Warriors, philosophers and evangelists

June 8, 2019
 by Paul McGowan

Ahhh, the cable wars. Have you ever seen such vitriol? Hate? Devotion? Passion?

We don’t get as excited about breakfast cereal choices as we do with interconnecting cables or vinyl vs. digital. Why is that?

The more fundamental our beliefs, the greater the perceived threat, the more likely we are to defend them. If at your core you believe the world is flat, then no amount of evidence to the contrary is likely to sway you in the opposite direction. How could it? We see and hear that which supports what we believe.

As societies, we assign roles to members: philosophers to help us make sense of a complex world, evangelists to craft that understanding into a story and spread the word, and warriors to defend the faith.

Acknowledging these roles helps us separate the noise into categories to better understand people’s viewpoints. An angry voice is likely a warrior, the calming voice a philosopher, the bitterly entrenched, high priests evangelizing the story.

Why does this matter? For me, understanding the various roles each of us plays changes the approach I use to connect. Battling with a warrior divides us while offering some token of acceptance weakens the sword’s fury.

If connection is our goal, it’s helpful to meet those we seek to engage on their own terms.

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50 comments on “Warriors, philosophers and evangelists”

  1. If you want to exclude beliefs and want to communicate on a more rational basis you have to apply scientific standards. And if you do not want to believe published scientific findings you have to make or repeat the experiments yourself. And in the end you believe or trust your own senses/perception. And here you have to take into account that the ability of your senses varies during a day and that senses are liable to be fooled! Finally: if you meet a believer a communication on a rationale basis is impossible. However it is most strange that there are no double blinded test for different cable designs and no reliable theories about the audible electromagnetic effects influencing the input signal.

    1. The group I listen with do blind tests with not just cables, but other things like tubes. Someone sets it up, others listen with no knowledge if a change was made. Sometimes, we don’t hear a difference, but many times the difference is striking. I’m positive the cable difference, in most cases, with the striking difference could not be measured. I think it helps that we are very familiar with each other’s system now. I’m convinced these differences would not always be as striking if someone sat me down in front of an unfamiliar system, switched 10 cables in and out every 5 minutes in an unfamiliar place like many blind tests are organized.

      I’m “all in” for science. The world would be chaos without scientific reasoning. The problem that Paul eluded to with the “world is flat” scenario will forever exist with the scientific community. It’s the arrogance that you already think you have everything figured out. Its why Electrical Engineers seem to struggle the most with the cable thing. The arrogance issue comes into play when someone takes an immovable “it can’t exist because it can’t be measured” stance, but ignores the “we need to figure out why this is so” stance.

      There is also the other end of the spectrum. I was at RMAF one year and went to a vendor’s demo where he raved 10 minutes about the differences you would hear, made the change in front of you and then had you listen. That type of biased testing holds little water. In some ways, you can do that to yourself by reading reviews then trying something. It’s why the blind testing thing is necessary.

      1. I guess most engineers are not characterized by a huge amount of ignorance but rather a huge respect of their lecturers and textbooks with strict standards. They rarely ask for the simplifications behind the theories and formulas learned. Rather they additionally introduce new simplifications for getting the problem solved. Concerning cables I wonder why there is no such hype in the realm of car stereo. Could it be that a major source of all problems in home stereo is AC and the RFI generated by the power supplies?

      2. I’m an electrical engineer and I don’t struggle with “the cable thing.” I’ve pointed out exactly how it works, how we model it, how we figure out what it does, and how electrical engineers have understood it for well over 100 years. Do cables matter? Yes that’s why there are so many different kinds. Can they affect audio signals? Yes and our model shows us exactly how if we have enough data to do the calculations. Are there other ways to achieve the same goals that are cheaper, more predictable, and even adjustable in their effect? Yes, without doubt. Do audiophiles accept these alternatives? No. Why? Because they are getting their information from people who make and sell cables at an enormous profit and the first thing they have to convince you of is that the alternative methods don’t work and have drawbacks. If you are not an electrical engineer they will likely convince you. If you are an electrical engineer and they convince you, you ought to get a refund of your tuition money and turn in your diploma. You don’t deserve it. In fact the other option is not only cheaper, just as effective, and adjustable, it is the superior solution. It’s not my money so I don’t care how anyone else spends theirs. All I can do is give you my perspective based on my knowledge and experience and let you consider it or not consider it. That’s why we come here, to share our experiences and what we’ve learned. Nobody can force anyone to do anything so why people get themselves worked up about it just amazes me. Even if what they said was true, it is among the least important things in life. Hardly worth getting excited over it. What if I told you I think carburetors are better than fuel injectors. Would that make you angry too?

        1. Quote: “ Do cables matter? Yes that’s why there are so many different kinds. Can they affect audio signals? Yes and our model shows us exactly how if we have enough data to do the calculations. Are there other ways to achieve the same goals that are cheaper, more predictable, and even adjustable in their effect? Yes, without doubt. Do audiophiles accept these alternatives? No.“

          Please enlighten us

          1. At the risk and hope of annoying people who have nothing better to do with their sorry lives than hang on every word I post here and complain that I post the same things again and again, well here it is again. I hope and expect you folks to waste your time complaining again and know that I won’t even read your latest complaints, I rarely read anything you post.

