Recently, a certain instrument cable made it’s rounds on social media. This 10ft. cable was labeled as the finest, and best quality cable on the market. It promised all sorts of audible sound quality improvements.
This type of marketing is certainly nothing new to anyone in the music industry. However it wasn’t just the promotional language that had everyone talking. It was the fact that this one 10ft. cable retailed for nearly $6,600 dollars. And no, that isn’t a typo. Now, while this likely one part marketing stunt (it worked), and one part predatory pricing, it really got me thinking.
So, when I stumbled across Jean-Marc du Mouchel of INTEXcables discussing his thoughts on the cable in question, I had to reach out. As it turns out, that he has learned a thing or two about these things in his 30+ years of electrical engineering and playing rock and roll.
Here’s a quick bio:
“While completing my education at the University of Colorado in the field of Electrical Engineering, I worked for the Student Union as a stage hand for all musical shows produced on school grounds. This quickly elevated to working all major rock shows in the state of Colorado while operating a business building cables of all sorts, building sound systems for night clubs and concert halls and installing state-of-the-art recording studios.
After my son was born, I left the music business and went to work for a variety of companies designing & testing electromechanical products which culminated in my design of an Air Plethysmograph, a device that measures blood flow in the extremities, that now resides on the International Space Station.
Eight years ago I started INTEXcables, a company that continues to install studios and broadcast systems, the most recent work being the completion of the 4 Google/YouTube studios in Los Angeles – New York – London & Tokyo, as well as producing audio cables in various configurations.”
So without further ado, here is what Jean-Marc thought you folks needed to know about cables, as told by the man himself:
1 – Cables are not directional. Music is an alternating waveform that flows back & forth no matter which end of the cable is plugged into what. The only time a cable could be construed to be directional is if you float shield on one end, which you should only do under controlled circumstances.
2 – Cables never need a “burn-in” period in order to sound better, they will sound the same from the moment of inception to the last second before death.
3 – I recently saw a cable advertisement that said “made up of different diameter strands to better carry the full frequency spectrum of sound that any amp is capable of making.” The fact is having multiple sized conductors in a cable does absolutely nothing for sound or durability.
4 – Skin effect is something that is often cited in cable advertisements. While very complicated, it is basically a phenomenon whereby alternating current at high frequencies ride towards the outside of the wire instead of throughout the entire cross-section (like direct currrent) thereby increasing the impedance).
It has negligible effect on audio signals, and is highly dependent on wire size and composition. As a general rule, the worst case scenario is that the impedance increases 3% at 20 kHz and decreases as you go lower in frequency.
5 – There is no “sweet spot” in cable capacitance. Manufacturers strive to reduce cable capacitance as much as possible by adjusting the distance between conductors and using insulators with lower dielectric constants. Capacitance is generally bad unless you’re Jimi Hendrix who used a coily cable loaded with it to kill the harshness of the tone, his words, not mine.
6 – Cables cannot enhance your tone or do anything positive to it, it can only color it.
7 – Silver conducts better than Copper, which conducts better than Gold, which conducts better than Aluminum, which conducts better than Nickel, which conducts better than Tin, which conducts better than Steel.
8 – “Cryogenically freezing cables improves fidelity or measurably changes electrical properties after the cable is restored to room temperature.” Do you really need an explanation for this?
9 – Many of the parameters cited in high end cable literature such as depth, soundstage or detail have no correlation to any known measurable design parameter. Any cable manufacturer who claims they can scientifically prove their cable is the best sounding is taking you for a ride.
And last, but not least……..
A Quick Story About High-End Cables
A well known speaker manufacturer, who shall be nameless, once told me a very interesting story….
He assembled a group of audio aficionados to listen to a number of high end speaker cables. The group included PhDs, scientists, other manufacturers, even some military brass.
The choice of cables was laid in plain sight between a top of the line amplifier and the speakers. The source program material and equipment had been chosen and approved by the group.
First, they started with some generic 12 gauge zip cord (“normal” speaker cable) as a baseline measurement. Then the assistants would announce which high end cable was next, and go behind the amplifier and speaker to swap it out.
Of course, when it came to the super expensive cables, the difference was dramatic. At the conclusion, although the group disagreed about the details, they all agreed that any of the high end cables left the 12 gauge zip cord in the dust.
The manufacturer who had set up the test had neither the nerve, nor the guts, to tell them that throughout the entire test, when the helpers went behind the amplifier and speakers, they had changed nothing. The group had been listening to the 12 gauge zip cord for the entire time.
– Jean Marc du Mouchel Make sure you check out Jean-Marc’s cables HERE