Audio Discussion

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by marx, Oct 11, 2009.

  1. marx

    Thread Starter Member

    Oct 4, 2009
    I'm not sure if this direction of conversation is taboo here as I know it has caused a lot of controversy in other forums, if it is I'll stay quiet.

    I used to frequent audiophile forums as I do have a passion for the reproduction of music. Initially when I started out putting together an audio system I pretty much believed everything I read.

    However as I dug deeper into the science behind various audio components some major flaws in reasoning started to appear.

    The most obvious component that fits into this line of conversation is the speaker cable, but it goes much further than that, power cables, capacitors and even micro-phonic copper wire.

    Have any of you followed any of these controversies? Have you come across any solid science that supports some of the claims of audiophiles.

    To be honest I wish I believed that components like speaker cables did make a difference as it would make my audio hobby more exciting, however my objective mindset won't let me so.

    If I ended up getting to the stage of doing a masters or doctorate in Electrical Engineering I'd be interested in trying to put these controversies to rest.
  2. bertus


    Apr 5, 2008
  3. marx

    Thread Starter Member

    Oct 4, 2009
    Nice Link!
  4. Audioguru


    Dec 20, 2007
    People who spend a fortune on Monster Cables to their speakers are throwing their money away. Lamp cord wire is fine, just do not use tiny telephone wires.
  5. rjenkins

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 6, 2005
    interesting link, but some inaccuracies:

    Analog interconnects *can* affect the signal.
    This is basically down to the incredibly poor design of most 'hifi' equipment using single ended (ground referenced) signals and no real consideration for impedance matching at all.

    Other than with ground loops, these effects are generally below the level of perception but do technically exist and some variations of cable design can affect them.

    The 'directional' leads typically use twin screen for each signal, with one core as signal and the other grounded to the connector shell at each end.
    The overall screen is then grounded to only one connector shell.
    Theoretically, if the screen-ground end is connected to the amp input rather than a floating source like a record deck, there will be a fraction less noise pickup; though again audibility is another matter..

    Professional gear uses balanced signals with cheap connectors & cable, generally impedance matched to 600 Ohm, so no possible ground loops or matching problems.

    Things like gold-plated connectors are generally a waste of time.

    Speaker cables can drastically affect the sound:
    A higher series resistance reduces the time constant of an inductor, so thin, higher resistance cables increase the treble output from speakers, which can make them sound tinny in comparison to the same speakers with heavy, low resistance cables.

    Edit - Note: Speaker impedances are generally given at 1KHz and the DC resistance is generally far lower. This means that base frequencies will be most attenuated by higher resistance cable, and far more than comparing the cable resistance to the nominal speaker impedance would indicate.

    The *really* stupid thing in any HiFi review is comparing distortion levels in digital interconnects and media...

    Digital signals are not affected by low level degredation in the way analog signals are, so there can be no subtle distortions.

    Comparing makes of digital cable or media for 'fidelity' is like saying a text file is going to read differently depending on what make of floppy disk or CD media it's stored on.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2009
  6. studiot

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 9, 2007
    Can't see why this should not be a perfectly respectable subject for discussion in an electronics forum.

    I'm also glad to see you have an open mind on the subject.

    My observations, for what they are worth, are:

    It is easier to prove a negative than a positive so in this case it is easy to find examples of audio degradation induced by an inadequate component or components.

    So people connecting high power speakers to high power analog amplifiers with any old length of cheap bell wire they find around may well encounter the limitations of undersized cables.

    Conversely it is very difficult to impossible to prove that two modern systems with all good quality connections and components actually sound different. So here is a fruitful area for those who wish to argue minutaie.

    It should be remembered that some modern amplifiers do not send traditional electronic copies of the audiowave to the speakers, but instead send power pulses which are intendsed to add up to the same thing. The requirements for adequate connections are different for this type of kit.

    It should also be remembered that all sound reproduction, without exception, is an illusion.
    The resultant sound field produced by loudspeaker systems is not the same as the original or exactly what would be heard by a listener to the original.
    All recording & reproduction methods rely on a number of artifices to fool the listener's ears into believing that he is listening to the original.
    In most cases it is not even possible to fit the original sound into the listening room.
  7. Wendy


    Mar 24, 2008
    Yeah, religion is always a tricky subject. When it comes to some audiophiles it seems to approach that level.

    I tend to swing the wrong way, being laissez-faire about it to the point I make many mistakes. The argument between tubes and transistors leaves me cold, if the frequency response and noise floor is good, who really cares. Lots of people apparently. Then, I don't like my music loud either, never have.
  8. buntin

    New Member

    Oct 11, 2009
    Hi end equipment is worth the investment, too a point.

    Audio reproduction is an art in itself. True stereo reproduction is a pure representation of the recording art. Without decent components, the artists' creation cannot be reproduced as it was intended.