            Electrical engineers model wire as what we call a distributed parameter filter network. A filter is nothing more than a frequency selective circuit that allows electricity to pass through it more easily at some frequencies than others. The need for a way to predict how a wire would behave in a circuit evidently predates the invention of the telephone and is appropriately called the “Telegrapher’s Equation.” This allowed engineers in the 19th century to know how long they could string wire before they needed a repeater to recreate the signal before it was too weak to be detected. The telephone system does the same thing as do all networks. The Telegrapher’s equation was derived from the most important and basic knowledge we have about the behavior of electricity and magnetism called Maxwell’s equations. These equations explain how current, voltage, electrical fields, and magnet fields interact and relate to each other. They are Faraday’s law, Ampere’s law, Gauss’s law, and Gauss’s law for magnetism. You don’t need to know or understand these laws to understand the telegrapher’s equation. I just mention it to give you the underlying principles it is based on. This knowledge goes back to the 19th century and is still considered bedrock science.

            So the properties of a wire depend on among other things, the properties and geometry of the conductors and the insulation. So here is the Telegrapher’s equation. It gives us the lump sum parameter equivalent for a given length of wire we can use to understand its electrical properties as a circuit element.


            Scroll down a bit and look to the right. You can see that there are four elements in the equivalent circuit; series resistance, series inductance, parallel capacitance and parallel conductance. For our purpose here, parallel conductance is zero, the insulation of the wire is high enough so that at DC it is an open circuit. Each type of wire has its own values depending on how it is constructed and how long it is. For example Litz wire will have a lower parallel capacitance than other types of the same material and cross section because it has a very large surface area, each strand insulted from the others and therefore less skin effect resistance which inevitably increases with frequency.

            To solve the problem we need two more elements, the characteristics of the source and the characteristics of the load. The source can be described according to Thevenin’s theorem which tells us that it can be modeled by an ideal voltage source having zero internal impedance and a series complex impedance which again has the same elements as the filter network in the wire. The load also has the same impedance elements although it can have another if it is for example a large woofer loudspeaker that turns kinetic energy back into a reverse EMF to buck the applied voltage. The lower the source and wire impedance the faster the current from reverse EMF will be damped out.

            So electrical engineers can compute what the difference is between the open circuit voltage at the output of one device, the source and the input of another device, the load when it is connected with a specific wire. With mathematical manipulation using the Fourier Transform function they can describe the frequency response of the wire in a particular circuit. It’s that simple, all the wire is, is a filter.

            We have other kinds of filter networks and use them in may ways, for many reasons, and one filter network can mimic another giving the same overall effect. The filter network of choice for controlling the transfer function of an audio system is an equalizer. Properly adjusted an equalizer can do exactly the same thing a wire does. So the overall system frequency response using a cheap wire and an equalizer can produce the same results as an expensive wire with no equalizer. Remember, I told you that every audiophile and people who make and sell audiophile wires will tell you this is not true. They will come up with a thousand reasons why including all kinds of garbage they know nothing about like phase distortion, time distortion, creating problems with imaging, and anything else they can think up to sell you their wire.

            Ask an electrical engineer and he will tell you what I just did. Who is right and who is wrong, the guy who got his knowledge from reading ad copy and magazines trying out endless wires in countless sound systems or the people who are the big heavy hitter industrial manufacturers of wire and users of wire spending countless millions of dollars of other peoples’ money specifying, buying, and installing it like I do. I leave it up to you to decide for yourself. Know one thing, I have nothing to sell and it doesn’t make a damned bit of difference to me how you spend your money. You wanted to know the truth, then here it is from someone who is actually informed.

            1. Sound Mind… Thank you. That might explain why I have had a natural affinity for Litz for eventually all my speaker and IC cable needs. Considering at the moment taking a deep plunge into a good WyWires power cord for my PC and class D -PWM amp. I find Litz to render the most neutral sound to my ears.

            2. @soundminde: You are exactly one of the Warriors that Paul mentions on his post. And you know it. Keep fighting the good war. Hallelujah!

              1. I’m not a warrior in this area of life. I’m an engineer with a strong background and interest in many areas of science and engineering and I enjoy certain types of music very much when I’m in the mood. At other times I prefer peace and quiet. There are some sounds people call music which I find more than annoying, I find repulsive. I’ve reached a stage in my life when music is far less important to me than it once was. However I understood and solve this entire problem when I was 25 years old. My real passion in life is understanding how the world I live in works and inventing and building things to control it using my knowledge gained from education, experience, and my imagination. For me this was a relatively unimportant one and only a hobby. But it was my first aha moment and I’m willing to share most of what I learned. BTW, I learned about wire so early in my electrical engineering education that I’d forgotten all about it until all of this cottage industry talk among audiophiles came about. My most recent experience with wire was trying to figure out how to test 15,000 volt underground feeder cables for their remaining life expectancy before failure. This was for the start of program to replace all such cables at Bell Labs in Murray Hill NJ. There must be hundreds if not thousands of miles of them. I’ve probably specified, bought, and installed more wire and cable in my life than any 1000 people you know who are not electrical engineers or purchasing agents combined.

            3. “At the risk and hope of annoying people who have nothing better to do with their sorry lives than hang on every word I post here and complain that I post the same things again and again, well here it is again. I hope and expect you folks to waste your time complaining again and know that I won’t even read your latest complaints, I rarely read anything you post”

              You talkin to me? (-:

              Thanks for the electricity 101 introduction …

              For someone who has never owned a musically revealing high-end audio system or listened at home to any modern high-end audio components short of an Empire turntable and HK Citation 11 preamp from the 60s & 70s you completely contradict yourself comparing your experience with power distribution systems to high-end home audio music systems. They are two completely different disciplines and applications, industrial power distribution and the recreation of a recorded music event.

