How important are speaker cables to the sound emanating from the speakers?
Hello. I was just wondering what your opinion is about the importance of speaker cables to the sound coming out of the speakers, and, of course, the sound the system altogether produces? Also, what are your favorite speaker cables to use in your system?
Warmglow, my saying is "cables matter'. These days I tend to spend about 50-60% of the msrp of my components on cables, but that is my limit. But I don't advocate spending money on cables without considering the overall synergy of your system. My approach to system building is to start with buying the best speakers you can afford which you love & build your system around those speakers incl: amp(s), front end, cables, AC power, isolation & racks. Everything matters.
I personally like the sound of Jorma Design cables from Sweden. They sound natural, resolving and musical. Their top Prime cables are also a touch on the warm side and sound harmonically rich which is great with female voice, jazz and classical where they come into their own. But pop and rock are very well served also. Their overall neutrality allows them to be even handed with a wide range of music and system configurations.
I recently upgraded from Jorma Prime speaker cables to Jorma Statement. The improvement was quite startling. The Statements retained the natural sound, but sounded much more resolving & opening up a wide vista in the sound statge. They are special cables. Jorma said Statement single wires sound better than Prime Bi-wires.
Though even Jorma Unity sounds great at its price point. Unity is most reminscent of Prime in its sound signature (ie: sounds a touch warm & is harmonically rich, though not 'lush'). I use a Unity power cable with my Oppo player. But there are many other good cables. No doubt our resident loony Captain Cobalt will post how miraculous Tara Labs cables are, lol!
1)Nearly all speaker cable effects are proportional to length. That is one of the reasons monoblock amplifiers can be advantageous -- they can make it possible for the speaker cables to be very short.
2)In general, speaker cable effects will tend to be greater if the impedance of the speakers is low, or if the impedance of the speakers dips to low values at some frequencies.
3)Amplifiers which use significant amounts of feedback, have low output impedance, and have wide bandwidth may, at least in some cases, tend to have greater sensitivity to speaker cable differences than amplifiers that don't. Solid state amps are more likely to fall into those categories than tube amps.
Speaker cables can be very important, and many do sound different from each other. Modest priced cables that I like include Discovery Essential and Kimber 8TC. Both will hold their value if you decide to sell. There are some great deals now on the Transparent MM2 series now that the Gen 5 series is out.
IMO if your system isn't capable of resolving the tiniest differences it is unlikely you will hear any difference in cables below a certain price point although copper & silver/silver over copper comparisons may yield results.Of all the cables I have tried(several Audioquest mid level,Nordost entry level,Signal & Marrow)The Zero Crystal Copper Zen Acoustics got my $.
Freediver, I will politely disagree with your conclusion regarding the nature of components and benefit of cables. I have built many systems in the $2-5K range, and every one has been as sensitive to cable changes as the "big boy" rigs. No, you cannot expect precisely the same result as with better systems, but the cables do effect significantly - by that I mean easily heard and repeatable changes - even modest systems.
Two incidents to consider. The first system I tried to test cabling on was what would be a solid MidFi rig. It was nowhere in sight performance wise to what I can build now. My first cable test was some extremely thick cables purchased from a home improvement store, with such gauge that when I twisted all the individual conductors together I could barely fit them into the posts of the amp! Instantly I heard the difference between it and lamp cord, and I knew at that moment the wires are critical. That was a revelation which occurred on a system with compromised performance and with very average cable, but with large AWG.
My second "I don't believe it," moment occurred a few years ago when I had a boom box which took a C7 plug. I had just upgraded my power cord for Sonos to an aftermarket one, an Audioquest. I wondered if the difference in a power cord to a boom box could be heard. I knew enough not to discount the possibility altogether. Yup, it did make the boom box sound different, another evidence that cables matter no matter what the electronics. :)
As with most things in audio the effect of speaker cables will be very system dependent. Case in point, my experience has been the opposite of 69pete's in that in my system interconnects produce very noticeable differences whereas with speaker cables the differences are much more subtle. But to one of Al's fine points, my speakers are an easy load and impedance stays relatively high across the frequency spectrum. I use Acoustic Zen Satori shotgun biwire and find them to be an excellent all-around cable, but obviously YMMV.
