Creative Cabling for Bass Quality

I originally posted this in a thread about improving the bass quality of Legacy Classic speakers, but I suspect other speaker owners might benefit from what eventually worked best for bass with the Classics.

It all began with me feeling the bass of my Legacy Classics lacked a bit of definition. Tightening loose screws on the woofers, tilting the speakers back a few degrees, and playing with room placement all helped, but not enough (I also tried plugging the ports, as one Audiogoner suggested, but thought the bass sounded terribly constipated). I biwired, and that helped too, but not enough.

I next tried biamping and found that tubes so sweetened the top end I didn't care for awhile about low end imperfections. As luck would have it, my Proceed preamp offered stereo sub output, and allowed a setting of 120hz -- thus matching the Classics’ low crossover point. Assigning my McCormack power amp to driving the woofers alone helped tighten the bass too, yet I still wasn't happy.

Next I wondered if bass-specific wiring might help. I had been using high end MIT cables for all, but now decided to use it only for the mid and upper ranges. After some experimentation I reasoned that speedy silver for the bass end might help tighten things, so I tried Signal Cable’s Silver Resolutions, and wala! . . . bass did indeed tighten significantly; further, despite warnings from some, I noticed absolutely no synch problems from using different cables for lows and mid/highs. Thinking a cable with more silver might work even better, I tried 12g pure silver, but lost the quickness (and then some) the Signals provided. I surmised that the skin effect rendered those particular thick silver cables sluggish.

I put the Signal Cable Silver Resolutions back in, and for a time lived happily with that set up (i.e., Silver Resolutions on bottom, MIT on mid/top). But being an avid jazz listener, in due course I missed the bass "weight" that the Silver Resolutions sacrifice to get bass quickness.

Hmmmmmm, what to try. I wondered if thick, flat copper like that found in Analysis Plus cables might help, and since a pair of Oval 9s were selling cheap here at Audiogon, I tried them. Sure enough, they added major bass weight, but completely annulled the quickness of the Silver Resolutions! Grrrrrrrrrr.

And here's when the best thing happened.

I had ordered the Silver Resolutions terminated with banana plugs, while the Analysis Plus Oval 9s sported spades; the posts for bass on the Classics, of course, allow for both spades and bananas, so I hooked BOTH the Signals and Analysis Plus cables to the bass-end set of posts, and then to my McCormack.

All I could do was sigh with satisfaction when I heard it. Exactly the effortlessly quick and weighty bass I'd imagined possible from the Legacys. And now many hours of listening later, I am still unreservedly content with that cabling arrangement. The only tweaking thoughts I've had is trying Oval 8s if I ever see a bargain, and possibly trying silver ICs between the preamp and McCormack someday (I’m using Audio Metallurgy GA-0 ICs now . . . actually I wish AM would make some silver GA-0s, I think their magnetic technology is a very effective concept).
Les3547, I'm happy to see you achieved the bass response you wanted from the Legacy's. I was biting my tongue when there were discussions of somewhat sloppy bass. I know the Legacy products (the ones manufactured since Bill Dudleston reacquired Legacy) and they would not be guilty of poor/unrefined bass.

I reviewed the Focus HD on, and it has some of the best low end I have heard in quite a long time. The bass response is so good that I sold my Vandersteen subwoofers. I was thinking that in your case other changes in the electronics/cables would change the picture, so I'm glad you discovered it.

Your conclusions are not surprising at all, except for those who haven't discovered the extent to which cabling makes a difference in performance. You were surprised by the realization that total gauge makes a critical difference in sound. I have done similar experimenting over the years with "doubling" cables and had the same results.

In fact, it is possible to achieve very similar results with any number of cables "doubled" as you did. The sonics will vary slightly, but the overall benefit will remain. Once one adds into the mix the cable geometry the results of experimentation get quite interesting.

After working with dozens of cable brands, I have settled on usually outfitting the system with one manufacturer's cables at a time. I found that when I'm impressed by the sound of a cable, I want it throughout the system and not just at certain connection points. If funds are limited, then the mix 'n match method can work fine.

