Comparing Speaker Cables


I have accumulated several pairs of speaker cables that I have never tried to do careful A/B comparisons of because the time it takes to swap them is longer than my audio memory. But my speakers are bi-wired and it occurred to me that I could hook two different cables up and then only swap them at the amp which would be much faster. Is there any sonic downside to having a pair of unconnected cables hanging off one of the sets of inputs while the second set is connected to the amp?

pinwa

No. But there also is no reason to bother comparing cables at all if you forget that fast what one sounded like. Either that or your cables are near identical. Either way, why bother?

Chuck didn't your mother ever tell you that if you don't have anything nice to say you shouldn't say anything at all?  In this case substitute constructive for nice.  And aren't you the one always saying everything matters?  And I have found that for me and my ears the only way to really figure out if something is better is to compare it as directly as possible to something else.  But hey, if you think your audio memory is that great I would be happy to have you come over and tell me which of the cables you think is better LOL.

I don’t know.  And when I did comparisons using a few songs there differences where clear. And there was song variations based on dynamic range of music and number of sounds within a bar. 

That is not a problem at all.

The design of the cable tells you all you need to know.

You always want your cables as short as possible. This is why we put mono amps behind the loudspeakers. This is most important with low impedance loudspeakers.

For full range speakers and subwoofers you also want heavy (low) gauge wire 12 gauge or lower with as low inductance as possible. Kimber Kable makes the best speaker wire although I do not care much for their interconnects. The real sonic difference to listen for is low bass performance.

Have fun!

My advice is to pick a small number of tracks and take very careful notes.  Listen for the extremes and pick tracks that are hard to reproduce.  This is the best possible way to do these kinds of comparisons.  

If, based on your notes, you don't get a general sense of any differences, then that is very good and it suggests the sound profile of the cables is similar.  

I have found there is usually a difference in treble or bass that becomes noticeable if you focus in those areas and possibly in terms of nuance and detail.

"Kimber Kable makes the best speaker wire "????...an absolute ridiculous statement...

Unless someone else is switching the wire for you, it's a pointless exercise, notes or not.

If you have a speaker switch (pass through A/B) that did not add distortion had 2 sets of the same speaker, and your 2 wires for comparison from the same source. A listening test may work but would still be subjective to many.

I am sure people will find fault in this method and will only work if you have 2 sets of the same speakers in the same operating condition.

Or go buy some sound analysis software to take a stab at determining what cable or wire will work for you.

You really need to control the variables to make any real determination and remove well guessing.

Have a great day.

I Robot

 

 

determins some demo tracks, listen, pay attention, notice any tendencies, take notes for positive and negative sound qualities.  

Lot to lot variations between sets of speakers, even driver units. 0.5db is not unusual and that can be audible, not to mention positional differences, etc. etc.

First, you need good quality demo material to allow you to hear important differences.  After that, I’d have someone switch the cables for you so you can just listen and don’t have to physically get up and change anything, which could potentially interfere with your sonic memory.  Best of luck. 

Only in the quantum world would 2 sets of identicals work.

Otherwise they can’t be in the same place at the same time.

But then that IS not an answer to your only question.

I will not attempt to advise on matters you are not asking about.

Or dissuade you from your quest. Have at it and good luck.

Besides what would MC's choice possibly mean to YOU?

I generally can’t tell the difference between subtle changes like cables in an A/B setting (unless one is crap). I do better listening to one for a week and then the next one for a week.

I would NOT do what you are proposing. While the 2 cables hanging off would be antennae possibly picking up noise, the real risk is for them to touch together shorting out your amp.

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if the changes are subtle then you don't need to bother or pick out special notes to listen for.  Wither you hear an improvement right off or you don't.  It is that simple.

 

 

@carlsbad  I appreciate your being the only person so far who has actually pointed out the potential downsides of the extra set of cables acting as an antennae and the very real risk of shorting the outputs which I will now take extreme care to avoid.

Actually Kimber cable doesn't make the best speaker wire it's just junkie ofc wire, the best wire for sound is OCC single crystal wire and that's been proven for over 40 years now

I just did a similar test by connecting sets of cables to A and B outputs and then to the speakers without removing jumpers. I am able to just flip the switch on the amp from A to B and back in real time and not disconnect and reconnect the cables.

 

Cables are 14 foot pair of Synergistic Research Resolution Reference and a 5 foot pair of Kimber 4VS doubled to make them 8VS. I have been using the SRs for many years since getting them with a complete system in 2008 that I purchased. I got the Kimbers from same person when he gifted me a pair of Rogers speakers and the Kimber was in a Bi-Wire configuration.

 

Honestly, hearing much of a difference is really really hard but I feel the SRs have a slightly larger and airy presentation while the Kimber is more just solid and clinical. I am still playing with different music but will probably stick with the SRs when all is done. But there is not a thing wrong with the Kimbers if that was all I had to use.

Pinwa…

You’ve some decent information with which to move forward with. Sort of skip over the typical Chip eating lard bucket god of cheap Products and crazy ideas you’ll be fine. Pretend it’s not there it’ll get old and fizzle out.

Cheers to all…. More chips to….

For sure the amount of difference you hear also depends on your expectations and your definition of small/big difference. Assuming your system is capable of good level of detail, then different cables should add their specific sound signature. I have 4 pairs of cables and I could never make a mistake which one is on duty. Friends also usually notice if I have changed cables just by listening to the system and not being aware of the change.

I to have four pair of speaker cables and when I bought the KEF Reference 5’s, I tried all of them for a couple of days each and then picked the pair I liked the best. About seven weeks later, I did it again and I picked the same pair. I plan on doing it one more time and then getting rid of two of the sets I don’t use anymore.

