Need Good Advice - Speaker Cable

I have an Audio Refinement Complete driving Soliloquy 5.0 monitors and a Rotel 855 CDP. I've had them a year hooked up with well seasoned original Monster Cables. The last couple of months, I've been auditioning speaker cables to get rid of some grime in the highs and some thinness to some vocals.

The system with my Monsters is actually quite pleasureable. It has a vibrant, room filling, holographic kind of quality that is very exciting even at low levels. Bass is very good and the midrange can really be wonderful with terrific tone and color to the music. Highs can be very transparent also.

I've now tried in my system Transparent Audio The Wave 100 (lifeless and veiled sounding), Analysis Plus Oval 12 (pretty good resolution and good purity, but too rolled off sounding, not exciting), Mapleshade Golden Helix (amazing stuff really, very pure high end, a bit too bright, some sibilance and some nasality to vocals). Just received and now listening to Monster Cable Z-1 (it has the expansive Monster sound that I'm used too, fair resolution, decent bass, but some grime in the midrange so far).

Almost everything has a cleaner high end than my old Monster's, but nothing is as exciting, enjoyable and colorful as they are. I was thinking of trying a low to mid priced Nordost cable next.

This business of testing cables is still fun, but I'm not sure when/where it will end. Can someone who is familiar with my experiences give me some direction?

Hey Chris; all that you are hearing isn't just from the speaker cable.(or caused by)--Get a Rega Plannet or 2000 in the loop and see if I'm right. All the pieces matter. You don't mention ics either but they matter too.---Like they say the biggest room in the world is the room for improvment.
i added a power conditioner,chang3200 that helped with a bit of top end grunge,took a while to break in,,im sure theres better PCs out there ,but the 3200 works well in my modest system,,
Hi Chris,

In the budget cables, I have always liked some of the older Audioquest stuff. I originally had AQ Crystal as my introduction to decent but cheap cable. Currently have some midnight and cobalt versions unused in the basement. Audio Advisor often has close outs on some of their more recent stuff.

Good luck and enjoy your experimenting.
At this point, you might consider build your own speaker cables. That might be more fun to try. DIY cables are relatively fraction of the cost of any decent cables.
Try Cardas Neutral Reference. It has a very balanced sound. The Cardas family as a whole has a pleasing, warm character. I think the Nordost would sound too lean in your system. Kimber Monocle or Bifocal XL would also be good choices, but may be too expensive. Acoustic Zen Satori would also be worth a try.
What is your budget?
Budget is about $200 for an 8' set, I will buy.

The Rotel is hooked up with Transparent 100 Interconnects. In my view, my source components and amplifier are capable of everything that I want. Between the various cables, the system has had great bass, great midrange, very good resolution and low level dynamics, and an extended-sweet-transparent-clean high end. For me with my system, I will have reached my nirvana if I can put it all together with one (or a combination of) cable. I'm 80-90% there with my old Monsters.

I agree with Pcs. I have tried cables from several respected makers and the cables that seemed to make the most significant difference were Audioquest. Crystal IIs and Slate come to mind as the cables that seemed to provide clean open sound for me. Another favorite is Canare 4S11, what a bargain. Good luck.
The AQ cable is a good cable, but I would lean to the Cardas Neutral Reference as that cable has sounded so right in so many systems I think anyone looking for cable should at least hear it. Jeff's Sound Values frequently has some used/demo cable at reasonable prices as do other dealers...none of which I am affiliated with. Jallen
Check out Olympus Audio ... ....they have an ad here for the Athena, their top of the line, that comes with a 40 day money back guarantee. I have tried something very similar to their new Apollo, which is right below the Athena, and it is sweet, sweet, sweet. They are rather heavy though so it's best to tie them up to relieve some of the weight. I use tie straps. A very heavy 6 gauge cable with very low capacitance. This was the last missing link in my system. If you call or email I'm sure you could cut a better deal than their listed prices. Very friendly people.
Also wondering how long you burned the cables in that you were testing before deciding you didn't like them?
Lack of adequate burn-in is a possibility with a couple of them, but they were either demos or I ran all in my system for a few days before trying to draw conclusions. The differences between them were stark, with definite characteristics defining how they sounded. I don't have the time or patience to wait out any minor changes to the sound characteristics.

BTW, I just switched back to my original Monsters from the Monster Z-1's and it was immediately apparent that I enjoy the old cables more. The Z-1's were certainly more refined in all frequencies, but the old cables were punchy, very open and live sounding and incredibly solid. Definitely some upper midrange hash, but not unpleasantly so.
Nordost Flatline cables. One of the posts here noted that Nordost cables would likely be too lean sounding in my system. How about the all copper Flatlines? Without any silver do they still sound like the Solar Wind/Blue Heaven cables which I have seen noted to sound lean in other posts?

