Directional speaker wires, what and why.


I've been aware for a long time that some speaker cables are designated as "directional". To a limited extent I can understand the rational behind choices based on wire size and construction, biwiring, etc. but don't understand how any conductor can have directional characteristics even in a DC circuit. I'm not denying the possibility but can someone please clarify this for me?

The only reason this comes up is that some time ago, I changed from spades to locking bananas on my wires. It was just yesterday that I noticed that my cables have arrows printed on them indicating, I suppose, that they should be hooked up with the arrows pointing toward the speakers from the amp. The cables in question, btw, are Straightwire Octave 2's.

I've experimented with speaker wires in an attempt to optimize my system but have never been able to discern much, if any, difference between them. That being the case, though, I now don't know whether these have been situated incorrectly since about 2004 when I bought them with my Martin Logan Odyssey speakers.

How can there be a directional character to a conductor and how does that affect sound?
broadstone
if they will sound vice versa, than they're not directional.
Helps the owner hook up the wire in the same direction as they were
originally burned in. Don't want to keep reversing direction.....

Some cables are twisted in a manner that requires directionality.

Other factors such as the way the metal is drawn and how the shielding is
applied can affect directionality.

You will indeed hear a difference if you reverse a set of cables that have
been playing in one direction for years.
Chris Sommivigo from Stereovox claims that hifi cables pass AC signals, which are constantly going back and forth. Therefore, no matter which way you orient a cable, the sound will always be "wrong" when the signal moves in the opposite direction. Other wire guys believe differently. I guess if I owned cables with arrows on them, I would install them that way. Why tempt fate?
Even though wires operate "AC" the actual audio signal, I.e., the electromagnetic wave, is not alternating and flows in one direction only - in the direction toward the speakers. Thus, since the conductor is not physically symmetrical, it will sound different one direction vs the other direction. It's not brain surgery.
The speakers are attempting to replicate the waveform of the audio signal. The in and out excursions of the speaker diaphragms are controlled by the amplifier. If the speaker cables are reversed the audio waveform is inverted. Thus it sounds like someone is sucking on a trumpet instead of blowing it. Has nothing to do with wire directionality. The audio signal coming down the speaker cables is an electromagnetic wave.
if you really believe cables sound different depending on which way they are hooked up you are beyond help. geesus lol
if you really believe cables sound different depending on which way they are hooked up you are beyond help. geesus lol
03-22-14: Drusstheaxe
Drusstheaxe,

LOL, you really need to get out more often.
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I can't believe folks think speaker cables will sound the same when reversed after they have already been burned-in in one direction. You must be kidding?

To not hear the difference means your ears are bad, you don't care, or your system is not at all resolving....or perhaps you need an ear cleaning.

Come-on this is audio truths 101 stuff that can be experienced or learned very quickly.
Same with me Grannyring, I can't believe how they can sound different.
I must have a bad ears or my system not at all resolving... and perhaps I need ear cleaning.
I'm also poor student and barely can score for D- on audio 101 stuff.
You must be. Why even hang on this site? Use lamp wire and Sears 1970 electronics as it must sound the same as all this exotic, Aphile stuff you bark against.
I see nothing wrong with lamp wire. It's much better than $10k wire. Whatever makes sense is usually better than whatever doesn't by default.
Again sorry, but I didn't learn audio from dealers.
Jea48 That response made me laugh! Thanks sincerely and your right. Finally sold my nightclub, also quit riding with my 1%er club, so dang i do need to get out. There used to be so many great posters in the past that i miss but guess some of us are getting old...old great posters could be a thread onto itself... but see i digress.. Grannyring you really truly think you can hear the difference in whether a cable is ran one way or the other in a double blind test? I would bet any amount you cant but that just sounds trite.. I do believe cables can be made to sound different Not better just different. Like many have said tone controls like on great old gear kind of like me. Anyway maybe i am not up to date but seriously cant believe that would make a discernible difference. By the way the best part of your system is your speakers..as in all systems they should be.
Read what I said - after burn in only. No, I am not saying anything less than what is completely obvious. After they burn in going the new direction they will sound the same again. Unless.....