You opened up a Pandora's box of opinions here ... so let me stoke it a little further. Go ahead and Google [ speaker cable blind listening tests ].
Or better yet, get a friend and some cables and try it yourself.
Those who don't like what they read will say that blind listening doesn't work. That you need to live with the component to learn all of its true nuances. Funny how we enjoy the only products on earth where blind testing isn't useful!! Yes it's true for example that a loudspeaker may reveal itself to have certain spikes or dips or anomalies only after listening to many different performances over time. But I immediately know if a speaker that I haven't heard before is great or not after 30 seconds of listening, and then further listening will reveal to me all of its strengths or weaknesses.
I myself have a handful of musical references that I have been using for 20+ years, and so when I listen to a new piece of gear using these references I know almost everything that I need to know immediately. But more often than not, I do know everything I need to know and further listening proves no help. And I work in an industry that requires me to do a lot of blind audio testing on a daily basis.
So of course blind listening is useful in audio, that is self-evident, but it does sometimes require further time and repeated listening.
That being said, go ahead ... Google speaker cable blind listening tests ...
In an interview with one of the audio rags a LONG time ago the great speaker designer/builder Bill Dudleston(Legacy Audio) was asked the importance & order of components in the playback chain.His reply:1.Recordings.2.Speakers.3.Electronics.4.Cables & tweaks...Apparently he,as I,feel cables are of limited importance.
Legacy recommends Morrow cable, and uses Morrow SP7, $1499 a pair, at audio shows. Clearly, while Dudleston might view cables as the the least important part of the playback chain ( and I agree ) he nonetheless finds speakers cables to be very important...
I don't look to professional studio personnel and technicians to know how to set up a fine home audio system. I advise not to listen to them. Even the venerated Alan Parsons showed his gross ignorance in this respect, as I commented on years ago.
Bill Dudleston at my request upgraded my Legacy Whisper DSW speakers to "Clarity Edition" as an experiment regarding efficacy of internal speaker wiring. You can read about that also at Dagogo.com. In brief, he also suggested a caps change to Clarity Caps (no relation to Clarity Cables). He wasn't expecting much, but was impressed by a measured 2dB improvement in the bass. Some would suggest neither the caps nor the cables should have made a change. It did, measurably. :)
any naysayers who think that speaker cabling does not have a profound effect on
the sound quality of a system, I would recommend trying different brands in ones
have found speaker cabling offers a huge increase in quality of sound. If you
ever have a chance to listen to Klee Acoustics speaker cabling,please do
so...you will be astonished by the overall improvement to your listening experience. Highly-recommended.
That's a great link dsper. I haven't been to Roger's website in years and had forgotten about it.
I especially like this tidbit: "When there is an audible
difference in speaker wire due to wire capacitance, it can be interpreted as an
improvement when one wire appears to have more clarity but is actually altering
the sound and departing from accuracy. "
Whether one chooses to believe what these guys say or not, you owe it to yourself to try some blind listening tests. The placebo effect is stronger than anyone wants to believe (check out the Dunlavy link), including myself sometimes, and I have witnessed it firsthand in other listeners literally thousands of times over the years.
I don't look to professional studio personnel and technicians to know how to set up a fine home audio system. I advise not to listen to them.
I have to assume that you meant me Mr. Schroeder. What a ridiculous statement! I guess that you haven't noticed that most of us here on Audiogon don't try to disparage other members' opinions, we just respectfully state what we believe for ourselves, but without suggesting that anyone else not be listened to.
What bad form.
You have no idea of who I am or what my capabilities are. If Alan Parsons said something ignorant, that means that all music producers can't be trusted with home audio? Give me a break. Some can, some can't.
