An audiophile needs to do several things before he or she dies to be considered a true audiophile. First they have to have owned, lived with, or at least co-habitated with a pair of original Quad ESL-57’s. Second they have to own at least one copy of Dark Side of the Moon, Casino Royale, or Famous Blue Raincoat. And lastly they have to experience the Audioquest “Boombox” demo.
This demo consists of listening to a very moderately-priced Sharp compact three-piece stereo system that has been modified to accept banana-type binding post for rapid switching of the speaker cables. Using one musical track, in my demo we used the song “Dog” (track 5) from Damien Rice 9, different speaker cables of equal lengths are swapped in and out for A-B tests. Each listening test takes around 1 minute, then one of the six other cables is substituted for the previous cable. Cables used for the test are original Monster cable, Audioquest F-40, Audioquest F-14, Audioquest type-2, Audioquest type-4, Audioquest CV-4 without DBS, and finally Audioquest CV-4 with DBS.
I participated in the demo with two other fellows I had never met before, who did not have any affiliation with Audioquest. After the first pass using the Monster cable one quipped, “That sounded just like a Sharp compact stereo.” He was right. The music was uninvolving and not very much fun to listen to. I noticed on this first pass that it sounded like the guitarist might have made a small flub during the introductory passage. The second pass was with the Audioquest F-40. Now I was SURE the guitarist muffed a note during the intro. The overall sonics improved markedly. While I wouldn’t have confused the sound with that of a triode OTL tube system, it did loose its initially glassy and opaque character. By the third pass with Audioquest F-14 cable I was ready for and even more annoyed that any producer would have permitted the guitar part to remain unmended in the final mix. The definition on the vocals also improved to the point where I could begin to separate out the intentional EQ and distortion the track from the noise added by the stereo itself. Sonics improved with sequential changes. After the final pass using Audioquest’s CV-4 cable with DBS I had to admit that I’d heard systems at shows costing four figures that didn’t sound as good. After the last swap we went back to the original Monster cable to see if it was really as bad as we initially thought it was. Yep, back to mid-fi mediocrity. We were listening to a cheap Sharp stereo again.
So what did this demonstration prove? For me it reaffirmed that, yes, speaker cables do make a difference. But they are not merely “tone controls” or system EQ devices, but can profoundly affect the transparency, immediacy, emotional impact, and cumulative quality of a stereo system. And I dare anyone who thinks that cables don’t matter or that speaker cable products are all snake oil to participate in this demo. It will change you in a profound way.