Why are we going 300 or more directions?


Funny, if you design a hi-speed coaxial cable, the fundamental design is the same. I do mean the same. Physics have honed the basic construct to the same physical design no matter who makes it.

Yes, conductor and shield materials will change some based on the frequency range, but not the design. If you change the basic design, you get worse performance, and not just differentiation (unless worse is your differentiation).

Then we have audio cables. True, audio exist in a frequency range where stuff does change with respect to frequency (impedance drops markedly as frequency is swept from 20 to 20 kHz) but this still doesn't allow willy-nilly designs from A to Z to hold the best electrical ideal.

If there are X number of speaker cable makers, only a small few can be the most ideally right according to physics for audio transmission. What we have is so much differentiation that it is almost humorous.

If "we", as in speaker cable designers, all got in a big room with the door locked and could not be let out till we balanced the design to best effect...what would that cable look like? Why?

Go to any web site and you can't get one-third of the way through before vendors allow misconception to be believed (references to velocity of propagation for instance) that are meaningless in their feint of hand or simply unprovable as to their effect...simply fear you don't have it. For instance, high velocity of propagation allows you to simply lower capacitance, the speed is there, but irrelevant at audio and cable lengths that you use. The signal travels too fast to matter. Signal delay is in the 16ns range in ten feet. Yes, that's 16 trillionths of a second. It's the capacitance folks, not the velocity that you engineer to. But velocity "sounds" exciting.

Audio cable over the years should be under CONSOLIDATION of principals and getting MORE like one another, not less so. I don't see a glimmer of this at all.

The laws of physics say there is a most correct way to move a electrical signal, like it or not. Electrical and magnetic fields have no marketing departments, they just want to move from A to B with as little energy lost as possible. You have to reach a best balance of variables. Yes, audio is a balance as it is in an electromagnetic transition region I mentioned earlier, but it STILL adheres to fundamental principals that can be weighed in importance and designed around.

A good cable does not need "trust me" engineering. An no, the same R, L and C in two cables don't make them the same. We all know it isn't that simple. BUT, the attributes (skin effect and phase responses) that DO make those same R, L and C cables different aren't magic, either.

I've listened to MANY cables this past six months, and it no longer amazes me which ones sound the best. I look at the several tenets that shape the sound and the designs that do this the most faithfully always come out on top.

DESIGN is first. Management of R, L, C, Skin effect and phase. Anyone cam stuff expensive material in a cable, few can DESIGN the right electrical relationships inside the cable. Why be stuck with excessive capacitance (over 50 pF/foot) to get low inductance (less than 0.100 uH/foot) when it's NOT required, for instance. A good design can give you BOTH!

MATERIALS are a distant second to sound quality. They contribute maybe 2 tenths of the total sonic equation in a quality design and ZERO in a bad design. A good design with standard tough pitch copper will exceed a bad design with single crystal cryogenic OFC silver-plated copper. You can't fake good cable design and the physics say so. Anyone can buy materials, so few can do design.

Being different to be different isn't a positive attribute in audio cables. Except for all but ONE ideal design it’s just a mistake.

I've listened to the same cables with dynamic speakers and electrostatic speakers, and the SAME cables always come through with the same characteristics. Good stays good. True, the magnitude of character is different, but the order hasn't moved.

I'm not real proud of the cable industry in general. True transmission accomplishments should reach common ground on explainable principals and that SHOULD drive DESIGN to a better ideal. But, we people do have emotions and marketing.

What do I look for in a speaker cable?

1.0 Low capacitance. Less than 50 Pf / foot to avoid amplifier issues and phase response from first order filter effects where the phase is changing well before the high-end is attenuated. The voltage rise time issue isn't the main reason low capacitance is nice, it's that low capacitance removes the phase shift to inaudible frequencies and doesn't kill amplifiers.

2.0 Low inductance as we are moving lots of CURRENT to speakers. Less than 0.1UH /foot is what you want to see. Good designs can do low cap and low inductance, both.

3.0 Low resistance to avoid the speaker cables influencing the speakers response. The cable becomes part of the crossover network if the resistance is too high. For ten-foot runs, look for 14 AWG to maybe 10 AWG. Bigger isn't better as it makes skin depth management issue too hard to well, manage.

4.0 Audio has a skin depth of 18-mils. This is where the current in the wire center is 37% of that on the surface. The current gradients can be vastly improved with smaller wire (current closer to the same everywhere). How small? My general rule is about a 24 AWG wire as this drop the current gradient differential across the audio spectrum to a value much less than 37%. Yes, that's several wires. Don't go overboard, though. Too much wire is a capacitance nightmare. Get the resistance job done then STOP at that wire count.

5.0 Conductor management. Yes, point four above says more than one wire, many more! And, if you use 24 AWG wire for skin depth management, it can be SOLID to avoid long term oxidation issues. I've taken apart some old wires and it can look pretty bad inside! Each wire needs it's own insulation.

6.0 Symmetrical design. Both legs are identical in physical designs allows much easier management of electricals.

7.0 Proper B and E field management is indirectly taken care of by inductance and capacitance values. The physics say you did it, or you didn't. BUT, you can design in passive RF cancellation if you use a good design, too. Low inductance says that emissions will be low, however, as less of the energy is generating an electric and magnetic field around the wire, thus limiting EMI / RFI emissions.

8.0 Copper quality is finally on the list. It doesn't matter without one to seven! The smaller the wires (infinitely small), the LESS the silver plate will warp the sonics. If the current density is the SAME at all frequencies, then all frequencies see the same benefit. If a wire is infinitely big than the high frequencies will see the majority of the benefit. 20 Hz and 20kHz are at the same current density on the wire surface. But, the gradient difference is too small to matter with 24 AWG wires. If you want silver, let the silver benefit everywhere!

9.0 Dielectrics. Dead last. Why? Because capacitance is driven by your dielectric. If you have the low cap, you have the right dielectric for the design. You HEAR the capacitance and NOT the dielectric per say. True, Teflon allows a lower capacitance for the same distance between wires, thus making lower capacitance. But, if you FOAM HDPE from 2.25 down to 2.1 dielectric constant, it can meet the same cap at the same wall and sound just as good. Careful though, it is now more fragile! It's a trade-off in durability, not sound quality. Teflon isn’t magic. It is expensive.

