Expensive Cables. Are they worth the Money?

When I sit down in front of my loudspeakers, lights low and a superb recording ready to play, I want to hear real musicians, in a real acoustic space. I want to hear what’s makes them so good at what they do, which means I want perfect timing,  all the nuances of the way they create music and all the emotions that result.  What I don’t want is hi-fi, 2 speakers pounding out bass, midrange and treble frequencies. I don’t want to hear the speakers as a source of sound. I want real musical instruments, suspended in space, filling my room or even beyond. I want to hear where the musicians are standing relative to one another and I want to hear the timbre and character of their instruments.

All this is not easy to achieve, but when it is, the effect is magical. Shivers down your spine, a tear in the eye or a catch of breath in your throat at the amazing beauty of the music. 

In my experience this can be achieved with less than state of the art equipment but what is does require is incredibly careful set-up and attention to detail. Anything that smears detail or dynamics or distorts phase, frequency or amplitude will destroy the illusion. The system will still make music but the inner beauty, meaning and emotion of the music is lost. But where does it go?  It’s stIll there, in the signal, its just that the system fails to resolve it. And if its there, but its not resolved, then by definition it becomes part of some other component of the music. Something that does not belong... The musical signal is changed by the addition, becomes distorted.

When you upgrade cables and you substitute something ‘superior’ what is actually happening?  In essence 2 things; more information and detail (phase, frequency and dynamics) are being passed along the cable unscathed, and by that very fact you get more detail AND less distortion out of the other end. Listen carefully whenever you upgrade a cable or a component....the increase in detail is ALWAYS accompanied by a reduction in ‘hardness’, ‘harshness’, ‘hash’, noise, or however you describe the distortion. Why? Because all that distortion is, is the previously unresolved components of the music, added to other parts of the music, which effectively distorts (changes) it. 

So in a cable, what could cause this loss of detail?  Poor conductor quality, poor conductor geometry, poor termination, poor quality terminals, dielectric interaction with the signal as it passes along the conductors,  external interference like static, RFI, AC,  mismatched capacitance, inductance, impedance, poor soldering or crimping of connectors, poor routing of cables etc. 

I, as much as the next man wish I could connect together my system with inexpensive cable. The problem however seems  to be that in order to achieve the appropriate quality conductors, with optimised geometry, the appropriate screening, the least damaging, most neutral dielectric, high enough quality terminals and quality manufacturing, the price of research and development, raw materials and low batch size, high quality manufacturing dictates that the cable required to achieve the musical results I demand costs quite a bit more to produce than ‘the cheapest possible’ alternative .

Cables are a lot like eating out.  Why pay £100 for fine dining, when a portion of fish and chips can be had for £7?  You can also see why someone who has never tried or has no appreciation for great food may conclude that paying £100 for a meal when a more filling meal can be had for £7 is indeed a waste of money. 

So if your goal is a full belly and sound belting out of 2 speakers, cables are indeed a waste of money

Gazza posted:

No , I still have the nice PMC chap words ringing in my head at Audio Show East; he said their cables were about £2 a metre, and the system sounded great.

Indeed rumour had/has it that PMC were won’t to use 6mm Van Damme cables at trade shows.....

But isn’t it what you hear rather than what you choose to pay that counts?

YGMMV 

DR J

I have removed some posts. A certain maker of cables has expressly told us that they neither want their name nor their products mentioned or discussed on here. Some of you obviously know who this is but persist in trying to discuss the products - please desist.  Naim do not wish for trouble, so please respect Naim's position here.  Thank you.

wenger2015 posted:
Darke Bear posted:

No - but already done it with full SL loom and agree cables are often worth more than a box upgrade, if you get the right cables.

DB.

I notice from your profile, you have an absolutely superb system, so congrats on that.

You certainly would not be doing your system justice without the full loom, as you rightly say, it’s all about getting the right cables.

And you can get very close with the 282 with the same cables and same attention to system setup as DB.

Phil

somehow cable threads always bring out heated discussion 

But as good as NACA 5 and the old Lavender interconnects are, there is more to be had.

Hungryhalibut makes a good argument, few people, if any dispute the value and price of a Naim power supply, it is now almost universally accepted.

But somehow the SL cables bring about much heated discussion, and much discomfort.

I think it is much more difficult for Naim  - as the standards for Naim are that much more higher.

For a cable to bear the Naim logo, it must absolutely be better than the accepted Naim standards NACA5 and Lavender/HI-line in one crucial area - timing, engagement, boogie, and/or rhythm.

