That SATA cable saga - the aftermath

Yesterday I pointed to a piece written by HiFi journalist Malcolm Steward (original piece now removed, but it still exists in the Google cache) on something that he dubbed "Super SATA" cables and how replacing the ordinary SATA cables in his NAS box resulted in "easily perceptible improvements." Yesterday Steward pulled the original post and and published a new post which I think makes it worth revisiting this issue.

Yesterday I pointed to a piece written by HiFi journalist Malcolm Steward (original piece now removed, but it still exists in the Google cache) on something that he dubbed "Super SATA" cables and how replacing the ordinary SATA cables in his NAS box resulted in "easily perceptible improvements." Yesterday Steward pulled the original post and and published a new post which I think makes it worth revisiting this issue.

Let's take a look:

I have withdrawn the article that appears to have upset so many computer enthusiasts.

Yeah, well, it would. Any "computer enthusiast" worthy of that title would know that if a SATA cable wasn't faithfully delivering the 0s and 1s from the hard disk to the motherboard, that PC or NAS box isn't going to be getting as far as booting up, let along delivering sub-standard audio.

I realise that the opinion I expressed in it was contentious but the reaction from some individuals was way too extreme. I think that wishing death upon someone because they wrote how they witnessed a change in the way their hi-fi sounded when they swapped a cable in a NAS is a bit of an over-reaction. Anyone in my office, including my wife and children, can read my email and they were not impressed by this and the volume of similarly aggressive correspondance.

This kind of behavior is inexcusable.

I know full well that it is ‘scientifically' not possible for a data cable to exert such influence but I know what we heard and hoped that maybe someone might be able to throw some light on what might be going on.

Problem is, the original article didn't come at the problem from this angle. Instead, it presented these cables as some sort of "wonder SATA cable" that delivered better 0s and 1s to the motherboard. The article fundamentally confused analog and digital data and applied old analog thinking to a digital device.

While a couple of people kindly wrote and did just that most people simply said "It's just ones and noughts, you stupid (expletive)," which wasn't especially helpful.

I've given this some thought, and to be honest I really can't see how these cables make a different. The problem here is that it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that more expensive is better, which results in confirmation bias. Remove the element of a double-blind test and you have a recipe for wacky conclusions. Maybe the old cables vibrated in some audible way, or maybe one was touching a fan or something, but beyond some mechanical mechanism I can't figure out any reason why the new cables would be better than the old ones (and I don't really believe the whole mechanical mechanism line of thinking either). I certainly can't think of anything that would result in the sorts of celestial improvements that Steward mentioned in his initial post:

The most marked and worthwhile difference, I felt, was in the increased naturalness in both the sound of instruments and voices, which seemed more organic, human and less ‘electronic', and in the music's rhythmical progression, which was also more natural and had the realistic ebb and flow that musicians exhibit when playing live. In short, recordings sounded more like musical performances then recordings.

Anyone got any thoughts?

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