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Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

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Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby James Lehmann » Sun Oct 02, 2005 10:01 am

Thought I'd start this thread with a quote from Hugh which came up in this thread about the Brauner Phantom C Limited Edition microphone which is delivered with a free Vovox microphone cable.

Hugh Robjohns wrote:I'll be interested in your findings of the mic cable. I've been investigating the Vovox cables with some interest. I won't comment further here because I don't want to affect your impressions at all, but I will be interested in your findings.


As I just took delivery of a Phantom C with the Vovox cable included, and Dirk Brauner doesn't strike me as a man who would include any old cable with his microphones, I thought I'd set out to see what the score is...

The best way I could think of testing was to use a matched pair of mics into identical pre-amps so I fired up my matched pair of Microtech Gefell M300's and plugged them into my Metric Halo ULN-2 which is known for it's clean, transparent pre's. Also, the pre-amp trims are linkable giving a sure-fire gain match between channels. I connected one mic with the Vovox cable and another with a standard Belden cable of identical length and started the test on my own spoken word voice. I'm monitoring again through the ULN-2 on a Bluesky ProDesk system, Sony MDR-7509 and MDR-7506 headphones, and I recorded the tests into Logic 7.1 on a Powerbook.

The difference was so startling and apparent that I immediately switched the cables around, thinking perhaps that my matched pair of mics wasn't so matched after all - ran the test again, same result. Then I switched around channels on the pre-amp to be certain one wasn't underperforming - ran the test again, same result.

The Vovox cable delivers a clear and audible improvement in the sound - this is particularly evident at the bass end which just sounds gorgeous and extended, making the normal cable seem like it's got a Lo Cut on it! But there's also an increased sense of realism, presence and clarity that I was truly amazed to note could come from just upgrading a cable.

But don't take my word/ears for it - go and get one and try it yourself and hear the difference (preferrably before commenting on my findings!); I suspect even the harshest 'high-end cable-cynic' will have to cave in when confronted with the aural evidence here.

Only problem is now I need to upgrade all my mic cables - where can you get these things and how much are they? Even if they are quite pricey I would say it's gonna be well worth owning one for your main vocal or instrumental channel, so you can be sure you're hearing every last drop of quality and performance from your existing gear.
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby Paul Blenn » Sun Oct 02, 2005 10:38 am

Hello James. Yeah I noticed a difference as well. Not as marked as your findings but a definate something there without doubt. But they are stupidly expensive.
http://www.scvlondon.co.uk/

Something like £70 for a small 1-2 metre mic cable.

This does bring me to a question I was about to ask today actually.

What is the best cable to buy for studio wiring in terms of brand?

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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby John Willett » Sun Oct 02, 2005 11:35 am

James,

Talk to Hugh - under controlled conditions with a proper test there was no sound difference between cables.

But the construction of the Voxox makes it sound different under certain conditions - different, not necessarily better.

I will have to do a big search to find out the answer posted on the other forum and if I find it I'll post it here - unless Hugh does it first.
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby John Willett » Sun Oct 02, 2005 11:48 am

Got it!

The Vovox has very poor common-mode rejection and it picks up RF interference very easily - it is this that makes the difference.

Hugh will give you the lowdown as an independant consultant did the tests.

Interesting quote from the consultant,though - "What is interesting is that they tended to distinguish the difference as "better". That does square with many other perfectly reputable tests of gear that show that when a difference is detected it is often singled out as "better" even though in measurement shows that it is really "worse". Hence many microphones and speakers are judged better than their peers even though they are analytically "worse"."


