Speaker Cable Terminations

Can anyone explain the proper way to terminate speaker cable? Please include pros and cons of termination methods including soldering vs. crimping and benefits of spade lugs vs. bananas, etc. Also where to purchase effective but inexpensive terminations.
You are asking too much, it seems to me, especially with your vague reference to "effective but inexpensive". There are many different approaches to all the questions you ask, with each cable manufacturer having slightly differing philosophies. My own feeling is that crimped spades are the most popular method, but my advice to you is to experiment for yourself, and decide what seems best.
My belief is that cable termination is a convenience feature, so you choose the type that you like best. I prefer soldered bananas because they are easy to connect and (with the right plugs) don't come loose. Some people like spades. Some people like to crimp. I think that crimped terminations fall apart too easy (except maybe with the $100 WBT connectors). Just choose what you like best and don't worry about it.

If you get aftermarket cables, many come preterminated from the factory. Even if you buy bulk wire like Kimber Kable, the dealer should terminate them with the connectors you choose to buy. (Unless they are lazy cheap bastards, which many dealers have become).
Ernio...you sound like a college prof. asking an exam question. Please fill out the blue book entirely in neat legible blue ink only. Get on the web, buy some WBT connectors and some Monster and Kimber stuff. Get a soldering Iron, some tools some wire etc. and have fun! There are several sites offering do it yourself info on cables and terminations. Read a lot first and then take the plunge! That is how I did it. It may not be right, but it worked for me because I had FUN doing it.
Personally, I like spades. I think there is more surface area and you can tighten the terminals to make very good contact. Since I don't have an oxygen free environment to solder in, I prefer crimping when making my own cables. As to connectors, well, if I have someone else making the cables (such as Audioquest) I use there connectors. For my own DIY I tend not to spend as much and use Vampire connectors. The WBT are much better, but far more expensive. The Parts Connection has probably a dozen different spade connectors which range in price from a few dollars to the WBTs. The people there are also very helpful. If you are going to solder, get some of the WBT silver solder. Good luck--and have fun with it.
Let's see:

Solder vs Crimped: Crimped is supposed to better. You have to have a good crimper and the right connectors for crimping. Solderd works well (I have done a/b testing with the result that I can not tell the difference) if you use proper technique and good solder.

Spades vs Banana vs Direct: Spades seem to get the nod for best connection. A lot also depends on your speaker terminals and amp terminals. The cheapo ones never give you a good connection. I love the Cardas post that allow you to tighten these right. Kimber makes a super spade that helps to prevent loosening. I've not tried it but sounds like a good idea to use with those cheap binding post. I think with good Cardas post and a wrench, the Cardas spades are hard to beat.

Cardas can be bough through Welborne, Percy and many others. Are they cheap? Not really but I hate working with cheap stuff and when I take the time to build something like to work with good tools and good parts. Just a personal preference no matter what the sound.
For speaker connection bare wire will have the least negative effect on the music signal. Distortion is produced every time the music signal has to jump from one material to another. Placing a spade or banana plug in the signal path can only add distortion.
I agree with Onhwy. Unless you do lots of system reconfiguration and need the convienience, save yourself the headache and clamp down bare wire. You can bypass all the arguments about what effect, if any, various conection methods have on the musical reproduction, to say nothing of the potential costs.
Hi Ernio,

I work terminations mainly with heavily silver plated wire (see feedback under Valueaudio for some comments about our workmanship. If I go with unterminated cable, I feel much more comfortable going with a heavy silver plating or an all silver cable, since conductivity of silver actually INCREASES if it oxidizes. Copper basically goes to crap conductivity-wise if it oxidizes. With copper, it's usually better to give it a good air-tight termination, or tin and solder the ends, most importantly to help prevent oxidation.

The other benefit of termination is that the cable becomes a component in and of itself...detachable, reattachable, without needing to cut off messed up old strands of wire to do the reconnection and get rid of the oxidized mess with bare copper.

Spades are generally better. The metals available to build them are of purer conductivity. Avoid nickle plating, which is often used under gold plating to make it look pretty and shiney. It's poor sonic material.

Bananas often are made of brass, and nickle plating is more common. Some are made of Beryllium Copper, like the Nordost "Z-Plugs" and AudioQuest's similar, but crimpable design. Nordost actually recommends their bananas over their spades for sound...I believe it is because of the lower mass more consistant with the aggregate diameter of the cable. This makes more sense to me at low levels, such as interconnects, where as speaker cables are a much higher current design, which can benefit from the mass.

I prefer a very good solid crimp over soldering. Good crimping leaves little reason to solder, as even the best solders only have about 16% conductivity compared to a crimp. A good crimp makes an airtight connection. Not all spades or bananas are appropriate for crimping only, and may slide off, but a good solid barrel on the spade can make a terrific crimp connection if done correctly. Without spending a small fortune on spades, where the money can be spent better elsewhere, I like the heavy ones from AudioQuest that retail for $15 for four, made with long grain copper and either silver or gold plating. I've not yet come across a better crimpable spade without spending far more. They are a bitch though...takes alot of pressure to put on because they are so thick, solid, and heavy. I've busted a few 8 gauge crimpers over time installing them.

You must think through the process of termination very step by step, or you will find yourself forgeting to slip a shrink tube on before installing the spade...stuff like that. Try it out on some cheaper wire with cheaper spades until you get the hang of it, and control your heat tube shrinking without burning or discoloring it from too much heat. Be careful if cutting through outer jackets not to cut through to the inner insulation around the wires. Their are special tools that can adjust the right thickness to cut.

I disagree with the fellow that thinks a dealer should terminate your cables for free if you buy it and spades. Good termination work can easily take 45 min. to 2 hours per pair, so unless they are making alot on the sale, don't expect a quality job for free.

Jeff www.value-audio.com
Read the Audioquest white paper & then read MIT's Bruce Brisson's conflicting opinions regarding crimp / vs. solder. Then flip a coin.