Newbie Q: speaker cable length? Different OK?


Hi. This is a complete newbie question. I've ordered two 10' amp to speaker cables, but I really need 15' on one side. Monoprice (for better or worse) is willing to RMA the cable(s). Should I go with two 15'? Or is simply swapping out one 10' perfectly acceptable for signal?
donzi
This question has been discussed and debated in a number of past threads. For my opinion, see my posts here.

The bottom line to my posts in that thread: While there may or may not be sonic differences between the two alternatives, even if there were differences in your particular application it would not necessarily mean that the equal length alternative will be better. See the posts I have referenced for further explanation.

Regards,
-- Al

Take the long view.  Your system will not remain static in its needs.  A 15' speaker cable will not sound different than a 10' and later you may have need of that 15' length.  Plus, who is going to purchase a used pair of 15'/10' speaker cables?   Hummmmm?

Technically it's OK no biggie especially if you're purchasing unterminated bulk wire. If you're purchasing terminated cables than they will be harder to sell if you need to change.
If you're purchasing terminated cables than they will be harder to sell if you need to change.

Change? Who changes their speaker cables? ;^)
Thanks much, all. (with some humor.) Al, I’ve read your posts, and they make the issues clear. Thanks. The ones I’ve purchased are these. Pretty beefy; some 7mm cable itself (17mm with insulation). So signal loss within the cable should be pretty low. I just wasn’t sure if there would be some kind of feedback incompatibilities.

The new one is $10 more, and Monoprice’s RMA is an unexpected great thing, as it allows me to position the amp in a much better, cooler place). So, I imagine that it comes to a decision of whether or not $20 more for a match pair is worth it. --But probably no need; as you say, jmcgrogan2, I expect these cables and speakers to be sitting right where they are for a long number of years to come. Czasivey, you’re right; I may get the bug to upgrade these cables one day (God forbid, I get drawn into this upgrade loop, although I think it has already happened.)

And on that count, let me ask, from the link, sufficient enough cables? Or is there a likely upgrade path in the future? They do seem beefy to me. Speakers are Thiel 3.6 (though I may have blown them already -- painful separate story), and Bryston 4B SST amp.
jmcgrogan24,977 posts01-12-2016 12:17pm
If you're purchasing terminated cables than they will be harder to sell if you need to change.

Change? Who changes their speaker cables? ;^)

Hah I don't coz I use wires with bare ends. I believe they're Kimber 4TC
And on that count, let me ask, from the link, sufficient enough cables?
I looked at the link, and they strike me as a reasonable choice, at least to use initially and perhaps over the long term. I’m somewhat puzzled, though, by the references in the description to a conductor diameter of 7 mm, and an outer diameter of 17 mm. The description also states that the conductors are 12 gauge. A 12 gauge copper conductor has a diameter of approximately 2 mm, as can be seen in this wire gauge table. Also, looking at the illustration the outer diameter looks to be a lot smaller than 17 mm, as the diameter of the tips of the banana plugs shown on the cable is probably about 4 mm, and as best as I can tell the outer diameter does not appear to be more than perhaps 2 or 3 times that amount.

In any event, while the impedance of your speakers, as shown here, is very low (less than 3 ohms throughout most of the audible frequency range), the resistance of 30 feet of 12 gauge wire (the combined length of the + and - conductors in a 15 foot cable) is about 0.05 ohms, which seems reasonably small even in relation to the low speaker impedance. (The corresponding figure for the shorter cable would be about 0.03 ohms if you go with the unequal length alternative). However it seems conceivable that the unspecified inductance of the cable, in cables of those lengths, may be enough to present an impedance in the upper treble region that is audibly significant relative to the low impedance of the speaker at those frequencies. (The impedance presented by an inductance rises in proportion to frequency, and the inductance of a cable rises in proportion to length). The result of that might be a very slight softening of the upper treble, which in the case of the Thiels that I’ve heard and also read comments about could very well be a good thing.

And then there are the myriad other possible cable effects audiophiles like to discuss and argue about, and that are much talked about in marketing literature, but whose quantitative significance is debatable, and which in some cases may not even be quantifiable, such as "strand jumping," metal purity, "skin effect," "dielectric absorption," "time alignment," "characteristic impedance," antenna effects, etc. In any event, it seems safe to say that the bottom line on those things in any given application is unpredictability, so IMO you have made a reasonable choice. Other opinions will certainly differ in some cases.