Most well-known producers aren't famous because of their audiophile chops - they may have none - it's because of the performances they inspire or from the aural effect that they create, the records themselves may sound terrible from an audiophile perspective. Think Phil Spector.
But some producers are first rate audiophiles - otherwise you would not have any audiophile recordings. Because creating an audiophile recording is never by accident - it is really, really hard to do. That's why there are so few of them. And yes, these audiophile producers can wax eloquently about home audio.
Oh and by the way, "a fine home audio system" is ridiculously easier to set up than a competent recording studio system.
studioray, I ask that you not take my directive personally. I have for some time now eschewed the advice of those who prompt the acceptance of blind testing and the conclusion of cables being of insignificant/marginal importance to the sound quality in comparison to components and speakers themselves. I find this to be common in pro sound.
Perhaps I read your intent wrong, but there are a fair number of people who enter discussions on efficacy of cables and direct attention to blind testing promoting a conclusion which precludes cables as an efficacious means of improving home systems. Most of us here are familiar with blind testing, so you didn't really add much to the discussion. Perhaps if you were to discuss your experiences and conclusions rather than try to stir things up to foment argument I would have reacted differently.
I have had many contacts within the audiophile industry with persons on the pro side, and read a fair bit on ABX. I also had the pleasure of conducting some blind testing for myself when I reviewed the ABX Comparator from Audio by Van Alstine. That settled the matter for me; I was able to consistently identify cables in blind testing. In fact, cables were easier to identify than amps! So, since that time I have little patience for the entire "blind testing shows there's no difference in sound," thing.
So, my conclusions and advice has little to do with you, per se. You simply gave me the opportunity state my perspective. I should add that I do not turn away from listening to those on the pro side entirely. I have had many wonderful discussions with people in the industry who work both the home and pro side of audio. They are a wealth of information, and as you say some of them have been marvelous to interact with. So, my first statement was too strong; I should have limited it to cables.
However, I also see an influence from the pro side that prompts audiophiles to think that quite inexpensive amps, DACs, etc. are as good or better for building home audio systems. I have not spent as much time on that issue, so I won't comment now. Perhaps as time permits I will do as I have on other topics such as "Burn In" and conduct comparisons to reach more firm conclusions.
Anyway, there's enough room under the audio tent for divergent opinions. Of course there may be some producers and engineers who excel in home audio, but I aver that if they have dismissed cabling as a critical element of a system they do injustice to the task. If their conclusion is that any cable will do, imo they should be avoided. There are all manner of discussions and admonitions here about reviewers, dealers, manufacturers and individuals. Pro audio is not exempt.
Now, one last note; I have no interest whatsoever to debate the merits of blind testing or cables. I have shared my experiences and people can read it for themselves. They can also read my many articles at Dagogo.com on reviewed cables, which include technical discussion from the designers, some of whom are engineers. I allow the cable manufacturers to explain why they made their design choices. Obviously, every cable company� thinks they have the solution, but collectively there is a wealth of information on what influences cables' sound, and how it relates to setting up home systems.
I noticed a big improvement by selling my speaker cables, removing my speaker binding posts, and wiring the crossovers directly to the amp outputs with short (18") Cardas copper litz wire (11.5gauge) in twisted pair. Sounded much better than my expensive 10' speaker cables.
- Its been well established in the prior posts herein that speaker cables matter. The naysayers can have their opinions, and let's avoid those stupid cable war posts and respect differing opinions.
- for the many, the sonic benefits of different cables (thst is all of different brands AND different price points) are very system dependent and one size does not fit all.
- As you move up the quality build kit strata with the increased resolution capabilities to make it work, the added cost gear may make it worthwhile to move up the speaker cable selection pricepoint in lockstep with ICs and power cables.
