Critique of Audio Cables

Yesterday I tried two different cables I got from my Japan trip on two widely popular IEMs: one was the Triple.Fi 10 and the other was the Shure SE215. I bought them in Japan just to see what sort of an improvement I can get from these cables. The sound changes was quite shocking. The cable for the Triple.Fi 10 (pictures later) altered the tonal change of the 10 to be more UE900 like, though not quite. Gone is the typical treble attack of the 10 continued by the dry mids and the suddenly fat bass, replaced by a smoother tonality curve from top to bottom with almost non existant treble attack. The soundstage widens and the sound becomes softer and more refined. The 10 becomes a softer and slower IEM too, losing quite a bit of snap, attack and PRaT in the process. It’s as if you’ve mated an UE900 tonality with a Westone 4 smoothness. Meanwhile the cable for the 215 adds some bass body to make the bass less of a roll off in a stock 215, and like the TF10 cable smooths out the rest of the frequency, most notably the mids, enlarges the soundstage, though it adds an unpleasant metallic and peaky high frequency.

 

The Sceptic’s Response

Now I know that some people are already thinking about what objective response they should be typing in reply to that first paragraph I just wrote. But this time I would place the burden of proof on the skeptic: Can you proof that changing audio cables indeed doesn’t make any difference to the sound quality?

Answers such as “I can’t hear any changes” need not apply as it doesn’t proof anything either other than that your ears may not be sensitive enough to pick up the differences or that you already started the audition with a closed mind that simply refuses to believe that cables do make a difference.

The next answer that is quite likely to be proposed, that the electrical measurements done by the EE graduate do not show any difference also falls short from being a solid argument by the same logic of the first answer.

I look forward to a healthy discussion but any argument given that follows a similar logic as the two above would be conveniently ignored.

 

What’s Really Happening? 

How do these audio cables make a difference? I absolutely have no idea, but my ears tell me that there are differences. Of course my empirical observations are far from being the standard of truth, but combined with hundreds and thousands of testimonials from other audio enthusiasts out there, there may be something more than a simple case of placebo being observed here. Of course it’s hard to prove that this is more than a placebo, but so far we also haven’t seen any convincing proofs that these are indeed false phenomenons.

There are a lot of things observed in nature that we have no idea why they are so but still we accept them as truth. Like how the bicycle is able to stabilize itself when moving but not when stationery, or why small objects follow the quantum mechanics theory of physics instead of traditional newtonian physics. One thing that we know for certain is that our understanding in science is simply not enough to explain all the phenomenon observed in nature, and just because science has yet to come up with an explanation for it doesn’t mean that it’s an act of magic or worse, trickery.

 

The Boutique Cable Designers

Which brings me to another question: how do the cable designers come up with all these aftermarket, sound customising cables? For instance we have a lot of DIYer in our community who build cables for the TF10 and the Shure IEMs, but none were able to offer the revolutionary changes I heard in the TF10 and the SE215 cable I listened to last night. This makes me to think that the designer for the two cables I got in Japan somehow was able to engineer cables to a level of superiority unmatched by the common DIY builders.

How do they come up with these stuff? The easiest explanation that we can come up with is either by the purity grade of the cable and/or the material used for the cable. Still a lot of manufacturers these days offer high grade 99.9999% pure cables that anyone can buy and use to build a cable (which a lot of the DIYers have tried to use for headphone cables but with different results) so that can’t possibly be the only secret ingredient boutique cable designers have up their sleeve.

cables_94Q0820

 

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Critique of Audio Cables
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83 Comments

  • Reply June 7, 2013

    Gneiss

    I do not understand your dismissal of measurements by what you typed “the same logic of the first answer”. Can you perhaps explain that further as it provides a clear answer to your challenge of: “Can you proof that changing audio cables indeed doesn’t make any difference to the sound quality?”

    Your other dismissal also lacks logic, or at least consistency, because your final point is “trust your ears” while at the same time you say that you cannot argue against $600 headphone cables by saying that you cannot hear a difference. Do we trust our ears or not? You imply that everyone who cannot hear a difference is either closed-minded or has ears which cannot hear the change. Is it really impossible for you to understand that people can listen open-minded, or even wanting to hear a difference, and do not?