IMHO, save some $$ and take a look at Cobalt Cable offerings. I tried the cable game, and in many ways it is. From the MapleShade "wires" to anaconda looking things that felt like bending a steel bar. Went back to Cobalt all the way around. Fair prices, great quality and no "voodoo magic" BS.
To those familiar with these cables, please look back at my original post and lets me know what you think of the MI-2's for my situation. I have read that the soundstage is large, similar to my impression of my Monsters.

what about signalcable?
To the guy who owns the AQ Midnights - what were your thoughts on them? I've ordered the Midnight + from Jeffs Sound Values, but they won't be here for another week.

I've heard that they sound almost tube like while keeping the details.. I'm upgrading (I hope) from some Straightwire Sextet's that aren't bad, but hoping for an even warmer sound.
Beernut - good advice. Cobalt Cables are a good combination of excellent basic design, high quality, and good asthetics. Nonetheless, for speaker cables nothing seems to beat 10ga copper zipcord with good terminations (like WBT) for simple electrical excellence. I don't use Cobalt speaker cables, I just felt they weren't worth the expense, but I do use their interconnects and I've been impressed with them.
Tuning your system with speaker cables is a waste of time. The reason you like your old Monster Cables best just might be because they have the best electrical characteristics of the cables you're auditioning. If you want to improve your system save your money for better speakers (the 5.0's aren't bad at all, but they're far enough from the ultimate in resolution that you could get a big win from trading up), IMO.
Are you guys kidding us? Could you really distinguish any of the above mentioned speaker cables in a double blind test from 12 - 14 AWG zip cord?

Larryb, I have a set of AQ Midnights, and they sound no different than zip cord on a rather expensive system. Not a bit, but they are cool-looking. I don't use 'em - they sit in a cabinet. If the AQ's did sound "tube-like" that would probably mean they were rolling off the high and low frequencies and adding even-order harmonic distortion. How could this possibly happen? I certainly don't have a clue.
You know, I've been in and out of audio for 30+ years, starting with small advents and a Pioneer receiver. I don't listen to much live music, but I know what I like in sound reproduction. When I got the monsters 20+ years ago I could tell a big difference in the sound, and I liked it. I changed out my entire system a year ago and have enjoyed it and listened to it alot, and TUNED it to my liking with positioning, room treatment, various materials under the speakers, and various fills for the stands. Most of these changes produced a huge difference in the way things sounded to me, no question. When I started to try different wire and cable, I heard huge changes again in the sound and enjoyment of the system. Some good and some not good.

I used to A/B stuff alot in audio shops in my teens, that WAS a waste of time, and it'll drive you crazy. No substitute to spending time with the components to see which one you enjoy more.

Additionally, I certainly AM trying to tune my system, and I am being quite successful.

I just needed to get that off my I feel better...Thanks

Now, I'm going to look for comparisons between Goertz MI-2 and MI-2 Pythons before I order one of those up to try out.

QUOTEAre you guys kidding us? Could you really distinguish any of the above mentioned speaker cables in a double blind test from 12 - 14 AWG zip cord?QUOTE

Double blind, schmuble blind! I get so tired of hearing this statement. After starting with Canare star quad 4S11 and switching to my Olympus Audio Demeters I noticed a huge improvement. After a few weeks I switched back just to make sure and the 4S11 sounded pretty darn nice. Then I switched back again and the difference was evident. Double blind test is flawed big time. Listen to both for several weeks and then switch. Then switch back again. If there is a difference it will be obvious.
Dragon1952, I haven't heard anyone here advocate DBTs. Having participated in a couple, I don't like them and find them annoying. No value add. On the other hand, some of us can't hear any differences between well-designed cables, and I don't know what a "huge improvement" sounds like, but in your post sounds like the usual hyperbole. Electrically, almost nothing is better than 10 gauge zip cord with closely-spaced conductors.
I guess I should have also said that I too went to Lowes and cut up a $12 12 ga extension cord and tried it for a week. Not bad, much livelier than A-Plus and Transparent, much better soundstage than the Mapleshade, but lots of sibilance and some dirt on the voices. Yup, big difference; different than any of the other 6 cables/wire that I have tried. I threw the orange cord in the dumpster, and hooked back up my monsters...

