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Self-titled honest audiophile claims Cardas headphone cables made an audible difference..

GM3

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Self-titled honest audiophile claims Cardas headphone cables made (make) an audible difference... Even improvement. Thoughts?

(timestamp'd for his conclusion)
Does a Cardas Audio headphone cable make a difference? - Honest Audiophile Impressions

(below text from CC for the conclusion part of the video, fixed a bit, not perfect, last 2 paragraphs worth reading, for lols)
(The Cardas cable) ... It's a different sound. Noticeable on all tracks. And, I did hundreds, I mean hundreds, of listens to all the various different cables. Swapping them and listening to the same song over and over and over again, to make sure that I was hearing it properly and every single time, the Cardas cable had more air. It had more space and there was better depth and it even outshined the Odyssey premium cable, while at the same time keeping the body and the note weight and the overall balance of the lcd5.

It just enhanced the whole presentation, not in like force feeding it and throwing it at me but more of just bringing it into focus more and refining it and defining it just a little bit better and it was noticeable every track every single time. I would swap cables and I would compare it to the different ones, it did not matter did not matter to the track it did not matter anything. The cardas with this cable definitely made a difference that was noticeable.

Call me crazy sneer at me if you want jeer me if you want say I'm believing in snake oil do all that kind of stuff if you want. But until you hear it, you won't believe it. And I was the same way and there have been moments as I said earlier, In various other gear, that every now and then, you have that experience. And the lcd5 and the Cardis cable, I heard the difference. On the LCD 2 closed not so much. It was very sporadic. But on the lcd5 and the Cardas cable.

Now what can change that? There are several different things. Impedance. You can match impedance with a cable and with headphone and with amps and they have synergy. And that could be happening with this Cardas cable and the Audeze lcd5 and it's just kind of coming together. Some other things that can change is that it's just a better cable. The Cardis wire, the processes that they use for it, and the build that Patrick did over at Fox City putting together this cable. It all just is a superior cable to everything else, So it just sounds better.

Whatever the reasoning being is, I heard it. You might not believe in it, or you may, but there's one thing: My ears are the final judge, and you have different ears than me. You can't hear what my ears hear, and process the way my brain processes it. So I'm the only one that hears it this way. So you can either take my word that this cable makes a subtle difference or you can just say ave's a wakadu, He's crazy and cables don't make a difference. Try it.

I was really surprised starting at 265 dollars a fog City audio, Cardas cable sounds better than the Audeze premium 600 cable. not by a whole lot but a little bit. I was kind of surprised. And it sounds better than the others, and there is a significant difference between the mogami cable and the Cardas cable. So did I hear a difference? yep sure did. I believe in cables making a difference every single time? Absolutely not. I think a cable can help make a difference and I do think that a cable can enhance the experience whether it be through the build through the looks or the sound. But I don't think that it's the magic pill to I totally change every single headphone or every single IEM or every single speaker or every single deck and amp. I think it just kind of comes down to the synergy of each little piece in the puzzle and in order to find out if a cable makes a difference you just have to try change them out see if you hear a difference. This time I did, probably next time I won't.

Myself... I think it reflects very poorly on a reviewer when he jumps in the cable bandwagon... In this day and age, measurements should be at the forefront of any review, and contentious claims such as cables making audible improvements should be at least validated in some way. Do I think he's being dishonest when claiming that he can hear differences? Not really... Do I think the differences really exist? Doubtful...

To defend his claims, he linked to a headphone show video where they explain that in some (rare) cases, impedance can make a measurable difference, with extremely low impedance headphones, ex; RAAL CA-1A. But theses RAALs are "True-Ribbon headphones are of very low resistance (impedance)_few tens of milliohms. About 10 times less than a headphone cable.". So a special case indeed...

By my understanding, headphone cables should have negligible impedance, so their effect should be equally negligible. So you would need abnormally high impedance to make a difference, which would make them measurably worse cables; less conductive cables; smaller cables, or with some sort of resistance built-in, which would make the headphones sound less loud... Not more loud like Andrew from THS heard with the RAAL + upgraded cable (which I could not find specs for...). So my understanding seems to not correspond to their experience... But thinking, given the RAALs require MUCH higher voltage than normal headphones, maybe your average headphone cable's awg isn't sufficient and that's why there could be a benefit? (According to ASR RAAL review, takes ~50-150mv for 94dB for typical headphones, vs 1075mv for RAALs) Maybe higher impedance helps out the amp?

