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Music Networking Entertainment

Calling Shenanigans On Super SATA's Claimed Audio Qualities 827

Posted by timothy
from the 0s-are-rounder-1s-more-linear dept.
nk497 writes "Veteran Hi-Fi journalist Malcolm Steward has pushed newfangled Super SATA cables via his blog as a way to improve the sound quality of music, saying: 'My only guess is that the Super SATAs reject interference significantly better than the standard cables and in so doing lower the noise floor revealing greater low-level musical detail and presentational improvements in the soundstage and the "air" around instruments.' If that doesn't sound right to you, you're not alone. As PC Pro blogger Sasha Muller argues: 'How on earth can a SATA cable delivering 0s and 1s to their respective destination have any effect on those 0s and 1s? The answer is, it can't. Unless it's a magical one made of pixie shoes.' So maybe don't invest in Super SATA cables unless you have proof they're magical first."
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Calling Shenanigans On Super SATA's Claimed Audio Qualities

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  • by koreaman (835838) <uman@umanwizard.com> on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:50PM (#33306008)

    This reminds me of the Slashdot story on several-thousand-dollar ethernet cables from Monster a few years back. *sigh*

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:52PM (#33306040)

    This will not stop best buy from have monster cable sata cables and a big time geek squad up sell when buy systems there.

  • Digital? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:53PM (#33306064)

    Since when does a SATA cable deliver 1s and 0s? It delivers an analog voltage, that happens to be determined as a 1 or 0 by noise thresholds. They could be making a better cable, the problem is once you meet the noise margins for this digital interpretation all extra improvement are for nothing.

  • Digital signals (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:54PM (#33306096)

    The transmission through the SATA cable is certainly unaffected, but close-by analog systems may receive interference from the SATA signal. On the other hand, if you have analog signals anywhere near SATA cables, you don't know what you're doing anyway, so the quality of the cable is really not the parameter to optimize.

  • by Zeek40 (1017978) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:54PM (#33306098)
    I think you meant 'most people'.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:55PM (#33306120)

    and i think he's good at it.

  • by Tridus (79566) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:56PM (#33306124) Homepage

    Where the comments section would be, we get this instead: "I have disabled Comments on this post so that respectable visitors do not have to read the remarks made by a small number of extremely ignorant, rude, malicious and disingenuous individuals who cannot tolerate people expressing opinions that do not concur with their own. "

    Or in other words: "I have absolutely no fucking clue what I'm talking about and really don't like being corrected."

  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:56PM (#33306126)

    Actually phone conversation I've had (multiple times in face):

    Me: Hello?
    Him: Hey what HDMI cable should I buy?
    Me: The cheapest ones you can find?
    Him: Really? Because they have some for $30 and some for $90, aren't the $90 ones better?
    Me: Where are you?
    Him: Best Buy, they have the good stuff.
    Me: Just turn around and leave, buy them off the internet for $5, or at least go to Target or Walmart.
    Him: But they have some for $90 here, they wouldn't charge more if they weren't better.

    etc. etc. etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:57PM (#33306160)

    Really? You don't know any Scientologists? Or Mormons? Or Christians? Or Muslims? Or Jews?

  • Audiophiles. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sarkeizen (106737) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:58PM (#33306174) Journal
    Audiophiles frequently find differences where none exist...and in other news water is wet.
  • Maths (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Swarley (1795754) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:04PM (#33306294)
    (Confirmation Bias) + (Rich Idiots) - (A Double Blind Trial) + (Reality) = Hilarity! I find that this is almost always true.
  • by b0bby (201198) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:10PM (#33306376) Homepage

    If the base signal is identical but you remove a source of mains hum by breaking a ground loop you can have a very audible improvement.

    But that mains hum would have to enter *after* the digital->analog conversion, no? So the cable still wouldn't matter, unless you're saying that the cable itself is transferring hum from the dvd player to the analog amp.

  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:13PM (#33306464) Homepage Journal

    The problem is as they get older and (hopefully) more wealthy, their hearing is at the same time inevitably getting worse and worse. Before too long, their wealth easily eclipses their ability to hear and their ability to resist snakeoil like this. Salesmen score a slam-dunk appeal to ego as soon as they plug in a set of "unbelieveable, not just digital, SUPERDIGITAL" cables and laud the *obvious* improvement in sound. Not being able to hear a damn thing anyway, the audiophile quickly opens his wallet lest he be discovered for having gone deaf long ago.

  • by stagg (1606187) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:21PM (#33306596)
    There seem to be a lot of /. discussions about obviously stupid things. The comment thread fills up with people competing for the Score 5 (funny) comments. What's the point here, other than ego stroking and karma boosting? Inflated senses of superiority? Now before anyone answers, I've got some Super SATA stock to liquidate.
  • by clone53421 (1310749) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:22PM (#33306632) Journal

    Poe’s law is in full force today... I can’t tell if you’re serious or being sarcastic.