    Some audiophiles chase minute details that do not seem to matter to some.

    A lot of it depends on the budget of the audiophile and that persons' perception of what they "hear". Some audiophiles "believe" they hear imagery, depth and perception, so that they can justify their having spent $30k on components.

    True music appreciation cannot be realized until one "hears" what a good system of components can reproduce, given the recording is decent to start with.

    The "basics" at least have to be in place. Decent Pre amp, Decent amplifier, cables, clean and tight connections, decent speakers, decent input signals.

    All that in place will reproduce what was intended as the audio was recorded.

    "Decent" is relative to "budget" and "appreciation".

    "Decent" is dependent more upon input signal quality. You can have $50,000 in pre amp, amp and speakers, but if the input signal is bad, it will sound BAD.

    One does not need 2AWG speaker cable. But, good quality conductors and connections are essential. 12 awg - 16 awg is generally sufficient, depending on the set up and the budget.

    I use conventially connected 10 awg braided, from 80 WPC to vintage Klipsch.

    I agree, gold connectors are a waste of money.

    I'm getting pure, clean, noiseless audio from all components.

    Nothing fancy. Good, solid, simple, hi-end equipment, well connected, well cared for. I'm well satisfied. It sounds as good as many High-dollar systems I've heard.
  9. Audioguru


    Dec 20, 2007
    Speakers resonate at 30Hz to 60Hz (midrange and tweeters at higher frequencies) and are a fairly high impedance at resonance.
    Their nominal impedance is at a few hundred Hz (not at 1kHz) and their impedance rises at higher frequencies due to their inductance.

    So if the speaker cable uses extremely thin wire that has resistance of about 100 ohms then the response of most speakers will rise at the low end and rise at the high end. The low frequency resonance will be poorly damped and will sound boomy.
    Ordinary inexpensive lamp cord wire has a very low resistance so is fine.
  10. beenthere

    Retired Moderator

    Apr 20, 2004
    Something that I never bothered to look into - does anybody know what "oxygen free" means in conjunction with speaker wire?
  11. bountyhunter

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2009
    I know exactly what you mean. Understand, some people sit around trying to dream up new things to spend money on and therefore invent reasons why they should.

    I remember one of my engineer buddies spent a bunch of $$$ on those braided multi-conductor speaker cables which were supposed to reduce "reflected waves" and so forth. I mean, he had a EE degree and he should have known better.

    I learned a long time ago not to argue with audio loonies because you won't get anywhere. They are true religous zealots. If you actually set up an objective A-B tests showing no discernible difference in equipment, they just claim the test was flawed.

    And when they want to describe how the newest whatever has improved their system, they trot outmeaningless and immesaurable adjectives like "natural sounding" and "directional presence" and "warmth" and a bunch of other baloney.

    Just nod your head and laugh on the inside, and remember the money they are spending on worthless junk is stimulating the economy.:D

    The other thing to remember is that all audio systems driving through loudspeakers have a significant amount of reporoduction distortion compared to the true (original) source. The speakers and their resonances with the environment create many kinds of distortion. People think the "best" stereo is the one that creates the particular set of distortion they like the best. For example: speakers have a whole assortment of bass resonances in the 50 - 200 Hz range reflecting against walls and floor which make the speaker sound like it has "deeper bass". Most people like that. When listening to superior reproducers like high end headphones that have flat (true to the source) bass response, most people will say the bass is "weak". It's all what you get used to hearing.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2009
  12. bountyhunter

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2009
    It means the wire was created in an oxygen free environment.
  13. tibbles

    Active Member

    Jun 27, 2008
    good speakers,good neighbours,good taste.
  14. tibbles

    Active Member

    Jun 27, 2008
    sorry i didnt mean to be flippant, but i do think speakers are all important,everything is made to a price nowadays and while a top end amp is relatively cheap,good quality speakers, decent size, well designed ,active crossovers,etc can cost thousands,
  15. Audioguru


    Dec 20, 2007
    Some expensive speakers sound bad and others sound good.
    Some fairly inexpensive speakers sound good but maybe cannot handle very high power.
  16. marx

    Thread Starter Member

    Oct 4, 2009
    Yeh my personal thought on developing a 'high end' stereo is to focus on speakers and room, then amps.

    One audio forum in New Zealand has banned any discussion of DBT in the main sections and given it its own section under.

    "BORING! If you insist on boring everyone silly with DBT then this is the only place to do it"

    Hows that for head in As*

    I remember one discussion where a member stated that his second hand cables sounded confused and muddy because the previous owner played Classical and Jazz and he was playing rock.

