Fun With Cable Risers



Well, since I blew up the forum with one controversial topic, let’s do a Chuck Woolery and go two for two! (Ugh, showing my age there!) :D

What are your thoughts on cable risers? *ducks*

I do admit to having a sensible chuckle when I first saw Audioquest’s “Fog Lifters.” A small, plastic, rack with a string to hold up your speaker cable. I was thinking, “This doesn’t help your image, Audioquest.” I upgraded my chuckle to an outright guffaw when I saw the price tag on these “Fog Lifters.” I thought there was no way any sensible person pays hundreds of dollars for something that lifts a cable off the floor. Highway robbery.

Then, when I branched out into other brands, I saw that they too made “cable risers.” Shunyata has their DF-SS (Dark Field) supports and Synergistic has their UEF Performance Elevators. Each more expensive than the next. It’s one thing to market cables, but it is quite another to market a thing that doesn’t really do anything to your cables, your system or your music; right? I mean, who is their target audience? So…I did some digging. I wanted to see who is investing in this form of tech and why.

I discovered that the phenomenon ranged all over the audiophile spectrum. Mostly from folks with $100,000+ systems. They tend to be very neat and clean setups with multiple power amps a strewn the floor. I thought, “Why? What do they know that I don’t? How much hokum could there be for someone who invests that kind of money?”

Turns out, there is some science behind this. Ground noise, power signals from the cables and vibrations as well as static electricity. On a carpeted floor, there is massive static electricity, and it can act similar to a ferrite choke on your cable. Yes, it’s true. That static can impact a cable’s impedance or standing wave ratio, even if it is only slightly. Also, vibrations can also cause interference and there is no way to filter out or shield vibrations. On carpet this isn’t much of a problem, but wood, tile or concrete floors? That’s a different matter. You switch static electricity issues for vibration issues.

Despite my desire to buy premium cables, I am *NOT* going to pay money for a thing that lifts cables off the floor, but I did want to find out what the deal is. So…I made my own. We had just moved and I had a ton of strong, multi-ply cardboard. I borrowed Synergistic’s design, as it was the easiest to make. I started lifting my cables off the floor. I have wood floors and the subwoofer does a darn fine job of creating plenty of floor vibration. I couldn’t find any data to support whether certain materials make any difference. Best I could find was that the material shouldn’t be conductive. Cardboard isn’t very conductive; it also isn’t very pretty. However, I am not going for looks. :)

My conclusions are thus.

Does it make a difference? Yes, but there are some provisos, a few addendums, a couple of quid pro quos.

First off, all it does is expand your soundstage a little bit. It doesn’t increase or change any frequencies or alter your sound’s clarity or reduce noise.  

Second, it’s most effective if you lift *ALL* your cables off the floor and not allow any part of a cable to touch the floor.

Third, this includes power cables, and interconnects. I suspect that if you have massive 10 and 8+ gauge power cables, those would benefit the most.

As a side note, one riser fixed a problem I hadn’t realized I had. The DBS battery pack on one of my Audioquest cables was weighing down on the RCA connection. When I was able to straighten the cable out, the RCA connector straightened, and I got a bit of a fidelity increase. I hadn’t considered that the weight of anything hanging off a cable could pull the cable out of the socket enough to alter sound quality. Go fig O_O

Anyway, there you go. Go forth and discuss or in some cases troll, because hey, it’s the internet! :D


Previewguakus
This subject has already been amply covered; but I’m sure there are some that won’t mind regurgitating previous opinions.
It’s usually not a slap you down improvement but it’s a improvement. All small improvements add up. It’s another veil being lifted from the music.
 I had a friend  build my risers. Made out of ceramic with a special coating on them. I paid  $3 each. Many years ago. Had about 100 made.I heard the improvement when installed in my system. One of the better tweets 
All the really great systems I have heard use cable lifters. I put mine in thirty years ago. They are ceramic, like or are for high voltage power lines. They cost maybe $20 each. I had read articles about the magnetic fields around cables and the why it matters and realized that neat clean cabling does make a little difference… as do lifters and that little differences add up.

I am having another direct line put in to my amp to help get all my cables into shape. I also realized that when you talked about systems over a hundred thousand it includes mine… Makes me feel good. I remember when I was in college and I was irresponsible and bought a $250 Marantz integrated amp. What a long continuous and rewarding journey it has been over the last 50 years to get here.
Not at all. Just the right amount. Good work. Just one thing- the leap from your cardboard ones to thinking that is all there is.   

Cable risers like all components are not created equal. I've been using different versions since my first crude experiments like yours more than 30 years ago. You are right, they do not make that big a difference in lower end systems - or even in quite good systems when not done very well. Yours were not done very well.  

When done really well, I have now had several different people hear clear difference- not subtle, clear - when just one cable elevator is removed and put back in. There are 4 per side so to hear just one, and to have them say even just the one was not subtle, well you do the math.   

Even your simple ones can be improved a lot and for cheap. You stumbled across the usual reasons but haven't thought them through very far. If vibration is a factor (it is) then you want the cables to lay on something like a spring that will isolate them from the floor. The easiest cheapest solution is a rubber band. Get some rubber bands, cut some notches into your cardboard, situate the cable so it stretches the rubber band. The band should be strong enough to hold the cable up but still have some bounce when jiggled.   