BTW, if it does turn out that your speakers have been damaged, and if it appears that a particular driver or drivers has/have been blown, you may want to give Bill LeGall at millersound.net a call. He is the best in the business when it comes to repairing speakers, and he is also a pleasure to deal with. Typically just the failed driver(s) is/are sent to him; shipping the entire speaker is usually not necessary.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al

Thanks Al,

Among all things, that was most comforting to read of the Bill LeGall lead. That gives me a great option, and relieves my growing concern that I may have damaged what could be a vintage, difficult-to-fix set of speakers. We shall see if they are, once I get this finally plugged together. But at least I have options. The guy does indeed seem to be a treasure. (And in my old stomping grounds, no less.) 

Yes, who knows where they were getting their numbers. I just measured them, and each of the cables, red and black, are about 6mm -- including insulation. It was the outer cable that was about 16mm. --Actually, they'd written it accurately; I misread it.
Perhaps I will take them up on the option to return both and go with two 15's, in that there just might be a future upgrade day.
OK; thanks for the clarification.  So when they referred to the diameter of "individual conductors" in their description they were referring to the diameter of each conductor (+ and -) **including** its insulation.  And when they referred to the outer diameter they were referring to the diameter of the outer jacket which surrounds both conductors over most of the length of the cable.  Makes sense now.

Regards,
-- Al
   
A 12 gauge copper conductor has a diameter of approximately 2 mm, as can be seen in this wire gauge table.

My kind of chart! :)
Yes, Al, to me, too. I felt kind of silly when I figured it out. I still had the 7/17mm figure in my head, and I had the cables in my hand!

Cables should always be the same length.
Wondering about the bare cables, since both amp and speakers will take a bare wire connection, is there any reason not to consider simply going to Lowe's, and buy something like this, plain wire? That example, a 6 gauge would yield like a quarter the resistance of the 12 gauge. (How'm I doing, Al? <grin>) Both speaker and amp would probably take down to a 0-gauge, in terms of size. Is it possible to simply wire them with such cable? (And the "non-metallic" reference, I presume to mean non-shielded, right?)

@czarivey
 is this the type of solution that you're referring to that you use?
Or this -- although I have no idea what THHN wire is.
http://www.lowes.com/pd_539969-295-20494145___?productId=50101716&pl=1&Ntt=6+gauge+insulated...

(not that I need 500 feet.)
A few years ago, I "upgraded" from Audioquest Type 6+ cables to Speltz anti-cables.  The AQ's were 12 feet each, and since the left speaker is considerably closer to my equipment rack than the right speaker, I had an "excess" of about 6 feet of cable on the left side.  I described this situation (during a very nice telephone call) with Paul Speltz, and he taught me that 6 feet of cable for the left speaker and 12 feet of cable for the right would be fine.  So, taking his advice, I purchased a "custom" pair of anti-cables, and they have been working perfectly in my system ever since.
That example, a 6 gauge would yield like a quarter the resistance of the 12 gauge. (How’m I doing, Al? <grin>)
Right you are :-)

In the context of wires such as these examples, that are intended for AC power distribution, "non-metallic" refers to the sheathing that surrounds the conductors, and the designation THHN defines certain characteristics of the insulation. I believe that the commonly used Romex NM-B is an example of non-metallic ("NM") THHN wire.

There have been a few reports I’ve seen over the years from audiophiles and at least one reviewer I can recall about having tried some forms of Home Depot or Lowe’s wire as speaker cables. My somewhat vague recollection is that the results in most cases were nothing to write home about :-)

Also, I would expect the four-fold reduction in resistance going from 12 gauge to 6 gauge (or for that matter any reduction relative to 12 gauge) to be overkill in nearly all applications, at the lengths you are dealing with. Including a speaker application such as yours, where the particularly low impedance of the speakers makes cable resistance more critical than it would be in most other cases.

Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess as to how well or poorly such wires would synergize with your particular equipment. But FWIW my guess is that using wires not intended for speaker cable applications would be a longshot at best in terms of optimizing the sonic return on your cable investment, even at their modest price points.