    Thankfully for that poor soul, after a few weeks of playing rock his cables got rid of that Classical/Jazz signature and his cables sound more coherent :rolleyes:
  17. beenthere

    Retired Moderator

    Apr 20, 2004
    Perhaps the doctor adjusted his medications.
  18. Bob Scott

    New Member

    Apr 13, 2009
    You will not convince a "true believer" that his imaginings are false. However, interspersed with the gross misunderstandings of the audiophiles with limited knowledge does sometimes come a bit of truth. ie: I have heard microphonic shielded cable. Knock on the cable and hear it in the speaker.

    It does to a small degree. As Audioguru says, tiny speaker wire does have higher resistance and can cause audio frequency response changes if long lengths are used. However this comment from "rjenkins" is false:

    Anyone who knows the Thiele-Small equations for speaker building knows that increasing series resistance increqses the speaker "Q", causing a higher hump in the woofer's response at its resonant frequency. The sound will be BOOMY, not TINNY.

    It is not possible. Think smart. Cater to them. There's big money to be made selling $150.00 audiophile grade AC wall sockets

  19. Andrew Leigh

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 8, 2008

    personal observations.

    Speaker design is important
    Built my own bass speaker for use in a band. This was done through correct design (drawing response curve after response curve until the desired response at -3dB was attained at 38Hz), good accoustic damping material, tuning the port correctly, sealing the cabinet and using 19mm wood panels. It simply outperformed every commercial unit I heard. Was made lots of offers before it was stolen.

    The worst money I ever spent was in the early days of my quest for the perfect matching system. Should have followed the advice that said if a 100 dollar system is fine for you then buy it, anything more than that is a bad buy.

    My Ears
    Having played in a loud band for years my ears are not what they should be, I would not waste a 100 000 dollar system on them.

    The room accoustics
    This affects sound more than people realise, currently my hifi is not used and has not been since moving into my house with low ceilings, tiled floors, narrow but long room. Have been meaning to carpet and put up thick curtains etc but don't get around to it.

    Speaker Cable
    Cable needs to have sufficient area.

  20. beenthere

    Retired Moderator

    Apr 20, 2004
    This is some snippets off an audiophile board:

    The assertions-
    Poured ground plane, two 300mm lengths of #8 stranded wire, with as fine a strand of copper as you can get and a decent poly-something sheath. Or a 150mm length of true Litz wire with three 9mm pieces of polyethylene shrink wrap tube, shrunk tightly by 50% or so, distributed on the length of wire. The Litz must be made from insulated magnet wire and should have at least 10 times the surface area of an equivalent piece of solid copper wire. This is circular mils per amp equivalence.

    One, two, three, sometimes four pieces, will increase retention of something akin to electrons and allow the circuitry to retain very fine detail and amazing amounts of coherent, large scale tiny amplitude signals. The information is there already, even in red book audio. The EE's who fly around here and pooh pooh Audiophools are quite correct about the tremendous job they have done... they just missed the ground plane side of circuitry somehow. Not as a connection to ground, with noise reduction and all, but apparently as a close by reservoir of....must be electrons, though, why they would choose to loiter within a loop of Litz wire with small pieces of plastic attached, is quite beyond me. Yes... thats a soldered together loop of wire, just attached to a convenient location, on the signal ground. Though, using the wire as a ground side conductor works just as well, if the loop thing is just too weird for you.

    I buy and use a cable made from 140 strands of #40 AWG magnet wire, made from four nines copper. Quite expensive in bulk, but not so bad for one piece. Email me if you would like to know more.
    Ridiculous Litz wire.

    All I can say in defense of this foolishness is that I think of it as just doing a portion of the job that a true poured ground plane does. I really think it is already being done in those situations, but has never been "singled out" as a separate function from all other ground plane functions.

    The #8 gauge wire, ground buss scheme, comes from Romy the Cats SE Meliquides amplifiers. I sent him some Litz to try and no improvement was discerned, at all. And he is good at this.

    In my own headphone amp, with a Baxendahl tone control, driven by OP AMPs, into a long tailed cascode 6922 with cathode follower to capacitor output, I have implemented poured instrumentation grounds. Right and left power and signal are all kept separate till chassis ground and all grounds are under their function specific components. Traces are on the opposite side of the PCB. The Litz wires were applied to input signal ground and output signal ground with noticeable but not astounding results.

    Addition of two loops of Litz to the output ground RCA jack to PCB lugs, in my Sony SACD / CD player, was subtly astounding. All of the high frequency energy I had been ignoring as "digital hash" in Red Book, became intelligible information about echoes, string squeaks, cymbal shimmer etc. This is just the analogue amp portion, but with single sided traces and zero PCB ground plane, except right at the ground side RCA jack lug connection to PCB and these on the same side as the traces.

    I have gone on to add these to all other components. Typical is input / output grounds and cathode ground of the driver tube in preamp and amp. I also added them to speaker drivers and some modified, much reduced pieces, to phono cartridge and tape head grounds.

