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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 onionman (975962) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:52PM (#33306060)

      It seems like a pretty good buy to me. Those Monster cables have prevented any Monsters from infesting my home audio equipment. My anti-shark rock is working well in the living room, too.

      • by rubycodez (864176) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:09PM (#33306368)

        my Pink Elephant cables have turned out to be a mixed bag, they're only an effective repellent during the work week, when I'm sober.

        • by networkBoy (774728) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:27PM (#33306730) Homepage Journal

          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.

          Looks like someone commented about how asinine that the premise these cables could matter to sound quality.

          • 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.

            • Re:HA HA HA HA: (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @06:22PM (#33308226)
              It looks like he's disabled comments on ALL of his posts. I was looking for another post to go comment in and found that comments are closed on all posts.
            • by istartedi (132515) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @10:25PM (#33309912) Journal

              The translator needs some work though.

              I did a BS-English-BS translation and got this:

              I have special comment abilities on this post so that scepticly impaired persons do not have to read remarks by Rubinesque intellectuals who prefer not to appreciate biting the wax tadpole.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Tuidjy (321055)

            I think that we can all agree that the 'magic' cables are going to pass the same 0s and 1s as any working cable. Still, it is not impossible that the 'magic' cables result in better sound. Allow me to play devil's advocate.

            For example, non-magic cables might produce EM fields that may interfere with the audio equipment generating the sound that the blogged was listening to. The magic cables, with better shielding, might not, and thus, despite transporting the same 0s and 1s, result in better quality.

            Of c

    • by NiceGeek (126629) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:53PM (#33306066)

      If there is a more gullible group of people than audiophiles, I haven't met them.

      • by lgw (121541) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:56PM (#33306140) Journal

        And high-end digital cables are continued proof of this! I'm perfectly happy to pay $5 extra for a better cable so it won't actually break on me, or has a handy elbow bend in the connector, or whatnot (OK, maybe a bit more for a really long cable). Beyond that it's pure fraud.

      • by s122604 (1018036) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:57PM (#33306150)
        Wine snobs are pretty darn close. Especially French wine snobs..

        The California wine industry would be a shell of what it is now, if some enterprising brit didn't convince them to try a tasting without looking at the labels

        Even after they tried to force him to supremeness the results...
        • by hardburn (141468) <hardburn@@@wumpus-cave...net> on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:06PM (#33306324)

          Wine snobs usually have their opinions backed up by double-blind tests. The taste buds of good sommelier really can tell the type, vintage, and what kind of wood was used in the barrel that aged the wine. It was a blind test that proved that France wasn't the best in the world after all [wikipedia.org].

          They might be snobs, but they do have some Scientific backing behind them. Audiophiles, not so much.

          • by jeffmeden (135043) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:23PM (#33306666) Homepage Journal

            Super interesting Wikipedia article! You would think that if they were so good at it (the french judges) they could at least tell the difference between American and French grapes (even if they secretly found the American taste "Better")...

            Actually, the snobs of both fields probably do have something in common: They enjoy spending money on things (Even if it's only for spending's sake)... Behold: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13580_3-9849949-39.html [cnet.com], a study that demonstrated the ability of something to be better (read: more enjoyable) so long as (and solely if) it is more expensive. Maybe the Audio guys aren't so crazy after all... Just deluded by their medial orbitofrontal cortex!

          • by Derek Pomery (2028) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:35PM (#33306850)

            From the wikipedia article you just linked to...

            Indeed, the organizer of the competition, Steven Spurrier, said, "The results of a blind tasting cannot be predicted and will not even be reproduced the next day by the same panel tasting the same wines."[4] In one case it was reported that a "side-by-side chart of best-to-worst rankings of 18 wines by a roster of experienced tasters showed about as much consistency as a table of random numbers."[5][6]

            Not much good in blind tests if there is no repeatability.
            Kinda like some tests of psychic powers out there, or homeopathy.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by MozeeToby (1163751)

              Not getting the same exact results every time would mean that the test is very imprecise but not necessarily inaccurate. If the averages work out over many samples so that some wines are clearly favored where others are not, it would still be significant even if you don't get the exact same results with every test.

              Later on in the same article it is stated that statisticians analyzed the results and found that the top two wines were the only ones that was statistically different in ranking from the other on

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by wjousts (1529427)
            Actually, exactly the opposite. Wine snobs can't tell shit in double-blind tests. There was one recent test (don't have the reference handy) where "good sommeliers" couldn't tell the difference between red wine and white wine with red food coloring.
          • 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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by acnicklas (1740146)
          I'm a wine snob - I won't touch Mad Dog 20/20. Thunderbird all the way....
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jeffmeden (135043)

        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 le

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Khyber (864651)

        "If there is a more gullible group of people than audiophiles, I haven't met them."

        Furries.

