Cable Swap Program - Let the cable shoot-out begin.

shackshack Posts: 11,284
edited April 2004 in 2 Channel Audio
Ok...due to schedule, delays etc., I am now in posession of two of the Cable Swap Program cables at the same time. The AudioQuest Diamondbacks and the Nordost Solar Winds. I thought this would be a great time to have a shoot-out of moderately price cables on a moderately priced system. The system is set up and consists of a Denon DRA-685 Stereo Reciver @ 100wpc, a Cambridge Audio D500SE CDP and Polk RT25i bookshelf speakers. No subwoofer. (I might throw in my RT55i speakers...but maybe not). At MSRP this is about a $1,300 to $1,400 system before wire and cables. So as not to add a component from the same company... instead of using my AudioQuest speaker cables I'm using 12 ga. Megacable speaker wire from Radio Shack @ .99 per ft.

After listening to several CDs, I settled on Steely Dan's latest CD Everything Must Go as my test disc. It is a nice CD that is very well recorded with good variety of music. I felt it would be a good CD to hear the differences and/or nuances (if any) between the cables.

Just to add another wrinkle, I am adding some other cables that I own to the mix. The picture below is from left to right:

Generic "mass market" interconnect that you might find in any CD player from Sony, Yamaha, etc. This will be the BASE LINE from which to start the comparison.

Next is the imfamous AudioQuest G-String. The most basic interconnect they made.

The replacement model for the G-String...The AudioQuest G-Snake (keeping with the overall serpent theme AudiQuest uses)

The AudioQuest Sidewinder.

The AudioQuest Diamondback.

And the Nordost Solar Winds.

This shootout will hopefully answer a few questions regarding cables/interconnects on a moderately priced stereo system:

1) As you move up the product line of a company (AudioQuest in this case), do you get significant improvements, are they subtle changes or any improvement at all.

2) With cables of similar price but different design (Diamondbacks vs Solar Winds) how much if any difference can you hear.

3) How much better are $100± cables vs $20± cables.

4) Are the "designer" cables really better than "baseline" $3.00 cables.

The gear is all set up and I'm kicking the family out for the next two nights to do this. I'll report my findings in a few days.
"Just because you’re offended doesn’t mean you’re right." - Ricky Gervais

"For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible." - Stuart Chase

"Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago." - Bernard Berenson
Post edited by shack on

Comments

  • dorokusaidorokusai Posts: 25,487
    edited April 2004
    Hey I recognize a couple of them :D

    Have fun Shackdaddy! My bet is on the AQDB.
    CTC BBQ Amplifier, Sonic Frontiers Line3 Pre-Amplifier and Wadia 581 SACD player. Speakers? Always changing but for now, Mission Argonauts I picked up for $50 bucks, mint.
  • CeruleanceCeruleance Posts: 991
    edited April 2004
    i am interested in your impressions when you get through with the review.

    Any chance you could get a spouse/friend to do a blind A/B test for you so you could give truely unbiased opinions?
  • AsSiMiLaTeDAsSiMiLaTeD Posts: 11,717
    edited April 2004
    I recognize that Sidewinder...
  • RuSsMaNRuSsMaN Posts: 17,995
    edited April 2004
    Nice to see my old Diamondbacks making the rounds.

    Cheers,
    Russ
    Check your lips at the door woman. Shake your hips like battleships. Yeah, all the white girls trip when I sing at Sunday service.
  • shackshack Posts: 11,284
    edited April 2004
    Well my little shootout is done. Once started, I added a couple of CDs to the mix that I am very familiar with to add some additional dimension to the test. Caedmon’s Call, In The Company of Angels because it has a lot of acoustic guitar and Sarah McLachlan, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy primarily for a “hidden” vocal and piano acoustic version of “Possession”. These along with the Steely Dan CD made for a very nice demo.
    Are the "designer" cables really better than "baseline" $3.00 cables?
    ABSOLUTELY – I was shocked in the difference between the “el cheapo” patchcord and the entry level AudioQuest G-Snake. I have mostly been in the “get good quality cables…but wire is wire” camp. At the low end of the spectrum I was dead wrong! When you buy any component that has a patchcord in the box...throw it away immediately…or whatever…just don’t use it! The best way to describe the sound is to put a 4 X 8 sheet of plywood in front of your speakers. The sound seems to come from that flat surface with no depth or definition whatsoever. Add that vocals sound thin with a very tinny quality and bass was muted. The sound is just bad. Since I’m sure all of you have one of these patchcords laying around and some better cables…try this for yourself and see if you agree.
    As you move up the product line of a company (AudioQuest in this case), do you get significant improvements, are they subtle changes or any improvement at all?
    There are definite improvements…which I would categorize as subtle vs significant. Each step up the line gets you a little better detail and separation and maybe a little better bass. It is noticeable but not the “blow you away with the difference” variety. A direct comparison between the G-Snake and the Diamondback still only yielded marginal improvements. The difference between the Sidewinders and Diamondback was harder to quantify but definitely there. The bottom line is that the improvement is there…it is just a matter of how much you perceive the improvement to be worth in terms of $.
    How much better are $100± cables vs $20± cables?
    See my impressions from the previous paragraph. There IS a difference! I guess if you have $1,000 to $1,500 invested in a stereo system…and for a mere $80 you can improve the quality of the sound…you should do it. If you are in a pinch and need to ration funds, buy some “good” entry level cables. The G-Snakes are better than any entry level Monster or Radio Shack or AR cables that I have used for just a few more dollars. They will be a very nice compromise until you can (or choose to) spend more.
    With cables of similar price but different design (Diamondbacks vs Solar Winds) how much if any difference can you hear?
    A LOT! This surprised me. I have not read any of the reviews of these two cables in anticipation of this demo. I did not want to have a preconceived impression of either one. I did the patchcord vs G-Snake and the AudioQuest G-Snake, Sidewinder and Diamondback comparisons the first night. Solar Wind vs Diamondback the second night. These two cables have very distinct and different sound qualities. Much more than I would have anticipated. Again, I have generally been it the “all good wire should sound pretty much the same” camp. Cereulance asked if I could do a blind demo. I don’t think when you are “comparing” the difference between cables that is necessary. Maybe if you were trying to determine which is the “best” a double blind test might have some merit. That said…I am confident that I could tell the difference between these two in a blind test. For continuity of the Cable Swap, I will post my impressions of each individual cable in their respective threads later this weekend…and yes…I did have a favorite.

    Bottom line – “Good” cables are a must even in a “moderate” or “Mid-Fi” system. More money gets you noticeable improvement. The buyer must decide if the end result justifies the additional cost. Would I spend more that the cost of the Diamondbacks or Solar Winds for a system of this caliber? NO! $120± is my limit. The quality of the sound is more than good enough for these old ears. Better equipment? Maybe. But that’s another shootout for another day.
    "Just because you’re offended doesn’t mean you’re right." - Ricky Gervais

    "For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible." - Stuart Chase

    "Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago." - Bernard Berenson
  • jcautjcaut Posts: 1,863
    edited April 2004
    Nice reviews/shootout, shack! Thanks!

    Jason
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