10.0 This is not last per say as it is CHOICE in design. I do not like fragile cables laying on the floor to be stepped on. Some do. A good cable design should be durable enough to take that late night trip to the TV set with the light low, and then step on your cable by accident. The cable should be user friendly.

Everything above can be calculated by known physics equations with the exception of copper quality on sound. I'll have to hear this on two IDENTICAL cables except wire quality. But, why would a vendor allow you to do that when they can scare you into a more expensive copper? I'll be glad to pony-up if I'm allowed to make the judgement for myself. Or, let be buy it at a reasonable price!
rower30
Your original premise about other electrical cabling bought up a good point and I certainly can agree. Then you went on to divulge just what is Scientifically necessary to achieve a good (meaning accurate, I guess) cable. You certainly know the Science here, so just for fun, why not tell us all what products you have heard that sound good to you AND show respectable design? I didn't know we actually knew what to do here since you can't really "measure" sound quality. Sure we can measure capacitance, resistance, etc. but no matter how "prefectly" we transmit a signal, does that always result in perfect sound? This all may be too subjective. Does a bad sounding, but perfectly measuring amplifier ressult in a pleasurable listening experience? I'd hate to be forced to only listen to that instead of my vintage Tube Amps. I'll bet Good sounding cables result from a bit of black art along with proper electrical Science. Probably a delicate balancing act for the designer. Still, I can agree, why so many different topologies. We have thin wire, thick wire, ribbons, solid, stranded, twisted, parallel,shielded, unshielded, copper, silver,aluminum, even bronze ala Dave Magnan.
Wow Rower, what a great post!! As you alluded to, cables are audio's last refuge for scoundrels. When marketing hype takes precedence over excellent design, good-quality parts, and solid construction, the audiophile world suffers.

And your post has made it clear to me that one need not spend ridiculous sums of money to get "proper" cabling. When I read about guys spending thousands (or even hundreds) of $ per ft. for cabling, I inwardly smile...

-RW-
Rower is most likely an engineer and not in marketing. :^)
Rower,

I'd be interested in your opinion of some more esoteric designs that are more towards the reasonable cost end of high end audio products, specifically DNM Reson and MIT (with network boxes) analog ICs.

Analog ICs specifically because I am sure I hear some distinct advantages with these more esoteric IC designs and have not had reason nor desire to experiment with speaker wires very much.

Also, digital cables are a different story and I am of the opinion it is even easier to do those well than it is analog wires.
Say what??Dude!!
you must be another want to be scientist that thinks cables are irrevelant!LOL!,or a new audiophile that does not want to spend money on cables!,very exspensive hobby not to have cables better ones sound!,a quality cable WILL improve a audio system substantialy!,How would I know?,34 years of hearing the difference that real high-end cables can do to sound!,my first system was when I was 12 that my mother obtained for me,now I am 46 and still hearing what esoteric cables are capable of!,obviously you have not listened to the few of the best cables available!good luck with convincing people that know esoteric cables make a difference with your science that means squat!,you really need to research better brands of cables out there than what you have encountered! Happy listening!
Cables sometime raise two kids and let the third one run wild. Low R and L, but high C as an example. To get low capacitance in a design (you have to hold the design exactly the same) inductance will go in the opposite direction. If it goes too wacky, it eats up amplifiers and / or requires Zobel networks to offset capacitance just like power-line power factor correction circuits. Fundamentally superior designs have low R, L and C from the get go. You can't force too high cap to go lower as it pushes inductance up. The design is simply poor. More paper, start over!

With compensation you no longer have a cable per say, but a circuit. One is useless without the other. Many do indeed market circuits. This isn't completely wrong, but it isn't an ideal "cable" either. Take away the Zobel network or "pole articulation filter(s)" and the effort is lost. So, those products are a different breed than cable design, and more expensive as they extend the margins on both fronts.

Some even try to say they "separate" the magnetic fields and electrical fields into different areas of the cable to improve the sound. I'll use Ebm's comment, "Say what??Dude??". This is impossible, as one needs the other to exist. They are tied at the hip like capacitance and inductance. Unless we move to planet ZEN, this will always be so. Not sure about ZEN, actually, has anyone been there except in the game?

The key concept to understand on fields is that the two fields take away energy, and thus the signal. They don't come from anywhere, and they don't go to anywhere instantly. They steal away energy to exist. This is distortion that is required in the real world when we pass current in two wire separated by distance, like it or not. There is no perfect cable, but there are GOOD DESIGNS.

Why do we have to live with imperfect cables? Here we go (those that don't like longer posts should leave now).

Knowing what a perfect conductor is allows you to recognize a good compromise that fits the world we live in. I was going to put this in the initial thread but I think I wore myself out writing it!

A perfect wire is / has / can;

1.0 Has ZERO resistance and thus loses no signal amplitude. This is a benign distortion in that it is linear. So in reality ZERO resistance isn't really critically important UNTIL you include the speakers X-over. Now it's a problem.

2.0 Is infinitely small. There is NO skin effect as ALL as current across ALL frequencies are IDENTICAL. Well, this is a tough one so we have to gauge (pun intended) the wire to our frequency pass band. A wire has to exist in reality, but to what size? The dimensions are limited by the designers ability to manage many wires.

3.0 Carries energy in BOTH directions at the exact same time. Umm...this is a short circuit in reality. But, if we could do that, the magnetic / electrical fields would be equal and opposite. We would not waste energy creating fields around the single full duplex audio wire. Just think infinite transient response...with a little help from a vacuum, that's next.

4.0 The dielectric would be a vacuum so we have ZERO capacitance and velocity would be 100%. Great, we just got rid of phase effects caused by band-pass filter characteristics and rise time voltage distortion.

So, we have a perfect audio wire, in our mind anyway. And, that 's a good thing when shopping for cables.

