|Posted by Amine Slimani on January 28, 2010 at 11:46 AM|
Jitter in cables:
The idea of digital cables sounding different from one another will probably shock many people. According to some, “Bits are bits”and either the digital data is perfectly transmitted or there are drops and glitches but there shouldn’t be any “in-between”.
But the reality is different. There are no 1 and 0s running around in a digital cable. Actually, the signal being transmitted is analog in nature (square waves to be precise) and there are tiny timing errors that occur in the spdif interface (called jitter) that show up in the decoded data by the DAC. So the data being transmitted can be ”bit perfect” but the jitter will affect noticeably the analog output of a DAC. The jitter problem has been discussed extensively elsewhere, so I won’t go into the details.
Just know that jitter exist in cables and that itis measurable (see an old article from stereophile here: Stereophile: A Transport of Delight: CD Transport Jitter)
One interesting thing about that article is that jitter can be different according to the direction of the cable. Robert Harley (Stereophile) measured a cable that gave a figure of 4050ps on one direction vs 2700ps in another direction.
I am well aware of the many articles/research studies that say that jitter is inaudible for anything below a certain level(1ns), which makes it a non-issue in modern based DACs. However most of thosearticles would use random generated jitter injected directly to the signal insystems that are not built to the “audiophile standards”. So if you read those articles, ask yourself some of the following questions: was the test system used really low-jitter and revealing? And was the jitter being fed to the musicrandom or similar to the clock phase noise that high jittery clock generate? Was the recording being used an audiophile recording?
Anyway, I choose to believe otherwise and trust the differences I hear between different digital cables and different sources. Some people say it is placebo to think there are differences in cables, DACs, … I think that it is the opposite and the placebo effect is when you like atspecifications sheet, a set of measurements, a research paper and choose to discard what your ears tell you because some people said you shouldn’t hear any difference.
About 3 months ago, after using for more than ayear the Hifi Cables & Cie Sobek digital cable in one specific direction, I reversed the cable and heard a very different sound. In the direction I used it for months, the sound was a little forward and the soundstage was a little flat. On the opposite direction, the sound was warmer and the soundstage bigger. The owner of Hifi Cables & Cie had told me to try the cable in both directions but at the time I tried it, I was using the very jittery EMU 0404usb and I didn’t notice any difference in both directions. So from that time, I settled on one direction (the same direction as the writing) and didn’t try directions for months. Anyway, I was very puzzled by that change in sound.
A week later, an audiophile friend came to my home to listen to my headphone based system. So I took the opportunity to ask him his opinion about the different cables. But in order to not bias his judgement,here is what I told him: “I find that there is a slight difference between theStereovox XV2 and the Sobek digital cable but I am not even sure there is a difference”. He had never listened to my headphone system nor to the 2 digital cables (he uses audioquest and actinote cables in his high-end speaker system).
His findings were surprisingly similar to mine: He found the Sobek warm and the Stereovox XV2 airy and detailed. Also,he found the difference as being very audible and not just small as I tried to mislead him. The fact that his description matched mine and that he was confident about it leads me to believe (it is a personal opinion) that digital cables do sound different.
That same evening, he brought with him an Actinote Aria digital cable. Again, we both listened to it and his description matched mine. We both found it the best cable of the bench (we also had a Belden andCanare digital cables to try). However, because it was insanely priced (for mybudget) at €400+, I decided to look for a new digital cable that would hopefully be less expensive than the Stereovox XV2.
The Oyaide DB-510 – a perfectly builtdigital cable
In a thread I started here (http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f7/usb...hiface-449885/)about usb to spdif converters, Dan Lavry gave some interesting facts aboutjitter.
From what I understood, the most important thingto minimize reflections (jitter), it is to have a true 75 ohms impedancethroughout the signal chain from the connectors to the cable itself. Many “pro”cables such as Belden and Canare follow those rules and some exotic digitalcables do not.
The Oyaide cable is a true 75 ohms cable usingtrue 75 ohms connectors. Also, it uses many layers of shielding to counteractboth low frequency and high frequency noise, it uses high purity solid coresilver and a clever Teflon/Carbon PE dielectric which way better than the PVC used in many “pro” digital cables.