This is a far more difficult than it seems on the surface. 

If Roy George and the Naim CEO aren't happy with the timing performance, the cable simply doesn't get manufactured and released to the market.

The R&D spend must have been huge. 

analogmusic posted:

somehow cable threads always bring out heated discussion 

But as good as NACA 5 and the old Lavender interconnects are, there is more to be had.

Hungryhalibut makes a good argument, few people, if any dispute the value and price of a Naim power supply, it is now almost universally accepted.

But somehow the SL cables bring about much heated discussion, and much discomfort.

I think it is much more difficult for Naim  - as the standards for Naim are that much more higher.

For a cable to bear the Naim logo, it must absolutely be better than the accepted Naim standards NACA5 and Lavender/HI-line in one crucial area - timing, engagement, boogie, and/or rhythm.

This is a far more difficult than it seems on the surface. 

If Roy George and the Naim CEO aren't happy with the timing performance, the cable simply doesn't get manufactured and released to the market.

The R&D spend must have been huge. 

And I have some swampland in Florida for sale, if you're interested.  

Richard Dane posted:

I have removed some posts. A certain maker of cables has expressly told us that they neither want their name nor their products mentioned or discussed on here. Some of you obviously know who this is but persist in trying to discuss the products - please desist.  Naim do not wish for trouble, so please respect Naim's position here.  Thank you.

Apologies Richard - understood. 

Blackmorec posted:

When I sit down in front of my loudspeakers, lights low and a superb recording ready to play, I want to hear real musicians, in a real acoustic space. I want to hear what’s makes them so good at what they do, which means I want perfect timing,  all the nuances of the way they create music and all the emotions that result.  What I don’t want is hi-fi, 2 speakers pounding out bass, midrange and treble frequencies. I don’t want to hear the speakers as a source of sound. I want real musical instruments, suspended in space, filling my room or even beyond. I want to hear where the musicians are standing relative to one another and I want to hear the timbre and character of their instruments.

All this is not easy to achieve, but when it is, the effect is magical. Shivers down your spine, a tear in the eye or a catch of breath in your throat at the amazing beauty of the music. 

In my experience this can be achieved with less than state of the art equipment but what is does require is incredibly careful set-up and attention to detail. Anything that smears detail or dynamics or distorts phase, frequency or amplitude will destroy the illusion. The system will still make music but the inner beauty, meaning and emotion of the music is lost. But where does it go?  It’s stIll there, in the signal, its just that the system fails to resolve it. And if its there, but its not resolved, then by definition it becomes part of some other component of the music. Something that does not belong... The musical signal is changed by the addition, becomes distorted.

When you upgrade cables and you substitute something ‘superior’ what is actually happening?  In essence 2 things; more information and detail (phase, frequency and dynamics) are being passed along the cable unscathed, and by that very fact you get more detail AND less distortion out of the other end. Listen carefully whenever you upgrade a cable or a component....the increase in detail is ALWAYS accompanied by a reduction in ‘hardness’, ‘harshness’, ‘hash’, noise, or however you describe the distortion. Why? Because all that distortion is, is the previously unresolved components of the music, added to other parts of the music, which effectively distorts (changes) it. 

So in a cable, what could cause this loss of detail?  Poor conductor quality, poor conductor geometry, poor termination, poor quality terminals, dielectric interaction with the signal as it passes along the conductors,  external interference like static, RFI, AC,  mismatched capacitance, inductance, impedance, poor soldering or crimping of connectors, poor routing of cables etc. 

I, as much as the next man wish I could connect together my system with inexpensive cable. The problem however seems  to be that in order to achieve the appropriate quality conductors, with optimised geometry, the appropriate screening, the least damaging, most neutral dielectric, high enough quality terminals and quality manufacturing, the price of research and development, raw materials and low batch size, high quality manufacturing dictates that the cable required to achieve the musical results I demand costs quite a bit more to produce than ‘the cheapest possible’ alternative .

Cables are a lot like eating out.  Why pay £100 for fine dining, when a portion of fish and chips can be had for £7?  You can also see why someone who has never tried or has no appreciation for great food may conclude that paying £100 for a meal when a more filling meal can be had for £7 is indeed a waste of money. 

So if your goal is a full belly and sound belting out of 2 speakers, cables are indeed a waste of money

Agree with these comments.

Maybe as mentioned it’s opinion based on affordability, ‘I don’t like it because I can’t afford it’ so it must be snake oil....????