We all would like this impossible to make wire. The next best thing is a ZIP cord, many feel. Well, if you can make a zip cord with 24 AWG wire, keep it short so that the DCR doesn't influence the speakers response, and use a good dielectric they can sound pretty darn good...and they should as they obey all the required tenants of a good cable. Except that they have too high a DCR in any meaningful length and / or speaker efficiency. Once you try to make a ZIP cord bigger, it goes to hell. DCR get lower, but BIG wire loses skin current management, stranded is a bad screen and gets worse over time. This forces many smaller wires... that are hell to manage with all those wires increasing capacitance. A capacitor is a dielectric on each side of a conductor. Make it LONGER or WIDER and the capacitance goes up...a LOT. It's a squared law increase, so many wires is hard to do, not impossible. So here we are with much larger AWG requirements and about 36 wire.

A clue to excellent B and E field management is if the overall cable has lower inductance than a SINGLE "unit" used in the cable. This demonstrates, with out magic, that the design leverages superior field cancellation. You can't fake it.

Another issue to some is RF. Electrical fields leave the cable perpendicular to the surface of the wire, always, and cancel at ninety degrees intersection to other like electric fields. The problem is, you can't go "forward" with one wire stuck at ninety degrees to another. That's an "X"! So, you try to manage RF by as good a cross-field cancellation as you can with passive field cancellation through reasonable wire crossings of LESS THAN ninety degrees. Remember, the magnetic fields are cancelled by the close parallel proximity of each wire where closer is better, and the electric fields cancel by cross-field interaction cancellation. A design has passive RF cancellation or it doesn't.

Overall shields? YIKES! This pretends we ALL HAVE A PROBLEM (we do, just not in our systems) and uses a another less bad, but still bad solution...a shield. This is still bad as it drives up capacitance to unnecessary level UNLESS the second worst problem (a shield) is better than the worst (no shield). If you have no real RF issues, ditch the shield! On a speaker cable the problem is probably egress FROM your speaker cable TO you electronics, not ingress FROM the outside world into your speaker cable.

Another interesting factoid is that a dielectric polarizes by nature (that's WHY it is a dielectric) in about 10 to the minus fourteen seconds! Hey, that's fast. The polarity reversals need little help at audio frequencies to switch polarities. Yes, at HIGH, HIGH and I mean HIGH frequencies in the many giga hertz, the dielectric can lose the ability to keep up. But it’s fastest at 1 Hz and gets slower from there. But at 20 kHz it's not even an issue at all. And, most polarization modes don't even count in audio. Yes, there are about three, and I won't bore you with them all.

So, we never have perfect sound. Every cable will be a fingerprint of its design, more than materials. A good-looking people tend to always look good! The clothes aren't going to fix the major issues with the person’s looks, as an example. Buy the person FIRST. DESIGN, DESIGN, and DESIGN! No, you can't measure all the effects of a system as complex as an audio cable as it lives in the electromagnetic transition zone, and drives an unstable load (speaker) with respect to frequency. BUT, you can segregate good design from bad based on a BALANCE of electricals for truly superior cable. Take those type cables home, and I'm certain that what I've mentioned will perk up to the top of the list when you listen.

Digital cables are more about reflection errors. Lengths are important based on cable bit rate speeds that define the cables worst reflection lengths, called RL or Return Loss. Rise time errors aren't so bad with modern electronics (thank-you 100 Gig Ethernet!) and pretty short leads. If a zero or a one is sent and received, the DAC is the sound as it re assembles the data. Not an easy job, by the way! You never get to hear a zero or a one as they are simply logic "states" that the electronics uses to compile analog data. Digital starts with analog, so it's goal is to not screw that up in the middle between A to D and D to A converters.

Cables I use? I have ONE TYR 2 NORDOST XLR interconnects that is good sounding. I'll use it as a reference when I work on other XLR cables. I've auditioned the NORDOST speaker’s cables. I brought them home based on their good overall DESIGN, NOT the not so good price! But, the fact that the design is solid is weighed out in the sound. The price is emotional. I was looking at DESIGN and the connection so sonic ability. Good cable stays good all the time. You do NOT want to use cables to "tune" your system, especially if you buy them. Make sure they go ANYWHERE with ease. A well-designed neutral cable is what you really want. A perfect cable, for instance, is what we really want, and it does NOTHING to the signal. So if you are really into this for a good DESIGN cable you want an equal hand of justice to weight the attributes just so. I listen for an even tonal balance top to bottom. Trust me, use three or four cables an you'll hear an even handed product pretty quick.

Speaker cables? Oh I have some. You can't buy them.
Audiolabyrinth,
It appears to me Rower30 is actually making the case for the
importance of high quality cable. His point that excellent design and high cost aren't linearly related is logical and true in many cases.
Regards,
Oops, somebody forgot wire directionality. I forget in which electronics textbook that is discussed. :-)
Audiolabyrinth

Cables are indeed science and DO INDEED make a cable sound in specific ways. The electromagnetic spectrum could care less about price, that's a given. Price is a human emotional endeavor based on marketing and the wants of the consumer. So I don't care about price. The raw material cost of even the most expensive cables is maybe a few hundred dollars. You pay for what they sound like relative to one another, regardless of the material costs. You WANT the SOUND, not the price. The price you pay to GET the sound. Well, most of us do this. A few sure do buy based on a price and stick it in a corner like a statue never to be heard from again.

Now to the DESIGN. Sorry, but there is but ONE best way to move data in a given electromagnetic situation. Anything outside of that is simply less capable and not as linear. Keeping cables as honest as you can based on well-known principals is important.

"My" science (I never was thinking I had science so much as the world we live in has physical science) is as defined as it can get for R, L, C and skin depth. It's all 100% repeatable by anyone. Following specific design guidelines will indeed make a better cable. Most market their differentiation, not good design. Physics can't be differentiated, only misunderstood and used incorrectly.

What isn't as repeatable is the exact interaction of variables as a whole as, like I said before, we have a very nonlinear electromagnetic spectrum audio is stuck in. So the balance of all variables inside the preferred "box" of measured values will shift some depending on what speaker and amplifier you use. But, a well-designed cable has ALWAYS sounded better with any amp or speaker combination I've ever used, or compared cables on. Try C4's with W-8's and then Martin Logan Summits with McCormack amps. Can't go much more different than that. Good cables stayed good. The changes in fundamental transmission characteristics aren't so large as to require a completely different cable design.

