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Review: Audioquest Ethernet Cables, Diamond, Vodka and Cinnamon

AQ-1734

As you probably know, there’s a “debate” going on around the world of audiophile cables, whether they do make a difference, whether they ought to make a difference, and most strongly, whether it is even possible that they make a difference. All three arguments are a little different, and addressing the epistemic (under what conditions we’d know if they’d make a difference), the moral (are these “magic” cables, at best, just bandaids on bad designs?), and the metaphysical (doesn’t physical theory rule out any possibility of any impact at all/aren’t people just “fooling themselves”?) strains individually (and adequately) will require a different, and potentially distinct, approach … even if it’s like using a shotgun to kill ants.

I’ve written about all of this before, so I’ll not re-torch old, burned, salted ground, but the Graham Argument is, perhaps, the most cogent I’ve ever seen underscoring the role of the witness. Said another way, when a non-zero number of trusted people (that are not cretins, shills, or fools) tell you that a beloved self-acknowledged bias (there’s no way Ethernet cables should matter) is unjustified, the wise course is to — at least — take a moment and take stock. And assuming that it’s not hazardous to do so, perhaps some personal exploration is warranted.

Which is why I recently asked Steve Silberman of Audioquest to send me some network cables. And while this may seem to be a great time dust off your flame-throwers, I respectfully suggest you hold your horses for a bit. Let me explain.

Network upgrade

I’ve always had networking issues at home. The solution? Better, faster gear. But the problems, though ameliorated, never entirely dissipated.

Like many IT professionals, I invested significant time and attention in my home network out of interest, and not just because of surreptitious Gremlin activity. At the height of the frenzy, there were racks of Cisco enterprise-class switches, a router, a firewall, intrusion detection and prevention, monitoring and (much later) copious amounts of network-attached storage. Given my professional history, I got most of that stuff super cheap, so I figured, why not.

The “why not” happened sometime later, with family, and the forced-realization that it might not be okay to have Harrier jets on landing approach, continuously bound for the living room. Moving all of that to a closet helped the noise, until everything overheated. Moving it all to the basement was better — for those upstairs, anyway — but the noise level was catastrophic for my audio system. Oh well. I wish I’d thought to take pictures.

Over the years, I’ve upgraded bits and bobs. HDTV, video streaming, NAS-based storage/backups — all apparently put a strain on the network, and dropouts, stutters, and hangups weren’t all that uncommon. I suffered for a while, and after some troubleshooting, I upgraded my connectivity package. My service provider is now offering 100+Mbps downloads in my service area, which is totally sweet, but several upgrades prior to that had already outclassed my old firewall. At some point, WiFi couldn’t keep up either, so faster access points replaced the old-and-slow ones. Less and less actually required a wire, so the switches went offline one by one. A move to a flat network meant no need for a dedicated router. Commercial networking gear got better, faster, and upgradeable, and many iterations of upgrades later, Apple Airport Extremes running a 5GHz network have replaced much of what was no doubt causing some truly epic power bills. And now I enjoy line-rate WiFi from just about anywhere in the house and much of the yard. Sweet.

Mostly.

During that middle phase transition, I ran out of patch cables, so I went online, et voilà, I had some new cables. The new cables were Cat 5e. Their redeeming quality? They were cheap. I popped one in and off I went. No big deal.

Some years later, after “an accident” involving power tools, a dog, and a pair of curious toddlers, I needed some new network cables. Another trip to Amazon was rewarded with another bag of cables.

Replacing the damaged lengths (and going to some lengths to hiding the new cables from all-too-curious eyes), I (eventually) noticed something strange. Streaming video played more reliably. Netflix timed-out less. Comcast had fewer failures recording Housewives.

That was weird.

Investigating with some networking analytics tools I borrowed from work, and comparing the results to my recollections the last time I’d done this years before, my packet loss errors were lower. Maybe not a lot. But enough that I noticed. More cables went in, pronto, and that’s when I finally noticed that the new cables were all Cat6a.

Now, the old cables, at Cat 5e, were rated for GigE. These old cables should have been fine for my non-data center level of load. But they were, apparently, more than a little responsible for my (occasionally) spotty network.

Archer-danger-zone-500x272Ruh roh! Danger Zone!

Being honest, I didn’t want to believe it was the cables. Bits are bits and all that. Given blah-blah-blah Ethernet spec blah-blah-blah impossible blah-blah-blah properly engineered blah. Like many forum-based Masters of All Things, I felt that I had a firm handle on the realms of possibility — and the idea that Ethernet cables might “make a difference” wasn’t within the Zone of Trust.

Really, I ought to know better.

The new cables, currently running at about $3/foot from Cable Matters, weren’t much to look at, but they supposedly did have better shielding with some better (shielded) connectors, and the performance on anything streaming across the network was undeniably better with them in place of the old crappy patch cables I had gotten some 10+ years earlier, where “undeniably better” = no noticeable issues with my network. Which is what it was supposed to be. Right.

So aside from the bare fact that cables matter (else, why bother with Cat5e, Cat6a or anything else — clearly someone thinks that cables can be different and should be for some very specific and well-thought out reasons), I was now primed and curious.

Exploring the question as to why those cables seemed to provide “better service” led me to this article on Blue Jeans Cable’s website: Is Your Cat 6 Cable a Dog? Turns out, most Ethernet cables sold anywhere are not to-spec, according to tests run on a rather run-of-the-mill analyzer … that just happens to cost $12k … which goes a long way to explaining why this doesn’t get talked about much. Anybody got a Fluke? Whatever — the upshot is that cables matter, but so does quality, and that varies widely.

Does that matter to most “properly engineered” datacenter applications? Surprisingly, apparently not. Most datacenter applications don’t rely on time-sensitive delivery. I mean, some do, sure. But they’re unusual. As long as the bits arrive and can be stored, it’s more about read-write times than about anything else. Unlike streaming audio (or video, for that matter), where timing matters.

How interesting.

Lindsey Graham

In the USA, the 2016 Presidential race promises to be fascinating. And by ‘fascinating’, I mean: “a horrific train wreck of wasted money.” Among other things.

Some of the upcoming debates between the various candidates — on either side of the aisle — will, no doubt, center on the issue of Climate Change. It was in the context of this particular, and likely to be tendentious, topic, that I found the comments of one candidate in particular to be refreshingly direct. That candidate was Lindsey Graham and I was struck by his take on Climate Change:

“I may be the only person on the stage saying climate change is real because I believe it is,” he said. “When nine out of 10 doctors tell you that you are sick, why do you want to believe the one?”

Indeed….

I, being who I am, immediately thought of how this argument could be framed in an entirely different light: Audiophile Cables.

Not too long ago, Michael Lavorgna at Audiostream published his second of two Audioquest Ethernet cable reviews. John Darko of DigitalAudioReview published his own journey, followed by a review shortly thereafter. I know, like and respect these two gentlemen profoundly. Both are truly excellent writers, both are dedicated to the hobby, and both are known for their skeptical, but open-minded approach to the corner cases of weirdness the hobby presents to its fans. So perhaps it should be a surprise to find them here, playing with fire. Perhaps they were deranged, but clearly they were asking for the hate-fest troll-war that must follow; they are daring to publish anything (at all) about (hiss!) digital cables. Oh, the horror! Especially given that their take wasn’t wildly outraged and filled with fevered gibbering over the role of ABX testing! Oh, the humanity!

