Do speaker cables really matter?

Hell yes!

Been running a double run of Kimber 8TC from SimAudio W-6 monoblocks to my Aerial Acoustics Model 9 speakers. Had for a few months wondered if the speaker cable was the weakest link in my system at this point. Really struggled with the question speaker cable really mattered or is it all snake oil? I'm here to say, "It matters. It really, really matters!"

Picked up a pair of MIT Shotgun S1 bi-wire (thanks, Joe!) and switched them out yesterday. Wow! My system is blowing up! I thought Aerial had simply rolled off the highest of the highs. No, they were there all the time but the 8TC was 'veiling' it. Also, they speakers have become slightly more forward, which is a good thing. Overall improvement up and down the scale. Soundstage has increased dramatically. Almost sounds as if a bedsheet has been sitting over my speakers the last few months and now it's been removed. They hairs on my arms lift up when listening, now. I truly didn't think it would make such a difference and thought I would post that it did. It really did. Can't imagine what will happen as they break in.

I hope posting this helps a few members who are sitting on the fence. Was considering The Cable Company library to try a few but didn't want to wait. Too impatient.
Wait til you try the S1 ICs!
I've found the same holds true for IC's. My recent upgrade to Jade Hybrid IC's was a revelation. They were not cheap, but their addition to my system really took things up a notch. My future upgrades will be either power cords or speaker cables... not components or speakers.
Some years back The esteemed reviewer Julian Hirsch did a test involving a number of speaker cables, and determined at the conclusion that, "Speaker cables make no difference". So much for deaf reviewers! There are many in here that will tell you, " It's your imagination/wishful thinking/etc", and "There is no such thing as cable burn-in". Ignore them!!
leave them in a few weeks and see what you think then. they will settle into your system and your ears will get used to them and you will have an even more accurate perspective...
The only cable that makes my all Krell system sound the way I like it is Purist Audio Design Venustas or higher. I would actually say that going better in the cable will help prevent equipment changes as frequently and a bigger improvement than gear. I have been very content with my system because of them and has been stable for at least 5 years.
Indeed MIT have discovered a new phenomena called "articulation" which they can measure extremely precisely (within a percent at various frequencies) but can only define vaguely as: "ability to retain the highest level of detail and clarity". It appears that by adding filters they indeed modify the sound to improve what they call "articulation". I do not doubt that it sounds much different from Kimber 8TC but please understand that this involves passive filtering. Although this is called a cable, it includes a passive component with a network. I have no doubt it sounds better with the added network but you might ask yourself why the amp/speaker combo does not sound right with ordinary wires?
Remaking old connections or using fresh new anything often makes an appreciable difference too.
Unfortunately cables do make a difference. With regard to Julian Hirsch, and all due respect, the demise of his mag was due to his lack of hearing, and or unwillingness to listen....good advice to ignore all the naysayers. Stranded sounds different than solid, copper different than silver, different than silver plated copper. More money does not mean better sound. Cables all have capacitance, resistance, conductance. Numerous blind tests have been done and cables accurately identified in statistically significant numbers. Some cables are very high in capacitance so those I would beware of.
hi frederick21:

several years ago, i auditioned kimber cable interconnects, power cords and speaker cable. included were the 8tc speaker cable.

i did not notice any veil. rather, i found the cable to emphasize the lower treble frequencies.
Unfortunately cables do make a difference.

Agreed. Unfortunate. How about bi-wiring? This article is an interesting discussion of speaker cable issues (back EMF and IM distortion due to speaker driver non linearities and coil impedance). The prevalence of long voice coil in short magnetic gap drivers means that speakers have a high degree of non-linearity and audible IMD distortion is more or less inevitable. The article recommends short wires and bi-wiring to try and reduce issues. It is an interesting article because it discusses the system as a whole rather than attributing audible properties to wires...
As to the reference to adding a cable containing a passive filter. Clearly, adding a filter will affect the sound because it limits, attenuates, or shifts in phase the frequencies being transduced by the speaker. Referring to such as a "cable" is not accurate but so long as the manufacturer makes it clear that filtering is being added, I see no ethical issue.

This brings up what I believe to be two broad and different approaches, or goals, of home audio. (1) A goal of achieving the most accurate sound reproduction. I.e., the sound should be the same as the sound recorded on the medium, and ultimately, the same as the sound that existed at the time of the recording (this last nuance only comes into play when dediding on vinyl vs cd vs whatever other medium is or comes available). (2) A goal of achieving a sound that the individual finds most pleasing. Part and parcel to this approach is to treat the audio system as a musical instrument in and of itself. In my opinion, the popularity of tube equipment is driven by adherents to this approach.