I don't listen to cables? From my post, I'd guess all I do is listen to cable, but anyway...I have $5,000.00 NORDOST cables in my system and listened, and still am listening, to speaker cable up and down the price line. If time is somehow important in all this, I've been at it longer than you, I'm 55.

I paid thousands for the Tyr2 NORDOST XLR pre to power interconnects based on their sound (I listened to many other XLR's). They have a superior overall design that puts their overall fingerprint well inside the box of electromagnetic reason (for XLR cables). I do not find their superior overall sound to be surprising as the measurements driven by the design allows them to sound good. There are other vendors that follow strict design guidelines that allow superior performance, but way too many sell FUD and innuendo and / or jump to RF communications principals at audio frequency ranges in which nearly all the variables of influence CHANGE! So WHY ON EARTH go to RF calculation in audio cables?

I'm somewhat confused by your demand that I include price into this. No, I include DESIGN. That's it. You can ONLY buy and understand the physics of a DESIGN. The price is irrelevant to the sound. The more you understand how cables work, the less you need to pay for differentiation that is nothing more than that. Usually, the differentiates tears apart the ability of a cable to follow best in practice designs, and you pay MORE for that privilege?
No, didn't forget directionality it at all, it doesn't matter. Audio signals are not truly symmetrical or balanced (plus to minus signal don't subtract to zero) as impulse noises are more positive amplitude than the negative decay. Look at a piano or drum strike, for instance. Yep, more stuff on the positive side than the negative side. But this is no reason to think the "positive side" needs help.

The waveform is alternating current and travels BOTH directions with respect to polarity. What half of the waveform do you want to be biased with the copper "grain" structure? If this was a DC signal, rubbing against the copper grain structure the wrong way may be a fun FUD argument. But since audio cables aren't a cat and get pissed when rubbed the wrong way and are AC in nature, this concept of current "direction" when it has reversal changes to even play music is rather odd.

I already discussed polarity reversal timing (fast as the dickens) in the dielectric relative to single directional changes. How on earth could AC signals even be transmitted if the dielectric were "slow"? Coaxial cables transmit in the 6 Gig frequency range all day with out directionality just fine, thank you. And, their dielectrics don't need help...

DC dielectric bias systems are also perplexing. DC bias systems further tell you that the signal could care less about directionality and polarity as a DC bias system theoretically makes it HARDER to polarize in the opposite direction of the bias. All good dielectrics polarize so fast that a DC impediment doesn't audibly affect the sound, just your pocket book. Why so much concern for the BIAS in the ONE direction only? And no, a dielectric doesn't take seconds, minutes, hours or days to polarize. It takes 10 to the minus fourteen seconds. Do they wander around after power is removed? Yes. Do they snap back into control IMMEDIATELY when a signal is applied? Yes. If you listen to music at the 10 to the tenth power in frequency...be worried, very worried, as the polarization can now not keep up. So how does a DC battery bias system add speed to an audio signal dielectric and to both polarities, not just one?

But if you must, mark your cable and add an arrow to make you feel good along with a battery and heavens don’t put the battery in the wrong direction! :)

I'm not against REAL design metrics that is repeatable and you can design around. To jump to RF wave-guide signals and force an issue at audio is simply misguided. Audio cables are hard enough without using physics the wrong way.

All the attributes I discussed are measurable at audio, and the improvements to them rational in a good design. Diectionality, DC bias and many others are not. But if you want to add nonesense to cables, why not add it to a cable that at least is designed right up to the arrows and battery installation steps? Are we tossing out what we can measure and replacing it with what we can't? Yep, we see pages of FUD "data" (differentiation)with no mention of the compliance to the physical basics. If a cable meets the basics, at least the FUD stuff didn't hurt the sound, just your pocket book.
Rower30: your original post & further "articles" are very interesting and, if i may say so, a significant contribution to the community.
I do of course agree with your basic premise but never have managed to put the matter in the same clear terms:)

Not surprisingly and for just as unsurprising identical reasons, the branded cables I use (I also use diy) are the same...
(And yes, the nuisance of "avoiding" that annoying HF phase shift makes me wish I had specialised in low voltage applications in my youth...)

A while ago I was trying to find the "optimal" gauge for a simple IC consisting of two conductors running parallel at ~1.5" apart, 2ft length, unshielded, using single strands of copper wire of course.
Not having the right equip to measure, I had to use my system & concluded that 24awg offered the best frequency extension, but lower gauges more "dynamics" (i.e. 24 is over the R turning point it seems). As I use a transformer volume control, the above is not necessarily optimal on "normal" systems...

What recipe do you use for the speakers -- if you wish to describe it of course. I understand if you don't; the matter interests me as the mid-upper frequencies amp I use is wide bandwidth and I have to be careful....
@ Rower30, It seems charles1dad explained to me what was really being said here,thanks charles1dad!,Rower I am sorry that I misunerstood you,kinda hard tring to understand the word data you posted,LOL!,you do have nice cables!supriseing!,I get tired of being knocked around for having some of the best cables available by non-cable believers,Taralabs zero gold i/c,omega gold speaker cables,Rower30 I did not spend this kind of money for my cables to be a trophy of some sorts!,these cables sound simply amazeing!,they make my equipment sound as if I paid 5 times more than what I did!,Happy listening!
Rower30 wrote,

"No, didn't forget directionality it at all, it doesn't matter."

Are we supposed to throw out all the reports that fuses are directional, that interconnects are directional? Do you honestly think cable companies are preying on gullible audiophiles by marking directional arrows on their cables and fuses? Shall we report all the aftermarket fuse companies - Synergistic Research, HIFI Tuning, Audio Magic, Isoclean, etc. - to the Better Business Bureau? Hell, even cheap stock fuses in speakers and amps are directional - it's not a high end audio phenomenon - it's a physics phenomenon. The high end has known about wire directionality for at least 10 years ; isn't it about time for everyone else to catch up? Are their really ANY high end cable companies who do NOT acknowledge wire and cables are directional? Maybe if we ignore wire directionality it'll just go away.

