Marvey's Cable Rolling Adventures

Discussion in 'Modifications and Tweaks' started by Marvey, May 7, 2016.

  1. TheIceman93

    TheIceman93 Friend

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    The cable direction thing is a joke in my opinion. My Wireworld cables as well as some Surfcables silvers I picked up this week both have directional arrows. They sound the same to me in either direction. What is the theory behind this?
     
  2. johnjen

    johnjen Friend

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    Not to be snide nor rude, but if you define it as "a joke", then for you that IS what it is.

    And if there is no difference when you reverse the cables then for you it makes a, no never mind, either way.

    But my experience has shown me that some cables are designed and made with differences from end to end.
    And experience has taught me that unless you spend at least ≈ 10 hrs listening to both configurations you may well never hear any let alone all of the differences, just because.
    Of course for some it may not take all 10hrs, but to slap the cables in and expect there to be an immediate night and day difference is unrealistic.
    We are talking subtleties of intonation, and harmonic structures that may be shifted slightly (or more) but it takes a while for us to 'learn' the 'new' acoustic presentation.
    And in some systems there may be other 'limitations' which can tend to 'cover up' these subtle differences to begin with, and so "And if there is no difference when you reverse the cables then for you it makes a, no never mind, either way".
    So you get to save your money and not have to worry about those crazy $$$$$ cables and as a bonus NOT get caught in this Audio Nervosa trap.

    And as was pointed out in a recent post, cable 'tuning' is the LAST (or near to it) type of tweak to perform if you really want to gain worthwhile results from this tweak.

    However there are a few exceptions.
    Larger gauge, better and clean connectors, shorter lengths, better metallurgy, and other 'processes' that can emphasize or enhance these subtle differences.

    Wyrs-R-Majic, and subtle Majic requires being able to hear these degrees of subtlety, which is a whole nuther topic.

    JJ
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2017
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  3. Serious

    Serious Immature child

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    Tbh with the cheapo AudioQuest cable (Tower) I heard there was a pretty noticeable difference depending on which direction it was inserted in between the phono pre and the Freya. Defnitely noticeable in a direct comparison. I wasn't really a big fan of the cable on the whole, though. DIY seems to be able to get you pretty far on the cheap.
     
  4. Daveheart

    Daveheart Friend

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    Often times the arrows indicate signal direction because of shield design (as in the shield is hooked together with the ground at the output of the source but not at the input for the amp). That ensures that any noise picked up by the shield never enters the destination of the cable. That being said, sometimes the arrows are just bullshit.
     
  5. winders

    winders Friend

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    This is the case with the "Worlds Best Cables" in the photo I posted.
     
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  6. starence

    starence Acquaintance

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    Thanks for mentioning these cables. I just received a pair yesterday, and the sound quality is outstanding. They're not much to look at, but they've taken the clarity of my setup to another level.

    In case anyone else is interested in these, KAB has upgraded the less expensive version of the SpiralAir to Rean NYS373 connectors, but the change isn't reflected on their site yet.
     
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  7. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    That is correct; the better cable manufacturers do this to prevent noise. I have heard differences in direction from what I classify as "better manufacturers" e.g. Audioquest, Zu, Wireworld, etc. The operational definition for me of "better manufacturers" are cables designed by knowledgeable engineers who have specific domain expertise.
     
  8. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    I'll share my cable rolling experiences here FWIW, as its been a journey for me, too. I'll break it up into a 3-4 posts with a brief conclusion so it doesn't suffer (too much) from TL; DR syndrome.
    I'll just preface it, that, with my professional experience as a scientist, I'm a pretty empirically-driven guy, and as best as possible, due controlled experiments to minimize the impact of other variables.

    Some context: I'll just be referring to only my experience with analog interconnects (ICs) connecting high-end omponents (Schiit, Conrad-Johnson tube gear and E.A.R.) e.g., phono stages, SUTs, preamp, amp, etc. in loudspeaker systems with vinyl and DACs as sources.

