do not want this to be a big debate but I would like you and/or any other member to give me some deeper input/explanation justifying the fact that a cheaper cable is good enough for digital or HD signals.

Thank you for your input!
René
 

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Discussion Starter #176
TECHNOKID This doesn't need to be a debate. Read the links in post 1, especially the last couple. It's all clearly tested and explained there.
 

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We also have to reailsed the even if dealing with 0 and 1 instead of signal modulation, there is still a frequency carrier involved which could still be distorded when low quality is used. Do not want this to be a big debate but I would like you and/or any other member to give me some deeper input/explanation justifying the fact that a cheaper cable is good enough for digital or HD signals.
I will expand on this topic since it isn't really covered in the links in the first post.

The debate over expensive cables for digital interconnect really boils down to a couple of simple questions, which are actually sort of related.

1. Are the digital bits (1's and 0's) recovered with error or without?

2. Is there clock distortion introduced by the cable?

The answer to #1 is pretty easy. Unless you are talking about very long runs of cable or a damaged cable the answer is almost always that the signals are received essentially error free. In reality no digital signal can ever be 100% error free but the corresponding bit error rate (BER) is low enough that it is for all intents and purposes zero.

The answer to #2 is a little more complicated. The way that S/PDIF connections work is that the digital stream sends both the clock and the data over a single connecition. They are encoded together at the transmitter in such a way that the receiver can separate the clock and data into their individual components. The received clock is often, not always, also used to drive the DAC converters in the receiver/pre-amp. If there is distortion in that clock it can cause audible effects.

So, for a digital cable to have an effect on the sound it would have to distort the signal sufficiently so that the recovered clock is actually distorted. Now it's important to remember that every S/PDIF receiver has a PLL for locking on to the received clock frequency. In most scenarios, even a distorted signal will still allow a stable clock to be recovered by the PLL. I am ignoring for now the case where the clock signal is still noisy enough that the data cannot be properly recovered since in #1 we assumed that the data was delivered without error.

Given this scenario you realise that it isn't really the cable that matters but the quality of the transmitters to generate a low distortion signal and the ability of the receivers to generate a high fidelity clock signal from the received source.

Also worth noting is that any clock distortion introduced by the cable are very easily handled by a simple buffer in the receiver and the use of a local reference clock.

So, if your cables are of reasonable length and you are hearing/seeing a difference, don't blame the cable, blame the electronics.
 

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My theory on this whole cable issue is that a very inexpensive IDE or SATA hard drive cable can carry digital data at very high speeds with a 0% error rate - so why shouldn't a similar quality cable be able to carry digital audio?
 

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No reason why it shouldn't. See my explanation above. It's all about the recovered clock.

If you spend a few minutes of googling you should be able to find a paper which actually documents the effects of clock jitter and audible distortion.
 
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