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What matters re: audible differences in sound quality?
sawdin
post Jan 3 2013, 17:23
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Although I’m sure this information exists in various threads and on other sites, I haven’t found a site/thread that is up-to-date and includes a good overview. Thus, can you either point me to some threads/sites and/or verify if the following information is accurate? Of course, if it is not accurate, please do correct and supply appropriate links. Thanks!

In regards to audible differences in sound quality:


What Matters:
Speakers and Headphones
Room Acoustics (if not using headphones)
Length and shielding of certain types of cables, and whether cables meet required specs for the given task (e.g., does USB cable meet USB specs).
For tube amps and/or pre-amps, different tubes will alter the sound.


What doesn’t matter:
As long as relevant specs are met (e.g., USB cable meets relevant specs for USB 2.0 or 3.0; HDMI cables have appropriate features for specific usage, etc.), there is not any audible difference in SQ between inexpensive cables/speaker wires and 'audiophile' cables.


What Might Matter:
DACS (clock/jitter issues)

Hi-Rez recordings (have heard rumors, but have not been able to verify that the Boston Audio Society’s double-blind tests that resulted in the release of the well-known “Audibility of a CD-Standard A/D/A Loop Inserted into High-Resolution Audio Playback” paper were faulty because a high resolution master was not actually used. Also see: "24/192 Music Downloads...and why they make no sense"

USB cables should separate the signal ground from power ground and shield the signal and power connections from each other. For example: iFi Micro Gemini USB cable


Cable Length Questions:
I believe it is accepted that maximum cable run is relevant in regards to digital signals. Recommended lengths:
USB max length is 5 meters
Coax (S/PDIF) is 10 meters.
Cat5/6 ethernet is ~50 meters.

However, I am not sure about the following:
*Digital Audio Cables should be at least 1 or 1.5 meters b/c internal "reflections" can develop, which will increase jitter.
[Edit] FWIW, Just spoke with Blue Jeans Cable, and they said if you can 'hear' the jitter, you have bigger problems than cables; thus get what you need, whether 3 feet or 1.5 meters.

*Some claim that USB cables should also be at least 1.5 meters as well, while others claim they should be as short as possible.

TIA...don't want to waste money, though I might purchase Blue Jean Cables instead of Monoprice or C2G with the thought that although they may not sound any different, they are less likely to break, have loose connectors, etc.

This post has been edited by sawdin: Jan 3 2013, 17:46
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ktf
post Jan 3 2013, 20:37
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QUOTE (sawdin @ Jan 3 2013, 17:23) *
What Matters:

You might need to add output impedance. While these are generally very low for power amps, they can be quite high when using headphones on outputs of devices. For example, line outs of PCs (which are often used to feed headphones) or even headphone amps (like the Behringer MICROAMP HA400) have high output impedances. (that Behringer is 80 ohms) If you connect a 50 Ohm headphone to that, which' impedance might vary considerably (like 60 to 300 ohm), some frequencies can be boosted and others can be damped just because 80 ohm in series 60 ohm gives a different voltage distribution than 80 ohm in series with 300 ohm. In the latter case, the headphone gets a much larger share.

QUOTE
What doesn’t matter:
As long as relevant specs are met (e.g., USB cable meets relevant specs for USB 2.0 or 3.0; HDMI cables have appropriate features for specific usage, etc.), there is not any audible difference in SQ between inexpensive cables/speaker wires and 'audiophile' cables.

Well, there are some issues with cable thicknesses and lengths. For example, if you have 10 meters of 1.5mm˛ of cable (which is actually 20 meters, as you need two wires) you get a series resistance of 0.2 ohm. This might not seem much, but it lowers the damping factor of the system a lot: with 4 ohm speakers, you won't get any lower then 20, no matter which amp you choose.

So you probably shouldn't use 10 meters of 1.5mm˛ cable with 4 ohm speakers, but it is not clear what 'relevant spec' we are talking about here, particularly because damping factors seem to be shrouded in mystery and the need for high damping factors depends on the speakers you are using.

But indeed, you don't need very expensive cables to fix this, just thicker ones.


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Music: sounds arranged such that they construct feelings.
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