Expensive Cables. Are they worth the Money?

Some would argue cables act as tone controls or frequency filter.  I had for some time “problems with boomy bass” and tried all sorts of “fixes”: different sources, positioning of speakers, spikes, damping feet, carpets and what not.

Then I tried different mains cable and I was astonished by the effect they had.

My experience is that they lower the distortion/ noise floor, making it easier to distinguish  different instruments and levels of details.

Lower frequencies become cleaner and with a better bass response you experience added space around instruments, allowing for a more “blacker background” if you like. 

But we can also look at it from another perspective. Are they worth it? Yes, I believe so. Because the cable manufactures “only” provide us with a tool to fully appreciate our beloved Naim electronics.

wenger2015 posted:

Good question Haim,

what is the percentage cost for cables in our systems???

who is willing to get the ball rolling? 

I have just got back from work so I will work mine out later and post

My Living room System does not consist of any Brand new gear:

Year purchased & Model Year

93~ 1989/Briks - $3.5K - Brand new $7K

14~ 2008/282 - $3.4K

14~ 2014/HCDR - $1.6K

15~ 2012/250 - $3.4K

15~ 2011/250 - $3.0K

15~ 2015/250 - $4.0K

15~ 2008/Cdx2 - 1.7K

Passive Tri-Amped Briks

Total cost of System: $20.6K

Naim Lavender ~ $79

Linn K-20 ~ $221

300/20,600 = ?

Wow!

A very low percentage!

Enjoy Your Music!

You can't miss, what you never heard.

Allante93!

PS. Less than 1.5%

I think!

New cost of my 3 Naim boxes would be £8,058 and cost of cables is £510 so that's 6.3%

The 5 Pin Din was free with both the Dac and the CD5XS so didn't count that

That rises to 12.6% if I take what I actually paid for the 3 Naim's vs cost of cables

Having looked through most of the comments on this thread my conclusions are as follows......

How much we are prepared to spend on cables varies considerably. 

As for Black boxes, I don’t think anyone questions their value for money. Likewise with speakers.

How you link them together to extract the best performance ranges from homemade to bargain basement to does the job to extremely expensive???

For me, not investing in high quality cables is like buying a Porsche and running it on cooking oil.....

but everyone to their own....

wenger2015 posted:

Having looked through most of the comments on this thread my conclusions are as follows......

How much we are prepared to spend on cables varies considerably. 

As for Black boxes, I don’t think anyone questions their value for money. Likewise with speakers.

How you link them together to extract the best performance ranges from homemade to bargain basement to does the job to extremely expensive???

For me, not investing in high quality cables is like buying a Porsche and running it on cooking oil.....

but everyone to their own....

I don't understand the use of the term 'investing' for buying mass produced audio gear, especially cables, when there is never a monetary return, only depreciation. You just spend money or waste it on components.

For me, over spending on cables (out of proportion to source, amplification and speakers which I think are much more essential) is like buying Ferrari wheels to mount on a tiny Honda.

You are rushing into wrong conclusions. A lot of members question the value of the black boxes, avoiding some upgrades not because they cannot afford them but because the tiny increments in sound improvement do not justify the huge price increases. Personally, I think that the cost of the top NAIM gear (and I am not talking about the Statement) is just insane.

Wenger, you still didn't manage to find a single soul who meets the criteria of 30% spent on cables that your NAIM dealer recommended. Let us know when you find one and we will send you some flowers.

 

 

Haim Ronen posted:

I don't understand the use of the term 'investing' for buying mass produced audio gear, especially cables, when there is never a monetary return, only depreciation. You just spend money or waste it on components.

Agree. I've made the same point in the past. Replies indicate that some folks here are comfortable using 'invest' and 'purchase' synonymously.

I've never invested in audio gear. I've only ever bought it and kept it to depreciate, or sold it at a loss.

(This is where original owners of an Aro pipe in)

Haim Ronen, 

you use the expression  ‘only increments in sound’ between black box upgrades, that is most likely down to poor quality cables.

