Monday, December 28, 2009

Cable wars on the boards

Another potential flame war on cables erupted on the Audio Asylum forum this week when one poster revealed that upon opening up a cable from MAC that it revealed itself as repackaged wire from Canare. Cue the usual outrage from some. MAC replied, reasonably clearly in my view, that yes, they used this wire, it says so on their site (now) and that the price charged represents a reasonable return on their design and manufacturing costs. The discussion flowed over on Audio Circle and it is clear there is a strong undercurrent of belief in some audiophiles that 'value' is measured only in terms of parts.

Cables bring out this tendency more than any other component -- if we reduce every amp or cartridge to its materials costs then I guess few of us would buy anything. However, it is easier to recognize the value added in design, assembly, testing etc. when the component adds some real or imaginary complexity to the basic parts.

My advice for all cable purchasers is to first buy some bulk cable from a DIY store and make up a set of speaker wires. You don't even need to terminate speaker cables so just cut, strip, connect and listen. Now you know exactly what 50c a foot can buy you. Calibrate your ears to this sound and then purchase new cables only if they sound better than this to you, in your system, and you find the improvement to be worth the cost.

Those who do this and find they can keep the home made stuff in their systems are lucky, cloth-eared, cheap, deluded, clever, or any other word you care to use. Either way, it should not bother you. For me, I pull out my old home mades every now and again to remind myself of their sound. When I compare that sound to my reference cables, I always keep the reference in the system but I have to say the sonic differences between the basic and the exotic are not so large that they would matter to everyone. But they do matter to me.

I would like to know how a great sounding cable differs in manufacture and design from my basic 12awg because I am curious about why materials and designs matter. Unfortunately, most cable companies are unwilling to speak clearly on this and hide behind the term "proprietary". In this light, it is little surprise that we see the heated discourse when someone reveals the parts involved.

1 comment:

PatrickD said...

Addendum -- I was surprised, as were others, that this 'story' did not get picked up on A'gon. So, to test the suggestion that the controlling interests there might not allow such postings, I submitted a post on a cable discussion which linked to the Audio Asylum original posting. I received a standard note that my post would be dealt with by the moderators within 4-8 hours. 16 hours later, no sign of my post.....draw your own conclusions about A'gon.