I'm sure I read somewhere about an Emperor a long time ago filled with such pride at the beautiful (and expensive) new clothes he bought himself.   Perhaps not only those less well off were convinced of snake oil at play here also....

Please don't fall onto the barren earth of implying a level of wealth is required to form a legitimate opinion on whether product A sounds better than product B.

Peter

northpole posted:

I'm sure I read somewhere about an Emperor a long time ago filled with such pride at the beautiful (and expensive) new clothes he bought himself.   Perhaps not only those less well off were convinced of snake oil at play here also....

Please don't fall onto the barren earth of implying a level of wealth is required to form a legitimate opinion on whether product A sounds better than product B.

Peter

As finkfan commented earlier, I’m sure the statement sounds better than the Supernait, I’ve not heard the statement but I’m very confident it’s better, and it’s probably better regardless if I’m wearing clothes whilst listening or not....

I did warn of the impending bun fight. It always happens when posh cables are discussed on here. Don't know why.

Right, my last bun, here goes. I have moved in stages from Naim stock cables, via HiLine and a posh Chord cable (I am working on the assumption the the C word is not the banned company for discussion) to a full SL loom. Each stage involved a lengthy home demo of one cable change at a time. In my opinion, in my system, in my room, using my ears the SL alternatives provided sufficient uplift in areas that are important to me and as such demonstrated their elevated price provided VFM.

Now that is quite a logical, objective and quantitative way of appraising something that is essentially a qualitative and subjective assessment, that is an improvement in sound quality. It does however give me some comfort that I am not being ripped off and that I am likely to continue to enjoy my (some might call stupid) outlay on a few bits of wire.

Geez, just realised I am wide open with no ammo. Dives for cover yet again.

wenger2015 posted:
The Strat (Fender) posted:

Oh - do people wear clothes when listening to their Hi-Fi?

Just going to have to do an A B test to find out.....just have to think of what to say if anyone comes into my listening room unannounced.....

As above, don't look now, "they're behind you" 

nigelb posted:

 

Now that is quite a logical, objective and quantitative way of appraising something that is essentially a qualitative and subjective assessment, that is an improvement in sound quality. It does however give me some comfort that I am not being ripped off and that I am likely to continue to enjoy my (some might call stupid) outlay on a few bits of wire.

That's the main thing Nigel. If you think it's worth it then it is. I think we all have the same destination but just get there in different ways

An interesting thread and it's good to read the various opinions. Thanks Wenger for starting it off. 

James

Non believers, so boring... If I hear the difference, if l hear it!, and if it gives me more pleasure and let’s me connect more emotional to the music. Its worth it.

But whatever, keep spending silly money on cartridges, dacs, streamers and amplifiers only to connect them with poor wires. Talk about wasting money..

M37 posted:

Non believers, so boring... If I hear the difference, if l hear it!, and if it gives me more pleasure and let’s me connect more emotional to the music. Its worth it.

But whatever, keep spending silly money on cartridges, dacs, streamers and amplifiers only to connect them with poor wires. Talk about wasting money..

+1

 

There is a post on another forum where  some people were at a cable demo, Ansuz. There is a "nonbeliever" that was in attendance. He is now a believer for what that's worth. I'm a believer in the SL IC. My own ears have confirmed that for me. I'm on the fence about SL SC. I have not heard them and still have doubts about expensive speaker cables but I do have reason to think they do make a difference. I just don't have the cash to prove or disprove that reason for now. 

northpole posted:

I'm sure I read somewhere about an Emperor a long time ago filled with such pride at the beautiful (and expensive) new clothes he bought himself.   Perhaps not only those less well off were convinced of snake oil at play here also....

Please don't fall onto the barren earth of implying a level of wealth is required to form a legitimate opinion on whether product A sounds better than product B.

Peter

It's a pity that this topic can't be discussed civilly.  I can understand that there are some who aren't convinced that cables make a difference and/or aren't inclined to pay for premium cables but too often expressing that view is insufficient. They resort to the 'snake-oil' argument thus implying that those of us with different views are stupid and gullible . There is no need for such rudeness on here.  I don't pretend to be able to tell the difference between digital photographs and those from negatives, or to discriminate between fine wines.  But I know that some people can and do. I don't feel the need to insult them just because I can't. 

MDS posted:
northpole posted:

I'm sure I read somewhere about an Emperor a long time ago filled with such pride at the beautiful (and expensive) new clothes he bought himself.   Perhaps not only those less well off were convinced of snake oil at play here also....

Please don't fall onto the barren earth of implying a level of wealth is required to form a legitimate opinion on whether product A sounds better than product B.

