Expensive Headphone Cables - A personal investigation

Discussion in 'Modifications and Tweaks' started by Rthomas, Feb 13, 2017.

  1. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    How much is a thing worth to its buyer?

    "You paid how much for that picture on your wall? .... OK, OK, so it's a Picasso.... I don't care if it's a bloody Rembrandt; How can a picture ever be worth that much?"

    Let's get a bit more prosaic, practical and, indeed, personal:

    I bought a very expensive bed cover once, and got the you-paid-how-much? argument when I got back to the office. It was beautiful. I used it until the pattern dissipated and the fabric wore through. If there was one purchase in my life that was fantastic value for money, it was that cover.

    (for those who know their London/UK stores, it was actually a duvet cover, with a subtle Japanese-wave pattern, and I bought it from Liberty. Even at Sale price, it was around three times the cost of a perfectly nice, soft, pure cotton, pretty-pattern duvet cover from Marks and Spencer. Sure, I owned those too. I loved that cover, and sometimes smiled to think of my colleague's reaction and how wrong she was)

    But there is no doubt at all that that bed cover actually did something. Just as a Picasso on the wall would (actually, I'll have a Monet, please).

    (Maybe we should have a duvet-cover thread. I bet some of the people out there with amazing watches and fancy shoes also have some great duvet covers. But since I turned tropical I only ever sleep under half a single sheet.)
     
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  2. landroni

    landroni Friend

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    Did you know that the placebo effect cuts both ways?

    The 'placebo effect' (or the more general 'expectation bias') is symmetrical:
    Just as you could expect (consciously or not) there to be a difference so you do hear a difference,
    so too you could expect (consciously or not) there not to be a difference so you do not hear a difference.

    Do you invoke the placebo effect every time you do not hear a difference as well? You know, to avoid cognitive dissonance and all that stuff...


    I just love these broad-brush pronouncements from a ledge... So where does this 'whatever else' end, according to you?

    Does it end at analogue cables? At headphone cables*? At digital cables?
    At USB decrapifiers? (So are you going to tell the board the no single USB decrapifier makes any perceivable sonic difference...)
    At digital transports? (So will you be insisting that whether you feed Yggdrasil with USB or AES it doesn't make a difference because it cannot make a difference because digital is digital and 'bits are bits'... Or that there isn't or cannot be a difference between a laptop USB out and a Rednet?)
    At DACs? (Will you be pointing to one lousy THD and pronounce that all DACs sound the same, so just go for a Modi or an ODAC, depending on your religious affiliations...)
    At amps? (Same as above, and just stop at O2 or Magni...)
    At transducers*? (For some reason hardcore 'objectivists' never seem to include transducers in their laundry list of things that should be DBT'ed.... And for good reason: How would you?)

    Since you seem to be familiar with textbooks of published, peer reviewed scientific articles specifically debunking... err... "things", would you be so kind to point the board to one single valid peer-reviewed and published paper providing a single shred of evidence for or against perceived sonic differences between various headphone cables* (say, for HD650) or between transducers* (Apple ear buds vs Elac B6, SE846 vs Utopia, HD650 vs HD800, PortaPro vs SR-009, etc.). I'm specifically interested in HTF they'd set up something like this in the first place, and what gives them reason to believe that their methodology is valid.
    And since I strongly doubt there is any such research in the wild, what do we make of it then: Do we meekly assume, given the lack of scientific evidence for perceived sonic differences from carefully set-up DBT studies, that there aren't and cannot be any sonic differences between transducers, and that any and all such so-called perceived sonic differences claimed by nervosa-afflicted and deluded individuals on queer forums are merely a result of the placebo effect (i.e. confirmation of prior biases)?

    So, yeah, where does this 'whatever else' end? If we're subjecting some aspects of audiophilia (e.g. cables) to such exalting standards of scientific rigour, let us keep things consistent and subject all aspects of audiophilia (e.g. transducers) to the same rigour...
     
  3. auri

    auri Almost "Made"

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    Absolutely. And I believe it. "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

    Woah. You're putting words in my mouth. If I was for 100% objectivity I'd buy an O2DAC and be done, then band together with all the other fundamentalists and go DAC-shaming on reddit (hurrdurr better than the DAC1 hurrdurr multibit lol). Either way, I wouldn't be here with the heathens who don't fit anywhere else.

    In terms of my own personal experience (which is irrelevant, but you asked): I've recabled both of my primary cans with Canare Star Quad 4S6. I did not notice a difference with the HD650 that I can reliably say was not just because I was looking for one. I DID notice a difference with my Beyer DT880 600ohm. The stock conductors were hair-thin, like 26ga or some shit, and buried under miles of jacketing. I got that "night and day" difference feeling. The stock wire was just suffocating these cans.

    Star Quad is designed for audio, constructed very nicely, made by a reputable company, is 99.9whatever% pure copper and has a nice spec sheet with DCR and capacitance and shit on it. Admittedly, I have not tried anything more special than this. The idea that I can get a "significant jump" from beefy and fairly pure copper hurts my brain, but if the conductivity qualities of more exotic metals is OBJECTIVELY different/better, how can there not be a difference? (But a $38,000 difference? Go piss up a rope. I would, however, feel a little odd if I had to "make do" with a $35 cable on my $350,000 speakers, which I'm sure is how that price was born.)

    Either way, there has to be a point of diminishing returns with cables, and it has to come along a lot quicker than most other things - sorry, but it's just the fucking wire. Gotta draw the line at least at manufacturers throwing in crossover components with their wire, ala MIT. That shit is just wrong. Not to mention garden hose jacketing. And pounds of hot glue. LOL

    I could use a decrapifier, but I'm building an RPi transport instead. Hell, I believe in system synergy, that's gotta be the nail in my objectivist coffin.