QUOTEDragon1952, I haven't heard anyone here advocate DBTs.QUOTE

I was responding to the post 3 above mine....maybe you missed it. And I'm genuinely sorry that you've never heard a 'huge improvement' before. I hope you will someday.
BTW, I don't know about the hyperbole but I am looking forward to the superbowl this weekend. :^
Well, Dragon1952, forced-choice comparisons are a staple of scientific study of perceptual evaluations, as are double blind procedures. To do otherwise is simply unsupportable. You may dislike such protocals; they can challenge strongly held predispositions, and you may feel they are a test of your ability to discern a difference. But if you cannot consistently identify which is A and which is B in an ABX comparison, then any difference is irrelevant to you. No amount of hand waving nor hyper verbiage will impresse a technical/scientific community. Fortunately for the HIFI business, ABX comparisons are usually cumbersome for consumers to perform, so predispositions prevail, hand waving and hyper verbaige thrive.

Attempting to distinguish differences during a relatively short term experiment is absolutely beside the point and irrelevant. Who cares? That's where these tests fail to be pertinent. Preferences are the point and cannot ever be made in that type of test and environment. Some people will never understand that.
Well said.
Dragon1952 & Larryb,

If you can't listen to a passage as speaker cable is switched and identify which is which, your preferences are based on something other than your auditory experience. If you can reliably distinguish among the speaker cables, then I grant it could take substantial listening to determine which you prefer. But I'm sketpical about your ability to tell the fancy speaker leads from 10 - 14 AWG zip cord, unless the fancy leads distort the signal, i.e. provide a "warmer" sound that covers up defects by effectively low-pass filtering.

I've been a HiFi enthusiast since the early '50s, then did research in binaural auditory processing -- I was attracted by the professional audio gear in the lab, before becomming director of a high tech research center. I do love this stuff, but I recognize that mystic and lore, as well as hyper advertising plays a large role in what we hear. Certainly loud speakers, the point where electrical is tranduced back to acoustic energy, are not accurate reproducers of recorded sound, and we all grow accustomed to particular distortions we prefer. Thus, you get the tube vs. solid state, analog vs. digital preferences, and the devotion ot particular speaker systems.

Still, the challenge I suggest is can you tell the difference. If you can't, why waste money on expensive cable that might be better spent on better speakers?

It takes more than a random passage to get to know the sound of a component/cable etc. That's why, as already stated, blind AB testing is limited in usefulness and probably misleading more often than not.
My advise - try Alpha Core MI 2's. 30 day trial, money back guarantee, in your price range, no burn-in necessary. Lots of copper, balanced from top to bottom.
Larryb, DBTs do not necessarily involve random passages. You are allowed to know a change is occurring, you are just not allowed to have any other information. You can even control when a change is made.

Nonetheless, I don't make buying decisions using DBTs. Too much work, too damn confusing. But I do expect that there must be reasoning that does not violate well-proven electrical or acoustical theories regarding WHY there might be a difference in the first place. This stipulation rules out exotic cables and cryo'd electrical outlets and other nonsense for me.
I have been trying for months to find a low-priced cable that would work with my Soliloquy 5.3's and which had the high end clarity and clean midrange that my Lat International 1000-SSD's had but which were just a tad fuller in the midrange and had a tighter deeper bottom. What I found was that every time I auditioned a cable that had the bottom end I was looking for the high end was rolled or hazed. Conversely those which approached the Lat's on the top end were just as loose and shallow on the bottom. Now I am experimenting with bi-wiring with different types of cables for the high and low ends. So far this is yielding much more promising results. It makes me wonder if dollar for dollar you get a better result by mixing cables then trying to find one that does everything just right. My guess is that if you could find a single cable that would do it all, it would hardly be low priced!
Digital, I've lately been heading in a similar direection. I had interesting results by shotgunning monster cable and Mapleshade Golden Helix to my 5.0's woofer posts with the stock jumpers. What I got was just about what I had hoped for, very tight and satisfying deep bass, pure (but still a bit hot) and resolved high end, and wonderful soundstage.

When I switched back to the monsters, the bass didn't sound as punchy or in-your-face.

The next thing I'm going to try is bi-wiring Mapleshade to the low posts and monster to the highs. It seems to me the Mapleshades have quicker and more energetic deep bass, and I just like the shimmery softer quality of the monster cable's high end.

A piece of advise for the 5.3's (I had borrowed a pair for a few days), for tight bass make sure you pull them way out from the walls (my 5.0's are nearly 4' out) and use the spikes. If they seem too hot with a given setup, play with the toe-in or point the tweeters down to your chest.

Another very interesting cabling exercise was running the Mapleshades to the top posts, monster to the low posts, and shorting the ground posts together with the jumper. Without the negative jumper, the sound was rather unnatural and not involving. The jumper made things much more musical and involving, better balanced, but softened all the transients a bit too much.