New Type of Listening Test for Cable Differences

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Lee Scoggins, Jul 31, 2002.

  1. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Friends,
    I have come across a new type of listening test I want to describe and get your reaction to:
    Goal: Find out if sonic differences exist in speaker wire.
    Null Test:
    1. Divide stereo in halves, each with its own cable. On left speaker, we place plain vanilla 12 guage wire. On the right, we place Cardas Golden Reference, my benchmark high end brand.
    2. Switch preamp to mono mode to drive a mono signal to both speakers. Now at this point, we have an exact signal being sent over both wires with the same speaker load.
    3. Use balance knob to switch from speaker to speaker. We can also listen simultaneously to both wires. Cover wire to hide cables.
    4. Note any differences heard on a variety of program material, being careful not to develop listener fatigue which can skew the results.
    5. Begin test with audience with more than casual listening ability.
    I think this is a good test, because of the following:
    a. Same signal path is assured for both wires.
    b. Ease of switching cables, without breaking and re-establishing connection points which can have a value and the real-time nature of the switch. No need for expensive cable comparator box.
    c. Listening simultaneously will highlight differences due to a different stereo image created if sonics not exactly the same.
    What do you think?
    What would you change?
    I may be able to create a test in NYC.
    Chu, does this work for you and your test parameters?
    My goal is simply a fair test whereby rock-bottom cable is compared to very well-designed and expensive speaker cable in a reasonable, easy to set up, and cost-effective environment.
    [​IMG]
     
  2. John Royster

    John Royster Screenwriter

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    Sounds pretty cool Lee.

    I'd suggest ensuring totally symetrical placement on both left and right speakers. In other words try to have a room that will affect both speakers in like ways.
     
  3. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    that sounds like a good idea. it's about as stable as you can get in a personalized listening test.
    one thought...
    i'm just taking a wild stab at this, but would the fact that you're sending a mono signal have any bearing? would the mono signal somehow "limit" the dynamic range that would be necessary for "critical" listening? most of the time when i hear a mono signal it sounds pretty dull and lifeless.
     
  4. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  5. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    I've read the other thread that's going around and have decided to stay out of it, not for a lack of interest, just that although its strayed into interesting territories, it deviates too signficantly from the power cord differences.
    First let me respond that one of the objectives of the test should be to determine whether one can reliably differentiate between two different speaker wires in the broadest sense possible. Perhaps the second objective might for the listener to ascribe a preference: good, worse, same. The test should also have as its objective that it should strive to represent components such as are typically represented in audio today. To that end, it would seem to me that means transistorized means of amplification and conventional loudspeakers. It should also represent likely and reasonable configurations and strive to not raise more objections such that the results of test could not be used to build upon for future tests. I think your suggestion would tend to raise these objections sufficient in quantity and merit that to successfully answer the objections would require more tests, ultimately coming back to the use of two wires for the two speakers. Objections that I see is that one is also testing the left and right speakers. The listener may likely to have a tendency to want to listen to one side or the other. Issues with is the left ear more sensitive than the right...differences in the room layout...etc. How to do the switching...move one wire to the other side? Use another wire from the same company (were they really the same?). I think we'd be opening a can of worms here. Now if people believe that the choice of wires can influence any audiophilic term you'd care to throw out: soundstage, presence, air, tightness of bass, etc. then to me these terms are part of stereo. We should do what we can to have people concentrate on the music and not have in the back of their minds that they're dealing with left/right.
    While my own preference is to run a DBT in the context of a triangle test, doing so in the strictest sense would probably require additional complexity (a device to facilitate the switching) and might infringe upon the good graces and hospitality of Chesky. We'd actually require two sets of wire for each type. I've spoken briefly about the triangle test in the past but allow me to give a very brief synopsis of it.
    There are always three things to evaluate and one is always different. The objective is simple. Pick the different one. There is never the scenario where all three are the same. If the results of this are no better than chance, then when we look at the results, it should be about 1/3 correct responses. If we do ten triplets, that means a total of 30 listening sessions, in order to achieve significance at the 5% level, you would need to have 7 correct choices or more. For 10% significance you would need 6. The use of the triangle test is well known and well documented. It's most commonly heard about in the food industry (no surprise I think) but its also used in the clothing, photographic, and has even been used to determine if a new way of making a mouthpiece for something like a trumpet was audibly different from what was used. It's forte is differences...small differences...it is a highly disriminating approach. However, since we're using our ears and at no time do we need to engage our eyes, it could even be used in our proposed scenario with only 2 pairs of wires. We simply let one pair be used more than once per triplet. We'd be blazing relatively new ground here Lee. New because it's a DBT that's not been talked about in the audio circles...I dare say the findings might even merit an AES paper (with a bit more work), or mention by the various audio publications that are out there. While you could always do a Google search on "triangle test", I'd certainly encourage you to contact various universities to find out more, as invariably, their mathematics departments work with researchers in other disciplines to both structure and interpret the results. I'd suggest one or two, but I'd rather remove any potential conflicts of interest or whatever my own inherent biases are.
    Nonetheless, if you'd prefer not doing it that way, I'd be more than amenable. We should of course level match both wires using either pink noise or something like a one point say, 1-3 kHz sine wave using voltmeters at the speaker terminals. If that presents a problem, there's probably another way. Let's say we had OFC SoundKing or whomever, in sizes ranging from 10-14 gauge for example. We could simply measure the Cardas cable and then measure the others and choose the closest match. That probably would give us something quite close although I can't say for sure.
    Personally I'd rather see a broad demographic represented but I can quite understand your desire for individuals you feel are skilled in listening. I agree with listener fatigue. I'll leave it up to you to choose an appropriate selection...call it a snippet that should serve to keep that to a minimum. The audience, whatever its size should be precluded from any discussions during the duration of the test.
    To make a stab at your idea Lee we'd still need to do switching of some sort. For if there were to be found differences it might be difficult not to ascribe them to some, yet unknown, room or equipment anomolay.
     
