Super long speaker cables

Sean, I am curious after one poster mentioned the problem of severe quality loss with a 50 foot speaker cable. I'd like to hear your ideas on what to do in a situation like that.
I knew I was supposed to post a question for Sean. Thanks.

Sean, I know you will cover this but, since you're a SS guy, remember that some of us use Tube amps (which I assume was probably the greatest part of my problem.) :-)
I suggest you review this comprehensive article on Roger Russell's McIntosh history website. This article goes into great details and what McIntosh did to "test" wire to determine the facts. A matrix with speaker wire gauge and recommended max lengths is in this link; you'll have to wade through it to find it. Much interesting information.

Don't spend thousands on wire; let people that want to throw away money do that.
I just read the pages on Roger Russell's website.

I'm sure that he's a very nice man.

However, the data from 1983, and the testing methods used(with other "heavy" cables in the signal path between the relays and the speakers), and the wires being tested, and the very basic resistance being the only thing measured, is quite dated, very incomplete, and actually virtually useless.

We now know that many other factors come into play in cabling, with impedance, capacitance, shielding, geometries, dielectrics, and other factors being in the mix, which are ALL now known to have influence on the sonic performance in the audio range. All of these things are measurable, and have been measured and determined to have effect, and it is this mix of things in each cable brand(and some others perhaps not yet discovered or measureable) which will cause the sonics of different cables to be different.

I'm sure that he was trying to be helpful, and gave it a good shot for what was known at that time. But, time marches on, and just as people once thought that the heavens revolved around the earth, we now know otherwise.

For long speaker cabling, any wire will make sound come out of the speakers. How good you want the sound to be, will determine whether simple zip cord is sufficient, or if you want to use something that is more expensive(and possibly better). If you have reasonably good resolution in your system, different cables will sound different, and you need only to try some to hear this.

Since most commercial brands of speaker cables are quite expensive in long lengths, perhaps it would be a good idea to investigate some DIY cable recipes that have a good reputation, and you can make them yourself at lower cost.

The main conflict(IMO) about cables in general is typically not so much that they sound different(which they obviously do), but that in some consumers' opinions, they should not cost as much as they do. I'm sure that if all cables cost under $100, there would not be so much contention about the obvious performance differences. IMO, the contention is based around some people's recalcitrance to pay large sums of money for what they consider to be only "wire", which in their minds, should not cost much at all. And perhaps they are right in certain regards.

Even being a proponent of "boutique" wiring myself, I can see the need for keeping costs low when you are having to buy a very large amount of it. This is why I suggested the DIY route.
If you analyzed the field of medicine about 300 B.C. you would have a very low opinion of doctors, but now the medical profession is highly respected. With cables I'm sure that most of the more expensive offerings are snake oil, but that doesn't mean that there aren't more expensive cables with some legitimate benefits.
Here's another good source of information for anyone who's interested in accuracy rather than coloration from their cables:

As for Twl's rather astounding rewriting of engineering history, there have been absolutely no major breakthroughs in scientific knowledge about cable performance at audio frequencies in the last two decades. Everything he mentions was well known and understood decades ago.
Pabelson, apparently it was not known by Mr. Russell.

I was attempting to not appear "heavy handed" in my post.

A couple of references like "now known", and "time marches on" hardly accounts for an "astounding re-write of engineering history". Perhaps I should have written, "not known by some people in audiophile circles".
I don't know, Twl, Russell seems to have a pretty good technical handle on his subject. I wouldn't assume he didn't know about something just because he didn't mention it. Perhaps he is well aware of what you seem to think is missing, and just discounts it as an audible factor. As would anyone with his training and experience, I should think.
Boy, i had to open my big mouth on this one, didn't i??? After typing out several different responses, i find it very hard to cover all of the bases in a "somewhat" easy to follow along with manner. I kept having to go back and alter / add bits of info every time i did this, making the posts less and less coherent while trying to fill in all of the blanks. I know that if i don't fill in all of the blanks, someone is going to step in with a pointer to demonstrate all of the flaws that i leave behind and rap my knuckles with a ruler. None the less, i'm going to give this a try in a bit. I may opt for a "section by section" series of multiple posts as i think it will make things both easier to digest AND allow for questions, corrections and updates as we go.

It really is very hard to try and post something like this as it is easy to get side-tracked on specific parts of the subject while overlooking / neglecting to mention other important aspects or variables that can arise. This is where outside help & questions can make a big difference.

Other than that, i would like to add one comment to the Twl / Pabelson / Roger Russell debate taking place. That is, i would think that most of Russell's info and opinions are based on his results of testing using Macintosh electronics and McIntosh speakers. Given that their amps have an inductive output transformer on every amp made back then, and their speakers use multitudes of drivers with a complex crossover circuit, i can see how subtleties in speaker cabling could get lost in the mix. After all, if you swamp a circuit with a million different parts / ingredients, the percentage that each individual part / ingredient plays becomes less and less of the end result.

As such, the use of a single full range driver with no crossover as driven by an amplifier that is directly coupled ( no output transformer ) will be FAR more revealing of sonic subtleties than a more complex amplifier / multi-way speaker interphase ever could be. This is because there is less to get in the way of the signal, resulting in a "purer" look at the actual characteristics of the cables under test.

As a case in point, Stehno, Twl and i have all run single driver "full range" speakers before. With that in mind, we've all come to the same conclusion. That is, speaker cabling that has a high strand count sounds measurably worse than cabling using a very low or single strand count. Is this simply a coincidence? Given the differences in our systems and our various responses to different types of gear, i think not. In fact, Stehno and i have both agreed that there was a specific speaker cable that we had both tried independently of one another and had absolutely identical, albeit horrible, results with. I'm pretty confident that if Twl had tried this speaker, using completely different amplification and a different speaker design, he too would have had a similar response. The fact that this cable has gotten fabulous reviews, both in glossy rags and here at Agon and over at AA, makes me cringe everytime i think about it.

What i'm getting at is, would Roger Russell have a different point of view and / or achieved different results if the variables were altered? Quite possibly. Will we ever know that? Probably not. As such, Roger is simply reporting his results and opinions based on the testing that they performed under those specific conditions. Whether or not those conditions and the results obtained are worthy of "universal application" is up to what one wants to believe as an individual. My beliefs, speaking as an individual and based on testing that i have conducted and experienced, are completely contrary to what Mr Russell states in that article.

The fact that Dunlavy's speaker cable test results basically mirrored those of McIntosh's may have something to do with the fact that Dunlavy's speakers used something like 30 parts in each crossover network. Like i said, the more ingredients in the pie, the less you can tell what each ingredient as an individual part is contributing to the total flavour as presented to us. As such, keeping the amplifier / speaker interphase simpler may be the key to a higher level of "positive" results during blind listening tests when comparing various speaker cables. That, and finding suitable participants with good ears. Sean