I beleive that both approaches are valid. Just different.

Inserting a generic filter between the amplifier and the speaker drivers or crossovers is an example of the second approach. Choosing a generic filter- one not made for the specific speaker - is not consistent with the first approach. Inserting a filter between the amp and speaker (which in this case is equivalent to changing the properties of the speaker) could be a step in the direction of better accuracy, but in such case one would need to design the filter for that particular model speaker and to an extent, that particular model amplifier. At that point, it makes more sense to just design a completely custom set of speakers and place the filtering either in the speaker cabinet or in the amplifier.
I'd second Rockvirgo's comment; have you tried going back to the Kimbers for another listen, just to compare? Renewing the physical contact at the amp and speaker ends can make a noticeable impact on sound, often attributed wrongly to the new cable.
I'm not saying cables don't make a difference (I switched from heavy copper to silver speaker cables and noticed a very small change in frequency response), but they may not be responsible for the change you hear.
For years I was skeptical but they indeed make a lasting and audible difference; as someone said above, unfortunately.

I've found that, in comparison to Tara, Synergistic and van den Hul, Harmonic Technology ICs and speaker cables provide me with the timbre and frequency balance that suits my tastes from Joni to Zep to Miles to Beethoven and everything in between and around.
Yes, they matter. I think, the most important cables are the ones for the speakers and from Tonearm to preamp.
Thomas, you have a beautiful system, and I'm sure it sounds wonderful as well! Have you worked with aftermarket power cords? If not, you truly owe it to yourself. I have found that power cables seem to make nearly as much difference in my system as speaker cables. I hear very clear, significant changes to the system instantly when I use different power cords. If it were so subtle that it was negligible I would not recommend it.

If you are well aware of all this, excellent! I was not able to determine from your post whether you had worked with specialty power cords. I did a quick check of your system but did not see any listed. :)
Shadorne - I read the article. It is strange that he describes cable as DC component while impedance of typical cable is few times higher than resistance at few kHz. I also disagree a little with his skin effect assestment (no skin effect in audio). Skin depth is affecting audio frequencies (a little).

The wire where AC and DC resistance is the same (skin depth S is equal radius) for copper and 20kHz is Gauge 18 (40 mils Dia).

Lets take 10 feet of gauge 14 (very popular Audioquest type 4). DC resistance (counting length both ways) is 20 feet x 2.525 mohm/ft = 50.5 mohm but AC impedance at 20kHz is equal Rac=Rdc*k*sqrt(f) (where k is a gauge factor (k=17.6 for gauge 14) and f is frequency in MHz) and is equal 126 mohm.

Difference between 50.5 mohm and 126 mohm might seem not important (less than 0.1dB divider) but it limits DF at 20kHz to 64. Stranding wires with isolation between strands increases effective surface but strands being in sum of magnetic fields are still subjetc to skin effect unless they're wooven on the outside of the hollow core (hyperlitz).

Don't get me wrong - I am not trying to prove anything here. I'm just trying to make some sense of it and to understand why cable manufacturers come to similar design solutions (like hyperlitz). My Acoustic Zen Satori has some kind of hyperlitz (they don't call it that) - wires woven on hollow tubes. I do not believe in the cable companies conspiracy to sell snake oil. We can hear the difference - explaining it is hard to do.
Hello Douglas, yes, in my System description are no cables, but I use some :). I agree, PC's do make a difference, I use XLO with Oyaide Plugs and the PC from Oyaide (~ Tunami)
YES, awhile ago I demoed a pair of shotgun silver speaker cables from one of the newer mfgrs that were highly regarded & some of my friends recommended. at first the perceived increased clarity seemed impressive but after a few weeks I knew something was obviously amiss....there was no body or harmonics to the music & the highs were edgy. demo if you can
I agree with Carl109 - simply renewing the electrical contact could have made the difference, so try your Kimbers again.
You answered your own question because they obviously do make a difference. The unfortunate thing is that you never know how a cable will sound in your system until you implement it. Good for you though, because your post conveys your happiness in finding a cable that delivers the type of sound that pleases you. As someone else said, the S1 Interconnects are also special!!

0.1 db at 20 Khz is not enough to be audible or to matter. Sure there are always differences between every cable of different design/configuration/size/length. The question is whether it is enough to be really concerned about. I would simply maintain that there are many other issues in any room/system that are of much more worthwhile consideration for eeking out improvements. Call this a cold hearted pragmatic view if you will but science gives us tools to estimate the impact of various issues on sonics and the example iof skin effect just seems negligible to me (in the holistic sense)