Peter

It's a pity that this topic can't be discussed civilly.  I can understand that there are some who aren't convinced that cables make a difference and/or aren't inclined to pay for premium cables but too often expressing that view is insufficient. They resort to the 'snake-oil' argument thus implying that those of us with different views are stupid and gullible . There is no need for such rudeness on here.  I don't pretend to be able to tell the difference between digital photographs and those from negatives, or to discriminate between fine wines.  But I know that some people can and do. I don't feel the need to insult them just because I can't. 

MDS

I completely agree with you - my use of the term was lifted from and in response to Wenger2015's posting further up the page which, if made in jest, passed completely over my head:

"Maybe as mentioned it’s opinion based on affordability, ‘I don’t like it because I can’t afford it’ so it must be snake oil....????"

I'm not sure you chose the correct post to reply to however, I do agree also that I should have bitten my tongue and refrained from responding in the first instance.

Peter

let's not get into snake oil and try and relate what SL does.

From what I can hear it does 2 things over the Naim hi-line and Chord Chrysalis/Lavender

1) A remarkable ability to let high frequencies though - which the hi-line and Chrysalis actually constrain. Once you hear  the liquidity of the high frequencies of the SL, it is very difficult to un-hear the hi-line and chrysalis - they have a sound of their own, which imposes itself over the music. The SL doesn't add anything that isn't there, but it just lets so much more through

2) The SL also preserves the musical energy a lot more than the HL/Lavender - again not a matter of adding anything that was not there, but a matter of preserving the musical intentions, energy, emotions, soul and intentions of the music and musicians 

Of course the standard Lavender/NACA5 and Hi-line are musically very enjoyable, and one does not need to go beyond those - but if one wants more accuracy, more realism, more timbre, and enjoyment, well like everything in the Naim world, it costs money.

My opinion, my ears, YMMV.

I think there are few people who would deny that SL speaker cables make a difference to the finished sound. Likewise I suspect there are few who would argue against the contention they are 'better' than NACA5. When I demoed them they certainly outperformed my Epic Twin. My own preferences led me to Epic Reference Twin, but that's bye the bye. What I think lies at the nub of these discussions is whether or not the considerable cost per metre of some of the cables represents vfm. My view on that one is that any product is worth precisely what any individual is prepared to pay. We all recognise the black boxes and speakers the wires connect could hardly be described as bargains! I think what muddies the water is that most of the 'cheaper' speaker wires still do a very good job, unlike, perhaps, the bottom of the pile sources and amps available from the stack 'em high retailers. 

I would contend that my spending three times as much on my speaker wires has not given me an increase in audio quality proportionate to the cash involved. The fact is I chose to spend a lot of money (but substantially less than SuperLumina!), which I could afford, on maximising my listening pleasure. That same principle applies whether or not we're talking SL, Sarum, Music or the ones we're not allowed to mention. What we shouldn't be doing is wasting time, energy and emotion trying to justify how we choose to spend our cash, or persuading others our choices are better than theirs! Let's just share our experiences, make suggestions when asked, and leave it at that!

Tim - that’s interesting, as I’d say that the amount I have spent on swanky wires has given me an increase in quality commensurate with the the cost. I make my judgements in whether the changes make the music more real, more engaging, more natural, more emotionally involving. The two SL din to XLR leads I bought a couple of weeks ago retail for £3,258. For two bit of wire one metre long, with fancy plugs on each end, and supplied in swanky packaging. To me they make a significant improvement on the things that matter to me, and let the boxes do their thing beautifully. So to answer the OP’s question, I’d say ‘yes’. And then there’s the speaker cables, which sell for about £2,400 for a 4m pair. That’s more than I paid for my speakers! But again, they just get out of the way and let the music flood out, just like a Tetley tea bag does for the flavour.

I’m sure the OP knew very well that the thread would bring out the sort of discussion it has, and that’s great, as a bit of healthy debate is always good. 

I still can’t bring myself to go down the cable upgrade route. Thousands of pounds for a 1m length of posh looking wire just can’t be justified. The mark up is massive and I don’t like the feeling of being ripped off. 

My opinion and I have nothing else to add to this thread. 

analogmusic posted:

let's not get into snake oil and try and relate what SL does.

