Very short speaker cable length recommended?

Hi folks, I've read some article that a too short speaker cable could make the sound worse, is this true? The statement was btw from MIT. I've always thought a short speaker cable (less than three feet) could bring improvement to the sound, at least it wouldn't do any harm. What is your opinion regarding this issue?

I used to feel the same way and had been using a one metre length of upscale name brand cable.Then I experimented with the room/speaker set-up and moved the speakers away from the power amps and used long runs of another brand name cable but but much lower down the price scale.
The result was that I preferred the cheaper longer runs of cable.Go figure, not what the gurus preach,but it worked for me.Could be a better capacitance match with my amps(solid state)but I am just guessing as I am no techie.Try it, but it will be hard to find long lenghts of most popular brands.I went from one metre to 7 metres a side.
After reading Pierre Sprey's (Mapleshade) views on the subject -- he thinks 8 feet is the minimum you should use -- I made a short cable pair to try. Using the same cable formulation as my regular 8-footer, it was just long enough (approx. 28") to reach from my monoblocks to the speakers on each side. I REALLY didn't like the sound of the shorter cables but have no logical explanation for why. They didn't sound as clear and open as the longer pair, which seems counterintuitive, but there it is. Dave
Cable makers price their product by the foot. What would you expect them to say?
My 3 foot Goertz are intended to simulate having no cables at all, which is what I think would be best. Supposedly the Goertz stacked flat wire configuration gives electrical characteristics which are not only ideal, but also, apart from resistance, are not affected by length.
Sean used to argue against the conventional wisdom of long ICs and short speaker cables, reeasoning that the "stronger" signal from the amp is better suited to a long run than is a line-level signal. Others disagreed, of course.

We tend to accept conventional wisdom (why wouldn't we), but it makes sense to revisit every now and then. See the threads on direct drive and idler wheel turntables.
Quaker State and Pennzoil recommend oil changes every 3,000 miles while my manual says 7,000 miles. Hmmm.
Which arguments do some experts have for stating that a longer speaker cable (8 feet and longer) is better than a shorter one? In digital interconnects 1.5 m seem to be the minimum length, due to signal relections within the cable, but with speaker cable we are dealing with very different (electrical) characteristics. What in the case of built-in amps in some (active) speakers? There is no speaker cable at all. Is this electrically bad? It's puzzling to me.

I would say it depends on your amp. High feedback amps work better with short speaker cable runs. At least mine does. I went through a selection process using long and short cable runs - both cheapo 12 ga twisted strand copper and high quality cables. Ended up with 6 foot high quality cables sounding best. At least to my ears.
I once had a setup using CJ monoblocks, Wilson Witts, and 4 feet of Kimber 8TC that sounded very good. I thought shorter had to be better and I would save some money so I tried a 6 inch run of various wires including some 8TC. The resolution increased but it was bright and irritating. This was very repeatable and it was not subtle. The very short wires were horrible. I have no explanation and I agree it is puzzling, but that was my experience and the results were confirmed by several others.
It is counter-intutive but I have two thoughts:

(1) It is possible that very short cables restrict speaker placement and thus affect sound indirectly, where as longer ones let you find optimal placement.

(2) Is it conceivable that some speakers were designed with either long or short cable and would sound better accordignly? Not sure it makes sense but just a thought.
No doubt, Timru.

I've witnessed major debates in car forums regarding oil change intervals. You have recommendations from both oil and car manufacturers, and then you have the entire dino versus synthetic argument influencing change intervals. Then do you change both the filter AND the oil?

It sounds so much like analog versus digital, copper/silver, tubes, solid state, etc... It's all so confusing, but ultimately hopefully leaves us more informed to make our own deicisions.

I'll be watching this thread.
Mapleshade actually claims that 8 ft is the optimal length not the minimum. They prefer not to sell 10 or 12 ft runs. They also don't prefer double runs for bi-wiring, instead selling an inexpensive 2 or 3 inch jumper. Hardly a philosophy designed to sell more wire.
JI35 reminded me of when I first contemplated changing from biwired Kimber 8TC to Mapleshade Double Helix. Frankly, I assumed I'd biwire with the new stuff. Pierre wouldn't sell it to me, said to try it single-wired (with his ribbon jumpers) and see if I didn't like it better than the Kimber. It sounded so MUCH better than the Kimber that I didn't even consider going biwire. And I sold the used 8TC for about twice what the new Mapleshade cost.
There is a small on-line cable company that makes wonderful cables, some of the best I've ever heard. When my new wall unit required that I move the speakers about 15' away from the source I decided to go with long interconnect runs of this cable into mono-amps and short (6') runs of speaker cable. The bass dropped off dramatically, as did the impression of power and dynamics. When I changed interconnects to those containing thicker, heavier wire things returned to normal.