JoeRand, invest is not the best word to use, although black boxes do hold their value reasonably well, it’s more a case of making sure the boxes we buy work to the optimum level, hence the need for quality cables 

In the past month I have sold a Chord signature Tuned Aray Din - XLR, Chord Signature Tuned Aray RCA - Din and a Naim Powerline and in all honesty listening to Diana Krall on vinyl last night I didn't think s*** what have I done,  the music was as enjoyable as before and I didn't feel anything was missing.

I have replaced the CS Tuned Aray with a Chord Chrysalis and the Powerline with a Grahams Hydra the Tuned Aray Din - XLR was admittedly not used in my current set up. Wether or not my ears are failing or my new Benz Micro Ace cartridge is that good I don't know although the Powerline was in place at the same time.

I would honestly say that the money I spent on those cables would have been better spent elsewhere on my system. I'm not saying that you shouldn't buy expensive cables If you have maxed out the black boxes and want to tweak your system then you may well be very pleased you did.  I am only stating my own experiences and admittedly at the time I installed those expensive cables I did hear subtle differences but I have read so many times that the acid test is to remove the cables and then listen and that is what I did and as I stated I didn't feel I was missing anything without them.

I am still convinced however that speaker cables can make a difference and if I ever have a windfall I will try some SL.

wenger2015 posted:

JoeRand, invest is not the best word to use, although black boxes do hold their value reasonably well, it’s more a case of making sure the boxes we buy work to the optimum level, hence the need for quality cables 

I don't doubt the need/want for quality cables and optimization. I found a lavender the superior choice to a Hiline on my PSU'd Stageline. From a cost perspective, the Hiline appears the better option in that scenario, and most would argue on paper the Hiline is the higher quality cable.

OTOH, a Hiline was the clear choice to a standard DIN on my CDP. A 'quality' cable is simply as it plays to the ears in a room, cost notwithstanding.

Am trying a 5M length of SL speaker cables over the next couple weeks versus NACA5.

Price (and being able to tell the difference between black and dark gray) aside, my first impression of sound quality is positive. Will post more thoughts later (if I can think of anything intelligent to contribute).

Also trying a 6’ AQ Cinnamon Ethernet cable.

Hook posted:

Am trying a 5M length of SL speaker cables over the next couple weeks versus NACA5.

Price (and being able to tell the difference between black and dark gray) aside, my first impression of sound quality is positive. Will post more thoughts later (if I can think of anything intelligent to contribute).

Also trying a 6’ AQ Cinnamon Ethernet cable.

I imagine the SL cables are fully run-in, Hook. When I tried a set (against TQ 'Green'), my initial impressions were very positive and over the next 48 hrs those impressions were confirmed. Enjoy.

MDS posted:
Hook posted:

Am trying a 5M length of SL speaker cables over the next couple weeks versus NACA5.

Price (and being able to tell the difference between black and dark gray) aside, my first impression of sound quality is positive. Will post more thoughts later (if I can think of anything intelligent to contribute).

Also trying a 6’ AQ Cinnamon Ethernet cable.

I imagine the SL cables are fully run-in, Hook. When I tried a set (against TQ 'Green'), my initial impressions were very positive and over the next 48 hrs those impressions were confirmed. Enjoy.

Hi Mike. Yes, they are a well run-in demo set, and clearly a step up over NACA5. So far, am hearing a smoother, clearer sound. Less edgy, but not less energetic. More detailed, but not cold or analytical. There just seems to be a certain rightness to the sound.

As usual, the tale of the tape will come in a week or so when I swap back. But so far, so good. 

I’ve had a Witchhat Hatpin between my 272 and 200 for a couple of weeks now. The acid test of swapping the standard Naim cable back proved that in my set up the Hatpin won hands down. This is Not an expensive cable, but does prove to me anyway, that cables do make a difference. I have their new Phantom speaker cable on order now too. It will be interesting to see how they compare to my TQ Black.

If I were to make an allegory with cables and cars, cables would be the suspention and/or wheel angle adjustment rather than the wheels (wheels would be speakers). I think no one would argue that it wouldn’t make a difference to the performance, and if done wrong could be disastrous. But if done right could make a system so much better. Fortunately Naim provide a rather well tuned "suspension” with the included cables and Naca5. Improving on this will in most cases come at a cost, a cost most people will judge as expencive. Some will find it worth it, some not, it might be down to differences in wheels, cars, or roads travelled...

