While you might be able to compile some useful info here, my experience is that things change from system to system. As such, i've had cables here that i thought were very dull while others in different systems have found them bright. With other cables, the results might be just the opposite i.e. i think that they are bright and they think that they are dull, etc... If you can get together with someone and compare notes, even if your reactions are almost always opposite, you'll have a better idea of what is going on. Otherwise, picking and choosing cables based on various systems and multiple comments is a 50/50 chance. Sean
Sean is correct on his advice. Also watch out for ads like this one:
"Alpha Core Goertz TQ2 new version - tube like sound"
How can an interconnect sound like a vaccuum tube? Only with the help of a Voodoo priest!!!
Once again Sean is right on. Many (even all) may say that one cable is bright or another dull, etc.. My limited experience suggests that we tend to use overly broad terms (and strokes?) when trying to help very specific issues. Cables can be the final touch in getting a system to click. We are trying to use cables as a type of equalizer more often than not, whether we want to admit it or not. Sadly we do this in a very hit or miss fashion. At this point in time trying alleviate one point or to emphisise another can only be done through trial and error. While generalizations can narrow the field down to usable size, you still need to do the work, to make it work.
Alas, cables are a necessary "evil". The best sounding cable would be no cable at all. Sean,Psychicanimal, and Unsound pretty well said it all. I wish we didn't have to use cables but there are flavours and prices for everyone....remember, that cable you buy may never have been used on your particular components by the manufacturer. You have to try before you buy.
I realize that none of these postings give solid answers, just theory. If you list your associated equipment, maybe someone with a similar system could advise you. With cables, it always boils down to personal preference and system synergy.
"Alas, cables are a necessary "evil".
That's like saying a speaker is a necessary evil, since the best sound would be coming from a "quantum" device beaming the sound waves directly into your brain, thus eliminating the need for amps and speakers.
But what choices do you have if the technology is not there yet? I think the same applies to cables. they are a most important device and as long as we are not getting offered "cableless" components, we just will have to deal with cables. Or do you look at your component's power cords as necesary evil also?
I am sure the day will come when every amp will have its own, built-in little atomic power plant , but until this day comes, we will have to deal with power cords.
There are some general observations. Transparent and MIT tend to roll-off the highs due to the networks, but have very strong bass unless you go for the reference versions, which are quite good in most respects. Goertz laminated ribbons, Nordost Valhalla, Empirical Clarity7 and Analysis-plus all have very low-inductance so dynamics, imaging and high-frequencies will be good.
With other cables such as Cardas, Tara Labs, Kimber, Straightwire, Monster and Audioquest, you really need to try them with your system.
Actually, our whole hobby is a necessary evil in that we would all rather have the live performance in front of us. But you'd hurt Bob Dylan's feelings when, after 45 minutes, you switched to Miles (well, I guess you couldn't) ;-) So, yes -- I agree with Bluenose that cables are also a necessary evil. I think the core advice from Bluenose is "try before you buy" -- there are 30 day trial periods aplenty. As Sean indicated, your system (combined with your room acoustics) is unique. As Tekunda suggested in another post, cable companies seldom test for impurities so there is no real assurance (except for some companies) that even two cables from the same company sound alike. Try, try, try and trust your ears!
Thanks: Sound advise. I just replaced my preamp with a ML380s feed into a ML336 and ML Prodigy speakers. I sold my source to pay for the upgraded preamp so I am source less except for my magnum dynalab 102. What IC's do you suggest for the tuner to preamp, What IC's would you recommend for preamp to amp and finally speaker cable. A short lest please to audition. Tekunda has recommended his hms grande final cables;...?
For the money, I would try a pair of Tice interconnects. They're being heavily discounted--1.5m pair @ $137.50. I got two sets and am *very* satisfied...
All Kimber speaker cables are of a low inductance design and typically offer a very low nominal impedance also. The 8 series and above are low in both inductance and nominal impedance. The 4 series still measure better than most but only half as good as the aforementioned 8's. As such, the sonic characteristics of the 8 series and above should remain pretty consistent from system to system with the lower end cables ( 4TC, 4VS, 4PR ) varying the most. Kimber is one of the few companies that CAN and WILL provide you with full technical and electrical measurements on their cables. As you might expect, they do have an actual research and development department with real "lab grade" test equipment too.
Goertz are the lowest impedance cables on the market. They are also the lowest inductance cables on the market. They are VERY high in capacitance though and this can cause some ultra wide-bandwidth designs to get squirrely, possibly even doing damage to them. As mentioned before, if in doubt about this, use the impedance matching ( Zobel ) networks that they provide free of charge.
