Audiophile SATA cables and Samsung 850 SSD - incompatible?

Last May I installed a JCAT SATA cable onto a new Samsung 850 Pro SSD (256gb), the latter cloned from a Plextor 128gb SSD (this is an i5-4690K desktop with a Gigabyte Z97-UD5H-BK mobo). Immediately, I started having boot problems into Win 8.1 (it would get past the BIOS screen, but sometimes change the boot order). Not every time, but often, sometimes taking 10-20 reboots to get through. A couple of months later, I finally did a clean reinstall of 8.1, but the problem, though narrowed in scope, continued in two forms:

  • “MBR Error 1 - Press any key to boot from floopy”

  • Windows goes into repair mode, reports repair failed and typically returns a 0xc0000185 code, which is a hardware problem code

So, after being away for a month, I decided to change to an OEM SATA cable and haven’t had a problem boot since. Discussing this with Marcin of JPlay, it turns out I’m not alone in this problem, that a couple of others have also reported boot problems with the SATA cable in various systems, Gigabyte and other brand recent motherboards. Someone on the JCAT forum also report having problems with the Paul Pang SATA cable(s). The obvious question is what could be causing an apparent incompatibility. Any ideas? Thanks,

Update: I tried additional testing by changing the JCAT’s port on the motherboard and then hooking the other end to an HDD. That worked fine a few times. However, hooking it again to the SSD didn’t right off. That suggested the problem might be on Samsung SSD end. So I left the changed mobo port but reversed ends of the JCAT cable. Thus far that’s worked on three reboots. Good news? Hope so, but won’t know without a much larger sample, since it’s not unusual to get two or three good days in a row. This leaves only the original mobo SATA port to check.

“MBR Error 1” would typically mean that its unable to read or has trouble reading the master boot record which is the first 440bytes starting at sector 0. The Bios reads it to determine what type of partitions are available and the location to loader which it needs to load next. Generally the Bios/UEFI reports drive information if you break into it (F8 or something similar) and you could see if its able to read the drive information properly. I am not sure if these cables are Sata complaint or not but from your explanation it appears that its imposing data errors. There are diagnostic tools available but those would only work once you are able to boot into Windows. I wish there were something similar to Memtest but apparently not.

Don’t know if your post and my update crossed. Along the way, I ran the BCD rebuild steps a few times, but it either didn’t take (couldn’t find the drive) or did find it but didn’t hold more past the next boot failure. The Windows clean reinstall really narrowed the problem. If the current test holds (update), then switching SATA mobo ports to the one used alll along will narrow it down to mobo or cable. This kind of process is sure a pita.

(note that if it is the mobo or the SSD system drive, switching one or the other out just to test would cost me the price of Win 10 once the free period ends. end “rant”).

You won’t like what I have to say:

Many boutique/audiophile cables don’t meet the specs as far as bulk inductance/capacitance, etc. between the elements of each differential signal, those signals to other signals and all of those to the shielding - let alone some more subtle specs. Some specs are almost impossible to meet with wire sizes or insulation types that aren’t expected in a cheapo cable: e.g. sometimes just adding an unexpected shield to the cable will make it corrupt the signal timing. This is more of a problem with higher speed cables and the specs are there for a reason - to guarantee uncorrupted data thru the system (which includes a certain amount of error correcting, etc.) and to guarantee interoperability, etc. These computer related specs don’t address the levels of radiation and noise that we might like and indeed they may preclude reaching otherwise reasonable levels of radiation and noise, etc.

Not to put too fine of a point on it: If radiation from your PC is disturbing your audio system move the PC or shield it (or the audio system) better. If ground loops are the issue change plugs and/or move the PC… Don’t violate the (sometimes seemingly weird) assumptions of a system that’s designed for data integrity… If you do any data loss is clearly your fault and almost certainly not the fault of the other components in the system.

Ted, I’ve read you on this subject many times on other PSA forums, so no offense taken. Symptomatically, the issue I’m dealing with is whether or not the computer boots into Windows properly each time with the JCAT SATA cable plugged into the motherboard and and Samsung SSD. Testing for the culprit scenario is in its final stages.

sorry, FACEPALM, audiophile SATA cables, and you gave those crooks money?

