Rob Sabin

Track One: What’s in a Wire? Plus, our new fam­ily across the pond.

Sound & Vision - - CONTENTS - BY ROB SABIN, ED­I­TOR

Our so-called “flashback” fea­ture this is­sue, of­fered as part of the on­go­ing cel­e­bra­tion of our 60th year, is a juicy tid­bit from 1983 that proved one of the most con­tro­ver­sial ar­ti­cles in our pre­de­ces­sor Stereo Re­view’s his­tory. The sub­ject? Pre­mium speaker ca­bles. More to the point, whether they re­ally make a dif­fer­ence or are just a waste of money. I won’t be a spoiler here (see page 28), but the piece em­braced with full gusto what was then just a smol­der­ing de­bate and rock­eted it into a bona fide fire­fight—with the “sub­jec­tive” high-end au­dio com­mu­nity on one side and the main­stream ob­jec­tivists and mea­sure­ment freaks, rep­re­sented by SR, on the other.

There’s a great back-story be­hind the story, which you’ll read about. But what struck me as I stum­bled on the ar­ti­cle in our archive was how this de­bate still re­mains at the fore­front to­day. There are many more com­pa­nies sell­ing pre­mium speaker ca­bles and in­ter­con­nects to­day than in the early 1980s, and at least two of them—mon­ster, the de facto in­ven­tor of the cat­e­gory in 1979, and per­haps Au­dio­quest—have en­joyed wide­spread ac­cep­tance by big-box re­tail­ers and a more main­stream au­di­ence. This, no doubt, thanks to ev­ery­day shop­pers who have taken at face value the rec­om­men­da­tions of well-spiffed floor per­son­nel look­ing to at­tach these no­to­ri­ously high-profit add-ons to the sale of a re­ceiver, speaker sys­tem, or TV.

I’ve some­times been asked by read­ers (and have oc­ca­sion­ally writ­ten about) whether I think ex­pen­sive wires make a dif­fer­ence, and why we don’t test pre­mium au­dio ca­bles. To re­spond to the first ques­tion em­phat­i­cally: Def­i­nitely, maybe. I’m not be­ing coy. I be­lieve—in­deed, I know from ex­pe­ri­ence—that both in­ter­con­nects and speaker ca­bles can make read­ily au­di­ble dif­fer­ences, some­times re­ally big ones, in the sound of an au­dio sys­tem. Where I ques­tion their value is when they are con­nected to very av­er­age gear that lacks the res­o­lu­tion to ex­pose these dif­fer­ences. I’ve men­tioned in these pages how, when I started my ca­reer at a high­end au­dio mag­a­zine in the early 1980s, the ever-evolv­ing ref­er­ence sys­tem was so re­veal­ing that you could eas­ily hear the ef­fect of big changes in hu­mid­ity on phono car­tridge damp­ing. Chang­ing out ca­bles in that sys­tem, ei­ther in­ter­con­nects or speaker ca­bles, was like re­plac­ing any other ma­jor com­po­nent: You’d flip the sys­tem back on and ex­cit­edly take your seat to see what the heck you were go­ing to get. But are you go­ing to hear any­thing that dra­matic with a $600 AVR and a $1,000 5.1-chan­nel speaker kit when you swap in $100 worth of ca­bles for 16- or 14-gauge zip cord? Not likely. Bot­tom line: Un­less you’re deal­ing with re­ally pre­mium equip­ment, par­tic­u­larly speak­ers, just buy­ing de­cent cop­per ca­bles of heavy enough gauge will prob­a­bly be enough.

The rea­son we don’t test ca­bles is be­cause I’ve never been con­vinced that the same ca­bles can be counted on to sound the same in two dif­fer­ent sys­tems, even high-end sys­tems. My ex­pe­ri­ence was that their ef­fect on the son­ics could be less de­sir­able, more de­sir­able, or just dif­fer­ent de­pend­ing on what com­po­nents they were con­nected to. So hav­ing one of our re­view­ers dis­cussing the po­ten­tially very sub­tle dif­fer­ences he heard on his own sys­tem never struck me as hav­ing value to a wide au­di­ence.

Bot­tom line: I wouldn’t dis­miss out­right that fancy speaker ca­bles and in­ter­con­nects can be worth­while.

But I’d look se­ri­ously at the gear you own or what you’re buy­ing be­fore plunk­ing down a big in­vest­ment. The re­al­ity is that, if you’ve got the kind of com­po­nents that can read­ily re­veal ca­ble dif­fer­ences, your high-end au­dio sa­lon has prob­a­bly al­ready sold them to you with­out much strug­gle.

On a sep­a­rate note, Sound & Vi­sion is proud, as of this is­sue, to be a mem­ber of the Avtech Me­dia fam­ily of pub­li­ca­tions. Based in the U.K., our new par­ent is the pub­lisher of three su­perb Bri­tish mag­a­zines that some of our old-timers might be fa­mil­iar with. The flag­ship is none other than Hifi News & Record Re­view, which holds the ti­tle of the old­est re­main­ing au­dio equip­ment mag­a­zine on the planet. Its two sib­lings in­clude Hi-fi Choice and Home Cin­ema Choice. Avtech Me­dia also runs a suc­cess­ful con­sumer au­dio show called The HiFi Show Live. As part of this shift in own­er­ship, we’ll be mov­ing to a reg­u­lar bi­monthly pub­li­ca­tion sched­ule, with our usual July/au­gust is­sue to be fol­lowed there­after by sim­i­lar dou­ble-month is­sues. (Don’t worry—all ex­ist­ing sub­scrip­tions will be ex­tended to re­flect the change.) We’re happy to be part of a com­pany with such a rich his­tory in A/V pub­lish­ing and broad in­ter­na­tional reach, and look for­ward to work­ing with our new col­leagues.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.