        You can get them to do ANYTHING, buy the most insane poorly-drawn stuff from the most talentless artists, and then the ability to lead them into drama.

        Furries definitely top audiophiles in gullibility.

        Actually, I know a furry audiophile. That's mind-numbing, there.

      • by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @05:20PM (#33307548)
        I particularly love his comment that the cables actually improved the naturalness in "the music&rsquo;s rhythmical progression".

        In other words, the cable isn't just changing the timbre of the notes; mellowing the harsh electronic edges, reducing noise levels, and other mumbo-jumbo these things are usually claimed to do. It is actually changing the timing of the music, in other words editing the music as it flies down the cable! If I put one of these on my hard drive I could expect to find fewer typos in my code.
      • by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:07PM (#33306338)

        Those Denon cables look great, but there's some severe problems with them, mainly because they're so good, the transmission rate exceeds lightspeed. Check out this review from Amazon.com:

        Transmission of music data at rates faster than the speed of light seemed convenient, until I realized I was hearing the music before I actually wanted to play it. Apparently Denon forgot how accustomed most of us are to unidirectional time and the general laws of physics. I tried to get used to this effect but hearing songs play before I even realized I was in the mood for them just really screwed up my preconceptions of choice and free will. I'm still having a major existential hangover.

        Would not purchase again.

        Even worse, you might experience much worse effects with these cables. This review is very ominous:

        This connection isn't sound. If my calculations are correct, it should be sometime around 2007 for whomever is reading this. DO NOT USE THESE CABLES. Something... happens with them. Something came through, something from somewhere else. We were overrun in days, not many of us are left. WE LIVE UNDERGROUND! ONLY YOU CAN STOP IT NOW. SAVE US. DO NOT USE THESE CABLES.

        I don't have much time. This connection isn't sound. If my calculations are correct, it should be--

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by clone53421 (1310749)

        Wow. Just wow.

        Get the purest digital audio you've ever experienced from multi-channel DVD and CD playback through your Denon home theater receiver with the AK-DL1 dedicated cable. Made of high-purity copper wire, it's designed to thoroughly eliminate adverse effects from vibration (it stays plugged in!) and helps stabilize the digital transmission from occurrences of jitter and ripple (I just made that up!). A tin-bearing copper alloy (brass, idiots!) is used for the cable's shield while the insulation is made of a fluoropolymer material (for those awkward moments when you just dropped your cable into a puddle of battery acid) with superior heat resistance, weather resistance, and anti-aging properties. The connector features a rounded plug lever to prevent bending or breaking and direction marks to indicate correct direction for connecting cable (sound goes in direction of arrow).

    • by Little_Professor (971208) <littleprofNO@SPAMdodgeit.com> on Thursday August 19, 2010 @05:10PM (#33307410) Journal
      James Rani's $1million speaker cable prize was never awarded...

      http://entertainment.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/10/04/1354224 [slashdot.org]

      "James Randi offered US$ 1 million to anyone who can prove that a pair of $7,250 Pear Anjou speaker cables is any better than ordinary (and also overpriced) Monster Cables. Pointing out the absurd review by audiophile Dave Clark, who called the cables 'danceable,' Randi called it 'hilarious and preposterous.' He added that if the cables could do what their makers claimed, 'they would be paranormal.'
    • by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @05:13PM (#33307448)
      I don't bother with all the techie stuff. I just ask my astrologer to tell me when the best time is to listen to my hi-fi recordings.
  • 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.

  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:54PM (#33306080) Journal

    Steward Says Super SATA Sound Swindles Some Suckers

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:54PM (#33306088)

    Wait until he installs the pure ivory motherboard standoffs!

  • by bgspence (155914) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:55PM (#33306104)

    Don't ignore the placebo effect in audio perception. Placebos have been proven to work, and it has also been shown that higher priced placebos are more effective.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by voidptr (609)

      What's even funnier is if what he implies (but doesn't quite spell out) is he's got this:
      HDD -> (SATA cable) -> NAS box -> (meters of bog-standard ethernet cables) -> Ethernet Switch -> (ethernet cables) -> Computer -> ???

      Even *if* there was a measurable difference in a 1 ft SATA cable, 4 Ethernet interfaces ports, a pile of ethernet cable, and two CPUs after it would swamp any benefit.

  • 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."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dahamma (304068)

      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

  • What an idiot. (Score:3, Informative)

    by RobertM1968 (951074) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:56PM (#33306130) Homepage Journal

    The author now has this up:

    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.

    Which really means "I'm an ignorant, lying, idiot, and dont want people pointing that out on my blog, so I have closed commenting and deleted all comments, since they all pointed out my stupidity."

    Ah well...

