Recently, the (London) Sunday Times published a brief Buyer's Guide to audio and video cables. It didn't touch the esoteric stuff, but was unquestioning in the (IMO) bullshit that a £50 "interconnect" would sound different/better than cables supplied with the equipment.

The Sunday Times is a paper with a justified reputation for investigative journalism. I emailed, suggesting this area deserved  investigation rather than blind acceptance.
Their response was an invitation from Clare Newsome - editor of What Hi-Fi?- to attend a "cable testing session".

So, to the offices of Haymarket Publishing.   Rather sadly, I found myself in the main studio block of the old Thames studios at Teddington, now redeveloped as offices.  Two other candidates. One, like me, had objected to the Sunday Times article. The other - a What Hi-Fi? reader - couldn't swallow their claims for an audiophile power cable.

A disappointing afternoon. We were shown round, and lectured on the complete independence of journalists and advertising department. This seemed very important to our hosts, who kept returning to the subject.

We reached a listening room. The three of us sat on a sofa in front of a pleasant-sounding pair of smallish stand-mounted speakers. Initially I sat at one end of the sofa. My impression was of considerable imbalance. I asked to move to the centre. I found the "sweet spot". It was very small. I asked if we could adjust the speaker positions to try to improve this, but was refused.

What I wanted to hear was an A/B comparison of standard and audiophile interconnects, of normal and audiophile speaker cable. One of the other testers was particularly interested in hearing an A/B of normal and audiophile power cables. A/B was not possible. The only choice of non-audiophile speaker cable was bell wire. (Twice the lengh needed.) I requested a more realistic reference cable - perhaps 5-amp power cable. None was available. "Bell cable is what is provided with many systems".

We heard the system with £50 cables. We heard it with bell wire. We heard it with an audiophile power cable on the CD player (but not the amplifier). There was a minute delay while each change was made. We were not allowed to return to the previous setup.

Throughout the demonstration I detected one audible difference. When bell wire was substituted as speaker cable the volume dropped slightly.

A number of What Hi-Fi? staff attended. I asked "Are you REALLY hearing a difference?". They assured us that they were all having small but definite orgasms as the audiophile cables were substituted. I'm afraid the three of us on the couch were unconvinced.

We were treated with courtesy. Thank you for the tea. If What Hi-Fi? (or anyone else) feels like setting up a more structured session in the future I would be very interested in taking part. But my verdict from this session is a definite Not Proven. Worse, there was no structured attempt to demonstrate cable differences. I was offered travel expenses. I think I deserved a fee for a wasted afternoon.

There was a feature in the December issue.  They reported quite fairly.  Made a lot out of us hearing their speaker cable as louder than bell wire.  Interestingly, the article was referred to in several reviews through the issue.  They stuck to their opinion that cables were worth spending money on, but added "..but opinions vary.  See article on page xx ."    I guess that's as close as an audio magazine is ever going to come to admitting that magic cables are  hokum :-)

Anyone who hasn't discovered the lunatic fringe of audiophoolery, see here: