August 24, 2009

Confessions of a Cable Guy.

Pear cables, there are no sour pears, just sour grapes!

In a recent conversation with another fellow audiophile, upon learning that I used to write for he remarked "you guys are really cable happy!" I just smiled and gave him my usual reply, "actually, we're just being lazy, so cables being the easiest to carry around and hook up for a listen, we'd naturally did more of those!, did you noticed that we don't do speakers much?. It's because they are very difficult to get right and lugging them around is really a chore too!" The fellow nodded and our conversation steered towards other topics.

But audio cables are very controversial subject to discuss. Just look at all the hotly debated subject at audio forums! With propagators(usually those wealthy high end and big boy system owners) vs the subtractors(usually DIY fellas and value conscious audiophiles). Now before you accuse me of stereo typing or status profiling, I must state that I am coming from a very neutral angle. It's because that I've been on both sides of the pond!

Some of my DIY cable material then, the shielded co-axial for RCA terminations.

I'll start from my early days as an audiophile. At that time, I used to think that vdH D102 MKII interconnect was high end, only because it was priced way beyond my means of affordability. It was my reference cable for many years and I would bench mark all my DIY interconnects against the vdH D102 MKII. I remembered the day I managed to buy a pair of hand me down of the said vdH interconnects, because one of my buddies up graded, I hooked it up to my then system, consisting of a Marantz CD63 SE, Denon PMA680R integrated amp, and a pair of B&W DM620 speakers, I was in hifi nirvana, it was a dream of many years in the making come thru! As my system evolved due to my insatiable appetite for better sound quality, so did my perception of high end/high priced cables.

vdH D102 MKII. My cable reference for many years back then!

During my DIY with Belden cable days, I used to boast proudly that I could achieved 70-80% sound quality, against the said bench mark vdH cable, thinking that, why pay so much more when you could get so close for so little! It was until I met a DIY hifi veteran, that he told me, "it's actually the last 20% or so that's really difficult to achieve in all things audio!" I was too green in hifi mind to get his drift then, but now in clear hindsight, it seemed so wisely said. It was about that same time too, I started to mix with guys that owned bigger, mega bucks, big boy system. I started going hifi shopping with them, and they could spend RM$100K+ on a pair of speaker cables, RM$30K+ on a power cord and god knows what seemed like sinfully silly amount of $$$ on a pair of interconnects, much to my horror!

Belden cables galore! DIY ers cable darling material.

I later related my horror to my hifi buddy Wong, the shopping experience with those whom I considered "audiophools" at the time. Wong took it all in and then replied, that some day, he'd like to be an audiophool too! I ask "why?" in astonishment. Wong said "if those fellas can spend sinful amount of $$$ on cables, can you imaging how much their audio system would have cost? How high end it could be? How sinfully rich those fellas are? Wouldn't you wanna be successful like them?" At that point, I then shamefully realised that I had really became an audiophile sour grape!

I couldn't see the big picture until that point in my hifi journey. That I was just a small little fish swimming in a small pond, that those fellas that I just swam along with, were on the top tier of the food chain in their natural habitat. I could have almost been swallowed whole, bones and all.

A few years later, as my system got better, with better equipment and hifi knowledge, but still stuck with the said vdH D102 MKII and CS122 speaker cables plus all DIYed Belden based power cords. I was getting no where in the sonic direction I wanted to go. My system equipment list at that recent point in time is already mostly the same as what it is you see today. I started to craved for more resolution, higher levels of refinement and lower noise floor. I did many things to try and pull my system's audio performance towards that direction, but failed miserably.

My big fish friends at the higher end of audio dome was in another round of upgrade cycles, so they loaned me their hand me downs this time, in hope that I'll get hook and partially finance their up grade plans! It was a relevationary experience, that it then dawned on me that I could only achieved the direction and visceral results I so craved, was thru pricey, high end cables, even if they were older, hand me downs! I eventually partially financed many of my friend's up grades. But I was glad to have done it. I was glad that I managed to get the results that I want at half the entry price or so.

My recent purchase of the Siltech G7 Classic 330L speaker cables had set tongues wagging among some of those who know me. It seems to them, I've become a fully paid up membership of the audiophools club. I don't blame them, I've been there before.

Me and my friend's recent bank a/c breaking purchase(for me at least!), the Siltech G7 Classic series speaker cables. It shows how far I've come along the way!

On a happier note, 2 days after my recent review of the three Sin Lui sisters, or heavenly fairy sisters, my friend whom bought the Siltech G7 Classic 550L called me. He started hurling abuses and curses at me after he'd read my review. I was still in a dazzle and I asked "aren't you happy with the 550L that you bought recently?" He said" yes, but after a few weeks of living with it, I was feeling restless every time I listened to some music on my system. I felt as if something is missing or just plain not right, but I couldn't put a finger to any sonic fault, because there seemed like none. But in your review, you mentioned that the 550L did everything right technically yet fell slightly short on musical flow. I thought that's it! You've hit the nail on the head!"

I can only tell you the ending. Yesterday, that poor(or is it lucky?) soul, ended up another RM$15K or so poorer, but he is so musically satisfied now. You see, after that tele-conversation, he went back to CMY Audio & Visual to ask for the Siltech G7 Classic 770L for a home trial. He up graded to the twice more expensive cable, after a week's home audition. Is there anything so.... wrong with that? I am trully happy for him, but most of all, I am even more over joyed for my self. I hear you ask why? I am just glad to have lost that sour grape in me!

How about you?


S8 said...

I may not be a cable advocate as I want to believe every component does make a difference to the performance of a system. But i do spent more than 50% of my total set-up cost on cables (Siltech/VDH)and PLC(RG)which is sinfully inappropriote according to some.

Big E said...

Hi! S8,

I personally do not advocate sinfully expensive audio cable too. However, I am pretty much flexible with it. I do not preach nor insist for the matter that I am more correct and everyone else is wrong.

When it come to cables and PLCs, many just naturally considers them as after thoughts. I do share your opnion that they are components on their own right. I would term them to be auxilary components though.