Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Morrow cables, a month later

I've lived with the Morrow Audio SP4 and MC4 speaker and interconnects for the last 5 weeks and am somewhat sorry to see them leave. The full review will be out this week in Affordable Audio (Dec 09 edition) but I can say that despite the plain jane looks, these cables work well with my class D system, giving new life to the upper frequencies though at the cost of a little looseness in the bass compared to my references.

Cable auditions are really a pain. I can understand the cynicism of many audiophiles to the pseudo-science that surrounds many descriptions of cable differences and it's difficult not to view with some suspicion the claims of companies who produce what is essentially a uniquely wrapped wire. I think we should though give some credit to the fanatical people who spend their time trying to ensure their cables carry the audio signal better than others because it's become clear to me, although cable differences are rarely massive, there are some flavors that work better in my system than others. Let's forget the cost of those perceived benefits for now, nobody makes you spend your money on them so why should you be annoyed by someone who does? (Well, the answer to that is because it causes you certain insecurities, but that's another matter).

However, I accept that the lack of any firm empirical data on the ability of listeners to identify reliably and repeatedly the differences between wires should give us all pause. I know the arguments, I accept the difficulties of developing such a trial, but why the leading mags display such disdain towards experimental trials when evidence supporting their position on audible differences would lay this ghost to rest, at least for awhile, really does not serve them well. I've tried to encourage Robert Harley to have TAS take this on head first but without luck. I'm trained in experimental design and can run tests on many human perceptual and cognitive phenomena that often elude simple operationalization, so I know it is difficult but it is doable. One could incorporate lengthy 'at home' auditions and black-box style A/B tests, or do a series of different tests with trained and untrained listeners. No trial would slay all objections from either extreme, but wow, if ever we needed some sensible data, this is one area where audiophiles might gain some much needed credibility.


Mark Wieman said...

I'd love to see the results of such a study. My gut says most people can't hear differences between cables, but I'd welcome good evidence to the contrary. I sold my semi-fancy wire and spent the extra money on music. Best hi-fi decision I ever made!

PatrickD said...

Mark -- well, I think you have the right perspective -- trading non-improving but expensive wire for more music. That's what it is all about at the end of the day.

One problem in testing cables that does not get enough attention is the ability of the listener. It takes time and experience to really 'hear' music and subtle differences. We know that medical folks take a long time to learn how to 'see' X-Rays and we factor this into our training, we don't assume they are 'making things up' or 'imagining' details in the X-ray just because first-time viewers (or you and me) cannot see them. I suspect this level of perceptual learning works in music too. Thus, I'd like a trial with a both trained and novice listeners, or, with the so-called golden eared reviewers and regular audiophiles. As I said, no test will end the debate but a good test would inform it far more than the heated exchanges we tend to witness online.