Cable quality for digital audio

jpmkm

That Ain't Mayo On My Lip...
Joined
Oct 30, 2001
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5,773
What is the importance of cable quality with regards to digital audio? Is there any reason why an expensive, high quality cable will perform any better than a $2 radio shack cable? Both cables are able to transfer the bits from end to end. What else is there? Will a more expensive cable transfer the bits better or something? Some people supposedly can hear a difference. Is there an actual difference? How can there be any difference if both cables are transferring the same exact bitstream? Maybe someone can reply with some actual reasons other than 'I heard a difference'.
 

xonik

[H]F Junkie
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Jun 20, 2001
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The difference people hear between two seemingly identical digital cables is what the industry refers to as jitter. Simply put, jitter is what engineers call the timing difference between digital signals as a result of physical and environmental factors. For optical cables, this is realized when the light pulse bouncing through the optical strands does not reach the receiving end at the expected interval of time. For coaxial cables, this effect can happen through the influence of external electromagnetic forces, but more likely through subtle chemical impurities in the cable strands or connector assembly causing timing irregularities. Jitter manifests itself audibly because the digital signal reaches the DAC at unexpected intervals, producing an analog signal that differs from the source material because the DAC now has a different digital input because of the jitter. Even if the same zeros and ones pass by, if they "arrive" at different clock cycles at the DAC, the resultant analog signal is going to differ, if only by a very subtle margin. That's the difference that you can notice.

Of course, placebo effect plays into the minds of many listeners too.
 

swoop56

Limp Gawd
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Sep 14, 2002
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418
I remember reading a write up on how some guy soldered some rca ends on to a wire coat hanger and compared the sound quality to a premium monster cable digital audio cable and it sounded exactly the same. The point of digital is it stays the same as it travels through the wire.
 

xonik

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Jun 20, 2001
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swoop56 said:
I remember reading a write up on how some guy soldered some rca ends on to a wire coat hanger and compared the sound quality to a premium monster cable digital audio cable and it sounded exactly the same. The point of digital is it stays the same as it travels through the wire.
Do you doubt that the digital cable has any effect on the end result? It requires trained ears and an otherwise good audio setup, but there is a difference, and there is a scientific explanation for it, regardless of what you think.
 

eastvillager

[H]ard|Gawd
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Jun 23, 2004
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1,093
the difference is there. Most people don't have good enough hardware at either end to tell, imho. Sorta like in computers, where it doesn't matter how bad a bottleneck you got in one spot, if you have a worse one somewhere else. If your transport is crap, it'll overshadow the finer differences between your interconnects, imho. Same for amp/preamp, etc.

Is the 'audiophile' cable really worth the extra cash for that tiny bit of difference? Well, that is a subjective question. I pay more for decent interconnects, but I don't pay significantly more for speakerwire. Buy the gauge you need, keep your lengths equal, clean the ends if they get corroded, etc.
 
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