              Further, here you go again with your sweeping generalizations based on theory and no actual objective listening experience. Granted the signal from a power amplifier is an A/C signal, but to suggest that all filters are alike and an equalizer with lamp cord will achieve the same sonic result as every high-end audio cable design is complete ignorance and heresy contradicting the experience and knowledge of most everyone else who posts here and the myriad of music loving audiophiles around the globe.

              Mark, this is an open blog and you are certainly entitled to your opinion, perhaps Jersey Central Power and Light has a forum where you can more aptly apply your experience at.

              1. Well said dr. Goodears! These types are all over the Internets trying to justify their diplomas. They either own no system to speak of, or crap “vintage” stuff that one finds at thrift stores. And yet, they always lecture people with SOTA systems and decades of experience in the hobby

                1. I don’t have to justify anything. My long list of successful accomplishments in my career speaks for itself.

                  As for my sound systems one of them is by far the best one in the world. It works on entirely novel concepts I invented. It blows away every other sound system in the world no matter how much it costs or who built it. It creates sounds in ways no other sound system can. It even has a United States Patent under my name assigned to no company. The only other person who has heard it and posts here is Paul McGowan. From the first moment he heard it his jaw dropped. This system can manipulate sounds in many different ways molding it to whatever I want it to be. As good as it is, it is the kindergarten variant of my concept. The original full blown version was conceived of as a laboratory for studying acoustics and psychoacoustics, would not be suitable for an entertainment device, and could cost as much as a concert hall to build. The entire concept is well grounded in principles of physics, fluid dynamics, and has an elaborate mathematical model that fully explains it. By comparison all of the sound systems other people have designed and built for consumer use are primitive no matter what the hardware or when it was built.

            4. Amplifiers are not linear into a changing load, and the load they drive is the cable and speaker.

              Cables and speakers are both terribly non linear, and using just numbers to define what it sounds like in a complex network is likely OK for a handcrank telephone, but not the wide band audio networks we use today.

              Look at a cables impedance trace. Look at any speakers input Impedance. Look at amplifiers output current into a rapidly changing reactive load, not a resistor.

              SM is right if a network was resistive, we can model it. Throw in reactance that is non linear, unlike RF cable where it is more linear, and we have one complex mess on our hands.

              We’re going to use a simple lump sum, as engineers, to define that? Maybe at 1 KHz,
              but across a wide band reactive network?

              Most lump sum loads that try to simulate cables fail. A spool of cable is sent to be the TRUE distributed reactive load. This happens time and again and especially at low frequencies.

              SM is rudimentarilly right, but the BANDWIDTH and loads of the network significantly changes the complexity of the ability to build an equivalent circuit. It simply can’t be done until you limit the bandwidth to a single frequency and fixed load. Change the frequency and the network parameters change in the low frequency spectrum.

              The more I TEST and document cable into networks, the more amazed I am it works.
              Certainly there can be far, far better definition for the consumer, R, L, C, swept resistance, current coherence and possibly more to repeatable standards. I agree with SM that there is no room for misinformation, but lump sum simple cable circuit equivalents are not the final answer, but a simple back of the envelope, “it won’t blow up” evaluation. They have a place, but not every place. Better is better.

              We seem more stuck on the concept that cable can remain pretty plebian in true measurement and not matter. Let’s even skip the specs don’t matter crowd and go straight to people who feel they do, but ONLY to the extent they cost 50 cents a foot to reach. With cable, we take an odd stance that better can’t cost more. I agree ma y are definitely stupid money, but even HP analyzer S parameter coaxial assemblies are thousands of dollars for properly rated three foot or less assemblies.

              I’ve heard far too many positie network changes with cable that truly measures better and better to ignore the wideband network effects in systems. Sure, better costs more. When did that change?

              We test amps Into a simple load. Why? Real speaker plus cable loads are so variable and complex that the results will be too confusing. Who’s cable, who’s speaker?

              Litz wire makes a terrible audio cable. Too high a strand DCR means MANY small parallel strands are needed that make capacitance go up and up. The floppy nature of litz makes geometries that lower inductance hard to design in. Like any multi wire design, smaller wire does improve current coherence or less skin effect, but the super high DCR gets you way more small wires than you bargained for once you try to tame L and C. Good design is tough to do past zip cord, but the gains are real, and repeating measured. The results in use are amp and load dependent and terribly non linear.

              I may be the odd man out, as an engineer, and audiophile. Specs do matter. Networks interaction matters. Better and lower reactivity matters. Getting rid of as much network reactance as possible matters.

              We aren’t at DC anymore, and until we get to stable reactive RF, all hell will continue to break lose through the audio band.

              1. Galen, SM seems to like you, certainly fit his view and profile of acceptable social status (engineer) along with Edgar Villchur and Mark Waldrep (phd). He has even adopted your language over the last year on cable theory having speced a million dollars of Belden cable in the past and currently holds a blind eye to the Iconoclast line of high-end audio cables.

                Be careful though if any of your potential clients mention they are in home trial on a $5,000 set of Iconoclast interconnects and speaker cables, that would definitely fuel the lunatic fringe rant about pseudo science evangelists, profit mongers and certifiable audiophiles.

                Recently read a review of your product line at Audio Bacon, what other specific target market awareness campaigns of the brand and product line are you considering, Axpona, RMAF, Absolute Sound, Stereophile, Positive Feedback, loudspeaker & electronic manufacturer’s partnerships etc.

                Any movement with your foreign distributors?

                1. SM is OK most of the time if only abrasive on purpose. We agree better tests on attributes do mean better, more consistent performance into reactive loads. The stump gets harder to pull when the truly best gets expensive relative to even my reasonabilities to hold prices down and, of course, cable can never be perceived as better than we can hear, but everything else can?