The Oyaide was in fact suggested to me by rosgr63(who also has the Stereovox XV2), and after doing a lot of research on the net,I couldn’t find a better built cable. So I took the plunge and ordered onewithout listening to it.
Foobar v1.0 --> Kernel Streaming --> M2TechhiFace BNC --> Oyaide DB-510 --> Audio-gd DAC-19mk3 (w/ DF1704) -->Artisan Cables "Ultimate Silver Dream" --> Audio-GD C-2C (w/ stepped attenuator)--> Artisan Cables "Silver Dream” --> Sennheiser HD-650
Power related accessories:
Hi-Fi Cables & Cie PowertransPlus Power Cords(x2)
Hi-Fi Cables & Cie SimplePower
Bada LB-5600 Power Filter Plant
Essential Audio Tools Noise Eater Parallel Filter
Olflex Power cord
Supra Mains Block
E&T Spider Rack, Vibrapods, Vibracones,Sandboxes, Brass cones, Acrylic and Fiber carbon sheets,
Herbie's Audio Lab Tenderfoot, SuperSonicComponent Stabilizer
Sources: Creative Audio 2ZS Notebook, EMU 0404usb, Zero DAC, Audio-GD DAC-100
Headphone Amps: Little Dot MKIII, Audio-GD ST-3,Audio-gd FUN
Some of my reference tracks:
MOZART Violin Concertos - Marianne Thorsen – 2L –24/96
Sol Gabetta - Schostakowitsch Cellokonzert Nr.2/Cello
Mahler - Symphony n 5 - Decca
Natalie Dessay - Italian Opera Arias - EmiClassics
Puccini - La Boheme - Decca
Glenn Gould – The Goldberg Variations 1981
Hans Zimmer - Gladiator Soundtrack
The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Take Five
Soundrama - "The Pulse" (Test CD)
The World's Greatest Audiophile Vocal Recordings –Chesky – 24/96
Patrici Barber – Café Blue – HDTracks download
Diana Krall - Live in Paris
Norah Jones - Come Away With Me
First, I should probably clear one more thingbefore starting the actual review of the cable: a digital cable doesn’t make asound on its own, so I am describing both its interaction with my system(impedance matching, sensitivity of my gear to the source ...) as well as itsinherent sonic signature. My guess is that if the sonic signature of this cable is minimal in comparison with other digital cables I have tried in my system;it would probably be minimal in other systems as well.
Timbre – The sound of analog
I have to admit that the Stereovox XV2 was my reference cable for quite some time, but even after weeks of use, I just couldn’t get adjusted to its sound or more specifically to its one weakness, the tonal balance. It is not like it had some mid treble brightness like some audio components that try to fake a high resolution, but it had a slight metallic timber to it. I ended preferring the less detailed Sobek digital cablewhich however sounded warmer and more relaxed.
The Oyaide cumulated the strengths of both cables and then added some more. With the Oyaide there was more differentiation between sounds than the clear sounding Stereovox and there was more naturalness to the timber of instruments than the Sobek digital cable.
On well recorded large scale orchestras, there isabsolutely no confusion and blend between very similar instruments. Every nuance of a violin or piano note is very well represented and differentiated.
Highs: When I first listened to the Oyaide, I thought for a moment that it had a slightly rolled off high register. However, when I played tracks that contain instruments with a lot of upper harmonics content(violins, …;), I realized that it actually conveyed more information on top, and instead it left aside the grunge and metallic edge that even so called “high-end” cables exhibit.
Bass: It has a bass that reaches very deep andthat is very articulate. It is a powerful and yet nuanced bass. In fact, there is much more differentiation between bass notes than I ever heard in my system.This means that the bass in articulate enough to be suited for classical music but it is has also more weight which makes it suited for modern recordings. Listening to the Dark Knight OST or the Gladiator OST, the Oyaide can reach very deep bass notes without it sounding monotonous.
The positive outcome of this bass presence and richness is that I never feel the lack of a subwoofer when listening through headphones. There is enough weight to the representation that my brain doesn’t interpret anything as being missing. This is contrary to the experience I had with both the Stereovox and Belden cables. The Sobek is the only cable approaching this level of weighty representation.
I have also watched many movies and series withthe Oyaide digital cable, and the scenes that are rich in low frequency content are absolutely stunning.