In the case of THA, he used Audeze LCD-5 which are according to their website, are 14 ohms impedance, so they likely do not fall in the realm where cable should matter... But what seems to be most troubling to me, is that his Cardas uses an XLR connection, so not the same as the other cables, and not knowing what amp he used, from what I saw from some Toppings, Schiit, etc., there can be significant differences between different outputs... So comparing different cables by using different outputs, seems at best ill conceived, and at worse dishonest or misleading, as any difference could (and should) likely be attributed to that...

That said, his conclusion is plain awful. Instead of advocating researching whether or not a cable could potentially make a difference given your amp & headphones, he instead advocates 'trying', which would be a complete waste of time and money in the majority of cases... He did admit to receiving the cables as a gift, so that might have influenced his video... (understatement) So sadly, for me, his credibility took a big hit... Warranted?
 
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kemmler3D

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Very doubtful that there would be a real change in FR with different cables on any of the LCD line, since planars in general and Audezes in general have flat impedance curves.

If your cable has a non-flat impedance curve to the point that it makes an audible change, 1) that would be pretty easy to measure, and 2) at that point it's basically an inline filter more than it's a cable. Just use EQ and stop making a fool of yourself, if that's the case.

Just another person who talked themselves into hearing a difference and then started forming meta-beliefs about their self-induced belief.
 
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GM3

GM3

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Do many cables have non-flat impedance curves?! ASR did a review of 'premium' headphone cables and there was no measurable differences... I don't recall ever seeing any review where there was a measurable improvement over a regular cable, which would point to audible improvements...
 

kemmler3D

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Do many cables have non-flat impedance curves?!
I don't think so, but I haven't really looked into it. I'm just imagining HOW some really audible change might come about from a cable swap.
 

Doodski

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I don't think so, but I haven't really looked into it. I'm just imagining HOW some really audible change might come about from a cable swap.
Capacitive reactance and inductive reactance would need to be added to the cable's effect on the signal. One of them or both of them will do it.
 

GGroch

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You are right not to question whether the Honest Audiophile hears a difference. I am certain he does.

His mistake comes when he says "My ears are the final judge", that is never true for any of us. Our brains are the final judge, and our interpretation of what we hear is hard wired to all of our senses, previous experiences and expectations. We cannot turn that off (outside of blind testing).

If his brain tells him Cardas sounds better, that is a great reason for him to own it. HiFi is for enjoyment and it improves his experience.

That has nothing to do with whether Cardas actually impacts what comes out of the headphone drivers.
 

kemmler3D

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You are right not to question whether the Honest Audiophile hears a difference. I am certain he does.

His mistake comes when he says "My ears are the final judge", that is never true for any of us. Our brains are the final judge, and our interpretation of what we hear is hard wired to all of our senses, previous experiences and expectations. We cannot turn that off (outside of blind testing).

If his brain tells him Cardas sounds better, that is a great reason for him to own it. HiFi is for enjoyment and it improves his experience.

That has nothing to do with whether Cardas actually impacts what comes out of the headphone drivers.
QFT
 

solderdude

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Do many cables have non-flat impedance curves?! ASR did a review of 'premium' headphone cables and there was no measurable differences... I don't recall ever seeing any review where there was a measurable improvement over a regular cable, which would point to audible improvements...
scroll all the way down to the 'cable' part.
basically cable resistance is a thing when using a 3-wire cable combines with low impedance/resistance headphones.

It is not the cables that have a 'sound' but simply Ohm's law.
 
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roladyzator

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scroll all the way down to the 'cable' part.
basically cable resistance is a thing when using a 3-wire cable combines with low impedance/resistance headphones.

It is not the cables that have a 'sound' but simply Ohm's law.

Fantastic explanation! I had no idea about the common wire adding crosstalk.

Do you think that once volume is matched, the cable with less or more crosstalk is preferred?
 

solderdude

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Well it is actually not regular crosstalk as in L+ a bit of R and R+ a bit of L but rather L- a bit of R and R- at bit of L for mono signals only.
So more cable crosstalk 'kind of slightly' changes the stereo imaging.

