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Interconnects, preamps, CD players all matter

Guest Bret

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I'm almost angry. I was (and still am) a "wire is wire" person. I've heard that high-end manufacturers, convinced of the truth of "wire is wire," would routinely use lamp cord for speaker wire.

I'm completely okay with that. I *believe* I can hear the difference between 18 and 12 guage wire and am happy to live with that, but that's understandable.

What I am having *real* trouble with (I'm trying to be in denial) is stuff that any nearly-deaf person could hear when you switch interconnects. I always thought a "good" interconnect is going to be okay, period. A friend of mine has some Monster interconnects, some AR interconnects, some Radio Shack gold-ended cables, and some other things.

To sum-up my thoughts on this prior to trying it: "You people who review the audio-worthiness of cables have lost your minds." You start reading stuff about "warm" cables and "analytical" cables and all those things usually reserved for amplifiers and speakers.

But I'm now a believer. We switched from an AR cable to a RS cable - both gold-ended, heavy-duty, interconnects of like lengths. We asked each other and ourselves, "What happened? There's no "boom" anymore. Where'd it go?!?!" So, is it just possible that $1,500 interconnects are going to change the sound? One $29.95 cable sure sounds different than the other. What's up with that?

I think I might end-up like a golfer; frustrated and disgusted, but "compelled" to play the game.

Why me?


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Guest lmrosenthal

Hi Bret,

I don't have a definitive answer as to why interconnects sound different, other than:

1. Cables can have electrical differences (capacitance, inductance, resistance);

2. Sensitivity of the device loading, in combination with #1 above can have an impact;

3. A lot of real and so-called engineers tout their brand of cables are better because of ____________ (insert your favorite term here, e.g. skin effect, dialectric absorbtion, silver vs copper conductors, magic pixie dust, etc). Note: I'm not minimizing the possible effect of skin effect, et. al., because I don't have the scientific background to really know. I'm really making more of an editorial sarcasm here with regard to the marketing departments of some cable companies.

My personal belief about the whole cable thing is that system synergy plays the biggest role in how cables will sound. Years ago, no one considered that cables had any 'real' impact on sound. But years ago, most pre-amps and integrateds had tone controls. Did your system sound a little tizzy? Roll off the treble control a bit. System sound a little bass-shy? Crank up the bass control a notch.

Today, most so-called high-end manufacturers have given up on tone controls because it makes the signal in the audio path "less pure", whatever that means. Instead, we hear about changing cables to change the sound. Hmmmmmmmmm? Is this a case of 'Pick your Poison'?

Me? I'm too old and too poor to give a crap about buying very expensive equipment, no matter how good the reputation. I'm currently using a very modest NAD C350 integrated (60 watts/channel) with my Dual CS622 turntable, Marantz tuner, and NAD CD player with my AR 3a speakers. You know what - it's a real nice sounding combination to me. Smooth, dynamic, clear enough to hear all the detail I want, plus the tight, punchy bass that really shines with the 3a's.

My interconnects? A combination of Kimber, and homemade (using the Jon Risch formula). My speaker cables? Also home made (using the CAT-5 formula on the TNT-Audio website).

If I put Valhalla interconnects and speaker cables in my system, would I hear a difference? Well, yes I could and did, in fact. A friend of mine has a marvelous system - VTL tube amps, BAT tube preamp, VPI turntable, Accuphase CD player and Wilson Sophia speakers, among other goodies. His whole system probably cost $40-$45K, and the dang speaker cables alone were over $2200.00! Don't get me going on the many pairs of Valhalla interconnects. Well, one weekend recently we were discussing cables, and whether they make a difference or not. So we swapped cables entirely. One night I put my cables in his system, the next night we put his cables in my system.

What happened? In his system with my cheap cables, it sounded slightly less 'precise', a smidgen less treble. In my system, with his uber-expensive cables, we heard very little difference. The bass seemed a little more clear, and the dynamics seemed to be slightly better.

But you know what? He was more shocked that his system sounded as good as it did with my cables - and - was equally shocked that my system didn't sound significantly better with his.

My take on this is that my components probably weren't as resolving or as good with detail as his system components were, so his cables in my system had much less of an impact. He was a little upset though that my cables (total cost, about $300.00) didn't sound all that different from his (approx cost $5500.00).

Do cables make a difference? I think so, but I really believe it depends on the system, and the room, and the listener.

Take care, and it's good to chat w/you again.


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>silver vs copper conductors, magic pixie dust,<

Are those the Tinkerbell brand or Midsummer's Night Dream-style pixie cables? ;-)

The rest of your post makes the exact point that I was making to my friend night before last and to my dad tonight. "Okay, so I CAN hear the difference in the cables. You got me, I admit it. But as to which cable set is reproducing what was on the tape to begin with, I can't tell. Once it sounds good enough for me to lose myself in it, does it matter, cosmically speaking, if I could tweak it just a little and pull a little more out of it?"

I'm reminded of my computer nerd friends who would argue about the effectiveness of their overclocking of their 500MHz CPUs to 600MHz (more or less) by increasing the FSB speed or increasing the clock multiplier and speeding-up the RAM timings a bit. And then they'd go on endlessly running benchmarks and try to figure-out which of their applications would run best under either scenario. Of course the REAL die-hards would buy $45/tube heat-sink grease and hurricane force wind generating fans to blow across heatsinks the size of a small cargo ship anchor.

The amazement I feel and the shame I suffer is that I would have told you, her, him, that guy over there, anyone, that they had lost their minds if they told me they could hear a difference in a 1 meter AR cord and a 1 meter Gold-Ends cord.

$2,200.00 worth of wire? Uh. . . I think I'd rather buy music.

Good to see you back here, too, BTW.


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