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Don't know if I can top the string suggestion.
Wire is a religion, dontcha know? Can't talk about it... Like trying to describe GOD. Get ready for the holy wars to start.
But I HAVE had good success with magnet wire, available through surplus stores. Not very expensive, works well with planar speakers. Similar to what Paul Speltz uses in his "anti-cables"
Magnet wire has a thin coat of enamel baked onto the outside, so it has no thick jacket or insulation, which is a benefit in some systems. It tends to be stiff, but pliable, so you bend it into place. I believe the copper is also high purity for most magnet wire, so it's technically sound as well.
Actually, any good quality 12 gauge, high purity copper would probably do just about as well. Some expensive speaker cables actually have high resistance. This lessens the damping factor of the amp it's connected too. It can cause frequency response changes especially with speakers that are difficult loads. If you have an ohmmeter, just measure the resistance of high end wires you have around. You might be shocked to see what you're forcing your amp to drive.
In fact, you don't have to spend a lot. For instance, Look at this link at the bottom of the page for silver-coated braided wire:
The flat 12 gauge works well and is easy to use, altho it has a sticky outer surface and so you should put it in a braided cotton sheath or something. Sounds fantastic with dynamic speakers. BTW, Horizon is manufacturer of wire for several high-end brands, who mark the stuff up astronomically.
Magnet wire or braided solid copper wire is cheap enough that it's worth a try. I don't skimp on connectors, usually use Cardas solid copper, or if possible, crimp the wire directly to the speaker driver elements.
Speaking of which, I'm a big fan of long interconnects with short speaker wires. Tried both ways, and I like the sound much better when the length of the speaker wire is so short that the brand/type/composition is largely moot. How long does a wire have to be before it has an audible impact? With real short lengths, the termination is the biggest sonic factor, and as I said, I prefer none, just a straight crimp or clamp. In fact, on my bedroom system, I've bypassed both the speaker terminals and the amp terminals, so the wire is clamped directly to the output leads of the output transformers (tube amp, obviously), and to the speaker driver elements at the other end.
The whole wire thing is kinda funny. The wire you use DOES matter, but the foo-foo dust and fractured physics used to explain its effects is just too funny. Like Ben Franklin said... "Experience is a hard school, but a fool will learn by no other"
Hope this helps!
I use AlphaCore inductor 14AWG. I then unwind them into long strand of cables. I then use Scotch tape as insulator between the + and - . The sound is just slightly warm but overall not bad.
Here where you can by the Alpha core inductor:
The .1mh should make plenty of cables.
Here is a pic of my finished product:
I tried several different expensive wires, Audioquest, Kimber select, Cardas Golden Cross, and one or two others, and ended up liking Cardas Cross (NOT Golden Cross), especially in the "not bright" department. Cardas has a reputation for being warm (at least with the "Cross"-related lines), and I think there's some truth to that. The Cross wire is not inexpensive, but it is not in the thousands (unless you get a long length)-- I would say it's in the "sweet spot" of the Cardas line, several layers down from the expensive stuff, and yet actually more pleasantly balanced, for my ear.
I tried the different Cardas wires through the lending program of the Cable Company, and found those folks very easy to work with.
Magnet wire is a single wire coated with only the thinest polyethylene. That's all that is needed. All the other crap speaker makers pile on their multi thousand dollar cables, like the aforementioned Cardas line, impart distortion to the signal.
Magnet wire comes in any gauge. I use 12 gauge. I am soon to try short runs of 12 gauge polyethylene sealed ribbons.
speaker wire to my dull set of ears do not make nearly as much difference as interconnects, even though they're often enormous and may even need two people to lift! okay, maybe not now, but that seems to be the direction the industry is heading towards. btw, what speakers are you changing to?
there is one requirement though-- poorly made terminations are a disaster at either end of the cable, especially if the cable is stiff and/or heavy. i once had a spade lug barely hanging on from a well-used large set of cables, and the store had to re-attach it using as little solder as possible. and once you've used locking bananas you'll be spoiled for anything else. but i still have a set of esoteric multistranded OFC wire in the closet that i used on a pair of SF Guarneri's while i shopped for a "better" set. at a few bucks a foot they sounded fine to me. i later upgraded to transparent ref. w/MM. they look nice, but i didn't really notice a huge difference. that's not to say there wasn't an improvement, but it just was NOT a dramatic change.
I want to echo the comments about Speltz. I have tried many cheap and moderately expensive cables and prefer the Speltz over everything I have tried. You can afford to try it without penalty financially. I do not twist the wires. I tried it and went back to straight wires for both upper and lower modules of my VR-4JRs. I like his crimped on spades but also use them as bare wire. I do have to clean and treat the bare wire periodically. Good luck!
Ok, suggestions are: Alpha Core, Speltz, Guerrilla, Cobalt, MAS Signature, Naim Naca, Anticables, Magnet wire, Canare 4S11, Cardas Cross, Home Depot.
Lots of stuff. And not easy to audition alot of it. Probably need more opinions from others who might have contrary opinions on some of these suggestions.
One thing I don't want is something like Mapleshade, where the wire is fragile with barely any covering, as I don't want breakage or shorting problems. But I do understand too much dielectric and jacketing may degrade sonics.
Why can't it be easier?????
It's easy to audition MAS Signature and AntiCables since Audioparts, Inc. and Speltz each offer 30 day money back guarantees, and Canare 4S11 is only $1.04/foot. Pretty inexpensive to try. You probably spend more on dinner.
In a few weeks I'll have a pair of 20-30 foot MAS Signature available for half price if you're interested.
