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Thread: Do mains cables make a difference??

  1. #181
    Join Date: Apr 2018

    Location: Cornwall

    Posts: 56
    I'm Dominic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Qwin View Post
    I'm still skeptical about mains leads Marco, beyond any improvements made by just using thicker copper than the poor (thin) leads that are usually supplied.

    I've seen some fairly outrageous leads (came in their own flight case and at a special show price of £1,700 off the asking price) plugged into kit and heard no difference at all, over a basic 25amp mains lead it replaced. So your not alone Macca, I wanted to hear a difference, but couldn't, if there was one, it was so small I didn't pick up on it and I'm sure that amount of money spent elsewhere in the system, would have a more noticeable effect on sound quality.

    The automatic "Shielding must be good", just doesn't float for me. Unless you are using a separate grounding system for the shield and not your safety earth. All you are doing is collecting any interference using the very effective aerial the shield is and putting that interference into the safety earth circuit, which is connected to your case and probably used as the ground plane of your electronics. This might actually be worse than no shield at all, so I struggle with that one. Using a separate shield ground like a copper rod stuck in the ground etc, I can see how that might in principle, help prevent noise getting in.

    Too many people have said they heard improvements for me to ignore the notion, I just haven't experienced it yet myself.
    An excellent and level headed post Ken and I am particularly impressed with the fact that you recognised the cheap flimsy rubbish mains cables that they truly are.

    I have played with some really esoteric cables in my time and have learned that the laws of diminishing returns applies to cables like no other component. The jump from the cheapo freebie up to something in the £50-£80 bracket is usually a big step, with in percentage terms around 60% of sound improvement. Going on to around the £100 mark yields around 8%-10% over and above the £50-£80 cable and I wish I could add a linear scale to the money spent relating to the improvements gained in percentage terms, but even a smarter man than me would have trouble compiling that scale.

    So why then do some people spend the price of a car on one single cable KNOWING that the level of sound improvement could be infitessimally small? Some people just have to have the best because it is available to buy, some may have their ego massaged by owning said cable, but there are some people that are almost clinically addicted to upgrading higher and higher to reach a pinnacle. Who knows? I am too poor to be similarly afflicted
    CD player = Vincent
    Pre amp = Rotel RA03
    Power amp = Lyngdorf SDA 2175
    Speaks = Quadral Chromium Style 6

  2. #182
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 77,271
    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nonuffin View Post
    Thank you Marco. I am delighted the entire thread stayed so positive throughout without corns getting stepped on.
    That would never be allowed to happen here, as we moderate *very strictly* to prevent that type of behaviour occurring, or anyone who thinks they're entitled to say what they like, in the most arrogant or obnoxious manner, without consequences.

    Banishing that crap to oblivion (and those responsible for it) was one of the first goals I set out to achieve when AoS was born. And now that the forum is successful and well-established, it's a case of OUR way or the highway!

    Like you probably, I am the sort of person that asks the question "Why?" and it took me ages to work out that a mains cable change wasn't really putting something 'wonderful' into the system, I was in actual fact taking OUT what was flawed, hence the resultant improvement in sound quality because the inbound cable has less flaws that the outgoing one.
    Yup, that for me, is *exactly* what's going on. Therefore, you should always think of any cable 'upgrade' experienced, precisely like that!

    My thought processes ever since have deduced that all cables are flawed in some way or other (there is no "perfect" cable) and our job is to find the right set of flaws that suits our systems (AKA synergy) and our own individual listening preferences which are infinitely variable. Hearing acuity is widely variable too, so that also has to be taken into account.
    Indeed - exactly so!

    I also agree with your point on hearing acuity, although acuity aside, I do also believe that some people can benefit from being 'trained' on how to hear subtle changes in musical presentation when, let's call it, 'less bad', cables are introduced into a system, before they 'get' what's going on, as some are inherently more attuned to picking up on those changes than others.

    Making all 'freebie' cables the low point as being the ones with the most flaws really has untangled the complex cables question for me personally and I wish no more than other people make this their starting point too.
    You just have to get your head around that notion, and most importantly of all, stop using cables as glorified tone controls!

    Marco.
    http://www.thestainedglasscompany.com

    "A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do" -- Milan Kundera.

  3. #183
    Join Date: Oct 2016

    Location: Bolton, England

    Posts: 1,140
    I'm Andrew.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Qwin View Post
    I'm still skeptical about mains leads Marco, beyond any improvements made by just using thicker copper than the poor (thin) leads that are usually supplied...

    The automatic "Shielding must be good", just doesn't float for me. Unless you are using a separate grounding system for the shield and not your safety earth. All you are doing is collecting any interference using the very effective aerial the shield is and putting that interference into the safety earth circuit, which is connected to your case and probably used as the ground plane of your electronics.
    My take on this is that there are several possible explanations for hearing a difference in performance, but they will all depend on what equipment they're used with. Here's one possibility:

    RF generated by the power supply rectifier. Most linear power supplies start off the same way - transformer, rectifier, smoothing capacitors. Current does not flow into the power supply in a smooth, continuous way - it comes in spikes at the peak of the mains waveform. That current spike causes the rectifier to emit a burst of RF noise. It is common practice, though by no means universal, that small ceramic caps are used in parallel with the rectifier diodes to suppress the noise. Audiophiles like to mod thing by changing the rectifier diodes with fancier alternatives such as ultra-fast diodes or soft recovery diodes. Is the difference all due to the RF noise they produce? Maybe.
    Now consider a mains cable that has a higher impedance than a standard cable. The extra resistance will limit the current inrush and limit the spike which the rectifier is subjected to, and therefore limit the RF noise it produces. In this instance a thinner cable might perform better than a thicker one. Certainly it might perform differently, at least from an RF noise point of view.
    However, and difference will depend on how the equipment has been designed. If the power supply already has some resistance in series (or maybe a choke) the rectifier is already protected from excessive charging spikes anyway, so a change of mains cable might make no audible difference.