    You leave little room for a “healthy discussion”

    • Reply June 7, 2013

      Mike

      The logic is clear enough to me, perhaps you can tell me what about it you don’t understand

      • Reply June 8, 2013

        Gneiss

        When you say “the same logic of the first answer” is a counter to the fact that no differences can be measured, I literally just do not know what you are referring to.

        If your oil example was supposed to explain it, I still do not understand how that relates to cable measurements. If you just take one headphone and two cables and swap between the two a hundred times, and in one of the hundred switches there is a measureable change. Do you then conclude that the cables are different and that 1 trial is the truth? Or do you conclude that the one trial which shows the difference is an anomaly? I think any rational human being would side with the latter. . . . .

        • Reply June 8, 2013

          Mike

          100 trials and one measurable result may not prove the validity of the theory, but it certainly disproves the invalidity of the theory.

          And of course you’re engineering your hypothetical situation to better suit your argument. What if the numbers in your example were 100 trials to 2 measurable results? What if it’s a 100 to 20? What if it’s a 100 to 70?

          Yesterday I think we got a pretty good success rate on the blind tests, roughly a 70% success rate. And once subject started identifying correctly, usually the success rate percentage climbs up even higher.

    • Reply June 7, 2013

      Mike

      Okay let’s see if this is easier to understand.

      If a measuring device fails to pick up any differences, does it mean that there is no difference?

      • Reply June 8, 2013

        Jm Navarro

        “Blind Tests
        If you play around with headphone modifications, sometimes you notice
        that a different cable is able to change the sound more significantly
        than a change in the enclosure damping or housing material.”

        While cable rolling will have an effect on how the transducer behaves, i will have say that the change in any part of the enclosure, damping or the housing will have more obvious effects compared to just merely swapping out the cable. With acoustics touched you are altering how the diaphragm behaves because of how restricted or obscured the air travels within, and around the drivers.

        Damping can attenuate or accentuate certain frequencies. I use acoustic fiber to get the treble sparkle.. and so on.

        For cables, there are more to consider whether the composition is OFC, SPC or High Purity Cu or Ag. Ag and Cu have different sound characteristics. Keeping acoustics and tuning aside, there is a big hole of mystery more than just the conductor composition.

        • Reply June 8, 2013

          Mike

          Yes exactly a big mystery, Jm. Which is why it’s puzzling to me how boutique cable designers engineer their cables.

      • Reply June 8, 2013

        kongmw

        Mike, you can’t possibly be saying that you ears are more sensitive than measuring equipment in picking up minute changes in electrical signals.

        • Reply June 8, 2013

          Mike

          Why not?

          You’re just being another blind follower of faith in electronic devices. **
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          A new comment was posted on Headfonia —————————— *kongmw*
          Mike, you can’t possibly be saying that you ears are more sensitive than measuring equipment in picking up minute changes in electrical signals.
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          Okay let’s see if this is easier to understand.

          If a measuring device fails to pick up any differences, does it mean that there …

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    • Reply June 7, 2013

      Rem0o

      “Is it really impossible for you to understand that people can listen open-minded, or even wanting to hear a difference, and do not?”

      Of course he can’t: HE “hears” stuff in his cables, just like my neighbour swear he hear voices late at night.

      • Reply June 7, 2013

        Mike

        That’s the best argument you can think of? Pathetic

        • Reply June 7, 2013

          Rem0o

          Who said this was an argument? 😉

          I just didn’t like his take on the “graduated EE” and the overall scientist approach but anyway.

          You can’t argue on this kind of stuff, since its a personal thing. You hear stuff in your cables? Fine. I can’t hear stuff? Fine, the end. It won’t go further until we can actually put a universal measure that we can agree on, and that’s the role of the scientist. A “discussion” implies a communication method that everybody can understand and right now, sadly, there is no such thing with cables.

          • Reply June 7, 2013

            Mike

            Now you’re being more reasonable and less cynical than before. Good man.

            • Reply June 7, 2013

              Rem0o

              Right, sorry if my first post was a bit harsh. Let’s move on to the discussion.

              You talk about being open-minded as far as audio is concerned. But when I read that we should reject “the babble of the internet forum scientists” to our ears, I can’t say this is a very opened attitude. Being open-minded goes both ways, don’t you agree?

              • Reply June 7, 2013

                L.

                I wouldn’t say we have to reject it. Imho both make sense but one doesn’t rule out the other. If there is no measurable difference, there can still be an audible difference. Placebo or not, that’s the question, but as long as you get the desired effect you want that’s great, no?

                My most expensive cable is a really long Norsecable I got for the LCD-2 and the Hifimans, but that was mostly for comfort reasons, I can’t hear too much of a difference. That being said, I was positively amazed of the effect of good interconnects I installed. It was a big difference and they were still affordable at $30/pair/meter

                • Reply June 8, 2013

                  Dave Ulrich

                  Where did you get those interconnects?

              • Reply June 8, 2013

                Mike

                Being open minded means that we are willing to listen to a new idea or suggestion or an argument. That doesn’t mean that I can’t take on a position.

                Now let’s go back to the main argument. The statement you pointed out has nothing to do with the main argument that’s being discussed.

      • Reply June 7, 2013

        L.

        So far with the healthy open discussion 😀
        I’ll be watching this thread closely, finger on the mod button if it gets out of hand, which I fear there’s a big chance of doing

        • Reply June 7, 2013

          Dave Ulrich

          I was thinking we should work an ODAC review into this piece. Might as well go all out, no?

          • Reply June 7, 2013

            Mike

            It’s a waste of time ;p

          • Reply June 8, 2013

            John123John

            dang that sucks because honestly i’d really like one lol.
            really enjoyed the o2 review, ignored the discussion ^^

            • Reply June 8, 2013

              Mike

              Nah, tons of other DACs in the world. The O2 was never that good anyway. Where is that amp nowadays? I don’t hear anybody talking about it.

              If NwAvGuy deserved to be recognised, he should be recognised for creating one of the most viral sensation in the world of Head-Fi. That guy should work for a PR company rather than design small amps that people forget after a while.

    • Reply June 8, 2013

      Mike

      Another example. If I go to a desert and dig a thousand wells yet fails to discover oil, can we conclude that there is no oil in the desert?

      However by the logic of discovery, if I manage to find even a tiny bit of oil then I am justified in saying that there is oil in the desert.

  • Reply June 8, 2013

    Ryan Adiputra

    yo Mike, where is my credit for changing all of these cables for you . hahaha.

    actually, i’m pretty surprised when i tried my TF10 with your Japanese Cable(that copper colored one) , it’s like my TF10 has been gone, and changed into other IEM 🙂 . and you do tried my custom made cable, and it does sound real different 🙂 .

    for now, i do believe in re-cabling stuff 🙂

    • Reply June 8, 2013

      Mike

      Thanks man. Wonder what the non believers would think at your testimonial? Must’ve been placebo!

  • Reply June 8, 2013

    dalethorn

    I know about big differences in speaker cables from having swapped a few myself. But I’ve never had the chance to swap headphone cables. If IEM cables make a much smaller difference than speaker cables, the differences might be audible for testing purposes only under unusual conditions. Many years ago I learned about the human eye “blind spot” and using “off center” seeing techniques to identify shapes and movement in very dark places. I’m sure there’s a similar thing with hearing, and I’ve found with headphone amps if I switch from one amp to another, in most cases I won’t hear an immediate difference unless amp number 2 is less airy or rougher sounding than amp number one. i.e. if I switch from the lesser amp to the better amp, usually nothing jumps out at me in a big way, but the other way around and it’s almost night and day. So if you have a way to set up the test late at night where it’s extremely quiet, and you can make the switch quickly without causing distractions, you might be able to hear the differences – but then the differences might be much more obvious switching from ‘x’ to ‘y’ than the other way around.

  • Reply June 8, 2013

    Jecht CD

    I think most people would be flat out astonished at the effect that marketing and even just packaging has on the user experience for ANY product. Or more specifically, the effect that a user’s feelings towards a product have on how the user experiences it. For instance, it’s been proven time and again that even professional wine tasters have trouble telling wine apart in blind tests. One test involved one white wine, poured into two glasses, with one of them colored to look like red wine. The professional taste testers described the “different” wines with the same sorts of words you’d generally use to describe white or red wines respectively.

    It’s easiest to see these placebo effects with food, but I think this is probably the biggest factor in people hearing differences between cables. As far as I know, there is no empirical evidence to prove differences between audio cables, beyond weeding out cables that are actually defective.

    • Reply June 8, 2013

      Mike

      So the fact professional wine tasters have trouble telling wine apart entails that all the wine in the world must taste the same.

      Superb logic man! Thank you for the enlightenment.

      • Reply June 8, 2013

        Jecht CD

        Wow, you are seriously an asshole, aren’t you?

        • Reply June 8, 2013

          Mike

          oooooo running out of arguments and starts calling names! Where is the ban button now

          • Reply June 8, 2013

            Jecht CD

            How old are you?

            • Reply June 8, 2013

              Mike

              Sorry I’m 5 years old.

  • Reply June 8, 2013

    Special_KARZ

    Heh. The way I see it, a lot of the stuff we talk about in audio simply boils down to the management of just three very basic, but highly interdependent, things in EE/EEE: resistance, inductance and capacitance (RLC). Yes, there are definitely other big issues such as gain or phase. But nothing else apart from RLC have been at the forefront throughout all sections in an audio chain, including cables.

    Anyone with some EEE background should immediately recognise that with these three characteristics and that analogue audio is essentially about managing AC signals, every piece of equipment is essentially some kind of filter (note: even EQs are based on linear filters that affect and shape the sound).

    Very rarely do we meet (if at all!) a single piece of equipment that is perfectly neutral (doesn’t add or take away anything) and with perfect fidelity to be a true “wire with gain” or a perfect “wire with no losses”. In fact, we have learnt from high school physics that cables and wires are definitely no exception.

    Now, because every piece of equipment is a filter, changing cables SHOULD make an audible difference in the sound. (No, this isn’t just about losing information through transmissive losses, as often marketed by cable makers.)

    For example, the resistance in a cable not only controls the damping in a cable (its ability for an impulse to cause ringing and resonance – a function of inductance and capacitance) but is also affected by rapid impedance changes from both the upstream and downstream equipment as signal bands at or near the resonant frequency can get passed or blocked depending on the momentary swings at that point. That is essentially how an EQ filter works too. [Extended argument: the resonant frequencies are not independent. It should also produce odd and even harmonic overtones which will further “shape” the sound.]

    How one designs, braids, connects or even selects a cable stock will have significant impact on the specification and sound of a cable. OCC cables, for example, take care of lowering resistivity (and, in turn, resistance) in a cable. Shielded cables not only reject EMI from the delicate signals, they also alter the side capacitance in the cable. Capacitance (and inductance) is also likewise vastly different in cables that are hand-braided against those that are machine twisted in star-quad configurations. Also, looping a long cable tightly vs. loosely “folding” one alters its inductance characteristic.

    Unfortunately, a lot of the equipment capable of making any such relevant measurements do not often deal with changes in the nano and micro scale (which is where our signals really work at: think headphones or IEMS and their pole-to-pole mW/mV ratings). Also, with a lot of miscommunication on what exactly to measure, the so-called “objectivists” tend to have quite a field day due to their own lapses in their measurement methodology.

    Now….that’s quite a long piece from me. I’ll stop here for now. Feel free to critique my two cents, though!

    • Reply June 8, 2013

      Mike

      So nature is limited to only three very basic things. Sweet little theory there. Care to give a supporting proof for that argument? How do you know that it’s only limited to three very basic things? Not two, not four?

    • Reply June 8, 2013

      Mike

      Thanks for the nice post.

      • Reply June 8, 2013

        Special_KARZ

        Cheers, Mike!

        I’ve just realised that I don’t have a TL;DR version, so here goes:

        The perfect cable (or equipment) never exists. The effect of audible differences in cables is totally due to differences in the way each and every cable are made and what they are paired with. As such, these differences give rise to variations in RLC characteristics going from cable to cable. And because analogue audio signals are AC waveforms, what you get then is that cables can become a filter of some sort. Filters, as we know, will alter the perceived sonic characteristics in some way or another.

        The reason why these differences are often immeasurable is because of ill-adopted methodologies in the various experiments (be it qualitative blind testing, or quantification trials) coupled with highly biased objectives of certain testers. The result is then you’ll get certain camps of people ironically trying to refute empirical theories based on sound engineering principles with what appears to be scientific or engineering know how.

  • Reply June 8, 2013

    fiasco1

    Thanks for the article, Mike! I’m of the opinion that there doesn’t have to be a right or wrong. If you think there is a difference in sq with cables, and you can afford it, go for it. No scientific proof, but I believe I have heard differences with some, and no difference with others, when compared with stock cables. And hate to say it, sometimes I will buy on looks alone. But again, whether it’s material, construction, or psychology, who really cares? Everyone has to make up their own mind. This hobby is all fun stuff anyway, and not really worth arguing about.

