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The results of my cable "upgrades"

Discussion in 'Cables & Switches' started by Brogan, Dec 16, 2003.

  1. Brogan

    Brogan
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    I've spent the last few weeks (and several hundred pounds) replacing/upgrading all the cables and related bits in my system.

    Previously it looked like this:
    Sky box - media receiver: Cambridge Audio scart (2m)
    DVD - amp: Cambridge Audio phono (1.5m)
    Front speakers - amp: Cable Talk 3.1 bi-wire (5m)
    Centre speaker - amp: Gale Hyperlatz (3m)
    Standard power leads for all equipment
    Rubbish, cheap metal banana plugs on some bits
    Additionally, all of the cables - mains, audio, video were all bundled up behind the unit. Basically one big spaghetti soup of wires.

    Now however, it looks like this:
    Sky box - media receiver: IXOS XHT611 scart (1.5m)
    DVD - amp: Puresonic phono (.75m - home made)
    Front speakers - amp: QED Silver Anniversary bi-wire (3m)
    Centre speaker - amp: QED Silver Anniversary bi-wire (.5m)
    All power leads have been replaced with short (.75m), double shielded, earthed, double ferrite, home made leads
    Quality gold plated banana plugs on all terminals - amp and speakers
    I have also routed all of the power cables away from all speaker, audio and video cables. The power cables actually go through the wall into the adjoining room and don't go anywhere near any other part of the system.

    So, what has this change made to the overall picture and sound quality?

    Well first let me say that as my original set-up was pretty basic I was expecting a definite improvement in all areas.
    After all, everything you read/hear/are told by "informed" people says this is the case, so it must be true, right?
    As I replaced all of the bits over a period of a few weeks, it was difficult to see any drastic changes/improvements, possibly due to the incremental effect of replacing a few bits at a time?

    So I did some direct comparison test by plugging the cheap phono into the DVD L channel and the Puresonic phono into the DVD R channel.
    By doing this I was able to make a direct comparison in real time between both cables.
    I also swapped the scarts on the sky box (as quickly as possible) to get a near real time comparison.
    For the speakers I kept one wired up with the QED and as I had sold my Cable Talk, I used a spare length of the Gale.
    The power leads were a bit more difficult as everything had to be shut down and then powered up again but it was still possible to compare within a minute or so.

    And the overall result?

    Zip, zilch, nada, nothing, zero.
    Yep, that's right. There is absolutely no difference in the picture or sound quality before and after the changes.
    I would like to think there is and I keep trying to convince myself but I have nothing to lose by stating the truth - after all I have already spent the money.
    To be honest, I wasn't really expecting any improvement/difference as I have stated many times in the past that if your existing cables are not degrading the signals in any way, there is nothing to improve upon.

    So, was it worth doing?
    Well strangely, yes it was.
    If nothing else, I proved to myself once and for all that you don't need to spend huge amounts on cabling and interconnects to get the same results.
    Also, I was able to significantly reduce the sheer amount of cabling by making bespoke lengths much shorter than the standard items.
    Finally, it just looks nicer with all these expensive looking cables. So much so that I am thinking of removing the plasterboard from the study wall and replacing it with a sheet of perspex. ;)

    Before I get flamed and people start spouting physics and lab test results, I'd just like to say that this is not theory or educated guesswork but fact.
    The results can't be disputed.
    Neither I nor anyone else who has seen the before and after can notice any difference.
     
  2. Mr Cat

    Mr Cat
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    have you let the cables burn in at all..???
    are your other components new, or have they burned in yet..?

    this makes a difference too...
     
  3. Brogan

    Brogan
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    Sorry, but I just don't subscribe to that "theory".
    That ranks alongside "directional" cables and "standing waves at amplifier speaker terminals caused by poor quality banana plugs" in my opinion.

    Even if the cables do change after "burning in", the fact remains that there is absolutely no difference between the old "burnt in"cables and the new "unburnt in" cables.
    That can't be a concidence.
    It just simply proves that the cables are performing identically.

    But, to put your mind at rest, each cable has had at least 20 hours of use.

    As I have said, I'm just reporting the facts. I have nothing to gain or lose by stating whether there has been an improvement or not.
    Although you could argue that I am losing face after having spent so much for no improvement at all...
     
  4. lowrider

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    IMHO, it only proves you cannot make cables better than the budget ones you had, nothing else... :rolleyes:
     
  5. StooMonster

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    Perhaps...

