Home Interlinks don’t do anything! Or do they? 32 rca cables analyzed

Interlinks don’t do anything! Or do they? 32 rca cables analyzed

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Alpha Audio - Big interlink cable test

Are there connections?

What this test is all about, of course, is making connections. Finding similarities between listening and measuring. So let’s walk past some things we noticed while measuring and listening to these 32 cables.

Spectrum, extinction and response

We do see connections between a particular signature and what we measured. For example, the ‘dryness’ of a cable can be linked to how quickly the spectrum extinguishes. We also see that ‘drier’ cables also dip faster and further in the response measurement.

This may all sound logical, but know that we are measuring up to 10 MHz. That is much higher than we or even bats can hear. So why would it be audible if a cable starts to drop after 100 or even 500 KHz? We can’t hear that, can we? Well… apparently we do, because there is a direct link. Or it’s a consequence of something else – bandwidth, for example – that we haven’t seen yet. That’s also possible, of course.

We see the same thing in the spectrum measurement: dryer cables show significantly less post-ringing there and the spectrum also fades out faster. So look carefully at how hard the first ‘bump’ falls down and how fast that happens.

Above you can see the Ricable Magnus – a nice energetic cable with an open and fast character. Next to it is the Mogami interconnect: a somewhat tame, somewhat compact sounding cable. The difference is obvious: the Ricable drops only 0.6dB at 10 MHz. The Mogami almost 7dB. The Mogami’s attenuation is clearly visible in the spectrum. The Ricable remains much more energetic. What is “better” is entirely taste. The cable should fit your system.

Above are three more examples: the Van den Hul MC Silver (energetic, airy, fast), the Grimm SQM (dry, tight) and a funny comparison: the Grimm TPR (energetic and significantly fresher than SQM). The spectrum shows well how the energy in the cable weakens.

We have published these measurements of all the cables, along with some sound characteristics. So you can start comparing and puzzling yourself.

Propagation time

Now Grimm Audio tipped us to measure the propagation time while changing the amplitude (voltage of the pulse). We had until then always measured at 1.5 volts. After a few test cables, we noticed that cables indeed respond differently when we change the voltages. we ended up measuring at 0.3 Volts, 0.5 Volts and 1.5 Volts. This gives an idea of small and large changes.

Note: it is terribly difficult to place the markers precisely, since sometimes the sine wave is quite “distorted” and thus the trigger also shifts the pulse. We tried very hard, but these measurements are not absolute values. Think of them as an indication. The Transparent Plus is an ‘active’ cable and unfortunately did not allow us to do this measurement properly.

Now propagation time will be related to cable geometry. And also the materials a manufacturer uses. However, it is noticeable that cables that get “faster” tend to sound a bit more energetic, open and fresh, and cables that get “slower” also show a bit more calmness and warmth.

This is quite logical, since it has to do with timing relative to dynamics. After all: the ‘timing’ shifts with the voltage (amplitude / dynamics / loudness). Smearing in dynamics also creates differences in sound and character.

Other issues?

There are also things that we thought would matter, but which we now see do not matter at all. Think of impedance. In an interlink, that simply doesn’t matter. At least: we have not been able to link sound or character to the impedance of a cable. And therefore not to resistance either (impedance, simply explained, is a complex resistance that includes capacitance and inductance). With loudspeaker cables it is a different story: lower is better (because of the influence on the damping factor), but we will explain that in that specific test.

Capacitance and Inductance is a tricky one. Our gut feeling is, that there is a relationship with damping and also timbre. However, there are cables that show the opposite. Think of the Audioquest cables with ZERO-tech. Those really measure completely differently than other cables. We really had to get in the mail with Garth Powell to understand what we were seeing.

To illustrate, above you can see the Audioquest Dragon and the Audioquest Red River. These are measurements to show the delay through the cable and a spectrum measurement. The Dragon not only shows a particularly low pulse (green pulse is from the cable being measured, yellow is the reference), two pulses are clearly visible. The Red River shows a predictable result.

Characteristic impedance

Audioquest ZERO-tech is designed to make the cable as immune as possible to impedance differences. And that’s tricky with analog cables….

With digital interfaces, there are agreements on termination impedances. SPdif works with 75 Ohms, for example. AES/EBU with 110 Ohm. Most measuring equipment works with 50 Ohm, as do some connections for reference clocks (10 MHz clocks), for example.

Cable manufacturers can (must) take these impedances into account when developing a cable for these interfaces.