(Any IBSNetter here can look it up on "The Sound Of Cables REPORT")
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby James Lehmann » Sun Oct 02, 2005 12:08 pm

Did you try the cable John? If so, did you notice any differences and what was your subjective impression? I'd be much more interested in your opinion than those of an "independant consultant".
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby Wonks » Sun Oct 02, 2005 12:31 pm

Looking at the Vovox wesite, they do shielded (protect) and unshielded (direct) versions of the cables. Does it say which type were tested John (or were both types tested?) and James, do you know what type you've got. I was thinking that if they tested the unshielded version, then it would be more succepitble to picking up noise.
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby James Lehmann » Sun Oct 02, 2005 1:02 pm

Wonkey Wabbit wrote:Looking at the Vovox wesite, they do shielded (protect) and unshielded (direct) versions of the cables... James, do you know what type you've got.

Yes, I must say I wondered about the shielding as the cable looks very different and is housed in a thin material weave rather than the more conventional rubber; this also makes it a bit stiffer. I opened it up and found that indeed there's no shielding, so I think I have a 5m "Voxlink direct S" cable, which looks like it retails at around €70.

I also found this on the Vovox site: "It is not our target to develop cables with outstanding data sheet values, but sound conductors with the best possible sound transmission properties. The best measurement device for this purpose is definitely the human sense of hearing."
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby Chas » Sun Oct 02, 2005 2:16 pm

Paul Blenn wrote:
What is the best cable to buy for studio wiring in terms of brand?
Paul Blenn
I'll need to be buying an XLR mic cable in the coming week or two, and would also like very much to know the answer to this question. Since I'll only be buying one, I can afford to get a good'un, but I don't see much on offer at the U.S. online merchants I normally use. I'm going to be miking oddball percussive sounds with AKG D 190 & D 330 BT mics into M-Audio FireWire and had hoped to get a nice long cable, for sound isolation purposes. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby Stevedog » Sun Oct 02, 2005 2:35 pm

Mate of mine makes all his patch leads from old multicore wires. If you open them up you'll usually find the multicore individual cores are actually wrapped in a thin metal sheath completely covering the wires within.

The actual cables themselves look stupididly thin in situ but they have made a considerable difference to the noisefloor of of several efx units they are used to patch giving an overall *cleaner* sound to things. :? :?
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby Doublehelix » Sun Oct 02, 2005 2:38 pm

I have always been one of those skeptical types, and so much of this stuff seems like mumbo-jumbo, that I have, for the most part, stayed out of threads like this.

I certainly don't doubt that you have head a difference James, and also don't doubt that it sounded better to your ears...I respect your opinions greatly. I guess I just can't see myself dropping that much dosh just to see if I like something better, especially when I am skeptical to begin with, and basically don't feel I have a problem that needs fixing!

That being said, quality cable is certainly a worthwhile investmet, and a dodgy cable is an ugly thing to behold! It is just the "miracle designs" that scare me away a bit.

It was a brilliant move on Vovox's part to convince Brauner to include a "free" ( Image ) cable with the Phantom C!

Personally, I am staying neutral on the issue for a while longer. Image Image Image


What is the best cable to buy for studio wiring in terms of brand?


Of course these things are quite subjective, as you can see with the varied opinions on the Vovox cables, but aside from a few odd Belden cables, my studio is entirely wired with Mogami cable and Neutrik ends. I have quite a few of the quad cables for longer runs, and cables that might be in danger of excessive RF interference, and then the "standard" high-end Mogami mic and instrument cabling for the rest.
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Oct 02, 2005 8:44 pm

Oh no! Now you've stirred up the hornet's nest!

I'm still in a quandary about the Vovox cables.

My first experience of them was very similar to that which James has described, and I know of ten or twelve others (none of them easily fooled and all highly sceptical of such things) who all had similarly startling experiences.

However, as John has said, when I tried to repeat the tests in a more controlled situation at home I failed to find the same differences, and when I took the cables to an independent analyst, he also failed to detect any sonic differences.

We did, however, discover that the Vovox cables were pretty bad at excluding RF interference -- which is no great surprise given the construction. It is possible that RFI breaking into the cable could cause a wide range of upredictable but possibly audible side effects depending on the source and destination equipment...