  6. Jay_Leonard

    Jay_Leonard Stunt Coordinator

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    Chu, The stat man comes thru with the plan...


    Don't you think that the test should infact be either a mono signal thru the same speaker? or thru the same pair of stereo speakers?

    I thought about Lee's original plan and think that there is no way to eliminate room shape, position, listeners ears, from the test.

    Perhaps hook up two Identical sets of wires by length to an amp with an A/B switch

     
  7. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  8. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Chu,
    I wrote a long reply but the HTF lost it somehow.
    I will respond later this evening.
    Administrators take note that this is the second reply I have lost on this forum since yesterday.
    [​IMG]
     
  9. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Well if I had an ABX box Jay, I'd certainly try that, but there've objections, generally by the people who like doing sighted tests, that the complaint of using the ABX box, which to my knowledge have come up with no statiscal differences, is that the ABX box somehow masks the differences. Hence manual wire switching. This is actually not that difficult as both wires could be connected to the amps output simultaneously. Then two people, with the switching order already having been done, go behind the speakers and switch to the appropriate wires. We could have Lee be one of the switchers and myself the other. Keep in mind that if a wire is connected only at one end, nothing is running through it..it's an open circuit.
    Short of us choosing a wire with completely different LRC characteristics from the Cardas, I've opted for what is arguably the least expensive speaker wire out there, SoundKing. I'd have taken Monster also, but they're so reluctant to tell you what the true gauge is. Radio Shack would've been fine, but I think SoundKing is even less expesive. Lamp cord would've been fine for me too except I think almost everyone thinks it looks like crap and besides, its just not flexible like the SoundKing. Rough prices for two six foot lengths of SoundKing is about $5. for a 2 meter of Cardas' Golden Reference its about $1,200 (quick web search using google and the terms cardas "golden reference") at audioweb. That's 240 times more expensive folks.
    The audibility determination of differences between differenct gauges has already been done by Stereo Review back in the 90's I believe. Not even hardened wirenuts (no offence anyone) have issues with that generally speaking.
    One problem with your test Lee, aside from the ones I'd mentioned earlier, is that while the wire identity is not known, what is known in advance is that the two wires are different and fixed in place. That in itself may predispose people to believe there's a difference. In fact, I'll wager you a beer, that if the two wires were identical and they were told they were different, that likely they'd hear one. That'd prove nothing that hasn't been proven before.
    I've left the choice of the testing venue up to you, I've encouraged the greatest of pricing disparities, I've not objected to the Cardas in the least, I've not raised any objections such that would void my participation due to your preferred choice of listeners, I've left the choice of listening material up to you. If you want, you can create a unique selection designed to highlight the differences using your own studio. Press it how you wish. I've no objection to advance copies being sent out so that people may further familiarize themselves. I've no objection to recusing myself from participating as a listener. I've read the review of Cardas' products and am well aware of their lofty status in certain circles. I've read your own words extolling their unique and dramatic properties. Why I'd not have a problem if Mr. Cardas himself were to listen. We'd keep his choices secret of course. But Lee, your proposal, which I know you gave thought to, raises so many other concerns, that regardless of the results, they themselves would need to be further addressed. Truly, if one were to consider what I've written above as concessions, then how much more can I stack the deck against myself?
    I thought we were looking to put something along the lines of a stamp of semi semi closure on this matter not to further render it gray. The issues of audibility or quality differences of wires certainly rests on something more than might be approximated with tone controls, no?
    Now if you wish, please consider writing Mr. Cardas and Mr. Atkinson at Stereophile with this mono experiment. If you so desire, I will do the same with Mr. Nousaine, Ferstler, and Dunlavey. If there is a general consensus amongst them, then I shall abide by their thoughts. How much more conciliatory can I be?
     