I had a quiet drink with the two of them at CES this past January, and I asked them both if they were mad, suicidal, or had some sort of weird sexual quirk that required being periodically lynched by Internet trolls. Asked them, point-blank, about their experience with “audiophile networking cables”. They said to me: “No, really, you need to try them out.” I scoffed. They persisted. I balked. They laughed. I told them I’d sat through Steve’s ABX presentation at last-year’s New York Audio Show, and had heard no differences. That generated some eye-rolling and a short discussion about ABX testing, but no change in their enthusiasm. I called BS, thinking they were punking me. Darko just raised his heavy, beetling eyebrows over his oversized glasses and double-dog dared me to try them. That dick.

After my Eureka moment with the Cat6a cables, this was my Lindsey Graham moment. I agreed.

Audioquest and Ethernet

The prices for Audioquest networking cables start at about $8/foot for their Pearl cables, but I think you can get the wire unterminated for even cheaper. I don’t recommend it, because part of what makes the AQ cable interesting is the full-shield connector.

That, and the fact that the entire line is Cat7, which includes spec-mandated two-layer shielding.

This last bit may be kind of important. There have been a lot of revisions to the Ethernet cable specification, but it’s only with Cat7 cables that shielding is actually required. That is, when shopping, you used to have to go out of your way to grab an Ethernet cable with a noise-defeating shield. Chances are, when grabbing that cheap-o stuff, that lack is one of the reasons why it’s so cheap.

With Cat7, your cable will be shielded. Even better, there’s a further spec that says that the individual pairs of wire twisted together (there are four such pairs in an Ethernet cable) in the jacket also need to be sheathed in a shield in order to minimize cross-talk. Two layers of shielding? How interesting.

Now, I need to confess something. I didn’t actually go out and buy any Cat7 cables to compare these to. There are a couple of reasons for that. Point One was that spending money to write about something else seems silly. What do I do with the extra stuff, after? Return it, like a “barely worn” prom dress? Point Two was that Blue Jeans article. Even if I ordered something, I was entirely unsure what I’d get — would those Amazon specials actually be Cat7 compliant, or just a relabelled Cat 5 cable? Or would they in some way be damaged or deficient or whatever; would using them as a comparison be meaningful? I made the decision, a relatively painless one, to simply compare my stock Cat6a cables to these Cat7 cables, and call it a day. The reader is invited to do his own tests to fill in any blanks he feels are required.

Please note also that I also did not choose to invest in a special-purpose cable tester, and with no obvious way to lay my hands on one, I’ll confess I did not bother bend heaven and earth to acquire one (and the necessary training to use and interpret the results of one) prior to engaging in this exercise. I hope this will be excused.

From Audioquest, I received some Cinnamon, Vodka and Diamond cables. Each of these is quantitatively different, so let me cover that quickly.

  • All three are Cat7, with all that entails on shielding (see last section).
  • All three use robust full-shield connectors, an improvement on Cat7.
  • All three use the same polyethelene insulation.
  • All three lines are extremely robust, look and feel extraordinarily well-built (especially given the comparisons from Cable Matters).

Where things diverge:

  • The Cinnamon, at ~$25/foot, uses gold-plated full-shield connectors and a 98.75% OCC copper/1.25% silver blend for the conductors.
  • The Vodka, at ~$83/foot, replaces the gold-plated connector with a much more robust silver connector and changes the conductors’ metallurgical balance to a 90/10 blend. The outer shield structure is also different/improved.
  • The Diamond, at ~$235/foot, keeps the upgraded silver connector and changes the conductors to 100% silver. The outer shield is also upgraded/improved.

Note that I’m paraphrasing and simplifying the marketing-speak on the Audioquest materials. There’s some (distracting) information about exactly what the improvements are, or why they’re actually improvements, and more on why/how the cables ought to be oriented, but let’s pretend, for the sake of argument, that we can ignore all of that.

What argument?

Each of these three mark three discrete levels of performance.

Yes, really. And no, I’m not happy about it.

Comparisons

TrollfaceAt the risk of feeding the trolls, I’m not going to belabor this part of the story.

I found, in the course of mucking about with the cables, that the Cinnamon were consistently better networking cables in my system over and above the last set of cables from Cable Matters. Those latter cables, which are both shielded (on the jacket, but not at the wire-pair level) and include shielded connectors, were themselves a big jump from the cables they replaced, which were neither shielded nor carried shielded connectors. Those lattermost cables sucked at their intended use and have been repurposed as rabbit snares. In related news, I am now selling rabbits for meat. Or pets. Your choice.

The jump to the Audioquest Cinnamon was not invisible. What I noticed immediately was a drop in drop-outs (what Malachi Kenney calls “blips-n-farts”) during digital playback. Likewise, my ability to coax Comcast into queueing up streaming content for web-browser based playback also improved. That is, replacing the wire that ran from my iMac to the Airport Extreme appeared to decrease the load time.

Now, don’t go bananas. I’m summarizing here for a reason. I don’t have sheets and sheets of data, nor do I have a comprehensive ABX protocol that I deployed to objectively verify those impressions. Because that’s what they are. Impressions. But they were unexpected, and by ‘unexpected’ I mean, “makes no sense whatsoever”.

NAS-based playback, my least-favorite way to play music, became … tolerable. Yes, that’s an exaggeration, but for what I’m sure are many reasons, I could never really make this approach work well enough to understand why the forum junkies over at ComputerAudiophile were so agog over it. Mac-based third-party playback software on the head-end (Like Amarra) with a remotely-mounted drive didn’t much help. Streaming it directly to an Aurender didn’t help much either, but did reduce the blips-n-farts, so I guess that’s something. But even on it’s best day (downhill, with a wind at its back), the NAS-streamed audio always sounded different than locally-fed playback, to wit, it sounded “thick” and slow, veiled and compressed. But with the Cat7 cables from AQ in place, I could not only make it work (with zero configuration changes anywhere else in the network), it worked well enough to warrant an A/B with local playback … which still crushed it. But the gap had closed. Not entirely. But some.

While we’re talking about the “average streaming service”, I should mention that on the Big Audio Rig, Tidal became a thing. I’ve been playing with Tidal since it launched, but I’ll confess that I’ve never been terribly turned on by the sound quality of it or any streamed service. MOG was bad. Spotify was worse. Sonos was made everything muzak, suitable for ambiance while drinking and hanging out with friends, friends that were also simultaneously arguing with each other and moving heavy furniture. Saying that Tidal was the best of the bunch was really not saying anything favorable. With the AQ cables in place, from Aurender music server to switch to cable-modem, Tidal was what everyone has been saying it was — pretty great, actually. Yes, local playback is better, but Tidal was and is way better than tolerable. With the new cables, clarity improved. Noise-floor dropped. Images became closer-to-3D. Literally everything was better about the already-pretty-good Tidal experience. This was eye-opening.