                  I don’t really have a bone in the fight as I am driven by the data, making cable truly better. Yes, it is more expensive but factually better to accepted practice and calculations. Since I work off the data, and not immeasurable theories with no time tested peer review, concern for validity only matches the DESIGN calculations. That’s what we sell. Sure, we are weird that way. SM can test the cable and make the calculations and he will get the same numbers I do.

                  I demonstrate what the DESIGN intends to do it does do.

                  The cable is not a fit for moderate systems, true, so no offense taken.

                  We are building the line distribution slowly. Too much too soon can overwhelm our ability to deliver product in an acceptably short period of time. Customers deserve service, service, service in that order right after a well made product.

                  Cable can be, and is, different. I would love to establish a set of industry standard repeatable tests for all higher end cable products to accurately move cable designs forward to best practice. Customers should know how cables differ to known current practice.

                  1. Starting-up and selling-in a new high-end audio cable or loudspeaker line these days is not an easy task. I wish you the best of success with your niche venture and many thanks for joining the ranks of the informed and enlightened listeners around the globe.

                    “I would love to establish a set of industry standard repeatable tests for all higher end cable products to accurately move cable designs forward to best practice.”

                    What exactly do you have in mind? I understand
                    that cables having no resistance, inductance, or capacitance is fundamental to your design philosophy.

                    One can measure RLC, Reactance, Noise Floor, Group Delay, Dielectric Absorption, Series Impedance, Frequency & Time Domain, Impedance Phase Angle, etc.

                    The bigger question in my mind is how these measurements would correlate to what we hear
                    in terms of music and sound quality?

                    1. No, I never said my cables have zero anything. ALL cables have the exact same properties, in different numbers, amounts and magnitudes.

                      To determine how well and RLC network is made, you need to know MORE than just RLC.

                      Even at RF, where people still thing it is just L and C with a little R thrown in other test variables matter.

                      Cable is a length and frequency dependant device. The characteristics swept across the usable bandwidth are completely overlooked. Impedance, resistance and velocity properties come to mind in addition to static R, L and C.

                      To sell an audio cable, NOTHING is required except to “tell you” how good it is with warm fuzzy language overlapping naming all the fancy materials stuck here and there.

                      How does any of that and a truly better cable? If it was a DESIGN, they certainly predicted how it should work, and the DESIGN philosophy was backed up with testing.

                      You don’t think the cable was just made cosmetically with a fancy Bill Of Materials and sold to you? With ZERO standardized testing required, and no data sure it was.

                      There is absolutely no reason to not provide standardized tests if you have a good design. That does not limit the creativity, enginuity and materials used to get there. It does set standards as to what better really is.

                      If the fundamentals aren’t better or near best in class chances are those we materials support more theory, with no repeatable measurements to back them up.

                      For me it was no data no sale. I decided to make cables that do have valid standardized data, and more as needed to support how they work, and WHY you should consider them.

                      This is the basis for how we buy everything else in audio, why not cables?

        2. >>>>>Are there other ways to achieve the same goals that are cheaper, more predictable, and even adjustable in their effect? Yes, without doubt. Do audiophiles accept these alternatives? No. Why? <<<

          Sound Mind? What are those means to achieving the benefits you speak of? Adjustable? Please let us know! Thanks, GZ

          1. Shunyata power cables are said to primarily remove the distortions created by the power supplies of the active electronic components in the stereo chain. MIT signal cables are said to act as bandpath. Obviously there are most different tasks for cables used for audio gear.

  2. The roles “assigned by society”….

    The descriptions of the roles sound strangely familiar…. like a religion, or so not as to ruffle too many feathers, a business.

    The philosophers are the designers with the grand plan.

    The evangelists are marketing who have to develop a story good enough to please the philosophers and attract warriors.

    The warriors (consumers?) are those who believe every word and claim. They are willing to follow and defend.

  3. Excellent post! Many of these warriors around the Internets nowadays….

    Does it mean you are accepting Ethan’s challenge? He is definitely the General Of the Warriors Army. The Night King. You “kill” him, the entire army of Internet zombies is gone

  4. My role in life is to understand the world I live in and to some degree control it. That curiosity and desire to build things naturally gravitated my interests to science and engineering. I’m willing to share some of my discoveries and how I used them to control things but I couldn’t care less what you spend your money on, what you believe, what your role is. Unless they are a danger to me, I have no desire to control other people or what they do or think. If they are, that’s what we have police, courts, prisons, and armies for. If you want to believe in the god of wires that’s fine with me. If you want to believe the earth is flat I’ll just advise you not to fall off the edge. The last thing I’d try to do is stop you. Controlling atoms, and sometimes just electrons has allowed me to control more power in my life than all of the human physical power in the world combined. Why waste time with something so pointless and feeble as humans. Unpredictable, unreliable, at times rebellious and uncontrollable. OTOH electrons are much more predictable. I can do what I like to them. There are human rights, animal rights, and who knows, some day someone might find a way to convince the world that plants are sentient beings and devise cabbage rights. But I don’t think anyone will think of electron’s rights. They all look the same to me. 🙂

    Learning how to understand and control vibrating waves of air molecules, mostly nitrogen, some oxygen is what this is all about. You want to focus on wires or tubes, or vinyl phonograph records, fine with me. I’ll tell you what I think and if you have a different opinion that makes sense I’ll consider it to better my control over vibrating air molecules. If you don’t I won’t waste time of day. IMO you are part of the flat canned sound society. The last thing you want to see is a can opener like me. That’s why some people get angry. It’s the titanic battle of the sealed up audiophile cans.

