Speaker cables: $3000 or $380. What do you get??


I happened to be patrolling the cables category today to see what was on sale below $600 for speaker cable in VGC. I was not surprised to see speaker cables costing up to $9000 for a 8 to 10 foot single wire pair.

This question has been ask before on this blog: So what do you get for $3000 per 8 foot wire versus $380 pair of speaker wire, say like Anti-Cables Reference 3 or Audio Art SC5E against Audience or Transparent Audio, or even Kimber Kables 3038 speaker wire?? Is there a significant and marked audible difference in the sound?? Does it depend on the speaker, e.g. Wilson's Alexandria III, or Focal's Grand Utopia?? and the ancillary electronics to drive these beast??

Like to hear some opinions from members who have owned some of the higher priced cables, but possibly switched down to cables between $1000 to $1500, or possibly less.
sunnyjim
>> So what do you get for $3000 per 8 foot wire versus $380 pair of speaker wire...<<

You get a much smaller bank account...

-RW-
So what do you get for $3000 per 8 foot wire versus $380 pair of speaker wire, say like Anti-Cables Reference 3 or Audio Art SC5E against Audience or Transparent Audio, or even Kimber Kables 3038 speaker wire?? Is there a significant and marked audible difference in the sound??

Sometimes.

Does it depend on the speaker, e.g. Wilson's Alexandria III, or Focal's Grand Utopia?? and the ancillary electronics to drive these beast??

Most definitely.
Here we go
My attitude, is that there is definitely a law of rapidly diminishing returns. Whether a $3K cable is worth it over a $380 cable is entirely up to you, your system, your room, your sense of value. Do I think there is a difference? I consider myself lucky in that my ears are not acute enough to hear them after a certain point. And if I can I always ask myself if the gain is worth it. For me, the sweetspot for cables is about $1K. Anything above that only yields marginal gains to me. Do I think anyone is foolish for spending $10K on cables? Nope. To each their own because I am sure there are folks who think I am nuts for spending $1K on cables or for buying an expensive car...to each their own.
While I have no experience with $3000 or other expensive speaker cables, from a technical standpoint the response by John (Jmcgrogan2), which I know is based on a great deal of experience, makes perfect sense to me.

I would add that given the system and component dependency of cable performance; the technical interactions that are involved between cables and the components they are connecting, which generally don't have a great deal of predictability; and the general lack of quantifiability that seems to characterize cable "science," I wouldn't rule out the possibility that in some cases the $380 cable will provide better results than the $3000 cable.

Regards,
-- Al
The more you spend, the less you get. The question is how much is enough? Only your ears and objectivity will know that Jallen
"Speaker cables: $3000 or $380. What do you get?? "

You don't get either one. The reason is simple; you don't know what you are doing. It would be better for you to get a decent pair of entry level speaker cables ($75-$150). When you can answer the above question yourself, you'll be ready to move up. Otherwise, its most likely you will make a mistake and waste your money.
I have owned high priced Nordost Valhallas and Siltech Gen.5 and lower priced cables from Ridge Street, Pure Note, and Morrow. There is a sonic difference depending on your system components and your hearing acuity.

Regarding Price: Most of the name brands sell through dealers with markups are around 50%. The smaller outfits are direct and can offer high quality for half the price.

Bottom Line: You must audition cables in your system to see what works for you.
While there are many low and medium cost cables that I do like, and many expensive ones that I don't, unfortunately the cables that sound best to me in my system tend to be more expensive than not. The good news is that my purchased used Transparent Super MM2 cables will hold their value very well for a number ofyears, so the cost is nowhere near as great as it seems.
Here is what a noted engineer and speaker designer has to say on the subject: http://www.roger-russell.com/wire/wire.htm.

It's your money and you will have to decide for yourself.
Sunnyjim,

I just re-read my post from before. It sounds really mean. I didn't want it to come out that way, I was in a hurry when I typed it out.

"You don't get either one. The reason is simple; you don't know what you are doing."

Let me put that in context. I mean that literally and not anything negative. Audio is a hobby, that, like many other hobbies, takes a lot of learning and experience to be successful. When you get into more expensive cables, you really need to know what you are doing. High end cables are one of the more advanced challenges you need to deal with as an audiophile. I believe that inexperience is why so many people become very frustrated/negative when it comes to cables.

