Cables: Do they make a difference, and if so, what do you like?

Open discussion regarding cabling. All opinions welcome!

I believe there is a difference in cabling. I don’t think that you need to spend outrageous amounts of money for good cables. My preference for cables are Mogami. They’re a professional standard (used in many recording studios), are built well, and I think they’re very transparent. They’re spendy, but not outrageously priced.

The best thing seems to be oxygen-free copper… whatever the brand. You can get this at monoprice, for example.

https://www.bluesea.com/resources/108/Electrical_Conductivity_of_Materials

(Copper is) considered to be 100% conductive. This does not mean that copper has no resistance (is 100% conductive in an absolute sense), but rather that it is the standard by which other materials are measured.

Apparently silver is “105% conductive”, but, well, $$$.

Size for size, however, copper is exceeded only by silver among the materials commonly used for electrical applications.

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You 're partially right, but
1st is silver (thus much more expensive)
2nd OCC (Copper with clarity 99.9999%
3d OFC (Copper with clarity 99.99%)
4th is gold,
but above all cable build quality is what matters, as I’ve heard from respected sound engineers and music producers.Keep in mind that prefering a 16 core instead of 8 core cable can “explode” your highs for example. Which means that “synergy” works pretty well for cables too. As the previous friend said you don’t need to blow your bank account for a good cable to get superb sound quality. The higher the price, the less the sound quality difference.

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I said yes.I have testet on my Dac with the Audioquest Nrg Y3 and Z3.
The NrG Y3 goes back after 2-3 Weeks, i find the first with the Original cabel for 10$ is not a hearing difference in the first moment.
Few days later heared Musik, gaming on Ps 4 and the first thing in my mind how i think wo is the Sound? Checking the cabels are good connected, Headphone check. Nothing all clear. And the moment i now.The Audioquest cabel.
So take a look and see the Audioquest Z3 is better, when is many electric around. Expensiv okay but is Good.After few days of livery put it on.A little better but not this, but few days later i heard the difference ahhh soo good. The cabel need a few days how comes the good power.
My oppinion, put the cheap cabels of 3-20$ away, bought cabels for max 200-300$ for the fine Sound is good for you and the Dac. Just an opinion.You can buy what you would.

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I believe “Copper has 100% conductivity. So, what more do you want?!”.

I don’t believe DAC/amps/speakers/headphones (etc.) companies would risk testing their stuff with “special” cables, adding another variable in the pursuit of good sound – they will use, and recommend, standard copper wiring.

I don’t mean to be rude, correct me if I’m wrong, but, what does it means, if you buy a 200$-300$ cable, and it sounds better cough different? It means it just messes with the sound in an unintended way that you just happen to like. So, if you don’t like 100% conductive copper wiring, and prefer a 300$ cable, doesn’t it means there’s a 50-50 percent chance your favorite “audiophile” cable might as well be at the dollar store?

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Unless you live in a microwave analog cabling shouldn’t make a difference unless the runs are long enough and balanced interconnects usually solve most problems. Usb cables, now bare with me, can make a difference if the USB implementation on either end is schiity. Most well designed DACs don’t have drastic improvements with audiophile USB cables.

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Yup, size matters (hehehe…). The smaller cable, the better (oh…). Cough seriously now. Less cable length means less possibility of interferences and, obviously, loss of signal, loss of detail, etc. Go XLR for long runs, because this cable eliminates all the interferences (balanced = two exact same signals in one cable, so if there’s a difference at the end, it will be removed… or something like that).

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“Cough”. That made me laugh. Thank you.

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Norne audio cables are my favorite and go to always. For Amps dacs and speakers I always use blue Jean cables.

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UK?..then https://oidiosound.co.uk well made custom phone cables, sensibly priced too…will be ordering a new Mongrel Liz Cooper 6.35mm jacked one when I get back in 2 weeks time :+1:

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Cables certainly can make a difference: if they’re single-ended (3-wire) they create the high crosstalk problem that the “balanced”/bridged headphone amps and cables (4-wire) were designed to solve. :slight_smile:

Now will the difference be audible? Hard to say, as there’s no definitive data on the threshold of crosstalk audibility, but it’s more probable you will hear it the lower your headphone driver impedance is (so planars and 16-ohm IEMs are most likely to suffer from this) and the higher the common GND wire’s resistance is in the SE cable you’re upgrading from (like if the L and R return wires join together very soon after exiting the drivers, somewhere inside one of the cups let’s say, and then there’s a single GND wire running the whole length of the cable to the amp - this is one SE design that worsens the common ground resistance, and thus the crosstalk).

So with 16-ohm headphones as an example, we have:
Common ground path: 0.5 ohm (wire) + 0.1 ohm (connector)
L or R signal path: 16 ohm (driver) + 0.5 ohm (wire) + 0.1 ohm (connector) + 1 ohm (amp output, let’s say)

The crosstalk due to the voltage divider formed where the return wires join into a single GND is:
20*lg( V_common / V_total ) = 20*lg( R_common / R_total ) = 20*lg( 0.6 / (0.6+17.6) ) = -29 dB.

This might be enough to not hear stereo performance problems according to some people, while others like NwAvGuy said -60 dB was the ideal to strive for (but I’m seriously doubting this second number more and more as I look at the numbers, because only 600-ohm headphones - the most immune to this - can achieve this kind of separation, while everything lower than that we’re supposed to believe is audibly subpar for separation qualities like width and imaging, if running SE).

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But now the thought that has me excited, based on that voltage divider crosstalk math above, is: what if we remove the common GND wire from the cable and have the return wires from the cups join up as late as possible, i.e. at the GND terminal of the plug that goes into the amp? Well, that would move the common ground wire’s resistance from the common part to the driver part of the equation, making the crosstalk 20*lg( 0.1 / (0.1 + 18.1) ) = -45 dB!

That would be over 15 dB of improvement in the crosstalk, just from switching to a pseudo-balanced cable that has 4 wires for its entire length but terminates them with a TRS plug at the amp end (R- and L- both connect to the GND sleeve of the plug). You’d just change the cable and keep the SE amp you have, no need to buy balanced to get a big improvement in stereo separation. I definitely have to try this for my Verums after I get them, because that 1.8 ohm cable vs. the 8 ohm driver will not be doing me any favors on the crosstalk side.

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So here’s a way to tell - without destroying anything - if the single-ended cable you already have is 4-wire, i.e. well structured to minimize crosstalk, or has a Y-shaped GND with a significant undesirable portion of common-GND. Measure these 3 resistances:
HeadphoneCable
If R3=R1+R2, congratulations: it’s a healthy baby 4-wire. If R3 is significantly less than R1+R2 and your headphones are low-impedance (say, 32-ohm or less), you could benefit from getting a better cable, even while keeping your SE amp. (I just measured the stock HE-400i cable and it’s a healthy 4-wire, with 0.4-ohm GND wires on each side and 0.8 ohms when measured together in series from left to right; shows HiFiMan knew what they were doing on the electrical side of their cable build.)

LE:
Yes, for the particular cable in the picture you can already tell it has good structure because the portion below the joining point still looks like 2 independent 2-wire cables going all the way to the amp-side plug. :stuck_out_tongue: The above method is for when you can’t see this structure from the outside.