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  • Apesbrain
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SATA cables improve sound?
On another forum I frequent there is a thread where several members are discussing the improvement in sound quality they hear after replacing the SATA cables in their audio PC with ones costing 100x more:
https://www.highend-audiopc.com/shop/en/sata-cables/pachanko-sata-cable

I don't know whether the PC(s) in question is a player or server.

My first thought is that these people are just trying to sell something, but seriously I'd like to ask my learned friends here:

Is there any remotely plausible audio/electrical science (not psychological) that might explain this finding?



  • saratoga
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #1
No. People are just really dumb.

Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #2
On another forum I frequent there is a thread where several members are discussing the improvement in sound quality they hear after replacing the SATA cables in their audio PC with ones costing 100x more ... ... ...

The answer is not to go to such forums. One or two of them might have started as discussions about how to get better sound out of machines and operating systems that were designed to do everything else. There are still problems that can be had with PC audio: DPC Latency, for instance, is a killer. But those sites have become hotbeds of insanity.

Stay away from them. If you do not, you might, for instance,  find yourself wondering if SATA cables can affect the sound. And this is only the first such component that will rear its ugly head.
The most important audio cables are the ones in the brain

  • Apesbrain
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #3
The answer is not to go to such forums.
I agree, that is certainly an answer.  What I'm trying to understand here is whether I'm overlooking something that might matter.  I get that playing music from a computer is about data integrity and I have no problem understanding that if computers couldn't be counted upon for that then there would be no use for them.  But the argument that comes back is that playing music -- unlike opening a Word document -- is about data integrity and timing.  That because the playback of music is "real-time", it matters when the data gets to the player.  This is often put forth as the reason SATA cables, among other things, can influence the sound.

I'm not well-enough versed in this area to dismiss this argument.  Why is it that "timing" as thought of in this way does not matter?

  • saratoga
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #4
Music playback is not about timing any more than any other computer task. That is just something a dumb person made up to justify wasting money on a cable scam.

  • Case
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  • Developer (Donating)
Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #5
All timing happens in the soundcard / DAC. If the computer is fast enough to provide data for the buffers there is no difference in quality.

  • Nick.C
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  • Developer
Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #6
I'm not well-enough versed in this area to dismiss this argument.  Why is it that "timing" as thought of in this way does not matter?

I'd be very surprised if a software (or hardware player for that matter) audio player did not have an audio data buffer.
lossyWAV -q X -a 4 -s h -A --feedback 2 --limit 15848| FLAC -5 -e -p -b 512 -P=4096 -S-

  • Wombat
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #7
Just read/write benchmark different cables. If there is no difference everything is just right. The speed will be many, many times away from whatever you need to play some music files.
Is troll-adiposity coming from feederism?
With 24bit music you can listen to silence much louder!

  • [JAZ]
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #8
The only reason why a SATA cable could be an improvement over another (which I am not saying to be the case) is if the worse cable somehow produced much more electical radiation that the audio (hardware) components could capture them and amplify them enough to be on an audible level.

As for the argument of timing: There are some issues with timing that can affect audio playback, namely DPC Latency, as said by Thad E Ginathom, but which root cause is most of the time caused by software, not hardware.

But If we really want to test the hypothesis that a SATA cable can improve AUDIO timing: 

Code: [Select]
playback_loop is
  Has_the_soundcard_consumed_one_of_the_buffers_that_i_fed_to_it?
  Yes_it_did: Allright_do_part_two_described_below
  No_it_didnt: Fine_lets_wait_some_more
  continue_loop_if_we_are_not_finished
end loop

part_two_is
  read_another_fraction_of_audio (internet stream, mp3 from USB drive, WAV from SDD drive with a magical SATA cable...)
  if_needed_decode_it
  fill_the_audio_buffer_of_the_soundcard_that_became_free_above
end_part_two

The only way that timing could affect that scenario is that "part_two" didn't finish in time when the soundcard consumed the last buffer it had.  And that has a name: Buffer overrun (or underrun, depending if one sees it as a continuous line or as a container), and sounds as a skip, or momentary pause.
Again. DPC Latency has a major role in there, with other factors like decreasing the audio buffer sizes to latencies that the system, API, driver or hardware is not capable of reaching.


Edit: Just as an addenum:  The speed at which audio is consumed by the souncard versus the speed at which a typical hard drive can read data is so much worlds appart, that the only way to make them closer would be to save each single bit of a WAV file into a different file in a HDD disk and get a player to read that.  That would be reading more than 1 million files each second.
  • Last Edit: 11 March, 2017, 12:21:46 PM by [JAZ]

  • Apesbrain
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #9
The only reason why a SATA cable could be an improvement over another (which I am not saying to be the case) is if the worse cable somehow produced much more electical radiation that the audio (hardware) components could capture them and amplify them enough to be on an audible level.
Ok, at least that's plausible.  Presumably, with a networked server in a closet on the other side of the house this possibility goes to zero.

  • Porcus
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #10
Presumably, with a networked server in a closet on the other side of the house this possibility goes to zero.
And so will the audible difference between hard drives. (And in particular between rattling spinning drives, and no-moving-parts silent SSDs.)

  • o-l-a-v
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #11
Is the sale of this cable limited to a date? 1st of April maybe?