      1. Yes, here I am. To do what everyone else including Paul does here. Share experience, tell what we think we learned from them and find out what other people have experienced and think they’ve learned. It’s not a contest of right or wrong. There are disagreements. It would be a boring world if there weren’t. Why bother with people whose attitude is my way or the highway? That’s no fun at all. People are different. I want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Those are my standards. Others will settle for 99 percent true. And some like pure fiction that is zero percent true. That no longer interests me at all. The real world has become far more interesting for me than the imagined one. Enough of invented stories. All or nothing, that’s me.

    1. We listen to the EM wave, not electrons. Sure, moving electrons throw off a photon when the jump energy states, that superimose to build the EM wave.

      We don’t really understand fully how this works, and if we did, we could define how, in this post, cable sounds. The EM wave changes, thus the sound.

      The EM wave is a superposition of ALL the concurrent moving electrons, who’s photon direction is unknown. If EVERY electron traveled dead straight, and in phase, the EM wave would be VERY predictable. They don’t.

      We have no clue how an EM wave really moves. Is the EM wave attached to each electron, to recreated by the next one in line, or is the EM wave fixed, once created and moves down the wire like a package in a bucket brigade?

      The direction and location of each electrons movement matters if we believe DISTANCE to the dielectric matters. A wire is gigantic in physical scope to an electron. The photon tossed off that builds our final EM wave are not at all equal yet we only can manage the final answer as EMF and current.

      I’m glad someone is comfortable with all this, I’m not.

  5. I second the compliment. Excellent post today!

    The growth of the internet has lead to increased segregation and tribalism, in all manner of topics for debate. Small groups of individuals with extreme beliefs now have a avenue to connect with others with similar beliefs.

    Knowing they are not alone reinforces An individual’s extreme beliefs. It also leads to the creation of and dissemination of false information to further entrench extreme beliefs.

    How best to open a productive debate with individuals with extreme and deeply entrenched beliefs? First, tell them that you have no desire or intent to try to change their beliefs. Explain that you’re only trying to understand the factors that underpin their beliefs.

    Don’t make proclamations of your own points of view. Instead ask polite direct questions to better understand both the information they base their beliefs on and gage the intensity in which they hold these beliefs. Make no effort to dispute anything they say. Instead ask for more detailed information and good reliable sources for information.

    I walk away from many of these interchanges with the individual completely unaware of my own personal points of view. I gain however deeper understanding’s of both what forms and individuals believes in the individuals personality. And in a few rare occasions, individuals with extreme beliefs begin to question them, after hearing extremist ideas coming out of their own mouths.

    Finally, I have found that quality alcoholic beverages served in a comfortable setting greatly enhance this information exchange change process.

  6. Any differences we can hear from electronic interactions can be measured independently of psycho-acoustic experiments, which I find to be generally a waste of time because every pair of ears is “broken in” to different circumstances. 99% of those circumstances are so far off the listener is unreliable, and as likely to choose the worse cable. Today, the vast majority of the population learned to hear music through the gross temporal and spatial distortions of bad audio which are then “hard-wired” into their brains. The most important “break-in” occurs between birth and age 13 when we develop a Linnaean matrix to categorize the phonemes of spoken language, music, machine noises, etc. – but rarely the un-polluted sounds of Nature which correspond to our genetic pre-dispositions in decoding sound. Our best hearing is for human voice, which we all hear acoustically for hours a day and is favored over evolutionally novel synthetic sounds.

    I can hear cable differences. I have measured some of them and some I don’t have the equipment to measure, but none of the cable parameters that predict audible differences are measured by reviewers. Most of the time they don’t even measure the speaker and amplifier parameters that interact with cables. This is one of the things JA added, a credit to the Holt legacy of looking beyond ’60s specs.

    The distortions of cables come from energy storage and absorption. Electrical engineers typically measure inductive and capacitive storage and DC resistive dissipation. Metrological experts will also measure dissipation factor and non-linear dielectric absorption, which vary with frequency. Suddenly we have gone from three scalars to four two-dimensional curves. The dielectric measurements correlate to the noxious sound of cheap interconnects which use heavily plasticized vinyl insulation and phenolic insulators in the RCA connectors, and apparently go beyond the instrumentation of amateurs and audio fools whether consumers, reviewers or electronics and speaker designers. They SHOULD be able to measure dielectrics because this is also an issue in the sound of capacitors, and shows why electrolytic caps should be assiduously avoided.

    Non-linearities in dielectrics are theoretically measurable as distortion, but again our distortion measurements are reduced to scalars at a few spot frequencies, or more often a single forgiving frequency and level using sine waves.

    Next we get into a contentious topic: time distortion. Distortion analyzers automatically correct for phase errors so the gearheads never see them on their dials. Further, musical communication is very sensitive to perturbations in time. There are impulses and step functions; slightly rounded square and sawtooth waves; and rectangular modulation envelopes that do not correct well with negative feedback which inherently recycles and amplifies time delays. This musical content is distorted by all differential time delays, phase variations, processing (EQ, compression, gating, reverb, mixing, panning), slewing distortion, non-minimum phase drivers, crossovers and transmission line echoes.

    Cables have a characteristic impedance which is typically between 50 and 600 Ohms – twin lead zip cable is in the middle, 100-130 Ohms. If you feed or terminate the cable with a different impedance, it will reflect some of the energy at the impedance discontinuity. With SS amplifier output impedances from .1 to 1 Ohms and speakers with curves between 4 Ohms and 80 Ohms you can see there is a potential for problems.

