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SCREEN SHOTS: 4 Brands Of Component Video Cable Compared....


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#1 of 31 Rich H

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Posted January 15 2005 - 03:46 PM

Hey guys, I did this on another forum and people seemed to enjoy it (and the results were fascinating), so I thought I'd bring it here too.

I am posting a link to a gallery of screen shots. The shots compare the performance of 4 different brands of component video cables in my system. These are DVD images on my Panasonic 42" ED plasma. I used freeze-frame images and switched between the 4 brands of cable, taking a screen shot of each.

In the gallery, for each DVD image, you'll find 4 uncompressed file screen shots - one of each cable brand image - and then those same screen shots "ZOOMED IN" or enlarged via photo editing software, so you can look for more fine details.

Before I reveal which brand is which, this will be a "blind test" poll with each brand only represented by A,B,C or D. Please view the shots and then post your vote for the Cable that seemed to produce the best images. (Cable A, B, C, D..or if you can't tell a difference between them please say so). Also, please post any comments you have about the images. I will reveal the identity of each cable in the screen shots after the poll (maybe after a day or so).

I've found two methods are good for comparing the shots. One is to click on the first shot in a sequence (make sure ORIGINAL SIZE is indicated below the image, if not select original size and all subsequent shots will open up in original size). Then, to the top right of the image just click on "Next" to switch to the next screen shot. Alternatively you could open up the shots in separate browser windows...or whatever.



Here Is The Link To The Cable Comparison Screen Shots

Obviously there is nothing definitive about this, but I figured I'd share the fun (pain, actually) of my own comparison with the folks here.

The 1 Meter Length Component Cables I used were these 4 brands:


XLO ER DVD3 Component Cables. ($170 Canadian)



Ultra Link Challenger Home Theater Series. The cheapest cables at $40 CDN a meter.


Canare V3-3C Component Cables. These cost me about $70 CDN to have professionally made locally.

Nordost Optix Video Cables. Top of the line boutique cables. These are always reviewed as about the top performance you can buy for video cables. 1 meter costs $360 CDN.


BACKGROUND / DISCUSSION

As a long time audiophile and more recently videophile (hideous labels, but what the heck) I am well steeped in the issue of Cable Wars: how much if any difference do various brands of cables make in terms of perceptible differences in performance. I've done the rounds with audio cables and power cables many times, including blind testing. It's only been the past couple years that I've started comparing video cables. The part of me that is an inveterate tweaker wants cables to make a difference, because I always want more performance out of my system. My rational, scientific side says the basic facts of engineering say that, any competently made cable, appropriately deployed (e.g. at a length at which it performs properly, and not in an abnormally "noisy" interference environment) SHOULD look indistinguishable from another competent cable. My wallet also does not want to see a really expensive cable outperform one I can afford.

I had to re-cable a bit of my system recently and whished to purchase 17 ft of cable from my video switcher to my 42" Panasonic Plasma. I wanted a known quantity, a professional-grade cable well made. After agonizing of the specs of RG6 cables from Belden and Canare I ended up "letting go" of my specs infatuation in order to get the more flexible Canare LV-61S cables. These seemed a good choice because they have some bending and twisty routes, including attaching to my plasma, which I move about on it's articulated arm mount. I also had a 4 foot length of Canare V3-3C (included in the test images) made up to go from my DVD player to my Inday Video Switcher. While the specs aren't as impressive as the Canare and Belden RG6-based cables, my Canare cables are in engineering terms supposed to easily meet the needs of HD transmission (at the lengths I'm using) and be way over-kill for Progressive DVD. After all, this is the stuff - Canare and Belden - typically used in the professional studios that are actually making the content we view.

But of course each boutique cable manufacturer makes it's claim to how their cable affects the images on your display. "Clearer, sharper, richer color than the other brand." We see reviews mentioning "smoother, lower picture noise, more vivid reds, more dimensional etc." Now, it would be one thing if these claims were associated with really, really long runs of cable (for instance, you might start looking for trouble with some cables after the propagation of one video wave length which I think is about 66 feet). However, these claims are generally made for comparisons between short lengths of cable - 1 or two meters for instance. At which point many Electrical Engineers will tend to scoff that one would see any performance difference between decent cables.

