Audible differences between speaker cables?

I'm a newbie to speaker cable issues. My analytical side says that there shouldn't be much difference from one type or brand of cable to another (given that they are low enough resistance to provide a high damping factor). Nevertheless, there are some strong opinions to the contrary. What audible differences are there from one type of cable to another?
An oversimplified answer would be: fluid smooth, airy, delicate, warmth, detail, extended bass, mids, and highs. Different cables such as speaker cables or interconnects can sound different in those categories and others. I’m sure there are others on this site that can be much more specific and accurate, this is just the start.
Or not. There are many many card carrying audiophiles, most of them with degrees in electrical engineering or some other technical field, who believe that all competently designed cables sound the same (actually dont sound at all). Some of them are my friends. Unhappily, I find that cables do sound a bit different, but as I often say, I am probably delusional.

If you are new and looking for speaker cables, don't worry about it too much and dont spend a lot of money. I saw one of the mailorder outfits had some Ixos 6003 on sale recently. HCM is selling some discontinued Audioquest GR8. You occasionally see Kimber 4VS on sale used here. If you are really curious, you could go to Radio Shack and buy some 18 gauge solid core hookup wire (not stranded), lightly twist 2 strands together one for "positive" and one for "negative" and use that.

Now to your question specifically, do you want people to tell you how they think an Audioquest cable (neutral) compares to a Kimber cable (brighter maybe except for the aforementioned 4VS) at the same price point? There are so many of them and such a wide range of prices. If you have a price range in mind it would help.

What I want from a wire is that it does nothing but pass along a signal. Sometimes I think cable designers attempt to do something else. But it's probably just my imagination.
Howdy. Follow Paul's advice and see for yourself. There are a lot of intellegent and well meaning people on both sides the incredibly thick and tall wall this subject is divided by. In my humble opinion, you should certainly have some pretty ones, at least. Have fun. Charlie
Run for Cover!!!!!
I suggest you read a couple of the threads already at this site. One called "How much Money do you want to waste" and and another called "John Dunlavy on cable nonsense". They are both in the forum cable section. Also search on this issue. It's a touchy subject sometimes and may be "talked out" at this site. There is a real divergence of opinion and no concensus it seems.

Actually, I remember your name from one of the threads. You are an electrical engineer-No? I posted a rather tongue in cheek reply to your post. Hope you do not mind the humor. Good Luck. Personally, I think a well designed cable will do and it does not have to be $$$$. Lots of other more important places to upgrade. But that is just me.
Sincerely, I remain
The better your components, the easier it should be to hear a difference. The worst cable I've ever heard is OCOS?
A local dealer told me I had to hear it. I went in the room
and the salesman actually acted surprised when I told him it was the worst I'd ever heard Sonus Faber speakers sound,
and I like every speaker I've heard from them. It was brutal! The cable was bad everywhere & the salesman claimed they were fully broken in. I know no one here personally in the Phoenix area who bought these. But I've seen reviewers admit to using them..
I use Ixos, Nordost, Monster & MIT myself, they all sound good to me..

Well, I've sounded off in this topic before and for me the ghist of the matter is simply that I can hear quite a bit of difference on a fairly wide range of parameters between say a Nordost and MIT shotguns from the eighties through my ESLs. At the same time, I'm by no means sure, if I am not simply delusional. But then, frankly, I don't really care a damn, 'cause like a serious case of infatuation, it's a very nice and pleasurable emotional state. Besides , there are more "truths" in this our world, besides those established by the natural sciences. Cheers,
The better your equipment, the more differences you hear.
I agree with Bwyoung! I agree big time!
As a skeptic I must admit that this Christmas proved to be a true revelation (in audio-not religion). I recently purchased a new 187 inch screen for my HT and was forced to put the tree and accompanying decor on the other side of the living room. Well, the old extension cord didn't reach and I patched a few feet of Acoustic Zen Hologram I had laying around to the extension cord to get it to the tree.


The greens have never been so..well... green. And the reds are much warmer. Rudolph's nose never looked so bright! And the star on the top of the tree... I tell you that Hologram talk is true! I've never been able to hear a real difference in cables but know I know the truth. I'm deaf!!!!

