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"Premium" Speaker Cable- - My Family's Test


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The November 2001 issue of The $ensible Sound magazine deepens the controversy over high-end speaker wires and good quality amps even further.

Howard Ferstler reports on his use of a line level comparison box, the QSC Comparator, to compare some super quality Dunlavy cables to 18 AWG lamp cord. He concluded that statistically speaking there is little meaningful differences in super expensive high-end audiophile wires.

"Super wires," he said, " may indeed deliver performance that is audibly different from cheap wire, if the cheap wire is skinny enough and long, and if you use a special test signal and sit right on top of your speakers. However, when it comes to musical content, if the wire is decently thick, "for all intents and purposes, wire is wire."

Ferstler bravely makes the same claims about amplifiers, with a few caveats. Except for being pushed to clipping levels and when the speaker load is "weird", decently built amps, (and most are decently built), he says, "are essentially identical sounding."



Cornwalls & Klipsch subs; leather couch & feet up; lights out & tubes glowing!

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Lovely. Thanks for printing Howard's thoughts. It's all we need.

The only thing I dislike worse than all the dancing smiley faces and cartoon characters within the confines of Klipschdom is the incessant discussion on the "wire is wire" front.

Now that I have reached "Crazy Poster" status (how can we turn this off?), I have come to realize I am crazy for continuing this wire debate. I now consider myself formally retired from ever defending the fact that there are audible differences with cable.

Perhaps you can just remember me with a toast of fine ale when you see ye olde Gil trumping the measurement card and stating that lamp cord is lamp cord.

It must be very blissful knowing you dont have to worry about such matters until someone can show some measurements that validate experience.




s y s t e m

Linn LP-12/Linn Basic Plus/Sumiko Blue Point

Rega Planet

Cary Audio SLP-70 w/Phono Modified

Creek OBH-12 Passive Preamp

Welborne Labs 2A3 Moondog Monoblocks

DIYCable Wire - Various

1977 Klipsch Cornwall I

Alternate Components:

EICO HF-81 - btw, perfect Cornwall match


ProAc Mini-Towers

EICO HFT-90 Tube FM Tuner

Sumo Aurora Tuner

Nakamichi CR-7af>s>

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Howard Ferstler....

Some very dynamic conclusions, Howie.

Now we have finally jumped back 20

years to the lovely days of Stereo Review

where clowns like Julian Hirsch would state

that all amps and CD players sounded alike,

with only speakers having any difference.

Indeed, ole Howard sounds like a reviewer

after the Klipsch owners heart! It's 99%

the speaker anyway, right?


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"Ye Olde Gil"?

I'm honored. Really. No sacasm intended by me at all.

I do take this question on with some confidence that the machines may be a more valid tester than our ears. Mobile disagrees.

My position is really not that unreasonable. I certainly don't wish to play a trump card to the exclusion of all others. But . . .

If someone said that a Mustang is faster than a Camaro, there would be a few tests. We'd take them out to the track and see what they do in the quarter mile or 0 to 60. The timing machines would give some results.

If someone wants to say those tests don't tell the story, okay. But please give us an alternative test.


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Well Gil, WADR,if you compared two muscle cars side by side at the track to determine the better performer,why not the same test with speaker wire?

Using the spec argument,you could just test both cars on a dynomometer to determine which car was the better performer.

Hence the lick it before you stick it argument.

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The comparator box that $ensible Sound describes does let one run the two wires side by side down the track so that even a 1 dB difference between the cables can be noted by independant observers. While listeners did identify differences, it was not statistically significant enough to be more than random chance, noise or error. What was signficant was length, thickness, pink noise or music. Each made a signiciant difference.

For me, price is always an issue. If I drop $50 on dinner with the wife and have a wonderfully enjoyable evening, I can objectively measure the pleasure that I recieve.

Same with my Monster cables; the new ones are slightly better than the old ones were and certainly worth $50 bucks. I can subjectively measure the pleasure I recive.

But Paramour 2A3 amps and another sub-woofer added far more value to my mish-mashed system than $500 cables could - or so I think. Once again, I can subjectively measure the pleasure that I receive.

If ultra high-end, superlatively constructed cables make such wonderful differences, where are their double blind studies? Where is their evidence of the objective or subjective measures for the pleasure that we receive?