    Here's another thought:
    Take a look at the mains filter circuits on this page http://www.emcia.org/awareness/Pages.../Filtering.htm
    You see capacitors between live and neutral and coupled inductors etc. All these elements occur within any piece of mains cable anyway. A capacitor is only two conductors with an insulator between, so all cables have some capacitance. Similarly, all cables have inductance too. Manipulating these elements by weaving the conductors together, or by spacing them apart, will affect the way that RF is conducted by the cable, or filtered by the cable. It's perfectly possible for a cable to filter RF, though I wouldn't expect it to be a particularly effective filter. If the equipment to be powered is sensitive to RF on the mains it's perfectly possible that a change of mains cable could be detectable. No great mystery there.

    As for shielding, it can be effective at suppressing noise radiated from the cable. The mains safety earth doesn't have to be connected directly to signal 0V, and in my opinion should never be, though it often is - so again the effect the shielded cable has will depend on how the equipment is designed.

    Clearly there are too many variables to be able to say "Brand X has such-and-such a sonic characteristic and will impose that characteristic with whatever amp/preamp/phonostage/CD player/streamer etc. you connect it to". The universe isn't that simple.

  4. #184
    Join Date: Apr 2018

    Location: Cornwall

    Posts: 56
    I'm Dominic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marco View Post

    I also agree with your point on hearing acuity, although acuity aside, I do also believe that some people need 'trained' on how to hear subtle changes in musical presentation when, let's call it, 'less bad', cables are introduced into a system, before they 'get' it, as some are inherently more attuned to picking up on those changes than others.

    Marco.
    Glad you raised that matter because I was somewhat affeared from mentioning it in case it did tread on some corns.

    Go to any hi-fi show and just listen to the comments people make as they come out of a demonstration and that gives an indicator to just how variable people's hearing acuity and listening preferences vary so widely. Some say it was "too bright", some say "not enough detail", or "too much bass for me", or whatever, even though it was one fixed system playing the same music to everyone. The mind boggles sometimes

    I said in an earlier post I have two friends that join me for a listening sesh sometimes and one of them only notices a change in sound character when the system is off lol. While us two are talking about nuances and inflections, soundstage and microdynamics, he quips it has a lovely tone. Love the man to bits, but he is an example of someone who listens with a broad brush rather than chewing over and dissecting the finer points.

    Taught a few people now how to really "get" into the music by listening in stages. I ask them to listen to a track and focus on one instrument in complete isolation, shutting everything else out completely. I then play the same track again and attention must be paid to another instrument in isolation. I repeat that process until there is no instruments left to hear, then play the track again and make no restrictions on what they are hearing. Amazingly, they can hear every instrument clearly in parallel despite being asked beforehand to listen to one instrument alone. I suppose without even realising it I must do the same as I notice a tad more sheen from cymbals, a bit more heft in the bass or whatever this way as I use my brain almost as a reel to reel tape recorder so I memorise each and every detail.
    CD player = Vincent
    Pre amp = Rotel RA03
    Power amp = Lyngdorf SDA 2175
    Speaks = Quadral Chromium Style 6

  5. #185
    Join Date: Dec 2014

    Location: UK, East Midlands

    Posts: 897
    I'm Mike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nonuffin View Post
    Making all 'freebie' cables the low point as being the ones with the most flaws really has untangled the complex cables question for me personally and I wish no more than other people make this their starting point too.
    Must admit I tend to stick with the 'freebie' mains cable I get with an amplifier - I figure that it was chosen to complement the 'freebie' casing, 'freebie' transformer and 'freebie' volume control they supply with it.

  6. #186
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Birmingham

    Posts: 3,695
    I'm James.

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    I must say Marco your new Avatar picture is an amazing likeness

  7. #187
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

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    I'll get to the other new posts here later.

    Marco.
    http://www.thestainedglasscompany.com

    "A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do" -- Milan Kundera.

  8. #188
    Join Date: Aug 2010

    Location: East Midlands

    Posts: 359
    I'm Hugh.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nonuffin View Post
    Taught a few people now how to really "get" into the music by listening in stages. I ask them to listen to a track and focus on one instrument in complete isolation, shutting everything else out completely. I then play the same track again and attention must be paid to another instrument in isolation. I repeat that process until there is no instruments left to hear, then play the track again and make no restrictions on what they are hearing. Amazingly, they can hear every instrument clearly in parallel despite being asked beforehand to listen to one instrument alone. I suppose without even realising it I must do the same as I notice a tad more sheen from cymbals, a bit more heft in the bass or whatever this way as I use my brain almost as a reel to reel tape recorder so I memorise each and every detail.



    Far too analytical/(anal?) for my taste I must confess. For me the bottom line is the music.

  9. #189
    Join Date: May 2009

    Location: Bristol

    Posts: 3,855

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    Quote Originally Posted by narabdela View Post
    Far too analytical/(anal?) for my taste I must confess. For me the bottom line is the music.
    We'll have none of that sort of talk here, thank you very much.

  10. #190
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 77,271
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    Quote Originally Posted by narabdela View Post
    Far too analytical/(anal?) for my taste I must confess. For me the bottom line is the music.
    I think the goal (and hopefully end result) is precisely to increase one's enjoyment of music, not detract from it. And once properly learned, should come naturally

    Marco.
    http://www.thestainedglasscompany.com

    "A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do" -- Milan Kundera.

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