Wire, Wire, Pants on Fire

  • No wire is perfect at carrying electrical signals.

  • Silver is the best conductor.

  • Copper is a close second best.

  • The gauge (thickness) of the wire has an effect on its signal carrying capacity.

  • Other factors, such as, purity, annealing, geometry, insulator/dielectric, have measurable effects.

A cable has one purpose : to carry a signal from point A to point B without loss and without gaining extraneous signals along the way. Zero loss or gain is impossible. Fortunately, the losses of any wire of the proper size and construction for its application are negligible.

Now for the fun part.

  • Geometry changes audible characteristics.

  • Silver sounds brighter than copper.

  • Cables can be used for tone control.

  • Cables effect soundstage and imaging.

  • All cables sound different.

At audio frequencies none of the above are true. None, given that a cable is sufficient for the job it’s required to do. Although, there are measurable differences, the differences range in the hundredths to thousandths of a decibel, or less—amounts much too small to hear. Any audible differences between cables would clearly indicate one (or both) of the cables are not correct for the job. There is no audible difference among cables appropriate for the application. If there is a difference, something is frightfully wrong.

The variance of electrical characteristics at audio frequencies between silver and copper is meaningless. Cables are ineffective for tone control. Soundstage and imaging cannot possibly be effected by wire. If you believe so, please propose a plausible mechanism for such an effect, and follow up by testing it with scientific rigor to verify or falsify your hypothesis. Wire characteristics have been studied since the dawn of the electrical era. If any of the above claims were true, they would have been well known, proven, and fully accepted long ago. There’d be no controversy.

The following quote concerns the characteristic impedance of cables, a significant factor for high frequency (mHz) transmission. Audio signals are not even close to the high frequency range.

In order for a cable’s characteristic impedance to make any difference in the way the signal passes through it, the cable must be at least a large fraction of a wavelength long for the particular frequency it is carrying. Most wires will have a speed of travel for AC current of 60 to 70 percent of the speed of light, or about 195 million meters per second. An audio frequency of 20,000 Hz has a wavelength of 9,750 meters, so a cable would have to be four or five kilometers long before it even began to have an effect on an audio frequency. That’s why the characteristic impedance of audio interconnect cables is not something most of us have anything to worry about. Normal video signals rarely exceed 10 MHz. That’s about 20 meters for a wavelength. Those frequencies are getting close to being high enough for the characteristic impedance to be a factor. High resolution computer video signals and fast digital signals easily exceed 100 MHz so the proper impedance matching is needed even in short cable runs. [Read more at ePanorama.net]

And then there are power cords. In summation, the Bay Area Audiophile Society did a double blind test lead by Manny LaCarrubba, a PC believer, and patent owner of the Acoustic Lens Technology used in Bang & Olufsen’s Beolab 5 loudspeaker. Manny designed the test protocol, executed the set-up, created test sheets and a follow-up questionnaire, and according to the BAAS, “remained remarkably composed throughout the entire proceedings.” Testing was between a stock cord and a $2500 (for the first meter) BFD name brand power cord. Their results? Directly from the BAAS report, “The total number of correct answers was 73 out of 149, which amounts to 49% accuracy. That is no more accurate than flipping a coin, and therefore, no statistically significant detection of power cable differences.” Audiophiles did no better than non-philes, young ears no better than old, musicians no better than non-musicians, believers no better than non-believers.

And in a frightening example of the obfuscation of science, an audio industry journalist heard from a friend, who is a “genuine audio expert,” that a certain model of speaker cables from a Japanese manufacturer, exactly the same except for the color of the insulation, all sounded alike, except for the red cable. The journalist, being the good inquisitor, bought the cables in each of the colors to run a test of his own. His tests were done with a few carefully chosen a’phile friends who “wouldn’t laugh and throw rocks at me.” The results came to the same conclusion—the red sounded bad. The journalist reports, “although [the degradation] wasn’t large and its precise nature was a little difficult to pin down.” He questioned, why only the red? His speculations lead him to investigate the pigments used for the insulation. He was told, by some other “expert” in plastics, that a common pigment for red is cadmium oxide—cadmium is a metal, cadmium oxide is conductive, ergo it affects the sound. He never proposed a mechanism for such an affect. He never made a single measurement. He never confirmed the pigment actually used was CdO. He also assumed without confirmation that the pigments used for other colors were nonmetallic, nonconductive. He never attempted to validated any of his baldfaced assertions. He neglected to mention other factors. One of the other colors of insulation was orange. Cadmium oxide is commonly used for orange and yellow pigments, not just red. White is predominantly zinc oxide or titanium dioxide—metal oxides. Greens and blues often use phthalocyanines which contain copper. Blues and purples may contain cobalt or manganese—also metals. Blacks and grays use carbon. Depending on its form carbon may be a semiconductor, or a conductor that’s better than copper. In fact, most pigments have metals in their chemical composition. And he used his simpleminded science to do nothing more than make allusions to “charge/discharge rates,” followed by blathering, “weird things about cables that have absolutely nothing to do with R,C, or L,” which only further falsifies his pseudoscience since C, capacitance, is energy storage and release, or charge/discharge. As Wolfgang Pauli is famous for having said, “This isn’t right. This isn’t even wrong.” The author starts with plausible science, but continues with one omission after another. A perfect example of bah-science.

And then there’s bi-wiring. The hypothesis behind bi-wiring makes numerous assumptions.

  1. Frequencies of a multi-frequency signal travel individually through a wire.

No. The wire is carrying a single waveform, not discreet frequencies.

  1. Wires leading to the treble and bass binding posts separate the signal into treble & bass bandwidths.

No. Both wires are being fed and carry a full bandwidth signal from the amp.

  1. The capacitance and inductance of different sized wire used for the treble/bass runs are large enough to effect the crossover.

No. The values of the X/O components and their tolerances are orders of magnitude greater than the values of the wire, and therefore the effect on the X/O is negligible.

  1. Bi-wiring separates the back wave electromotive force coming from the speakers.

No. The EMF remixes at the amp terminals making the EMF seen by the amp precisely the same.

Why is there so much time and attention devoted to wire for audio? Why do so many believe changing wire can make their audio better? Why jump through the hoops of DBX tests when quick, easy measurements tell us the differences that do exist are not just below, but way below the threshold of audibility?

Wire, when doing its job, does nothing. One nothing cannot be better than another.

And still more why, why [wire]?

Further reading on [dielectric absorption].

If you’d like to read the entire torturous article : [BAAS PC ABX].

A comprehensive paper, despite loads of typos, on characteristic impedance : [Cable Impedance].

Have some fun with a nice little harangue on [$10,000 ethernet cable]. 

$340 ethernet cable is indistinguishable from a $2.50 cable which [failed the bench test].

No pulling punches, it’s [fraud]. 

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