LOL Scott!

Many audiophiles find themselves subjected to snake oil salesmen. Sometimes these products do actually improve the audio system performance, my it is my belief that more often than not the improvements are psychological rather than true physical or electrical improvements. Often when people buy into these products and there are problems induced by their introduction into the system, they are absolutely determined that the new product is not at fault, but something else happened to be marginal or just coincidentally failed at the same time. In rare cases this is true, but usually not. Some people must learn the hard way.

As Ted has indicated, modern computers are critically speced systems and can be remarkably sensitive to out of spec components. Of course, for many readers I am not saying anything new. I consider it to be a rather simple diagnostic procedure to replace a suspect component to see whether this corrects the issue or not. If corrected, you have probably (but not certainly) found the faulty component. Highstream’s description of his diagnostic procedure certainly seems to suggest that the “Audiophile” SATA cable does not work well with his computer. This is not to say that it might work just fine with a different set of components, but evidently not with the specific components that he has.

Personally, I build a computer as a computer, with normal computer industry components that seem to be best for the job. If necessary, I isolate it from the audio system. If the connection between the computer and the audio system is less critical to data integrity issues, I might try audiophile product in this part of the chain. Perhaps it is my ears, but I rarely hear any effect from changing a component more than one connection outside of the audio system proper. If this is a limitation of my hearing acuity, then I am happy to be able to save substantial amounts of money by not having to purchase crazy expensive computer and network components because of it. I enjoy my music and my system quite a bit as it is.


I think that we are very “hardware biased” in audio because of the bulk of our past experience but the biggest positive changes that I have heard so far come from the software side. Those changes come at a relatively lower price, too. Optimizing your hardware through BIOS and adding one of the Fidelizer versions is either free or very low cost. Using JPLAY/AO is also relatively inexpensive. I have heard differences when swapping the ethernet cable that feeds the Bridge but couldn’t make a recommendation on which to choose and I still can’t hear the difference between my SSD and mechanical drive. To be fair, there is a lot of PC hardware out there that I have not heard (most of it!) so I’m just offering my non-expert opinion based upon my experiences so far. Let us know what the final verdict is on the SATA cable.

One doesn’t have to be doing this very long to know that posting a problem like I did is apt to draw trolls and pontification, although the choice of posting here was because most people that use PS Audio equipment are well past the kinds of raging nonsense that goes on over at CA and elsewhere. The problem I posed is technical, perhaps even mechanical, and so far as indicated in the update, since reversing the JCAT cable and using another mobo port I’m seven straight boots to the good. Going to give it another day or two before declaring victory. Plus, I’d like to test the original mobo port to see if I can narrow down what was going wrong. Will report back.

Soncially, I know fairly well what the JCAT cable does, since it’s been installed since May, and this past week I’ve had a chance to listen with and without it. The main thing I recall from the beginning was noticeable smoothing of the music’s rough edges and adding a bit of detail (lower noise floor?). Those remain, although other hardware and software improvements since then have narrowed the difference a bit: better power cables and conditioner, Fidelizer Pro, Lasso Pro, JPlay improvements, Bug Head player, and, of course, Yale (a Regen is also on the way). Plus, the way I look at it, with hardware and most software I buy mostly used or demo or with good return terms, so if something doesn’t add anything or seem worth it, it’s easy to get my money or most of it back (call it an audition fee).

@wglenn, last year I tried a few ethernet cables with Bridge I and did hear noticeable differences between cables and depending on position (oem, monoprice, audioquest, meicord). But this is a single desktop with cable and a router, and with all the technical difficulties with Bridge I’s firmware - dropouts, delays, etc. - I went back to USB. Haven’t decided what to do about Bridge II.

Don’t take it personally, were not above a little ribbing now and then.

Hell, I’ve got three Schumann resonators in my room…giggle_gif

btw, I’m using eSATA, so my mechanical drive is outside my computer, sandwiched in blocks of aluminum, ala PP. I’m not sure yet whether this makes a difference or not though.

