Wednesday, May 28, 2014

£3k for an Ethernet cable..!?

Just in case they take it down I had to do a screen grab! Yes, there are people selling "audiophile" grade network cables for three grand.

Buy yours here!

All sorts of dishonesty is written about high end audio cabling - directional conductors, "burned in" mains cables, even quantum effects are cited as important ways to "improve sound clarity" etc. You can believe that decent quality copper cable makes some difference at analogue baseband but by the time you get to AES and even network cables so long as the packets are getting through there is nothing the design of the cable can do to change the sound being re-produced. Even in the case of analogue audio (either line level or the speaker cable) good quality copper is all that's needed.
Still, a fool (make that an audiophile) and his money are soon parted and once you've spent thousands of pounds on cable you probably can "hear" a difference!

So, the lies peddled about this particular brand;
Perfect-Surface Technology applied to extreme-purity silver provides unprecedented clarity and dynamic contrast. Solid conductors prevent strand interaction, a major source of cable distortion. Extremely high-purity Perfect-Surface Silver minimizes distortion caused by the grain boundaries which exist within any metal conductor, nearly eliminating harshness and greatly increasing clarity compared to OFHC, OCC, 8N and other coppers.
Just nonsense!  Electrical signals travel down cables by the movement of electrons. Copper (Oxygen free or otherwise) is about the best conductor commonly available and the "grain" or "strand interaction" has nothing to do with the movement of electrons. BUT, let's not forget that this is a network cable and the transit of TCP/IP packets has NOTHING to do with the "harshness" or "clarity" of the sound.
Any solid material adjacent to a conductor is actually part of an imperfect circuit. Wire insulation and circuit board materials all absorb energy (loss). Some of this energy is stored and then later released as distortion. Solid High-Density Polyethylene Insulation ensures critical signal-pair geometry while minimizing insulation-induced phase distortion.
Are they hinting at capacitance here? "Energy stored and then later released as distortion" - where do you start. This is so misleading. Network cables are twisted pair construction (relying on common-mode rejection on each pair) - they aren't coaxial cables (if they are referring to capacitive effects?). "Insulation induced phase distortion" - have any electronic engineers ever measured that?!

All audio cables are directional. The correct direction is determined by listening to every batch of metal conductors used in every AudioQuest audio cable. Arrows are clearly marked on the connectors to ensure superior sound quality. For best results have the arrow pointing in the direction of the flow of music. For example, NAS to Router, Router to Network Player.
Please - audio cables are not directional! As many electrons flow in one direction as the other. This old chestnut was commonly trotted out for analogue cable, it was a lie then, and it's a lie now. With a network cable packets travel in both directions as the TCP/IP handshake brings up a connection, data is transferred and then the connection is closed. There is no directionality for the packets, the data they carry or the electrical signals that represent the bits. 

What this all comes down to is that these snake-oil salesmen NEVER subject this tat to a double-blind test. If they did you find out that there aren't a pair of ears in the world that can actually "hear" the difference between a £3k and £2 network cable.


hks1966 said...

20 years ago I had to go out to a military establshment to do a call on some kit. I got talking with the guy who ran it and he claimed he didn't just have perfect pitch hearing, he had ABSOLUTE perfect pitch hearing which is a step beyond. He claimed his hearing was so sensitive that when he bought a CD player recently, I think it was a Philips, he coud tell by listening to the audio playback from it, which way round the mains 8-connector was in! Not only that, he also said he met someone else at an audio exhibition with the same absolute perfect pitch hearing who had the same CD player and the same problem with the mains connector. May be ordinary mortals like ourselves will never appreciate such supersenses?

Phil Crawley said...

Well the only way to know is a double-blind test. As soon as you rely on people to know what they're listening to AND make the judgement you are at the mercy of their ego/prejudice. I have a pal who spent £10k on his home HiFi and is convinced the Sonos compressed codec sounds better than uncompressed WAVs; it may sound different, but better *should* mean more faithful.
When I was at the BBC the Research Dept. conducted investigation into speaker cable and discovered that in double-blind tests with top-quality amps/speakers and "golden ears" nobody can tell the difference between expensive speaker cable and 5A mains cable.
You can't trust what people say unless they don't know what they're hearing and you've got 50/100/200 of them doing the test!
"The 600 plus participants could only pick the more expensive wine 53 percent of the time, which is basically random chance. (They actually performed below chance when it came to picking red wines. Bordeaux fared the worst, with a significant majority – 61 percent – picking the cheap plonk as the more expensive selection.)"