But cable construction is a complex business with a lot of interacting factors involved -- and I'm not entirely sure that they are fully understood or appreciated.

I'm also not entirely sure that the differences James, myself and others heard are actually 'better' -- it could easily just be different. The ear is very easily fooled...

My own test cables are currently with a well known and highly regarded design engineer at present for his own testing... and I'll report back if he discovers anything interesting.

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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby Studio Support Gnome » Sun Oct 02, 2005 10:04 pm

My own experience leads me to think along similar lines to JW and Hugh... I heard a difference... but I would hesitate to describe it as better.... and it is not utterly consistent either...

which in my view definitely makes it worse.... as a general rule of thumb.... of course it MAY suit a particular application.... but it won;t be in my list of things to always have on hand.........

I have thought up a new acid test for Mic cables etc...

wrap it around one of the "noisy" G5 machines (with the older "noisy" PSU) a couple of times and see what there is in terms of noise.

(although recent experience tells me that Certain Hospital radio studios are potentially even more "acidic" )

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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby James Lehmann » Sun Oct 02, 2005 10:09 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Oh no! Now you've stirred up the hornet's nest!

Yes, threads about cables always seem to see folks adopting all sorts of contrary and sometimes extreme positions - I didn't think I'd be starting another one myself but as someone gave me one of these cables, I thought I'd test it and then almost ran to post my findings!

There's obviously all sorts of interesting things to discuss here, many of which Hugh alluded to in his post. I've already explained my own findings in some detail, and having gone back and re-listened to the recordings I made earlier today I stand by them.

At the moment it looks like it's only myself, Hugh, Paul and Max who have actually heard these cables here but the discussion will certainly open out if more folks could join in who have. Anyone else?

It seems to me another fundamental in all of this, aside from our own (important) findings is - would Dirk Brauner, one of the world's most respected independent microphone designers, include a Vovox cable with his microphones if he knows it compromises the performance of that microphone?
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby Studio Support Gnome » Sun Oct 02, 2005 11:02 pm

James Lehmann wrote: would Dirk Brauner, one of the world's most respected independent microphone designers, include a Vovox cable with his microphones if he knows it compromises the performance of that microphone?

ahhh well , perhaps the answer would be, Yes, if he likes the way it sounded when he tried it????

..
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby Barish » Mon Oct 03, 2005 12:29 am

This "superaudio" cable business is all snake-oil trade to me. Apart from the noise susceptibility and impedance factors, which do affect the signal quality not only in audio, but also RF and digital as well, I am not convinced that different makes of cables make a difference in the character of the sound.

There was a long-going thread about this in Dan Lavry's forum in REP a few months ago and it was caned to death there. All scientifically. By the person who designs and produces converters some of us save to purchase. If I can find it, I'll post the link.

All those companies, Russ Andrews and stuff. Good for them if they can find idiots who are prepared to pay £800 for a kettle cord, but to me the guys are selling snake oil big time.

They are for those who like to think themselves a bit more "special" than others because of the superior power of purchasing that they have, so to the ordinary punter, stay away from them I'd say.

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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Oct 03, 2005 7:43 am

I absolutely agree with you Barish -- I'm equally as sceptical about such snake oil-based products.

And that's the exact frame of mind in which I approached the first test that was set up for me. That involved a DVD player spinning the hgih-res stereo tracks from several fairly damiliar DVD-A discs, connected digitally to a pair of Benchmark DAC1 D-As, the outputs of which were routed to a quartet of genelec 8050 speakers, two wired with a variety of 'conventional' XLR cables (some of which I brought along myself), and two with Vovox cables. All levels and gains were carefully matched before hand. So in this case the cables were being used to convey line level signals between well-defined impedances.

Without knowing which feed we were listening too, the three of us listening on that occasion all independently agreed that one particular source sounded 'better' -- the main benefit being a better bottom end. It turned out that the preferred feed was the one with Vovox cables.