If a cable is made to sound right in one direction, then those few cables will sound different backwards. A few cables are indeed wound in a manner that is directional. Try hooking up your amp backwards (with the polarity switched)and it will indeed sound different based on the way it was built. A few cables are constructed to be used in one direction, not many or most, but a few.
Hakuna Matata!
I back grannyring here!, cables, mmmm, well lets see, I will give a small example, The effect is more so with speaker cables, also, this depends on the model and brand of cables, we all know, all cables are not the same, I have a pair of 10 inch Tara labs omega jumpers that I use on a pair of JBL L-7 speakers that I have modded, underneath the speakers, and using these jumpers, First off, These jumpers are one of the most profound up-grades over anything else with cables, as far as I am concerned!, These jumpers did not take long at all to break-in, makes sence because they are 10 inches long, I reversed the jumpers, my wife was in the next room at the back of the house, not even a whole song went by, she come running into the listening room, she said, what did you do?, Of course, I knew, and could hear a huge diffence!, so I said, what do you mean?, she thought the system blew somthing, she asked me to put the jumpers back the same signal direction, wala!, very magical sounding to say the least., cheers.
On a hunch I switched the direction of my Analysis Plus interconnects recently and the difference was like night and day. I had read somewhere in cyberspace that the arrows on the AP interconnects should be in the reverse direction from Logic. Just goes to show how unreliable information on the Internet can be sometimes. Consistent Channelization of all cabling in the system is also quite important sonically as I found out.
On a hunch I switched the direction of my Analysis Plus interconnects recently and the difference was like night and day
More likely because of fresh reconnection and nothing more.
Cleaner surfaces cleaner contacts. Treat with deoxit in addition to hear even better differences.
Czarivey wrote,

"More likely because of fresh reconnection and nothing more.
Cleaner surfaces cleaner contacts. Treat with deoxit in addition to hear even better differences."

Uh, the contacts were already clean so your theory is incorrect, though interesting. Like fuses, all cables are directional. I did not create reality.
Burn in in one direction is the main reason for the night and day sound experience you had. This is something all of us can test quickly in our own systems with the same results every time......it will sound different until they burn in all over.
When I turn my rig off for just a few min, I hear improvements or let's say differences that are more often more pleasant than not even without swapping or reconnecting wires. Simple reset for semiconductors and ICs as well.
I hope you've either muted or turned off component(s) before swapping wires vice versa.
The real reason cables can sound different regarding direction is not because of the way they are wound or the grain boundary of the metal conductor, but because all insulation or dielectric material off gasses oxidising the surface of the conductor. Oxidation causes diode effects at certain frequencies, and this is what you hear as directional cables. The more the oxidation, the more you will hear a difference.
Chrissain, that is quite interesting. But I don't see how out gassing and oxidation on the conductor would make the cable directional. Furthermore, your explanation is a little troubling since it cannot account for directionality in fuses, for which there is no dielectric material.
all extruded metal has oxide on the surface of it, no matter how small the amount. It would have to be extruded in a total vacuum, and stay in a total vacuum for this not to happen, which is impossible.
Ask the manufacturer of such. My take is "basic economic principles" will ultimately dictate what Manufacturers will advise; based on wanting to remain profitably in business! No suprise there.Cable directionality can be based an a number of factors. One of the most basic being grounding issues. Once your system is adequately resolving--no mean feat I'm afraid--then an upgrade in even a power cable will be very apparent. Absolute polarity becomes very obvious and the phase reversal switch on a preamp becomes appreciated as essential to proper reproduction of the musical event
Ptss wrote,

"Ask the manufacturer of such. My take is "basic economic principles" will ultimately dictate what Manufacturers will advise; based on wanting to remain profitably in business! No suprise there.Cable directionality can be based an a number of factors. One of the most basic being grounding issues. Once your system is adequately resolving--no mean feat I'm afraid--then an upgrade in even a power cable will be very apparent. Absolute polarity becomes very obvious and the phase reversal switch on a preamp becomes appreciated as essential to proper reproduction of the musical event."

Boy, did that skirt the whole issue of wire directionality. I'm pretty sure what we are talking about here is not a grounding issue, which is a real but separate issue. What we are talking about is why a wire, any wire, a fuse, an interconnect sounds better when connected in one direction that the other. This is true even for non shielded cables. Whether this is true for power cords as well, the jury is still out on that one, but I wouldn't rule it out. But the real underling issue here, if I can be so bold, is that IF wire is directional, not only fuses and interconnects and speaker cables are at risk here. All the internal wiring of electonics, the transformers, the wire in capacitors, the wiring in crossovers, internal speaker wiring...it's all directional! Hel-Loo!!
Good morning Geoff. (Ok, I'll put my skirt back in the closet.)Tee-hee. You are mixing 'cable', 'multiple' and "single" strand "wire". Ok. I would still suggest asking the wire or fuse manufactures if and why their "wire" might be directional. I think- designed-'cable' is another matter. We now know about the crystal structure of wire and how it affect signal transmission. Atomic electron microscopy may possibly provide some answers as to wire directionality. When observing wire being made from raw materials via smelting the liquid "flows". Could this "flow direction" have something to do with the possibility of the directionality of wire?