Of course the cable resistance needs to be substantial compared to the driver impedance for this to reach audible levels.
It really looks like AQ (a cable company) added a 'subpar' cable (the one with the gold connectors) on purpose to 'promote' their silver cables to make sure an audible difference can be found and one is persuaded to buy expensive AQ silver cables for speakers, mains or whatnot.
A marketing gimmick.

What one can take away from this is that one has to watch out for single sided cables with just 3 connection points on the headphone side when one has low impedance headphones.
Some single entry sided cables have 4 connection points on the headphone side and may actually be 4-wire all the way up to the TRS connector and are not affected with this effect. The cable inside being 3 or 4 wire is not easy to determine by looking at it and requires very low resistance measurements or cutting the cable to find out for sure.
Split entry cables are almost always 4 wire and only connect to the sleeve of the TRS jack in the TRS jackplug itself.
 
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GGroch

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......It really looks like AQ (a cable company) added a 'subpar' cable (the one with the gold connectors) on purpose to 'promote' their silver cables to make sure an audible difference can be found and one is persuaded to buy expensive AQ silver cables for speakers, mains or whatnot.
A marketing gimmick.
To their credit (I guess) the Audioquest CEO clearly states that including 2 single ended cables of the same length in the Nighthawk headphone box (a good one and a bad one) IS a marketing gimmick. See the last paragraph in the attached excerpt from the user guide. What he did not state (but DIY Audio Heaven discovered) is that the bad cable was purpose designed to sound bad by using extremely thin high resistance conductors.

While it is something to be aware of, you cannot conclude that this marketing ploy cable is representative of cables normally sent with high quality headphones. Instead Audioquest found or manufactured a measurably terrible comparison cable specifically to drive additional $$$ cable purchases (balanced cables or different lengths).

This subterfuge was unwise and unnecessary. They were found out (By DIY audio), and their nicer looking real cable with a long technology story would have sounded better to all of their customers anyway.
Nighthawk.jpg
 
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GM3

GM3

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scroll all the way down to the 'cable' part.
basically cable resistance is a thing when using a 3-wire cable combines with low impedance/resistance headphones.

It is not the cables that have a 'sound' but simply Ohm's law.
This is explained here.
The difference in crosstalk between these cables is an audible 10dB. The silver cable has -34dB crosstalk and the gold one -24dB. These are audible levels and explain differences between the 2 supplied cables.

The difference in resistance thus makes the difference here. The low impedance of the driver combined with the unusual high resistance of the gold cable does indeed create an audible difference that is perceived as less ‘full’ sounding than the lower resistance silver cable. It isn’t perceived as ‘less loud’ which one would expect.
Also the difference in resistance leads to a different stereo-separation and stereo-image due to the common return wire.
It would seem as AQ added a ‘poor quality’ cable with nice looking gold plated connectors to ‘show’ how ‘good’ their more expensive cables are.
Some people might think .. ah well so the silver is a better conductor which explains the difference in resistance. This might SEEM to be the case BUT the ‘trickery’ involved here is that the used conductors in the ‘gold’ cable are MUCH thinner than in the ‘silver’ cable.
It’s that diameter difference that is the real cause of the difference in resistance.

So now you know… the ‘silver’ cable plays a little LOUDER and has a different stereo-image (crosstalk, not crossfeed) on purpose to ‘show’ their customers how ‘important’ the cable is but secretly tricked you by adding a higher resistance cable which you may just as well throw away ?
Btw, I heard these headphones, horrible... One of the worst I've ever heard. That says a ton about cable companies lol

This seems to correspond to my understanding, but seems the opposite of the RAAL experience from the The Headphone Show;
By my understanding, headphone cables should have negligible impedance, so their effect should be equally negligible. So you would need abnormally high impedance to make a difference, which would make them measurably worse cables; less conductive cables; smaller cables, or with some sort of resistance built-in, which would make the headphones sound less loud... Not more loud like Andrew from THS heard with the RAAL + upgraded cable (which I could not find specs for...). So my understanding seems to not correspond to their experience... But thinking, given the RAALs require MUCH higher voltage than normal headphones, maybe your average headphone cable's awg isn't sufficient and that's why there could be a benefit? (According to ASR RAAL review, takes ~50-150mv for 94dB for typical headphones, vs 1075mv for RAALs) Maybe higher impedance helps out the amp?
Ah but ok, "people perceive volume differences as 'more full' rather than just louder".. Explains things, as that corresponds to what was heard with the RAAL with the upgraded cable... Mystery solved!