I have just bought a used Naim mains cable with the crabtree plug contemporary with my 282/300 to replace the Powerline I sold. One tail ON the two tail Hydra I have has stopped working and so until I have it looked at I forked out £20 for the used Naim cable it will be interesting to see if I can recall a huge difference between it an d the £600 Powerline.

joerand posted:
wenger2015 posted:

JoeRand, invest is not the best word to use, although black boxes do hold their value reasonably well, it’s more a case of making sure the boxes we buy work to the optimum level, hence the need for quality cables 

 A 'quality' cable is simply as it plays to the ears in a room, cost notwithstanding.

Obviously quality cables are not judged on cost.

But if you hooked up your system with the SL full loom, I think you would have a ‘wow’ moment....the problem you have, looking at your profile is that you need 27 ft runs either side...... I fully understand you don’t want to remortgage the house

Thought I would swing by a question here rather than start a new thread.

I am toying with trying the TQ Silver Diamond DIN/DIN as a possible replacement to my SL DIN/DIN. 

The reason is I have TQ Ultra Black speaker cable and the " should be all the same cable manufacturer " mantra is starting to creep inside my head. 

The SL speaker cable is off the list (due to cost/budget). 

Thoughts ?

There have been so many opinions expressed on cables recently that, for once, I have decided that any future additions to my system will follow an audition at home.

Previously there has usually been a consensus on pros and cons of various components which I have been happy to gamble with.  Not so for cables it seems!  If you can, I would suggest a conversation with your dealer to see if you can borrow a DIN/DIN cable.  I realise in many ways this is not a helpful response however, this is my suggestion to help you make an informed decision.

Peter

crackie posted:

Thought I would swing by a question here rather than start a new thread.

I am toying with trying the TQ Silver Diamond DIN/DIN as a possible replacement to my SL DIN/DIN. 

The reason is I have TQ Ultra Black speaker cable and the " should be all the same cable manufacturer " mantra is starting to creep inside my head. 

The SL speaker cable is off the list (due to cost/budget). 

Thoughts ?

I’m using the TQ Black Diamond, which is absolutely superb, before adding the Silver Diamond Speaker cables I was using the Ultra blacks. 

I was perfectly happy with the set up before I auditioned the Silver Diamonds!!!!

Your in a win win situation, the only thing to bear in mind is they do take a long time to run in..

crackie posted:
<snip> " should be all the same cable manufacturer " <snip>

Why?

Do you believe there's some similarity between the design of interconnects and speaker cables (at least beyond that of a conductor in an insulator)?

Do you believe there's some magic 'synergy' in the sound irrespective of the sound characteristics of the audio components that the cables join?


Best to do the home audition.

In most discussions of cables there is usually missed one component that I feel is absolutely vital to consider.

The listener...

Their expectations
Their preferences
'How' they listen to music.

In my opinion, when selecting cables, these have a greater influence than does the manufacturer of the cable.

 

In my own personal experience I hear very considerable differences between interconnect cables but much smaller differences between speaker cables.

This is due to the priority order of the particular sound characteristics that are important to me and the way I hear music, then lastly it's influenced by the audio components I have.

I have a few questions / observations that I think are relevant to this subject.


The first is what makes a cable "worth the money".  Well that's perhaps surprisingly the easiest question even if there are a few answers...

Purchaser perception:  It's worth it if the customer still thinks it's worth it after they bought it - trite but true.
Relative perceived Quality:  If the customer perceives the subjective ratio of quality to price to be equal to or greater than competing products.
Quality for price:  Best perceived quality achievable in a given price bracket.
Price for quality:  Best achievable price for a given perceived quality.

 

However these all depend the price element and also on some (subjective) measure of perceived quality...

Can we define "perceived quality"?
Well possibly we could achieve an estimate of mean perceived quality using double blind testing, but of how much use is this when were's talking about a stimulus (such as music) that is perceived differently by different individuals, and additionally subject to the whims of individual taste.  Certainty the mean perception of quality could be used as a guide for selection of a short-list for personal assessment, but, due to the individual response to the stimulus, it's not an appropriate decision making criterion.