It seems to me that there are definable, quantifiable values that determine whether this or that cable is electrically suitable and will perform as expected in any given situation. Certainly there are differences between the sonic character of this cable and that by virtue of their design and the materials from which they are made, but we as consumers should not have to play guessing games with electrical parameters and it is high time that manufacturers step up to the plate and start supporting our efforts at component matching by either standardizing or disclosing specifics that directly relate to component/cable matching.
Go 6.5 ft or longer(2.0m)speaker, its the more optimal range overall in most cases it seems, unless maybe running a non-full range speaker, like a woofer section or something running under 250 hz lets say then maybe 3ft or less would be more effective... Even with interconnects it seems Half meter might be worse sounding than 1 meter standard in some scenarios as well, I have no real world explanation for it but there it is.
>>Go 6.5 ft or longer(2.0m)speaker, its the more optimal range overall in most cases it seems<<

There is no empirical data to support this and any knowledgable cable designer/manufacturer will always recommend shorter paths when possible.
Even with interconnects it seems Half meter might be worse sounding than 1 meter standard in some scenarios as well
It has to do with the electrical properties of the cable at the specific length as it couples with/influences (i.e. enters the circuit) the stability and the impedance of the source loading (output stage) and the impedance and type of input of the load.
See Sean's recent post in "diy interconnects review".
Actually from my understanding if you go too Short then the tweeter and midrange can become more forward or even brighter in many cases(and I have experienced this), as the longer lengths keep the speed down a little bit helping for whatever reason the impeadance or what have you a better stable point to work in or something.. Now I have actually seen manufactures go to the extent to actually LEngthen considerable longer than needed Tweeter leads and things inside the cabinet even in order to somewhat time Align the drivers to not be to forward to the Bass drive... Sure Bass will probably never suffer from super short Current capable cables, but I could see how a speaker can be a bit un-balanced if you have super thick same shot length feeding the upper part of the crossover, maybe it will have Zero effect, try it, thats the name of the game.
There is no empirical data to support this

I tried very short cables and it was bright and irritating.
I tried longer cables of the same type and it sounded very good.
I tried various other short wires with the same effect, bright and irritating.
I put the long cable back in and it sounded fine.
I did this for several friends and they all confirmed what I heard.

How emperical do you have to get to confirm the effect? Have you tried it yourself or just assuming?

I contacted Kimber (a reputable manufacturer) about this and they confirmed that if too short their cables would not sound good.
Undertow, you understand incorrectly. I've spoken at length (no pun intended) with 3 major manufacturers about this as many of my customers have similiar concerns. All 3 unequivocally prefer the shortest length that is practical for the system. I tend to believe folks who engineer/design and build the products. One of them in fact is the manufacturer of the speakers you own. I suggest you contact Sean if you have any doubts. Good luck.
>>Have you tried it yourself or just assuming?<<

I believe the professionals who design and build the cables not the amateur listener.
Umm okay if you say so I believe you.. But sorry I have heard a bit of a brighter sound and etched in a way with having too short of a cable running mids and highs... So I have also listened to audio research back when I purchased their equipment and their recommended tubes and whatnot and still found they did not work for me. What is the point? Again I stated try for yourself, you may or may not like. And by the way Keeping the shorter the better analogy applies of course, but that normally means YEAH if you can jam down 6ft cables than go for it over 10 ft distance, and If you can use a Single meter cable vs a 2 meter than the Less the merrier.. But that does not mean that these manufacturers necessarily recommend using a 6" interconnect or an 18" speaker cable vs. a 4 ft I am talking the PRACTICAL Lengths via being shorter but not MICRO short. I am not arguing but think people get way to much in their head of what they want to believe than trying it. Basically I agree sure maybe a 6 ft or 5 ft vs. 12 ft is better than just dropping to a 8 ft with little to gain.. But people thinking these slight micro lengths and extreme areas of benign return are a little jaded.. By the way SURE a 2" POWER CABLE would be far better, but thats power and a \whole different approch. Dig in as deep as you like, but lets be sensible with what people are really saying not the extreme of it.
I believe the professionals who design and build the cables not the amateur listener.

Yes, very wise. I would always go with the opinion of the industry professional. I think to settle the debate we should consult Dr. Bose and see what he has to say on the subject. BTW McDonald's food is great, they told me so. Miller beer is the best, it tastes great and it's less filling. Or did you mean you believe only the industry professinals you want to believe?

On a less sarcastic note, you will find numerous "professional" cable builders who will tell you just the opposite of what you believe; Mapleshade and Kimber and others. So who do we believe? Look hard enough and you can find a "professional" to back up any position you want.

