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GA Russell

Suggestions sought: Speaker wires

232 posts in this topic

3 hours ago, jazzbo said:

i have been getting a lot of enjoyment out of my turntable, and don't begrudge any money spent on it. Don't feel it's a mistake at all.

Spot on, I hear you. Linn has been doing the same  thing with the LP12. You can buy the basic deck, then add mechanical upgrades such as Cirkus bearing and Keel baseplate and supply/motor upgrades such as Radikal. Each offers very significant benefit to what is, even in basic form, a fine deck. At least the drive belt stays 'as is'.

Edited by sidewinder

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Indeed, it's nice to have the upgrade path to move along as you can or want to. I did mine in three different batches, and each was an incremental improvement and the final result is quite good. 

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31 minutes ago, sidewinder said:

Spot on, I hear you. Linn has been doing the same  thing with the LP12. You can buy the basic deck, then add mechanical upgrades such as Cirkus bearing and Keel baseplate and supply/motor upgrades such as Radikal. Each offers very significant benefit to what is, even in basic form, a fine deck. At least the drive belt stays 'as is'.

Actually, it's not the same thing. Rega does not produce these alterations. They sell their tables without a disclaimer that Rega's el cheapo plastic sub-platter is worse than the third party aluminum one, or the whole turntable can be bettered by various additional tweaks. In other words, their turntables' perceived shortcomings have generated a cottage industry, offering various tweaks for the the $1,000+ turntables.  I find it amusing that someone would knowingly go out and buy a very expensive unit, and spend another $500-$1,000+ to make it "several levels better".  

Linn, otoh, is quite honest with their customers, by offering upgrades. 

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You think a Rega RP3 is "a very expensive unit?" That's funny.

Look, think whatever you want, but Rega is a business that sells three or four tiers of tables, to differing price points. All manufacturers do something like this. That someone cares enough to help users climb the ladder incrementally or to even get a better table than the next level up the Rega line by doing upgrades themselves for a lesser total price than the next model (which is what I feel happens) is a testimony to the quality of the sound and design of the Rega, which is also testified to by the many users out there who are loyal and climb the upgrade ladder by buying a new Rega or upgrading their own. 

Just as no audio brand or sound is for everyone, the Rega may not please everyone. When I heard the RP3 I stopped looking at other tables though, I like the Rega sound and design and ease of use. If you like another table fine, I just don't buy your "Rega is being dishonest" line. 

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1 hour ago, jazzbo said:

You think a Rega RP3 is "a very expensive unit?" That's funny.

 

Well, tell that to the topic starter...I think his whole setup cost less than your souped-up Rega. Soup to nuts. :rolleyes:

 

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We're far away from discussing G.A.'s original suggestion.

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There is no difference in speaker wire. This has been proven again and again in double-blind tests. Unless you've engaged in your own double-blind testing, you cannot say "I hear a difference" with any real confidence. You think you hear a difference. But our senses are easily fooled. You've all experienced optical illusions, right? There are also auditory illusions, touch illusions, smell illusions, taste illusions, etc. That's why the scientific method has been so successful; because it is a tool that gives us the means to bypass our own confirmation biases, agendas, partiality, and the inherent weakness of our own senses. 

Allow me to relate a little story. I'm good friends with a brilliant and extremely knowledgeable audio engineer / acoustician here in my hometown. I've learned everything I know about audio and audio engineering from him. He designs his own speakers that sell for five digit prices, he designs recording studios for major labels & artists, and he has incredibly trained and sensitive ears. He's able to hear EQ changes within .5 db increments and can tell you exactly what frequency is poking out of a mix without using a visual cue like a spectral analyzer.

When we were mixing and mastering my progressive rock project (THEO - The Game of Ouroboros), we had to upsample the mixes from the recorded format (24bit, 44.1kHz, tracked at my home studio) to a hi-res format (24bit, 96kHz) for inclusion on the Blu-Ray. We had three choices at our disposal to accomplish this feat and we decided to test each one. The first was using the resampling option in ProTools, which is the DAW that my friend runs at his studio, as it's the industry standard. I believe he was on ProTools 10 at the time. The second option was to upsample in Cubase using it's resampling algorithm, Cubase being the DAW I use. And the third was to feed the analog outputs of my Cubase machine, the machine on which we were doing the mixing since I had already pre-mixed everything at home, into the studio's $14,000 Prism Dream converter, capturing the the audio at the high sample rate.

The ProTools internal upsampling was really bad. We both agreed that it was the worst of the three. Cloudy, with a collapsed stereo field comparatively, and a real lack of punchiness. The Cubase internal upsampling sounded really good. We were both surprised given that ProTools is the industry standard. The re-capture of the audio from the $14k Prism Dream sounded really good, too. In fact, my friend the studio owner claimed it was the best. But I honestly couldn't hear a difference between it and the Cubase internal upsampling.