Now, what do you think will happen if you double up on the mid/highs? You would likely be in for a very pleasant surprise. It makes for an attractive alternative to pursuing extremely high end cables - an option for the econo-audiophile to give his rig a relatively economical boost. :)

I did much the same kind of experiment when I first got into audio almost 30 years ago. I was a cable skeptic and saw some big, fat cables in audio stores. I decided to try out the concept, so I went to the hardware store and bought the thickest cable I could work with, which would still fit into the posts. By George, it made a difference, and at that time I noted that the bass especially was helped! And that was on a mid fi rig. It was essentially the same discovery you made, that total gauge is a factor in cable/speaker performance especially in the low end.

Your willingness to have an open mind to possibilities and creative thinking got you some good gains. Kudos!
Hi Doug,

Thanks for the complements. I might add one thing to your points. I think that in addition to gauge size, cable materials are important. I know what you mean however, because like you I remember about 30 years ago using lamp wiring for my speakers, and then buying some 12 gauge copper and . . . wow, no doubt about the improvement.

I think more copper might help the bass weight, but not bass definition since only the silver in my experiments brought out the definition. And there "more" silver seemed to actually hurt definition. Of course, I don't know what the quality of the silver used in the 12g cable was (I don't want to say the brand because they sell here), so quality could've been part of it. I guessed that the skin effect hampered, but I know plenty of people have calculated that and claim it is insignificant for audio (of course, these are usually engineers who claim if it can't be measured it can't be experienced).

So I can't say how much the design of the Silver Resolutions enhanced definition (from Signal's website: "Each cable contains 4 stranded silver conductors and 8 solid-core bare copper conductors"), and how much silver alone does it; I am mostly convinced silver helped because the results fit my hypothesis (i.e., I reasoned that since silver was generally speedier, then it should help better define bass). Obviously that's not thorough science, but I can't afford to test extensively (besides, it works no matter what the reason!).

When you asked "what do you think will happen if you double up on the mid/highs," my mind lit up. To tell you the truth, it never occurred to me to try it since the MITs do such a great job, and I am afraid of messing up their seemingly delicate balance of qualities. If you have any suggestions I'd would love to hear them, but it occurs to me that using two identical MIT cables might be the way to go.
Les, yes, certainly not only the total gauge, but conductor material and geometry are extremely important. That's why if you're going to double up you should try different couplings, as you will get different results with each set.

I reviewed the MIT AVt MA series several months ago. I would guess that you may actually end up with the MIT's on the bass, that is, if you can double up. I was using the MIT's on bass and Magnan Cables on the top for a while. Worked quite well with the Focus HD's. You will find with time that you might like more than one configuration and will be frustrated that you have to choose. That's when I eventually zeroed in on the best cable I had and used it throughout the rig.

I'm not convinced that double MIT's would be the best on mid/highs. Switch around the combos and you'll find the one which is best for you.

Silver typically yields a "cooler", more clinical, detailed sound. Not by much but enough to be worth a try if you have too much "muddiness" or warmth in the rig.

Change any one component and the magical cable changes will need to be reassessed. i.e. positions and combos
A synergy (optimum combo between components and wires) needs to be established. Once in place, tis sweet!

This is an option if you have the money and the time; purchase a couple sets of cables (i.e. set of MIT, and say, set of Audioquest, or whatever - get power cords, IC's and speaker cables). Do direct comparisons between them as sets, then mix them up once you're familiar with what they are doing. You'll REALLY know what you're after in cables as you do so.

It will tie up some cash. I had thousands tied up in extra comparison cables at one point, and they were all used cables! But, despite the tedious switching of cables and shipping, deals etc (It was a pain doing a dozen deals to acquire and then resell cables, it was worth it to me as I discovered precisely my taste in cables. When all was said and done I had a great learning experience, reworked my cabling, and it cost me very little except my time. I can now pretty quickly assess cables and pursue ones which will fit any given rig I have. I also found my favorite cable manufacturers. In mixed cables I liked the sound of MIT on the bass and Magnan on top. It will be interesting to see what you come up with.