Right about this point, I could hear Darko and Lavorgna chuckling to each other: “We told you!” Snarky bastards.

The swap-up to Vodka continued an uncomfortable trend. Perhaps it was the better connectors, or maybe it was some other voodoo they do on that shield, but the sound “opened up”; the resulting sound was more dynamically alive, with seemingly better dimensionality. In my system, all of that usually correlates with a lower noise floor. Maybe there was due to less noise “riding the line”, not affecting the bits but instead mucking with the electronics on the receiving end — idealized architectures aside, actual hardware implementations tend to be a bit prosaic. That is, shit happens (in implementation). Maybe it wasn’t the receiver, but the sender and there was now less interference at or coming off the networking switch. Maybe it was something exotic. Maybe not. Maybe it was me. How interesting.

In my system, the difference between Cinnamon and Vodka was pronounced, if not quite the difference between Cinnamon and the Cable Matters cables. But the difference between the Vodka and the Diamond was less significant, in terms of overall performance improvements. Given the 3x jump in price, this was disappointing, but not altogether unexpected — insert some hand-waving here about how price/performance curves work. For whatever it’s worth, I believe that Vodka represents the inflection point in this product line, with the extra silver in the conductors or the active biasing of the cable parts being perhaps less important than the improved shielding and the upgraded connectors. Dunno. Just a guess. As I was told on Facebook, during a rolling debate arguing against the very possibility of the improvements I was hearing, “who has time to sort all of that out?” Short-term A/B swapping (and yes, some ABX, courtesy of some very helpful locals) between Vodka and Diamond was not conclusive to much of anything (unlike swapping between AQ and non-AQ), but long-term listening did lead me to believe that the noise floor in Diamond was in fact lower than in Vodka. Everything played along that Diamond-encrusted path was improved, if marginally: I heard better separation, when it was warranted; better dimensionality, in the recordings that contained it; better timbre, in the material that showed it.

If this seems like more hand-waving, it is, because the gaps closed just weren’t in the “night and day” category, but rather a set of small improvements. Add enough of those together and you’ve got “big things”, which is why we chase them, no?

So, let me back up and put these “little things” in context. With all of these improvements, across all of these cable changes, I want to emphasize that the improvements were never egregious. Yes, I believe that sound quality improved. Yes, I felt that the improvements were marked and in some ways obvious. But we’re not talking a “new amp” or “bigger speakers” kind of change. That’s in-your-face (great for ABX testing). This was way more subtle than that. This was more like a better fitting shirt. Or, if you’re a photography, the difference between an extra f-stop for capturing just a bit more of the background in your shot.

Anyway, in the spirit of “context”, I’ll add that streaming services, even a truly excellent lossless one like Tidal, still lag behind playback from the state-of-the-art in local playback (no network), which was always better and often, much  better. Interestingly, a lot of the music I like to play (1970’s rock) doesn’t really lend itself to the ultimate in high-resolution playback, so the lack wasn’t really a detraction. And I have to confess, having an entire music store in my web browser is absolutely fantastic; that flexibility more than makes up for minor performance gaps. Yes, I loves me some Tidal.

With all that said, this experiment succeeded in identifying — and with the AQ cables, removing — a bottleneck. A pernicious one, if not a life-changing one, but it’s one that’s unknowingly haunted me for years. That is awesome. Maybe someday, streaming audio will make another, similar, leap forward and the “audio-source playing field” will be leveled a bit more. One can hope.

As for me, my next stop on that particular audio highway will be an exploration of different client/server architectures and a dedicated, audio-only, network. Can’t hurt.

But the network cables in that network? They’ll be Audioquest.

Conclusions

If we take on faith that the Blue Jeans article is accurate (and I see no reason to not do so), there’s good reason to believe that any given patch cable, from any particular vendor, will be rubbish (to some degree or other). There’s just absolutely no quality control — Ethernet cable fabrication is done under an “honor system”, and as any thinking person will tell you, free market capitalism doesn’t immediately sort out chicanery — not until damage has been done, either to the consumer or to the businesses engaged. In the meantime, the world of network cables is dark and full of terrors.

So, if network cables matter to you, here’s the recommendation: try a set of Cinnamon Ethernet cables. $25/foot isn’t cheap, but let’s get real for a moment. These patch cords appear very well-made. They’re to-spec and guaranteed (the benefits of a big corporation standing behind their products are huge and obvious). They’re also better-made than everything I’ve tried from Amazon — and with the connectors and additional shielding, you’re not getting a bad bang for your buck.

If you want to really tip things over into “value”, try some Pearls. At $8/foot ($25 for .75m patch), this is the entry-level cable from AQ. I have not had the opportunity to try any of them out so I cannot vouch for it, but like the rest of the line, the Pearl has all of the upgrades from a quality Cat7 perspective and adds those gold-plated upgraded/shielded connectors. Not sure if those features are really what’s contributing to the improvements, but given an arrangement like what’s hanging off the back of my Airport Extreme (which tips over with the addition of all those heavy cables), where all the jacks are vertically lined up one atop the other, I can’t help but think that additional shielding — right at the jack — is exactly where I needed it most.

Let me put some emphasis there — where I needed it most. Your network, your gear, your environment, all of that will be different. Not “may be different” but “will be different”. But in my arrangement, with its own unique and screwy issues, this extra fancy and expensive cable mattered. I kinda wish it didn’t. I’m cheap. Mais c’est la vie.

And let me put some more emphasis on cost — yes, these are more expensive than nothing. There are, I’m sure, many reasons for why cables cost as much as they do. But at the bottom-end of this line up, what we’re talking about is a $25 patch cord. This is, in all fairness, more than an $8 Cat7 random-quality-roulette patch cord that you can get from Amazon. But at the risk of being obvious, is saving yourself $17 worth getting yourself into a tizzy over? If you’re trying to save yourself some audio money, I have some guidelines for you. Feel free to ignore them, too.

Moving on to the Vodka, the cable is not cheap (and no one is saying that it is). $250 — for a patch cord — is a lot of money (well, relatively speaking). The upgraded shield, above and beyond spec, with the Telegärtner connectors, also above and beyond spec, are all very fancy-looking. In my setup, I found that the cable was audibly better for the applications where that mattered. Will you? Who knows. But for $250 dollars, again in audiophile-relative terms, I’m not sure outrage is warranted. Again, take a look at where your money is currently spent. If your system and budget warrants the addition of such niceties, explore away. If not, no harm and no foul — but do consider trying some Pearls, regardless. No, Cat7 isn’t a formal spec yet — but given that it is proposed spec that supersedes the parameters defined by Cat6a, I wouldn’t get antsy about this, either.

Anyway, given my networking gear — which is easily and readily upgraded/changed, I’ll admit — the upgrades found in the Vodka seem to matter. But given that I wasn’t about to rip-and-replace my network gear for the sake of a free cable review (seems a tad unreasonable, to me), the perceived improvements may well be offset by future changes to my network topology. I honestly don’t know (and arguably, can’t know at this point).

So, I’ll reiterate once more for clarity: in my setup, these cables made a difference, and Vodka had more impact than the Cinnamon cables they replaced.