"When you control the mail you control information." - Newman

"It's what I choose to believe." - Dr. Elizabeth Shaw in Prometheus
These are my general observations from the physics of how all this works. I like repeatable conclusion backed by calculation as that's what physics is, the real world reduced to numbers (with some guesswork even in those!). But, It's at least a common ground for advancement. I just have a hard time with guessing about stuff. I’m open to repeatable, measurable calculations. Since cables are complex superposition of materials and relationships, with each selected or calculated on its own, the final sonic results that are derived are somewhat a black art, no argument there.

Gregm - The skin depth is one of those, when do you stop, arguments. The smaller the wire, the more consistent the current in that wire at all frequencies. It can, in theory, never be the same except at DC. But, lets get real, it can get darn near the same (can't hear it anymore) with numerous small wires. practical reasons usually mean 23-24 AWG as it gets terribly hard to manage more wire than that and not destroy the capacitance or inductance balance. All those wires are trying to hurt the design EXCEPT for skin depth. This is a somewhat an evil business. Every variable is a cancer to the other! A speaker cable is a balance of many attributes, but the overall balance should fall into an optimal compromise. No, they all won't be the same. If you change any one element, the overall relationships all have to move. The physical relationships of the wire and materials result in the blended finished electricals. The compromises made are EVIDENT and KNOWN by the designer, though. This isn't guessing.

So the optimal gauge is going to be at LEAST no bigger than the radius of the wire at the highest frequency of interest. 20 K is about 18-mils. This is just the definition of skin depth, though (37% current differential at that frequency). How small (reduce the current differential even more) you go is going to be locked in by DCR requirement that will rise as you try to optimize one attribute, (forced to use more small wires!) and how far you think your ears can perceive the skin depth issues. Don't rob Peter too much to pay Paul! BALANCE is the key for an overall nice cable. Nothing I have posted here is a secret other than physics we don't understand to put into numbers. But, we have plenty we do understand that can leverage to make better, more logical, cables.

Audiolabyrinth - Buy the sound, yes, not the price. OK, they might be expensive, they might not be. It all depends on what that "differentiation" cost you! Be careful to avoid "trust me" engineering as what you hear, is more than likely the true basics being correct and not the snake oil applied after the fact. Nothing wrong with snake oil, I suppose, as long as the fundamentals are correct. But, many a cable is JUST snake oil and expensive…and sound poorly.

I look at good sounding cables this way, if you have even 10K in a system a $2,500.00 cable that really sounds good to you is about as cheap an upgrade as you get in audio now-a-days. Yes, it's expensive, but can you beat the sound improvements for the price paid? Here is the BUT part, LISTEN to the cables and try to ignore the price and "packaging / marketing". If the fundamentals are there, the cable should sound pretty nice, as the real world physics will allow it to. You can't cheat Mother Nature. The same relationships are in EVERY cable.

03-17-13: Gregm
Rower30: your original post & further "articles" are very interesting and, if i may say so, a significant contribution to the community.
I'll second that. Your writeups make a great many excellent and important points. Well done!

The one area I would question, though, at least with respect to situations where the wire is not plated, is your emphasis on the importance of minimizing skin effect.
Audio has a skin depth of 18-mils. This is where the current in the wire center is 37% of that on the surface. The current gradients can be vastly improved with smaller wire (current closer to the same everywhere).
First, I would rephrase the second sentence to say that "this is where the current in the wire center is 37% of the TOTAL current, the other 63% flowing in the part of the wire's cross-section that is between the surface and the skin depth."

As you undoubtedly realize, with respect to sub-RF frequencies what skin effect basically does is to increase the resistance of the cable as frequency increases. It can be calculated that under typical circumstances (e.g., cable lengths on the order of 10 feet or so, and used with dynamic speakers, which generally have impedances that are high in the upper treble region and above), the effects of that resistance rise will be a rolloff at 20 kHz of a very small fraction of 1 db. That is likely to be completely swamped by room effects, speaker inaccuracies, inaccuracies elsewhere in the system, and the high frequency rolloff and finite resolution of the listener's hearing.

I can provide such a calculation, if desired.

On the other hand, in the less common situation where the length of the speaker cables is particularly long AND the impedance of the speakers descends to very low values (e.g. 1 ohm) at 20 kHz, as it does in the case of many electrostatics, I would agree that skin effect might conceivably become a marginally perceptible factor. And as you indicated, additional considerations come into play in the case of plated wire.

Also, a minor correction to a statement in your initial post, which was most likely just an oversight. 16 ns is 16 billionths of a second, not trillionths.

Again, though, my compliments on what IMO are a great many excellent and important points that are made in your writeups.

Regards,
-- Al
Nice over-view Rower30!
...The high end has known about wire directionality for at least 10 years; isn't it about time for everyone else to catch up? ...

In my opinion, no it isn't. There isn't any proof to catch-up to. Is the "audio" community the only place where sinusoidal information is transmitted? Why has no other scientific discipline, with far more fragile signals than audio noticed this phenomenon (well, it would be a phenomena if there was any true evidence it existed) and hasn't taken advantage of it?

Yep, we can take a picture of copper grains in drawn wire and say, see...the grains say to go THAT way! We can add dielectric polarization and batteries to also say we go THAT way. Until, Kickoffs current rule and polarization principals say no, we go BOTH ways and the circuit can't work. Sorry, but a picture isn't a sound. It isn't a proof, it's just the grain structure of copper, nothing more. It has to be directly applied to a signal attribute.

Alternating signals aren't "directional" they are BOTH directions. Which "direction" or polarity is it that you refer to? When there is a single shred of ANY evidence that can be put to the physical, let me see it. Don't tell me it's too complex to explain. EACH individual attribute needs to stand, with evidence, on it's own. This is how the math works. Everything can be taken apart to its constituent components. Nature is built in steps. Sometime a step is hinged. Capacitance and inductance are tied together. Magnetic fields and electric fields are tied together. One creates the other at the same instant. So they have to be looked at as a step in two directions.

Yes, the superposition of all the individual elements can be unpredictable in sound, but each one is readily analyzed on it's own. There is no, "we believe" (maybe because we paid for it?) in my world.