The advantage of eventually finding the one brand which you prefer is that you will get coherence throughout the frequency spectrum with the speakers. Once you've gotten that brand settled, you can use the various offerings of that cable line similarly to how you're doubling cables now. Bonus!

One benefit through the process was that as the cables elevated in performance I discovered weaknesses in the other components, and I eventually switched source and amp as well! So, watch out, it can be a driver for a complete system overhaul! I would suggest caution regarding component changes due to cable changes, but when you get extremely good results with cables anomalies can be revealed which you didn't hear previously. That can put you on the search for a different source or amp. But that's not a bad thing. :)

There are definitely brands and geometries I would/would not use with any given speaker technology, but I can't give away all my secrets. ;)
Interesting. I have been contemplating a change in speaker cables. According to Signal Cable's website, the Silver Resolutions are constructed with two-thirds copper to one-third silver. I wonder what 100 percent silver construction would yield in terms of bass response??
Hi 2chnlben,

You might have missed in my post that I did attempt that. After trying the Silver Resolutions, I switched them out for pure 12g silver cables. I got a little more bass weight, but I lost every bit of the definition I'd obtained from the Silver Resolutions. Personally I don't think heavy gauge silver is very well suited for any speaker application.

The pure copper 9g cables alone gave great weight, but little definition; when combined with the Silver Resolutions, both weight and definition showed up.

Here's how I analyzed what happens. The pure silver 12g is so thick it slows down whatever quickness silver can contribute.

Next, look at the amount of silver vs. copper in the final configuration (Oval 9s + Silver Resolutions). Frank at Signal states the "effective gauge" of his cable is 12, with 8 strands of it copper, and 4 strands silver. He doesn't say if all strands are of equal gauge, but let's assume they are. That would mean only 1/3 of the total 12g of his cable is silver; further, they are not a single strand, but four thin woven strands. Finally, we have another 9g of pure copper when the Oval 9s are added to the mix.

To me it makes sense intuitively. Bass weight can handle and needs lots of copper, but definition is a more refined dynamic. Too much silver slows down conduction, especially solid core thick silver, but just the right measure, broken down into small wires, promotes silver quickness.

Of course, I realize an "intuitive" concept like mine can be ugly wrong, but no matter what, I can state confidently that a bit of silver conducted through several slim wires in combination with lots of copper equals a full bass experience of definition and weight respectively.
Want to improve bass performance? Get some thick* solid copper and make up some solid speakercables.
*thick begins at 10awg;)

Be aware that the copper needs to be massages at high power level to open up, one hour of massage does alot.

I think you either forgot to read my opening post or, since this thread features a three-part idea, maybe I didn't explain it clearly.

The first part of the idea is, in a biwired or biamped situation, to use the bass side of your biwirable speakers' binding posts to connect TWO separate wires TO THE SAME POST, one wire using spade connecters, and a second wire using the binding post's banana plug connection (of course, it is possible to connect two spades to one post, or with a banana plug adapter to connect two bananas to one post).

The second part of the idea is to recognize that wiring can affect bass in two major ways: bass "weight," or that ability to cause a listener to feel the umph of a note; and bass "definition,' or the ability of a woofer to generate distinct notes with each clearly defined from the note before and after it.

The third part of the idea was that the two connections to the bass side of biwirable speakers allows one to use specific wires for each bass aspect. That is, as I said in my opening post, I found that connecting 9g copper (using spades) generated weighty bass, and a relatively small amount of silver (using the banana connection) added definition . . . thus giving a method for improving bass by wiring for BOTH bass aspects.