If you want to explore the $750 Diamond cables, you’re free to do so and I fully expect that some of you may well want or “need” the improvement that cable promises to bring. For me, the value wasn’t there. The performance was too close to the Vodka cable, and while there was some separation, it wasn’t profound. Given my preference for local-based playback, something that was exceedingly unlikely to change because of a cable swap, Diamond just doesn’t seem to make sense as an investment.

That said, I’m am now playing with Tidal a whole lot more than I ever was before.

How interesting.

Postlude

That brings me to a recent Ars Technica article. The title, “To the audiophile, this $10,000 Ethernet cable apparently makes sense” is clearly clickbait trollishness. First, no one in their right mind will consider a $10k Ethernet cable to be a “good idea”, audiophile or not. Second, the typical length of a patch-cord, even at the Diamond level, is well below $1,000 — and for the record, yes, I think this is still crazy-expensive. Last point — to quote a price based on the maximum (standard) orderable length, and use that price to paint the entire line as extreme is jackassery of the first degree. Yes, the cables could cost that much, but that’s hardly common or average. It’s like saying “typical gas for a car ride cost $1000”, when you fail to mention that you’re talking about a cross-continent road trip, not a jaunt to the grocery store. It’s like saying “phone calls cost $1000”, when you fail to mention you’re talking about an all-night call to Singapore from a hotel room in Iceland. Who does this? Wait — jackasses do.

Given that the regular and most common prices of these cables aren’t outside the realm of expectation in the world of high-end audio (right or wrong, but that’s a separate issue), I suspect a not very careful network re-architecture can allow you to take advantage of the benefits without ever having to do something silly like wondering whether you “need” a $10,000 Ethernet cable.

Which brings me to the stunning level of disrespect that cable manufacturers receive from the marginal media (looking at you, Internet Bloggers and Forum Monkeys). The scorn is unparalleled — well … unless you happen to consider the media treatment of President Obama, but lets leave that aside for now.

Make an amplifier with a 20dB roll-off by 20Hz, or a loudspeaker that’s got a 1Ω presentation, and the forum dwellers will call them “clever” or maybe “eccentric”, but never “improperly designed.” The hope is that the new thing will be better than anything it’s attempting to replace, no? Better, as in, perform better?

Which brings me to Rolex, Panerai, Jaeger LaCoulture and the rest of high-end watch market. These brands routinely offer $10k+ “solutions”, yet they admittedly and bald-facedly admit that those solutions, best case, will under-perform solutions on offer at 1/1000th their price. Where’s the hate for these bandits?

But heaven forbid that you make a cable for use in audio playback, regardless of price, because you’re now a snake-oil swilling, child-stealing, democracy-killing, mental deficient that really is only useful for a cheerful public torching. (Say, who brought the marshmallows?)

Bah.

I’m going to take it as read that most that will bother to read this article will take issues with it, and that most of those issues will have nothing to do with the conclusions I’ve reached, but rather with the vey attempt itself. The problem with this set of detractors, other than their general constipation and a disconcerting tendency toward poor public hygiene, is even opening the door to any discussion whatsoever appears to be a tacit agreement to play whack-a-mole with a never-ending rotation of logical fallacies, most of which seem to boil down (at least at some level) to “if I can’t afford it, it must not be worth it.”

The only valid response to the entire lot?

“Try it. If you don’t like it, or can’t hear a difference — or hear a difference that’s worth the money — send them back. No fuss, no muss, no greasy aftertaste.” Assuming you don’t have a local dealer that will let you borrow cables, The Cable Company will.

For me, I had one too many specialists telling me I was missing something, so I had to Lindsey Graham it. And in so doing, I found value in the endeavor. That’s not always the case. In fact, that’s pretty cool. But I did try it out, despite my misgivings and despite my biases. I went and did it.

Unlike Ars Technica, who in their latest fit of clickbait-inspired mania, decided that “trying it out” really meant “debunking in public”, with some generous help from the Amazing Randi. I’ve already, repeatedly, addressed how backwards their proposed ABX/DBT approach is, but whatever.

I’ll close with a thought about rare-metal conductors, fancy biasing in shields, cable directionality and the like — do yourself a favor and don’t get distracted. It’s far too easy to get swept up in hyperbole and nonsense, to be blinded by exotic marketing claims, and then miss the forest entirely only to get hung up on a tree. Resist the urge. Be strong!

You have to realize that capitalism requires sales, and sales require differentiation, value and marketing. Fact of life. Which means we, the consumer, will be forever subject to some bizarro-world pitches.

Yes, it’s true. Some of the claims made by marketing pros are not rational, reasonable, or even attached to the realm of reality. Remember the Maxell tape ads, with the dude’s hair blowing back? That ad is a non sequitur — the brand of tape in your deck has nothing to do with whether or not your hair is going to be moved, and moving hair is entirely unclear as to it’s relation to high-fidelity. Cool, though, no? More: pick any product promoted by an athlete — sorry, no sneaker is ever going to make you into Michael Jordan and no cereal is ever going to make you into a Olympian, much less a gold-medalist in the decathlon. Nope. You’re going to have to get off the couch for any of that to happen. And the ads that feature the preternaturally beautiful? Yeah, you’re not getting laid. Sorry.

On some level, we know this. On some other level, we don’t care. Unless we’re talking about audiophile cables. Then we care a lot.

You have to realize that the people who make high-end audio bits — even cable makers — are just like everyone else. They wonder. They explore. They push boundaries. And then they hire a marketing person to help them get out of debt.

Aside from that last bit, if that sounds like a description of an artist, there’s a reason. That’s not an excuse, mind. That’s just a little bit of explanation.

To the “artisanal cable maker” (as opposed to a bulk maker like Belden), there’s inherent value in nifty bits, be it the use of silver (or gold, or Adamantium, or whatever), or finely-woven sheathing, or delicately tooled connectors. That value has something to do the gestalt that product has, something to do with differentiation in a market, something to do with a curiosity about “better parts” impacting the overall/whole. If that leads to better performance, great. Hey, it might. But if not, well, that is why we have a high-end watch market … at all.

Switching metaphors, it’s like choosing Hawaiian sea salt, rare mold cultures, and grass-fed cow milk. Do these things effect the taste of the resulting cheese? Maybe. Probably.

“But even if they do,” you ask, “do they make the cheese better?”

This is an odd response. What does “better cheese” even mean? Tastier? Tastier to whom? Do we really need to ABX a cheese? Or are you saying that “artisanal cheese is stupid”? In either case, I think we’ve pretty much missed the point. There’s art here. Art has costs. If you’ve bought stinky cheese, or crusty bread, or fancy pasta, or fresh herbs, you’re aware of that extra cost. You’ve paid it. That cost is there not because the artisan thinks his prospective buyers are brain-damaged. Quite the contrary. They think that you might share a fascination that they themselves seem afflicted by. And, unfortunately, those fancy bits are expensive!