Regards,
-- Al

Interesting. I wonder what the difference in composition would be between "speaker-intended" wires, and AC? Yet, that anecdotal "no one raved about them" is telling. Still, I would wonder. Copper is copper. Extruded is extruded. Just wondering out loud.
@adam18 , with your conversation with Paul Speltz, are you recounting that simply different lengths are fine? Or is that combination of 6'/12' (e.g., 7'/14') being some kind of acceptable harmonic, or something like that? 
@adam18 , would you consider the Speltz anti-cables worth pursuing? Recommended (particularly when you consider what I'm using now/returning)?
Donzi, I beleive I use bulk KImber 4tc unterminated cable. Using unterminated at least will give you a possibility to cut the longest one before you decide to sell. I didn't sell mine for over 12 years.
Interesting. I wonder what the difference in composition would be between "speaker-intended" wires, and AC? Yet, that anecdotal "no one raved about them" is telling. Still, I would wonder. Copper is copper. Extruded is extruded. Just wondering out loud.
It’s probably not possible to define a general purpose answer with any certainty, but presumably the reasons relate to some combination of factors such as those I cited earlier whose audible significance is not well established in a quantitative manner. And also in a lot of cases to differences in inductance, especially if (as I indicated) the impedance of the speakers is low at high frequencies and/or the cables are relatively long.

Regards,
-- Al

Another point of view on cable length !
http://www.chord.co.uk/help-and-information/speaker-cable-guide/getting-the-length-right/
And another!
/www.cambridgeaudio.com/blog/speaker-cables
Hi Donzi ..... I made an error in my last post.  The lengths I'm using are 6 feet for the left speaker and 9 feet for the right. As far as your second question, I definitely recommend your looking into the Speltz anti-cables.  Terrific speaker wire without the inflated cost of a lot of the other stuff out there. Lots of discussion about anti-cables on the internet .... search around and have fun ! For my personal taste, with my equipment and in my room, everything just simply sounded better when I replaced the AQ's with the Speltz wire.  For an excellent answer to your second question, give Paul Speltz a call.  You can learn a lot by speaking with him about your own particular concerns.  He's a great guy.  By the way, I have absolutely no affiliation with him or his company ... I'm just a very satisfied customer.
Adam, I did check out the website, then called. And you're right, he's a great guy. Talked at incredible length, and he seemed to be in no rush to jet me off the line. I ordered speaker wire today, Level3. Ironically enough,  went with two times eight feet. I figured out a different amp placement that's in the middle. So the whole question is no longer an issue; although you're right: He did say no big deal -- although only with HIS cables, no big deal. Thanks again for that lead.
Hi Donzi ..... Congratulations !  I'm glad to have been able to help you out.  The Speltz Level 3's are supposed to be really great wires, and I'm sure you'll be happy.  Please post your impressions once you've listened to your favorite music through your newly connected system.
OP, sorry I'm late to the party, but my 2 cents would be I don't understand why anyone would purchase speaker cables longer than what is needed.
For example; my amp is approximately in the middle of my speakers. My speakers are about 7' apart. My cables are 5' each.
From your initial post, how are your speakers setup to require 25' of total cable length?
@adam18 Sorry for the late reply. I'm reviewing this old post, and realize I never answered. You'll find this interesting, I've also become a huge Paul Speltz fan. I love the setup I have now, and the speaker wires. But what is interesting is that I upgraded the RCA interconnects (and only Series 1). And at that point the whole system came alive -- just on that IC change. I imagine that was the last of the weak links. One of my audio sources, TIDAL lossless streaming, has a section of their website to see if you can pick out which A/B choices in each the six samples was the lossless example. Try as I might, I could never hear it -- until the installation of the Level 1 IC's. At that point, I instantly heard six out of six. So yeah, thanks tons for putting me on to this
And @markeetaux , at that point, I had the amp set up in the right-hand side of an entertainment center, and because it was mounted there up high, it took about 5' to go to the right speaker and maybe 15' from the left. Shortly after this point, I decided to relocate it to a different section of the center, in the middle (down low). So that whole "different length" thing was resolved in favor of two 8' lengths. Thanks all.