    Back when I was originally into audio in the 80s, I built my own interconnects using Switchcraft RCA plugs and Belden 9454 low-cap cable. Tried a commercially made silver-conductor IC back at that time when silver conductor ICs were first coming on the market and really did not like it. It was resolving, but too bright and edgy (though I have different experiences with silver plating on RCA connectors; more on this later). I preferred my home-built Belden cables. I imagine the Belden cables I was making were pretty similar to Blue Jeans in many respects. I hooked 'em up and didn't think much about it after that. I really got out of audio for the better part of 20 years when I got into riding and racing sport motorcycles, and my audio was confined to listening in the car, or from an iPod in the tank bag with Eytmotic IEMs when I was on the bike.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2017
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  9. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    Got seriously back into audio at the end of 2008. As such I needed new cables, and initially settled on Audioquest "Copperhead" interconnects. I had set a price limit of around $100 or so at this time for ICs, and the AQ Copperheads fit into this price range pretty well. They used AQ's PSC: perfect surface copper, were directional (with respect to shielding direction as referenced above by Daveheart ) and gold-plated brass RCA connectors. I bought two pair, and used these for principal connections: turntable (SME III on Rega Planar 3) to pre to amp as this was before I had a DAC. I used them for a time and thought they sound pretty good.

    [​IMG]

    About this time I also discovered Audio Advisor, and at that time they sold an interconnect they called Black Mamba II that was OEM'd from Audioquest that had nice ($80/per set, acc. to AQ) silver plated RCA connectors. With PSC+ copper (a step up on copper surface quality from PSC), the conductors were the same engineering specification the AQ King Cobra (but not constructed with air tube dielectrics). They were very reasonably priced as they had a better plug/plating than Copperhead and I bought these for my entire IC cable loom at the time.

    [​IMG]

    I noted a distinct but subtle improvement in transparency and detail with these, and as they were affordable I replaced my loom with the Black Mambas IIs, and relegated the Copperheads to use with my Oppo Blu-Ray disc player. I found at this time that a silver-plated RCA connector could sound quite good, better than gold-plated brass, IMO, without the harsh/bright qualities I had experiences with my first silver IC.

    I was also becoming active on the audio forums at this time, and discovered interconnects from Grover Huffman. You've seen pics above of Grover's cables. I had just upgraded my TT from my Rega to my Michell Gyro SE and SME V around this time and needed a better phono cable than the stock SME cable; but with a 90° DIN plug, so I had Grover make me up a set of phono cables and 1 pair of standard interconnects. I thought they sounded quite good, more transparent but as smooth as the Black Mamba IIs, so I placed the Grover's cable on my Michell and between preamp and amp. They were rather stiff cables, and used silver-plated Switchcraft RCA connectors, which were so tight they were incredibly hard to get on or off an RCA jack. I was pretty happy with this set up for a couple of years, until my phono cable shorted out right near the DIN plug at the base of the arm I sent them back to Grover for repair; he replaced with the plug with a massive Furutech plug that was so big it would not fit under the frame of the Michell, so I had to send it back and for the original Cardas 90° connector. I was somewhat surprised at the fragility of the phono cable, given that it was never moved or disconnected once installed. I was pretty happy with this setup used the system configured for a couple up of years, up to 2010 or thereabouts.


     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2017
  10. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    Around Thanksgiving 2009, I bought a Zu Wylde interconnect on a Black Friday special; it was a $400 or thereabouts cable that I bought for ~$200 at 50% off. I was familiar with Zu; I had met Zu founder Sean Casey at RMAF in 2009, and was impressed with his engineering background, so took the plunge on my first +$125 cable.
    Zu touted Wylde as "bold with excellent weight and attack but without being mellow or warm—it is very open and neutral, clean and effortless." It used a helical Tesla/Litz coax design with a mix of pure silver & copper conductors and ground metals, and a Teflon/air dielectric, and a Dacron sheath. It has an impedance of 55 ohms and capacitance of 98 pF. It had very nice gold-plated connectors of a high copper alloy that were internally potted with epoxy to prevent internal shorts. I used it between my amp and preamp. It was more resolving than my Grover's cable, but had a more cooler, more neutral character overall; actually it matched with my tube gear pretty well at the time and it's flexibility made it very easy to dress. It was quite a bit more flexible than Grover's cable, and needless to say, it was much better constructed.
    [​IMG]
    I went to the CA Audio show in July 2010, and bought a pair of Wireworld Equinox 6 ICs for $200 post-show from David Salz, the founder of Wireworld. They were directional for shielding purpose like the Audioquest cables. It used WW's DNA Helix design: a twisted flat ribbon geometry which Wireworld claimed to mitigate inductive loss and other performance issues. The RCA plugs were quite impressive; they were WW's Silver Tube rca connector: a silver plated OFC hollow center pin with Teflon insulator, silver plated OFC ground contact with silicone elastomer tension band, and an aluminum shell. This provided a nice secure connection without being ridiculously tight. They were, and still are, some of the nicest connectors I've used.