To be completely frank, there are any number of people who post on these forums and repeat what they have read in magazines, on line reviews, advertisements, and other forums. Unless they have tried it themselves their opinion carries no weight with me. It is sad to think there are those who are deeply involved in this hobby who trust the opinions of others more than their own ears.
I am a dealer for Mapleshade and Pierre told me that the issue first came to his attention when a customer complained abut the sound of a short run he had just sold to him to replace an identical but longer run. He got them back and tested them out and heard the same problem although the ccables themselves were not faulty. He mentioned it to an associate who referd him to the work of a famous but controversial EE who claimed over 40 years ago that shorter runs cause cable reflections to interact with the feedback of the amplifier regardless of amplifier design; even in no feedback designs there is a certain amount of inherent capacative feedback.
This is only one person's opinion based on an anonymous EE. Readers should draw their own conclusions.
Audiofiel, my conclusion is that you offer nothing but your opinion, which is based soley on the the opinion of others. In other words, you parrot what you read but have never tried it yourself.

Conclusion: until you try it yourself, your unfounded, unsubstantiated opinion is just that.
Of course central to this debate would be that the listeners break in both the long cables and shorter cables the same way for several weeks and have exactly the same type of connectors before listening between the two. It would be important that no components were changed or moved to accomodate either cable.
I'm sure everyone is aware of these factors. I'm very interested in this debate as I may be purchasing new speaker cables soon.
I'd sure like to know if these issues were taken into account during the listening sessions. If not, I would be very skeptical of the results on either side of the debate. I've heard significant changes in the sound of systems just by moving the components on the shelves a bit.
Thanks for your responses.
Herman I think 40+ years in dozens of systems is enough experience. Furthermore, I'd be pleased to share manufacturer's names and contacts in a private email should you wish to verify my results with the folks that build and design.
Thank you.
Audiofeil, I'll stick with my assessment. You dismiss me as an amateur, but I also have many years of experience in multiple systems. I have friends in the industry with well regarded ears who tell me my system sounds excellent. That doesn't mean I'm right all of the time , and even though at the very top end it comes down to a matter of preference, if I say it sounds horrible you can believe me.

The only thing you bring to this discussion is that several manufacturers told you that shorter was better. I say, which is backed up by other dealers on this thread, that some manufacturers say longer is better.

The only way I have to resolve this dispute is to try it myself, which I and others who have posted here have done with very clear results.

When I tried very short speaker cables it sounded horrible.

What were your results when you tried it?
I never said you were an amateur. As a matter of fact most of your posts are well written and substantive.

My offer stands to put you in touch with technical contacts at 3 prominent cable manufacturers for their expert opinion. The ball is in your court.

Thanks for your response and good listening.
If cable lengths between 6 inches and ten feet affect the sound for better or worse then either your cables or your amplifier (or both) are lousy. IMHO or course. I use 4 ft biwire Goertz to my Maggies.
I have tried almost all lenghts in my system, I am using Very short speaker cables between my tube amps and Cabasse speakers. I am also running passive attenuator instead of an active preamp. It just did not sound right with long cables, I blamed the passive attenuator, I blamed amp gain, speaker sensitivity, but everything was in order...I changed the speaker cables for very short ones just for a test, and everything fell into place: beautifull sound...The bass got nicer tighter and lower, midrange was better and the tweeters are sweeter.

Yes I do reccommend very short speaker cables, I have tried them in my system and are definitely better to my ears.

I can also get a manufacturer that says Guns are good for you....

I cannot imagine somebody selling a 10" cable for $3k... but I can imagine someone buying it!!!

Try it and see, thats the fun of all this!
Again which I stated above, the most important thing is to try it, and certain equipment will react certain ways to the load, impeadance, capacitance, inductance etc.. of a length of cable as the same cable different length will change these properties. I have relativley short speaker cables right now myself at 4.5 ft and they sound perfect, and actually better than my 6.5 ft do of the same brand just in the way they sounded better because they took very little burn in. However with my horn speakers the shorter sounded "tinny" or lean.. They were probably just too fast or too low of resistance to run on that specific horn system with that amp.

By the way above someone stated a test that someone should do to see how different a shorter vs. longer length take to burn in and sound good, Well I can tell you my 4.5 ft sounded good instantly vs. the 6.5 foot, but after each burned in for a couple months they pretty much equaled out,

I only use the 4.5 now due to its cleaner install and I have mono blocks only 2 ft from the speakers. But yes I say the longer the cable the longer it takes to settle down. Interconnects seem to be quite a different deal than speaker cables however, mostly anything from 1 meter to 3 meter I have found very hard pressed to say one is ultimatley any better, however interconnects definatley have bigger influence on the sound if you change them then do the speaker cables in my trials. I still say go a short as possible with power lines however, that is just a no brainer.
I am no expert just stating facts in my scenario's.
Ok Audiofeil, we can leave it at that. I don't need to contact your sources as I can put you in contact with other prominent designers that say the opposite. As I said, I do believe you when you say that some manufacturers recommend short cables.

BTW, not that it really matters but you did dismiss me as an amateur in your post above on 7-14.

I think this is one of those things that doesn't have a definitive answer. I once went to great pains to build some diffusers. They worked but no matter where I put them they made my system sound worse. I took them to a friends house and they made his system sound better. I don't think there is a correct answer to the cable length question either. I had horrible results and others have great results.