It's only as difficult as you make it. Pick a few and start listening.
LAT international makes a very nice set of speaker and interconnect cables; Joseph Chow at Audio horizons makes nice speaker wire as well. I have the anti-cables and in my system, or maybe my ears, I thought they were OK but let through some digital nasties that these other cables didn't. DH labs also makes a pretty decent cable.
stringreen, i must agree w/ audiofeil.
i've anticables as a 'sanity-test', and oddly they performed better than $3k cables under a diff config in my system.
but these days, they, like all budget cables i've tried, cannot hold a candle to the uber-$ cables i've had in (prana, jorma, transparent).
if your system isn't reference level, no point in buying expensive cables; but if it is, then you may very well find your biggest bang for buck improvement is indeed in cabling.
(i'll cover this phenomenon more in my review of prana cables in dagogo, due in a couple months)
In my system, the LAT international silver/copper hybrid clearly sounds better than the anti-cables - not even close. I won't spend truckloads of money on a cable, but there is a difference. However, LAT cables may not sound better in other people's systems so I won't presume that they will. Ditto for DH labs and AudioHorizons.
Before this gets off track and evolves into a pissing contest about what's very high end and what's not let me add a few caveats to my prior posts.
To begin only a few components from a handful of manufacturers, IMO, can be considered "very" high end.
That being said my list of very high end products would include top offerings from the following, but not limited to these, manufacturers (in no particular order):
Focal JM Labs
Audio Note Kondo
We could add another couple dozen I suppose and everybody's list would be different. OTOH, we could all agree that certain products are not very high end. To list names is not fair and actually unimportant in that regard.
Very high end, I admit, is a subjective, relative, and nebulous term. Id opine that less than 5% of the gear for sale on Audiogon meets my personal very high end criteria. If you agree, fine. If not, oh well.
To further clarify, there are good systems, reference systems, and SOTA [State of the Art] systems.
Although there are no hard and fast rules, I would say that a Ref. system will cost $50,000+, while a SOTA system is $100,000+! An audiophile reaching this level will spend copious amounts of time, trial, and trade-ins to reach audio nirvana. And they will use plenty of tweaks and ROOM TREATMENTS [if not even a specially built audio room]...you've all seen a few of these systems listed here.
Also, just dumping a bunch of money won't get you a Ref. or SOTA system. You can have a system that will be bettered by a system costing half as much!
To further complicate things, there are no absolutes in audio. In racing, the fastest car wins. In audio, we all have particular biases regarding what sonic signature we enjoy. It's like trying to judge the best flavor of pie!
Tweaks and cables will produce a much greater sonic change in a Ref. or SOTA system. And of course, there are audiophiles who spend more time fooling around and adjusting their systems than they do listening to music...there is nothing wrong with that. How many car enthusiasts do you know who spend more time in their garage than driving? Just enjoy, knowing that you are a member of a small, select group who is blessed [cursed?] and can appreciate the passion and magic of good sound!
LOL What was that song refrain? oh yeah, "You don't piss into the
Most of the time people spend a hundred grand on audio is because they are
in a sucker rut. My system cost less than twelve grand. Set up against one
notch less than an Audio-Note system can be, mine wins hands down. Silver
everything, oil capacitors, and a $140,000 price tag can't make up for the
power and finesse of my system.
Start with the speaker. The Apogee Scintilla is argued to be the greatest
speaker ever made. The amps I am powering it with play with it's 1 ohm like it
was a toy. My preamp, by the same builder, is second to none. I am sure of
that. At least it has trounced all comers.
My source, including an Audio Note DAC is a meager affair that has received a
great fortifying operation by the same builder. It is in the power supply, and
cap choices that make the difference.
There are relatively few outright geniuses in the audio world. Some just don't
make good businessmen. That's why you haven't heard of them, or know
their triumphs. In audio, just as with anything else, a large part of your
system success is due to who you know. I am a lucky audio freak.
Back to cables. The Anti Cable SC is NOT the last word in cable making. It's
just better than almost anything else out there, regardless of cost. And that
ties neatly into what I was saying above.
I am going by my experience, and the heaps of other people's testimony. I can prove to anyone, any "insulated" cord, regardless of cost, will spit.
People owning Scintillas are big on ultra thin silver or copper ribbons. I am going to try one within the week. I found a source that gives me yards of .003" ribbon already coated with urethane, which is what I was going to do anyway.
Audiofeil, I guess you are the authority on everything and we should all listen to you. In any case, please don't hijack my thread into a pissing match. This was supposed to be about alternatives to expensive speaker cables; not the best equipment available in high end audio. Let's come back to earth.
You don't have to spend top dollar to get top quality sound. A Honda Accord is a better car than is a Mercedes 320 because its more comfortable, quieter, faster, corners better, etc. than the more expensive one. I know because I own both. The object of the game in audio is not to pay the most but to get to the sound. In that regard my or others' systems are very high end because when you close your eyes you are at the concert hall. I am a pro violinist and am at the concert hall most days of the week. I know that by adding additional colorations that may sound "kool" you leave the venue. Sony TV's look great because the color is pushed. One tires of anything not natural.
Well, Reference systems don't mean all that much to me. You have to know your gear. I find that a lot of mastering people that are responsible for a part of the sound of these record we all listen to , may have a really odd room, speakers we don't all like, a "lower end" turntable, etc.
While they have good, hopefully transparent and detailed, full range gear, a lot of it wouldn't make the cut in a "high end reference system" from an audiophile.
There is a lot of very expensive stuff out there which doesn't sound that good as well.