Thing which is a bit surprising in cases like these, is that the people who compare cables compare it with the stock cables; which in most cases SHOULD be adequate, or to other 'upgraded' cables, which should also be perfectly adequate. Power of placebo I guess!

So even with their ridiculously low quality cable, specifically chosen by AudioQuest to fool people into thinking their cables sound better than your average cable, by just increasing the volume a tad to level match both cables, there would have been no audible difference... :facepalm: (false.. caused by ridiculously, inadequate wire gauge of audioquest subpar cable)

Also not 100% clear on crosstalk, the linked PDF didn't seem to clearly explain what it is...
The silver cable has less attenuation (Ohms law) and thus plays 1dB louder so the distortion is also 1dB higher and this is what the plots show.
[...]
… I can’t hear that high up but assuming 10kHz is quite audible we need we can calculate how much ‘resistance’ that capacitance has. At 306pF there is a 52kΩ resistance between L and R and as the impedance is around 26 Ohms and the capacitance to ground is 356pF there is -72dB crosstalk at 10kHz.
For the silver cable the crosstalk is smaller. 73kΩ resistance between L and R and as the impedance is around 26 Ohms and the capacitance to ground is 395pF there is -78dB crosstalk at 10kHz.
Not something to write home about.
Most amplifiers won’t have any trouble with a 0.5nF load (500pF), certainly not when the capacitance is in parallel to a low resistance (26Ω ) load.
[...]
The difference in crosstalk between these cables is an audible 10dB. The silver cable has -34dB crosstalk and the gold one -24dB. These are audible levels and explain differences between the 2 supplied cables.
basically; cheap cable has 2 wires, with headphone between the 2 wires, the 2 wire's resistance would be added to headphone. And the AQ cable uses 2 wires for the return, hence halving resistance & other effects of half the trip? And in this case, the 10dB would be at ~10kHz? Why wouldn't this be picked up in the headphone measurements?

Oh but 1 cable has 4 wires; 2 for left, 2 for right... So is crosstalk those 4 wires inferring with each other? And yeah if the measurements only included the Right channel, this added distortion when playing left & right would not show up... Is that it?
added a 'subpar' cable [...] A marketing gimmick.
I wouldn't call it a marketing gimmick... More deception; charlatanry, trickery, etc., even just plain fraud, as by definition, a subpar cable isn't a normal cable. It's downright fraud, or just plain gimmick, as per "1a: a mechanical device for secretly and dishonestly controlling gambling apparatus".
 
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solderdude

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More information on the crosstalk part is explained, perhaps more clearly, here I wrote that almost 10 years ago and should maybe update it a little.
I'll try to explain a little in words below.

The return wire has both L + R flowing through one wire.
Mono signals thus have double the voltage drop of hard panned stereo signals across that wire.
The voltage drop falling across the common return wire basically does not arrive at the driver end of the cable and thus is 'subtracted' from the signal.
More so for the mono than the stereo signals. The loss of bass (and voices) which are usually in 'mono' will thus be slightly affected more than stereo signals.
The voltage drop across the L and R wires is simply a loss in volume (voltage division) and an effective increase of output resistance of the amplifier.

A thought experiment is simply losing the common return wire completely (so infinite resistance). This will give you only the stereo information in mono and will remove all mono information.
The effect is basically that but very, very subtle but audible. That 'difference' signal is about 10dB 'higher' in level so affects the stereo imaging but not so much the frequency response.
Measurements of a headphone are made using sweeps on both channels at the same time so won't show it.

It is not frequency dependent... well it is a little when the impedance of the headphone is not 'flat'.
 
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GM3

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More information on the crosstalk part is explained more clearly perhaps here
The return wire has both L + R flowing through one cable. Mono signals thus have double the voltage drop of hard panned stereo signals.
The voltage drop falling across the common return wire basically does not arrive at the driver end of the cable and thus is 'subtracted' from the signal.
The voltage drop across the L and R wires is simply a loss in volume (voltage division) and an effective increase of output resistance of the amplifier.

It is not frequency dependent... well it is a little when the impedance of the headphone is not 'flat'.

