A Cable Refresh Project

raghupb

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In the audio journey, an often ignored fact and reality are cables.
For the better part of my experience I have used whatever is handy or cheap'n'quick.
And they have worked well .... enough. No real complaints.
A few ICs from good old MX brand, an AV component cable, electrical wire from Finolex/Anchor, etc

Early last year I decided that after 15 years in this hobby, I pay attention to the last mile.
Had a budget that happened to materialize out of the blue.
Paid some dues locally for a friend who is in the US. Could not ask him for a cheque.
So decided a barter. "You procure some stuff for me and we are even"
Gave the sites to buy from, links et all. The goodies were procured but Covid happened.
No travel, no way to get them here .... bummer. Finally they landed a week ago.

What's in the box:
Mogami W3103 speaker wire
Mogami W3082 speaker wire
Neotech NEI-3003 Coax + DG-301 RCA
Belden 8402, Mogami W2549 and SwitchCraft RCAs

Why do I need so many ICs? I am crazy enough to try them out.
Maybe even swap them every few months. This hobby has its moments of madness.

To assemble the ICs I have to wait a bit, don't have a soldering kit at home.
The speaker wire was easy to swap out. Out go the finolex/anchor and in come Mogami.
I have MediaBridge banana plugs (compression type). Relatively easy to work with.
Made the cables installed them and gave them a listen. Below are my impressions/comparisons ....

Anchor/Finolex vs Mogami (2 flavors)
First off, there is hardly any difference sonically between the Mogamis, one is fat the other one is not, but both are easy to work with and flexible.
The music presentation with electrical wire, I feel, is hurried and visceral. Nothing wrong with this for a certain genre of music, say rock/metal.
With Mogami, I feel it is a bit more relaxed and "un-hurried". The staging has improved; instrumentation is better placed (when listening at MLP).
The bass feels a bit more relaxed and behind the vocalist, as compared to up-front or in your face.
The mid-bass/vocals are also better. The treble is definitely tamed and nuanced; I guess there is some attenuation here, don't know.

In the next few weeks, I will attempt to construct the RCAs and compare against what I have.
Also amongst them. Stay tuned ....

PS: A big thanks to Joshua (@jls001) for guiding me through procurement channels and websites.

Cheers,
Raghu
 
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raghupb

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Update (or not):
Tomorrow @Prodigy and I are going to make some ICs.
Actually, he has offered to help with soldering as I can't see properly or hold my hand steady :D
I'll probably cut the wire to length/prep (and drink beer).

The 3 combos at play will be:
Belden 8402 + SwitchCraft RCA (Tinned copper wire flavor)
Mogami W2549 + SwitchCraft RCA (Bare copper wire flavor)
Neotech NEI-3003 + Neotech DG-301 RCA (UP-OCC wire flavor)

Have wanted to try IC cable flavors in my rig to hear the difference (if any).
Let's see how it goes.

Cheers,
Raghu
 

raghupb

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Add a 2 strand twisted pair extracted from a CATx cable too. Try this after imbibing prodigious quantities of beer. ;)
I've never believed that cables can make a difference in a good system/chain.
In a compromised one yes. Poor inherent noise floor, etc

A bad cable (flimsy conductor, poor shielding, lousy termination) does sound bad.
Wanted to check what's the hoopla about "touted" cables.

To be honest, the only "well constructed" cables I've heard in my rig were @jls001 cables
Belden 8402 and some asymmetrically constructed speaker wire.

So waiting to see if it's gonna be my "voila" moment.

Cheers,
Raghu
 
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sound1

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Why do I need so many ICs? I am crazy enough to try them out.
I've never believed that cables can make a difference in a good system/chain.
So you don't believe cables make a difference, in a good system yes, but still you're crazy about them.. hmmmmm.....

i dont believe you mila kunis GIF
 

MaSh

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This wonderful. Finally you move on from finolex cables. Not that they are bad, but like everything else, there are always better cables.