Isn’t troll a little strong here? I mean it in a friendly way.

Anyway you already have the PC behind ethernet, (not using USB), and you should use a UTP ethernet cable to the bridge… So you already have the Noisy (EMI, radio, switching) PC decoupled. A goofy sata cable just will not do anything.

Sorry if I missed tongue in cheek, Scott. Sometimes hard to tell the difference when so many really mean it! Beyond category, I wasn’t aware of the difference in ethernet type cables. From what I’m finding online quickly now, there’s a fair chance that the cable company installed UTP cable (what I called OEM). No matter what I used, there were technical problems that those testing Bridge II said had been fixed between hardware and firmware. Just don’t know if I want to take the $$ chance or if it’s worth the sound difference, given everything else in my system.

Cool, UTP is just unshielded twisted pair, the shielded type actually makes a circuit to the ground of network equipment, pc’s etc. That can be very noisy. So really just the connection from the wall to the bridge is enough, to break the circuit, other than that shielded throughout your wall may be good.

That’s along the lines of what I have - shielded through the wall to the endpoint wall plate, then unshielded to a local Ethernet switch, and from there unshielded to the Bridge 2.

Scott Kramer said Isn't troll a little strong here? I mean it in a friendly way.
You just need to make this clear, with an emoji or a bit of explanation. I suspect the majority of us took your post as trolling, at best.

Many thanks to you, and the others posting in this thread, for handling this in a positive41_gif way.

On topic, I find it wise to first get hardware to work using standard settings, cables, etc.,then tweak, one change at a time.

Thanks, Elk.

Switched the JCAT back to SATA Port 0 on the motherboard and it looks that’s where the problem arises, not on the SSD end (JCAT still connected there). At Port 0, the JCAT returned one good start up right off and then several with a new error message, that it couldn’t find an operating system. Moving the JCAT connector to the adjacent Port 1 solves the problem (a few boots now). I don’t know if there’s anything special about port 0, although it is probably the one Gigabyte expects people will use with the system drive, whether on a single or multi-drive system.

As for ethernet cables between cable box and router, and router and PC, the Audioquest Vodka, which is since returned, is shielded, as is the Meicord currently between box and router. However, the one between router and PC now is the Blue Jeans Bonded Pair Cat 6a, which uses a foil shield to pass the alien crosstalk spec, but

is not electrically connected. The coax that the cable company ran - it’s open inside the condo I rent - is 9900963, which is shielded from what I can find online.

Tidbit: Blue Jeans sells Belden ethernet cable. The engineers at Belden say that the biggest problem that they run into with ethernet cabling is in the termination. They do not produce bulk, unterminated ethernet stock for that reason and only terminate it at the factory.

wglenn said Tidbit: Blue Jeans sells Belden ethernet cable. The engineers at Belden say that the biggest problem that they run into with ethernet cabling is in the termination. They do not produce bulk, unterminated ethernet stock for that reason and only terminate it at the factory.
Is Blue Jean Cables considered the "factory"? I bought a couple of the CAT 6A cables and they say "Blue Jeans Cables ... manufactured in USA by Belden" but the description and test results included with each cable certainly infer they were assembled and tested by Blue Jeans Cable, not Belden. Not a big deal, but I did buy them based on comments on CAT xx cables not meeting standards. They are more expensive than the computer store (or worse) variety, but well below the "audiophile approved" ones. Can't comment on sound yet, since I haven't installed them, need to snake the main one to the second floor (where the PC is) from the basement (where the router is), not an easy task....

Blue Jeans may well terminate them. They are the only shop approved by Belden to terminate some of their products. I’ll double check.

A lot of people buy Blue Jeans cables for their reputed improved sound over oem and other low priced cables (e.g., Monoprice), without having to spend a bundle. It was for me too as a starter with the router to pc ethernet and with a coax between Oppo and PWD (now DS) on my TV system. Jeff runs a very reputable shop.

Btw, just so it’s clear, the problem that led to this thread seems to solved operationally. I’ve got a question into Gigabyte about why there should be problem with the JCAT at port 0.