Cornwalls & Klipsch subs; leather couch & feet up; lights out & tubes glowing!

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Colin - I find your post very amusing especially given all the talk about measurements via your many tube amp arguments. Re-read some of the points you made and apply them to this discussion. I think you will find many ideas can be cross referenced. See Nelson Pass' comments about subjective evaluations etc.

There ARE measurements that do fortell how certain wire might sound in a given situation.

Once again, for those that cannot and have not heard much difference, may I suggest that.

A. Acquire a system that allows you to HEAR said differences.

B. Become better at discerning subtle differences

Take a look at these pages:






ps-Want to get rid of a good portion of your harshness

and hardness with your beloved Cornwalls? Take a look

at your Monster Cable. I dont know which you use, but

I have not found their products in the cable area very

beguiling in the last 15 years.

pps-Good answer, Keith.

This message has been edited by mobile homeless on 12-03-2001 at 09:07 AM

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this is so not a place to argue wire!

Gil's point would be valid if Ohm's law were the only three qualities that wire can have. It certainly is a de facto belief amoung the scientists. "If it can't be measured, it doesn't exist".

I would urge you to consider the chance that it cannot be measured because no instruments exist that can measure it, not that it does not exist.

I find myself arguing this, so pressing is this siren call.

I too did NOT believe in wire making a difference. I did NOT want it to, being fundamentally a realist. My doctrine would not allow the simple concept of copper wire and it's function (moving electrons via a quality called conductance) to differ from any other adequately sized wire.

But I have heard differences between analog interconnects, digital interconnects, and yes, even speaker cables. Some are good changes, some bad, not at all what I would 'expect' to hear based upon the item being examined. That is to say, I have been unimpressed by expensive, quality cable, (as well as the cheap crap they ship with every component), impressed by inexpensive stuff, (and some high buck stuff), so that I cannot safely say what the quality is that makes it 'good'.

But my ears do. I swear.

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Come on guys, produce just one little itty bitty listening test, with matched levels, and the test subject not knowing which wire they were listening to, that confirms your anecdotal experiences. If the differences in cables are so pronounced, then why has NO ONE (to my knowledge) EVER heard these differences in controlled conditions? I guess I have poor hearing all the time, but people with "golden ears" only have poor hearing when they are being tested!


L/C/R: Klipsch Heresy II

Surround: Klipsch RS-3

Subwoofers: 2 HSU-VTF-2

Pre/Pro/Tuner: McIntosh MX-132

AMP: McIntosh MC-7205

DVD: McIntosh MVP-831

CD Transport: Pioneer PD-F908 100 Disc Changer

Turntable: Denon DP-72L

Cassette: Nakamichi BX-1

T.V. : Mitsubishi 55905


Surge Protector: Monster Power HTS-5000

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People get so emotional when it comes to cables. I didnt believe they made a difference, now I do. If you dont - fine - go spend the money you saved elsewhere.

Dont bother with the science of the thing - just let your ears decide - isnt that what our hobby is all about???

I hear a difference. I paid comparitively big bucks on my cables. I think it was worth it. It is my money, my system and my ears and that to me is all that matters.

Any relayed scientific proof will always come second to what I hear.


2 * Heresy 2 (mains)

2 * Homemade horn speakers (rears)

Accuphase E211 amp.

Tube monoblocks with separate pre-amp (solid state).

Marantz CD6000 player

Sony NS900 SACD/DVD player

Stax Headphones

Humax 5400 digital satellite receiver

Sharp Video

32" Sony flat screen 16:9 TV

Mogami interconnects

Silver Synergistic speaker cable

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Kevin, the $ensible Sound test was with matched levels and people can hear adifference between cables even when the difference is as low as 1 dB, however when the level is exactly the same, the differences are much harder to pin down and people can guess the right cable only 50 to 60% of the time, not enough to be relevant -

mobile, your right, all the high end cables I have tried have been on this wonderful trial period that Sound Advice allows, guess I should find somebody to swap with -

what is wrong with this hobby that we know so little about measurements that can reveal the difference between cables, tubes and amplifiers?


Cornwalls & Klipsch subs; leather couch & feet up; lights out & tubes glowing!

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Speaking of prolific, I have been a virtual posting demon today. Perhaps it is because I have two projects due? Ah, the procratination horror...forums are like a godsend to a procrastinator, especially one that writes and works from home.

