Sunday, March 27, 2016

$500 USB Cable for audio

Woohoo, check out the Platinum Starlight 7 USB 2.0 cable

Hey its only north of 500 bucks, better jump right on that for such a low price to upgrade the sound of your digital audio! Or maybe, use your head and buy a five dollar one instead. Up to you.

What does the manufacturer claim about the cable? " breathtaking vividness, focus and dynamic expression"

Well, hey...What units do you measure vividness and focus in? I don't see any spectral data on the website that should back up such a claim but oh well, what about dynamic expression? Are they claiming that a normal USB cable compromises the dynamic range? Are they claiming instead that this cable somehow expands the dynamic range above and beyond what is actually recorded? Should you just take their word that there's a difference worth 495 bucks? Or any difference at all?

They DO claim that this is the "first USB cable to exceed 10.2Gbps transmission speed". Awesome! except that the USB spec is for 480Mbps, or 21 times slower than the cable. I could see maybe making the cable twice as fast as needed, "just in case", but there shouldn't be anything to gain by going even that far.

How fast do you need anyway? For standard CD audio, we have 44.1khz sample rate, times 16 bits, times 2 for stereo, which comes out to 1.411Mbps. For 24bit/96kHz  (no I'm not even going to get into whether or not 96khz makes any sense for regular playback in this post!) we need 4.608Mbps. Still nowhere near that 10.2Gbps.

As far as I can tell, the speed claim, "expanded geometry" and "Composilex 2 insulation" are what gives this cable all that magical, claimed, extra vividness, focus and dynamic expansion. I'm not buying it, should you?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Dangerous Territory

After a long pause, and due to the nature of the work i have been doing over the last few years, I want to delve into the debate about whether or not tone woods and guitar construction in general affect an electric guitar's AMPLIFIED tone. I know this subject is fraught with peril, so I want to be really careful.

Without question though, one place where people get jacked repeatedly comes from the attempt at chasing the dragon of that elusive magic guitar tone! We could all probably name several examples of outright fraud being sold to the aspiring guitar player without breaking a sweat. I am far more interested in what the science and logic in general have to say. I realize that a great many, perhaps the majority of people selling these claims actually believe them, so they aren't necessarily being malicious, even if they turn out to be untrue. I know this subject can ruffle some feathers, and I'm not really known for staying away from controversy, so this could get ugly really fast. Please try to keep in mind that offense is taken, not given.

I want to make it clear, hopefully as I did in the allcaps above that i am talking about the *amplified* tone of an electric guitar.

I'll say it again: I am only interested in this discussion in the signal that appears on the guitar's output jack.

So what are the claims I'm looking at?

1. The type of wood used on a guitar affects the electrical signal the guitar generates.
    a) The effect the wood has on tone directly
    b) The effect the wood has on mechanical qualities like sustain, which of course could also lead to a tone change

2. Bridge and nut materials (or locking vs standard nuts) affecting the tone. Here we can get into some insanely expensive stuff like the titanium replacement blocks for Floyd Roses (sheesh! Only 460 dollars for this guy! )

3. Construction methods (bolt on, set neck, neck-thru, etc) and their effect on tone

I really want to know first if there's even a mechanism for audibility, and one I keep stumbling over is the phenomenon of microphonic pickups. There may be a "there" there. Whether it passes the threshold of audibility in common use is another matter.