At THE Show Newport this year, Wireworld demonstrated its so-called audio-cable polygraph test, which, as the name implies, is meant to determine whether or not a cable reveals the truth of an audio signal. What’s the “truth” of an audio signal? As far as Wireworld is concerned, it’s the sound of no cable at all.
What the heck does that mean? How can you connect two components together without any cable? For Wireworld, it means connecting those components with the shortest possible conductor—essentially, a custom-made jumper consisting of a very short piece of silver-plated copper, a fraction of an inch long, with the appropriate connectors at both ends.
But how do you connect the output of one component to the input of another component with such short jumpers? Obviously, the components must be placed very close together—back to back in most cases. At THE Show Newport, the demo included two Triad Cinema Reference Surround speakers, which happen to have their inputs in the top of the cabinet. Perched on each speaker was a Bel Canto REF500M Mk II monoblock amplifier, positioned to allow Wireworld’s custom-made jumpers to connect the amp’s output to the speaker’s input. The rest of the system included a Bryston BDP-1 digital-audio player and a Bel Canto DAC 3.7 DAC/preamp along with a Torus power conditioner.
The reference of the Wireworld audio cable polygraph was a pair of short jumpers connecting the output of a Bel Canto REF500M power amp to the top-mounted input of a Triad Cinema Reference Surround speaker.
The test consisted of playing the first 15 seconds or so of Nora Jones’ “I’ve Got to See You Again,” first with the jumpers in place, which was referred to as “the reference.” Then, the music was stopped and company founder David Salz and an associate quickly switched out the jumpers for a pair of cables, after which we heard the same clip. This exercise was repeated several times using different cables and going back to the reference once in a while.
The cables used in the test I heard included 10 feet of 14-gauge zip cord as well as the same type of cable with the two conductors pulled apart, which David called “split zip.” He also used three different Wireworld speaker cables, all about 10 feet long—a new 16-gauge cable ($2/foot), Mini Eclipse ($600 for a 10-foot pair), and Eclipse 7 ($1800 for a 3-meter pair).
The goal of the test is to see if there is a difference between the sound of the reference—that is, the short jumpers—and any of the cables. If there is, the cable is doing something harmful to the sound, diverting it from the reference, which is presumed to be the most truthful representation of the sound.
Could I hear any difference between the reference and any of the cables? No; they all sounded virtually identical to me. At one point, I thought the sound of the split zip might be a tiny bit more open than that of the intact zip cord, which caused David’s face to fall. He told me that the electromagnetic fields around the split zip were more damaging to the sound than the fields around the intact zip cord. Okay, so I was probably imagining the difference I thought I heard.
Since I heard no difference between the reference and any of the cables, I guess that means they all passed the cable polygraph, at least to my ears—even the intact and split zip cords. None of them distorted the “truth” of having essentially no cable at all. David said he has been doing this sort of thing for 35 years, becoming exquisitely sensitive to any differences, which has led him to design and build the cables his company sells. He also maintained that if I were to replace all the cables in my personal system, live with it for a month, and then put the original cables back, I would definitely hear the difference.
I doubt it. Of course, I can’t know for sure unless I do as he suggests, but I’m fairly confident that I would still hear no difference. I’m afraid this test did nothing to dispel my skepticism about the aural effect of cables—in this case, speaker cables—which, in my opinion, is negligible as long as the terminations are well done.
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