Touching on the psychology of what we perceive a cable to sound like.
I recently read a comment on a audio blog which asked the question around the science being incomplete on why some cable sound different to others. The comment is below:
"How do we explain when we experience different sounds in different cables of decent or better quality?
If there's only the material, the resistance, the inductance and the capacitance to use in trying to explain it, what do we do to avoid being seen as maniacs or snake-oil victims?
I mean, if someone can hear a difference in the soundstage with 2 different speaker cables, and the known parameters simply isn't enough to explain it, then what to do?
I feel there has to be more to it, as in science in this area is not complete."
While I am not an audio engineer (or a psychologist), I did feel the question could be better answered by the psychology behind cables than the 'science' behind them.
There are so many contributing factors to how we perceive what we hear. I haven't changed my setup in months but I can walk in and listen to the exact same song a day apart and it sound different. Some days I feel my system lacks punch and clarity and all of a sudden I want new speakers. The next day I am more than satisfied with my system. Without getting too deep, how someone feels at the time can influence what we perceive we hear. When I am in a good mood, my system just seems to sound 'brighter' and clearer, when I am in a sad or frustrated mood, I feel my system mellows out.
It's also how we perceive cables. When told you're using a more expensive, exotic cable you generally hear it because you 'want' to and you start looking for things that aren't there and start justifying it in your own mind.
The 'science' of cables hasn't changed for decades and I don't expect it ever will. Cable companies are just coming up with new ways and buzzwords to sell their product. Good ole reliable thick gauge copper isn't 'sexy' anymore and no one can justify the price tag if the seller doesn't make bold, left field and exciting claims.
Another issue is the 'stuck up' (for lack of a better term) attitude the audio industry seems to have. If someone buys an expensive cable (for whatever reason) and someone else can't hear the difference they supposedly can, the person will simply claim their ears are more trained or the other listener is less experienced. It has created this elitist mentality that dealers seem to feed off. Go to a 'high end' audio store and watch them push the more expensive cables, tell them you can't tell the difference and they'll tell you they can as they have more experience and 'listen to systems all day every day'.
What's also interesting is when people claim a cable 'increases the bottom end' or 'makes the system brighter'. Isn't that the opposite of what one would want in a cable? A simple EQ adjustment can do that on even the most basic systems these days. Wouldn't we want a completely neutral cable that replicates what the system (and artist) is trying to produce then adjust using EQ to satisfy personal needs.
I could give examples and throw around theories for hours but personally, I find the psychology behind cables far more interesting than the science. The science is solid and unchanged, the psychology will always vary.