Another look at directionality in cables

A friend of mine and myself were discussing this subject. It was brought up, if a cable is directional, why would both arrows on the positive and negative point the same direction. It appeared that, for example, that the positive would point from the amp to the speaker and the negative should point from the speaker to the amp ( even though there is no positive and negative using AC-reference only for phasing). This way, since the signal alternates, that at least the signal would be going back and forth on the wire in the same direction at any given time(maybe.) I have discussed with engineers about wire and most agree that it does have a (marginally better at best) flow in one direction depending on frequency and wire structure. All agreed it was not significant.
My friend tried it and said he got better results with one wire going one way and the other reversed---go figure. Of course with some wire, you do not have this option with it.
Hey Bigtee, good to hear from you. The arrows many times are simply there so that when cables are re-installed or used elsewhere, they are connected in the same direction in which they were broken in. On some interconnects, the shield is only terminated at the source so that RF is directed away from the destination. This technique was used on some Madrigal cables I had from the late 80s. (It fails misearbly for a F type video cable however). I have also heard that some cables sound better when oriented in the direction in which the copper was extruded. In any event, reversing cables is an easy tweak to test if you are not sure.
The wire manufacturers intend for the wire to be connected one specific end to the amp and the other to the speaker, as their view of the proper directionality. The arrows are oriented to make this clear. Most people think of the amp as the signal source from which the music comes and the speakers as the destination, hence the directionality of the arrows as you see them.
There are multiple reasons for "directionality" in various cable designs.

The first and most obvious reason would be due to a specific type of shielded design. Many cables make use of a shield that is grounded at one end and floating at the other. Some refer to this as a "drain wire", "telescoping ground", etc... This type of arrangement can be used facing in either direction, but in most cases, the shield is tied to the "source" end of the components. If one were lifting the grounds on all of the components ( in order to avoid ground loops ) except for one ( such as the preamp ), one could argue that the "grounded" end of such an interconnect should be connected to the component that is grounded. Otherwise, the benefits of the "drain wire" are pretty much minimized.

The other type of "wire directionality" has to do with how the wires were formed and / or drawn. Logic would dictate that the wires would be "pulled" in one direction, resulting in a specific pattern within and on the metal conductors themselves. As such, the flow of electrons "might" have an "easier path" going in one direction than the other. In order to achieve the best results if one were to take such things into consideration, the "hot" wire should flow in one direction and the identical "return" or "ground" wire should be configured in the opposite direction. In effect, the wire would make a big "U" electrically without it ever changing the direction of flow or way that it was drawn within the cable itself.

The second example takes into consideration that conductors have a crystal structure that is formed within the wire itself and said crystal structure not only affects the flow of electrons, but are also audible within the confines of a hi-end audio system. Should one choose to believe such things, one direction of flow "should" be superior to the other IF both wires were oriented "correctly". If that is the case and the cables used identical conductors for both the hot and ground with no external shielding, you should be able to turn the cables around and notice a difference. If you don't notice a difference, it is possible that the original geometry and design of the cable did NOT take the original "draw" or directionality of the conductors into account and may be reversed ( actually "non-inverted" ) within the pre-made cables themselves. Since most pre-manufactured cables use totally different conductors for the hot and ground, i don't think that many of them pay attention to such things.

In a design that does use identical hot and ground conductors and attention to signal flow was not paid attention to, rather than a "U" where the signal can start at one end travel to the other side and return to the point of origin without running into any type of lack of continuity or "break in the flow" of the crystal structure, you now have two "I's" standing side by side ( I I ). As you can see, the paths are identical yet there is a break between them. That break simulates the change in direction or "lack of continuity" in crystal structure that the signal encompasses when trying to complete one full cycle. Both cables are of identical design and face the same direction, but the connection between them does not "flow" the same as a series of electrons ( or music signals ) would. In such a case, the electrons would have an "easy" path going one way and a "harder" path, flowing against the grain or "crystal structure" of the wire. This would take place no matter how many times you swapped cable ends from component to component as the problem is within the cable itself.

I think that this is part of what takes some cables MUCH longer to "burn in" or "settle" as compared to others. The electrons are literally having to "fight" the crystal structure that was already present before things can fall into place. Obviously, more broken or jagged the crystal structure is along the path, the longer it will take to smooth things out. That is why many manufacturers try to use "long grain" copper, etc... as there is less potential for "breaks" or "jagged edges" along the way.