We then changed everything: D-As, speakers, speaker positions, cables... and the perceived 'better' sound always stayed with the system wired up with the vovox cables.

I know this was a poor test in purely scientific terms -- hardly an accurate A/B/X arrangement -- but it the findings did appear be pretty robust at the time, and the actual switching was blind as far as we were concerned.

I walked away from that test completely fazed by the apparent results and vowed to investigate further. As I said earlier, trying to repeat similar experiments at home failed to produce convincing results, as did further experiments in a more technically controlled environment.

However, these later experiments focussed on comparing a single Vovox cable with a 'standard' cable, and although I could find technical differences (all expected and due to the construction details) I couldn't find any audible differences.

Later experiments using Vovox cables in the monitoring chain, feeding stereo, did produce more audible results again, and I am currently waiting for the opportunity to try more scientific testing on their effects on a stereo signal.

It is all most intriguing.... and I'm certainly not going to rush out and change all my cables for Vovox ones... but a lot of people who's ears I respect have heard something with these cables in independent and completely different circumstances, and that must warrant further investigation.

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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby Zukan » Mon Oct 03, 2005 8:11 am

I hear you Hugh, but for me, if these test conditions cannot duplicate the same results, then it points to a cable working, as you have described, only in certain sscenarios nand with certain setups.

That for me is of no use as I need cables that perform technically and aurally as good as and in any environment. I also need cables that are consistent, irrespective of environment and setup, and durable and built with sensible technical merit.

A cable thai is being used in a live rig that has no adequate RF protection makes the whole concept of a well designed mic cable seem reduntant.

Vovox cables might have certain sonic characteristics in certain situations, but that for me is a poor basis for any recommendation.

I'll stick to my Mogamis and Neutriks thnx.
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby Wonks » Mon Oct 03, 2005 9:14 am

I'm still interested in the differences between the shielded and unshielded versions of the cables. I can understand the unshielded version of the cable having a lower capacitance and thus the cable should have less effect on the signal than a shielded cable. I presume the unshielded cable still has a twisted pair configuration so will still have some noise rejection capacity? I also assume that there is still an earth wire running in there otherwise you wouldn't be able to use phantom power. Has anyone tried the shielded version?

Vovox do recommend testing the cable in its intended environment to determine whether unshielded cables will do or whether shielded cables are necessary. However, once you add the shielding (and extra capacitance) back in, does the cable become any different to a standard cable?

Without hearing the differences (on a future SOS DVD maybe?) it is difficult to determine how great the perceived benefits are when the cables "work". If they are the same as say the step up between a £200 A/D card and a £1000 one, then paying £70-£100 for a cable as opposed to £30 becomes very good value.
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Oct 03, 2005 10:28 am

Zukan wrote:I hear you Hugh, but for me, if these test conditions cannot duplicate the same results, then it points to a cable working, as you have described, only in certain scenarios and with certain setups.

Exactly. I have been unable to achieve consistent results, and I find that both worrying and perplexing. However, so many people now have heard something perceived as 'better' when using these cables that I'm really keen to find out just what is actually going on.

That for me is of no use as I need cables that perform technically and aurally as good as and in any environment. I also need cables that are consistent, irrespective of environment and setup, and durable and built with sensible technical merit.

Me too! Must be the marque of a professional ;) And I can't say with hand on heart that the Vovox cables meet any of these demands.

A cable thai is being used in a live rig that has no adequate RF protection makes the whole concept of a well designed mic cable seem reduntant.

Doesn't have to be a live rig -- inadequate RF protection is a problem everywhere these days. This remains my biggest concern with the Vovox cables. Vovox seems to argue that by sacrificing RF protection (through adopting a radical approach to cable construction), more audible properties are enhanced...I'm yet to be convinced of that, but I still don't understand why I (and so many others) appear to hear a benefit from using this cable in some circumstances.