 

Finally we come to the price element; and here we at least have the potential for a little more clarity as there are a defined number of specific criteria...

Per item materials cost
Per item manufacturing cost
Per item testing cost
Per item marketing cost
Per item packaging and distribution cost
Amortised product development cost
Amortised production set-up cost
Manufacturer's profit
Per item sales cost & profit (distributor & retail mark-ups)

 

Unfortunately there's very little information from high end cable manufacturers to justify the costs.  However, having made many of my own cables, I do have an understanding of how cables are constructed and the materials in use.  Hence I have a reference point from which to make comparisons with commercially manufactured cables; including how to estimate how much is engineering and how much is bling.
So, working from this position of somewhat above average knowledge, my conclusion is that, in the case of expensive cables, sadly the last two seem items to be a much greater proportion of the overall cost than is the case for most other products.

Sometimes (In reply to the original question). But why the firing squad is always ready for the costly cables, and never for the super costly PSUs? If we reason in terms of £ per LPR (listening pleasure return), and consider stuff, handwork, etc., are we sure that SuperLumina are more 'expensive' than a 555PS? 

I think we still need to allow for the conceptual difference cables bring to the party.   In that sense of the "upgrade" especially.

Having £500 to 1K disposable funds to spend on something is a lot easier to recover from, than something like what's typically charged for a Naim box upgrade.  

Value for money can be more readily quantified here perhaps ?

Huge posted:

I have a few questions / observations that I think are relevant to this subject.


The first is what makes a cable "worth the money".  Well that's perhaps surprisingly the easiest question even if there are a few answers...

Purchaser perception:  It's worth it if the customer still thinks it's worth it after they bought it - trite but true.
Relative perceived Quality:  If the customer perceives the subjective ratio of quality to price to be equal to or greater than competing products.
Quality for price:  Best perceived quality achievable in a given price bracket.
Price for quality:  Best achievable price for a given perceived quality.

 

However these all depend the price element and also on some (subjective) measure of perceived quality...

Can we define "perceived quality"?
Well possibly we could achieve an estimate of mean perceived quality using double blind testing, but of how much use is this when were's talking about a stimulus (such as music) that is perceived differently by different individuals, and additionally subject to the whims of individual taste.  Certainty the mean perception of quality could be used as a guide for selection of a short-list for personal assessment, but, due to the individual response to the stimulus, it's not an appropriate decision making criterion.

 

Finally we come to the price element; and here we at least have the potential for a little more clarity as there are a defined number of specific criteria...

Per item materials cost
Per item manufacturing cost
Per item testing cost
Per item marketing cost
Per item packaging and distribution cost
Amortised product development cost
Amortised production set-up cost
Manufacturer's profit
Per item sales cost & profit (distributor & retail mark-ups)

 

Unfortunately there's very little information from high end cable manufacturers to justify the costs.  However, having made many of my own cables, I do have an understanding of how cables are constructed and the materials in use.  Hence I have a reference point from which to make comparisons with commercially manufactured cables; including how to estimate how much is engineering and how much is bling.
So, working from this position of somewhat above average knowledge, my conclusion is that, in the case of expensive cables, sadly the last two seem items to be a much greater proportion of the overall cost than is the case for most other products.

I’m not sure that your last assessment here is entirely fair. You’re basing your knowledge, unless I’ve misunderstood you, on having bought some pre-manufactured cable and attached a connector at either end. If that’s correct then all you’ve done is made a cable from “off-the-shelf” components and avoided build, marketing, packaging, distribution, r&d and test costs. You just paid for some materials.  I have no doubt that some cables are indeed based simply on sub-contract manufacture of pre-existing elements but I don’t believe that applies to all. 

Max_B posted:

Sometimes (In reply to the original question). But why the firing squad is always ready for the costly cables, and never for the super costly PSUs? If we reason in terms of £ per LPR (listening pleasure return), and consider stuff, handwork, etc., are we sure that SuperLumina are more 'expensive' than a 555PS? 