  • Apesbrain
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #12
And so will the audible difference between hard drives. (And in particular between rattling spinning drives, and no-moving-parts silent SSDs.)
So, I'm going to try to be more tolerant of people who are making these claims.  Not that the sound is necessarily "better", but that there is a real possibility that it is "different" in a way which they may perceive as "better".  It doesn't pertain to me as my client/server configuration would seem to avoid these issues, but if someone has a computer in their audio rack I can see the possibility that it could interfere with the overall performance of their system.  Swapping out various internal components could lessen or change the character of that interference.

Of course, the simpler solution may be to get the computer out of the room but that's another matter altogether.
  • Last Edit: 11 March, 2017, 12:54:58 PM by Apesbrain

  • ajinfla
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #13
So, I'm going to try to be more tolerant of people who are making these claims.
Not that the sound is necessarily "better", but that there is a real possibility that it is "different" in a way which they may perceive as "better".
Words have meanings. You may want to look up "sound".
Loudspeaker manufacturer

Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #14

The answer is not to go to such forums. One or two of them might have started as discussions about how to get better sound out of machines and operating systems that were designed to do everything else. There are still problems that can be had with PC audio: DPC Latency, for instance, is a killer. But those sites have become hotbeds of insanity.

I believe you'd be hard pressed to find a PC still working slow enough to have audio problems. I routinely work on audio files while the machine is recording 2 and sometimes 3 hi def video feeds. Processor activity 10-20% This machine is nothing special. Its main claim is 8TB of storage. I'd like to double that.



  • dhromed
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #15
Both my previous machines would sometimes make certain hardware processes audible, as if every video frame update would produce a very short, very quiet tick, so mouse movement or rotating a 3D object would produce a tiny buzz, and CPU activity would cause high-frequency sqeaks.

These things were definitely audible under quiet circumstances, but they're definitely not audible when listening to music, and they're also definitely not caused by ignorant nonsense like timing or data integrity, and can defnitely not be fixed by $100 SATA cables.

  • saratoga
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #16

The answer is not to go to such forums. One or two of them might have started as discussions about how to get better sound out of machines and operating systems that were designed to do everything else. There are still problems that can be had with PC audio: DPC Latency, for instance, is a killer. But those sites have become hotbeds of insanity.

I believe you'd be hard pressed to find a PC still working slow enough to have audio problems.

Rockbox can do real-time FLAC playback on an iPod Video with a 30 MHz ARM7TDMI.  Hard drive, decode, buffering and DAC on a processor from the early 1990s with an 8 bit multiplier and a single shared bus for instructions and data (on each cycle you can load an instruction OR load data!).  Most people vastly overestimate how complex audio decoding is, and just how low the requirements for "real-time" operation are, particularly when talking about things like audio where "real-time" actually means "plus or minus a couple seconds worth of buffer".

  • greynol
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  • Global Moderator
Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #17
save for a few apologists and those willing to convulse deep into left field in order to extend the benefit of doubt
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #18
I be a lot more worried about what a bad SATA could do to the data stored on the hard drive or the stability and reliability of the system being compromised rather than this nonsense about replacing a SATA cable to improve sound.  A good SATA cable doesn't cost $100.  It's a simple $10 part.
  • Last Edit: 12 March, 2017, 01:23:32 AM by Chibisteven

  • StephenPG
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #19

  • [JAZ]
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #20
save for a few apologists and those willing to convulse deep into left field in order to extend the benefit of doubt

I hope you don't mean that it's better to end a thread with this, rather than with facts:
You're a self-described placebophile with no apparent understanding of electronics and computer science,

  • greynol
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  • Global Moderator
Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #21
On the contrary, presenting facts is far better than instilling hope to the naive by offering baseless speculation for a problem that doesn't exist.
  • Last Edit: 12 March, 2017, 07:28:59 PM by greynol
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

  • [JAZ]
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #22
In some way, I tried to apply this, but I can only do that if i'm not tired after a day of work: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_absurdum

  • Wombat
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #23
Speculation is not a good thing around this topic.
To every computer based change/improvement you can argue it changes something, measurable on some ground plane, with some measuring tool, on some sunny day, impossible to measure on any output, easy to hear...
Many computeraudio preachers like J.S. did this reasoning often enough.
Is troll-adiposity coming from feederism?
With 24bit music you can listen to silence much louder!

  • splice
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Re: SATA cables improve sound?
Reply #24
Both my previous machines would sometimes make certain hardware processes audible, as if every video frame update would produce a very short, very quiet tick, so mouse movement or rotating a 3D object would produce a tiny buzz, and CPU activity would cause high-frequency sqeaks.

These things were definitely audible under quiet circumstances, but they're definitely not audible when listening to music, and they're also definitely not caused by ignorant nonsense like timing or data integrity, and can defnitely not be fixed by $100 SATA cables.

(You likely already know this, but for the peanut gallery: )
There's a sound technical reason why many PCs did that. Before actual DAC chips were included on motherboards, the sounds were created by a single logic switch, switching the internal speaker to either ground or the 5 volt rail. Each change made a "click" sound. Do it fast enough, and you got a "beep". If the last time the switch was used left it switched to the 5v rail, any noise on the rail caused by CPU or I/O activity would be fed into the speaker.  It wasn't a problem when the speaker was tiny and mounted in the case, but when DAC chips arrived, the output of the "beep" circuit was fed via mixer and amplifier into the audio output to the external speakers.  Poor noise rejection in the audio card or onboard audio could also cause the noise to be heard.
Regards,
   Don Hills
"People hear what they see." - Doris Day