Conversely, there is also no guarantee that new Brand X at a loftier pricepoint will actually deliver that quantum leap ethereal sonic performance benefit. Brand name alone and price point alone are no guarantees that you will like the outcome - full stop . You HAVE to audition yourself in your OWN system.
i will rehash a prior post to serve as a litmus test that cables DO matter. and you don't need to resort to any blind test as the only silver bullet poster child for an actual validation in an audition shootout / bake-off of contenders and pretenders.
in brief: NORDOST ran a repeated 3-day audio expo demonstration symposium in Toronto on that very issue, it was attended by thousands . It was also attended and written up as such in a Canadian AUDIO mag
He wrote an article that highlights his litmus test on the effects of swapping in better cables as reported by him reporting on the shared observations of the thousands of attendees at the TAVES audio expo in Toronto in Nov 2014. With reference to the above , ... his conclusion summarizes it well.
"... I had a chance to sit in on a couple demonstrations in the Nordost room, giving my feet a well deserved break. I’m very familiar with the benefits of high quality cables and use a full Nordost Heimdall 2 loom with my reference two-channel setup. That being said, I always find the Nordost demonstrations to be an “ear-opening” experience.
Michael Taylor from Nordost demonstrated the significant sonic benefits of replacing an OEM cable with a Nordost model – in particular
1) a swap of a single USB cable, from OEM to Nordost Blue Heaven ($250/2m), to Heimdall 2 ($500/2m) and;
2) a swap of a single RCA interconnect, from OEM, to Blue Heaven, to Heimdall 2, to Tyr 2 and finally Valhalla 2.
Along with convincing the audience in the room that cables DO matter, I’ve now got the bug to upgrade...."
You are going to have to experiment yourself to find the better mix for your system gear .
Getting rid of the binding posts and wiring directly is an interesting idea. Next step would be getting the crossover out of the cabinets. That's what Michael Green did with his top of the line Chameleon speakers, other Chameleons had usual arrangements.
I did remove the crossovers from the boxes. I built separate enclosures for them (after replacing the cored inductors with much larger air cores there's no way they'd fit in the box anyway). The crossovers in the enclosures were then wired directly to each corresponding driver with twisted pairs of Cardas copper litz (11.5ga for woofers, 15.5ga for mids, 17.5ga for tweeters). This increased the volume in the cabinets enough to let me add additional bracing to the boxes to stiffen them further and keep the same internal volume after bracing. BTW, these are Infinity RSIIb speakers, if you're curious.
You’ll know it when you hear it. Right now I’m amazed at how some Zu Event speaker cables are measuring up in my system. Not touted as much around these parts as other big name brands but that’s perfectly fine with me.
dave_b - Many cable designers other than Bruce Brisson have patents on cable design, including: Noel Lee (Monster), William E. Low (Audioquest), David Magnan, Ray Kimber, and George Cardas to name few.
Also, Brisson did not "start the whole high end cable thing" - Brisson started the whole "pay obscene amounts of money for high end audio cable" thing with the MIT music hose. I need to pull out my old TAS issues to double check, but if I recall correctly, there had not been an interconnect that retailed for more than $100 / m prior to the time the MI-330 came out - the MI-330 retailed for what was then an astronomical $350 / m.
Generally, the first recognized "high end" cable was the Polk Cobra speaker cable from Japan (which was demoed at the
June 1976 Chicago CES), followed shortly thereafter by Bob Fulton's cable. Kimber Kable and Audioquest also predated MIT by several years (Brisson licensed his first designs to Monster in 1981, and did not start MIT until 1984)..
Brisson was not even the first to use networks to reduce time misalignment / phase shift in speaker cables - Matt Polk got a patent on that basic idea in 1979 (although Brisson used a different implementation).
Please note I am not saying MIT makes bad cables, just there are many other talented designers out there, several of whom predate MIT.