    So to answer your question of "where do you stop?", I stop where this shit becomes jewelry. I stop when manufacturers try to blow smoke up my ass, and the reason why something might be different/better can't be explained in a way that seems plausible to someone with any knowledge of engineering or chemistry.

    Anyway, we're on the same side here, sorry if I hit a nerve by playing devil's advocate. I don't think cable manufacturers need to be "stopped", as it were. They're selling an idea, and it's not the worst idea in the world. Go after those megachurch pastors with private jets wearing $5000 jackets if you want to stop someone. Now those guys are some assholes.
     
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  4. beemerphile

    beemerphile Friend

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    When I recabled my HD800 recently I simply hard-wired them. In fact, I used an old HE-6 balanced cable that I had in the junk box and just snipped off the equally shitty stock ends from that cable and soldered them onto the HD800 driver lead posts.
     
  5. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    That's one thing that no reasonably well-informed person* would dispute- shitty cables certainly do make a difference. If something's badly out of whack, it can be very audible. I've experienced that a couple of times- ironically with expensive aftermarket cables.


    * Obviously not including Head-Fi's self-professed "objectivists" with their O2s and bellwire. They refused to accept that a shitty cable could make headphones sound bad. Oh well, some people are beyond saving and don't deserve good audio.
     
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  6. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Thanks, @auri! I'm glad that you liked the story of my duvet cover. I confess that I drag it out, dust it down, and shoehorn it into miscellaneous topics every so often.

    But hey, owner satisfaction is the thing, and it happens in all sorts of ways.
     
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  7. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    Think of it this way:

    Alex at Audio Zenith (first name that popped into my mind, I'm not singling him out or anything) takes $700 from his customers to modify Oppo PM2s.

    Following the mods many trusted senior members here state that what was once a decent can is now competitive with any TOTL hp and maybe the most neutral headphone they have heard.

    Now imagine if after the $700 worth of mods nobody here could hear any improvement. Wouldn't it be our duty to point this out so people don't throw away their money?

    Such a ''modder'' would be tarred and feathered and would not be in business for long.

    Cable makers promise great improvements and they charge as much as the headphone itself or even more for this just like Alex.

    Now if most trusted non shills on this forum cannot hear any improvement why do we have to let that slide?

    My guess is that the main reason these guys are in business are shills and audio dealers who push this crap on to gullible people.
     
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  8. LauSing2

    LauSing2 Almost "Made"

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    Why do botique cable brands, like Double Helix selling extremely expensive cables, have such a good following for quite some time now when they only do direct sales and even have crazy wait times? I've really been curious why this is..
     
  9. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    Me too. That's why I'm buying and trying out for myself. At least these guys mostly have very generous return policies.

    If I was in the USA I would definitely buy and try DHC cables as he makes some outlandish claims and his pricing for his top cables matches his lofty claims!
     
  10. FallingObjects

    FallingObjects Pay It Forward

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    Same reasons why people will pay more for a prebuilt Alienware computer compared to a prebuilt iBuyPower. Brand recognition, pretty colours, and marketing to a semi-ignorant niche of individuals.

    And also dat warranty policy.
     
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  11. beemerphile

    beemerphile Friend

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    When you have a three month waiting list selling 1-meter interconnects for $1,700 you just keep doing what yer doing and hope there ain't a God.
     
  12. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    Autechre, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and friends would probably beg to differ.
     
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  13. DigMe

    DigMe Needs a baby bottle

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    I imagine you now dragging this tattered, thready duvet around with you everywhere you go like Linus with his blanket.
     
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  14. DigMe

    DigMe Needs a baby bottle

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    Really for the same reason that people continue to buy something like Airborne thinking it's protecting them from germs even after they were found guilty for false advertising. They want to believe.
     
  15. Grahad2

    Grahad2 Red eyes from too much anime

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    Or you also have halitosis with Listerine. If you can buy something that promises to fix some parts of what you don't like about your current sound... Sounds like a nice product, yes?
     
  16. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    @Rthomas, you inspired me to embark on a similar quest. Since I've decided I prefer the HD600 to the HD650, I thought I'd go full retro and ordered a used Cardas "Smurf" cable to try out. People wet themselves about this cable 15ish years ago, and I believe it's the precursor to the grey Cross I think you just received. Equipment chain is in my profile.

    Random Google images:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    For what it's worth, I had already added info about a few upgrade cables, including Cardas, in the relevant section of the HD650/M Compendium, but thought I'd share the same couple links here as they are relevant to the discussion:
    Disclaimer: I have had positive effects comparing Cardas cables to other cables in my living room system (posts one, two and three). Have never purchased an upgraded headphone cable of any kind.

    Edit: I've also added a link to this thread to the Compendium as well as others will find it extremely helpful. Thanks @Rthomas!
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2017
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  17. Dino

    Dino Friend

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    Those Cardas "Smurf" cables for Sennheisers are the first upgrade headphone cables I ever saw. They were in every Audio Advisor catalog and many of their print ads back then.
     
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  18. Larry Megugorac

    Larry Megugorac Craps on Filipino accents to ease inner poverty

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    I made my own 20ft cable from DH Labs HP-1 Silversonic. Takes some break-in time but works and sounds great! Cost was worth it. A Cardas 20 footer would cost me a small fortune....
     
  19. beemerphile

    beemerphile Friend

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    Did someone leave the door from Head-Fi open again? I feel a daft, I mean a draft.
     
  20. Changeling

    Changeling Tube Slut

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    I "love" what Cardas says about cable break-in:

    I've clearly been doing everything wrong the whole time. Can anyone please give advice on room relaxation? Is there some sort of audiophile paint that can be purchased?

    http://www.cardas.com/insights_break_in.php
     
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