    The electrical engineer will counter “but the reflections die out too quickly to be perceptible”. To their ears, yes. They only hear the gross temporal distortions of studio recordings through the phase mangling of graphic equalizers and the scrambled temporal response of sharp edges speakers with high order crossovers and non-minimum phase drivers. Let’s say you have a 10 meter speaker cable. Audio will travel down this wire at circa c/3 = 10e8 m/s so the first traversal takes .1 microseconds. The first echo will arrive at the speaker .2 microseconds later, the second in .4. This ever so slight blurring in time is still orders of magnitude larger than jitter, and yet AFAIK only a handful of engineers have bothered to measure and publish it. I can’t measure it, but I know it’s there from Maxwell’s math and engineering going back 150 years to telegraphs.

    More commonly, the reactance of cables interacts with speaker impedance to create time distortion. Since the content and speakers have so much time distortion already, at best you will hear some correction. Do you have enough information to buy the right cable? NO! Even if a trusted reviewer tried your amp and speakers with a certain cable, their opinion is shaped by their content, room and hearing history from birth. Maybe if the reviewer in question was your twin…

    I have done everything I can to eliminate time distortion from my recordings and speakers, which means DIY. Under those conditions, premium contractor grade 14AWG cable is adequate for residential length runs. Tri-amped, it also works for pro length runs with separate pairs for each driver, doubled (11AWG) for the woofer/subs.

    1. DCR is a key parameter to make sure your signal finds the load, and not the cable. But, use too large a wire is overkill and introduces current non linearities through the wire that can impact the sound far worse than using more smaller wire. To solve the DCR issue, use more smaller wires in a good geometry to keep L and C low.

      This is why so many people report that thin and seemingly terrible wire sounds good, it has better current linearity. The DCR effect, although still there, are just not as audible most of the time. Good cables addresses both problems, and both can be DESIGNED with known calculations. Better is better.

      Cable is death by a thousand cuts but each can be improved until the total wound is far less severe.

      Oh, cable impedance at the audio range a far, far worse than people want you to know as dielectric velocity plummets as frequencies go down, raising impedance. With such a vast change in impedance it is not real honest to quote a nominal, or average impedance. Characteristic impedance is a total non starter at audio as this is a wide band limit to where can expect the impedance to be using the cable. It varies too much to be characteristically anything near a single number.

      Audio cable is not an RL, return loss or SRL, structural return loss model BECAUSE it does NOT respond to impedance like RF cable. What I call simple reflections are created when the reactive nature of the amp, cable, speaker circuit stores, then releases, energy and when the energy becomes resistive in nature it goes away but at the wrong time.

      RF cable is far easier to predict and measure as it is terminated into a resistive loads. The closer the characteristic impedance of the cable is to the load determines what is reflected back. Every frequency has a different real part that delivers the signal to the load. The reactive part creates the RL issues. Some information is converted to a real component later in time, too late. You can measure and see this, as I have do e. Cable that is more teal has a better and far higher RL value at that frequency, yet MULTIPLE frequencies are EXACTLY a vector value equal to the load. But, too much reactance makes them far different.

      Good points acuvox. Using a series of repeatable valid measure and calculation, audio cable can indeed be better and better.

      Attributes I find to be undefined, copper, directionality (this is AC!) ETC I leave alone for the user to contemplate. Making up a theory you feel compelled to prove is no way to learn. I don’t do theories. If I can make it better, I do so, to proven statistically valid theory. The rest is told like it is. Everything we know can change so don’t get too confident with things. Everything is a theory, and can change, but the statistics we adopt suggests what is closets to the final answer.

      1. I am a little confused by your typing errors, but even more by your description of “current non-linearities” coming from a wire that has a larger cross section. Skin effects are relatively small over audio frequencies.

        I never use strands over 32AWG and they are “Oxygen Free” alloy, so audio frequencies can be expected to distribute current evenly according to resistance, which is rather consistent for extruded wire strands.

        I am further not aware of dielectrics affecting speaker level currents significantly, as you suggest in your statement about “dielectric velocity”. I looked it up and it seems PVC dielectric constant does vary for temperatures 40°C and above, but impedance and velocity vary with the square root of permittivity so we are talking a shift from c/2 to c/3 from the lowest bass to the highest treble. OK, so the 64′ low C bass gets down a 10 meter cable 30 nanoseconds after horizontal flyback frequency when the cable is carrying so much average current it reaches 60°C. I am not worried.

        https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ahmed_Thabet_Mohamed/publication/301234756/figure/fig2/AS:[email protected]/Measured-real-permittivity-of-pure-polyvinyl-chloride.png

        1. Skin effect is indeed measured at audio frequencies, and smaller wires mitigate the effect. This isn’t made-up, but industry accepted calculations. You force a more full diffusion coupling at audio with smaller wire, never to be perfect as too many and too small wires destroy the ability to meet other overlapping fundamental issues.

          Dielectrics do alter their behavior through the audio band. This can also be calculated using industry accepted formulas, and even calculated from sweep impedance plots with respect to frequency. This isn’t new information, going back several, several decades. We are stuck with this nonlinear aspect of dielectrics. The Vp drops from a peak at material RF, to as little as 5% at 20 Hz. This problem exists at any temperature. True, the value AT a specific frequency does not change much with temp, it is what the value IS that’s the problem. They DO NOT change the current “level” but the Vp down the cable at each frequency…never said they change the current density, but where the current is and the magnitude.

          Impedance changes SIGNIFICANTLY across the audio band due to the dielectrics non linear performance at audio, dropping from 50% to 10% from 20 KHz to 20 Hz. This is why vendors don’t want you to see the traces, they are technically awful! I show exactly what cable impedance really does. Go take a look.