Relying on reviews and other peoples opinions, is like an accident waiting to happen. Its possible you may make a lucky guess. Aside from that, though, there really is no easy path to take. If you want to do it right, you need to learn and gather experience on your own. If you are not sure about something, its no big deal. Its better to just take your time and make a purchase only when you feel you are ready.
Jallen.. You know what you are doing. The more you spend, the less you get is right when it comes to wires. But... if one has the funds, why not experiment?
I'll expand on Zd542's post a bit more.

Experience is the key. That is, when you have heard enough gear in your home and know exactly what type of sound and presentation you like and what you hope to gain with a step up in class/price (for lack of better reference), then you're ready to consider it.

Also, as you're gaining experience don't look at at cables as a solution to a problem. See them as refinements. Consider your components first.

I have not been in this hobby since 2006, but am considering a return...dear god. That year I owned Acoustic Zen Hologram II, Audience AU24 and Ridge Street Poiema speaker cables at the same time and was constantly comparing them. At a certain point I thought, "this is frickin' ridiculous!" So I never spent above that level.

And now I want to do this again?
Here is a better link from Effischer's post above. I clicked on it and got a 404 message.

http://www.roger-russell.com/wire/wire.htm

I don't think it is a bad thing to ask people about their experiences with cables to get an idea of performance. This audio hobby is pretty rough if you can't get to a dealer who has all sorts of speaker wire for you to audition. I've done my share of buying and trying and then re-selling and it took a toll on my listening as well as my wallet. Trying to remember and document findings when certain changes and wires were put in began to suck the joy out of listening to music. One guy I met got so burned out with noting changes with cables and tweaking he stopped listening to music and his system for 2 years.

I've stopped wondering what makes a cable more expensive than others. If you have a set of speaker cables in your system and your system sounds good just sit back and enjoy. You can drive yourself mad trying to figure out what makes certain cables more expensive than others. Lots of cable manufacturers have all sorts of costs and other factors that go into their pricing. If you can find a cable maker that shows cut-outs of what their cables look like inside in addition to details about cable construction that can give you some insight into what can make the cable so pricey.

Also SunnyJim why not try meeting up with Stewart Ono (unclestu) or Walter Liederman (Underwood Wally) in your neck of the woods? They have lots of experience with selling all sorts of cable etc. They could give you insight to your query.
Sunnyjim, after reading this thread, I briefly looked at some of your other threads about cables. This statement of yours in one of them just jumped out at me when I read it.
The issue is which model of these brands provides the most bang for the buck, that is, transparency, musicality, and smoothness, and most importantly speaker compatibility.
If you are still using the Acoustic Zen Adagios, then for synergy and compatibility, nothing can be better than the AZ cables. The Adagios are wired internally with Satori, and I have to believe that in the design and “voicing” of the speaker, Acoustic Zen would have used their own cables. It just seems like good common sense to use AZ cables, and stay off the speaker cable merry-go-round.

I also have speakers from a company that offers speaker cable, a somewhat plain, inexpensive one. So surely something high tech and more expensive would be better. Well a few years ago, I tried numerous cables to over $3000 per pair, and the system always sounded good, but never eliminated that desire to try something different. Then why not try the cable from the speaker company. No doubt it is very logical to have the same wire from the amp to the speaker terminals, then through the cabinet (especially a tower) to the actual drivers. After installing the cable, I did experiment with a few interconnects, found one that worked well, and for quite a long time have just spent time enjoying the music. The upgrade bug was exterminated.

Agree that for the majority, Zd542 is correct, “there really is no easy path to take.” However with the Adagios, there is an easy path. You just have to decide to take it and stay on it.
To ZD542, Yea you did come across kind of hostile....I was going to recommend Valium. Nah, I know you meant well.

Nevertheless, for those who may see me as novice, I am not. Since 1988, the year I bought a real serious high-end system. I have used Monster Reference speaker cable(wire hose girth) MIT (model # unknown; however it sounded like crap) Analysis Plus Oval 12; Acoustic Zen Hologram II; currently, Audio Art SC-5(standard NOT SE version) which is quite good, but I can hear things missing that were available with the AZ Hologram II. I sold those to prevent nuclear war on the home front, as everybody including the cat was tripping over them

I have auditioned Clear Day budget level speaker cables made by Paul Laudati and they sounded very good, but have not considered his higher priced speaker cables. I have also considered without audition: Analysis Plus Oval 9 Black; Anti-Cable's new Reference 3; Morrow's SP4; ( warned by members of a long, long break-in time) Crimson Cable( has loaners) and recently mentioned in another thread, Crystal Clear wire.