There are some cable manufacturers that DO pay attention to such things. They have to be WAY pickier about how the wire is manufactured, what direction the wires are laid out within the cable in regards to each other, the direction that the individual conductors are flowing when burned in, etc... The end result of all of this work is typically an increased sense of ease to the presentation with a wider, deeper and slightly higher sense of soundstage in a shorter period of time i.e. "less burn in".

I hope that some of you could follow along with what i was trying to explain. Without being able to use pictures or diagrams to demonstrate things, it can be tough to try and explain things in a fully understood manner. Sean
Power is transfered in one direction from source to load

voltage & current are certainly alternating but this is not the issue & only serves to confuse

certain cables with certain equipment makes this phenomenon much more obviously understandable when the effects can be heard firsthand, in some other situations you'll never know the difference
Matrin DeWulf at Bound for Sound just wrote about changing the IC directions to see if you could hear a difference in the sound for better or worse. I have not done it yet but I intend to, hey it does not cost anything right?

Happy Listening
I did that once unknowingly & about went nuts trying to figure out what was wrong with the highs. Tried all kinds of things to fix it & had finally given up. Then one day when I was fooling around back there I discovered my error, & much to my surprise the grainy hf's normalized when the cables were corrected. My own blind test, & I didn't even realize that I'd done it. Proved it to me...
Actually, what I was refering to was a set of speaker cables where you have an individual conductor to each speaker terminal from the amp. Instead of having + and - wires in one jacket, you have a + wire and a - wire such as Tara Labs uses. For a single run to each speaker, you have 2 individual conductors isolated from each other in their on jacket. Tara marks there's with an arrow on each wire. My question is why would you run each conductor in the same direction as Tara indicates? They show no reference to which wire goes to which terminal. They give you 4 wires, each having an arrow. It appears that(using Sean's theory, which is correct) you would want one wire going one way and the other pointed the other way. This would only be possible with speaker wire because interconnect actual use a single center conductor(s) with the other wire or shield to ground. When you have both wires in a single jacket, I wonder how the manufactures actually orient them in respect to flow using the "U" theory Sean spoke of? The power starts at one point heading one direction (first half cycle) on the positive lets say, goes threw the speaker coil(s) and returns on the negative. As the example shows, one arrow should point towards the speaker and one the other way. Not both the same direction. It then reverses direction for the other half cycle. As the example shows, one arrow should point towards the speaker and one the other way. Not both the same direction. RED >>>>>>>>>>>SPEAKER COIL>>>>>>>>>>BLACK then reverses RED <<<<<<<<<<< SPEAKER COIL <<<<<<<<<< BLACK
The black and red represent the amp terminals and connected to like on the speaker. Hope you follow what I'm trying to say.
Also, one quick note. It would seem that Harmonic Technology and Acoustic Zen would have something on the ball with single crystal wire. I think this would eliminate a lot of the effects of electrical flow and break in Sean refers to.
I would like to get on the Bundus bandwagon here. Energy in the form of electromagnetic waves travel down the cable from the amp to the speaker where they are converted into mechanical energy (the cone moves). The fact that current is flowing in the wire or which direction it is flowing at any given point in time is not the issue. Since the energy goes in only one direction, from the amp to the speaker, it stands to reason that the orientation of the cable will have some effect on this energy transfer.

There are only four possible variations for hooking up the Tara cables you mentioned. Try them all and see which you prefer.

This (transmission line theory) is a very complex subject that many textbooks and college courses are dedicated to. I don't pretend to understand all the high level math and physics required to master it. I do know you will drive your yourself crazy trying to figure out what the electrons are doing in the wires.
And the winner is...XLR balanced interconnects. Don't ever have to worry about the directionality of these puppies!
Going to a balanced design over a single ended design does not necessarily remove conductor directionality from the equation. Any type of signal carrying device is subject to signal degradation via several different types of problems. Sean
Marty at BFS discovered some interesting things about my cables in his system. As a result, I believe it is very system-dependent which direction sounds best and therefore I now recommend that both directions be tried in each situation. In general, I have found that between pre and amp, that IC's with telescoping grounds sound best with the shield grounded at the preamp end. YMMV