I took the two tracks home that night, the Cubase internal upsampling track and the Prism Dream track. And I lined them up in Cubase, 100% sample accurate. And I switched between them, closing my eyes and doing a random number of fast button presses first so I wouldn't know which one I was listening to. And I could not hear a difference. I thought that maybe my inexpensive monitor speakers just couldn't reveal the difference. But there had to be one, right? I mean, a $500 software program vs. the creme de la creme of digital audio converters that costs more than my car?

So I decided to test my friend the next morning when both our ears were fresh and new. I did the same test. He closed his eyes. I switched back and forth between the two signals. The switching was so good and the two tracks of audio aligned so tightly that you could not hear when they were being switched (no click, no stutter, it was totally seamless). After about a minute of listening he asked, "Have you switched them yet?" I said, "Yes, I've been switching them this whole time." He said, "Oh... well tell me when you're switching." So I said, "A" when it was the first one and "B" when it was the second. I had him guess which was which and wrote down his guesses. His success rate was about 50%, just what you'd expect from a random double-blind A/B test. And he changed his mind throughout; "A is the Prism. No, B is the Prism. Yeah B. No A." 

Remember, this is a guy with better trained ears (not better ears in general, mind you... better trained ears) than probably anyone here. And he could not hear a difference.

We were both surprised to say the least. Both of us expected the more expensive Prism to decimate the Cubase upsampling. Why would it not? And my friend was certain the night before, where we were not doing a blind test, that the Prism sounded better. He even pointed out areas in the audio that were 'better' that night. But that morning, with eyes closed and not knowing which was which, he could no longer hear any differences at all.

The point? Nobody has super ears. There are limits to our hearing, to all our senses, and our perceptions are constantly colored by what we think should happen, what we think the results should be, by what we already believe. The only way... the only way to arrive at an empirical truth is to remove those colors and biases from the equation. The only way to do that in audio is double-blind testing. 

To say "I trust my ears" is to deny that your ears are untrustworthy. I think everyone has experienced seeing something out of the corner of their eye and you turn your head and nothing is there. Our eyes play tricks on us all the time. So do our ears. All of our senses do. Because our brain is the interpreter and it uses certain processes on the data it receives that many of us don't realize nor are we conscious of it. Our brain filters the information it is fed based on past experiences, preconceived notions, confirmation bias, ego, cognitive dissonance, and other inference systems (to use a phrase from Pascal Boyer). It's just the way we are.

I've posted this video before (if I remember correctly) and it's worth re-posting. It's long but it's worth watching the whole thing. They cover all the ways in which our ears fool us and there are some pretty funny anecdotes in there, including James Johnston (an expert in acoustics, psychoacoustics, and DSP) talking about how he did a double-blind test on fellow AES members with two amps; solid state and tube. Except that the tube amp wasn't actually working; it lit up but there was no sound. He wired up a false switch that he claimed switched between the two amps but really it did nothing except make a satisfying "click". It wasn't wired to anything. Not knowing this, most in attendance chose the "tube amp" as being better, even though they were listening to the same amp every time they flipped the switch.

 

 

Anyway, long post... sorry for that. But as abrasive as he can sometimes be, Scott is correct. And Kevin (who is anything but abrasive) is correct as well. This stuff is not subjective; it is objective. It's been tested over and over again. Certainly one can believe whatever one wants but at the end of the day, that's all it is; a belief.

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Poppy is such a doll.

Again, this is science vs. faith. 

Hitchens Razor can be applied to audiophilia: "What can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence." 

Though I like to modify it and say, "what is asserted without evidence, should be dismissed without evidence." 

Edited by Scott Dolan

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Twenty years ago I visited a Linn shop in Atlanta.  A Linn rep was there!  He took a very expensive turntable and a very expensive CD player, and did the A/B test.

I could hear a difference, but I did not know which I preferred.  I could not say that I felt one was better than the other.

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If you want the most artifact and distortion free sound possible, then it would be CD. But, some folks find the harmonic distortion ("warmth") that vinyl introduces to be pleasant, which leads them to believe LP is the superior medium. 

They both sound fine, and I can listen to either and enjoy them equally (as long as the LP is in pristine condition). But I'd never try to fool myself into thinking they're equal, or that LP is superior. 

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3 hours ago, Scott Dolan said:

If you want the most artifact and distortion free sound possible, then it would be CD. But, some folks find the harmonic distortion ("warmth") that vinyl introduces to be pleasant, which leads them to believe LP is the superior medium. 

They both sound fine, and I can listen to either and enjoy them equally (as long as the LP is in pristine condition). But I'd never try to fool myself into thinking they're equal, or that LP is superior. 

Again, it has to be noted that any pleasant "distortion" that vinyl adds is not on any master tape and this could be captured by any CD made if the mastering engineer wanted it. I have done many needle-drops and the resulting digital file captures all of the alterations made by vinyl. It's not the advantages of digital audio that people dislike, it's the shortcomings of vinyl that they do like.

And before I got lumped into the "vinyl sucks" camp, I want to add that I am still buying vinyl these days. Mainly because it's fun. Really, that's the main reason.

Edited by Kevin Bresnahan

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20 minutes ago, Kevin Bresnahan said:

It's not the advantages of digital audio that people dislike, it's the shortcomings of vinyl that they do like. 