Fine, yes, there are plenty of examples of idiots and charlatans in audio’s high-end — roger-dodger, message received and acknowledged. But saying that all of the high-end (or all of some corner of it) is nothing but charlatans is the same as shouting “all you need is Whiz” at a cheesemonger. It’s silly. You don’t have to like stinky cheese. You don’t have to buy audiophile cables. If spray-can cheese-like substance is good enough, good for you. Forgive the exuberant and otherwise poor translations that routinely happen between engineering and marketing. Move along.

But if you’re even a little curious, and I think you ought to be at least curious (especially given the Blue Jeans article), then try it out and see for yourself. That’s really all that the marketing team was hoping for in the first place.

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44 Comments on Review: Audioquest Ethernet Cables, Diamond, Vodka and Cinnamon

  1. Steve Hart // August 10, 2015 at 3:02 PM //

    Interesting article, since I recently tested Ethernet cables when I relocated last November. I wrote my findings in a response to John Darko’s articles. I don’t disagree with your findings to a point but I disagree with your CAT 7 findings. I recently had a chance to test the Cinnamon and Vodka cables. Both tested similar to my prior tests of CAT 7 cables with a Fluke so the Vodka I tested was better than the Vodka tested for Ars Technica. This is unsettling because I like it when similar tests yield similar results because in this case the difference is a quality control issue. Level matching cables is essential and when I did this the Cinnamon and Vodka were very similar to the Pearl and generic CAT 7 cables I previously tested. They do play slightly louder before level matching. However neither produced better sound with rock, folk and bluegrass music. But something sounded a bit off. When I swapped them into my Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone system I found the same brightness but to a lesser extent than the other times I have tested silver in speaker wires and analogue interconnects.

    As for fancier terminations I can’t hear or test with a Fluke any differences between CAT 7 with normal terminations, so until I can I question the need for them. My experiences have taught me that low quality Ethernet cable causes enough problems that it is something to be avoided in all types of applications. One of the reasons a lot of cable analyzers have been sold is they at best eliminate cable problems or at worst minimize them. So I don’t understand your reluctance to use one. It was easy to borrow a Fluke when I lived in the DC area, simply call a client and ask. When I moved west and my client base didn’t include IT companies so it did take a couple days to arrange to borrow one but it was necessary and worth it.

    So after almost 20 years of testing Ethernet cables, I can say they do matter and there are reasons explainable by the characteristics of the cable why. I don’t share your enthusiasm for silver in any Ethernet cable, because for me the equation is less iron in a copper Ethernet cable equals better performance. In the terminology of audiophile marketing they call it 100% oxygen free.

  2. It is routine in high end audio to see a glowing and positive review about a tweak that was not believed to be possible in the beginning, but it never happens that a reviewer puts himself to the test, do a blind comparison, come back with a negative results, and humbly admit that he was wrong and that no differences could be heard. Honesty doesn’t go both ways it seems… The first part is not surprising. Studies have shown that when a group of people are presented with the same component twice, the vast majority will report hearing differences if they think that a switch has been made. Hence the need for double-blind testing. What’s more surprising is the resistance of the audiophile world towards a test procedures that could actually lead to meaningful results. There exist dozens of elusive argumentations like this one to explain why DBT did not happen (too complicated; listening is a personal activity; the stress of being put to the test will hide differences, we don’t ABX cheese, and the ultimate fallacy: music brings subjective emotion that shouldn’t be objectively tested, etc. etc.).
    I just hope someday that a blind test will happen in a subjective-minded publication, like part-time audiophile, and that it may become routine as well, instead of these pseudo arguments against it.

    • Scot Hull // August 7, 2015 at 8:07 PM //

      ABX tests have been done. So have DBT tests. The problem isn’t that, it’s that even when the data comes back “positive for audibility”, there’s always a reason why those results have been dismissed. Feel free to Google up Atkinson’s and Fremer’s test results, as just one extremely high-profile case among many.

      As for “fair and balanced” reporting, feel free to re-read (or read-for-the-first-time) the article here for my less-than-glowing review, with quite a bit of “I found it less than obvious” results. As just one extremely relevant case … among many.

      So, not sure what to do with this comment, Gabriel. You’ve missed your mark completely.

      • Add that to the list of poor reasons we shouldn’t do blind testings. “People who get positive results are unfairly treated”.

      • Scot Hull // August 7, 2015 at 11:19 PM //

        More of a moving goalpost fallacy, though.

      • 1) Let me explain something to you: I don’t care if X or Y have done it in the past or what reaction they received for reporting a “positive for audibility” result. We should or we shouldn’t do them, it’s either valid or it’s not. You can give me the reason why you wouldn’t do it, but don’t tell me that your attacks on objective testing are because some people who participated in the past got their results dismissed. Truth is for yourself in the first place. So I didn’t move the goalpost, I think you just missed your shot.

        2) Yes, Jon Atkinson and Michael Fremer have participated in blind tests in the past. Inferring that the audiophile community doesn’t have an epidermic problem with objective procedures because of an exception isn’t the most fair and honest reasoning I’ve seen in my life…

      • Scot Hull // August 8, 2015 at 10:04 AM //

        You’re arguing with a point I haven’t made and then requiring that I address it to your satisfaction. That’s a two-point violation.

        As you can see from the article, I’m not opposed to testing. Testing done “more right”, that is, and I have made my point here in the short and elsewhere (linked above) in the long. You are free to disagree with me, obviously. But the reasoning has been laid out. You want a piece, go for it — but at least give me credit for handling it directly and in detail. Which I have. The shortcomings I’ve also laid out, for whatever that’s worth.

        But you don’t get to ignore a premise or a conclusion without argument (another fallacy), or by requiring proof be provided some other way — that’s the very definition of “moving the goalpost.” And for the record, the trials that Atkinson and Fremer ran were on-point — it wasn’t how they were treated, it was how the results were treated. Again, I have a whole set of posts around this (see the link I’ve referenced, above).

        As for the “valid or not” point — that is, unfortunately, more complicated.

        Truth is, AFAIK, truth. Otherwise it’s something else. No? But still, not on-point.

      • It’s the same. The way Atkinson and Fremer’s results were treated doesn’t say anything about the validity of blind protocols. I still don’t know why you brought that up.

        And discussing the sound of Ethernet cables is moot unless a proper blind test is done to prove that a difference exist to begin with. The only time you mention DBT are to denigrate it or tell us you didn’t have the will to do it. That’s not a point you or I have made, it’s the elephant in the room.

      • Scot Hull // August 8, 2015 at 11:30 PM //

        “It’s the same. The way Atkinson and Fremer’s results were treated doesn’t say anything about the validity of blind protocols. I still don’t know why you brought that up.”

        Look, I can’t make you read the other post, apparently, but here’s the gist — the fact that (at least) two were able to produce reliable results out of such a test — only to have their results tossed, due to being statistical outliers — means several things, and none of them underscoring the stance that such protocols are prima facie valid.

        The problem? These are epistemic tests — answering “can the average person notice a difference” — when what we wanted to know was the answer to a metaphysical question — “is there a difference.” Conflating the two goals is common and really only shows that the methodology isn’t on-point.