So, out of curiosity I did my own little shoot out between the fairly low cost Ultra Link cables up through to the most lauded Nordost video cables to see if I could see a difference. I didn't have anyone to help me so it wasn't a blind test, just me trying to spot differences. Now, it might be protested that DVD on a 42" ED plasma wouldn't be good enough to spot cable differences. I would counter that with: The cable makers and reviewers make claims that one WILL see differences on set-ups like mine. Secondly, the resolution of 480p (progressive scan DVD) is way below any frequency limitations one should find in a decent cable. And it's not like an ED plasma doesn't have enough resolution - it has plenty of resolution for the limits of DVD.

Now, while the screen shots represent 4 brands of cable at about 1 meter length each, my own testing went beyond that to testing my 16 ft length of Canare against those shorter-length cables too, and also testing my Inday Video Switcher for any visible degradation. At one point I compared my DVD playing through the meter of Canare V3-3C cable, into the Inday switcher, out the 16 foot length to the plasma, against the Nordost 1m length of cable directly into my plasma. Unfortunately I'll have to elaborate on what I saw after the Poll is done here.

Have fun.

#2 of 31 Brad E

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Posted January 15 2005 - 05:56 PM

Thanks for taking the time to set this up. How did you take the pictures? Did you have the camera on a tripod?

I did notice slight (very slight) differences from cable to cable. But I could not distinguish which one was the best, or the worst.

My conclusion: Cables are cables, they are essentially the same.

#3 of 31 Parker Clack

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Posted January 15 2005 - 10:05 PM

I am like Brad in that I really didn't see THAT much of a difference but out of the images that you have displayed I prefer C.

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#4 of 31 Mike Ki

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Posted January 16 2005 - 01:29 AM

I think that C looks the best by far. Please let me know what type of cables those are as I will be purchasing my component cables soon.
Thanks Mike

#5 of 31 Brian Fellmeth

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Posted January 16 2005 - 04:46 AM

Cable C looks best and the others are all the same.

#6 of 31 Dick Boneske

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Posted January 16 2005 - 05:51 AM

Thanks for taking the time to do this test. I've seen similar tests done for audio cables (especially speaker cables), which can get just as expensive as video--some people spend 30-40% as much on cables as they spend for their loudspeakers. If they would look inside their amplifiers' speaker output circuit and wiring inside their speakers, they would be astounded to see 18 gage or smaller hookup wire. To some of you it may make sense to run 12 gage or larger wire between your amplifier and speaker, but a blind test like the one Rich did here may surprise most people.

As for your results with video cables, Rich, it seems to me that evaluating picture quality on a 19" or smaller computer screen is impossible. For those that think "C" is the best quality picture, it would be interesting to see what they would say if you changed the order around before revealing the cables used.

I predict there will be no discernable difference with any of the cables no matter what the screen size. It would have been interesting to throw in some Radio Shack or other low-cost cables for comparison, also.

Let's hope this prompts some people viewing this forum to spend their money on items that actually make an improvement, like a better monitor.
Dick

#7 of 31 Andre D

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Posted January 16 2005 - 09:52 AM

I see no difference between the 4 screen shots. Also, if I do have to look that closely at each of them, the difference is not worth paying for. When someone talks to me about seeing or hearing a huge difference between cables, I just agree with them to shut them up. I do understand that everyone has their own opinion when it comes to cables. This is one argument that will never cease.

#8 of 31 PerryD

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Posted January 16 2005 - 12:01 PM

I agree that C looks better, mainly due to sharpness, and B looks the worst, again due to sharpness. I could not tell any difference in color quality. I only compared the New York city scene.

#9 of 31 Scott Sox

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Posted January 16 2005 - 01:27 PM

I picked C as the best and A as the worst. Differences were slight and it took some effort to see them. In day to day use I really don't think it would matter.

#10 of 31 Rich H

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Posted January 16 2005 - 01:31 PM

Brad:

I took the photos with my digital camera on a tripod. Lights out. Freeze frame DVD images. Low shutter speed (around 1/4 second), same exposure/shutter speed for each shot in a sequence. It's pretty tricky stuff. The camera has to be at just the right distance or you get weird distortion (moir) artifacts.

#11 of 31 Rich H

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Posted January 16 2005 - 01:43 PM

Ok guys, I won't keep you in suspense as long as I did for the folks over at the AVSforum.