Anyway, given my disability, I'm selling my system and downsizing to a boombox. Call me if you are interested... and does anybody have any experience patching Yamamura Quantum power cords to those things?

Sincerely, I remain
Clueless, just goes to show, you have to believe. Now that you say it, I'm convinced. Clueless before, now enlightened.
If you want something to compare some sonic differences, Vampire wire CSS and Nordost SPM Reference are at the opposite end of the cable sound spectrum. Yes, cable will make a difference in the sound, the better the system, the more dramatic..... The more $$$$ does not always ensure a good cable or a synergistic match to your system. I am an EET and there are differences in network impedance of the cable that explain frequency response changes. I have physically seen it on an impedance analyzer under laboratory conditions. There are also differences due to the metal type, grain structure and quality that will make differences in sound. One clue -- my wallet was a lot better off before I got into cable swapping, and at the price point I got off the wagon I think there was still trade-offs in the wire for the sonic preferences of different types of music.
IMHO, speaker wire is less likey to change character between brands and makes than equivalent line level interconnects. In my system(s) (past and present) I *could* hear differences between some interconnects using *similar* construction. Once you get past a certain "threshold", it gets exponentially hard to discertain, or something. :-) For far more of the solid core copper speaker wires with spade lugs - all sound the same to me. So I just bought a used pair pair of tara labs space and time the looks good and has quality contruction and leave it at that. :-)

But I can tell you one thing, it *did* sound less veiled than 8AWG stranded monster speaker wire with bananas. But I don't think I could tell the difference when say AudioQuest and Tara Labs, if both used similar construction and materials. Heck if they were made well enough, they could probably be a little dissimilar, and I doubt I could assertain which was which! LOL! ;-)

I'd say if you can't tell the difference between interconnects, I *doubt* you'd be able to discern between speaker wires. YMMV.
Before Monster started us on different cables in the 70's we all used whatever Radioshack sold and now we spend a lot on gimmicks and maybe even some justified claims - we worry about the speaker cables but not much is said about all the wire used inside the equipment before it gets to the cables - most are thin copper or silver in super small gauge that might cost a manufacturer next to nothing - then we spend a fortune to take that signal corrupted by this generic copper or silver and reproduce as close to live sound as possible through speakers with some of the same generic wire the equipment had. I would say there are differences but not always to justify the cost or for the better.
Ljgj brings up a good point that I have thought about quite a bit: "we worry about the speaker cables but not much is said about all the wire used inside the equipment before it".

Indeed, the "speaker wire" in most speakers (most have wire from binding posts to crossover, then crossover to drivers), is not very impressive. However, I am of the opinion that a high end speaker is a complete and fine tuned system, where the designer/design has accounted for every piece inside. It is now a "closed system", so whether it uses silver or copper wires for example, is almost irrelevant because the end result has accounted for it. On the other hand, the cables we are talking about here, are cables that are not only "outside" of the speaker system, but also connecting another "closed system" on the other end - the amp. So the cables I buy are more a matter of _mating_ the two closed systems, to produce a result that is pleasing to me. Thus I find that "good" speaker cables improve or hurt the sound of a system, almost regardless of the quality of the parts inside the speaker or amp.

Also, I do agree with some of the others' comments about interconnects making a bigger difference in general than speaker cable.

In answer to the original question then, the audible differences in speaker cable I have found are:

Bass - it's speed, attack, decay, quantity
Mids - clarity, sharpness, space, presence
Highs- crispness, space, air, sibilence.

All of these have been effected in my playing with speaker wires. So, I think the question is more of how to define the differences, than a question of "if and what".
I will wax philosophic here and offer that cables do make a difference (as does everything in a stereo system), but not nearly as much as many people claim. I have no data to back that up, but do keep in mind the evaluators, humans, are the same species who produce wine tasters who line up to a row of identical glasses of wine and swear by their heirarchical ratings of their quality.

While better cables are improving some people's systems for sure, there are hosts of others claiming improvements who I'm sure are really noticing different speaker placement, room dynamics, or a phenomenon similar to the above-mentioned wine tasters.