Aaaah yes of course! Each connector on the headphone side of the cable have the +/-, and the amp side connector has 3; L, R and '-'/return, common for L & R... So unlike a pair of speaker wires which have 4 wires total, headphone cables have 3; not particular of AudioQuest or that supbar cable.. :) Thanks!!!

So this 10dB difference wasn't measured because the headphone measurements for comparing the cables were done using 1 side of the headphone, and not both sides playing simultaneously?

And again, just to restate, that this would not occur normally, as any cable provided with decent headphones should be of sufficient gauge as to not cause an issue such as with the subpar AudioQuest provided cable; which was chosen specifically because it wasn't an adequate cable for the task.
 

solderdude

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And again, just to restate, that this would not occur normally, as any cable provided with decent headphones should be of sufficient gauge as to not cause an issue such as with the subpar AudioQuest provided cable; which was chosen specifically because it wasn't an adequate cable for the task.
Yes, a 3-wire cable should have a low enough resistance (common) return wire.
As this is also headphone impedance dependent the 'effect' is less with higher impedance headphones compared to lower impedance headphones given the same wire resistance.
The wire resistance just needs to be low enough compared to the headphone impedance to not become audible.
In theory it is present in all 3-wire cables but usually not of any audible concern.
 
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GM3

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To their credit (I guess) the Audioquest CEO clearly states that including 2 single ended cables of the same length in the Nighthawk headphone box (a good one and a bad one) IS a marketing gimmick. See the last paragraph in the attached excerpt from the user guide. What he did not state (but DIY Audio Heaven discovered) is that the bad cable was purpose designed to sound bad by using extremely thin high resistance conductors.
Actually, just above that: "so why a second cable? [...] For us, the lesser cable is just an unnecessary backup, or the cable to use at parties and such."

So it's ironically just more deception. They claim that the subpar cable, which is inappropriate to drive their headphones properly, are a backup, and should be used at parties and such... They make no mention that it is effectively an inappropriate cable, that should in no case be used with the headphones, as unlike a regular cable, won't be perfectly adequate for the headphones. Really, it's disgusting. It's just more deception. It's obvious that it is provided to fool the poor users of that horrible headphone, so that they compare both cable and are fooled into thinking that AudioQuest cables sound better than normal cables...

People, don't buy AudioQuest garbage... please...

iu


(sadly, still own audiquest RCA cables which were thrown in for free with a speaker purchase... Makes me want to burn them lmao!)

And jesus... THE IRONY... Cable manufacturer provides a subpar cable to be used as a backup, or for parties and such, with their own headphones... Really, that is priceless. "Not for comparison", the cable manufacturer just provides a backup so that if their cable breaks, you can use a cheap ass garbage cable. Fucking fantastic idea/advice.

So they're the only headphone manufactures assuming their cables will break and that you will need to use the backup cable? And their backup isn't even a proper cable? Really, I don't think they're sending the message they think they're sending. LOL
 
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GGroch

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The thing is, luxury cable manufacturers like AQ know there is little reason to fake poor "emergency" cable performance. Headphone/amp/speaker owners will hear the difference their fancy cable makes, regardless of actual performance. AQ knows that.

A friend of mine was regional sales manager for AQ at this exact time. He was previously national sales manager for Monster and I worked with him for many years at Soundtrack/Ultimate Denver. We knew that the Monster cables, power conditioners, etc. we sold had a high customer satisfaction rate and were very seldom returned.

We were careful to teach each customer the Monster technology story in the sales pitch. The use case specific tech story is also printed on the back of every Monster Blister Pack. Once buyers learned the story, and when they felt the heft of the cables, and experienced the effort needed to twist Monster Turbine RCA connectors onto their sockets, they almost inevitably heard a big positive difference.

More than that, they heard so much difference they often demoed the change to their friends, who also heard a huge difference. I think that is what "Honest Audiophile" is doing, telling his internet friends. He seems really surprised he hears improvement. Most of my customers heard improvement. He should not be surprised.

This worked great until it didn't. Once the luxo cable scam word got out, spread by ASR science types and their ilk; buyers often faced ridicule instead of praise when they told their friends about their $$$ upgrade cable purchase. That's a major reason the upgrade cable market collapsed. Still, there is one born every minute.
 
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Angsty

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That's a major reason the upgrade cable market collapsed. Still, there is one born every minute.
A few out there still doing brisk business: Cardas, Audioquest, Nordost…

The game remains the same even if the audience has shrunk.
 
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