From what I can hear it does 2 things over the Naim hi-line and Chord Chrysalis/Lavender

1) A remarkable ability to let high frequencies though - which the hi-line and Chrysalis actually constrain. Once you hear  the liquidity of the high frequencies of the SL, it is very difficult to un-hear the hi-line and chrysalis - they have a sound of their own, which imposes itself over the music. The SL doesn't add anything that isn't there, but it just lets so much more through

2) The SL also preserves the musical energy a lot more than the HL/Lavender - again not a matter of adding anything that was not there, but a matter of preserving the musical intentions, energy, emotions, soul and intentions of the music and musicians 

Of course the standard Lavender/NACA5 and Hi-line are musically very enjoyable, and one does not need to go beyond those - but if one wants more accuracy, more realism, more timbre, and enjoyment, well like everything in the Naim world, it costs money.

My opinion, my ears, YMMV.

Having got as far as the full SL loom, I would caution against  believing that SL or any cable for that matter creates the ultimate end result. For me everything came together with double the spacing between power supplies and brain boxes after the full SL was in place. As DB has said in his Naim Torque thread, Naim advised this, but sadly do not publish detailed advice in their literature.

It does also become easier with a high end system to tell if setup or cables are not right. @Blackmorec made some comments above which nicely describe how sound changes with mismatched components and poor setup causing quite complex sound distortions. It’s very easy to decide to change your boxes when setup is the real issue - a better power supply or power amp can provide an improvement, but it might not be the end game and may need a different setup, and you are persuaded that more time will change things.

When the setup (timing) is right the music will tell you, and it won’t matter what music either. Each box will impart a slightly different sound, but there will be something special about the music when the timing is right.

I think it is a shame that there is insufficient advise from Naim on setup and what cables are needed to optimise each level of system. 

Personally, I feel it is easier to stick with all Naim cables and if available advice.

Phil

wenger2015 posted:
The Strat (Fender) posted:

Oh - do people wear clothes when listening to their Hi-Fi?

Just going to have to do an A B test to find out.....just have to think of what to say if anyone comes into my listening room unannounced.....

I tried this, but without clothes there's a distinct tremolo effect and a bit of a clattering sound...

The shivering also makes typing difficult and the chattering of teeth is also a bit uncomfortable.

I think I'll keep clothes on.  

Huge posted:
wenger2015 posted:
The Strat (Fender) posted:

Oh - do people wear clothes when listening to their Hi-Fi?

Just going to have to do an A B test to find out.....just have to think of what to say if anyone comes into my listening room unannounced.....

I tried this, but without clothes there's a distinct tremolo effect and a bit of a clattering sound...

The shivering also makes typing difficult and the chattering of teeth is also a bit uncomfortable.

I think I'll keep clothes on.  

The question is did you cover yourself in snake oil prior to testing?....

NIce post Filipe

i agree with you as I recently got a rack with lots of space for the components (180mm QS inspired by Hungryhalibut) and indeed I can hear exactly what you’re saying. The timing is better with each kind of music.

but still the din/xlr cable used for the 250/300/500 is ok for timing but once I heard what a SL does there was no going back

it times well but also allows the correct timbre of music to pass to the power amp as well as a huge increase in soundstage and resolution 

 

Hungryhalibut posted:
analogmusic posted:
Hungryhalibut posted:
analogmusic posted:

Yes very few cables are worth the money, many are a rip-off.

It's important to listen with an open mind - but I am not myself in an open mind to listen to a Chord Music cable at 3,800 GBP/meter.

The entry level Vertere interconnects are reasonably priced, and are a revelation to my ears.

I don't like the stupid prices of SL cables either but I do like their abilities. 

Are the prices really ‘stupid’? Is £6,500 for a 555PS, which is just a metal box with a big transformer and a few capacitors any less ‘stupid’. Does it really matter how much things cost, so long as the purchaser thinks they provide a worthwhile improvement? It is the dismissal of things without hearing them for oneself that is ‘stupid’. 

 I've heard all the SL cables extensively.

Why did you assume otherwise? Bit puzzled, really, Nigel to be honest.... ???

I was mixing two posts together: your assertion that the prices of SL are ‘stupid’, and posts dismissing things out of hand. I don’t think the prices are ‘stupid’ personally. They are certainly high, but people don’t have to buy them. I don’t doubt that you have tried them, and it’s fine to decide that the price is prohibitive. It’s another matter altogether to dismiss things as ‘snake oil’. 

stupid for whom....  very cleaver for the seller, sometimes questionable for the buyer

saying as a owner of  SLs and Audioquest Diamond Ethernet....

but there is a relaxation feeling of a competition of a project even sometimes some purchases are " what if " kind ( AQ Diamond for me for example )

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