Mids: Finally, the midrange is absolutely stunning. It is liquid and transparent. It doesn’t have the fuzziness of some lesser cables such as the Belden or the Canare. When listening to the Chesky World greatest audiophile recordings, you get truly a sense of what midrange purity is.
The Oyaide is definitely not a cable that will impress at first listen. It is until I played a wide variety of tracks including classical, jazz and some more modern pop music that I became aware of how great this cable is.
Overall, this is the most tonally accurate digital cable I have tried in my system and the timber could be best described as “analog like” and neutral. If I were to make a visual analogy, I would say thatlistening to music with other cables is like setting your computer monitor to16 bits and with the Oyaide, it is like setting the monitor to 32 bits. While the absolute contrast ration remains the same in both modes, there is a lot more gradation between colours in the 32 bits mode. This exactly how I feltwhen I listened to music through the Oyaide, it was like having more gradation between different timbers.
Dynamics – A living representation of the music:
In my opinion, one of the key aspects of the perception of realism in a music reproduction is the way that transients arehandled. When transients are slowed or altered, our brain can detect prettyeasily that we are listening to a reproduced sound and not a real sound. Toovercome this, some recordings and some audio equipment overemphasize theleading edges of the notes to enhance that sense of realism. But too often, theresult is a dry, artificial and unnatural sound (to my ears at least). TheStereovox XV2 for instance was fast but artificial sounding. The Sobek is slower but warmer and more natural sounding. The Oyaide is in fact both fast and accurate. It can resolve both macro and micro dynamics equally well withoutadding or subtracting anything (as far as my ears and my system allow me hear).
Macro dynamics are “explosive” with the Oyaide.When I listened to the “I am not a hero” track from the Dark Knight OST, I got scared many times because of the violence of the dynamic swings of somepassages of the track. I had listened to that track many times before, so Ialready knew when to expect those “explosive” moments, but I would still getsurprised each time I listen to it with the Oyaide.
Many high end cables can resolve the big dynamic changes but can gloss over the subtlest changes in sound variations (micro dynamics). The Oyaide has an excellent micro dynamics representation that benefits bothinstruments and voices which seem more alive.
The Oyaide can be both explosive when called uponor can remain very subtle when needed. Overall, I would say that it tracks verywell every change in the sound level to an extent I have never heard with anyother cable.
Soundstage and Imaging – A holographic representation:
The Oyaide has a huge soundstage. Until now, the 18ft. Belden 1694 digital cable was the champion in soundstaging. It had the biggest soundstage (in size) among all the cables I tried in my system. However, due to the lack of resolution, images are more diffuse and maybe bigger than the othercables. Anyway, the sound of the soundstage of the Belden is welcome in headphone listening as it gives more of the “out of head experience”.
So the Oyaide can throw a huge soundstage but also has a perfect pinpoint imaging. On a string Quartet you clearly get to feel the size of the instruments. It makes a more involving and believable representation of the music.
Overall, the Oyaide portrays a holographic and believable scene that is amazingly good even on headphone listening (I have yetto try on high-end speaker system).
Transparency – A disappearing act:
The Oyaide cable has little or no sonic signature in my system. This cable doesn’t obscure the resolution of finely recorded materials. The low level details retrieval is on par or better than what Iheard from the best cables I have tried in my system (Stereovox XV2, HifiCables Sobek, Actinote Aria). Small little details such as the concert hall ambiance or echoes and reverbs are beautifully rendered without edginess.
Overall the sound could be described as effortless resolution. It is not an increase in resolution for the sake of the resolutionand transparency; it is a transparency that provides a heightened sense ofrealism.
I am truly impressed by the Oyaide digital cable. Itis clearly the best digital cable I have tried in my system with absolutely no weakness.
This digital cable won’t magically transform a poorly designed DAC into a top-tier one. However, if you are happy with the performance of your DAC and have noticed that its performance is affected by the transport and digital cables, then the Oyaide could probably add somethingto the mix. On a performance level, I have only listen to one digital cable that approaches its sonic performance (it was the Actinote Aria), however, the fact that it costs 3 times the price of the Oyaide makes it a non-issue for me.
Overall, the Oyaide is a beautifully built digital cable that brings you closer to the sound of “analog”, or if I dare to say, tothe sound of the real thing.
Categories: Cables & Tweaks