The Ultimate In Audiophile Cabling: Blue Jeans Cables

So, I needed some temporary cables until I made some decisions about a new cable loom to better fit my rig and in the middle of all that, I decided I needed to rethink my whole rig. Don’t you just love it when everything comes completely unraveled?

Anyway, while I’m tinkering, exploring and testing, I needed some cables to connect everything I currently had on hand — and didn’t want to break the bank doing so, since, apparently, cables are devilishly temperamental (aka, “sensitive to system synergies”) and I didn’t want to get the “wrong” thing — or worse, the right thing for a system I wouldn’t end up with.

So, I did some reading. Ok, lots of OCD behavior ensued — I admit it, I have a problem. In all that reading, I learned more than I had anticipated about inductance, resistance and capacitance — and when each matters, or not.

In short,

1. Resistance is irrelevant in either speaker cables or interconnects.
2. For interconnects, capacitance is the primary concern. Inductance is irrelevant (as long as it isn’t absurdly high).
3. For speaker cables, inductance is the primary concern. Capacitance is irrelevant (as long as it isn’t absurdly high).
4. For either, if the cable is short enough (less than 3 feet), lamp wire will do fine. In other words, none of these values is important unless the cable gets to a “certain length”, which seems to be some point over 6′.

There’s more there, but that’s it in a nutshell.

So, if you need interconnects, you need to make them as short as possible. And/or get the lowest capacitance you can. Which brings me to the Blue Jeans Cable LC-1 cable, which has a crazy-low capacitance at 12.2 pF/ft. By way of comparison, the $20k+ Nordost Odins are 19 pF/ft.

Anyway, ordered a pair & got them a couple of days ago. And I have to tell you — better sound! More soon, but thought I’d throw that out there. These cables seem like the real deal — and at $32/m for a pair, how can you lose?

Any other Blue Jeans fans out there?

Supporting links:

Empirical Audio: What makes an excellent interconnect?
Empirical Audio: What makes excellent speaker cables?
Empirical Audio: FAQ — Short Versus Long Cables
Bryston: Getting Wired
ESP: Cables, Interconnects & Other Stuff

Update #1 (11/2011)

I’ve been using a full Blue Jeans Cable “loom” now for the last seven months. During that entire time, I have not once wanted for a “better cable” — in fact, I went and bought more of these excellent wires.

I’m currently using their Ten Whites and a full set of their LC-1 interconnects.

The Blue Jeans LC-1 Interconnects use 25-gauge copper wire with bare copper double-braid shields and a “foamed” polyethylene dialectric to get as close to “air” as possible.

Reading this, my first reaction was — OMG! A shield! OMG! Tiny wires! OMG! WTF is “foamed polyethylene”? There’s a lot of hysteria about wiring in audiophile land these days — I suspect that “wire effect” will remain the Wild West of audio for some time — simply because there’s very little investment made in actual science. In point of fact, there’s a lot of just the opposite (i.e., marketing), with many forum threads tied up with posters resorting to what amounts to a religious position fairly quickly in the ensuing debate (debacle, more likely). One side of the battlefield is populated by the “There can be no difference!” flag bearers. Opposing them bitterly are the “You’re Utterly Deaf” crowd who claim to not only be able to hear the differences, but hold that anyone “with a system that is resolving enough” will be able to hear those differences as well (clever insult, there).

I am of neither camp. But to be fair, I have yet to hear a true difference between one cable’s contribution an the next. That said, I tend to make a Pascalian Wager and simply say that while I have yet to hear the purported differences, there is no reason to assume that such aren’t possible — but anyone claiming categorically that such differences are in fact present must tell me why, too.

I mean, honestly, the differences in the audible contribution made by cables are not because they’re magical. If the cables make a difference, great. It should be a matter of simple empirical testing therefore to determine what differences are on offer, when and why. Seems reasonable to me.

The devil, however, is in the details. To wit: how can we tell, reliably, what differences are on offer? This is different, notice, from asking what differences are on offer. Okay. So, how do we tell?

The standard method for psychological testing involves standard scientific procedure, which should include some way of eliminating contaminating effects, such as visual cues, so that the test results are based on what they ought to be — audible cues only. Sadly, this rather basic approach has been repeatedly attacked as being inadequate — in many cases because a blind test might not consistently support the conclusion that there actually are differences. This is absurd, but unfortunately common.

