October 8, 2009

Some Good Advice From A Cable Guy.

A cut away view of a typical co-axial type un balanced interconnect.

Each time, when we hifi enthusiast gather round, the subject of audio cables invariably come around. It was then, a hifi buddy asked this question, "We are always spending $$$ on cables, how do we now when is right time to stop upgrading cables?" All of us paused for a while, then a few answers came up:

1) When your total system cabling cost equals X% of your total audio system cost.

2) When the most expensive cable in the system, normally speaker cables, cost more than any single component in the system.

3) When you've already bought the best and most expensive cables available in the world.

4) When your wife or other significant other half starts suspecting where most of your monthly salary has gone to?

5) This is the best one of them all, when the cable in used is heavier then the equipment it's connected to!

This is a classic moment as I had recently witnessed. A real high end cable guy had recently spent RM$30K on a 1.5meter long NBS power cord. As usual he very graciously invited a few of us to to share his new found audio joy. After an impressive audition, one of the visitors asked if he could try the NBS power cord in his system. The NBS owner agreed and off we all went to the other system, which was a whole lot modest in stature and price. The system owner took the NBS power cord, and proceeded plug the NBS power cord in to the IEC input his Arcam Alpha CD player(remember that one, from the early/mid nineties?). The power cord was so heavy, that it caused the Arcam CD player to lift up front face plate first, then pulled the whole CD player back wards down to the floor! Needless to say, the Arcam CD player, which was far lighter the the NBS power cord, just didn't deserved to be paired together!

The CD player suffered some minor cosmetic dents from the fall, but once put back on the audio rack, it worked as usual. It wasn't until we put a brick on top of the Arcam CD player, that it manages to hold the NBS power cord on to the IEC input, and stayed put, but just very barely so!

I hear you asked, if the super duper RM$30K NBS power cord impressed us when partnered to the said Arcam Alpha CDP?

I guess you'd know the answer by now, that the CD player just didn't do the power cord any favours at all! Or was it the other way round?

I think the Chinese proverb best reflects the situation describe above, "Bamboo door to match Bamboo frame, wooden door to match wooden frame" applies in hifi logic too!

Take care.


Rabin said...

There is also one that also says never throw good money after bad. If you have made a bad purchase e.g on a hi-fi component, you should never spend even more money trying to fix that bad purchase.
As I have said before, a cable should not cost more than the component its connected to. The problem is many audiophiles ignore these very sane logical advice. So we can only smile (its their money) and wish them well.

dazzdax said...

But did the Arcam sound better with the NBS? It should be :)
I believe many of the ultra expensive power cords like MIT Oracle, Transparent Opus, etc are idiosyncratic cables and sound best only in combination with some specific systems.
These cables show also poor results with regard to test bench measurements because of the integrated filter boxes.


dazzdax said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Big E said...


Sorry to disapoint you, but the Arcan sounded the same with the super duper NBS, as it did with the very much cheaper DH Labs power cord. It just didn't have the transparency to reveal the advantages of the NBS power cord had to offer.