    • Reply June 8, 2013

      dalethorn

      When these are commercial products that cost money, customers deserve an honest evaluation of the sound, not just a make-believe article that’s stuffed with hyperbole. And I think that’s why people who really care about getting value for their money come to places like this – because of the good reputation.

  • Reply June 8, 2013

    Mind The Headphone

    Hey Mike!

    I won’t get into the discussion itself, but there are one or two things I’d like to say about the logics that you are proposing here. Bear in mind that I’m not talking about whether or not cables make an audible difference (I don’t have a clear opinion on that), just about your stance on the subject.

    I don’t agree with putting the burden of proof on the non-believers. This doesn’t make much sense to me since because, as far as I’m aware, science rejects the theory that in this type of comparison, using those types of cable, one would be able to hear a difference.

    Your point about the measuring system not being able to pick up what our ears seems improbable, since they measure the electric signals that generate the movement in the drivers which moves the air, which moves our eardrums, which transforms the movement back into electric signals and and so forth. So we’re talking about measuring the very source of the signal that triggers a chain of “events” (that has to have energy losses on its way to the end) until it reaches our brain and becomes conscious perception. A change subtle enough for a machine not to pick up has to be extraordinarily small.

    Therefore, to me it seems highly unlikely for our hearing to be able to outperform a machine in picking up changes in such a scenario. Not only that, but if you go by that argument, you’re almost turning the audible cable difference into an unfalsifiable claim, which is counter-productive and unreasonable in my opinion.

    So placing the burden of proof on the non-believer is absolutely unreasonable – it would be kind of like you saying you saw a unicorn. Science rejects it, so why would we have the burden of proof to prove to you that they don’t exist? If you make a claim that goes against what’s estabilished (not inside the hobby, since many myths and false truths may arise based on a plethora of things, but in general by the scientific community – since we’re talking about science here), then it’s entirely up to you to prove it.

    And, if it’s an easy difference, then there shouldn’t be a problem getting it right in an ABX test. If correctly demonstrated that you are indeed able to pick up differences, then it is science’s job to reassess its knowledge in order to create hypotheses and explain how the cables make a difference – since you’ll have proven, through observation, that there is one.

    • Reply June 8, 2013

      Mike

      Yes obviously you don’t agree with putting the burden of proof of the non believers because you don’t really have any proof.

      And stop talking in the name of science. Science never rejects something that is not yet proven. Your closed mindedness does.

      • Reply June 8, 2013

        Mind The Headphone

        Mike, first of all, if you read my reply again, you’ll see that I state very clearly that I’m not a non believer. I say that I don’t yet have a clear opinion on the subject.

        And well, saying that I don’t agree with putting the burden on the non believers because I have no proof is wrong first because I am not exactly a non believer, and second because it is an argument that just brings me back to my original argument about why it’s on you. I gave you pretty good reasons why the burden of proof would be on you, so I don’t understand coming back to this…Like I said, I am absolutely sure that if I told you that the black Marantz PM-11S2 has a better sound than the golden one (even though they’re identical) the burden of proof would be on me and you’d find ridiculous if I suggested that it should be on you.

        Bear in mind that I am not, in any moment, saying that the differences you heard aren’t there! In many cases I believe I hear differences between cables. All I’m saying is that it’s incorrect to put the burden of proof on the non believers, just as I wouldn’t put it if I myself were telling them to have heard differences.

        About science never rejecting something that is not yet proven: actually, this is not what happens or what I said, it is a lot more complex. The scientific method is a method of investigating phenomena, which works with empirical and measurable evidence so as to create hypotheses, test them and then create a model of, basically, how things work in nature. We have a pretty clear model of how cables work in audio, and as far as I know, there are three things that, in theory, matter: inductance, capacitance and resistance. Different cables that measure the same should theoretically sound the same, since they will carry the electric signal in the same way.

        This is the model that is known and widely accepted in electrical engineering, isn’t it? So it’s not that science rejects what is not yet proven. This model is well estabilished and claims of audible differences (be it yours, mine – I have some – or whoever’s) goe against this model. So, as I said in the beginning, the burden of proof rests on us. If we can prove, through consistent ABX testing that we can indeed hear a difference, then there needs to be investigation as to what is causing this (this is where measurements will have to be improved in order to figure this out) so as to propose a new model that fits that new discovery.

