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What matters re: audible differences in sound quality?
post Jan 3 2013, 17:23
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Although Iím sure this information exists in various threads and on other sites, I havenít 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 doesnít 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 Societyís double-blind tests that resulted in the release of the well-known ďAudibility of a CD-Standard A/D/A Loop Inserted into High-Resolution Audio PlaybackĒ 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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post Jan 4 2013, 00:11
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I should have been more clear in noting that if one wanted to 'change the sound' of a tube-amp, they could do so by changing tubes.
Maybe... But, ONLY in a poorly designed amp. Or, if the tube is defective, out-of-spec, worn out, or simply the wrong tube-type.

In a good amp, if you replace the tube with the correct type, things like slight gain differences, etc., should make absolutely no difference in the sound. For example, a A properly designed amplifier won't have more gain just because a tube happens to have more gain. All tubes have variations (transistors & op-amps have variations too), and the only way a manufacturer can guarantee the specs is to design the circuit so that these variations don't affect performance (or so that normal variations in components have very-very slight effects). And, it's really not a hard thing to do... Engineers do that kind of stuff every day!
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