  • "Informative"? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:25PM (#33306696)

    Take an EE course, then moderate.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:26PM (#33306716)

    Christians who believe God was once a man and that one can become a god if one does things right in this life.

    That's heresy for everyone else in Christendom.

  • by steelfood (895457) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:32PM (#33306806)

    That's quite an informative post about the S/PDIF protocol. But I suspect the cable quality debate harkens from a period where the signal sent to speakers and between devices was analog. In which case, signal degredation and interference was in fact an issue.

    But at this point, manufacturing processes are so solid that even coat hangers sound as good as any "high fidelity" speaker cables. Which is to say that the real worth of any speaker cable irrespective of marketing and street price is probably only slightly more than its worth in copper.

  • by Surt (22457) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:33PM (#33306818) Homepage Journal

    But the gourmets can beat double-blind tests, whereas the audiophiles cannot.

  • Re:Digital? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:34PM (#33306830) Homepage

    Since when does a SATA cable deliver 1s and 0s? It delivers an analog voltage, that happens to be determined as a 1 or 0 by noise thresholds. They could be making a better cable, the problem is once you meet the noise margins for this digital interpretation all extra improvement are for nothing.

    That's what an electrical/computer engineer, when actually doing their job and not just trying to show off to non-engineers, calls "digital". Every digital electric circuit is an analog voltage that happens to be determined to be a 1 or 0 as long as it is within a threshold. That's what it means to be a (binary) digital circuit. It's why it's advantageous, because you either meet the threshold or you don't. And when it doesn't happen, we call that "failing". Heck, thanks to the nature of digital signaling, you can even use error correction codes, tolerate some amount of failure, and still recover 100% of the data.

    So as long as you presume that "SATA cable" has an implied "functional" modifier, then it's fair to say it's delivering 1s and 0s.

  • Re:HA HA HA HA: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:43PM (#33307006)

    I Put it through the BS to English translator and I got this

    I have disabled Comments on this post so that people who believe everything I tell them do not have to read remarks made by a large number of scientifically and technically literate individuals who cannot tolerate people lying to and defrauding their customers.

  • by Dahamma (304068) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:43PM (#33307018)

    Reading TFA, he replaced the *SATA* cables on a *NAS*, which then sent the audio files over Ethernet to his network. I think it's pretty safe to write it off as an ignorant misunderstanding of digital electronics (by him, not you - you are just giving him WAAY too much credit :)

  • by SomeJoel (1061138) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:51PM (#33307128)

    How on earth can a SATA cable delivering 0s and 1s to their respective destination have any effect on those 0s and 1s?

    It could succeed or fail to deliver the 0s and 1s with their souls intact.

    That won't bother me, I listen to popular music.

  • by jamrock (863246) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:53PM (#33307162)

    There seem to be a lot of /. discussions about obviously stupid things.

    The subject may be "obviously stupid" to you, but perhaps others have interesting things to add. I've already read some informative and insightful comments in this thread about audio/video cables, interference, hum, etc., which I would not have learned had I decided that the discussion was too "obviously stupid" to follow.

    The comment thread fills up with people competing for the Score 5 (funny) comments. What's the point here, other than ego stroking and karma boosting?

    "Competing"? Why do you think it's a competition? Maybe an amusing thought just popped into their head and they decided to share it. Obviously some people enjoyed them or they wouldn't have been moderated "Funny". You seriously need to get over yourself.

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @05:01PM (#33307298)

    I had a blind cab sav wine tasting with 6 wines ($3 to $62).

    The person from the northeast placed them "correctly" except swapping the $20 and $30 wine.

    The people from texas tended to prefer the $20 wine the "top" wine.

    The worst wine was rated lowest by over half the people there.

    The 3rd wine (price wise) had a peculiar "oak" gripping the sides of the tongue that people either liked or disliked but everyone could sense.

    My comment on the $62 Hess was "this tastes the most like the 'ideal' of cab sav" but I preferred the Estancia cabsav. It was sweeter on the tongue (not from sugar either- it was a weird sweetness.)

    Our blind trial provided strong evidence that we could sense differences between the wines but adjacent cost bands tended to blend together and everything over $20 was "just darn good". The $35 Robert Mondavi was not as well liked as the $20 Estancia generally.

    I paired the wine with high quality steak. Some wines pair "magically" with the right foods. The wine tastes better and the food tastes better.