    ...your kit is so good it isn't affected by quality of cabling. ;)

    ...your kit is so poor that cabling doesn't affect it. ;)

    ...you can't see or hear a subtle difference. :)

    Have you ever demoed a £200 CD player against a £1000 and a £5000 and thought they sounded the same?

    ...there is no difference and it's like the emporer's new clothes.

    StooMonster
     
  6. Ed Selley

    Ed Selley
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    Agree with many of your findings Brogan- have yet to hear any digital cable make any difference at all. I have found some (small) differences between scarts and have found that my CD player has improved a bit with a different mains lead (it may have something to do with better juice reaching its valve- then again maybe not).
    My favourite is my Audio Note Interconnect. An ANVx model it has a list price of about £500. It makes little/no perceptible difference to the old Cambridge Silver Spirit but it only cost me £17 so hey.
    Currently we are trying to borrow some Audioquest Everest (£9800 for 2x3m runs) for the MS test room- I'll let you know if a Ford Focus worth of speaker cable makes any difference.
     
  7. steev

    steev
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    Brogan,

    It looks to me like your original signal cables were better than the free ones that are supplied with most kit. Maybe you had already reached acceptable quality with those. What would be the difference in cost between old and new?

    I'll be sorting out my system soon when we move house. Currently it's all on basic cables apart from one budget 'gold plated' SCART. The DVD->receiver digital link is using half of a free stereo lead and it sounds fine to me. I would expect that better SCARTs could improve the picture, but I don't intend to spend more than £20/cable.

    Generally I'm a sceptic about the mysterious properties of cables, but then I haven't heard any direct comparisons myself. I do find the Russ Andrews catalogue good for a laugh. 'how much for a digital cable?'
     
  8. Brogan

    Brogan
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    Perhaps I should point out that I only changed the "analog" cables (phono, power, speaker, scart).
    My digital cables consist of a couple of the cheapest Toslinks that RS do and an out of the box iLink cable provided with my 868 DVD player.

    As I have said many times before, I don't believe that even the cheapest "digital" cable of 1-2 metres in length will degrade a signal so that what is fed in at one end has been corrupted by the time it comes out of the other end.
    And all this tosh that is written about more expensive digital cables giving "brighter" or "richer" sound is just that, tosh.
    If the bits coming out of both a cheap and expensive cable are the same then the resulting sound after being decoded by your amp will be identical.

    Unsurprisingly, I can't hear the difference on CD playback between coax, optical, iLink or phono so perhaps my ears are shot to hell...:D

    Still, it's done now and I now feel I can justify any comments I have made about cables.

    I'd still do it again though as the new cables just look fab. :rotfl: :smashin:
     
  9. Ian J

    Ian J
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    Your kit list copied from your signature comprises :-

    "504HDE, AX5i-S, DV-868AVi, Sky+, PS2"

    Having given the matter a lot of consideration I have come to the conclusion that the reason that you cannot hear any difference between the various cables and interconnects is because you haven't got any speakers :D
     
  10. Brogan

    Brogan
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    Bugger. :(
    Now that you mention it, I thought it was a bit quiet...:rotfl:
     
  11. ReTrO

    ReTrO
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  12. Brogan

    Brogan
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    And for speaker cables and standard co-ax phono interconnects which have no shield?
    Tell me how can it possible affect the sound coming out of a speaker if you switch the ends and have the arrows pointing towards the amp?
    Don't tell me, it's the way the wires have been twisted...:rotfl: :boring:
     
  13. ReTrO

    ReTrO
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    What about them? ;)

    All my interconnects are made by myself, I use a lot of Van Damme Starquad mic cable, which has a good shield. As for my speakers, I'm waiting on a drum of Van Damme studio cable.:)
     
  14. Mylo

    Mylo
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    Hi Retro, want to swap a bit of your favourite cable for some of my Puresonic. I fancy a go at your design so I could compare it to mine.

    Regards, Mylo



    P.S Wasps are looking good.:clap:
     
  15. ReTrO

    ReTrO
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    I would if I had any spare. I'm thinking of buying a drum of the stuff next time round. :)

    Off to the Saracens game on sunday, should be another good home win...

    ...shame I'm not gonna be home to watch saturdays game though. :(
     
  16. Brogan

    Brogan
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    Fair enough. I think I've done enough to convince myself though that I won't be able to improve things to the point that I can notice.
    Let's not forget the "average" human ear (when young) has a range of about 20Hz to 20Khz.
    This drops off significantly as you get older and I'd be surprised if many people in their 30's can hear much over 15-17Khz.
    The low frequency range will be affected similarly.