        Once again, I am not saying that you did not hear differences because I myself believe I can hear them. All I’m saying is that I don’t really agree with the way you are dealing with some subtleties of this subject.

        • Reply June 8, 2013

          Mike

          If you told me that the marantz bla bla bla sounds different than the other then the burden of proof would be on you.

          If I told you that the marantz bla bla bla doesn’t sound different than the other then the burden of proof would be on me.

          If the argument is stating that cables make no difference than the burden of proof would be on the party making that argument.

          If the argument (my argument) is stating that cables make a difference then the burden of proof would be on me.

          Now at least I’ve stated some observed situations that strongly counter argues the theory that cables make no difference. What does the other party have? Nothing.

          The reason scientists are still employed is because there are a lot of things that current science has yet to find an explanation for.

      • Reply June 8, 2013

        kongmw

        Mike, I’ll take you on the human eye vs CCD argument. Why do you think we built the Hubble and Chandra and other fancy telescopes and sent them into the universe to observe far away galaxies if human eye are more sensitive to camera chips? Why don’t we look at the night sky with our naked eyes and say, hey check out that white dwarf over there!

        • Reply June 8, 2013

          Mike

          The hubble was built since you can’t possibly expect a human being to survive the condition that the telescope is exposed to in space. It has nothing to do with optical superiority.

          A camera sensor is much inferior in terms of dynamic range, resolution, color accuracy, low light capability, and so on.

  • Reply June 8, 2013

    John123John

    dang it mike!
    Where can I get these cables?!
    :p

    and is that a red SE215?

    • Reply June 8, 2013

      Mike

      Hey I’m not here to sell cables. 😉

  • Reply June 8, 2013

    Hans C. Dharma

    Mike.. Mike.. You have already made a defensive gesture before battling.. Here would be a limited learning, if none at all. Looking forward to your next lovely opinion..

    • Reply June 8, 2013

      Mike

      Give me a real argument Hans.

  • Reply June 8, 2013

    Mike

    The article is heating up but other than the nit-picking of faults on my tone, there is not one solid counter argument.

    Here is an interesting situation that we discovered yesterday at the store.

    We did a few blind tests and the blind test subjects were able to correctly identify between different IEM cables and different mini to mini cables. And it didn’t happen only once. It was a repeatable result.

    What can possibly be the explanation here?

    What’s more, I let people listened to the a brand new cable that I bought in Japan, and surprise surprise everyone had more or less the same impression even though no one has ever heard the cable before.

    Maybe I’m just making up a story that didn’t really happen, but as in a legal court of law, you’ve got to give me the benefit of the doubt. And unless you can proof that it’s not what really happened then you really have no argument.

    • Reply June 8, 2013

      kongmw

      The fact that blind tests had somewhat consistent results doesn’t necessarily support your hypothesis. We all know statistics and the concepts of false positives and negatives. Without proper control experiments and statistical tests for significance, the argument is invalid. No, I’m not throwing statistical crap at you. If you are going to use statistics as a piece of evidence, you need to justify it and do it the right way.

      • Reply June 8, 2013

        Mike

        I’m talking on the basis of the logic of discovery. Statistics are statistics, it never serves as proof to anything, but it certainly is easy to disproof an argument with statistics. What I’m doing is the latter, not the former.

        • Reply June 8, 2013

          kongmw

          I understand that you are trying to disprove the hypothesis that cables DO NOT make an audible difference. However, you still need proper controls for that. You are not trying to disprove a mathematical theory where one counter example is good enough for calling it a day.

          • Reply June 8, 2013

            Mike

            And on what basis are you calling my experiments lacking proper controls? That in itself is an assumption on your part. You don’t even know how I did the blind tests, how could you know that the methods lack proper control? Clearly you’re making lots of assumptions here.

            • Reply June 8, 2013

              kongmw

              My assumption is based on your lack of control data. For example, did you give a number of your test participants two copies of the same cable? Sure you are under no obligation to provide us with the data, but then your argument is on shaky ground and my assumption would be valid.

              • Reply June 8, 2013

                Mike

                Geez you’re making an assumption on a situation that you had very information on and you still think that your assumption “would be valid?” now that’s some self confidence.

                • Reply June 8, 2013

                  kongmw

                  And why do I have very little (I assume you missed the “little” here, but correct me if I’m wrong) information on? Because you neglect to provide it. And who’s problem is that? Here’s your chance of shattering my self confidence by showing us that you’ve done your work.