"When you control the mail you control information." - Newman

Ya, that's cute. Who's controlling what? I put fourth my opinion (it is mine) and we try to shut it down with the hi-end audio community acceptance of totally unproven electrical phenomena? The use of the words "hi-end audio" is interesting as it remains complete as anyone not believing it (it can't be proven) is thrown out of the fold so the community remains 100% right? Ummm,I'm pretty hi-end, and no, I don't "believe" it. Not only that, I have never heard it to accept that a proof exists to explain it.

Things like this are generally let alone as it doesn't hurt anyone except their pocket book. The FDA could care less about drugs that are placebo's if you want to buy them. You can change your oil every mile if you want to. But to try to pretend something is real based on blind faith and tell me ignoring it won't make it go away like it existed with any proof in the first place? No, I'm more scientific than that. I don't buy funny pills, I change my oil on proven service intervals, and make sure the cable I buy follow very real design principles. And, I'm sure glad the brilliant minds exist that do indeed continue to PROVE the physical world in repeatable ways. Just believe it? Are we living in the dark ages?

My viewpoint doesn't exclude those that want to address their superstitions (many are bullied into "believing" as those on this very site ridicule them to do so). I use the term superstition as simply that, a belief that an outcome is expected without ant real proof, not as a put-down.

Me, I'm pretty thick skinned and failing to "believe" isn't one of the things that keep me up at night. You better be glad those that design the equipment that we use everyday don't believe faith, as you can't trick the science in those circuits. Mark your cables, add batteries, do what ever, but DO NOT ignore what is proven and pay for those that attributes that are faith based until every real facet of design is well accounted for.

With modern DSP electronics, you could indeed pass a white noise (equal amplitude at all frequencies) through a know system and do a balanced circuit remainder function to "pull-out" the difference signature of various cables. This would be magnitude only. Phase is a more challenging measurement. You can sweep a cable for phase with respect to frequency and probably do a similar analysis. As different as cable do sound good equipment should be able to quantify some, not all, of what we hear.

Count me in when we try to prove what we all can really hear. Have you ever cut your 10K cable in two and pulled all the conductors out of and inch of your cable, and had the grain structure analyzed? We're they really in the same draw direction? OK, the box said they were.

With so called single grain copper it should not be an issue as the copper grain boundaries are gone, and the grains lay parallel throughout the wire till the ends are reached (limited length based on AWG size). You can pay a lot of money to guarantee you're right about directionality by theoretically avoiding it? Well, that's a way to handle it. Just do it in a good DESIGN.

"Maybe if we ignore wire directionality it'll just go away"

Well, what if I ignore something that doesn't exist verses something that does, will it appear? Maybe I'm on your side after all.

I will be VERY careful to not ignore R, L and C while playing my stereo, though, as the consequences could be catastrophic if they go away.

Better yet, see how many cables you can find that adhere to good design practices (ya, even the ones that add snake oil over a good design). The physics say that the proper management of the alternating signal will yield a nice sounding cable. Make a list to go shopping by. Buy more of the real deal in design.

Almarg,

Yes, you're input is spot-on. One is a goof, the other is more accurate to the current gradient effect based on skin depth, and the last is I can't count zeros! It would be nice to be able to EDIT as the author to improve accuracy, and make it easier on the reader to get the right info fast. Well, as fast as my stuff will allow (ya, I hear you...shut-up already!).

I'll admit the effects of skin depth are "real" based on calculations but the audible nature is hard to pin down EXCEPT that I have used IDENTICAL R, L and C cable on purpose and listened to designs with little regards (four wires) to no regards (two big wires) for skin depth. Those with more exceptional regards to skin depth at 12-20 wires in each polarity had improvements that were immediate. So I have to look at the overall design, and try to figure out what is going on as you use multiple wires. What is really skin depth management and what is something else? In theory, it can't be PHASE as the capacitance is VERY low (less than 30 pf/foot)in both designs.

Calculation say that capacitive roll-off first order filter PHASE shouldn't be audible, either, with reasonable capacitance. But, a superior design can simply bypass this effect to make it a none issue and still get sub 0.150 uH/foot inductance.

I agree, and point out, that speaker cables between a speaker / amp combination will sound more or less better moving from system to system. But, I also point out that "I" have not had an exceptional cable fall in my rankings switching systems, from dynamic drivers to electrostatic panels.

As to wire coatings and wire...has anyone heard tough pitch copper (~1500 grains per foot) verses OFC copper (~300 grains per foot) verses functionally perfect copper (~30 grains per inch) and single crystal copper in the exact same design? Go ahead and add verses silver plated to any type. I'm hot on the trail of trying to do just this between at least two copper types if I can.

Yes, I added copper quality, but tend to throw it down the list as good design eclipses what the copper supposedly brings to the table. Copper seems to be a knife in a gunfight. Yes, it can get some of the job done if the heavy lifting is already out of the way.

This is facinating stuff, in that it's like an unsupervised free for all. Like the light out in the cafeteria...seriously fun, but when the light come on, the mess has to be accounted for and blame placed on the right suspects. Let's get the light on, shall we?
Rower30 wrote,

""...The high end has known about wire directionality for at least 10 years; isn't it about time for everyone else to catch up? ..."

"In my opinion, no it isn't. There isn't any proof to catch-up to. Is the "audio" community the only place where sinusoidal information is transmitted? Why has no other scientific discipline, with far more fragile signals than audio noticed this phenomenon (well, it would be a phenomena if there was any true evidence it existed) and hasn't taken advantage of it?"

Like a lot of things in this hobby there might be no proof. But if you're looking for evidence you need look no further than the testimonies of customers of aftermarket fuses who have experimented with the direction of fuses and have reported their results. It's because directionality is now part of any intelligent design that so many high end cable and fuse manufacturers control the fabrication of the wire in order that the directional ARROWS that appear on their products show the correct orientation. It wasn't that long ago that the owner of HIFI tuning (were his the first aftermarket fuses? I think they probably were) maintained that his fuses were NOT directional, even in the face of his customers' findings to the contrary, and that no matter which way his fuses were inserted they would eventually "settle in" and work themselves out. In the meantime, the owner of HIFI Tuning has recanted and his fuses now come with little arrows to point the way.
More noise and obfuscation from GEoff as usual to soften people up so they might better accept his nebulous products while running around in his vendor-induced haze. Plus he has the nerve to do it in thread that is otherwise soundly based in practical interpretation of actual facts by those with some good real knowledge to share. These are open forums, but that really irks me and I am free to say so as well!