        Please note that this is very different from saying DBT or ABX testing is worthless. That’s a separate and distinct claim and one I don’t believe I’ve ever made. What I’ve said is that using either is a Category Error (again, re: epistemic vs metaphysical), so requiring one or both is a goalpost error. At best.

        The problem is that what’s in the room is not an elephant. It is and has always ever been a rhino.

      • “Conflating the two goals is common and really only shows that the methodology isn’t on-point.”

        I agree. Both goals are different and require slightly different methodology. We’ve travelled a long way to get there…

        “What I’ve said is that using either is a Category Error (again, re: epistemic vs metaphysical), so requiring one or both is a goalpost error. At best.”

        Abstruse.

      • Scot Hull // August 9, 2015 at 2:00 PM //

        “Abstruse.”

        Agreed. Category Errors are hard to get a grip on.

      • As is obfuscation.

      • Let’s clear the air since it has become a major distraction.

        There’s no category error. Double blind tests are used not only to answer the question “does the average audiophile can hear a difference”, but also “can this specific audiophile can hear a difference”. No body claimed that they could answer the question “does a universal difference exist”, which is an elusive topic and never what we ask to a reviewer anyway. We’re dealing with perceptions, not absolutes, and the goal has always been to validate those perceptions. Not answer some “metaphysical” question. Relax man.

        Your argumentation is based on a strawman fallacy. Any further circumvolution around this theme is a big waste of time. Which I can’t help but interpret as a deflection.

      • Scot Hull // August 9, 2015 at 6:13 PM //

        “Can this specific [subject] can hear a difference” … under arbitrary conditions XYZ. <– probably more accurate.

        But the point is, if you fill in [subject] with "trained professionals", the question would be entirely different.

        Hell, you could even train them yourself, prior to the exam, by coaching them with zealots and true-believers. Prime the living crap out of some set of the subjects.

        Again, the point isn't "can it be heard by Average Joe" but "can it be heard at all". Statistical sampling (which is what DBTs rely on — it's built into the protocol) need not apply. One — and only one — positive result beyond the statistical margin of error and you're done. Again, the answer "can I hear it" isn't the same as "can it be heard". The first is epistemic. The second is not. Interestingly, the only one that matters is the second, but the first can make you feel a lot better about not spending money (which is the red herring, and not the straw man — just for the record).

        Of course, this second path is precisely how we ended up with MP3 encoding and the Ghost of Tom’s Diner. DBTs told us that there was “no difference” between MP3 compression and lossless. The Ghost shows us, pretty blatantly, that the Average Joe was just plain wrong. Oops. Again,

        Does this mean that DBTs are worthless? Not at all. But it does show them to be attempting to answer the wrong question — or rather, answering a question that audiophiles weren’t asking (and there’s the straw man).

      • I see a few confusions in your comment.

        1) Even if sounds from Tom’s Diner are missing, that doesn’t mean it is noticeable. When a cd is recorded, ultrasounds are left out and we don’t miss them. There’s a difference, but it is inaudible. If a medicine isn’t statistically better than a placebo, the pragmatic criteria tells us to let it go. The question has never been “is there a difference” but “is there a perceptible difference”. At least to the vast majority of us.

        2) DBT’s can do anything a casual sighted test is doing, but better. It looks like your problem isn’t the fact that it’s done blind, but that general conclusions are drawn from a limited number of trials. In the case of MP3, DBT did answer the right question : can average Joe hear the difference. Audiophiles didn’t ask this question, but the industry did. Blaming DBT’s for MP3’s is the same as blaming the brush for a painting you don’t like. It is the appropriate tool, but used by someone with different goals. You can use the brush too, but you chose to paint with your elbow.

      • Gabriel Bisson // August 11, 2015 at 12:27 PM //

        Here’s an example of a proper blind test that demonstrates that the procedure can be applied to any form of enquiry.
        http://www.bostonaudiosociety.org/bas_speaker/abx_testing2.htm

  3. I just wanted to add my two cents…. As I stumbled on this after hunting down the T1 review and couldn’t resist. 🙂 When you’re talking about blips and pops I can buy in because thats a packet loss, a drop… But the cosmic deepening of soundstage and firmer bass and all these sonic gains that people attribute. It just doesn’t line up for me… I’ve put my money where my mouth is too and purchased relatively high end USB cables just because I had cash to burn and liked the aluminum clad connectors…. And because Darko swore by them. First couple passes through with my new cables I thought dynamics were better, micro blur sharpened and the noise floor got inky black… After a dozen back and forths with the old ‘came with it’ cheapies reality set in… I expected it to sound better so it did… In the long run though the illusion didn’t hold up.

    I couldn’t hear a difference.

    When the “audiophile cables” look nondescript and aren’t clad in aluminum and carbon fiber sleeves etc… And look just like any hum drum cable then I’ll buy the idea that they are about sound quality. But I tend to think they are just sound system jewelry and that is ok. If its honest and upfront.

    At THE Show in Newport Synergistic Research had all there components hooked up to one Luxman rig and another one was naked… By 3:30 on Sunday the rep had wandered off and I got a half hour of back and forth with everything in Synergistic Research entire arsenal…. Every single asset they have to bring to bear. First pass everything sounded smoother, warmer, more refined… 2nd, 3rd, 4th pass okay maybe not so much. I expected to hear improvements so I did…. But running the experiment over and over the illusion evaporated.

    But I still have $750 in cables in my rig because they look good and I don’t mind buying my $10k mistress some jewelry. I just don’t expect anything sonic from them. Just saying.

  4. Conrad Winchester // July 30, 2015 at 2:00 AM //

    I too wish to call bullshit here – In a home network that is correctly setup you should not have any packet loss. Here are some stats for months of usage on one of my home switches

    ifIndex 51
    Octets Received 894989458
    Packets Received Without Error 8626733
    Unicast Packets Received 560271
    Multicast Packets Received 3144659
    Broadcast Packets Received 4921803
    Receive Packets Discarded 0
    Octets Transmitted 343584449
    Packets Transmitted Without Errors 71544393
    Unicast Packets Transmitted 471101
    Multicast Packets Transmitted 71073279
    Broadcast Packets Transmitted 13
    Transmit Packets Discarded 0

    If the network is setup with working equipment you should not be getting packet loss, end of story.

    The fact that you say you are still getting packet loss after putting in these ridiculously expensive cables speaks volumes about either the veracity of your report or the robustness of your network.

    • Scot Hull // July 31, 2015 at 10:08 AM //

      But even if the senders and receivers on your network are similarly without fault, what does that say? That you’re lucky? So, should I say, “good for you”?

      I should note that you have a lot of weight on the implied “assuming everything works correctly in a properly designed network”. In an ideal world, many things are true.

      If you’re really curious, I’d suggest some further research on the quality control of Cat5 cables. I referenced a Blue Jeans article, that in turn references an article by Fluke Networks. It’s pretty much well-known at this point that cable quality (and adherence to spec) is pretty much a crapshoot. As for me, it seems I got duped by a cheap cable provider and got luckier with a Cat6a purchase from Amazon.

      At a couple of bucks a linear foot, I hardly think of them as “ridiculously expensive”, but I bow to your price sensitivity.