                  • Reply June 8, 2013

                    Mike

                    It’s a simple blind test with the subject listening to one iem while the blind test operator changes the interconnect cable between the source and the amplifier behind the subject. The subject is then asked to identify which cable is currently being used.

                    And it seems you keep on mixing statistics with epistemology.

                    • June 8, 2013

                      kongmw

                      So in this particular case, did the operator ever pretend to change the cables only to plug the previous pair back in and ask the listener to identify? If yes, what are the results of such experiments.

                    • June 8, 2013

                      Mike

                      No, the operator changed the cable every time.

  • Reply June 8, 2013

    kongmw

    Before I jump in the muddy waters, I’d like to make my disclosure first: I’m personally in the camp of yes cables make a difference to the sound of headphones, no doubt about it. However, whether the differences are significant enough to be audible is debatable.

    Now, “that the electrical measurements done by the EE graduate do not show any difference also falls short from being a solid argument by the same logic of the first answer.” What logic? That measurement results (provided when done rigorously and scientifically) are biased and have a closed mind and “that simply refuses to believe that cables do make a difference”? Scientific results, no matter what they prove or disprove, are not subject. Just because they show something that’s contradictory to what you believe is not sufficient reason to call them biased. For otherwise, to counter a point made by other people published scientific results, one could just make a claim in a peer reviewed journal and say “you have a closed mind and refuse to believe my theory”. And last I checked, this is not how scientific research works.

    On to “Like how the bicycle is able to stabilize itself when moving but not when stationery, or why small objects follow the quantum mechanics theory of physics instead of traditional newtonian physics.” I’m not sure how to answer the first question regarding a bike balancing itself since I do not have a background in engineering and I’m pretty sure the answer lies somewhere in the rider him/herself rather than the bike. As a physicist by training, if we had a perfectly balanced bike on a perfectly smooth surface, it would not fall or lean in any way when stationary. So I’m going to say that the rider compensates for any imperfection in real world riding. And anyone with one semester of quantum mechanics would be able to tell you that Newtonian mechanics is just the classical limit of QM. Everything behaves in a way that complies to QM, end of story. OK OK Richard Feynman once said “Nobody understands quantum mechanics”, but I digress.

    Finally, blind tests.

    1. No, if a subject fails to pass the blind test, it is not enough ground to reject the hypothesis. However, even if a subject passes the blind test, it is still not enough evidence to support the hypothesis. There is a reason why statistics is science.

    2 & 3. Basically the argument is that someone who participates in a blind test is subject to stress compared to normal day-to-day conditions in which they execute the same task. True. Hence we do controls, stick in placebos, to make sure that the results are significant. I saw the following written on a whiteboard outside a lab in my building the other day “No control, no experiment”.

    4. Let me be clear that I only read the article that you linked to, not the book. But I’m not sure if you are correctly using the book to illustrate your point. It seems to me that the book talks about “inattentional blindness”, which is basically you ignore the smaller details, even if they are completely strange and out of the blue, when focused on the bigger picture (ie. counting passes and diagnosing lung disease from CT scan). It would seem counter-intuitive to argue that anyone who willingly and knowingly participates in a blind test on headphone cables would NOT pay attention to the details of the sound but ONLY the larger picture.

    “How does one pass a blind test if there was no difference in the cables?” Well, there is A CHANCE that it happened to be a coincidence. It could also be that one WAS indeed able to tell the difference. Again, no control, no experiment.

    Finally, the TL;DR Version: I believe cables do make a difference to sound characteristics of headphones. HOWEVER, whether they are truly audible or not is debatable. Blind test results do not argue for or against the hypothesis and are useless UNLESS proper control is done and related data are provided. Finally, admit it or not, there’s such thing called placebo effect and if anyone doesn’t believe in it, tell the FDA and other big pharmas to stop giving people placebos when doing new drug clinical trials.

    • Reply June 8, 2013

      Mike

      You are self contradicting yourself in the first paragraph. How do you know that the cables make sonic differences if you can’t hear it?

      • Reply June 8, 2013

        kongmw

        I first said “make a difference”, then said whether it’s audible is debatable. A difference does not necessarily translates to a humanely percevable difference. How is that a contradiction.

        • Reply June 8, 2013

          Mike

          Andy,
          If you can’t hear it and the instruments cant pick it up then how do you know that there are diferences?