  10. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Well if I had an ABX box Jay, I'd certainly try that, but there've objections, generally by the people who like doing sighted tests, that the complaint of using the ABX box, which to my knowledge have come up with no statiscal differences, is that the ABX box somehow masks the differences. Hence manual wire switching. This is actually not that difficult as both wires could be connected to the amps output simultaneously. Then two people, with the switching order already having been done, go behind the speakers and switch to the appropriate wires. We could have Lee be one of the switchers and myself the other. Keep in mind that if a wire is connected only at one end, nothing is running through it..it's an open circuit.
    Short of us choosing a wire with completely different LRC characteristics from the Cardas, I've opted for what is arguably the least expensive speaker wire out there, SoundKing. I'd have taken Monster also, but they're so reluctant to tell you what the true gauge is. Radio Shack would've been fine, but I think SoundKing is even less expesive. Lamp cord would've been fine for me too except I think almost everyone thinks it looks like crap and besides, its just not flexible like the SoundKing. Rough prices for two six foot lengths of SoundKing is about $5. for a 2 meter of Cardas' Golden Reference its about $1,200 (quick web search using google and the terms cardas "golden reference") at audioweb. That's 240 times more expensive folks.
    The audibility determination of differences between differenct gauges has already been done by Stereo Review back in the 90's I believe. Not even hardened wirenuts (no offence anyone) have issues with that generally speaking.
    One problem with your test Lee, aside from the ones I'd mentioned earlier, is that while the wire identity is not known, what is known in advance is that the two wires are different and fixed in place. That in itself may predispose people to believe there's a difference. In fact, I'll wager you a beer, that if the two wires were identical and they were told they were different, that likely they'd hear one. That'd prove nothing that hasn't been proven before.
    I've left the choice of the testing venue up to you, I've encouraged the greatest of pricing disparities, I've not objected to the Cardas in the least, I've not raised any objections such that would void my participation due to your preferred choice of listeners, I've left the choice of listening material up to you. If you want, you can create a unique selection designed to highlight the differences using your own studio. Press it how you wish. I've no objection to advance copies being sent out so that people may further familiarize themselves. I've no objection to recusing myself from participating as a listener. I've read the review of Cardas' products and am well aware of their lofty status in certain circles. I've read your own words extolling their unique and dramatic properties. Why I'd not have a problem if Mr. Cardas himself were to listen. We'd keep his choices secret of course. But Lee, your proposal, which I know you gave thought to, raises so many other concerns, that regardless of the results, they themselves would need to be further addressed. Truly, if one were to consider what I've written above as concessions, then how much more can I stack the deck against myself?
    I thought we were looking to put something along the lines of a stamp of semi semi closure on this matter not to further render it gray. The issues of audibility or quality differences of wires certainly rests on something more than might be approximated with tone controls, no?
    Now if you wish, please consider writing Mr. Cardas and Mr. Atkinson at Stereophile with this mono experiment. If you so desire, I will do the same with Mr. Nousaine, Ferstler, and Dunlavey. If there is a general consensus amongst them, then I shall abide by their thoughts. How much more conciliatory can I be? From reading your last post, I get the impression that the only difference you're really looking for is some pseudo stereo when we could be dealing with real stereo. If I've missed something please tell me. Also indicate if you'd like to contact the above people. We can send the same email out to everyone if you want.
     
