Spent a great deal of time playing DirectStream on a very different system than I am used to: one that was based on a single coaxial 5″ driver in an extremely large cabinet forming a type of folded horn. It was really interesting and what I found fascinating is how myself and the other two listeners had very different perceptions of what we heard.
Indeed, we all enjoyed the system immensely. As a coaxial tuned horn the coherence of the sound was remarkable. But as we listened to differences in cables, specifically USB, we each heard something quite different. I suspect this has to do with how each of us perceives sound. Not differences in our hearing or processing, but how we actually relate to complex audible images. I’ll give you an example.
On the first track of La Folia (an excellent recording), Improvisations D’Après Le Villancico Du CMP, there is a distant percussive instrument followed by what sounds like sleigh bells ringing. For me, the percussive instruments really told the tale of the sound. For the other two listeners, the sleigh bells did the trick. Cable A, to my ears, brought forth all the subtle room cues of the sound bouncing off those walls, while cable B masked the same. To our other two listeners, they apparently didn’t notice what I heard, rather focusing on the sleigh bells and how live or smeared they sounded depending on cable A or B.
When the differences in musical qualities gets down to the short hair level like this, we often make decisions on equipment based not on overall musicality but narrowed down to what I would call nits and lice.
No question small differences are important, but stepping back from this micro view I am not sure any of us could have nailed which of the two cables was really best.
So the question is, how important are these minute details when it comes to enjoying ones overall system?