After trying out a number of cables, all good ones, find them to be flavours of ice cream. There is one for everyone. Good cables are like that final EQ in the setup. There will be one cable that will fit in perfectly.

Eagerly awaiting your cable comparisons.

MaSh
 

raghupb

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Thanks to @Prodigy's help now I have one set of Belden 8402, Mogami W2549 and Neotech NEI-3003 to play with.
Terminating Belden/Mogami on SwitchCraft RCAs were relatively easy as compared to Neotech.

The Neotech plug + Neotech cable is something else; very industrial design. It needed some wrestling to seat the cable.
It is a coax cable. After removing the outer sheath and cutting back on the braided shield the cable has to be literally shoved in.
The shield wire makes direct contact with outer shell (no soldering required). The hot lead is seated in the solder bucket of the rear end of the tip.
Takes a bit of heat to get it soldered. Also the plug is of locking type; I personally feel it is a pain if wanting to swap cables during experiments.

The chain I'll use to hear differences (if any) is as below:
Allo Digione (HDD or Spotify) --> Parasound DAC/Pre --> Parasound Power --> KEF R300 + REL T9i
The one change I'll make is between Pre/Pwr and hear out the IC flavors.

Put in Neotech first as I'm curious to hear what this Ultra Pure OCC is all about. First impression is positive.
It takes off a bit of graininess (my interpretation) in the top end without any other compromises, as compared to the older MX/MDR IC.
Bass, mid-bass and vocals are good too.

Listened to a few tracks only and gave the system over to the missus to hear her playlists.
More impressions to come .... stay tuned, if interested

PS: A thanks to @jai1611 for the suggestion to try Neotech

Cheers,
Raghu
 
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Prodigy

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@raghupb . That Neotech cable is definitely very different. Yesterday was the 1st time I listened to those and it was quite different from the rest of the others. Like you mentioned, it does something very different from the other cables for sure :p:p.
 

rsjaurr

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I've never believed that cables can make a difference in a good system/chain.
In a compromised one yes. Poor inherent noise floor, etc

A bad cable (flimsy conductor, poor shielding, lousy termination) does sound bad.
Wanted to check what's the hoopla about "touted" cables.

To be honest, the only "well constructed" cables I've heard in my rig were @jls001 cables
Belden 8402 and some asymmetrically constructed speaker wire.

So waiting to see if it's gonna be my "voila" moment.

Cheers,
Raghu

IMHO cables always make more difference in good systems.

Since my "voila" moment with a branded USB cable from the server to the DAC, I have been on an upgrade path with DIY wires and connectors.

I could not notice the difference only in the case of power cables and the rest of the cables at least made some difference.
 

keith_correa

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IMHO cables always make more difference in good systems.
How does one define a "good" system? Turning this around, should we assume that if cables do not make a/much difference in a system we ought to classify the components that they connect as not so "good"? :D
 
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raghupb

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Let me attempt to convey what I meant by "good" system.
From my modem/RF design days, we used to work a lot on noise suppression and keeping the ground "clean" to get more SNR.
I think this applies to audio components too. In addition there may be IMD, crosstalk, etc.
A component that has used methods to mitigate the effects of noise, crosstalk, etc would sound better.
Also the power supply section is built with low noise and linearity.
I would think this is a good or well designed component. This comes at a cost due to R&D, expensive components, manufacturing process, etc.
So when putting together a rig with such components, I feel cables make little difference, maybe just different presentation.

In the above rig, I will assume that Parasound has spent some effort in mitigating the effects of such artifacts.
Now to the speakers. I have always felt KEFs are a bit tingly up top in the frequency range/response.
On some tracks the sibilance effect annoys me mildly; more so now that I have hearing aids.
When this happens and I often use the treble control, but I feel a bit of energy in the music is lost.
This I will classify as a chain with some inherent niggles. A slightly compromised rig as per my ears and listening preference.