          The fact that you state your position without having a clear basis for your position means that you’re leaning on blind faith.

          • Reply June 8, 2013

            kongmw

            Scientific instruments also have resolution limits, so the fact that instruments can’t pick it up also does not mean it doesn’t exist. So my belief is that cables do make a difference, after all no two cables are the same. However, it is also my belief that such differences, if unable to get picked up by instruments, are unlikely to be audible. So there you have it. The rest of my argument stands.

            • Reply June 8, 2013

              Mike

              That’s not an argument. That’s a belief. I’m not going to argue with a belief.

              Thank you for the discussion.

              • Reply June 8, 2013

                kongmw

                I never asked you to argue with my belief. My arguments are in the paragraphs that followed in the first post, if you read it beyond that at all.

                • Reply June 8, 2013

                  Mike

                  Give me one solid argument to respond to. The stuff you posted earlier are a bunch of half baked arguments.

                  • Reply June 8, 2013

                    kongmw

                    Look, if you call my arguments are half baked, pick one and show me how it is so. Don’t try to side step it.

                    • June 8, 2013

                      Mike

                      I did. Your first paragraph.

                      Now it’s your turn

                    • June 8, 2013

                      kongmw

                      I explained my first paragraph, which in your words is a blief that you wouldn’t argue with. Sure. Now pick something else that you deem irrational.

                    • June 8, 2013

                      Mike

                      Second paragraph, you’re arguing in favor of scientific research that’s never been done in the first place (point me out to one of you can find it) while elsewhere you’ve stated explicitly that measurement devices have limited resolution.

                      Double contradiction there.

                      It’s better to counter with one solid argument than trying to launch several half baked ones.

                    • June 8, 2013

                      Mike

                      I think I’ve responded to enough of your arguments. I’m going to give room to other people now. Bye Andy and thanks for chiming in.

                    • June 8, 2013

                      Mike

                      And by the way who ever said that scientific experiments are biased. Gosh.

                    • June 8, 2013

                      Mike

                      And your other arguments elsewhere in this article. You’re just being stubborn to admit the holes in your half baked arguments.

                • Reply June 8, 2013

                  Mike

                  Pretty funny way of starting an supposedly logical argument with a self contradicting belief, btw

  • Reply June 8, 2013

    George Lai

    This article has generated a couple of heated responses. What people need to realize is that reading Headfonia is voluntary. The problem is that the Internet has made it far too easy to give one’s two cents worth. If you don’t agree with the author, you don’t have to go on and on as if the world needs to know that you are right instead of the author. Go read another website or start your own. Continue the great great work, Mike.

    • Reply June 8, 2013

      L.

      I don’t always agree with Mike either, and even I keep coming back 😀

  • Reply June 8, 2013

    Wild

    Hey Mike, long time reader here, and I love the site. That being said, I often wish you would be more patient and understanding of your readers’ thoughts. They (I’m hoping) took the time to read your article, and wish to express an opinion on it in the comment section. If they write something that you disagree with, and you wish to respond, I would hope you would have the patience and dignity to productively respond with why you disagree. If you disagree and don’t have a good reason why, then don’t respond with a comment dripping with a condescending attitude (no matter how stupid their comment was).

    As far as cables go, tests prove one thing, ears prove another. If you can hear a difference, awesome. If science dude’s charts tell him he can’t hear a difference, awesome. Mike – your best argument, and the one you should stick with is: “I (Mike) can hear a difference.” Nobody can argue what you hear with your ears. For all we know, you have superhuman hearing. To the science guys out there, Mike’s right. Just because an instrument says there shouldn’t be a discernible difference, doesn’t mean there isn’t. Unless you found a way to strap a pair of human ears to a signal detector, you have no idea what he’s hearing, or the other people involved in the test. Don’t be so quick to dismiss his opinion.

    TL;DR

    Life’s too short to waste bickering over the intricacies of our hobbies. Just agree to disagree when necessary, move on, and enjoy the music.

    • Reply June 8, 2013

      L.

      For my sake we can close this article with this post. Exactly how I feel about this whole post and discussion. thanks Wild!

  • Reply June 8, 2013

    DeEvils

    This is a youtube video that was produced after Headfonia reviewed the O2 amp. Since the comments section for that are closed now, so why not share it here? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvLa6Z81iLM

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