I visited the monthly audio blind test held by DIY community in my country last Saturday. The topic was interconnect cable. Very interesting 😉 Why? Because, not many people believe and put a lot of interest in cable. They think that as long as your cable is not broken, then you don’t have to consider to get another one. This is a mistake, a very BIG mistake.

The test was quite difficult for the judges, because interconnect/cable needed accurate ears. We used 5 judge. The first session was Mr. Tjandra Ghozalli, Mr. Akok, Mr. Oggy, Mr. Alphons, and myself. The second session was Mr. Tjandra Ghozalli, Mr. Hardadi, Mr. Bing, Mr. Alex, and myself. We blind test 8 interconnect. As reference cable for the first session was a DIY cable from the famous Mr. Lindsay (you know who?), for the second session we used Maple Shade (price around US$450). For CD Player, we used Yamaha (actually we would use a better one, but due to some reason, we didn’t get it). For amplifier, we used integrated from Consonance, the Opera. The speaker was a DIY transmission line with Yamaha drivers in MTM configuration. The speaker cable was from WE.

The judges at the front row. They need extra concentration to bench the cables’ sonic quality. Not all people could do such thing, but I believe all the judges have well trained ears.

We will not discuss the result, but I will tell some stories happen before and after we conduct the blind test.

Before the blind test, I did small test with Mr. Alex. He used his silver cable and got surprised. In his system at home, he found that his cable was so warm, but at that time, his was quite bright. We both agreed about this phenomena. On the other side, my own cable was quite good (warm and full of nuance). But later, on the blind test (different system with the one that we used to test before), I got down to the last position. As on of the judge, I gave bad point for my own cable because on the blind test it sounded very bad (too digital, not warm at all).

After the blind test, one of the winner was a cable from Mr. Surjono (price only $0.5/metre, but I believe he will raise the price after knowing that his cable won the blind test ;)). Mr. Arif Wicaksono from Tubelover said that the winner was very bad on his system. He was surprised because the cable could sound very impressive at the blind test. The cable was able to compete with Maple Shade (cost you around US$ 450). Mr. Arif himself is using Maple Shade on his current system. He told me that the Maple Shade is very good on his system. But why the winner sounds very bad on his system?

System used for the blind test. Yamaha CD Player and Consonance Opera Integrated Amplifier. The reference cable was from Lindsay and Maple Shade.

What’s the problem?
The key to explain this is only one word: Matching!
Hard to believe if two different cable will sound different. Many researcher don’t believe this and always deny if two cable would sound different. But on the blind test, all the judge (with quite trained ears) have no difficulty to choose Maple Shade over all the competitors due to more warm vocal, liquid high, and dynamic sound. This is a proof that a cable will sound different from one to another and from system to system.

So, what is the best cable for me?
Simple answer: No one can answer it until he/she tests himself with your system. One good cable could sound bad on certain system, and one bad cable could sound good on the other system. This is a very common phenomena. I have an experience that a digital cable like CAT used in network never sounds good on tube application. The sound is too dry, too digital, and almost has no emotion inside. I prefer Canare for tube application. The blind test proves my experience. All CAT based cable was positioned below the silver or traditional copper cable (like Canare).

The best suggestion is to try and evaluate the new cable with your current cable. If the sound is better with the new cable, the buy it. If not, then don’t change anything. Stay with your old cable. Don’t care if the seller tells you that the new cable is made from rarest silver/gold in this world. If it sounds bad, then it’s bad. Period.

That’s why even the best cable maker in this world (if any) will have more than 1 cable in their catalogue. If you simply could built the best cable for everybody, you shouldn’t have to fill up your catalogue with dozens of products, right? So, why do they do that? Simply because every cable has their own characteristic. One could fit on one system, and one couldn’t. So, as a cable maker, it’s important to have various cables with various characteristic. Your customer will be able to choose at least one that match with his/her criteria and his/her system. And that’s what we call: Matching!

One more thing to be remembered is never judge a new cable. Every cables (and most electronics parts) need 50-200 hours before it will sound at full potential. We call this a break/burn-in period. Before it passes its break/burn-in period, it will never sound at its full quality. Make sure the cable that you will test is already broken/burned-in.

I think my next project is to design a new cable for tube application. I got a bunch of ideas on my brain and will make it comes true soon. My next reference target is to match the Maple Shade, at least to approach its level. Shit, this cable sounds very good. I got captivated at the first time hearing its sound.