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I gotta be nuts...

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Ewo, Jan 18, 2014.

  1. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    So I was in the market for a new bass cord, and I found a place with a good price on a 15 foot Asterope stage cord. I figured what the heck, and ordered it. I didn't mind paying a couple more bucks for the thing, just to check it out.

    It came today. A nice, beefy cord with burly plug ends, right angle and straight. I plugged it in, played my goto bass through my practice rig. Everything in the signal chain is the same as when I was woodshedding yesterday, and the day before. Sounds good.

    Except...maybe it sounds a little clearer..? I rip a couple slap licks that I've been working on for a while...and the transients seem a little crisper than I remember, the response just seems a little quicker.

    So I A-B it with my old cord. I mute the amp, leave all the controls untouched on the bass and the amp. Switch to my old cord. And the Asterope sounds cleaner, crisper. So I reverse the direction of the Asterope--and it sounds OK, but a bit muddier.

    Eh, c'mon. Copper wire ain't directional. I know that! Except it sounds different with the Asterope the "right" direction as opposed to the "wrong" direction.

    And my bass is active; the pups are buffered from the line. So the difference between the two cords can't be just the capacitance.

    Yeah--I gotta be nuts. I gotta be imagining it.

    Except I was totally skeptical, in the first place. I bought it because it was burly, and didn't believe it was gonna sound any different.

    And I got a Ph.D. in a social science discipline, and I know about the subject-expectancy effect.

    I gotta be nuts. But that Asterope sounds better, I swear...
    kaba7a likes this.
  2. brainburst


    Jan 10, 2012
    bronx ny
    While you are blind folded. Then see if it really sounds better.
  3. ^^^ That + Plug straight in. No FX. Tone flat.
  4. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    Hey--I share your skepticism. And I didn't buy the Asterope expecting it to make a magic difference in the tone. To the contrary, I expected I'd be buying a physically burly cable (which it is) for a few more bucks than I'd normally pay, just so I could satisfy myself there was nothing magical about it and the advertising was just hype.

    But I guarantee ya, if you were listening closely and I were switching the cables (you were blindfolded, IOW) and playing the same lines, you would hear the difference between the Asterope in the "right" direction, and my old cable and the Asterope in the "wrong" direction.

    It surprised me.

    And I know about isolating variables, when running experiments. Nothing was different, other than first the cable (my old one, the Asterope) and then the direction of the Asterope. Nothing changed on the bass or the amp. The listening environment (the room) was the same, of course.

    Srsly. I'm trained in methods, at the doctoral level--both quantitative and qualitative methods. I know about threats to validity, in the design of an experiment. And I also know about bracketing my own expectation off, in qualitative methods; most of my published work has been qualitative designs. Anyway, I expected _not_ to hear a difference.

    It surprised me. But I heard a difference.
  5. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Whoa. That's eerie.
  6. Awesome Sauce

    Awesome Sauce Already tired tomorrow

    Dec 21, 2011
    NW Chicago 'burbs
    There's your answer. You should know, of all people, that having any expectations of the outcome- pro or con- invalidates the experiment. Time for an assisted double-blind.

  7. Hmmm...
    Could it be something in the composition of the cable?
    Maybe instead of copper they're using silver, which is less capacitant, and less resistant (if copper is 100% silver is around 105%) to signal?
    I want to learn the secrets of the mystical tone cable!
  8. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    Perhaps there's a previously unnoticed issue with your old cable.

    Before bothering with the full double-blind thing, I'd try a third cable in the comparison.
  9. pfox14


    Dec 22, 2013
    Don't smoke crack before testing a new cord. Just sayin
  10. Clouz

    Clouz The Ayatollah of Jack and Cola

    Jan 26, 2013
  11. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV

    LOL! Didn't have any alcohol in my system either.

    Hey--I'm not saying it's a rigorous experiment. Far from it! Just saying that the usual problems (subject expectancy and/or confirmation bias) didn't apply.

    The weirdest thing to me was reversing the Asterope, to the "wrong" direction. Then it sounded smeary, slower--about like my old cable. Not talking about a _huge_ difference. But perceptible.
  12. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    This reviewer on Amazon didn't find any difference between the Asterope and less expensive cables:


    $85.00 is a little steep for a cable, about double for a comparable monster cable, or 4x the cost for a generic cable. If anyone finds it improves sound quality by 2 or 4 times, I can imagine spending the money. Personally, I'm skeptical but am interested in hearing it for myself.
  13. freatles


    Jan 9, 2014
    Placebo medication also works great! If you believe it, brain makes it come (partially) true.
  14. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    Yeah, the subject expectancy effect.
  15. brainburst


    Jan 10, 2012
    bronx ny
    Exceeding diminished expectations also works. If the cable was only slightly better just because it was new and clean, or a bit more conductor, a little less capacitance ( both of which can be had for way less) the minor difference might make your ears perk up.
  16. If your bass is passive, then what's happening is that the new cable is lower capacitance than your old and hence you are not attenuating the highs as much as the cable capacitance is directly coupled to your pickups.

    If your bass is active, you're just imagining it...


    and the reversing changes the tone... you are definitely imagining it.
  17. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    I've heard differences in cables. Usually the expensive ones are lower capacitance which makes a slight difference in tone. Especially in passive basses.

    Unfortunately in my experience the low capacitance cables are MUCH more microphonic than than cheaper ones unless they are REALLY cheap! To test. unplug bass from cable pluged into amp. Turn up gain. Drop coil of cable onto floor. Compare cables this way. You unplug the bass to get as high an impedance as possible. The good news about active basses is that they not only aren't rolled off by capacitance but ALSO they are MUCH quieter with badly microphonic cables.

    The BEST thing about expensive cables isn't a bunch of tone nonsense but rather that the plugs are very well mounted and the wires in the plugs won't break like they do in average cables. That alone is usually worth the money unless you are like me and can take the ends off of cheap cables and reinstall them properly.

    As for imaginary improvements in tone. Probably is proportional to how much you spent over and above normal prices! :) But I tell you true, I bought some graphtech teflon lubed nuts which THEY claimed improved your tone and which *I* figured was pure BS. But I SWEAR when I installed them not only was the "sticky" tuning gone (which was the original purpose) but also the tone was improved too. I still think I must be nuts.

    Just compare cables blindfolded. Have a friend change them for you and not tell you which is which...
  18. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    Hey, that's why I titled the post "I gotta be nuts"... ;)

    But what I'm hearing/think I'm hearing isn't a difference in the top end--which is what cable capacitance would affect. And my bass (a Sadowsky) is active, anyway.

    It's in the midrange, an increase in clarity. A quicker transient response for slap playing.
  19. therhodeo


    Feb 28, 2011
    Owasso OK
    I'm reminded of lots of Sheldon Cooper jokes about the social sciences. If you're hearing differences in the direction of cables its definintely something better studied in the realm of psychology.
  20. What does "smeary, slower" actually mean?