With the existing MX IC between the preamp and power amp, some tracks I definitely felt the urge to tweak the treble down a notch or two.
With the new IC I did not have to tweak the treble on the same set of tracks.
It takes away that little bit of graininess or raspy sound up top (attenuation maybe).

Is it worth the money spent on two lengths of fancy wire and RCAs (audio bling :D)?
The jury (me) is not going to delve on this. This whole project was primarily planned as an experiment to hear (or not hear) the differences in cables.
In the end it may just boil down to presentation A/B/C/D with no one presentation being better or worse than the other. Just different.

Cheers,
Raghu
 

Kannan

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"No cable is the best cable". That said a cable should not act as a tone control nor induce any kind of noise/interference.
Using cables with published parameters within the tolerance levels, good connectors and proper termination should be close to the end game.

There is a difference between an ideal system that sticks to all scientific parameters and a good system which that then takes a subjective route.
An amplifier can be designed with minimal noise, but the output can be tweaked to achieve a certain tone. The same goes with speakers with play in the crossover.
Audio ultimately is an intermix of objective and subjective goals.
 

keith_correa

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With the existing MX IC between the preamp and power amp, some tracks I definitely felt the urge to tweak the treble down a notch or two.
With the new IC I did not have to tweak the treble on the same set of tracks.
It takes away that little bit of graininess or raspy sound up top (attenuation maybe).
Actually, if this is indeed the case, the MX is then not rolling off the top or is rolling off at a frequency above human audibility. To me, from a linearity angle, that is an excellent cable! If the new IC is rolling off the top end and you can hear it - ugh, again from a linearity standpoint! Now, listening and liking a rolled off sound maybe good for you, a preference and I respect that preference. It just doesn't make the MX better (not that you said it is) than the new IC.
Is it worth the money spent on two lengths of fancy wire and RCAs (audio bling :D)?
In my opinion, it would be worth paying a premium for well engineered cables if they get the electrical parameters that matter right without affecting the sonics.

Yes, cables can definitely change sonics - that is due to poor engineering. To get a cable right does not take a lot of money.
 

raghupb

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Some pics.
Belden is brown one, Mogami is black one, Neotech is pink (flashy) one

Cheers,
Raghu

3-ICs-3.jpg 3-ICs-2.jpg 3-ICs-1.jpg
 

raghupb

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"No cable is the best cable". That said a cable should not act as a tone control nor induce any kind of noise/interference.
Using cables with published parameters within the tolerance levels, good connectors and proper termination should be close to the end game.
From what I've heard in my own rig and from others in this hobby, cables sound wise, are going to more subjective than objective.
Hence every forum has its fair share of discussion around them.

As for construction all the 3 wires are constructed well. Belden and Mogami are supple too. Neotech is very stiff, guess because it's a coax.
The RCAs make good contact and hold firm to the jack. The locking mechanism on the fancy RCA is a pain if one wants to change and experiment.

Cheers,
Raghu
I bet you find the pink one better sounding. :p
It is funky looking for sure. I'm not used to such jewellery. I come from MX/MDR :)
I have installed this one for now to hear out what's the hype about "UP-OCC" flavor.

A couple of years ago I had briefly heard Belden (borrowed).
Mogami, it will the first time. Currently, I have put this in my boy's rig replacing a 20-year old dinky wire.

Cheers,
Raghu
 
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Kannan

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Neotech is very stiff, guess because it's a coax
Coax cables need not necessarily be stiff. It is about the materials used in building them. For single core coax, a thicker insulation shell is preferred to minimise bending.
For multi core, it depends on the target installation location. For example, both Mogami and Beldens have stiff and flexible versions of their digital coax cables.
 

rsjaurr

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How does one define a "good" system? Turning this around, should we assume that if cables do not make a/much difference in a system we ought to classify the components that they connect as not so "good"? :D
I do not have a definition for "good" systems and I doubt anyone has it. :) A good system for someone might be an awful or excellent system for others.
A better word would a "revealing" system. Again I do not have a definition but when it is used for a system it is just to convey soemthing. :)
 
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