Much better than cardboard are ceramic insulators. Found on eBay search ceramic insulators and look for ones similar to Cable Elevators brand shape. Should be around $20ea or less. Do the rubber band trick on those it will look like this and be a lot better than what you are doing now.  https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/8367   

Good work trying stuff out. Too many think they already have it all figured out. Sadly they give advice aplenty even on stuff like this they haven't ever tried. At least you tried. Now keep at it. Remember I started 30 years ago. Yet I invented the rubber band trick only last year. However much you think you know there is always more. 

This is not just me saying this by the way. Read the comments on my system page. More than one has mentioned the above cable riser demo.
@millercarbon
Thank you! 

I actually started off with extremely crude versions that I cut out using a pair of scissors.  I had to use packing tape to maintain the stability of the legs as the weight of my power cables were bending them over.  The more I worked at them, the more I began to think in terms of engineering and busted out my drafting supplies.  I drew out the design in terms of actual lengths 4" x 5" with notches one inch in on either side and continued the "V" cut on top. The notches are tapered so that when I insert the feet, the tension tightens as it continues up, removing the need for packing tape, which causes static. :) Then, weirdly, I realized that triangular feet were better than rectangular. Didn't see that coming, but it makes sense in how it offloads weight.

Then I got more creative.  Based on the setup of my particular system, I needed risers that didn't just hold cable.  I had power bricks that needed to come off the floor. So I created risers that are flat-bed, but with teeth on either end.  I also created longer feet so that two to three risers could be fastened.  This holds up the brick and the large plug and then finally the beginning of the cable. I also had to create a special one for the Kimber Palladian, since it has a massive foot long contraption attached to it.

My experiments aren't done, for sure :).  I am actually thinking about getting a 3D printer and make them that way.  Experiment with other weight bearing designs and heights. Maybe even ways to deal with cables that hang down and touch cabinets or desks. 
Several experienced reliable listeners have told me fishing line from the ceiling is awesome. But that is a bridge too far even for me. But it got me thinking, why? The cables wind up the same height from the floor. Fishing line stretches, and from the ceiling would effectively isolate like a long thin spring. Springs are excellent by the way. A rubber band is functionally a spring. That was my reasoning and it totally works. All my cables are isolated this way now and it is much better even than the ceramic insulators. One future project is a jig to hold phono leads with rubber bands so they don't touch anything thus isolating them from the environment and at least as important, from transmitting vibration into the tone arm.

Speaker cables have at least four different sources of noise and distortion to control- vibration, static electricity, dielectric bleed, and RFI. That is a tall order but if you study my system you will see I address all of them in one way or another. Each individual one makes a difference I can hear- and not just me others do as well.
Idle hands are the Devil's workshop!
I really like the Audioquest Fog Lifters in MY system. YMMV.
I can’t install cable risers as a portion of the speaker cables are crossing the pathway where people will walk across it. The cables need to touch the ground, flat on the ground to prevent people from tripping over them.
best to get DBS packs on a stable surface, easy to make extension cable to do so, IF factory cables not long enough. 


@tomic601

Agreed. That's sort of what I get by saving money buying their 0.65M lengths. :)

In my previous house it wasn't a problem because the computer was on the other side of the desk I was using.  In this new house with a new desk, the computer is on the opposite end and created some tension issues.

This was part of the reason I changed out the cable for a longer one.  Except this time, I went with Synergistic's Foundation cable. It's still burning in but it sounds as though it will surpass the Yosemite's performance.  :)  

If you look at my system page, I show a picture of some cable risers that I made myself.  I used ceramic electric fence insulators with 3/4" hardwood dowels and number 33 rubber bands for the suspension.  The 4x4" wood platforms sit on rubber feet.  I glued the dowels into the wood platforms.  Having a table saw and drill press I was able to make 24 of these in a couple of days.
I doubled up the insulators for my interconnect cables running from the preamp to amps so that the cables run neatly side by side.  I also use them for the speaker and power cords to the amps.
I started with just the insulators directly on the floor and I could hear an improvement.  So I came up with this idea to look a little more finished.
@tonywinga, ingenious design, very well done ;-)
@lak
Beautiful system and clean. :)

The issue I have is that I don't have any straight runs. Everything has to fit under a desk, so it has to snake around. 

I also wonder if in my next design, if I should add rubber feet to further absorb vibration?

Definitely build a prototype and audition it vs your current design. Can't hurt to try it and have some fun at the same time. 
After testing cable risers in my various systems many years ago I'm a firm believer in using them.
@tonywinga Very nice system photos!  Looking at your DIY risers, did you experiment with not having parallel cables running so close together?  Nice, out of the box thinking!
tonywinga,
Very nice system and room. You have the same column lamps that I have. 
Thank you. No, I have always run the cables in parallel. The risers space the two signal cables 1/2” apart whereas before the risers the cables lay side by side. I try to keep power cables distanced and at right angles to the signal cables. I am using Purist Audio Design cables. They are very heavy so I needed the risers spaced close together. They are spaced 14” apart. I did not want the catenaries to grow too large. The lamps create a nice mood. Last spring I showed a picture of my system to Alan at Hifi Buys in Atlanta and he asked me about those lamps. In August I went there to pick up the Niagara power conditioner and saw that he now has our lamps in one of his showrooms. He has a great store by the way.
Those lamps give such great ambient light, and so many choices. They beat the heck out of the paper shaded ones that I had and they are much more stable on their 4 small legs.
@millercarbon


I am surprised the lava lamp doesn’t have a transformer that degrades the sound in some audible way.   
No transformer, ordinary light bulb. Not even on the system circuit.
Ok then… I was pretty sure you would have thought that out. 😊