If people want to spend time figuring our which direction their stuff sounds better in more power to them. I would only add that I would recommend doing some homework and addressing fundamentals that are known to make a difference for concrete reasons first. Like optimizing speaker placement and orientation first, for example. That's the only reasonable way to go about anything.

Its an old story but of course people saying or thinking something works and even a vendor marketing something in of itself means nothing really.

For the records, my MIT ICs are supposedly directional in that the network boxes are at one end and there are arrows indicating proper orientation. SO that is the way I hook them up. It even makes sense to me that these are "directional" in that the two ends are CLEARLY not the same. I have had them hooked up both ways. Was there a difference? Maybe, but I could not identify. So I follow the directions and loose no sleep. IF there are no directions provided indicating a direction, like with the DNM ICs I also use, I loose no sleep. Somehow, it all worked out and everything sounds good.
The skin effect numbers cited are incorrect. In the audio band, it is necessary to use the bessels for accurate numbers, the exponential approximation is incorrect.

All t lines obey the simple equation LC =1034 DC when the t-lines are constrained, such as coax, high aspect ratio striplines, and high paircount magnetically orthogonal twisted schemes such as cat5e multi's.

Parallel run conductors will use LC = 1034 EDC, the effective dielectric constant being about 4 to 6 for zips.

The prop delay argument is inaccurate when load and source impedances are very low in comparison to the line impedance.

To answer the question "why are we going in 300 or more directions?" That's easy. The misconceptions which abound confuse the issue.

jn
Mapman wrote,

"For the records, my MIT ICs are supposedly directional in that the network boxes are at one end and there are arrows indicating proper orientation. SO that is the way I hook them up. It even makes sense to me that these are "directional" in that the two ends are CLEARLY not the same. I have had them hooked up both ways. Was there a difference? Maybe, but I could not identify."

Mapman, have you given any consideration to visiting an audiologist?
Hi,I can tell you first hand!,that Taralabs directional is real!other cables?,I have done real test!,to see if this scientist knows eanything,the answer is NO!,my cables that are all directional sound changed for the extreme worse!,when I reversed what signal direction they were designed to go,I do not care what rower30 hears!,I know what an audience of 20 people heard in my house with me!cheers!
JNeutron, thanks for your obviously very knowledgeable inputs. Yes, there are clearly a number of oversimplifications and "inaccuracies" (which I prefer to think of as "rough order of magnitude approximations") in what has been said in this thread. However, I would question whether or not the "inaccuracies" are relevant to the underlying points that have been made.

For example, concerning your point about propagation delays I am aware that delays at deep bass frequencies can be far longer than the 1.6 ns/ft ballpark figure cited by the OP. At 20 Hz, for instance, I have seen data indicating that for many cable types delays may be 50 times or more greater than that figure. However, that would still equate to more than 2000 miles per second, which clearly corresponds to a negligible amount of time in the context of speaker cables in a home audio system.

Based on the following comment you made in this 2005 thread, it appears that you would agree with that:
I do agree that the term "prop speed" is rather confusing, as most seem to think it means that the transit time from the amp to the load is of any consideration...IT ISN'T [emphasis added]. But, the term prop speed is directly related to the DC [dielectric constant], L[inductance], and C[capacitance].
I certainly don't disagree with that statement, and I doubt that the OP or most of the others who have responded above would disagree. Nor, I suspect, would they disagree with the following statement you made:
But honestly, it's all in the R, L, C, and Q of the cable. Unfortunately, there's been so much mis-information spread around that high end audio guys end up guessing and trial and error, without much in the way of science..and, realistic measurement of matched Z cables is impossible for most wire vendors, as inductance measurements at the tens of nanohenry level are very difficult to do correctly.
Regarding your points about skin effect, can you provide us with a QUANTITATIVE feel for the degree to which the result provided by an exponential approximation would deviate from the Bessel function result? For example, what would be the difference between the 63% skin depths at 20 kHz for solid core copper wire as calculated based on the two functions?

Finally, a question I ask out of sincere curiosity: Do you design or manufacture audio cables, and if so, which ones?

Regards,
-- Al
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What an interesting discussion, I only understand one word in 10, but still, interesting.

My 2 cents worth, does'nt the fact that cables sound different and most of us would agree they do make a difference to sound, mean that none are perfect? You come across this with all HiFi components, they are a set of compromises, change one component or material and you change the others. I think you see this most clearly with speakers. As a simple example, you can have high sensitivity or deep base, not both at the same time. If you spend a great deal, you will get nearer to deep base and high sensitivty, but money does'nt get away from the fact that you must make a choice.

Similarly with cables, choosing to optimize one variable, say capacitance, effects the others.

I can't see it is possible to make a perfect cable, amplifier or speaker, even if it were possible to get agreement on what perfect would be and it would'nt be possible to get said agreement.

This is'nt new or rocket science, but as all components represent a different set of compromises, ergo, they will all sound different, because none are perfect.
"This is'nt new or rocket science, but as all components represent a different set of compromises, ergo, they will all sound different, because none are perfect."

That's a very practical way of summarizing it!

Few things are EXACTLY the same. Nothing is perfect. When comparing two wires, some may be so similar that no audible or significant difference exists. In other cases , so unique that differences are much more significant and likely to be heard. Like most things, its shades of grey, not black and white. My mantra is focus on things that are likely to make the biggest difference first. That is the way to get results. Do not spend all your time cutting hairs and expect to get anywhere.
Almarg, an excellent post.

You are correct in interpretation of my 2005 statement, it is precisely what I said AND MEANT at that time.