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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby James Lehmann » Mon Oct 03, 2005 11:38 am

Zukan wrote:A cable thai is being used in a live rig that has no adequate RF protection makes the whole concept of a well designed mic cable seem reduntant.

I agree if we're talking about a live setting, but I would imagine that the unshielded versions of these cables are not really designed for stage use - they're not really physically flexible enough anyway.
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby John Willett » Mon Oct 03, 2005 11:52 am

Beware, though.

I normally find that anything that sounds "impressive" is actually worse.

Something that does the job accurately and properly (I'm talking audio here) is very rarely impressive - it's only when you go back to something not good that you realise how good it was.

I remember listening to the £10,000 Sennheiser Orpheus Headphones when they first came out and thinking "nice, but nothing special" until I went back and listened to the top of the range dynamic headphones again, which suddenly sounded horrible in comparison - Then it sunk in how good the Orpheus were.
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby BigAl » Mon Oct 03, 2005 12:46 pm

It can be very easy to convince yourself that something very expensive sounds better, even in some circumstances it may not.
But, sometimes sounding impressive doesn't actually mean sounding better or more accurate.
It's pretty obvious in the recording scenario that the human ear doesn't necessarily prefer more accurate representations of sound sources.
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby Jurg Vogt » Tue Oct 11, 2005 10:06 am

Hi,
as the person behind VOVOX, who developed the cables during a work of many years, I would like to add a few comments that might help to understand our products and some of the effects observed.

Shielding
Most of our cables are available in a shielded and in an unshielded version. According to my experience, shielding always has a negative effect on sound quality. Therefore, our goal is not to shield a cable as much as possible, but as much as necessary. In case of unbalanced cables, shielding is almost inevitable. For balanced cables however, our experience has shown that unshielded cables do an excellent job in most cases. It may be astonishing, but we sell about 90% unshielded balanced cables and 10% shielded ones only. I can refer on several musicians using unshielded cables live on stage, live records that have been made using strictly unshielded cables and recording studios working exclusively with unshielded cables.
The conclusion however, to explain differences heard with VOVOX sound conductors only with the way they are shielded (or not) would be wrong. Shielding is one aspect, others are at least as important.
The poor rejection of RF of our shielded balanced cables can be explained by the fact, that the shield is connected only at one end (we are generally using one additional conductor for ground). Again, we do this since it offers better sound quality compared to a shield connected to ground on both ends. Nevertheless, if someone is convinced to need better RF rejection, it is no problem to terminate the cables accordingly and to connect the shield at both ends.

Consistency of results
It is true, that the difference that can be heard between VOVOX sound conductors and other cables are not in all applications as pronounced. My experience is the following one:
- The effects related with the frequency range and the tonal character depend also on the other components of an audio chain. In case of microphone cables for instance, depending on the mic preamp we have observed results ranging from dramatic to very small.
- Further effects are related with the ability to transmit room information very accurately. These effects are quite independent from the audio chain, we have been able to reproduce them under all conditions so far. Of course, it is only possible to hear these effects in a stereo set up.
- Although the sound difference compared with other cables may differ depending on the application, we are convinced, that in any situation our cables are able to offer an optimal result. In my opinion, an ideal cable should leave the sound signal totally unaffected. Nothing should be added, and nothing should be lost.

Best regards

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President VOVOX AG
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby RegressiveRock » Tue Oct 11, 2005 10:19 am

Well... One vote of thanks to Jurg for dropping in... 8-)
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Re: Just tested a Vovox Microphone cable - be prepared for a surprise!

Postby Steve Hill » Tue Oct 11, 2005 11:07 am

Absolutely! And it's got me challenging the received wisdom of more = better when it comes to sheilding. I mean you can't get a mobile phone signal in my studio, partly because the outside walls are solid ironstone about 2 feet thick working as a sort of Faraday cage, so how much sheilding do I really need on mic cables? And am I compromising on sound quality unnecessarily?
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