With analog equipment, there are no agreements about impedences. Each source, preamplifier or power amplifier (and also speaker) has different in- or outpute impedances. And that makes it impossible to make ‘the perfect cable’. In fact, the perfect cable would mean customization. Audioquest tries to make a cable with ZERO-tech that is perfectly at home everywhere.

Whether it has succeeded, you must decide for yourself. What we can tell you is that it measures and sounds completely different.

Rounding off

Is it possible to establish a relationship between what we measure and what we hear? In short: can cables be measured? Yes. Partly. We cannot measure the “quality” of a cable. We can, however, get an idea of the timbre and stability of a cable. As crazy as it may sound: a response measurement up to 10 MHz says something about the timbre. Just like propagation time. The spectrum measurement is very interesting, because we can really see how dry or energetic a cable sounds.

Detail, smoothness or richness in sound is not – yet – measurable with the means and knowledge we have now. Anyway: we have to start somewhere, don’t we?

All data

We have placed for you in the following chapters all cables with all data and our impression in terms of sound. These findings are not in relation to the price. We completely disregarded that – as previously reported – during the listening sessions. This is because this is therefore not a review . It is a research.

For an overview of all the data, please refer to the last chapter. There we have some graphs and overviews of all the cables. That gives more insight into the relationships.

Have fun with the puzzle! If you see any connections, we would love to hear/read it in the comments.

Type test
Multitest
Tested price class
Price cheapest product: €45
Price most expensive product: €15500
Production country
Differs

Winkels met Audioquest

Sint-Antoniusstraat 15
2300 Turnhout, BE
Joseph Bensstraat 21
1180 Ukkel, BE
Pleinweg 136
3083 EP Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland, NL
Hooikade 13
2627 Delft, Zuid Holland, NL
Bredabaan 1031
B-2930 Brasschaat, BE
Pelikaanstraat 126
2018 Antwerpen, BE
Schoenmakersstraat 19
6041EX Roermond, NL
Grotestraat 23
5931 CS Tegelen, NL
St. Ceciliastraat 28
5038 HA Tilburg, NL
Geldropseweg 105
5611 SE Eindhoven, NL
Breestraat 146-148
2311CX Leiden, Zuid Holland, NL
Korte Jansstraat 11
3512GM Utrecht, NL
Korevaarstraat 2 e-f
2311 JS Leiden, NL
Koningsstraat 35
2011TC Haarlem, Noord Holland, NL
Theresiastraat 151 - 157
2593 AG Den Haag, Noord Holland, NL
Beethovenstraat 9-b
1077 HL Amsterdam, Noord Holland, NL

Winkels met Chord Company

Schoenmakersstraat 19
6041EX Roermond, NL
St. Ceciliastraat 28
5038 HA Tilburg, NL
Hermesweg 2
3741 GP Baarn, Utrecht, NL
Korevaarstraat 2 e-f
2311 JS Leiden, NL
Koningsstraat 35
2011TC Haarlem, Noord Holland, NL
Steenstraat 54
6828 CM Arnhem, Gelderland, NL
Beethovenstraat 9-b
1077 HL Amsterdam, Noord Holland, NL
Rietlaan 4
3851 PA Ermelo, NL

Winkels met Dyrholm

Rietlaan 4
3851 PA Ermelo, NL

Winkels met Grimm

Hooikade 13
2627 Delft, Zuid Holland, NL
St. Ceciliastraat 28
5038 HA Tilburg, NL
Vijlen, Noord Holland, NL
Beethovenstraat 9-b
1077 HL Amsterdam, Noord Holland, NL
Hennesweg 20
6035 AD Ospel, NL

Winkels met Kimber

Rietlaan 4
3851 PA Ermelo, NL

Winkels met QED

Pleinweg 136
3083 EP Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland, NL
Schoenmakersstraat 19
6041EX Roermond, NL
Grotestraat 23
5931 CS Tegelen, NL
St. Ceciliastraat 28
5038 HA Tilburg, NL
Beethovenstraat 9-b
1077 HL Amsterdam, Noord Holland, NL

Winkels met Ricable

Sikkel 40 F
3274 KK Heinenoord, NL

Winkels met Supra

Pleinweg 136
3083 EP Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland, NL
Hooikade 13
2627 Delft, Zuid Holland, NL
St. Ceciliastraat 28
5038 HA Tilburg, NL
Breestraat 146-148
2311CX Leiden, Zuid Holland, NL
Korevaarstraat 2 e-f
2311 JS Leiden, NL
Steenstraat 54
6828 CM Arnhem, Gelderland, NL
Beethovenstraat 9-b
1077 HL Amsterdam, Noord Holland, NL

