When audio reviewing was more technical

As an older audiophile I remember when components were tested and the results printed in reviews. For example, amplifiers were given square wave tests at different frequencies and the photos of the scope results showed which ones had risen times fast enough to retain the high frequencies. But there came an era when audiophiles realized that traditional test results did not necessarily tell an accurate story, so subjective reviewing became the dominant style. And rightly so – early solid state amps and early CD players tested great but sounded harsh, Reliance on test results fell out of favor, engineers have disappeared from the audio reviewing scene, and subjective reviewing dominates.

My most popular cables, WireWorld, have the motto “Engineered for Reality” yet their website stresses that while they design with science and patent their technology, they refine the sound by ear. Once they engineer a cable they use a cable switch box to make instant comparisons to a direct connection. The goal is to compare their cables to no cable at all. WireWorld gives great results but no technical explanations.

But just because some favorite older measurements were not as good predictors as had been thought does not mean that the laws of physics had been repealed. WireWorld designs with science and tests by ear. On their website they show the evolution of cable, but do not go into any technical talk at all.

DNA Helix Patent Timeline vs. patents for Coaxial and Twisted Pair cable designs

My other favorite cable brand, Analysis Plus, takes a purely scientific approach. Their real business is a high-tech testing company, doing projects for Ford, NASA, GM, Mitsubishi, and others, but they got in the cable business almost by chance. After being hired by the world’s largest cable maker to test some of their cables they were surprised that they tested so poorly. Being scientists (the three principles are PhDs) they started a project to discover how to make a better cable using computer simulation. They found that many old ideas about cable were wrong, ( at this point please remember that much of cable design theory was perfected by telegraph and telephone companies many years ago and has not been given much thought since.) Analysis Plus used their computers to design a more perfect cable geometry and the result is their Hollow Oval design. They have white papers and videos on their website showing the science. And they have photos of the square waves of their cables versus ordinary cables.

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Figure 5 Purple Green showing signal at speaker using OMC cable.

Figure 5 shows that the leading large-diameter audiophile cable greatly distorted the signal that the speaker receives. (Note the difference between the purple and green waveforms). Figure 6, in marked contrast, shows that a signal passed through the Analysis Plus, Inc., Oval cable to the speaker is essentially identical to the signal at the amplifier.

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Figure 6 Purple showing signal at amplifier. Green showing signal at speaker using API speaker cable.

Imagine how much music you have been missing simply due to inferior cable!

But it’s not all science and lab tests at Analysis Plus. They have their share of good reviews from subjective reviewers, and they also have a huge following among musicians who want hear the full dynamics and clarity of their instruments. There is even a page on the Analysis Plus website with over 130 endorsements from players of acoustic guitar, bass players, keyboard players, and others. Here are three examples:

“I know. For years you’ve thought “they’re just cables.” And most are. But Analysis Plus is different. Once you use one, it actually becomes as much a part of your sound as the amp and the guitar. You don’t have to be an audiophile to hear and feel the difference.”

– John Mayer

“The Pro Oval Studio series has totally transformed me as an artist. Prior to discovering Analysis-Plus, my set-up included a spread of effects across the floor in front of me. Now, I don’t have the heart to even stick a high-end true bypass pedal between my instrument and the direct injection box. Thanks Mark Markel and the A.P. gang! You guys rock!!”

“I didn’t know what ‘tone’ was until I discovered Analysis Plus”

– Jake Shimabukuru

“Yellow Oval is the best cable I ever use period. This cable maximizes everything you can think of”

“Took the Pro Power Oval on the road…Man!!!! Nice job. I absolutely enjoying these cables.They improved my sound. And the comfort of trusting a good sounding cable is irreplaceable.”

– Richard Bona

All the artist endorsements can be found at this link and if you have any technical background you can find a lot of other information and test results at the Analysis Plus website.

Of course no cable is perfect, at least not the ones in the affordable price range, but there are better cables today whose design is far advanced beyond those designed with research from telephone and telegraph technology.

Happy listening,

P.S.- St Louis audiophiles are free to borrow some of the cables that have accumulated over the years to discover the differences.

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