    WW EQ6 with nice RCA plugs:
    [​IMG]

    I put the WW EQ 6 between the preamp and amp as it was detailed, but with a liquidity, palpable presence, and dynamics quality with a very natural and musical sound; more on the warmer side of things than the Zu Wylde. and at the time I felt the WW Eq 6 was the best value cable for money I had bought to date and liked the natural, musical and sweet sound it brought to the system. This was the first cable I bought with Ohno Continuous Cast copper, and I do feel, based on my experience with analog, digital and power cables, that this is a very good conductor material for cables. More on that later...

    A few months later, I got an email from Zu that they were developing an all new mid-priced cable called Mission. It was a new design from Sean Casey that they providing at very reasoble prices as part of a "pre-launch event". I think the cables were about $135/meter and custom lengths and configurations were initially available.

    Zu Mission was a directional cable with a copper wire with a silver overlay and a Teflon dielectric that was completely free from dyes (see below). The geometry of the cable was developed in 1964 by WL Gore, which Zu has adapted for use in audio. The two channels are contained in a single bundle that shares the dielectric space, but does not share a common ground plane. This cable design results in an evenly balanced left and right signal, and one with no DC offset. Another benefit to this integrated geometry is that each channel will have an identical response from environmental influences, such as vibration or RFI. The RCA connectors were machined from brass with a high copper percentage and a heavy layer of gold plating and are "potted" with epoxy to prevent failures or internal shorting. I a complete loom of Zu Mission for my entire system at these very reasonable introductory prices and Zu's Sean Casey even made up a custom set of Mission phono cables for me with a 90 deg DIN so I could use it with my SME V arm. He even called me on the phone to ask if a using Cardas connector would okay for me. Great guy. One of the things that some cable manufacturers have discovered is that the dyes in dielectrics have an influence on the sound. Open up some Belden 9454 low-cap coax cable, and you will that see that the foam dielectric is colored a reddish-pink. Manufacturers like Zu and Shunyata use dielectrtics that are completely free from any dyes. This makes sense if you think about the structure of an aromatic dye, with electrons being to interact with the with the heterocyclic atoms in the dyes. Ths Mission cable was unusual in that both channels were contained within a single cable, with the ends splitting off to a "Y" for connection.

    [​IMG]

    They were also very flexible, and as they were essentially a single cable for the pair, very easy to route and dress into the audio rack. I found the Zu Mission, with its silver-plated copper conductors to have the sweet musical qualities of the copper WW EQ6 with just a touch of additional resolution and transparency for improved detail; and it became my reference standard for quite a while.

    Until I discovered the Audioquest Columbia/Colorado series, that is.....I'll wrap up my journey and conclusions with in my final posts.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2017
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  11. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    Some time in 2013, afrer I had discovered the differences in USB cables, and that the Audioquest Diamond was a better-sounding USB cable than the Audioquest Coffee which was a considerably better-sounding cable than Audioquest Carbon (as well as any other USB cable I had heard), I was intrigued by Audioquest's higher line of cables. It was clear from the USB cable study that as you went up the AQ line, there was a real and notable increase in cable peformance. I was browsing Audigon one day and found someone local was selling a pair of Audioquest Columbia RCA ICs for about $250; 50% off the retail price. I bought them, and replaced the Zu Mission interconnect between my phono stage and preamp. Lo and behold, I found the improvement in transparency clarity, resolution, detail, spaciousness, musicality, pretty much any attribute you could think of, was notably better with the Columbia than the Zu Mission. The Mission sounded veiled, dark and "murky" by comparison, which was quite a surprise at the time. Also notable was they were quite a bit quieter than the Mission cable. The AQ Columbia uses solid-core PSC+ copper conductors with polyethylene air tube insulation and AQs dielectric bias system, and a 3-layer metal and carbon reduction system to shield the cable from RFI, and had very nice silver-plated Ohno Continous Cast copper connectors.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    So, I put the Columbia in the most important place, between the preamp and amp; and it brought a really nice improvement to the system overall. A year or so later, Music Direct was having regularly having closeout specials on brand new Audioquest Columbia ICs at a 50% discount, so over time I was able to replace my entire cable loom, with the exceptiion of the SME V's Mission phono cable, with AQ Columbia for 40-50% off of MSRP; roughly $200-250/cable, depending on when I bought the cables. I got addtional benefts as I replaced each source component cable to preamp connection with Columbia ICs.