  • by Cajun Hell (725246) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:56PM (#33306136) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SomeJoel (1061138)

      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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:57PM (#33306144)

    A normal SATA can only carry 0s and 1s, but Super SATA carries 0.0000s and 1.0000s. Thats 4 digits of precision beyond the bits that normal SATA can represent.

  • 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.
  • by MattskEE (925706) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:00PM (#33306200)

    Any sufficiently advanced scam is indistinguishable from blind ignorance.

    It's pretty obvious that these cables are a scam preying on people who care about their sound systems but who don't understand enough of the technical aspects to avoid buying overpriced crap. This Stewart fellow is probably getting paid to plug this cable on his blog, but it's possible that he's just an idiot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gstoddart (321705)

      It's pretty obvious that these cables are a scam preying on people who care about their sound systems but who don't understand enough of the technical aspects to avoid buying overpriced crap.

      But, it's worse than that.

      Some of the people I've seen defending this stuff comes from audiophiles themselves. People who can recite the formulas related to the physics of speakers and audio-connections from memory. People who in theory could build a set of really good speakers and have likely built tube amps at some

  • by timholman (71886) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:04PM (#33306278)

    For a humorous spin a related snake oil product, check out the Amazon reviews for the Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable. Many of the reviews are absolute comedy gems.

  • Maybe, just maybe (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kg261 (990379) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:04PM (#33306280)
    While I would not expect that the drive cables should affect the audio in any way, I have been in hardware development long enough that when a software person makes some strange claim like"the circuit changed and I didn't do anything" that often there is something behind it. In short, these things are complex. Not that the cable should not make any difference. Maybe in his motherboard, the terminations are not good and the EMI in the board is affecting the audio. This cable may be a better match. I am not saying this is the case, but do not write off these things just because they do not make sense. That said, the writer should also try to replicate on several platforms etc etc
    • 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 :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ecuador (740021)

      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 bradgoodman (964302) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:04PM (#33306282) Homepage
    There was a ./ article a few years ago - similar - about a $500 Ethernet cable made in "low oxygen" environments...yadda...yadda...sold to people to get better sound quality out of the MP3's.

    All the same points were made, and shenanigans called.

    There was a lot of interesting stuff said in the old discussion - a lot of it had to do with the fact that when people review this HiFi/Audio stuff - the testing is all very subjective, and is never done as a blind trial. Thus, one can boast the virtues of the $500 Ethernet cable - as they know they are listening through one - but one would never do a blind-sound test between a $500 and a $5 cable.

  • 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 Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:05PM (#33306306)

    Audiophiles are just dead convinced there are all sorts of magic ways to improve your sound quality. Sometimes it is just pure, 100% made up bullshit like the "brilliant pebbles" thing. Other times there is a kernel of truth from long in the past that they over apply to everything.

    With digital cable, that's the case. So S/PDIF is the major transport for digital audio. It is slowly being superseded by newer things but it was the big one forever and is still used a lot. Turns out S/PDIF isn't all that well designed with regards to having a solid clock signal. So what happened was back in the day (and still occasionally) you'd have devices that didn't reclock an incoming signal, they use the clock off of the wire. This meant they were sensitive to clock skew, which would happen if your cable wasn't tightly controlled to 75 ohms, in particular with a long distance. The kind of distortion caused by this is quite audible. S/PDIF has no real error correction, and no retransmit so any errors get played. Thus, for long runs (as you find in studios) good cable was needed, even for digital.

    Obviously there are a lot of ways around this, the most common these days being just reclocking the signal you receive with an internal clock. Also better standards came about (like AES/EUB which runs over balanced cable). Doesn't matter, once and for all time people were convinced that cable quality mattered. It still crops up too, because you get audiophile devices that are poorly designed. They go for a "minimal component" design. So you'll have a DAC that doesn't reclock and thus is sensitive to clock skew.

    Of course snake oil salesmen seized on this and started selling "high grade" cables that offered nothing.

    Now of course when you get to SATA, none of this shit matters because it isn't a synchronous, no-retransmit system. If an error happens, the data will be resent. This is easy to do since everything is operating so much faster than the audio signal, and is further buffered by the system. If there are any errors on the wire, you never know, the system handles it behind the scenes. Also none of it affects the analogue audio signal, as it isn't clocked and converted until it hits the soundcard. Internal to the CPU, it is all just data.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by steelfood (895457)

      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 slig

    • Cables cannot cause clock skew, because again long term the cable would have to somehow create or delete samples and a cable just can't do that. Cables can cause jitter, but the effect is vastly overstated.

      Not reclocking data is a better way to deal with skew than reclocking is. Because if you reclock you have to drop samples or resample to deal with the long-term drift between the input clock and the reproduction clock.

      Jitter on the input data can show up if you go straight to a DAC. But you can redesign y

  • by jejones (115979) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:06PM (#33306314) Journal

    The 0s are zeroier, and the 1s more one-ey!

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

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