          As far as wire goes, ETPC, OFHC, OFE and UPOCC are different in O2 and grains, but I have absolutely ZERO evidence as to which is really “better” or how. Mechanicals, yes but electricals? Resistively differences are minimal. The wire does alter the sound but I have no way to say which is more accurate so, pick your wire. If this is bunk, pick the cheapest one. Can’t help you there yet except for resistivity.

          I find it curious that even with repeatable calculations, we have a view that cable can be anything and, “you can’t hear that”. We actually push away from industry standard measurements. Why, exactly? My job is to make cables that measure and calculate better and they do. What most don’t do, is present exactly how. We do. The decision to buy an amp, DAC, you name it can be washed away in your mind as meaningfully different but we all know this isn’t the case. Better numbers do improve similarities but they don’t create a line of indistinguishable differences. Cables are no different.

          If we DO feel cable is different, and it is, would we not want to make sure we are indeed buying what is truly better?

          “I am a little confused by…” there is plenty of this to go around. You need a SPACE after 32 in “32AWG.”

          People who live in glass houses – (fill in the blank).

          I can send you the data calculations on all of this. You can also do it without me since it isn’t made up. Better is Better.

  7. I have discovered that the more expensive the cables, the greater the expectation that they will improve the sound of the signal being conducted. After an extensive review of some very expensive, High-End cables which used a rather controversial design, I had to return those cables.

    I was at a quandary, not wanting to spend a large sum of money on another set of exotic cables. I have a friend who is a trade professional, making cables for Industrial and Medical equipment. He said that he had some really good Belden wire, which he would terminate and send me.

    He also told me his professional opinion that cables cannot improve the sound, they can either color or degrade, but not improve. Okay, he is in the trade, and I respect his knowledge. The bright yellow cables arrived with bananas on one end and spades on the other. I hooked them up and I experienced the same quality of sound that I had become familiar with, whilst reviewing the High-End wires.

    Expectation bias translates into a belief system that the higher the price, the more we expect it to sound better.

    I was so impressed with the wires, I asked if he had any more scrap spool ends, so I could add them to my second system, replacing “Audiophile Grade Copper” lamp cord on those speakers. I heard a better sound when I attached them.

    Because my friend gave me the wires at no cost, I had no bias related to cost. I just heard my Music sounding better.
    For me, the Cable Wars had reached a state of Detente.

    The hobby of Stereo, or the affliction of Audiophilia, carries with it mythology. We read the myths, we respect the writers, we propagate the myths amongst our friends. But, they are still myths.

    Better quality conductors of the signal will do that job better than the regular old lamp cord, taking into account strand count, shielding and proper termination–but there is nothing “magical” in the process, and cable cannot ‘improve’ sound quality. Period.
    We must look at the ubiquitous RCA single-ended connection versus a Balanced XLR cable to see a difference.

    And in my research, I also found that the manufacturer of some of the most expensive, and highly sought after cables also believes the Earth is flat.

    1. Correct. You move a signal from point A to point B and manage what can change it along the way. Depending on what you change determines the cost. PP dielectrics are cents a pound, flourocopolymers dollars a pound. There are measurable differences.

      I use measurement go push the edge of technology, beer is better. Cost comes later. How much better can we make affordable?

      As pointed out with dielectrics something cheap is NOT the best there is, that I well know, even for cable.

      1. I mentioned strand-count, and shielding, and termination as aspects which more expensive cables exhibit. We are not in disagreement. I am reluctant when the cost of the cable leaps from $24/meterfor a quality Belden wire, with good terminations, to Several Thousand dollars/meter because of some gee-whiz feature that is based on a theory and is already controversial. And folks are correct that if your system is in the ‘affordable’ range, hooking a $7,000 cable to a $500 stereo will not be a magic bullet that will turn a pig’s ear into a silk purse.
        Good beer is better than cheap beer. Cheap Vodka, when mixed with orange juice, is virtually indistinguishable from the top-shelf stock. But, in a dry Vodka Martini, the difference is glaringly obvious. That’s is why Grey Goose costs more than that Generic Aristocrat. We are on the same page, my friend.

        1. My spell checker and typos are sometimes too funny. I meant to say, “better is better”, but Beer is better works too! For some the really good stuff is not required. I have no fight with that.

          At the same time, those that do want truly better things need some proof that it measurably is better. We can do that with cable…not sure about alcohol since I don’t drink. Price has to be a judge, too. I make special considerations to make the higher end show measured performance improvements to reference designs, not just an unsupported price tag that is above rational justification and use unsupported “theory”.

          We fall WAY below the price of where similarly rated cables fall, of which there are few. This is what should happen…decide to sell more and use this to introduce a cheaper price. If the market is good, volume goes up and prices come down.

          Look at the cars we drive and PC’s. Better was “stupid” yesterday but today that’s the entry point! You could argue “most” can’t tell how much better either is, same with cable. But better is still better and it does become affordable over time IF it is made to a standard of comparison! Here cable is in trouble. This breaks the proper model, better performance getting cheaper needs a set of benchmarks.

          There is no reason to buy PROVEN performance increases if it doesn’t match our needs. Why would I argue with that?

  8. Why is it so ? Is it because I believe so therefore it is so or it is so therefore I believe so ? Vast difference between the two. The former is based on belief the latter on evidence. Yet to a manufacturer both are equally relevant since both have to be catered to. There is no way but to accept the dichotomy and work with it. Regards.

  9. Those “battling” are started by the have-nots.

    I do not want to battle anyone. I simply want to enjoy what I have discovered.

    The battle is caused by those who have not the ability to perceive what another does.