That's interesting. Say I want to run an additional (different) run to the bass end of the speaker's posts. I am utilizing one amplifier. I am already running multiple pairs of the same cable type in a bi-wire configuration (double "shotgun" on both top and bottom). If I were to add an additional run to the "bass end", I would have to increase the number of wires at the amplifier. Do you suggest utilizing both spades AND bananas at the amp as well? Is it possible to overdue the "doubling-up" of cables at the amp end (degrading the signal flow in any way)?? Of course, I can experiment. I could remove the current double runs at the bass end and include just the Silver Solutions (or similar). Currently, I have all four runs per speaker terminated with one spade connector at the amp end. Would there be any real benefit to terminating everything (all different type runs/cables with one connector at the amp end).
Hi 2chnlben,

Yes, you have to double up at the amp too. I just realized that people already biwiring might have a space problem (at the amp) if they are using two cables instead of a single one prepared for biwiring. (Since I BIAMP I therefore have plenty of room for using my SS amp for the bass cabling arrangement I'm talking about.)

I've used a type of banana plug adapter thingy like this . . . . . . to hook up more wires than the amp has space for. I think there are better quality ones than at that site as well. But I do use spades and bananas at both the amp end and speaker end since it is the least messy and easiest to install.

Regarding degrading the signal, I have no way to know if using multiple wires are less efficient than a single wire made up with the same copper-silver mix as described in the two-wire approach. I have only heard improvements by doing what I am doing. But if I had to guess, I suspect a single connection would be at least a little better, it's just that all bass-dedicated wiring I've seen is REALLY expensive, and I wonder if they use as much copper, along with silver, as I have in my set up.

The great thing about Audiogon is opportunity to grab up stuff owners don't want anymore, plus the cottage industries that service here. Balanced Power Technology, Audio Metallurgy, Signal Cable . . . all these people make great stuff at a price that is fair.

So for under $400 you can put together some used Analysis Plus Oval 9s, and Silver Resolutions (cheaper if you can ever find them used), and have a great dedicated bass cable system.
I have a question for the Pros out there... Fact is a speaker cable is only 2 poles, each of which might be as important as the other..

Positive, feeding the speaker, and the Negative coming back from the speaker to the amp.. I suppose that the Speed and recovery coming back is as critical, as you will see some specialty companies use an even larger gauge cable coming back off the negative tap to the amp.

Why? Because the ground should be a larger and more current capable device to keep the system damped correctly?

And this leads to the question, since all you guys are going as far as mixing cables of types to double up and feed the acoustic devices "speakers" and finding they have effect overall with the Gauge type, metal choice, and each can add or detract certain character...

Why would it be far out of league to make a speaker cable and interconnects for that matter, and maybe even power cords, that Utilize for example a POSITIVE leg of Copper with small content of silver at a fair sized gauge of like 12 or 11 gauge, and a bigger return cable NEGATIVE leg made up of a Speed cable pure silver such as 10 or 9 gauge? Or the opposite effect switching this config could be better? Big silver feedint the speaker and copper coming back? Who knows maybe this is a part of the secrete in these 4000 dollar cables and its as simple as that vs. all these off the wall geometries and things that they market..

Trade secret? 2 different wires completely separate feeding the positive and negative? Why not? Who says this would not alter the wants and the not so much wants of a speaker signal going in and having a different delivery method of metal or geometry coming back?

I suggest trying now A different cable on the input and output of the speaker vs. mixing them going in and coming out, as it would seem somebody could pinpoint this way what is really gaining the type of performance character desired on which side of the fence, and possibly debunk or verify if each leg is as important as the other and what is best used in and out, which could be completely different metals or gauge..

Now the other issue here is that I am sure most will say now your using cables as Tone controls running a Silver on one side of the signal and a Copper on the other altering its response to gain overall balance, but what I love in this argument is if you were not using a Cable as a tone control to an extent than what in the world would you be spending so much money on cables in the first place if you did not expect them to change the sound to your liking!! ?
". . . . is if you were not using a Cable as a tone control to an extent than what in the world would you be spending so much money on cables in the first place if you did not expect them to change the sound to your liking!"