Winkels met Van den Hul

Schoenmakersstraat 19
6041EX Roermond, NL
Parkweg 23
8084GG 't Harde, NL
St. Ceciliastraat 28
5038 HA Tilburg, NL
Breestraat 146-148
2311CX Leiden, Zuid Holland, NL
Beethovenstraat 9-b
1077 HL Amsterdam, Noord Holland, NL
Rietlaan 4
3851 PA Ermelo, NL

33 COMMENTS

  1. Good morning,

    This was a fascinating read and most of it was understandable.

    This inspired me to make up an interconnect cable using Sommer Tricone. Switching between this and a QED QNECT2 was night and day, my ears like the difference and this has told me that swapping interconnects is worth considering.

    I am jumping onto your speaker cable test next.

  2. I have a question. I think it’s a language thing.

    In your measurement of “impedance”, is that actually the resistance value or equivalent of the looped conductors or is it the characteristic impedance of the cable? It doesn’t seem like the latter at all, which might be very interesting to understand.

    Keep up the great work!

      • That’s actually not my question.

        There’s the loop resistance/impedance of the conductors and there’s also the characteristic impedance of the transmission line.

        For example, there’s 50 Ohm coaxial cable. That’s the characteristic impedance. Zip cord has a characteristic impedance of around 90 Ohms. That’s all a combination of the inductance, capacitance, resistance of the wire, and so on.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Characteristic_impedance

        This value rises considerably as you go below 100 KHz.

        http://k9yc.com/TransLines-LowFreq.pdf

          • I did wonder. In a youtube video you talk about the HP pulse generator being 500MHz generating a 2ns pulse. At 500Mhz the wavelength is about 60cm, which is shorter than te length of the cable. So you enter transmission line theory territory, and the characteristic impedance comes into play.

            In the video you state that channel 1 is terminated at 50 Ohm and channel 2 at 1 Mohm (which could be considered open ended).

            And in between channel 1 and 2 is the cable., with its characteristic impedance for transmission line situations, which 500MHz is I think. So every cable that does not have a characteristic impedance of 50 Ohms will cause reflections. It does not matter if the cable is good or not, it is just caused by the transmission line impedance mismatch.

            The characteristic impedance of the TPR is given as 110 Ohms, which causes the reflections. I cannot find this value for the SQM, but if that would be 50 Ohm, this would explain its non-reflection-behaviour in the test.

            But in audio frequency territory, this characteristic impedance is of no importance and it does not say anything about the quality of the cable.

            Just a few thoughts that kept me busy 🙂 Love to hear your view on this.

          • Hi F.Vcp.

            You are right. That’s why we didn’t do all tests on those frequencies, but did a series of tests to see what is important and what isn’t important. The ‘reflection-test’ was purely for propagation speed and -variance. Not to analyze impulse behaviour or anything. For obvious reasons, we needed a frequency that gave a shorter wavelength, for we needed to isolate the puse.

  3. Jaap, first very well done. Probably the only way to do this better would have been if you had a reel of the cable 1000M long to determine better what the cable attributes are at 1M.
    But I was talking to a good friend physics about this. Just like component differences, I think the sonic difference has to do with the designers. I always say this at a show, throw 10 designers in a room with the same parts and you get 10 different products.
    In the cable realm you have metal, dielectric, insulation, wind, layout, shielding and directionality…. all these designers have their own take on what is important and that is why cables sound different.
    Plus look at the variables you have on either end!
    Thanks again, really great stuff!
    Gordon

  4. Hey all, there was/is an interesting exchange on this test and its results over on the Dutch side. Jaap has given me permission to use the translation I produced (Apple Translate) and repost it here for all to see. What I love about it is that this is exactly the kind of helpful result a researcher wants to see. Good research typically should generate more questions than answers, especially in its early stages. That’s normal and how the process and what it examines becomes more refined.
    ============================
    April 6 2024 — Posted by Ad Braam (translation from Dutch) with Jaap’s responses following each question.

    Jaap, upon further study I still have a number of questions (sometimes for confirmation) to be able to understand the research well. First of all, it is clear to me that the intention is to investigate whether a relationship can be found between the measurements and the listening tests and not so much to determine what is a good interlink (in my opinion very dependent on the rest of the audio system).

