Are cables BS?

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There must not be enough worms crawling around so I figure I’ll just go ahead and open a fresh can. Keeps it fun that way.

Why is it we’re convinced we can hear changes in polarity, or MQA vs. non MQA, or the difference between CD and vinyl—but find it hard to accept that cables matter?

We don’t question the Earth is circular (well, most of us anyway), stars are suns, and gravity sucks—despite the fact these are all based on someone else’s word. You don’t actually know those little points of light in the night sky are suns like our own. Do you?

Sometimes we have to take a leap of faith from people we trust in order to learn, but it’s often difficult when others make fun of our beliefs or willingness to be open minded. People like James Randi or other official-sounding experts (Randi’s expert credentials are that he was once a magician) at the ready to make a name for themselves by shouting down the observations of others.

And here’s what’s really weird. When an expert in the field takes the time and personal challenge to provide engineering evidence that what we hear in cables is real, he is often shouted down as a heretic. My friend Galen Gareis, Principal Product Engineer at one of the world’s biggest cable manufacturing companies, Belden Cables, writes reams of papers and publishes scads of graphs and evidence showing the science behind what audiophiles have been saying for years. He’s made it his mission to refute all the naysayers.

And no one wants to listen.

It takes guts and energy to change minds. Most of us prefer to stay in our comfort zones instead of stretching just a little bit to grow our intellects.

Copper Magazine’s editor, Bill Leebens and I, are committed to helping Galen shine a small light into the darkened wilderness. But it’s difficult. Galen’s a quintessential nerd engineer and most of his writings are lengthy and indecipherable by average humans. We’re working on simplifying and summarizing his finding in future Copper Magazine issues and articles.

If you’re interested in what I am referring to, I am including just a taste of what Galen’s writings are like here in this post. It’s long, it’s technical, but it just might wet your whistle.

“It is truly sad that audiophiles seem to be 100% lost on shielding. And I mean LOST. First big thing, audio signals both speaker and interconnect are LOW FREQUENCY mostly MAGNETIC property signals. Not ELECTRIC fields. Sure, ALL electromagnetic waves are “both” B and E fields but the vector magnitudes of the two fields differ, and substantially. And, this ALTERS how they interact/cancel.

Our best friend at audio is to know that B-field magnetic waves decay at a ratio of 1/x^3. So MOVE your cables apart, and especially cables with large CURRENTS (speaker cables) that will have magnetic properties extending well outside the cable. The interconnect have the SAME FREQUENCIES but far less CURRENT so the fields are far, far smaller…but they are STILL magnetic in nature!

What about all the FOILS and BRAIDS on interconnect cables? These are for ELECTRIC fields such as EMI and RFI well above 1 MHz. YES, ONE MEGAHERTZ. Audio cables better have near ZERO EMI/RFI to be shielded from EGRESS (inside the cable to outside) and ONLY need ingress (outside the cable in) for terrestrial EMI/RFI. Better yet, the input needs a low pass filter to ground above 1 MHz.

Digital cables CAN spew EMI / RFI so shields are needed. But were talking AUDIO for right now.

Speaker cable aren’t shielded because they are a “different” kind of signals. They are the same 20-20KHz magnetic field vectors as interconnect cable. The speaker cable signal is just far, far stronger GAUSS density relative to any terrestrial EMI/RFI NOISE.  Low impedance speaker cables swamp out the interconnects radiated magnetic fields and ignore EMI/RFI pathetic B-fields for the same reason. The magnetic in nature signal is too big to be bothered by them.

DISTANCE or low permeability metals (stuff a magnetic sticks to) is needed for B-fields. A faraday cage is an example where it routes magnetic fields AROUND what is INSIDE as the cage is a lower permeable path to magnetic flux lines than the air is.  We could stick cables into magnetic conduit, too. This will route the flux lines around what is inside the conduit. It has to be stuff magnets stick too, not what is called electricals conduit that is more a fire block or E-fields short to ground.

Going up and up in frequency, we now need to TRANSITION to a material that is a low permeability to ELECTRIC fields, or is CONDUCTIVE to “E”lectricity. This is braids and foils, typically. And yes, the metallic conduit we use, too.”

There will be more to come. If you aren’t yet dying of boredom here’s a video I put together on the subject – and it’s a lot less technical. You can watch it here.