Are unequal length speaker cables really bad?


Ok, I've been into audio since the 70's and always have used equal length speaker cables to the right and left channels. Considering the electrical signal flows through the cable at a significant fraction of the speed if light, it seems that speaker placement that is unequal by as little as a 1/4 inch would have a far greater negative impact on channel balance, soundstage, etc than would unequal cable length as the speed of sound is very slow compared to the flow in the cables.

What do the people that really know say?
Convert?fit=crop&h=128&policy=eyjlehbpcnkioje0ota3otyxnzisimnhbgwiolsicmvhzcisimnvbnzlcnqixx0%3d&rotate=exif&signature=366f9dfa200295f5723ba5870615b5c825f8cc7517842e1a38ba21d622af6e21&w=128zavato
Your analysis is correct, in that if there are any audible consequences resulting from having unequal lengths, they would not be due to the infinitesimal difference in arrival time that would result at the listener's ears.

However if other parameters, such as resistance, inductance, capacitance, and possibly skin effect, are not small enough to be negligible in the longer cable (all of those effects being proportional to length) a length disparity could conceivably have audible consequences.

Whether those consequences would result in sound quality that is better or worse than if the shorter cable were lengthened to equal the length of the longer one is speculative, IMO, and most likely system and listener dependent.

For further discussion see this thread.

Regards,
-- Al
Some people believe that there is nothing better for speaker cable than lamp cord, but if you believe that speaker cables affects the sound then sound change should be proportional to length of the cable. 1/4" would not make any difference, I'm sure, but using 20' for one and 10' for another might.
Unless your cable runs are significantly different, and by that I mean more than 100 feet in difference, the length of the cables will make absolutely no sonic difference provided the cables are of sufficient diameter, 14 ga. or larger.

Do not sweat this, it is a total non-issue...

-RW-
It could depend on the amp and the speaker cable being used

As an example...
- Naim amps require low capacitance cable - using anything else can result in less than optimum sound.
- Naim also recommend a minimum length of their cable be used and of the same length.

I also recall a conversation with a Linn rep along the same lines.

However this could be a ploy to get you to buy more into their product
Iine.

As Almarg said - the distance electrons have to travel is not the issue, it is the effect the cable parameters may have on the amplifier, since it would present two slightly different loads on the left and right channels.

The bigger challenge might be convincing yourself there is no difference when you know of the cable length difference.

Try it - if you like what you hear - then it's obviously not an issue in your setup.
I have different run lengths and I can't hear any diiference
I second that. I have one 8 ft speaker cable and one 6 ft cable, and can't hear any effect. Given the speed at which the signal runs through cables, the mismatch would have to be on the magnitude of many a difference of several times the length of the shorter cable and then, it would be probably noticeable only for someone with great hearing (which I've not had for many years) if the cable lengths were many times longer than the 1 to 2.5 meters most folks use.

In other words, relax and enjoy.
#1 - if the equipment is so sensitive to minute capacitance differences between say an 8 ft. cable and a 15 ft. cable it is very poorly engineered equipment indeed.

#2 - the fact that your head is not locked in a vice when you listen means that the small differences in your position when seated translate into audible differences in your listening experience. Worrying about the difference in a signal traversing an 8 ft. cable vs. a 15 ft. cable is the textbook definition of audiophile nervosa. Get over it.

-RW-
Equal lengths are best since there will be sonic differences. I point this out because some audiophiles claim to hear differences in the terminations alone. YMMV
09-06-13: Sonic_genius
Equal lengths are best since there will be sonic differences.
However, as I indicated in my earlier response, the existence of differences does not necessarily mean that having equal lengths will be better.

When the issue of unequal lengths is being addressed, presumably the length of the longer cable cannot be reduced, or it won't reach the speaker that is farthest from the amplifier. So the question then becomes whether it is better to:

(a)Use an equal length in the other channel, so that the sonic effects of the cables in both channels are the SAME, or

(b)Use a shorter cable in the other channel, so that the sonic effects of that cable are REDUCED.

I see no reason to necessarily expect that (a) will produce better sound quality than (b). Either outcome seems possible, presuming that there is a difference.

As I said in my earlier post, a length disparity could conceivably have audible consequences, NOT due to timing differences, but due to various cable effects that are proportional to length. And,
09-05-13: Almarg
Whether those consequences would result in sound quality that is better or worse than if the shorter cable were lengthened to equal the length of the longer one is speculative, IMO, and most likely system and listener dependent.
Regards,
-- Al