  • by dwiget001 (1073738) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @05:05PM (#33307334)
    > You need to A) turn on a recorder and say that aloud and then B) listen to it after you do so. You will probably be amazed at what you just said, namely, how completely clueless your statement is.
  • Re:HA HA HA HA: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2010 @05:09PM (#33307388)
    It is truly rare to see that much projection somewhere other than a movie theater.
  • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @05:11PM (#33307424)
    If your 'non-generic' tea doesn't taste better than your generic tea, you're doing it seriously wrong.
  • by Ecuador (740021) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @05:13PM (#33307446) Homepage

    What the hell are you talking about? What terminations and EMI?? The cable connects the hard disk to the hard disk controller, it either does successfuly (like any $1 sata cable that is not broken) or does not (the broken cable), and from then on the audio data has to go get processed/decoded/whatever and at some point passed on the the Digital to Analog converter. ONLY FROM THEN ON does quality of electronics/cables etc matter.
    There are some things that are simple as 1-2-3 that you can certainly write off.

  • by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @05:24PM (#33307576)
    This doesn't make sense though. If someone claimed these cables cured cancer, we should not be required to set up tests to prove that the claim is wrong. This audio claim is just as silly.
  • by a_nonamiss (743253) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @05:32PM (#33307688)
    This implies that there are single bit errors in digital cables. There are not. They necessarily have error correction built in. When talking about something like a SATA cable, even a single bit error in a transmission is capable of crashing a system and causing catastrophic data loss. Any system that's used for hard drives REQUIRES absolutely ZERO uncorrected data errors ever. The iSCSI protocol, which essentially channels hard drive data over an Ethernet connection, has an enormous amount of buffering and error correction built in for this reason. I could literally unplug my SAN for 10 seconds (maybe longer) and plug it back in, and get no data errors.
  • by Ironhandx (1762146) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @05:33PM (#33307702)

    This is actually accurate. I have a subwoofer now that hates my cheap HDMI cables but plays nicely with my extra shielded $50 ones. On the other hand they don't show any difference at all between my $50 well shielded cable and the one a friend of mine paid $200 for, and I am a bit of an audiophile, but I'm a cheap bastard on top of it so I always look for the exact reason something isn't quite right and go with the cheapest thing that will grant me my desired performance.

  • by Dahamma (304068) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @05:35PM (#33307714)

    My favorite was his sentence:

    they are are irradiated, I am told, to vapourise any moisture that has found its way into the molecular structure of the conductors.

    Into the molecular structure?!? Sure, the cable can have some random water or oxygen molecules sticking to it, and (infrared, I assume - ultraviolet or lower might just ionize them and cause *more* oxidation) irradiating may remove them. But if it's "in the molecular structure" it's already oxidizied the metal and irradiating it isn't going to do squat.

  • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @05:53PM (#33307916)
    Spoken like somebody who has never had a good bottle, or maybe you just don't like wine. For my part I have had $8 bottles that I have loved, and $40 bottles which I wanted to love (when something is more expensive you do *want* to like it) but in fact hated. Point being, price doesn't correlate with taste, and I rarely buy anything I know any background for so there is no prejudice there.

    If you don't like the taste of wine generally that's just your problem, but don't assume that it cannot be enjoyed for its taste by others.

    Quite frankly I'm not at all surprised that rankings would change day to day even by the same people. Taste is very tied to mood. People tend not to want to eat the same thing all the time, even when it's something they like.
  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @05:54PM (#33307932)

    You see it in all foods. I like vodka, some of the most expensive vodka is not very good. Grey Goose is a great example an American named Sidney Frank made it up and charged a lot for it so people would think it is good. It is in fact no better than a $20 a handle vodka. Corazón tequila is what they are now claiming is so great. Another average quality product sold at high grade prices.

  • wait... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by buddyglass (925859) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @06:20PM (#33308194)

    Couldn't interference from the SATA communication interfere with analog components somewhere along the chain of hardware that converts "1s and 0s" to "sound waves colliding with my ear drum"?

    I know that when I have headphones plugged into my computer, occasionally I'll get interference that seems to match up with disk usage.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2010 @06:33PM (#33308358)

    no, the result is significant. If there is no repeatability it suggests that there is no qualitative difference among the wines. Or cables, or whatever you are testing. That is a significant finding.

  • by Extide (1002782) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @06:35PM (#33308372) Homepage
    Don't forget he is changing the cables in a DIFFERENT PHYSICAL BOX than all of the later analog domain stuff. There really isnt any way that any electronic field that can/may be emitted from the SATA cables will have any effect on the analog components later down the line. Due to his testing method he physically eliminated that possibility. If it was all in the same box, I would say yeah maybe this could have an effect, but the carrier frequency of even SATA 1 is 1.5Ghz, WAY WAY WAY beyond audible range. If there is a source of RF noise infecting the analog part of the circuit, it's coming from something else.
  • by d3ac0n (715594) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @08:54PM (#33309420)

    That's not how it works. When someone makes a claim, they have to back it up, not the doubters. The audiophiles are making the claim that the more expensive cables create better sound. It's up to them to demonstrate this.