To TLs49. You are right about my old thread, and I think your(?)recommendation of going with AZ Satori or Hologram. You said it was a "no brainer", though sometimes in my audio nervosa I tend to make no brain or brain dead decisions.

I am definitely a subscriber to the school of diminishing returns. BTW, I do still have the Adagios, and only want the best cable within a budget, for this extraordinary and often overlooked speaker. Lastly, I tend to be more of an experimenter whereas other members make solid and studied choices in the selection of components, cables etc. I am happy in my madness, like Captain Ahab, chasing the white whale of perfection; but, Tls49's point "that there really is no easy path to take" is well taken Thanks to all who responded so far. I will read each reply. Jim
Sunnyjim,

Sorry again about that. Anyway, it looked from your first post like you didn't have a lot of experience. Just to sum up, the main point I was trying to make was that in the end, the final decision to buy cables (or any other component), should be made by using the skills and research that is yours. If you listen to a component and are having a hard time judging it, or you are just not sure, I say hold off. Also, there's absolutely nothing wrong with seeking the opinions of others. Its a great way to learn. Quite often, others can point things out that you may have missed or even introduce you to some new products. Balance is the key. I'm no different than most people here. I've made more costly mistakes than I can possibly remember.

Jedinite24 recommends Underwood Wally. I've dealt with him a few times over the years. I can recommend him as well. He's a great guy to deal with. Another retailer that I can't recommend highly enough is The Cable Company. I consider them to be my most valuable resource. They lend out cables and components for you to try in your system before you make a purchase.

The Clear Day Double Shotgun are excellent and no risk return policy. Oval 9 Black are quite good too. Many many good cables that are good values, just depends on system, room, and personal preference. Many brands do get better and better as you move up the line, only you can determine when to stop...
BTW, I do still have the Adagios, and only want the best cable within a budget, for this extraordinary and often overlooked speaker.
I would love to hear a reason how any other cable could create better synergy than the AZ Satori, since this is used for internal wiring. Think of this as taking 2 components, speaker and cable, then making it one, a speaker with a dedicated connection to the amp.
I am happy in my madness, like Captain Ahab, chasing the white whale of perfection
Nothing wrong with that, and anyone here that says they haven't spent time sailing those seas is lying. I just think the fishing should be in different waters, interconnects, amp, preamp, source.
Tls49's point "that there really is no easy path to take" is well taken
Let's give credit to Zd542, he actually said that. I said you have an easy path, but just have to decide to take it.
Here's my experience, without singling out preferred brands for you to try:
years ago (I mean, like around 1987 or 1988), I sat in my listening room all weekend with a pile of speaker cable and my pair of old Quads, hooked up to a good small ARC tube amp (I think then, it was probably a d-70mkii) and just listened. The cables had been loaned to me by a dealer, probably 4 or 5 different brands. I would change cables and listen; then change and listen more. At some point, I came to a conclusion about what sounded most 'right' in that system with its strengths and obvious weaknesses. (No deep bass, for one). I can't remember which cable I chose at that time or whether it was on the pricier or cheaper end of the scale. The moral was that different cables sounded different.
Fast forward many years later. Same experiment, entirely different system, different room. The changes were noticeable, not in my imagination. I chose the cable that sounded best in my system again. Wasn't necessarily the most expensive (particularly given what some of these things cost today).
Recommendation: deal with the Cable Company, or a dealer who can supply a variety of wire for you to try with the understanding that you can buy used or at a significant discount. You'll probably save money in the long run by buying the cable that sounds best over the widest variety of material on your system, assuming there are no major deficiencies in the chain. You can thus avoid the endless cable swapping/upgrading process, which will cost more in the long run.
A couple other suggestions: most cable manufacturers recommend doing the entire system using their product, even if it means cheating by using a lower rung of the product in one part of the system to save money. I found that having the same cable throughout made everything a little more consistent, given that these things tend to have a 'house sound' or signature.
What works in one system and may be the 'best' in some absolute sense may simply not work in yours to maximum effect, for the money.
A long way of saying 'synergy' but I thought it was worth the extra words.
If the system is fundamentally good, there is no reason why those cables can't hold you through various component upgrades. And, when you have the money, you can also upgrade a rung in the brand's hierarchy. (In fact, I think some manufacturers offer such 'trade-ups' giving you additional financial incentives).
Looking at it from a distance, you could add up the retail price of the cable and say it is an exercise in stupidity, but the improvements, made in the considered way I described, in my system, were worth the investment and other than upgrading the cable from the turntable to the phono stage recently for the 'best' one from that particular manufacturer, I've been extremely satisfied.
When I had Dali MS4's I tried the Dali speaker cable, the same wire as was used internally, and though I liked it, I much preferred the Transparent Ultra XL.
Nevertheless, for those who may see me as novice, I am not. Since 1988, the year I bought a real serious high-end system.
You certainly fooled me.