      But as I mentioned in the article, given this wide variance in not only “quality” of wire, but the fact that much of it is not actually what it says it is, AQ guarantees theirs. If it doesn’t work, or work the way you want, send it back. You want to get some super-cheap AQ wire, order it off the spool — it won’t have the fancy jacket, though. Or any connectors; but assuming your competent with a crimper, you can get AQ Pearl cables for a $1.60 a foot. Again, hardly expensive.

      • Ethernet cable quality and durability can be a challenge. While I wasn’t experiencing any packet loss or network hiccups, I recently added a dedicated media server and decided to swap out my mishmash of Cat-? cables with the Tera Grand Cat-7 product available on Amazon. The QC and packaging is excellent and each cable has performed flawlessly so far.

        I’ve also swapped out quit a few 1000Base-T links w/ 1000Base-SX (Multi-Mode Fiber) links saturated with broadcast video in high-RF environments due to intermittent VQ (tiling) issues and it surprises me that MMF hasn’t been adopted by Hifi manufacturers in any meaningful way, especially when adding a fiber interface takes the ingress and interference issues out of the cabling part of the equation entirely.

        That all being said, I almost sort of wish I didn’t actually understand the fundamentals of how Ethernet works at the Physical and Data Link layers of the OSI model so I could buy into the (conveniently unmeasurable and wholly unquantifiable) “improved soundstage and deepened bass” mysticism, but I’m also not one to tell other people what -they- can or can’t hear.. so enjoy!

    • It’s not packet loss that’s responsible. It bit flipping and error in packets that cause the problems. the checksum only checks that the packets received match the packets that are sent. The packets themselves can be corrupted by static electricity as well as certain types of higher voltage impulse noises carried through the system.

  5. Bob Sacamano // July 27, 2015 at 10:26 PM //

    Entertaining reading.

    I have all cinnamon Ethernet cables in my system. All of my devices are hard wired to my network, nothing is wifi. The cinnamon cables are very reasonably priced and well made.

    But the fact of the matter is, there was no noticeable difference in any aspect or performance between the cinnamon cables and the lesser cables of the quality you get for free from Comcast or any other ISP or what you can buy at Home Depot.

    I also have cinnamon and Blue Jeans USB A/B cables. I have done extensive ABX with friends who’s ears have decades more experience than mine. Running from my Mac to my DAC, not one time have any one of them been able to consistently pick which was the $80 cinnamon cable or the $2 Blue Jeans cable.

    I also have AQ Rocket 44 speaker cables, cost about $25 per foot. Again, well made, good quality terminations, not ridiculously expensive. I have done several ABX between the AQ and Honeywell $1 per foot 16AWG type CM-CL2 cable that I terminated myself with Tributaries banana plugs. Again, no one was able to consistently pick which cable was which. My gear is Classe and B&W quality products in a properly treated dedicated room.

    So I have to ask, what are you paying for with the bulk of the price you pay for high end cables…. quality cables or millions spent annually in advertising?

  6. I see you had the comment taken down on AA…. Why don’t you tell us what your network consists of???

    Hi Scott,

    You don’t know me but my name is Bob and I don’t always agree with the
    gentleman that you responded to’ but after reading your review on Ethernet
    cables I have to laugh.

    You use the word shit several times so I hope you don’t mind that I tell you
    that you review is total fabricated bullshit. Please don’t be offended but
    what you wrote makes no sense at all it is pure fiction which was created to
    bring the to the conclusion how superior these Ethernet cables are. You’re
    story about your network and it’s makes no sense and has no foundation in
    fact. As a professional I know this. The discussion that you have about
    dropouts is also pure fiction it does not happen. To stream audio properly
    you actually need only 100 Mb from a NAS to a music server. And at that
    speed you only still using a fraction of the bandwidth to stream with. How
    do I know this… Because I do this every day and your story again is pure
    fiction. An Ethernet connection with a common mode choke and filter which
    limits the bandwidth to 100 Mb in my system is still only using percentage
    points to stream the music so your fiction about how you getting dropouts
    and as soon as you put these magic cables in they disappeared is ludicrous.
    Don’t take this the wrong way because we understand what you doing, trying
    to sell these overpriced products to gullible people in the world, and you
    probably succeeded more often than not.

    I am an audiophile and do use audiophile cables and products extensively. I
    have 40 years experience in the hobby and do recognize how certain things
    can improve what we do but your story does not make sense and is not pass
    the smell test, it’s not even close.

    Please don’t insult people with trying to justify what you did. I’m not
    saying you getting paid off or anything like that I haven’t the slightest
    idea but maybe you just feel good when you make manufacturers like
    Audioquest happy.

    I have no idea what floats your boat, but the Ethernet cable review hit an
    iceberg just like the the Titanic.

    • Scot Hull // July 25, 2015 at 10:31 PM //

      In case you missed the memo, I’m not a mod on AA. But thanks for sharing your views, here. Just in case I missed them, I guess?

      I suppose it would be fair to respond tit-for-tat, but I’m not sure you’d read it … since you didn’t bother reading the post much past the first few points that blew up your bias meter.

      Look, I appreciate your 40 years of experience. In whatever it was. But whatever it was, I’m sure it was full of detailed, informative experiences and not just angry rants posted semi-anonymously online. Unfortunately, whatever experience you have doesn’t really preclude you from being wrong. That’s an “Appeal to Authority”, and a logical fallacy.

      Taken too strongly, that’s possibly a “Proof by Intimidation”, an attempt to just shout down an argument instead of actually engaging — but I’m sure you’re not trying for that, right? Nah….

      While I do appreciate your deep understanding of a situation you could never have possibly seen or experienced directly, I feel obligated to point out that this is an “Argument to Incredulity” — just because you can’t imagine it doesn’t make it false.

      Heck, while we’re at it, dismissing my “argument” with rhetoric is a “Scotsman Fallacy” and for the record, just because you want the story to be false doesn’t make it so (the “Divine Fallacy”).

      But I do appreciate your closing with a personal attack (“Ad Hominem”), just to balance it all out. That really made your visit very special. Thanks for your time! Please do feel free to use this space to talk to yourself some more when you get lonely.

  7. I doubt that I’ll ever actually spend serious $$ on cables, but this piece was worth-reading. Thanks Scott.

  8. “…Investigating, my packet loss errors were reliably lower. Not a lot. But enough that I noticed. ”

    This is the only meaningful metric. How did the cables under review compare with the Cat6a cables that prompted this comment?

    • Part-Time Audiophile // July 25, 2015 at 11:10 AM //

      Pretty sure I mentioned it a bit further on (in the interminable sprawl), but yes, the Cinnamon made an impact. Less than the Cat6a cables did, however. Apparently, that was the “big jump” in this for me.

  9. …or simply use local playback with an SSD, and back-up the music elsewhere in order to have the best audio quality and save the money from the Ethernet cables. Problem solved.

    • Scot Hull // July 25, 2015 at 8:56 AM //

      I don’t disagree, but I’m pretty sure that’s penny wise and pound foolish. Rewiring my network with AQ Pearls would be about $100. A single 10TB SSD is still over $1k, and still requires a mountable driver array.