    1. The ‘explanation of measurements’ says ‘Ideal there is no difference’. Is it meant: Ideal is there no difference when the voltage is increased from 0.3 to 1.5 volts?
    A: There is ideally no difference in propagation when the voltage changes.

    2. Does the voltage in an analog interlink vary between 0.3 and 1.5 volts?
    A: A line output works at 2 volts at RCA. But of course the tensions vary with the music. I chose these 3 voltages to gain insight into small and large differences in amplitude.

    3. Is the propagation time the difference in time it takes the pulse to go through the cable?
    A: No. The propagation time is the time it takes pulse to go through the cable. So sometimes there is a difference in that when the amplitude changes.

    4. How is it that the pulse that goes through the cable (green) is higher than the reference pulse (yellow)?
    A: This has to do with the closure impedance, among other things. On the yellow that is 50 Ohm. On the green that’s 1 MOhm. That to imitate an exit / entrance.

    5. As for noise measurements. Is it possible to explain the ‘spectral view’ in more detail. What do the green and brown lines mean? Because of this I don’t understand the statements between vd Hul and Grimm.
    A: Spectral view is not noise measurement. This one displays decay. Often: extinction after a signal. Explaining this goes too far for a comment section.

    6. What is the explanation that at lower frequencies the induction and capacity swings like this?
    A: I don’t know exactly either. It has to do with wavelengths, among other things, but I also have to dive into this.

    7. It is confusing that the vertical scale in the messenger plot is not the same when comparing Ricable and Mogami. I didn’t understand the conclusion at first.
    A: You can’t do anything about that. The software scales itself and that is also necessary to keep it readable.

    8. Propagation variance table very interesting. Do I understand correctly that ‘gets faster’ means that with increasing tension the propagation time becomes smaller?
    A: Yes

    9. Apart from the conclusions listed under the table, can you also conclude that a ‘good’ cable should have a low variance?
    A: Yes. Less variation is better. Ideally it is 0.

    There are a lot of questions, but hopefully I’m not the only one who has these kinds of questions.
    END OF REPOST

  5. it’s pure nonsense, what about the cheap connectors and simple wires inside a unit and i’d like to see these kind of things done by a university, not by a annoying guy which is close to the source……and all those terms:the highs are too promonent,but vague……for example, how do you know it’s not by bad wiring instead of the interlink. As an engineer micro-electronics i can say that you’re an indiot if you buy overexpensive interlinks, you’d better buy a more expensive amp

  6. I wonder if it would be possible to feed all of this tabular measurements, graphs, and subjective observations into an AI model and ask what characteristics are most correlated since it is so complex. Awesome effort guys. I can’t think of anyone else having attempted this publically. Mahalo!

  7. Is it fair to consider that the composite values shown in the All Data table, when coupled with the subjective observations, could hint at a kind of value proposition when MSRP is taken into account? You know…..loosely. Have to factor in the rationality of those doing the listening of course. 😉

        • I really tried to find a link between what we hear and what the data in ‘All Data’ says. What I did notice is that too high a capacitance or inductance is definately not good. Cables that show a decent distribution between the two mostly show a good sound balance.

          The thing is: the data in that table doesn’t show the frequency response, nor the spectrum behaviour. And those two really gave insight in the performance of the cable. Along with the temporal behaviour (propagation variance).

          • There are other variables affecting quality. So its only part of the picture then. Not enough to guide a purchase decision. And, in the end, that’s also going to come down to buyer motivations, which is another can of worms. So I see what you’re saying. Still, this data provides a place from which you or others can build in the measurable areas. Valuable nonetheless. Well done.

  8. Good work 😉
    I wish you would have done the tower and evergreen rca from Audioquest 😉
    Hence my question : if someone is on a budget and need a coaxial cable , I usually advice an Audioquest forest as they are great for the money.

    Is there an rca cable that you recommand also around 50€ ? Audioquest tower and evergreen would be the equivalent of the forest coaxial but they’re completely different type of cable 😉

    Thanks !

    (The rca are for a cd player and a rega io )

  9. First, BIG shoutout to you guys for having the cojones to take this on. Just one look at the data sheet….HUGE undertaking. I have to think that this is a significant contribution to audiophiles everywhere who have been wondering. Perhaps it will stimulate follow-up on the part of others even. That’s what research is all about. Secondly, am I missing something? The data summary doesn’t show any values, Impedance-Inductance-Capacitance, for the Transparent Plus, yet it seems to show in its individual graphs. I’m sure you didn’t miss something so obvious, so can you explain to me? Thanks.

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