    You can have too much of this stuff. A time smear is the result with amplified signal and a covered and dead quality occurs with the electromagnetic coil transducers, so, just slathering Litz wire all over every thing doesn't work. But, right up to that point, works brilliantly.
    I am of the opinion, ignorant as it undoubtedly is, that the surface area of the Litz, the polyester / Nylon magnet wire coating and the addition of what appear to us to be tiny amounts of plastic dielectric to these 150mm wires provides a low loss, low energy threshold "storage" for electrons.

    From the electrons point of view this is an enormous galaxie of easily accessed orbits, with a low threshold charge state required for E Field stasis, where before the nearest loitering zone was out at the device ground for the building.

    That the addition of these "wires" aids retention of wide band, low amplitude micro dynamics, like hall echo, trailing edge of note artistic emphasis and very small signal information, retained as understandable information, seems to support this opinion. But I am willing to be taught the truth about what is already going on because this is not just a wild hair of a theory, it does work....just like all forms of Voodoo science do.

    The post attachment activity is as follows. After soldering tthe lengths in place turn on the unit and listen.

    Initial sound will be almost monaural (speaking of Red Book here) in it's stage width, very high frequency oriented and quite "thin" in musical color lower frequency ranges, hence the high frequency emphasis.

    After about two hours, where all of this gradually changes to a wide open sound stage with X amount of detail and then back to a pinched sound stage and undynamic character, in ever lengthening cycles. You end up with a colorful, dynamic, extremely detailed sound, with perfect balance and very analogue like character. The X level of detail increases every time this cycle runs it's course and always seems to end up with the really musical presentation as the last step.

    Really, as if the Litz wire was "filling up" with electrons. Not sure of the feasibility of this description in scientific terms, but, I am quite certain about the usefulness of the end result. Not a shocking difference, but not at all hidden and hard to find either. Just seems to make the component operate like it was designed to do in the first place, but was cost cut in manufacture to the minimum performance level they seem to come with.

    The response:

    You claim that an
    (x) audible
    ( ) measurable
    (x) hypothetical

    improvement in sound quality can be attained by:
    ( ) upsampling
    ( ) non-oversampling
    ( ) increasing word size
    ( ) vibration dampening
    ( ) bi-wiring
    (x) litz wire
    ( ) replacing the external power supply
    ( ) using a different lossless format
    ( ) decompressing on the server
    ( ) removing bits of metal from skull
    ( ) using ethernet instead of wireless
    ( ) inverting phase
    ( ) reversing “polarity” of resistors
    ( ) ultra fast recovery rectifiers
    ( ) installing bigger connectors
    ( ) installing Black Gate caps
    ( ) installing ByBee filters
    ( ) installing hospital-grade AC jacks
    ( ) defragmenting the hard disk
    ( ) running older firmware
    ( ) using exotic materials in cabinet
    ( ) bronze heatsinks
    ( ) violin lacquer
    ( ) $500 power cords

    Your idea will not work. Specifically, it fails to account for:
    (x) the placebo effect
    (x) your ears honestly aren't that good
    ( ) your idea has already been thoroughly disproved
    ( ) modern DACs upsample anyway
    ( ) those products are pure snake oil
    ( ) lossless formats, by definition, are lossless
    ( ) those measurements are bogus
    ( ) sound travels much slower than you think
    (x) electric signals travel much faster than you think
    ( ) that's not how binary arithmetic works
    ( ) that's not how TCP/IP works
    ( ) the Nyquist theorem
    ( ) the can't polish a turd theorem
    ( ) bits are bits

    You will try to defend you idea by:
    (x) claiming that your ears are “trained”
    (x) claiming immunity to psychological/physiological factors that affect everyone else
    (x) name-calling
    ( ) criticizing spelling/grammar

    Your subsequent arguments will probably appeal in desperation to such esoterica as:
    ( ) jitter
    ( ) EMI
    ( ) thermal noise
    (x) quantum mechanical effects
    (x) resonance
    ( ) existentialism
    (x) nihilism
    ( ) communism
    ( ) cosmic rays

    And you will then change the subject to:
    ( ) theories are not the same as facts
    ( ) measurements don't tell everything
    ( ) not everyone is subject to the placebo effect
    (x) blind testing is dumb
    (x) you can't prove what I can't hear
    (x) science isn't everything

    Rather than engage in this tired discussion, I suggest exploring the following factors which are more likely to improve sound quality in your situation:
    (x) room acoustics
    ( ) source material
    ( ) type of speakers
    (x) speaker placement
    ( ) crossover points
    ( ) equalization
    (x) Q-tips
    ( ) psychoanalysis
    (x) trepanation

    From this, it seems as if the audiophile community has some doubters, as well.

    The "form" was too good to pass up.