Audio Cables: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
Are all audio cables created equal? We would argue that they are not. This guide covers everything you'll need to know about audio cables and to determine if high-end audio cables are ultimately worth it. From materials to sound signatures, we'll also give you insight to how we make our award-winning Dragon Audio Cables and see first hand what they can do for you. Here at Moon Audio, we're only concerned with making your music sound its very best, and audio cables that use premium materials is one of the easiest ways to acheive that.
Conclusion: Do Audio Cables Matter?
In short, yes. Materials matter. Better materials mean better performance and longer life. The higher quality materials used in premium cables are irrefutably better quality than the materials used in OEM cables. This can translate to a number of improvements including better shielding, lower noise floor, natural dB boost, and overall improvement in clarity, soundstage and definition of audio.
Moreover, that’s the crux of our argument here: do better cables result in better sound? Answer: Try it. Test it out. See what works for you. Everyone hears differently, and at the end of the day the goal should always be to strive for better audio quality for the music you love. If you have any questions about audio cables, please Contact Us and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have! Happy listening!
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions
Do High-End Cables Make a Difference?
High-end audio cables use higher quality materials. Materials matter. Better materials mean better performance and longer life. The materials used in premium headphones and audio cables are irrefutably better quality than the materials used in OEM cables. This can translate to a number of improvements including better shielding, lower noise floor, natural dB boost, and overall improvement in clarity, soundstage, and definition of audio.
Do Cables affect sound quality?
They can, depending on the types of materials they use. Factors like shielding can legitimately affect the amount of interference and noise that the audio signal will be subjected to. Long cable runs can act as antennas and shielding is quite important. Materials like copper and silver conductors and the quality of those conductors will affect the sound signature of the audio. Oxygen-free conductors also sound different from cables with oxygen-laden conductors. There are many factors that can affect the overall audio quality of your cable.
We use what is called UP-OCC. This stands for Ultra Pure Ohno Continuous casting. This is a process developed by Dr. Ohno of Japan. Conventional methods of extruding copper results in multiple and fractionated crystalline structure. Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) has a distinctive effect on your audio quality that some might find lacking. The OCC process uses a heated mold for extruding, whereas other processes involve a cooled mold. The cooling process in OCC takes place separately, resulting in larger crystal sizes and increased purity. So, from a materials perspective, the OCC process is far superior to OFC.
Are good cables important?
Cables are the connection to your music, so having good audio cables is especially important to improve sound quality. Poor quality cables and poor connections can lead to noise, static, audio cutout, and much more, negatively affecting the quality of your music.
Are balanced cables better than unbalanced?
Balanced cables are not necessarily better than unbalanced or single-ended. Again, it depends on the gear circuit design of the products in your sound system and how they are configured. To learn more about balanced versus single-ended, check out our guide HERE.
Why are there different Dragon Cable variants?
Our Dragon Cables feature different metal configurations, each having different audio sound signatures when paired with your speakers or headphones. The Silver Dragon lends more detail and soundstage, making it a great pairing for warmer headphones. Black Dragon cables add more warmth and body to make them a great pairing for forward sounding and analytical headphones. Blue Dragon cables are a great value, improving the clarity, staging, and detail on any headphones. Lastly, the Bronze Dragon improves thin-sounding headphones and IEMs, warming and rounding out a flat signature.
There are also USB, digital, interconnects, speaker, and power cables that are also handcrafted to your specifications. Each of these cable types have specific audio signature properties that can help to lift the veil of your music on any device and connection type.
Is copper or silver better when choosing an audio cable?
Each has its own sonic properties that can positively or adversely affect your music, depending on the genre, headphones, or amplifier you are listening to. Silver is more conductive than copper but can also thin out your music if paired with a forward sounding headphone. Likewise, copper can fill out the low end and create a warmer and more musical presentation, which is great for non-bass-heavy genres. One is not necessarily better than the other, but there is a better option (of the two) depending on your system and the type of music you like to listen to.
What is sound signature?
Every piece of gear in your sound system has a sound signature. Your DAC, the amp, your pair of speakers or headphones; they all have their own material properties that can affect the coloration or resonance of your music, altering the way it sounds from the original. The sound signature of a piece of equipment can be forward, warm, musical, or bright, just to name a few. To learn more about sound signatures, check out our guide HERE.
How do I compare audio cables?
The best way to compare audio cables is to test them. A-B testing is a way of simply comparing one cable to another. Using the same song and audio gear, it will become easy to tell how the cables affect the overall sound quality and soundstage of your music.
How do I know if one audio cable is better than another?
It really depends on your listening preference. Through an A-B test, if one cable brings out more sonic properties that are appealing to you, then that would be considered the best cable for you. It's important to understand that everyone hears differently, and what someone might consider better sounding might not be the case for you. That’s okay. The priority is figuring out what sounds best to you so that you can enjoy your music to its full potential. There is no right or wrong to this.
Are certain cables better for specific genres of music?
Silver or bronze copper conductors can bring out specific qualities in your music that can either be complementary or adverse. It depends on what you like to listen to and how you like to listen. For instance, regarding classical music, some people like to listen with a Black Dragon cable, which lends a warmer and fuller presentation to for the performance. Others prefer a Silver Dragon, which opens the music and expands the soundstage, providing more detail and air to the individual instruments. The other factor to consider is the headphones or amplifiers you use, since each offers its own sound signature and will affect the music differently. There are generic rules to follow such as we typically do not pair Silver Dragon cables with forward-sounding headphones and Black Dragon cables with warm or darker presentation headphones (although there are always exceptions to the rule).
How does the material in the cable affect the sound?
Materials like copper and silver conductors and the quality of those conductors will affect the sound signature of the audio. Oxygen-free conductors also sound different than cables with oxygen-laden conductors. Copper conductors are going to lend a warmer and more musical tonality to your music whereas silver will bring out more details and tighten up lower frequencies. There are many ways in which materials can affect the overall audio quality of your cable.
Can you measure if one cable is better than another?
Without getting into subjective differences, there are ways to measure a cable’s shielding effectiveness and noise floor, as well as overall conductivity and signal gain. Better shielding and higher quality conductors will always result in better overall performance. There are objective factors that you can measure to determine if one cable is better than another. A great place to start is to determine the quality of the metal used for the audio cable. At Moon Audio, we use UP-OCC silver and copper, assuring the highest quality for your sound quality. If you have any questions about cable quality, feel free to Contact Us and we'll be happy to help in any way we can.
As always, if you have any questions about audio cables and what would be a good fit for you, please feel free to Contact Us and we'll be more than happy to assist you in any way we can!