Suffice it to say wire is contentious and divisive in much of audiophilia. Visit one of the many online audio forums and you’ll quickly find lengthy debate (i.e., arguments) on the subject. Opinions abound. Cables are still a necessity in our growing wireless world and we need them to be neutral and transparent. The big question is “Are there audible differences?”. Over the years I’ve purchased many cables (probably too many) hoping to eke out a little more. Always a little more.
Children and dogs
Maybe my ears aren’t golden enough. Or, my system isn’t resolving enough. While I realize there can be audible differences, often these differences are very subtle at best. USB cables, which I no longer use in my main system, are a good example. I’ve compared a $250 dB Audio Labs cable to a $130 AudioQuest Carbon, a $25 Belkin Gold and a $1.50 Blue Jeans Cable and in all honesty, I hear no difference. Nada. The 0’s and 1’s sound exactly the same! Apparently, each of these cables were properly built and do their job well. I’ve had a similar experience with properly built and spec’d RCA, BNC, and loudspeaker cables as well. Toslink is another story entirely.
Glass or plastic
Toslink optical is spec’d to max out at 24/96 but can easily pass a 24/192 signal using glass fiber. I like glass just for this reason. Can’t say I’ve heard a significant difference between any of the optical cables I have in my collection but if I had to choose based solely on sound quality, the Lifatec Silflex would take top honors. Lifatec produces some very nice quality glass cables and I use one between my streamer and re-clocker.
There are many in audiophilia who dismiss optical out-of-hand siting supposed high amounts of jitter horribly impacting the sound. Bullshit. Today’s DACs, with their specs in the pico and femto ranges, do a great job obliterating jitter. Of course if you’re still worried about the audibility of this increased jitter there are re-clockers like my iFi SPIDF iPurifer and Wyred 4 Sound’s Remedy Reclocker just for that purpose. Apparently, I’m still worried.
One rather underrated advantage of an optical connection is the inherent electrical/galvanic isolation it provides. When using this connection method in my system the sound is dynamic, natural, and involving. I like it. Of course, at this level of nervosa each and every connection sounds pretty good.
After more than 2 years using a Bluesound Node 2 I decided it was time to revisit my favorite macOS music players. So, I brought my old Mac mini out of storage, did a bit of housekeeping, and downloaded the latest offerings from Sonic Studio and Damien Plisson. I’m glad I did. Both Amarra and Audirvana Plus have seen quite a bit of development since I last used either of them and both have improved in functionality and sound quality. I’ve also acquired a new DAC and USB/SPDIF converter. So much for being off the merry-go-round.
- Mac mini (2010)
- Schiit Audio Eitr
- MHDT Lab Pagoda
- Decware SE84UFO
- Omega Super 3i
- macOS High Sierra
- Amarra Luxe and sQ+
- Audirvana Plus
- AudioQuest Carbon USB
- Black Cat Cable SilverStar! 75
- Better Cables Silver Serpent RCA
- DIY solid silver loudspeaker cables
- Salamander Synergy
- IsoAcoustics Aperta
- Sanus Steel Series
- Brick Wall PW8R15AUD
Uncompressed flac on an Oyen Digital MiniPro hard drive connected via USB to an Apple AirPort Extreme.
Recently, I found myself in need of some new speaker cables. After much looking around online and not finding the right cable at a price I was happy with, I decided it was time for a project. It’s been a while since I went the DIY cable route so I needed to research a bit and find good sources for the materials. The last item arrived just in time for my free weekend.
.999 Pure Silver
This project seemed a perfect time to kill 2 birds with 1 stone (so to speak) and build some solid silver speaker cables. Cables made with this precious metal intrigue me but the cost of admission is a bit off-putting. Enter DIY. First and foremost I want to mention an article and website where I found a wealth of information including where to source some of the materials I used:
Make Your Own Silver Audio Cables by Joseph Levy, The Vinyl Tourist
The article was last updated in 2010 but remains relevant today.
I decided on 16 gauge .999 pure soft annealed solid silver, 14 gauge clear PTFE jacketing, and Audioquest SureGrip bananas. Originally I was not going to terminate the wire but the APPJ PA0901A requires bananas for connection. I made 8’ cables (ordered enough for 9’) and opted not finish them with an outer jacket. My budget for the project was $200 (sans shipping) and I came in slightly below that amount.
I’m very happy with the results .. they look decent and sound great.