    Earlier this year, I has a some discretionary funds from selling off some camera gear, and Music Direct started offering the next step up in the line, the Audioquest Colorado ICs for approx 50% off. I bought one for $450 and it went between the preamp and amp. Again, I noticed all the benefits I observed with Columbia, but more of everything: detail, transparency, resolution, air, but with the same nice sweetness and musicality that comes with copper conductors. The Colorado uses a fluoro-polymer air tube instead of polyethylene, which has less dielectric bias (think of the dfiference between a polypropylene and Teflon capacitor).

    So, interestingly, I started out on my journey with Audioquest and ended up with Audioquest; just quite a ways up the line from where I started. I've found with Audioquest that there are real improvments in materials, construction and most importantly, sound qualitiy as you move up the product line. I should point that these upgrades were done over number of years and iterations, with the exception of the AQ Colorado, I never spent more than about $200-$250 on an interconnect. I still have most of my other interconnects, putting most of them to use in other systems, like the bedroom or home theatre system. And, at this point, I'm really happy with the sound of my system. I've been able to achieve very good transparency, detail, resolution, imaging, quietness (noise reduction) without sacrificing sweetness, musicality, and an involving and engaging musical experience. I'll wrap up in the next post...I've waxed on here too long. Hope folks find this of interest.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2017
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  12. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    This is Part V of a four-part series on my cable journey. I'll sum up with my experiences, finding, views and conclusions.

    When I first started in audio back in the 80's, I thought of cables as necessary accessories for audio reproduction. You simply needed a way to connect your turntable to your preamp, and an interconnect cable was the way to do that. The reason I built my own Belden cables was I needed a long run to go from the turntable in my bedroom to my Hafler preamp in the living room, and I knew enough that when using a long run of interconnect, you needed to use a cable of low capacitance to prevent the highs from being rolled off. Belden 9454 was the answer back in the day and Switchcraft was the RCA plug to use, because, well...everyone used Switchcraft plugs (they're still pretty good plugs).

    When I got back into audio 25 years later, I was shocked to find that the "high end" had gone completely insane and that certainly included cables, including those ridiculously-priced super-high end cables with big boxes in between like MIT, Transparent, or the wacky and crazy "active" cables from Synergistic Research etc. To this day, I still don't know what "poles of articulation" actually means. When I was putting my system together again back in 2008, I set an upper price limit of ~$100-150 for a 1 meter RCA interconnect. As my system developed in engineering specification over the next 5 years or so with much better components (TT, cartridge, arm, preamp, amp, speakers), I upped my limit to ~$200-250 for a 1 meter cable. Except for one cable, I've pretty much stuck to that over this time.

    What I have learned is that interconnect cables do matter, the majority of them sound different either in minor or major ways to each other with many different sonic "attributes", and pretty everything used in cable design and construction can matter, too. Differences in conductor material, conductor qualiity, conductor signal and ground geometry (solid core vs. Litz vs twisted pair, etc), shielding, overall cable construction geometry (eg. star-quad, DNA helix), insulator, noise filtering, and terminations e.g. plugs all can have a minor or major impact.

    Here's my top five attributes, preferences, learnings, biases, call it what you will, based on my experiences:

    1) I generally prefer copper conductors of high quality. I generally find copper to be sweeter and more musical sounding than silver (though there are exceptions). I think you can also hear differences in materials quality, and in my experience with various types of cables, not limited to analog ICs, but power cables as well, is that OFE-101 and Ohno-drawn wire specification is the best quality copper for audio cable applications. All of this "five or six-nines" specification for copper in audio cables is just audiofoolery nomenclature because this specification does not exist in the copper manufacturing materials industries. Caelin Gabriel of Shunyata Research states that OFE-101 is the highest purity copper that is available (reference here: http://shunyata.com/my_keywords/ofe-101/) and Ohno "continuous casting" techniques are the best way to draw copper wire (reference here: http://shunyata.com/my_keywords/ohno/)

    2) I really don't know if solid-core, flat, VTX (Shunyata virtual tubes), twisted wire (e.g. Litz) conductors or quad, helical (e.g. Wireworld DNA Helix) etc., construction geometries provide an advantage over one another. My guess is there are very good implemenations of all of them.