Since rigorously testing the conclusions in any meaningful scientific way seems to be precluded by the beliefs of the zealots that oppose them, it does not seem that this issue will be coming to a conclusion at any point in the near future. Pity, as I suspect the testing would be relatively trivial to carry out. The problem, I suspect, is that there are a great many manufacturers who would suddenly find their business in jeopardy if it can be shown that their $6500/m speaker cables were on an acoustic par with lamp wire.

Update #2 (12/2012)

Guess what? Yeah. Things … they change. [Sigh].

I no longer doubt cables. At least, not their theoretical contribution. I think it safe to say that we can put that one to rest. The related, but separate question — can you hear the difference — is still a matter of opinion. I do. Or rather, I have. Cables can change the sound of a system. But again, not every cable and not in every system.

As to why I’ve “gotten there”, well, it had to do with a series of experiences I had … turns out, I was bamboozled. Tricked! Vilely taken advantage of. And when I got to the bottom of it, empirical testing showed, to me, that the differences in cables can make a difference. And in many cases, do make a difference. What’s going on here? I don’t know. Not really, anyway.

Got doubts? Do some testing. Do your own testing. Make your own decisions — and spend your money accordingly.

However you fall on the issue, the Great Cable Debate keeps on rolling.

Update #3 (3/2014)

I’m not sure I should bother updating this post, but since so many of you keep hitting it directly, I thought I’d throw another couple of thoughts into the ring, just for fun, including a recent “test” done by Michael Fremer over at AnalogPlanet.

Anyway, here goes.

Over the last year or so, I’ve “heard” a lot of cables. That is, I’ve listened to systems with everything the same, except a power cord changed. Or a pair of speaker cables changed. Or even the full loom (signal and power cables) changed. All I had to do was sit there and listen and try and figure out if there was a positive change, a negative change, or no change at all. I wasn’t blind folded, I wasn’t doing anything scientific. I was just listening.

Turns out, cables matter. Duh. Why? “Just guessing here, but I’m thinking the physical characteristics of the wire would have some impact,” he said with a smirk. And by that, I don’t just mean the resistance, inductance and capacitance, but also the quality of the conductor, the quality of the connectors, the quality of the solder or joins, and the presence/absence of a shield. And probably more.

Fine. Cables matter. But do they matter a lot?

No. Not necessarily.

In most cases — in my experience — cables are subtractive. Great cables take nothing away. Shit cables take a lot away. But no cable will fundamentally alter the character of transducer sitting at the end of the chain. A planar is still going to sound like a planar, no matter what cabling you use.

That said, cables can suck the life right out of your loudspeakers. But I have found quite a few cables, Blue Jeans included, that do not give my loudspeakers all they deserve. I currently have a full set of BJC cables in my home theater rig and while they’re working fine there, I’ll confess that they’re on the to-be-replaced list if I ever get around to actually doing it. Why? Well, they’re not the most revealing I have and quite frankly, I’ve heard better.

The BJC LC-1 contribute a warm, full sound. That’s the good part. The bass? It’s softer than what I hear when I swapped in my reference WyWires. Ditto the treble. Overall detail retrieval is a bit less than I like, too, and again, overall, the sound is a little veiled in comparison to the cables from WyWires. Is that because the WyWires has a capacitance less than half that of the BJC LC-1? Maybe. How the hell should I know? I’ve heard the difference.

Here’s the reality check. For $40 for a pair, the Blue Jeans LC-1 cables are hard to beat. In fact, I haven’t heard anything even remotely in their neighborhood that comes close.

Other cables I’d check out, if I were looking for “not quite entry level cables”:

Black Cat Cables Neo-Morpheus and LectraLine. Prices start at $200 and climb modestly from there. Chris Sommovigo has been working in the ultra high-end for 30 years and more, and has recently started investing in a direct-to-consumer line of products that leverage that deep understanding.

WyWires Cables Blue Series. Prices start at $469 and climb from there through the various product lines. I use their Platinum series ($$$) cables in my reference system and I’ve been thrilled with their best-in-class performance.