Audioquest, Axon, Straightwire, XLO, etc.. along with quite a few other product lines that make use of multiple individual conductors wired in parallel can be configured to drastically reduce inductance. However, this may require terminating the wires in a slightly different pattern than what they do at the factory. Since most designers are aware of this, they were obviously going for specific impedance characteristics when they designed and terminated the cables in the fashion that they did.
Nordost is typically higher in inductance than some of the other cables mentioned above. Their nominal impedance is also quite high, even higher than most zip cords aka "monster" type two side by side conductor designs. This may be one of the reasons that they seem to lack bottom end in many systems. I am not directly familiar with the Valhalla design, so keep that in mind.
I have not visited the Analysis Plus website in a LONG time, but going from what i know about that design and cables in general, i would venture to say that it is most assuredly a much higher impedance design than the Goertz and probably almost double that of Kimber 8TC, 8VS or 8PR. I would also think that the Oval 9's would be slightly more inductive ( or should i say less capacitive )than the same Kimber's. This would put them somewhere between the Kimber's and Nordost's in both the inductance and nominal impedance category. That would strictly be an "educated guess" though as i have never measured them ( but have used the Oval 9's ).
While i have never used or even seen a pair, i would like to try some of Dunlavy's speaker cable. While i know that he "supposedly" doesn't believe that the difference in speaker cables is audible, he is a REAL engineer. As such, i do know that his cables were designed accordingly and do measure excellently in what most consider the "important areas".
If i stepped on any toes with this post, sorry about that. I'm trying to be Detective Joe Friday and report just the facts. Whether or not you like specific cables within your system is a matter of system synergy and personal taste. Sean
Sean, any comments on "shielding"?
Dunlavy is an interesting story. 10 years ago, I believe that he was a believer in cables and this is obvious from his patent which you can read on the PTO.gov website. However, in the last three years he has been espousing that more expensive cable designs, including his own are just attempts at optimizing some parameters that are not really important and improving durability and aesthetics. He would not admit that cables make a significant difference. Seems hyppocritical. IME, he is just getting old and probably losing some of his hearing.
In any case, Dunlavy is certainly not the only engineer that uses measurements and analysis to design his cables. In fact, I would describe his cables as rather rudimentary designs at best. In my early days as a cable designer, I read and agreed with many of the assertions in his patent. It's a shame that he now says that there was nothing there. In any case, if you want to see some analysis and measurements on cables made by an engineer, see the following website:
Not everything on the website is validated and therefore is still theory, but the theories make sense to me based on the measurements and analysis. In the absense of conclusive measurements and listening tests, the theories will have to do.
Unsound, i don't have too much experience with shielded speaker cables. I've only ever run one pair and they definitely sounded "different" than some others that i had of similar geometry but lacking the shielding. On one specific amp that has always sounded somewhat "closed in" and done so regardless of speakers or speaker cables, they REALLY opened up the top end and somewhat leaned out the bottom end. It is the only time that i've ever been able to get this amp to come across as sounding somewhat spacious. As a side note, this was not a big deal as i primarily use that amp to driver woofers. I was using it full range on a temporary basis in another system when i swapped speaker cables. However, i did not base an opinion on this one specific encounter. Other shielded designs might sound quite different. The person that i sold them too fell in love with them, so i guess that they worked well in his system.
Audioengr, thanks for commenting on the Dunlavy's. Can you give us a brief description of the speaker cables in terms of conductor geometry, special traits, etc ??? I have checked out your site a few times and it is an interesting read. As to designing cables with scientific reasoning coming into play, i think that there are quite a few companies that do so. Obviously though, there are as many and probably a lot more that don't. As such, the market is loaded with cables that are nothing more than generic junk with fancy price tags and others with more thought put into them. Unfortunately, most of these also carry a "fancy price tag" too. For those that lack a technical background, it can make wire selection a lot more difficult as they have less of a knowledge base to work from. Sean
Sean - Dunlavy's patent describes an 18-twisted-pair cable I believe. The inner 7 pairs are cabled or twisted and then the next layer of pairs is twisted around the first group in the opposite direction. This way the fields from pair to pair interact less. Then the pairs are terminated with the first wire from each pair being grouped and the second from each pair being grouped. He talks about using stranded wire, but I am a strong believer in solid-core wire. And of course, Teflon is the best insulator, next to air.