Silver vs. Copper, Effect of length

What are your experiences with changes in speaker cable between silver and copper and longer vs. shorter lengths?

I recently replaced a pair of 2m Wireworld Eclipse III ( copper) Speaker cables with a pair of 1M Gold Eclipse III (silver). The new cables have about 120 hours on them and are not an improvement. Bass has been reduced and soundstage depth has diminished. The system is brighter and more detailed as expected with the switch, but it was not a good trade off. My
My experience ( so far ) tells me that you are better off with longer speaker cables and shorter interconnects. Besides my listening tests, there are also many technical reasons why this might work better. I don't know if you re-arranged your system to do this, but those changes should also be taken into consideration.

Every speaker cable has a characteristic impedance to it. Most of them are quite high compared to the output impedance of the amplifier and the nominal impedance of most speakers. As such, a longer cable with its' naturally higher impedance would act as somewhat of a "buffer" to the amp. This could be ESPECIALLY beneficial if your running a very low impedance speaker or one that is highly reactive ( i.e. e-stat's, etc..). If you happen to have a speaker that is both very low in impedance AND highly reactive, changing speaker cables can make a HUGE difference in performance. Tube amps are also HIGHLY sensitive to speaker cable changes, as their output impedance is already high to start with.

All of the various reasons presented above are why some cables work in system A but fall down hard in system b. It's all a matter of trial and error, system by system. Sean
Ignatz, Sean; I'm sure you both know that conventional wisdom says you should use the shortest possible spkr. cables and long ICs if necessary. Both R. Vandersteen and S. McCormack recommend this. But I'll say that I really like my 14 ft. Syn. Res. spkr cables and 4 ft. Syn. Res. ICs.>BR<

But, I'm moving to bi-amping and can go to 3 ft. spkr cables, but 5M ICs. I'm planning on staying with my same brand ICs and spkr cables, just different lengths. Sean, any advise? BTW, I've come to respect your articulate and technically compelling posts. Thanks. Craig
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........sorry about the gibberish. Craig
Craig, WHAT gibberish ??? I thought that was your best post EVER !!! : )

"Conventional wisdom" says that short interconnects and long speaker cables are better, regardless of what Steve Mc and Richard Vandersteen think about it. This should be quite obvious for several reasons. I know that i'm not alone in this "theory", as Jon Risch, John Curl and more than a few other esteemed electronic "gurus" have voiced similar opinions.

First of all, signals coming out of the preamp / line section / passive or source are very low level as a general rule. With that in mind, here's why i think what i do:

(1) Longer lines mean increased line loss. This results in less of the original signal making it into the amp. When you've only got appr. 1 to 2 volts to play with AT THE MAX and your typically dealing with millivolts, EVERYTHING counts. Compare this to the output of an amp, which has voltage and current to spare, and you'll quickly understand why low level signal losses are more important.

(2) Increased line loss means less low level resolution. In effect, dynamic range is reduced because the threshold to overcome the line loss has been increased. It is the low level harmonic overtones and background signals that give us ambience cues. This is how we achieve "soundstage" and "imaging". Without these cues, which are typically weak or lower level in nature compared to the fundamental note or signal, you lose the sense of space and timing of the reflections present on the recording. You end up with less "air & ambience" and more " left / right" stereo.

(3) Once the signal is lost BEFORE major amplification, it is lost forever within that system. After all, if it didn't make it to the amp, HOW could it make it to the speakers ???

(4) Longer lines increase the efficiency of the interconnect to act as an antenna. This means the potential for more RFI, hum and microphonics introduced into the system. Also take into consideration that this "antenna" is now directly connected into the input of the amp, where it can be increased in great magnitude.

(5) It is relatively easy for electrical noise or an RF based signal to modulate or "ride on top of" a low level signal coming out of a preamp. In comparison, it is much tougher for that type of signal to overcome the much higher voltage & current signal coming from the amp to the speakers.

(6) Some preamplifier designs can not drive long cables with good stability. This is especially true of cables that are "reactive" in nature. This means "high capacitance" cables, i.e. cables with foil shields, multiple wires with heavy braiding or twisting, etc...

On the other hand, the reason why longer speaker cables are preferred are as follows:

(1) The signal has gone through the entire amplification chain and is at its' utmost in strength. If there is any loss, it would be negligible in comparison to the damage that would be done earlier in the chain when the source signal is very weak in comparison.

(2) Just as an amplifier generates voltage and current, so do the "motors" in a speaker. This is referred to as "back EMF" and why a high damping factor in amplifiers is considered "good". Longer speaker cables help to attenuate these reflected waves before they return to the amp due to the line loss mentioned above in the interconnect section. In effect, they can act as a "buffer" with a "tough load".

(3) As this goes somewhat with the reflected emf statement above, speaker cable length can be used as an impedance transformer. This helps to stabilize the load that the amplifier sees when connected to a "reactive load", such as e-stat's, etc... Not only is the amp loading into the speaker, it also takes into consideration the nominal impedance of the cable being used. Since most cables are WAY, WAY above 10 ohms, the cable itself contributes to the overal "load" and dampens the reactance at the amp. In specific cases, using higher impedance wire or longer runs can actually IMPROVE system performance as documented by Nelson Pass. Just for a point of reference, most Monster type cables and even Nordost type designs range in the 100 ohm category. Kimbers are measurably lower with Goertz cables having the lowest nominal impedance that i know of. Supposedly, Dunlavy's are quite low also, but i've never seen that verified.

(4) Amplifiers already have a massive mixture of capacitors, inductors, impedance swings, reflected emf, etc... to deal with. What more could a few extra feet of speaker cable add to this "wild ride" of a load as compared to the basically resistive load that the preamp to amp combination has to deal with ??? We're simply trying to keep the low level signal "simple" and let the brute force of the amp deal with the "tough stuff".

As such, i hope that you can see why we might think the way that we do. We are NOT saying that a long interconnect / short speaker cabled system can't work or sound good. We are just saying that there is more involved in making it work to its' fullest potential. As such, if you HAVE to go the long interconnect route, i would HIGHLY suggest using balanced ( XLR ) cables. These should minimize the drawbacks mentioned above as long as you can find suitable cables for your specific system. Sean
Sean; thanks for the detailed and compelling argument for long speaker cables/short interconnects. I've seen some of them but not all. Now the dilemma..........thanks. Craig