      • A locally cached hard drive is a stop gap given the role of high bitrate streaming is starting to assume. It might be the best overall solution (presuming that you would ever want to take advantage of lossless FLAC streaming at 16/44.1 and higher bitrates in time) to maximize your network potential sooner rather than later.

        I do agree that a SSD might offer a great local cache, but the costs can be prohibitive, and won’t carry you into the decades to come. The future of high resolution digital audio sure seems to be network intensive! 🙂

  10. John Toste // July 24, 2015 at 11:53 PM //

    Brilliant article!

    Clearly reasoned and entertainingly written.

    Keep smiling.

  11. What I don’t get is how you can have a hard time getting simple home networking going. It’s a cakewalk.

    I recently flew out to a customer with a new building just finished up to train them on a software package. I get there and believe it or not they ran ZERO network cabling.

    Thankfully they had a GrayBar near by. So they approve me for another $4000 in labor. I give the maintenance guy a crash course in punching down to Panduit keystone jacks and we run almost 5000 foot of cable. I install the rack mount and patch panel and out of 60 drops two don’t pass testing (it was some of the first the maintenance guy terminated).

    So in 80-90 man hours we dropped an entire network in place: Wiring, plates, keystones, patch panel, switches, 5 wireless AP’s. 12 of the drops were over 200 feet. And the maintenance guy never terminated a cable in his life.

    Now I can’t tell you if this would certify out because they didn’t pay for it but in a year and a half running a heavy duty MS SQL based solution they’ve had zero networking issues and their GB speeds are routinely in the 90MB/s range.

  12. KingLocal // July 24, 2015 at 8:27 PM //

    Oh Scott, I love PTA because it reviews interesting audio gear with a wit that is missing in most of the audiophile press. Yes, you are a funny guy, but I don’t think I have ever read a line funnier than “…the stunning level of disrespect … unless you happen to consider the media treatment of President Obama.” Far-and-away the funniest thing you’ve ever written.

    https://screen.yahoo.com/democratic-debate-000000559.html

  13. Stephen G. // July 24, 2015 at 4:26 PM //

    Interesting article. Having read John Darko’s and Michael Lavorgna’s articles, I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. I’ve been less than thrilled with my digital setup and I think it’s gotten to the point where I’m prepared to consider the issue of network cables. My question for you is how many cables do I have to change to realize the most significant sound improvement? I have a set-up where there is a central switch that connects to my NAS, PC, Internet/WiFi and stereo. Is there a need to replace anything more than the cable that runs from the switch to my stereo? I’m working on the assumption that this is the cable that ultimately carries the digital files to my DAC.

  14. The timing of this article is so suspicious. Being published right after the Ars Technica DBT in Vegas. Coincidence perhaps? Very rarely in audiophile journalism. Corporations also have mouths to feed. Am I right!
    Let’s see how long it will take to see AudioQuest to start advertising on this site if it has already.
    My advice to fellow audiophiles – do yourself a favour and move to fibre. There is a huge thread on ethernet isolation on computeraudiophile.com.

    • Scot Hull // July 24, 2015 at 11:44 PM //

      Unfortunately, yes, it was a coincidence — I hadn’t anticipated the smug little Ars Technica thing about James Randi and ABX testing when came out, but I had written most of the piece by then. Then, because of their article, I almost killed this piece off entirely. Then, I decided maybe I’d just hold off a month or two. Then I just figured “to hell with it” — I wrote up a addendum and called it a day.

      For the record, Audioquest was a sponsor. They are also not currently a sponsor and as far as I know have no plans to sponsor us (though I’ll be frank, I’d be thrilled to have them; without such sponsors, this site simply would not exist — and unless more of them step up, it won’t).

      This review wasn’t requested by Audioquest, and I suspect, will be something of a surprise to them. I got the cables from them “to try out” — and because Darko dared me to do it. I only decided to actually write about the cables after a considerable period of struggling with whether or not it’d be worth the hassle that readers would heap on anything cable-related. But Darko was right. Smug bastard that he is, he probably didn’t need me to be this obvious in acknowledging his “I told you so”, but a bet’s a bet. I tried ’em, they mattered, and my keeping mum about that is pointless and childish.

  15. They aren’t CAT 7 cables. The Telegaertner jacks are only rated to CAT6a. You either have to use GG45 which are backwards compatible with 8P8C or Tera connectors.

    AQ should know better. They are either being incompetent or purposefully misleading. Neither a good thing for a cable expert.

    • Scot Hull // July 24, 2015 at 11:50 PM //

      I’m not sure why a vote by an engineering committee will improve the performance of anything, but the fact that “it’s not spec” is a bit beside the point.

      But I’ll beg to differ — the Telegärtner plugs are light years away from “simple”, standard, unshielded plastic 8P8C connectors.

      But if you’re not into them, no worries. The Pearls (at $25/cable) uses entirely different and fully shielded 8P8C connectors.

  16. One of the most enjoyable and entertaining articles I’ve read in a long time. Thank you for standing up and being counted and especially for doing so in a way that was inclusive to all.
    Apart from the bigots and morons.

  17. Gavin Hadley // July 24, 2015 at 10:23 AM //

    Just go with Blue Jeans ethernet cable and be done with it. He tests each cable and even sends you the test sheets. Oh and feel free to leave off the political commentary…not wise these days…

    • I agree. Politics is a sore point for audiophiles, and if we’ve learned anything over the last decade, talking about politics on the internet is likely to end you up on the wrong end of a secret detention center filled with used Bose gear.

      But, I’ll have to agree with you on one thing. When George W. was President my entire stereo sound better, more truthful, more robust, and, hell I’ll say it, more American. It played both more safely, securely, and more free.

      Now, for some reason, it feel less authentic, like something has changed, but for the worse. The sound feels congested, overwrought, and smug.

      So it’s not surprising that we need to spend tens of hundreds of dollars on new cables.

      Thanks, Obama.

  18. In many ways we are creating a problem and then spending a fortune to rectify it. For years and years I have been in this Hi-end game of buying component after component, expanding my hifi rack with box after box and then spending money to buy expensive cables in the pursuit of perfection – trying to get every ounce of advantage there is.

    In my experience cables do make a deference but that is because end equipment associated are poorly designed and cannot handle a bit of interference or notice getting in.

    One solution is greater integration but most Audiophiles don’t want greater integration. I resisted this path for years. Until I saw Linn moving towards greater and greater integration, these days they have the Exact systems with one box source feeding their powered speakers.

    And it all changed for me when I came across a small company in the UK called AVI who do active speakers with built-in DAC, pre and power amps. Anyone struggling to achieve the audio perfection they seek should try the AVI DM10, just connect it via optical cable to your transport.

    So in summary yes cables do make a difference but do yourself a favor and spare all those wasted brain cycles by going for a well designed all active speaker with in built dac, pre & power amplification. Then with the money saved, get yourself loads and loads of albums and enjoy – problem solved.

  19. I think we should consider re-cabling the whole Internet.

    My emails and whatsapp messages will at last be transferred in their most pristine and unadulterated form. 🙂

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