Lap tops now a component of Hi FI systems

I never would have thought 30+ years ago when listening to my Hi FI system that a laptop would be part of it . How times have changed .

I’d be cautious about advice from the people who make and market the product, or articles in magazines that advertise it. Very expensive audio cables are a pervasive scam; tests repeatedly show that people can’t hear the difference between 'audiophile" cables and cheap ones. Where the signal is digital, it’s simple to demonstrate that there is no difference, yet people make, sell and advertise “audiophile” digital cable.

One classic scam that was pointed out to my be a friend a little while ago was an ad for an “audiophile” optical cable with gold plated connectors. :wink:

Independence is, of course, is why we love Choice. :slight_smile:


I’m always happy - delighted, indeed - to be proven wrong. As a musician and a recording engineer, it would be particularly valuable to me to be proven wrong in this case!

Nevertheless, I do have to take issue with a couple of things. Firstly, while the “it’s on the Internet so it must be right” is as nonsensical as you suggest, not everything on the Internet is nonsense. Articles from peer-reviewed academic journals, for example, are as trustworthy as print editions, similarly with Choice articles ;-). Nevertheless, skepticism should always be our religion.

You say that you can hear a difference in sound when digital cables are replaced by “audiophile” equivalents. As I mentioned, it’s trivial, and it’s been done to death, to compare the digital input and output of cheap data cables and their vastly more expensive counterparts, demonstrating that there is no loss of digital information in either. It’s also important to note that a significant proportion - some 50% - of digital signal, including that on CDs, is made up of error-correcting code, so even if there were errors in transmission these would be corrected in the DAC before reaching the amplifier.

That’s not to say, of course, that you don’t believe that you can hear the difference. I’m not in any way suggesting that you’re you’re telling porkies, but well-conducted double-blind listening tests regularly show that people can’t tell the difference between cheap and expensive audio cables (barring, of course, the obviously silly or faulty.) Do consider whether the placebo effect may be in operation.

Re your comparison of the Pioneer and Arcam amplifiers, the Arcam would certainly be noticeably better. As with wines, the 10% rule applies - when you double the price, you increase the quality by some 10% (discounting “designer” systems where the price difference generally reflects physical design more than engineering quality).

We also need to consider personal preference. When I mix down I use speakers whose frequency response curve is as flat as the proverbial tack, with amplifiers that compensate for the different planes of the drivers. They’re notoriously unforgiving–you can hear every nuance. But once I’ve arrived at an initial mix I listen through several other systems, and almost invariably make small modifications. Every system has its colouration, and we all have our preferences, an effect is most noticeable in the comparison between vinyl and digital, and it’s the reason I never master my own mixes.)

Nevertheless I’d love to actually participate in one of those double-blind tests and I’d certainly do so with an open mind. If your claims were born out and the difference really was as significant as you say, I’d happily and publicly eat a large slice of humble pie while sincerely and profusely thanking you for the lesson.

Hey Choice - how about it? :smiley:


What I have done is re edit the input on the original post to make it more clear to other forum users what the post was meant to be about . How times have changed and how the laptop , because of streaming becoming more popular , is now becoming a component of the home Hi Fi set up . Apologies for misleading anyone who was confused by the original description .

Mike, I would like to understand the technology behind your statements and whether your experiences were blind tests or you knew which cables were being used, when.

I did a few years as a EE way back, and reality is the quality of the DAC is the main variable in digital signaling. Digital signals are generally an all-or-nothing kind of technology, allowing for interference in some contexts.

Disclaimer: some of us remain convinced vinyl and good old analogue systems delivers a superior, warmer sound than anything digital and what is “better” is as much a personal thing as different speaker responses and intonation, so for what it is or is not worth this takes the technology into layman’s land. :wink:

The DACs and DSP in the amplifier / tuner / TV can make a difference, but until I experience it myself I remain sceptical about cables in a blind test. (I am aware HDMI is not the only digital cable, but digital is digital at the end of the day so some counterpoint - ).

Hi Fred, I’m now in discussion as to whether CHOICE should do a blind test as you have suggested. The most obvious issue is that, as you say, it’s been done to death, and it may not be the best use of our limited resources. :sweat_smile: What do others think ?

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I don’t think it’s worth it. Many, many other research and tests done on it.

As anyone with an EE degree or familiar with communications theory will tell you, once a digital signal, the cable quality will have no effect beyond the point of terminal failure (roughly the noise level is so high that the built in error correction of digital signalling cannot compensate so you just get dropped packets and thus noise, or nothing at all)

Then there’s the other part of it that is biological - as we get older our hearing deteriorates and we lose the ability to hear the high frequency noise. Get old enough and you could use an old coat hangar as a cable and it would sound just as good as anything else…

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Hi vax2000, do you mind me asking the brand, type, and length of cable(s) ? If we were to arrange a double blind test, it would most likely take place in Sydney. Would you be able / keen to be involved ?

I think jcouch is right. As much as I’d like to see yet another test, it really has been resolved beyond any shadow of a doubt. If Choice had unlimited resources, I’d say go for it, but I agree that there are more important things to be getting on with. :slight_smile:

One of the issues is whether there is error correction, and where, in the realm of digital hifi interconnects. These are not like digital communications or bus protocols that are essentially bullet-proofed where multiple error bits can be recreated on the fly. (See SECDED or Hamming codes.)

The hifi transmission is rugged but with “not HDMI” my understanding is errors are only caught by parity, which does not allow for correction. HDMI is explained in the link I posted above.

I could imagine a very low quality cable having issues at frequency, but the difference between “just enough” and “any more than just enough” should be essentially zero.

Whether a system has individual or block errors you can lose lots of data, but the digital signal processing essentially masks that out by smoothing over the missing bits. In deference, if a signal was very poor I could imagine the DSP phase might subtly change the sound. That being written the mix of speakers, receivers, amplifiers, (and other components) is going to make a bigger difference than wires, and in the end, the best sound is subjective to an individual.

I’ll second Fred.

I’ve taken out the link to cables in the original post . I was only making an observation how with streaming of music the computer is becoming more a part of the listening experience . I also took out my reply to @Fred as on re reading it I would not like that written back at me as an answer . I apologise Fred .
Put the topic to rest . I’m sure Choice has better things to spend its money on than this "can of worms ". It is a “limited” appeal topic anyway . I should have realised that before I posted it .