Hi Undertow,

I can't answer your positive and negative wire route question, but I can answer what you ask in the above quote. For me, the number one, primary, main thing I'm after is to have the signal transferred from the CD to my speakers as close as possible to the way it was recorded. So I, for the most part, do not want tone control.

Now, I say "for the most part" because there are a couple of exceptions to tonal control, but even there I want the control somewhere besides through my cables. What are the exceptions?

One is the fact that since I exclusively use CDs, and therefore a digital signal, I want to sweeten the digital edge on high and midrange frequencies. That I've been able to achieve by biamping and using tube amplification for the upper/mids.

A second reason I attempt some degree of tonal control is because of the excesses of some CDs. For example, an album I like is "Nature" by Dave's True Story. The bass on that album is too strong, but because I run my woofers as "stereo subs" out of my preamp, I can easily moderate the excessive bass.

As for the bass in general, I don't see that as much of a "tonal" issue . . . what I want is for the woofers to respond just as tight and strong as the originating signal is calling for. As I detailed in my above posts, I found my wiring was singling out bass weight or definition at the expense of other, so my cabling efforts were meant to bring out the full range of the originating signal rather than "add" something tonal to the signal.
This is the exact issue I question... What is the originating signal and how do you know its not sounding exactly as the originating signal with or without a Monster cable, a Cardas, or "insert cable here" with each different piece of gear? Fact is you might need more or less of something.. Again hence its a tone control method, otherwise why add, combine, or try any different materials!?

Who is to say that it is now because of this mix the correct sound? Who can verify that except for yourself?(meaning anyone, not just you in general)

Again nothing wrong with finding the sound you like, but if a CD is lets say "Thin" or "Heavy" or "Enhanced" you would never know what this supposed mythical muse of neutral, natural, or correct really is, especially if your proving this exact point and my point needing to mix materials and methods to get "Original Tone" because even if it is in fact "Original tone" and I can agree you have probably found it, what got it to that original tone? Thats right you said yourself your Cables did!!

Hence again, yes they are in fact acting as a tone control to fix or at least subtract any insufficiencies in the recording you are saying now sounds better, because the recording did not change, your cables did, so that did in fact change the tone in the end.

By the way I am not arguing but making a very clear point..

We are funny figures as audiophiles trying to prove that we are all just trying to do things "The right way" in the end we are altering and doing what it takes to make the signal sound good, not necessarily Right, otherwise we would not be changing anything if we could just leave it alone and say it sounds how it is suppose too, it took methods for you to get that tone, and it was thru several things I am sure with changing electronics, re-mastered recordings, and or Cables.

So getting the "Correct" sounding cables is here nor there, realistically and technically we are using them as a tone control in these methods regardless if we think they don't add or take color away like a Equlaizer or loudness knob...
Hi Undertow,

I would say if you are going to define tone as you have, I can't disagree. But it seems you are also saying there is no objective standard by which to judge sound (e.g. "Who is to say that it is now because of this mix the correct sound").

First I would say, as all the humble audiophiles here say, that the "correct" sound is what appeals to one's subjective taste. However, there is for some, a more foundational standard one strives for as well, and that is how music sounds in a live setting -- from studio and night club to concert. When the objective becomes to recreate some particular natural setting, then we do in fact have an objective standard by which to decide what is most "correct."

Looking back on my experimentation with cables, I can see I have judged a cable effective primarily by two criteria: first and foremost by much information a cable allows through, and then how close to "natural" it sounds. When I switched the Signal Cable for the 12g solid silver, it was immediately obvious the solid silver was conveying far less information. BAD CABLE! :)

I know I like MIT (if not the price), for example, because they seem to deliver an unaffected signal. I know this because of trying other cables that warm or cool. I believe the only way this is done is by deleting information and/or accentuating other information.

To me, the way to go is find cables that reveal everything, and then adjust other equipment (unless one can't afford to). The exception to this (in this little theory) is choices that diminish the digital effect; that seems justified given "digitalness" is an artificial and unwanted addition to sound.