JD

I'm a bit fan of testing speaker cables.  I tested Canare 4S11 vs Rocket 33s vs Kimber 12TCs.  I liked the Canare 4S11 - there was mudiness in comparison with the Rocket 33s and there was harshness in treble at times for the 12TCs.  Ultimately, I auditioned Kimber Bifocals and they provided a large soundstage with beautiful clarity and resonance on bells, symbols and bass guitar with sharp and clear kickdrum and tom toms.

How much it depends on system and user I don't know.  And I had a friend listen as well and we were changing things who came to the same conclusion on the 12 TCs and the bifocals truly were obvious (the cost is the challenge)

This is not so difficult. As someone mentioned, take copious notes.

But also listen to specific tracks over an extended period...allow yourself to get accustomed to one set of cables.

Then a after a couple of weeks, change cables and take more notes.

Quick comparisons are tough to quantify.

Be methodical and trust your ears.

 

I agree with @carlsbad in suggesting listening for a longer period of time than doing only quick A/B testing.

I find cable testing is extremely hard (or comparing any 2 components for that matter), especially when both cables are equally good but different in many ways.  A/B testing sometimes gives you obvious results very quickly, but when comparing 2 equally good cables with different attributes that you like, it does take longer listening sessions to sort it out.   I usually let the cables run continuously with music that I like and just listen casually.  Once in a while, something will catch my attention and I would take note of that.   This approach allows me to feel the musically of the cable and determines which cable draws my attention more and makes me want to listen more.

I'm actually going thru some listening tests myself for different interconnects.  Anyway, good luck with your testing.  

Trust your ears, just remove your eyes from the equation.

This is why cable companies give you 30 to 45 days to live with them. If you don't like what they are bring out of your system just return them. All cables are system dependent. 

@pinwa - you have received some good advice from the postings above, in that you should first select a "baseline cable" - a starting point, and listen to a selection of tracks over a prolonged period and then change to a second set for a comparison.

I’ve found that IF the changes/improvements are not immediately noticeable, then there is likely little difference between the selected cables

Always go back to the baseline cables after the comparison and "re-tune" your ears - or establish your new baseline cable

And NEVER compare more than two sets of cables at a time.

After each comparison you will either

  • opt for a new baseline cable
  • or have to reset your ears to your previous baseline cable

With most of the cables I have compared, the changes/improvements were noticeable right from the first track.

When I first started auditioning cables, the attributes I listened for

  • Base Depth and texture and
  • upper range details and clarity
  • dynamics

But I now listen for

  • Micro Venue Acoustics - those little echoes and reverberations created by the venue and are quite apparent on good systems with good cables.
  • They tend to stand out much more on the better built cables
  • This tells me much more about the abilities of the cables, because if they can reproduce micro venue acoustics the other attributes are generally taken care of

On any comparison, I choose tracks that offer an uncomplicated production so I can focus on specific aspects of the recording

  • nothing orchestral - because there way too many instruments
  • no loud rock music
  • generally a vocalist and a couple of instruments in a "natural environment" e.g. a live recording. Because it gives a real sense of the space of the venue
  • Studio tracks seldom provide convincing venue acoustics at the same level of detail as the real thing - but a few engineers do sometime get it right

So what constitutes a good speaker cable?

  1. the type of conductor - I’ve found that solid UP-OCC copper provide great details.
  2. the type of insulation - cotton is very good, but not often used in commercial cables
  3. and the cable geometry - i.e. how the wires are placed within the cable.
  • e.g. Kimber Cable uses a braided geometry whereas Nordost uses a ribbon geometry on their speaker cables

Checkout the following companies for products that really perform well

  • Zavfino - uses UP-OCC copper - very dynamic
  • In-Akustik - uses an unusual geometry that provides a low noise floor and great details and imaging
  • Nordost is one company that is very good at what it does

Many brands of cables will perform to similar levels - there may be slight differences, but they will generally lack the performance level of the brands mentioned above

Any comparison I may undertake generally takes one month to complete

  • I start with the baseline - one week of listening
  • change to the cables for comparison - two weeks of listening
  • and 1 week to Reset my ears if the new cables are not selected

Hope that helps - Steve

@williewonka That is wonderful advice about what to look for and how to go about comparing cables but like most of the responses I have gotten it really has nothing to do with the question I asked.  

Since the primary problem of hanging two speakers cables off my bi-wired speaker appeared to be the risk of shorting out the amp I went ahead with my comparison carefully insulating the open end of the cable with ziplock bags.  I was unable to hear any noise from the second cable acting as an antenna or any other kind of downside.

Having two cables connected at the speaker permitted me to swap cables at the amp fairly quickly so that I was able to remember how the prior cable sounded.  Differences between the four cables I tried were very modest with one cable seeming clearly better than the others, but I'm not sure I would have noticed any change if the cables had been swapped without my knowing.  The winning cable had better bass, separation and microdynamics, and a bigger sense of space while retaining very good high end definition.  It has also been my "baseline" cable for a couple of months now so I know it doesn't contribute anything I don't like to my system.  I didn't do a comparison with 12 AWG speaker cord so who knows, this may all be in my head like so many audiophile tweaks LOL. 

The cable bears some similarity to the Nordost cables but isn't a direct copy or counterfeit of any other cable I am aware of.  I did purchase it on Aliexpress and I'm sure that will earn me at least some jingoistic responses from the haters out there.  There are several vendors selling the cable with different pricing and terminations.  I am going to try and attach a picture for anybody that wants to try and track it down.  My second favorite cable was a Kimber 12TC knockoff.  And I did have a friend who came over a while ago and we didn't hear any obvious improvement with his Silversmith Fidelium cables in our quick test.

 

 

 

12 gage copper wire....