Hi Max. You raise an interesting point. I do think there is an expectation bias in favor of active versus passive components. Most seem more willing to spend more money on speakers and electronics versus cables, and within each category, we see a much discussed pecking order.

i am not advocating for anything here. These days, unless I am asked, I only rarely share my opinions on how others should spend their money. In general, I do think that there is an amazing number of high quality alternatives for building/upgrading an audio setup. VFM is, of course, debatable. But for all of the negative press and dire predictions, audio still feels to me like a viable marketplace seeing ongoing innovation.

Hmm... let me think what the cable manufactures do...

They do some R&D.
They specify a customised reel of cable from a wire & cable manufacturer (specifying grade of wire, lay and insulation - or just use a standard type with customised lettering on the jacket!).
They buy connectors from a connector supplier (even Chord signature Reference and and Sarum T use Prehkeytek and Rean DINs respectively and both use standard Neutrik XLRs), but often these are unmarked 'OEM' versions.
They assemble the cables
They test the cables (maybe 15 seconds each!)

That's exactly the same as I do (without the cable customisation such as the 'bling' on the outer jacket)!   True I don't have the marketing and distribution / sales costs, but my cables cost less than 5% of the cost of equivalent commercial products.

Even allowing for assembly, test and R&D costs being equal to materials cost that means a 10x mark-up in the last two cost items.

90% of the price of cables is the profit and the distribution chain.    I rest my case.

It's what Chord do, it's what Atlas do, it also appears to be what TQ do (but I haven't completed my research here); Audioquest and QED buy/commission somewhat customised connectors as well.  Some of the minor players such as Kimber Kables and DNM 'plough their own furrow' with cable design (although they both use completely standard connectors).

I haven't studied all the others in depth (I'd be very surprised if many of them are that much different than the market leaders!)

Naim are unusual in that they designed their own DIN connectors and use highly customised cable.

Huge posted:

 

That's exactly the same as I do (without the cable customisation such as the 'bling' on the outer jacket)!   True I don't have the marketing and distribution / sales costs, but my cables cost less than 5% of the cost of equivalent commercial products.

Even allowing for assembly, test and R&D costs being equal to materials cost that means a 10x mark-up in the last two cost items.

90% of the price of cables is the profit and the distribution chain.    I rest my case.

One reason I’m asking my wife for a stocking stuffer of a soldering kit this year. DIY is in our family’s genes and I figured its about time to tackle my own cables, etc. Will practice on scrap first of course! 

That said there are some cables best left to the pros. I just received an ethernet cable from Ghent Audio with Metz connectors (one 45 angle) and the JSSG (John Swenson ground shield - essentially a separate ground that connects the shield only). The cable is a freaking anaconda, but sounds amazing. Broke the bank at $80, but that’s a lot more palatable than a Vertere for $1k plus. I just couldn’t see myself soldering something like this, or the star quad into Oyaide dc connectors I also got from Ghent for my Uptone LPS to micrRendu. All the cables from Ghent I’ve gotten have been top notch and inexpensive. 

Cables won’t make your amp bigger or speakers better. But they might, esp at the source end, help reveal more info and bring the electrical noise down which can Lead to your amp, DAC, etc sounding its best. What you want to spend on cables though is ultimately between you, god, and your wallet! $100 is my cap, though my 3.5m pair of NACA5 came in at $125 (used) and my Witchhat DIN4 about the same. I use AV Options Tibia Plusses (custom at 3 feet each) on my Naim gear. 

Max_B posted:

Sometimes (In reply to the original question). But why the firing squad is always ready for the costly cables, and never for the super costly PSUs? If we reason in terms of £ per LPR (listening pleasure return), and consider stuff, handwork, etc., are we sure that SuperLumina are more 'expensive' than a 555PS? 

I think one reason is that passive components, like cables, probably cannot improve the signal to noise ratio (IMO this would not be possible because they are supposed to work as linearly as possible, I may be wrong here), while active components can. And I assume DR PSU technology from Naim or Dynamik PSU Technology from Linn do exactly that, lowering the noise floor and improving the SNR. So I'm willing to pay more for active components than passive ones.

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