I'll take your word for the detailed history lesson, but as I recall Brisson's work for Monster produced the Monster Interlink Reference cable which was a watershed for audiophiles at the time and used group delay/Varilay construction? Bruce then formed MIT and has continued to advance the state of the art to this day....I'm not talking Hocus Pocus New Age crap like Cardas and the like, but demonstrable improvements in signal transmission. Audioquest and Transparent have some good cables but MIT really blows out the walls and the dynamic constraints inherent in other cables, not to mention the tonal accuracy preserved via MIT cables.
rzado may be right, but the first specialty high end cable I remembering hearing of (via Gordon Holt at Stereophile) was the Fulton Brown, in '75 or so. I may be mistaken about the exact timing, but I seem to recall reading about the problems with the Polk cable (it's extremely high capacitance caused many amplifiers to become unstable and oscillate) after the Fulton was introduced.
Peter Aczel from Audio Critic did an issue on speaker cables, showing that the resistance, capacitance and inductance of a cable, in combination with the electrical characteristics of the amplifier and speakers, can have very large effects on frequency response, which is clearly audible. For example, and I hope I'm getting this right, cables with high inductance will, in many systems, cause a dip in high frequencies. Unfortunately, given the variables in speakers and amps, one can never tell what the outcome in your system will be without audition.
Roger Sanders makes a speaker cable optimized specifically for Electrostatics. He explains the difference between the electrical characteristics they present to a power amp versus that presented by non-ESLs (the voltage versus current paradigm), and the related characteristics the cables should have to optimize the amp/speaker interface.
Most of us here are familiar with blind testing, so you didn't really add much to the discussion.
Too funny Douglas Schroeder! You ask that I not take your first post directed at me personally (the one in which you advised that I not be listened to), and then in the same breath proceed to say that I "didn't really add much to the discussion."
LOL! How many times can you be insulting in the same thread?
Whether you have patience for blind testing or not does not excuse good manners. I've been reading the Audiogon boards for over 12 years now and find your deportment to be at odds with most others here.
And I could make the same indictment about your post not really adding much to the discussion because most of us here are familiar with how important many people say that cables are.
But were we addressing "most of us here" in the Audiogon community, or the original poster?? The latter I think.
Studioray doth protest way to much! DS said his piece and you responded. Get over it. FYI, most cables merely alter frequency response depending on design and materials...the rest is marketing! EXCEPT for MIT AND TRANSPARENT!! They actually improve the signal transmission and reduce frequency anomalies and noise. Everything else is just wire.
Here's a quick low-budget story that may or may not help out.
First off, the system tested:
VPI HW-19 Mk 4 turntable with Benz Micro SE cartridge Jolida Mk2 phono stage with upgrade 1 LSA Statement integrated Acoustic Zen Adagio speakers Clear Day Shotgun speaker wires Rotel 1072 cd player (not tested)
I recently received a pair of 5' Belden 8402 IC's (which began life as industry standard microphone cables) terminated with Switchcraft 3502AAU RCA connectors. I had gotten the idea from this blog here:
which I heard about from an audiogon member's own blog about his foray into building tube amps, etc.
Tonight I compared the Beldens (~$90) with my existing Blue Jean LC-1 (~$40) and Acoustic Zen Studio One IC's (~$200 used). Note that the Blue Jean IC's are built with Belden wiring. The AZ is proprietary to Mr. Lee and his company.
Results: Noticeable though not overwhelming differences. I tried various configurations running from the VPI to the Jolida, and from the Jolida to the LSA. The best combination was the LC-1 from the VPI to the Jolida and the AZ from the Jolida to the LSA. A big, warm, open sound. The Belden 8402 were good, too, but a little brighter and a bit more compressed soundstage than the previous configuration.
However, I will say that if someone had sat me down and, without me knowing, played a good recording with the Belden 8402's, I wouldn't have been too disappointed. Yes, they were a bit more thin and had less presence, but they also cost significantly less than the AZ's.
All of these are low-budget cables and I can 't compare them with MIT or Transparent or Cardas or even AZ's much higher-priced IC's. I imagine those would make a palpable difference. Still, I can say that cables, for the most part, do make a difference, however subtle.
Interesting simao, been through the budget cables myself and had some great results. I wish the MIT's weren't so transformative for my system...but I've been down the denial path as well and had to buy my way back up the cable chain!