  11. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    I'm not sure how you'd eliminate room effects. It's not enough to say that left and right sound different, because there could be many other factors affecting this. So, I think you'd have to randomly use the Soundking wire for the left channel and the Cardas for the right, and vice versa. Of course, the test subject must be unaware of which wire is going where. And the test would be whether the listener can identify which wire is which.
    This also raises the problem of the 3-way test that Chu mentioned. Personally, I'd prefer a true ABX test in the manner described by Chu, where you know what A and B are, and you have to guess whether X is A or B. However, I can see the difficulty of achieving that in such a setup and still have quick switching ability.
    Anyway, this is certainly a step in the right direction. I think [​IMG]
     
  12. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  13. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    Well, there's one way around the whole gauge issue - you use your Cardas wire, and let Chu use whatever wire he thinks is equal in gauge/resistance/performance/whatever. That should solve that, right? You're not being hemmed in by anything because you're free to pick whatever wire you want, and Chu is also free to pick whatever he wants. I'm assuming he'll pick something that isn't very expensive, and is of sufficient gauge to be deemed equal to your Cardas in performance.
     
  14. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Saurav,

    No sale as this changes the goal of the test.

    We are trying to create obvious sound differences via use of very different wires. This makes the listening test much less complicated to implement.
     
  15. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    I'm not sure I understand how it does that, but it's your test, so I'll pass [​IMG]
     
  16. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  17. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    Hmm... I thought there was an implied "when using cables of equal gauge" somewhere in there. I mean, does anyone think that generic 12AWG and generic 32AWG speaker cable would also sound the same?

    Anyway, you did say you'd use plain vanilla 12AWG cable on the other side, and that's fine with me. After all, it's only 8', so even if the effective gauge of the Cardas wire is different, it should make a very minute difference in the measured resistance over such a short distance. So, electrically speaking, the wires should be close enough to make this test meaningful. So I think it's a perfectly valid test.

    Unless anyone else can think of why this isn't a valid test?
     
  18. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Perhaps I was unclear Lee. I've no intention whatsoever in tampering with Cardas' (your) wire. However I went to his site http://www.cardas.com/guide/goldenre...e-speaker.html and found it was 5 gauge. Damn George! The premise is to use wires of similar length and guage. Since I can't find a 5 gauge Sound King, I've got a couple of choices. Oh, 5 AWG is 181.9 thousandths of an inch FYI. Pick one.
    I use 4 pieces of 12 gauge per speaker, that results in 5 gauge. Also increase the cost from $5 to $20. Am I getting too close in price to $1200 yet?
    I could try something like power wire from KnuKonceptz http://www.knukonceptz.com/detail.asp?product_id=KOL4BK however that's 4 gauge at 0.89/ft but that might give me an unfair advantage [​IMG]
    Haven't found a 5 yet but if I find a 6 gauge wire somewhere I'm sure that'll be fine.
    You pick one Lee, I think that's fair.
    In fact I tell you what, under the conditions above, I'll waive the requirement for level matching. I think it'd be close enough. If you go back far enough in our threads you'll find where I've stated that there should be no audible differences between two different wires if the lengths and gauges were approximately equal. You are confident in your Golden Reference. Let's keep the variables close and not leave anything to chance, shall we? Of course, if you feel that Cardas cable is sonically indistinguishable from say 4 gauge power cable, the kind they use in automotive stereos then we can save everyone a lot of time. Oh, let me know how the wires are to be terminated. I'll be sure to use something cheap and if soldering, I'll use 60/40 and you can take advantage of Cardas' vaunted quadeutectic and rhodium plated whatevers.
    Stereo Review has already determined differences between something like 28 gauge and I think it was 16...Let's not repeat that work.
     
  19. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  20. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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