How many stereophiles are willing to submit themselves to blind tests, whereby they are blindfolded and attempt to pick out whether a cable has been swapped out for a better one or merely left alone to trick him?

All that being said, I ponied up for about $200 in Kimber 4TC to biwire my new speakers to my 70 Watt Denon receiver. I can't be positive of the sound difference that I think is there over the previously existing monster cable, but I sure like knowing that 4TC is back there. :)
Everyones hearing is different, so maybe the folks who can't tell a difference between cables, just don't have great hearing.
Sugarbrie, I have auditioned and rejected cables in my home because I thought they sounded different from other acceptable cables. But I continue to believe that the differences between competently designed cables (and that's most of them) are trivial. Someone just asked me to consider that the great stereo recordings of the 50's
were made with perfectly ordinary wire. Of course, most recording engineers still use ordinary wire. If ordinary wire damages the original signal, just how does expensive hifi wire repair the signal? (paraphrased without attribution because no permission - and for those who do know the source please keep it to yourselves)

Two continuing arguments made by the wire is wire crowd are that (1) speakers are internally wired with ordinary wire and (2) recording engineers use ordinary wire. I just don't know what to say to either argument.
All I know is that my friends and I definately heard a large improvement (lifting of veils sort of thing) when I switched my Kimber PBJ out with Music Metre Silvers. Blindfold me. Switch between the two. I can tell every time.
Audiophile9 - Great post.
I've posted this before, so I'll be brief. I replaced my 10 ga. Monster Cable that was oxidized with some inexpensive twisted pair speaker wire, nothing fancy, and it is so much brighter that my wife said "what's wrong with the system". It has mellowed out and sounds pretty good now. So the answer is, you may not be able to measure it yet, but your ears, or some ears, can HEAR a difference.

perception lies beyond the acuity of the 5 senses. I believe Ted Williams once remarked he could read the label
on a fastball. How many of us have that ability, yet who would say that it is impossible?

How can you hear the ant walking, master?
How can you not, grasshopper?
I think that some amps are MUCH more load senstive than others. This makes some cable changes VERY noticeable if you have an amp of this type. The only one that i've ever seen really dwell on this type of "measurement" though was Moncrieff of IAR. All of the other mags and reviewers basically just measure the output impedance of the amp and judge by that whereas Moncrieff told you straight out if the amp changed sound with different cables. Obviously, if you have an amp of this type, you might have to do a LOT of cable swapping to find the perfect match for your specific amp / speaker combo.

I also think that some speakers tend to minimize differences in cables due to their loading characteristics. I have a friend that has some speakers and has never been able to tell any major differences in speaker cables. Before you go off about a "low resolution" system, he has very well respected "audiophile" speakers that at one point in time were the "darlings" of many well respected reviewers. The rest of his components are no slouches either. To top it off, he has acknowledged that various interconnects definetly DO have different "flavours" to them, so he is not "deaf". I don't think that this is just an "amp related situation" with him, as he has used a half dozen different amps with these speakers and always experienced the same thing.

Personally, i have experienced some rather drastic differences in speaker and interconnect cables. This is most noticeable when you have a very carefully voiced system and you change cables in it. Not only are some of the differences NOT subtle, they are over the top noticeable. Since many of the different "flavours" that cables present may be system dependent, i typically try them in a couple different systems before passing final judgment on them. Quite honestly though, i find that if a cable does not work at least reasonably well in one of my systems, it does not work well in any of them. This is true even though these systems are all quite varied in terms of component make up, sonic signatures and tonal balances. They range from large multi driver towers in my HT system to mono-blocks driving omni-directional single driver units, a small tube amp driving horns, mid sized SS amp driving monitors, multi amped electrostat's, etc.... As to cables that don't make the cut, I guess that junk is junk, no matter how hard you try to disguise it or try to get it to blend in. I will say that some cables that initially come across as being bright and hard can be "softened" by "burning them in" on some type of cable cooker device. Sean
-Why do you call me grasshopper?

-Beacause you so ugly!

SNL, sometime in the 80's