    Is this shielded?
    Are you seriously going to put shielded cable on your speakers?
    Out of interest how long and how much is a drum, if I'm not being rude?
     
  17. ReTrO

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  18. saturday

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    I'm pretty sceptical about the wonders of mega costly cables - personally I've gone for mid price/quality on the basis that they must be better than cheap and the assumption that my eyes and ears wouldn't be able to detect the benefits of big time investment (diminishing returns and all that).

    That said, I'd like to pass on one thing that I have noticed. Whilst setting up my plasma and AV kit I was running it for a few days on a couple of power blocks run from a standard switched double power socket. Last weekend I changed the switched socket for an unswitched one and ran a short spur off it to two more surface mounted unswitched double sockets. It took me about 20 minutes and cost about £15. I did it mainly for neatness.

    However, when I powered it all back up I am convinced there was a small but perceptible improvement to the plasma picture - sound seemed the same. So, if like me, you were tempted to leave a temporary power connection in place, don't :nono:
     
  19. Brogan

    Brogan
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    Looks nice. :cool:

    One of those cables has 8 cores.
    How the hell do you wire 8 cores up to a speaker or is it case of just stripping them all and bunging 4 into each terminal?
    If so, how is this better than single or bi-wire cable?
     
  20. ReTrO

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    The 8 core stuff is meant for 8 pole Speakon connections, not really the domestic environment.

    I'm using the 4 core as I will be bi-amping my speakers when I get my Arcam AVR300 next year.
     
  21. eviljohn2

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    The only time I've noticed a significant improvement in cables is going from a freeby scart to a Thor where the PAL signal is 100 times better (no real improvement in RGB signals though).

    I've always felt that the point where differences can be seen/heard is through interconnect terminations. A properly terminated interconnect MUST outperform a half-assed plastic job due to impedence and power transfer issues.

    (Not forgetting that RCA isn't a true 75ohm OR 50ohm connector!)
     
  22. Mylo

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    I've thought about this before John. Even if the connector has the true impedance, will the socket not cancel this out? All the units I've butchered have the same cheap metal/plastic sockets. My own component cable uses Nickel plugs to match the sockets.

    Regards, Mylo
     
  23. eviljohn2

    eviljohn2
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    I hadn't thought about the unit end mylo - that's an interesting point. Even the back of the most expensive electrical goods only seem to use average sockets at best.

    However, if the cable and termination itself aren't impedence matched properly then (as I'm sure you know) there is an enormous effect on the signal.

    It's probably much like mains cables etc. in that having expensive, shielded cables from the wall socket to the appliance will reduce interference etc along that stretch; there's nothing you can do about the rest of the national grid short of hardwiring straight into a substation!

    Following that logic, surely the true audiophile equipment should actually be hardwired together rather than using removable interconnects?
     
  24. Mylo

    Mylo
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    You draw it mate and I'll build it.;) Who's going to pay for it though?:D
     
  25. eviljohn2

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    There's plenty of forum members who work in the industry. Maybe they can be persuaded to join our project!

    Although I suspect that the resulting "trial" setup:
    CD Player
    DAC
    Stereo preamp
    DVD player
    AV Processor
    14 Monoblocs
    Mains regenerator
    Sub & the 7 accompanying speakers

    will be pretty unwieldy since they'll all be permanently connected together (by top-end cable)!

    Might have to make a concession and use a standard mains-plug so it can be demonstrated in different rooms :)
     
  26. lowrider

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    You forgot that most of the interference is produced by the "appliance" itself, so those shielded cables will stop it from affecting the rest of the "appliances"... :rolleyes:
     
  27. lowrider

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    Jitter has been discussed to death, and even proven cientifically, my friends and I tested different cables, even on budget players and there where significant differences, not that the most expensive where always better, actually the Apogee Wide-Eye won all our tests, and it costs $50... :eek:
     
  28. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    Cables do make a difference but doing it correctly is really quite cheap to do, this is what I have always advocated here. Perple make the most mistakes with video / digital leads but to do analogue corrctly isn't much money at all. It ain't aout money but engineering, L, C, R, screening and CI if applicable.

    Effects of cables are 'over played' by many and often just cover up more fundamental problems and their effects are not universal either
     
  29. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    PS I am not convinced any of your changes could be viewed as upgrades but just different.
     
  30. Brogan

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    As I have used higher quality materials, replaced standard cable with screened cable and metal banana plugs with gold plated plugs, used ferrites on mains leads, connected the shield to earth, foam dielectric instead of the normal 5 cell plastic, etc. then I would consider them "upgrades".
     

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