    Don't you know? In today's scientific world all you need to do is get enough people to agree with you and ANY skeptic is instantly labeled a "denier" and must be required to prove their case.

    Of course, no rigorous proof is required of the claimant, only a panel of his like-minded peers to affirm that he is right, and that there is a "consensus".

    Now stop being a Super SATA cable denier, fork over your money like a good little sheeple and sit quietly.

  • MOD PARENT UP (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cowclops (630818) on Friday August 20, 2010 @12:46AM (#33310580)

    I've been saying for years that there is a new kind of wrong-headedness that people in today's society apply to factual matters - that if they don't understand the reasoning behind a factual statement, then they just claim its a matter of opinion. I think this is overcompensation for when we were taught in 2nd grade that sometimes facts are actually opinions. Well, the less intelligent among us have extended that to mean "sometimes things you don't understand and make factually incorrect statements about are 'just opinions'

    Everyone is welcome to an opinion, but certain matters aren't a matter of taste. Example:

    "Red is better than green." This is an opinion because you could like red or green or whatever color with essentially no justification and nobody questions you on it, because its purely a matter of taste.

    "The color red has a wavelength of around 300nm" would be a factually incorrect statement, not a matter of opinion. Red has a wavelength thats more like 550-650nm or something like that... I wanna say 300nm is violet or ultraviolet. (I might be wrong on that one, but it still illustrates the point). Some people never learned the difference between "A factually untrue statement" and "an opinion." And 'magical cables make sound better!' is a factually untrue statement, not an opinion. It just takes more verification than the average jerk audiophile can be bothered with.

    Disclaimer: My expertise is audio design/engineering, so the above comments may be tainted with objective fact.

  • o_O (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday August 20, 2010 @01:31AM (#33310790) Journal

    Please, PLEASE use sarcasm tags. Or in the case you are serious, please castrate yourself so your defective genes will never spread.

    You just don't get a crappy connections do you?

    EVEN if error correction works as you describe (and it doesn't, you are thinking network error corrections) then a crappy cable would REMAIN crappy ALL the time and therefor the corrections would also fail and you would never get any data ever.

    In networking, you can indeed request resending of lost data but this DOES NOT WORK if your connection is down. This simply reroutes around crappy connections by waiting until it is gone (this doesn't happen when the cable at the end point is bad) or by re-routing around it. Problems with your MODEM in the past when you noticed it go slow at times happend because of the ANALOGUE part of the connection, not the digital path.

    Error correction in for instance CD's and memory (ECC) works by having more bits which tell the hardware what the bits should be arranged. One of the most basic is for an extra bit that indicated that the majority of other bits must be like. If that isn't correct, then there is something wrong. More complex ones can actually correct the mistakes. This isn't a resending of data, the data itself contains the error correction. The idea a HDMI requests for a resending of data is so insane, so stupid, so misguided that I think you heard something somewhere once and apply it to everything without understanding it.

    The idea that bad digital cables can introduce digital errors is valid enough, but it would cause such massive errors that the signal would be completly unusable. A digital cable either works or doesn't work. When it works, it works perfectly. There is no such thing as a better digital signal. SATA cables are designed to spec, they transmit far more then just the data you requested, the command instructions are also send over it. If there was interference your HD would throw a hissy fit from having to do insane commands, most of which wouldn't even make any sense or even be commands at all. Digital audio/video itself has an oddity that a bit flip might still be valid audio/video. But if I start bit flipping in HD commands I endup talking gibberish.

    Really mate, LEARN something about computers. What next, a bad light bulb in a morse code flasher might cause problems in the morse code? No. Either the light goes on and off as it should or it does not go on and off at all and then there is no morse code.

    Stop trying to reason that you didn't get scammed with your monster cables.

    Digital signals just don't work that way.

    What next? MP3's stored on a cheap drive sound worse then ones on a proper SCSI drive? Personally I prefer the old time sound of MP3's stored on a floppy. It just sounds richer.

    Digital is simple, it either works or it doesn't. There is no grey area with digital. Your MP3 player doesn't go "mmm, well this could be a 1 or a 0. oh well, I make it 0.5 and nobody will be the wiser."

    But go right ahead, draw an arrow on your cable so the bits know how to flow (on a two way connection), just be prepared to be seen as a fool by everyone else. Crappy cables don't get sold. If they were crap they would be returned by anyone because even normal people can tell the difference between a cable that doesn't work and one that does.

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