    My original intent was to ‘share.’ Not battle.

    Life is a series of chapters of witnessing to various types of good vs evil on many varying levels.

  10. At audio shows there is typically a cable designer/manufacturer demonstration where the demonstrator uses the same music track and set up, replacing the cables with their various quality levels (from lowest to highest price). At one such demonstration I attended, when the demonstrator inserted the most expensive cable and asked “Listen to the improvement. Can you hear it?” nearly everyone’s hand went up. Mine did not. To me, the best sounding cable was the one labelled “good,” not “best”. What is wrong with me?

    There are too many variables in the design and performance of cables to generalize “best.” These variables include connected system characteristics, cable length, manufacturing production standards, stability and balance of materials over time, type of connectors, environmental conditions, etc. For example, a cable that has noise filtering capabilities is not very useful in a system that already has very low noise. It can make a noisy system sound better or make a noiseless system sound muffled.

    Sometimes the improvement in sound can be just the brain responding positively to a different sound. Like playing a different piano after playing the same one for years. The brain is excited by new sounds. But after a while, the new sound becomes old, and the old piano after a good tuning may not sound so bad after all. Same thing applies to colors. A change in color brings immediate excitement, but then, after a while the brain becomes saturated and will be attracted to other colors. The concept can be extended to foods, friends, relationships–all aspects of life. While some brains resist change, most brains thrive on it.

    1. Another example of how the brain enjoys change. I live in a hilly part of Hollywood, CA. Everyone in my neighborhood has interesting, but different views. When I first moved in, I thought my view was extraordinary. After a while, it became ho-hum. After a few months when I was first in my neighbor’s house, his view looked more exciting to me than mine. My neighbor in my house, on the other hand, declared my view more exciting than his. Some people with really spectacular panoramic views higher up on the hill have told me they are so accustomed to the views they no longer appreciate them. They now get excited about gardens and things closer to the ground. Just goes to show you: people are in the long run never satisfied and always want more. Like the data-hungry robot that craved new stimulation, wheeling about begging, “Feed me!”

    2. Correct. Hearing different and liking different are not the same thing. This is still entertainment. Go with want moves you. Nothing wrong with that stance, and the items you will or won’t like will vary all over in price.

      We tend to build to a lowest common denominator, afraid to use stuff deemed too cheap. If your budget allows it up the chain, fine, but don’t be afraid to enjoy things down the chain, too.

  11. Funny that this cable topic comes up the day after I spent an afternoon with my audiophile friend testing different digital cables. We’re both serious listeners with lots of live classical music concert experience.
    What prompted this was my disatisfaction with CD sound on my A- rated player/DAC system. SACD sounded magnificent through the HDMI cable, so why was CD so crappy through this same cable ?
    After installing an older discontinued coaxial cable, CD suddenly sprang to life. Replacing it with a current more expensive coaxial cable made it sound even better- no mistake about it. You get what you pay for. The biggest improvement was switching the CD digital signal from HDMI to coaxial.
    Live and learn.

  12. I am getting sick and tired of the phrases starting with: “I am an electrical engineer, therefore …. cables are snake oil”. I have found than in the majority of cases, these shills are either (1) not really Electrical engineers, or (2) have zero interest in music and audio, don’t even own a decent audio setup, and for some reason participate in all online forums to bash anything audio related. I stop reading them as soon as I see that starting phrase

    1. Actually your engineering degree doesn’t make you an expert on what we hear. In fact electricity is still a theory and not fully understood.

  13. Double blind tests don’t work. Sometimes it’s noticed immediately other times not. The benefits of good cables are the same as good speakers, you have to live with them and experience the long term effects such as listeners fatigue or lack of. The shrill and hardness or grain and dullness or poor soundstage of poorly designed wire is experienced over time living with them just as the benefits are derived over long term listening.

    1. Correct. Hearing different and liking different are not the same thing. This is still entertainment. Go with want moves you. Nothing wrong with that stance, and the items you will or won’t like will vary all over in price.

      We tend to build to a lowest common denominator, afraid to use stuff deemed too cheap. If your budget allows it up the chain, fine, but don’t be afraid to enjoy things down the chain, too.

  14. Paul got me into digital audio, and it has been fun, but not easy to get set-up. A friend now has a PSAudio Direct Stream DAC and I’m trying to help him get it all going. Whew! Worse, he has MAC iOS and I have windows.

    I told him that when he plays his collection RANDOM he will go nuts with the HUGE difference in his system. To buy a speaker cable or anything an hour or two playing RANDOM music sources will eventually let you hear the device at hand over the source. This is easy to do with digital, once you get it running.

    I will love and hate what I hear randomly but in time, I know what it is I like and don’t, the device or the recording.

  15. Re-reading Paul’s quote, “The more fundamental our beliefs, the greater the perceived threat, the more likely we are to defend them. If at your core you believe the world is flat, then no amount of evidence to the contrary is likely to sway you in the opposite direction. How could it? We see and hear that which supports what we believe”. Which brings to mind Stephen Hawking’s famous quote , “The Greatest enemy of Knowledge is not ignorance, It is the Illusion of Knowledge”. Causes one to pause and reflect on the nature of ones own openness or “impedance” to see clearly when presented with new information different from our own programming. And Leonardo Da Vinci’s, “The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions”, who’s premise lies the groundwork for a paradigm shift in the way one thinks, lives and perhaps “hears”, but cannot take hold until the thirst and desire to discover truth, is greater than the restraints of our own impedance. Paul’s subtle “read between the lines” approach provokes contemplation beyond the widely accepted, but also peaks a thirst for more in his upcoming book?? 😉

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