This question has been ask before on this blog: So what do you get for $3000 per 8 foot wire versus $380 pair of speaker wire, say like Anti-Cables Reference 3 or Audio Art SC5E against Audience or Transparent Audio, or even Kimber Kables 3038 speaker wire?? Is there a significant and marked audible difference in the sound?? Does it depend on the speaker, e.g. Wilson's Alexandria III, or Focal's Grand Utopia?? and the ancillary electronics to drive these beast??
Just to show number of years of experience <> competency. If you are clueless, you will always be clueless.
Knghfi. Thanks for being less understanding than other members. I am sure someday your karma will come back on you. Should I ask you out of the most humble deference the span of your audio experience?? For, the record my obsession with this hobby began in 1972, and I have heard more speakers and components than you can imagine.

However, all this geologic time involved in this hobby has taught me one thing:is to have fun, and be surprised. I don't measure my audio enjoyment with either a slide rule or the newest soft ware package. I like experimenting and don't follow the audio playbook to happy and final listening. If that was for the case for most audio files, CES, Newport, Chicago, Munich and all other high-end shows would be peopled by sexy female reps under 30 years old and no one else

I think this may be the wrong hobby for you, why not try your hand at "derivitive" investments on Wall Street; those were calculated by a higher math known only by the crooks that created them

Enough said; I think you get my drift, or does it seem that you were fooled again??
I want to thank "almost" every member for their constructive suggestions and advice. Jim
When I first got all my Ayre equipment, I naturally wired everything with Ayre cable (which is made and for all practicality Cardas cables). One day a friend came over to listen to my new system and brought a pair of Audioquest Sky cables which REALLY opened up the system. Not wanting to just use Audioquest, and now inquisitive that there might be something better out there than even Sky, I tried many, many brands and eventually wound up with Anti-Cables which just sounded best to MY ears and to the ears of my wife and neighbor. I encourage all to listen to everything and find the best cable for your system.
Nice looking system; I wish I had that amount of space. Anti-Cables is a definite possibility. They now offer upgraded models, the highest being the Reference 3; the speaker cable is surely not expensive and worth a try. My only gripe is the cable is like coat hanger metal. Thanks for the input.

Did you ever try the Clear Audio Double Helix, marketed by Mapleshade Audio, an internet company?? Several members have recommended the speaker wire. Unfortunately, they offer no discount or specials Thanks for the input, Jim
I have two pair of the Mapleshade Double Helix Plus, and they are outstanding, worth the cost over the basic Mapleshade cables. They come up on Audiogon semi regularly and are an easy sell if you don't like them. Their ribbon jumpers are also excellent if you biwire.
J135, I have heard this before about the Double Helix; does the "plus" version worth the extra money?? In what way are they outstanding?? Hopefully, they are very musical and make you want to listen to CD's and LP you have not played in a long while. Thanks for your input. Jim
yes. it will be system dependent, the pay off is wonderful music! As a owner of Transparent cable/cords, this line of products does get better as one goes up the chain.
Jedinite24...the Russell article is cool. My experience with better wire goes back to when I first saw Monster cable in a club that allowed an audio geek to wire everything with it. Looked GREAT. It was years later when I noticed my Vandersteen 1Bs sounded better when I scored my first set of AQ cables, then the flood gates opened for wire freaks. There are now too many options backed by psuedo science, myth, and, if you search hard enough, some truth. Since I remain a cheapskate I've found stuff that works great and looks cool by buying used but well regarded wire when I think I need it, and ignoring tweeks that make no sense.