Here is the identity of the cables in the screen shots:

Cable A = Canare
Cable B = Nordost
Cable C = Ultra Link
Cable D = XLO

We let this blind test go on longer at the other forum with a running poll for people to choose which cable image looked "best." The results (so far) are:

186 votes.

16 votes (8.6 %) for Canare
23 votes ( 12%) for Nordost
28 votes ( 15%) for UltraLink
17 votes (9%) for XLO
102 votes (55%) for "Can't see any difference between them."

Typical null results: Essentially what one would expect if there were no difference between the performance of the cable.

As for my own experience, in my direct comparisons of these cables on my display I could tell no difference between them. I looked at resolution patterns, test patterns, DVD images looped, frozen, the whole deal.
In fact, at one point I compared all the cables agains my DVD player running through a meter of Canare, into my Inday video switcher, out through 16 feet of Canare to my plasma. Still no detectable difference compared to the other meter-lengthed cables patched straight in. FWIW.

As to the screen shots at first I thought I was detecting a pattern. But when I started looking at them really studiously in a kind of "blind" test, I couldn't reliably see any pattern of one being better than another.

I've done quite a bit of blind testing - cables, power cables, CD players/DACs, even speakers. It's always fascinating.

Thanks for your feedback and I hope this doesn't mean the end of comments on this little test. It's interesting reading people's views.

Cheers,

#12 of 31 Brad E

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Posted January 16 2005 - 02:10 PM

So in all the blind testing that you have done, have you noticed any power cord, audio cable or video cable that did make a noticable difference?

After doing some limited testing of my own and a lot of reading, I've become a firm believer that all cables are essentially the same.
The only differences that I have noticed is build quality. Some cables have better shielding and will perform better than cables without shielding if there is interference. But take away the interference and they perform the same to my eyes.

It would also be interesting to see a comparison with long cables, say 50'. I'd like to know if some cables deterorate the signal over a certain length. But at $360 a meter, this would be an expensive test.

I'm currently using a 25' component cable that I paid $14.00 for. It even has cheap rca ends on it, but I still could not see any difference between this and my more expensive, better built 1 m cable.

#13 of 31 Dick Boneske

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Posted January 16 2005 - 03:47 PM

Thanks again for taking the time to test the video cables against each other. This is the kind of posting that really helps those of us without the patience or knowledge to research this as you did.

As some responded, the disagreement over "black magic" audio/video cables, computer cables, and other add-ons will probably never end. I've experienced audio equipment sales personnel that will NOT allow you to listen to high end loudspeaker systems without using their favorite cables--always expensive.

Some of you may remember Stereo Review magazine tested audio amplifiers in a blind listening test ranging from a $150 Pioneer receiver to a kitchen-stove sized vacuum tube power amplifier with no statistical winner. You may also remember the green marking pens to mark the edges of CD's and the device to freeze CD's to something like -50 degrees F. that "made them sound better"

To some of us, the money spent on aftermarket power cords, regulated power supplies, premium cables, is absolutely unbelievable!! As some of you said, it's best to listen to those who disagree just to shut them up. If you can, try to do what Rich did in a simpler way--maybe using only two brands of cables, amplifier, power supply, or other component.
Dick

#14 of 31 Kenneth Harden

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Posted January 16 2005 - 04:52 PM

Dick:

I agree on the cables. As long as they are well built, suit your needs (either looks and/or fit and finish), they are fine.

I completly disagree with the amp test (not your reporting on it, but the test itself) - If I hook my Klipsch's up to my Sony receiver, there is a TON of 'hissssss' in the background and it washes out all detail. I hook it up to a old, but good, Kenwood receiver (~1975), the hiss is reduced by a huge factor, HUGE. There is absolutly no questioning this. It was LOUD hiss vs. almost no hiss. Just that alone as a fact.

Then, I could get into the issue that the lowest octave was NON-EXSISTANT and the bass went from clean (on the Kenwood) to flabby, loose, and some bass (kick drums) were not able to even hit - possibly due to the fact the Sony cannot drive a 15" woofer that well. Again, I am talking about obvious night and day differences, not 'the midrange had more clarity and preasence than...' BIG, BIG differences.

Oh, no green pens on the CD's for me...or cable risers...or Shitake stones...or 1 oz. of snake oil treatment...

*****

Rich:

Great review! Kinda confirms what I believe. Pbase is the best!

