Do expensive cables make any difference at all? Or is all sales bs? Ive heard allot of different opinions on this subject ranging from “you cant tell the difference Monster cable and a coat hanger” to people who insist on £2000 cable for their speaker connections, claiming it makes a big difference. We went to Urban Chain studios with Mike, John, Charlie and myself to test the following cables:
£7.13 Junior special – Home made from crappy bell wire  (£7 for the connectors)
£20 Van Damme
£55 Chord cream
£100 Monster cable
All cables are 4 meters long with Neutrik XLR connectors. We tested the cables with both our ears and our eyes and do you think we could find a difference?

Wave form screen grabs:

Gate metal wave forms

Square 1000hz 0dBFS

Square 100Hz 0dBFS

UPDATE: Thanks to Charile here are ALL the .wav files from our test.

 

  • federico

    That was interesting, thanks!

    Plus, I’ve got a new hero now, the Junior Special… Go Junior, fight the power! Show who you are to those posh cables! LOL

    After investigating the cables, I think it would be really really useful
    to also check the connectors, which I guess may be way more significant
    in the transmission of the signal. What about it?

  • Paul

    more expensive = more durable, cheap cable will sound just as good

  • Anonymous

    I think Neutrik are fairly dominat in the connector world as far as brands, most others I have seen are generic?

  • federico

    Yes, that’s true. I couldn’t tell another connector brand actually. It would be interesting though to check if Neutrik are actually superior to other “generic” connectors.

  • Alden

    I’d have loved to see some null testing, so we can see how loud the differences are. A frequency analyzer would be informative as well.

    Right now it’s hard to draw any real conclusions from this, because it’s all subjective.

  • Anonymous

    Your right though a null test would of been good, it was mentioned but we ran out of time.

    Did you look at the screen grabs posted above? They arent subjective?

  • Alden

    That’s fair; there’s objective evidence that there is SOME difference. There’s just no objective evidence that that difference is anything more than random noise. 10 loops is a lot, and you converted each time as well? Random error is, after all, just that.

    If you could provide frequency comparisons, I’d also be curious to see your results from the first loop, rather than the 10th, just to get some perspective. Of course, that all takes time, and I appreciate that you did a test at all.
    Maybe if you posted up the .wav files some people could do a bit of that testing.

  • Anonymous

    Ill hit up the Urban Chain guys to see if they still have / can send me the files to post for you.

  • Charlie

    I just made a quick comparison of the gate metal before and after 11 passes through the Junior Spesh using Blue Cat’s free Frequency Analyser and there is a significant and objective change in the signal. Most notably at about 22Hz and 44Hz. It’s about a 2dB loss after 11 times through the Spesh. There looks like there is some detail loss at the top end too but I would really need a slightly more detailed freqanalyser for that one.

    Now that I’m sending Rupert all the files, maybe you lot out there in the ether can run your own analyses and post the results back here.

    Can we all pay our respects to the Junior Spesh:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6pbZLiLt30

  • Anonymous

    Hey Alden, Link to download ALL the files from the test zipped up now in the show notes above. Please let us know what you find!

  • Anonymous

    Wow that video was… Spesh?

  • Hans Schulze

    Thanks for providing alll this great content!  Over at work we did a similar audio patch cable test with 3 diffferent 2m cables using an Agilent 35GHz network analyzer in our EMI lab.  The Monster cable actually got the worst performance of the three’ due to poor impedence matching in the insulation and  connector hookups’ almost 30% off.  The cheaper RCA cable at 12$USD was best: flat from the bottom end of the scale (200 Hz) right up to 800 MHz for -3dB cut-off.  Also, having worked on chips that draw square wave currents at 100A/us I can only advise about using braided short fat cable for your speakers.  Standard Cu is good enough.  Twist to avoid interference with each other for signals up to a GHz. 

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Hans, while your test had different results re:Monster its nice to have confirmation that different cable can produce a different sound. I think I have taken more flack for saying cables sound different than any other issue! Given how strongly people will debate the subject its strange I couldn’t find much documented testing.

  • Hans Schulze

    I would think that most electrical engineers who know the answer would not ask themselves if the sound is different or not.  There just isn’t a modern electronic device out there that can’t do 40 kHz
    Note that going through connectors is usually much more lossy than a short cable, and even more so going through any form of electronics.  So simply plugging cables into cables is a good test of the connectors, not the cables.  You should test with a hundred feet or more of wire to really notice the difference – make sure it’s lying serpentine on the floor and not all rolled up.  The only parameter that EE’s know for sure about a wire is the DC loss (power) for longer wires.  Wire companies don’t generally rate speaker or audio wire because it is an uninteresting flat line in the audio spectrum.
    If you really want to spend some bucks to help better audio, contribute to a website like this one!  Buying more expensive cables will just make a few Chinese manufacturers buy more BMWs for their execs.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Hans :-)