    3) The insulation methodology/geometry and dielectric material has a discernable and sometimes significant impact. The best sounding cables I've heard use some form of PTFE (or similar) dlelectric materials that are free from dyes rather than polyethylene or foamed polyethylene (e.g. in Belden cable). Air-tube insulation can also clearly provides a sonic benefit, but this does not mean that other construction techniques for insulating the conductor from dielectric cannot be effective (I'd like to know what embodiment Shunyata uses in their signal cables, for example). For example, the only difference between AQ Columbia and Colorado is that the air-tubes are FEP instead of PE, but you can clearly hear the improvement this higher quality dielectric material brings.

    4) Plugs matter. Makes sense as they have to provide contact, conduction and grounding. While there's a zillion different plugs and ideas about how to make plugs, my preference is for all or high-percentage copper RCA plugs plated with silver or gold, rather than gold-plated brass RCA connectors. While I am not generally a fan of silver conductors, I find that I do like silver-plated RCA plugs. The highest quality plugs I've found are Wireworld, Audioquest, and more recently Shunyata, which are gold-plated copper plugs; though I've only used a Shunyata RCA digital coax cable to date; not a pair of RCA analog interconnects–yet.

    5) Shielding and noise-rejection matters. While almost all interconncts provide some level of shielding, any other design embodiments that provide other types of noise-rejection (e.g. high-bandwidth or RFI) provide benefits as well (e.g. the AQ DBS system and their 3 (now 6) layer carbon-based RFI noise rejection design embodiments.

    So there you have it, FWIW.

    Where I am going to experiment next? Well, I'm very interested in Shunyata's Venom RCA interconnects, given how good their RCA Digtial 75 ohm coax cable is, so I may order up a pair of those and compare to Audioquest Columbia, Colorado and another cable I have called Soundsilver Sextet (which I have not discussed as these were a "one-off" by SoundSilver and limited to only six pairs).

    Cheers
    PC
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2017
  13. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    BTW, I have four different sets of RCA IC cables I'd be happy to lend out to Marvey, Zerodeefex, or others, if they are interested in giving them an audition (shown below from L to R, top to bottom): Grover's, Wireworld Equinox 6, Zu Wylde, Zu Mission. Just let me know if you're interested (no pressure) and I can ship them out for some auditions/demos. You can even ship them to each other if you want multiple opinions. The only terms are 1) you have to post your impressions/reviews here and 2) you have to send them back when done auditioning them. ;)

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2017
  14. Marvey

    Marvey Sundry Accessory

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    I shit you guys not. Still one of my favorite cables. The downside is lack of shielding, but at non-studio home lengths, it's fine. This was constructed from a pack of Radio Shack magnet wire. The big copper one is used for ground. The smaller green one for signal. If you think about it - the geometry - there's little wonder why these cables perform so well.
    IMG_20171017_192543.jpg
     
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  15. spwath

    spwath Friend

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    Do a tin foil wrap and then you get shielding.
     
  16. Marvey

    Marvey Sundry Accessory

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    The idea is to avoid that. Avoid as much dielectric as possible and keep wires far away from each other to avoid electromagnetic interference. Even the tape isn't ideal. The best way would be to make a ladder structure. Maybe with rungs every few inches made with match-stick material.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2017
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  17. spwath

    spwath Friend

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    That makes sense, though I'm still not entirely sure how capacitance of cable affects sound.
     
  18. Marvey

    Marvey Sundry Accessory

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    Hard to say what it is. I know teflon insulators sound different from plastic. And circuits on teflon PCB sounds different from the epoxy or poly resins. I have theories, but they would mostly amount to bullshit akin to the the cable companies' marketing white papers.

    The awesome thing about Marvey cables is that you can run them under carpets and rugs.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2017
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  19. spwath

    spwath Friend

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    So you are saying the bare wire with the tape sounds better than the same wire with regular insulation?
     
  20. Marvey

    Marvey Sundry Accessory

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    Yes. I posit that bare wire without insulation sounds better than wire with insulation.
     

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