DeanG, your comment about the system at late night is very true, although I will add that it not only has something to do with the body relaxing, but more on the very fact that there is far far less energy demand and the subsequent dirty power flowing through the grid. With less electricity use, the power is cleaner without as much grunge riding along the lines. Even RFI is reduced somewhat late at night. So there is an actual physical cause for your system to be more clean, articulate, and with a blacker background and noise floor.

As for the measurement points, I think that there are definite differences that CAN be measured, it's just that we havent come up with sophisticated enough tests or the right measurements to illustrate them. This is one of the main pitfalls for relying only on measurements to validate your experiences. Sometimes the testing is just not there.

That being said, I would gladly accept the challenge of some DBT guru loon and tell the difference between two sets of speaker wire.


ps - BTW, thanks deanG for the reminder about the MIT wire and horns; I have a whole set of Transparent Cable with the Network filters that I had given up on. I might see how they respond to the Cornwalls. They were miserable with the Moondogs and ProAcs.

This message has been edited by mobile homeless on 12-05-2001 at 04:46 PM

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Power conditioning is one thing--I too have serious reseverations about "filters"--I have found that they have DETRIMENTAL effects in my system--especially when a power amp is pugged into one these buggers.

HOWEVER--the benefit brought into my system by the PS Audio Power Plant P300 has been incredible. I use it to power my CD player, preamp and turntable. IT's REALLY great with the T/T, as with an AC sych motor I get a PERFECT 115 volt 60Hz feeding it and the speed is DEAD ON. Also, in my old house and old neighborhood I have had the voltage drop to as low as 103-104 at times and when this happens my CD player starts to HUMMMM like a banshee. With the Power Plant this is a thing of the past.

Very expensive, but totally worth it in my opinion.

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I agree with Allan here. I have never found power supply filters of any kind to work totally to my satisfaction. They always seem to have a subtle affect on the sound whether it is closing it in ever so slightly, or reeling in the dynamics a tad, or adding some sonic signature in some way. In essence, these faults never outweighed the positives in the long run.

Of course, I am only talking about using with source components and the preamp. I have NEVER heard a power filter, no matter how elaborate, handle POWER AMPS without harming the signal. I know some of you believe in this deeply, but to me, I have always heard the negative affects.

I have never tried any of the PS Audio power products although I did once own the old PS Audio 4.5 preamp back in the early 80s. I have heard good things about the power plants and would like to try it.

As for power, yes, many piece of equipment does have a measure of PS filtering, but that still does not make up for the grid problems during peak times. This is almost a given these days and not really argued. Notice how your system ALWAYS seems to sound better late at night in the wee small hours.

As for the MIT and Transparent, Transparent took the network idea from Bruce Brissons MIT cables which were the very first using networks. I happen to think Transparent is actually better than MIT as it is quieter and less dark sounding. Both have very good low end, with what Transparent calls the "foundation" of the music. Both the MIT and the Transparent are slight darker sounding wires, however. I always thought the MIT could sound slow and plodding, depending on the model, although I still use my MIT Terminator 5 on one of my CD players. I loved my Transparent cable with SS amps...it even did very well with certain tube amps. On the other hand, it was not a good match for the Welborne Labs 2A3 amps with my ProAcs. I just mentioned attempting to try them again.


This message has been edited by mobile homeless on 12-07-2001 at 04:55 AM

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Music always sounds better at night! Could also be related to sun spots and solar flares (during our daytime hours). Lots of interference in the 2.8 Ghz range, and I suppose it could be demodulated someway and mess up the audio.

Bruce (Marvel)

This message has been edited by Marvel on 12-07-2001 at 06:17 PM

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  • 1 month later...

very good! without blind testing, how can anyone objectively say for sure, since even a 1 DB difference at one frequency might be noticed by some listeners, but just as important, where are the recommnedations for the best amps to be used with certain speakers and wires, or the best cables to be certain speakers and wires, in toher words, where are the manufactorers saying we have done blind tests and the public says that silver wire with SET aamps sound best with our speakers, or haeavy copper wire and concrete SS amps sound best with our speakers, why are 30 different reviewers of 30 different peices of equipment left to come up with 30 different opinions?


Colin's Music System Cornwall 1s & Klipsch subs; lights out & tubes glowing!

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