Wow! That's a rather amazing statement. I wish I had thought of that one. 

It's great point. Which also makes one ask, "why don't the engineers add the distortion of vinyl to CDs?" I'd think the answer is rather obvious. 

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9 hours ago, Scott Dolan said:

It's great point. Which also makes one ask, "why don't the engineers add the distortion of vinyl to CDs?" I'd think the answer is rather obvious.

They do. There are all kinds of harmonic distortion plug-ins and tools available to the modern engineer if he/she or the producer wants that sound. One of the best is the Sonnox Oxford Inflator plug-in. This is a lot like the old Aural Exciter hardware units of yesteryear but much more flexible. I know that Peter Gabriel's engineer for example uses it on his vocals. It's also handy on drums and even on the mix bus (the entire mix) to add a bit of sparkle / energy to the track. Of course like anything else it can be overused.

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But Jim, I'm not talking about sprinkling in effects here and there. I'm talking about introducing even order harmonics across the mix, so CDs end up with the "warm sound" of vinyl. I doubt any engineer would ever do that. Although it certainly would have sounded a hell of a lot better than what the loudness wars cursed us with. 

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They do it all the time. That's why there's a huge market of esoteric analog mic preamps, compressors, 'vintage warmer' plugins, etc. It's also why a lot of studios / artists / engineers still record to tape and then transfer that into the digital realm for editing and mixing.

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So what notable albums have had vinyl-like harmonic distortion added to the final digital mix? 

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I have no idea but I've used those kind of plug-ins a lot myself. And the list of engineers that use the Sonnox Inflator plug-in is a mile long. They might not use it on the whole mix, but often it is used on individual instruments, especially vocals. 

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10 hours ago, Jim Alfredson said:

They might not use it on the whole mix, but often it is used on individual instruments, especially vocals. 

OK. We're saying the exact same thing here. 

Either I wasn't getting my point across properly, or you weren't getting what I was trying to say. 

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No I get it. But I can't reference any concrete examples because frankly I don't listen to a lot of modern music. But the 'holy grail' in modern digital recordings (at least in non-classical genres) is to make things sound 'warm' and 'analog'. There are literally thousands of plug-ins that claim to do so (with varying degrees of success) as well as hundreds of hardware units (mic preamps, compressors, limiters, etc.) that are marketed as 'warming up' the 'cold digital sound'.

I guess in terms of recent recordings, I would point to Steven Wilson's "The Raven That Refused To Sing" as a brilliantly engineered album (not to mention the cool music itself) that sounds to me like something from the pinnacle of analog recording (late 70s). It was engineered by Alan Parsons and recorded to HD ProTools but the signal chain up until the computer was all analog; analog EQs, mic preamps, compressors, etc. To my ears it sounds incredibly warm but with far more fidelity, frequency range, and dynamics than vinyl could ever muster. Basically the best of both worlds.

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It is now time for me to try to hook up what I have.  I will need a wire cutter, stripper and crimper, right?

Any recommendations?

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What do you have? Are you trying to attach terminations, or just connecting the bare wire to your speakers? 

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Scott, I have Monoprice 12 awg soft loud speaker cable, and Sewell Deadbolt Fast-Lock banana plugs.

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Terminating these wires with the Sewell bananas is pretty easy. All you really need is something to cut off the vinyl jacket from the wire and little patience. Wire strippers or a box cutter works but the box cutter requires a lot more caution. :)

This page has a description of what you have to do: https://sewelldirect.com/sewell-deadbolt-banana-plugs-6-pair?stm_type=ppc&stm_source=adwords&product_id=SW-29863-6&campaignid=410148363&adgroupid=25857622683&creative=92183573763&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI5q3Cq-m02gIVxo2zCh0M7gv4EAQYASABEgJQM_D_BwE There's even a video, which I'll put down at the bottom of this post.

Now to the nitty gritty. I've terminated many speakers wires with connectors like this and it's always been easy but I've learned over the years that there are a few things to be aware of to get the best connection. First off, when you cut off the jacket, take off only enough that you can spread the individual wires out over the rim. You do not want bare wire sticking out of the bottom of the connector!

Also, be very careful when spreading the strands of copper wire out over the rim. Make sure each wire is a single strand and try to evenly distribute it around the entire rim. Why? Well, if you accidentally have 2 wires still entwined going over the rim, your final hard connection will probably be just those two wires because they stick up higher on the rim. The rest might not even touch the cap you screw on. Also, if you don't spread them out evenly, in my experience, the screwed-on cap (the banana) will loosen with time and use. You do not want these to loosen! Bad things can happen if it gets too loose. By spreading it out evenly, you'll get the tightest connection possible.

One last trick... After you screw on the banana cap, try unscrewing it. It should be difficult. If it's easy, you're not tightening it hard enough. For very heavy gauge wire with thick single strands, I've actually had to use padded pliers. Pad the pliers to prevent the gold getting scraped off. These are very lightly gold plated, not solid gold. :)

The video - note that he does not seem to evenly distribute the wire over the rim. Maybe these connectors are better than some of the ones I've used.

 

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