Good Connector Cables for the Analog Signal Makes a Difference
While the prices of high end connector cables often exceed the price of the high end components they are attached to, the cables that carry the analog signal noticeably improves the sound quality of your system.
Just like adding a good power cord, a high end connecting cable for the analog signal makes an improvement to the sound quality that you can hear. In my headphone micro system, the place to invest is the cable that connects the Meridian Explorer DAC with the HiFiMan EF5. This is the connecting cable that provides the most noticeable improvement in sound.
When I first purchased my EF5, I went to Radio Shack and bought an AUVIO 1/8” (3.5mm) to RCA (Phono) Stereo Audio Cable for $20. This cable did the trick and I was perfectly happy listening to music through my new HiFiMan equipment and Meridian DAC.
On a stereo system it is easy to understand that the analog signal is at its most fragile point from the time it leaves the device that reads the digital information—the CD/DVD/SACD player to the pre-amp and then again from the pre-amp to the the amplifier. If there is any loss of information in the signal, these are the places that loss is most likely to occur.
Applying this logic to the music on my computer headphone system, the sound signal is most fragile from the time it leaves the Meridian Explorer DAC to the time it reaches the headphone amplifier. Digital music is just a series of 1’s and 0’s. When this information is pushed from the computer through the connecting cord to reach the DAC it is still just 1’s and 0’s. However, the DAC converts the 1’s and 0’s to an analog sound signal, which is what you ultimately hear.
The Meridian Explorer DAC takes the digital 1’s & 0’s and converts it to an analog signal. Considering the DAC as somewhat equivalent to the pre-amp on my stereo system, the sound signal is at its most fragile point when it goes from the DAC to the Amplifier. Since this is the most vulnerable point, I decided to add the best connection cord I could get and replace the radio shack AUVIO.
The two cords I considered were the top of the line Audioquest cable, the Angel, and the top of the line Audience cable, the au24SE. Unfortunately, I could not find a retailer who carried both cables. In addition, Audience does not make a USB to USB mini cable that I would eventually want to test as an upgrade to the cable that came with the Meridian Explorer. I wanted to stay with one manufacturer for both cables to reduce the variables in my test.
Still not sure that upgrading cables would make any difference to sound quality at all, I ordered a .6M Angel 3.5m-RCA cable from Needledoctor and put the shocking $950 charge on my credit card. It was worth every penny. The cable noticeably improved the sound not just to my ear but to everyone I asked to give it a listen.