Friday, January 2, 2009

Cable wars rage on

Interesting exchanges this week on Audio Circle regarding the value of cable upgrades. Seems despute the majority of audiophiles spending their cash on these, hard-liners believe there is no value to such cables. Most intriguingly, Frank Van Alstine of AVA, a designer who provides only captive cables on his components and a firm critic of cable claims, has agreed to test a member-provided alternative to see if he can hear a benefit. Stay tuned. Naturally, the back and forth has produced a number of spin off arguments and I was intrigued by the following link, sent to me by a fellow AC member which reports on the dissection of a Virtual Dynamic cable. Note, the destruction 'reveals' apparent ripping-off by VD since the author claims this $300 cable only has $15 of parts, a 20:1 mark up, a ratio that I don't think is out of the ordinary in any manufacturing realm but that's another matter (see the excellent "Go Forth" article in November's Affordable Audio for an analysis of costs and parts in high end gear). The VD cable 'reviewer' never actually bothered to listen to the cable, raising the spectre of a whole new form of audio review, the non-listening physical inspection. See it here:

I have to admit that it's bothersome there are so few controlled tests of anything in audio, not least cables since it is the latter that seem to annoy people more than anything. Nobody minds so much that people claim to hear significant differences between speakers or preamps, but mention differences in cables and apparently we are not longer willing to trust people's own ears, we need double-blind trials. I'd be more supportive, hell, I am supportive, but since I spent a large part of my career designing and running experiments involving real people, I know how hard it is to do a double blind trial, especially if one hopes to make comparisons quickly. And I confess, I tried several PS Audio cables (Prelude, Plus) without hearing much benefit, it was only when I tried VD Davids, yes the same VD above, that I actually felt the power cords used could have a real impact on the music coming out of my system. I've tried them on a variety of power amps and feel they actually make a difference but I won't be opening them up to see how they do it! You can check VD's own video for a chance to see what's inside:

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