#15 of 31 Andre D

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Posted January 17 2005 - 03:20 AM

Quote:
I completly disagree with the amp test (not your reporting on it, but the test itself) - If I hook my Klipsch's up to my Sony receiver, there is a TON of 'hissssss' in the background and it washes out all detail. I hook it up to a old, but good, Kenwood receiver (~1975), the hiss is reduced by a huge factor, HUGE. There is absolutly no questioning this. It was LOUD hiss vs. almost no hiss. Just that alone as a fact.


Kenneth, this may be a stupid question, but did you turn off the sound processing built into both units (flat equalization, bass boost, etc.)? Again, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I suspect there were other variables that played a role in your results.

#16 of 31 Kenneth Harden

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Posted January 17 2005 - 05:15 AM

Yes, everything was off. No EQ, sound modes, etc. The Sony was in the purest mode, '2CH' for 2 channel. The Kenwood has nothing like that. Apples to apples.

Same speakers in the same spot, just took the speaker wires and RCA's from the Kenwood to the Sony.

Again, not subtle at all.

#17 of 31 Dick Boneske

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Posted January 17 2005 - 06:14 AM

Ken,

If these two amplifiers sound very different, there is something radically wrong with one of them. I have switched amplifiers with all other system parameters left alone, and have not heard a differences, except under extreme high output conditions or if tone controls or equalization was involved.

If you conduct this test with two receivers or separate amplifiers, I believe you will find no audible differences at moderate listening levels. If you remove the covers, you will see that many Sony, Pioneer, Denon, Kenwood, NAD, H-K, Technics, and others share the same circuitry. Some brands tweak the off-the-shelf electronic devices to their own preferences, but many are nearly identical.

This is all positive, as they are all so good today that you can make your buying decision by features and price. The automatic calibration (as the 1014 Pioneer uses) will make any system sound as good as it can--but with the option to tweak this setting if you chose.
Dick

#18 of 31 Kenneth Harden

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Posted January 17 2005 - 07:13 AM

I am talking a old (1970's) Kenwood that tips the scales at over 60 pounds vs. a consumer whore piece of $300 Sony junk.

Also, the Klipsch's have 102 db. sens. so they will show off any little defect.

You are telling me that the $100 KLH receiver at Best Buy will sound no worse than a Denon 3805?

I'm kinda loosing you. Sure, a $5,000 vs. a $10,000 amp might be another issue, but I am comparing consumer junk to a fairly nice, well designed unit.

#19 of 31 DaveF

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Posted January 17 2005 - 07:23 AM

I'm not a videophile, and don't worry about cables, but this is an interesting topic and a great hobbyist test. It's particularly interesting to think about the image processing chain.

Still image with (?) 480x720 resolution. It was originally compressed with a lossy format that is intended for motion playback. (Still images are compressed differently from movies. Hence JPEG vs MPEG.)

This is displayed on a HD display with a resolution of (?) 1300 x 700. So the still image was likely interpolated and up-scaled to the display's native resolution.

The displayed image was then photographed with (?) a 4 mega-pixel camera and recompressed with a lossy format intended for still images (JPEG). All photographs had slightly different camera positions (judging from the images).

The still images were then down-sampled to about 800x455. (Which doesn't correspond to the original DVD, display, or camera resolution.)

They are then displayed on random monitors with unknown resoution and color performances.

I'd expect you'd have more image variation from the cumulative image manipulations than from the cables, unless there was something significantly different with a cable.

Yet, I saw subtle differences in the SpiderMan images I looked at, but I don't have a reference so I can't judge which was better.

More intriguing was the distinct preference for Cables B & C compared to A & D (ignoring the unwashed masses who don't see a difference Posted Image ).

It would be interesting to make each set of four have a different ABCD ordering, so cable B isn't always image B, and see if that affects the polling results.

Thanks for posting the images. Neat idea. Posted Image

#20 of 31 Andre D

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Posted January 17 2005 - 08:21 AM

Quote:
You are telling me that the $100 KLH receiver at Best Buy will sound no worse than a Denon 3805?


Once they're both playing within their limits and all forms of sound processing are off. It may take a little tweaking to make sure both are set equally. I don't doubt you when you say you heard a huge difference, but like I said, there is some sort of variable you may have overlooked.





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