HOWEVER, my statement then is correct ONLY with respect to lines which have an impedance which matches the load. At the time I made the statement, I had not adequately considered what the extreme mismatch between load, line, and source would do with respect to the settling time of the speaker wire. As it turns out, the only time the naked propagation delay is valid, is when the load matches the line impedance.

My concern is really only for midrange signals. It turns out that settling times for 10 foot zip cords which are terminated in 4 or 8 ohms midband, will be in excess of 5 uSec (Cyril Bateman actually measured this using a reflection bridge) and calculations bring that out in excess of 20 to 50 uSec. Given that humans demonstrate interaural discernment at the 2 uSec level give or take, this settling time falls within the possibility of audibility.

You skin question...I don't see any way to post graphs here, so I'll have to use text.

For a 1.5mm diameter wire at 20 Khz, the exponential solution states that at the center of the wire, there will be a current density which is 20% of the density at the surface.

Using the exact solution, the current density at the center of the wire will be 72% of the surface current density.

The exponential approximation is in error by a factor of 3.6 for a 1.5 mm dia wire at 20Khz.

I am not a cable manufacturer. While I have designed cables, they are always for my own use. I have in the past, provided to at least one (maybe two) cable manufactureres, the equations and understandings to allow them to create any cable of any impedance they wish, either for their own use or for their product line. All information was given freely with no restrictions. Under no circumstances have I profited either monetarily or via materials as payment for information. All materials I have ever used to construct cables, either for test or private use, were funded by myself.

In addition, the information given to that (or those) cable manufacturers is exactly what I have posted on multiple forums for all to use.

The most important thing any technical person can do is to continue learning. Should that learning provide new insights and understandings which conflict with prior knowledge, so be it. Nature of the beast. I am not immune to learning either.

jn
From what I can understand(?), it all seems to make sense. The only thing that concerns me is the dismissal of cables that use Zobel networks because of the expense. The cost of which is really negligible in the big scheme of things.
This is the best thread!

It is a joy to read such conversation!

Full of people's knowledge presented in a civil and level-headed way!

My hat off to you all.

I particularly love the last paragraph of jn's post regarding learning.
@ Jneutron,I like your position here with this post you stated!very realistic and comprehensive,with not to many words that mean nothing!,and the fact you gave help toward the cable industry is out standing!,I am nothing more than a consumer of cables,thou I have been around along time with my own inventions with resonance control and resonance tuning,sometimes science cannot explain everything!,to me if what a person created for sound works and sounds good to a fanbase of consumers than it must sound good and you feel like you are not waisting your time or others!,then there is the fact you claim that you are not immune to learning!,my setiments exactly,however,I will refuse to learn a science that dictates that what I hear does not exsist!,like cables signal flow is irrevelent,It may be possible for some brands of cables out there for this to really not matter,In my situation,a house full of 20 people and my self can hear clearly the difference signal flow made with top tier Taralabs cables!,for someone to state that all cables signal direction is irrevelent is very frustrating,how in the world can they base a finding with a few brands of cables out there and say, this is the way it is with all cables in the industry as a whole?,realisticaly that would take years of an attempt with a conclusion of failure!,the reason would be that most cable brands use different dielectrics,conductors,grounding schemes,the way conductors may be wound,are having no dielectric at all and have a vacume within the cable,the list can go on,I love learning,to me it is humane nature to test what someone claims,if there is no absolution,then to me the claim means nothing!cheers!,happy listening!
JN, thanks very much for the additional insights! All of which strike me as being highly plausible, notwithstanding the fact that I have never before seen them so stated. And I strongly second the subsequent comment by Corazon.

I would commend to everyone else's attention the related comments you provided in the 2005 threads here and here.

So if I understand your comment above correctly, skin effect is an even less important factor than even skeptics of the significance of that effect (myself included) may previously have envisioned. While the storage and delayed release of energy resulting from cable inductance and capacitance (as distinguished from the effects of "dielectric absorption" that are often referred to in cable marketing literature) are likely to be of greater significance than is generally realized.

Interestingly, I recall that in past threads Ralph Karsten of Atma-Sphere, who as you may be aware frequently posts here under the screen-name "Atmasphere," has mentioned that many years ago various experiments he had performed indicated a correlation between sound quality and the closeness of the match between cable characteristic impedance and speaker impedance. That, of course, does not seem explicable on the basis of RF transmission line and reflection effects, and I had suggested in one of those threads the possibility that what he observed may simply have been the result of the low cable inductance that usually goes hand in hand with low characteristic impedance. I said that in part because the impedance of a dynamic speaker at the ultrasonic and RF frequencies for which reflection effects may become significant is usually much higher than it is at audio frequencies, primarily as a result of the inductance of the tweeter(s). This statement in one of your 2005 posts seems to reconcile it all elegantly:
As it turns out, the point of minimal line storage occurs when the characteristic impedance of the cable matches the load..so, in theory, an 8 ohm speaker would work best with an 8 ohm cable impedance..this of course, is not because of reflections per se, but rather, just simply from the calculations of inductive and capacitive storage...
So the bottom line, if I understand correctly, would seem to be that in the case of a speaker cable, and assuming that neutral behavior is desired, minimization of both inductance and characteristic impedance is desirable, up to the point at which characteristic impedance matches speaker impedance (at audio frequencies), with capacitance also being minimized to the extent that it is practicable to do so without significantly conflicting with those goals.

Although, of course, whether or not truly neutral behavior will be subjectively perceived as optimal in a given system by a given listener will always remain an open question.

Thanks again for the excellent and rarely stated inputs!

Best regards,
-- Al
Dang, all of a sudden I feel really dumb. LoL
Please forgive me if I appear to be harping on one aspect of this multifaceted conversation. But, other than the added complexity(?) of perhaps needing a Zobel network to protect the amplifier, if all the other prescribed considerations are met, is there any harm in having a speaker cable with a characteristic impedance that is less than the speakers impedance?
And with that aside for the moment; since most speakers have a varying impedance should one strive to have the speaker cables characteristic impedance match the speakers nominal, minimum, maximum or some other impedance?
What we were taught in school about t-lines and reflections did indeed discount the possibility of reflections in the audio band for short cables. Unfortunately, that was based on an approximation, one used to simplify the engineer's job. Like the skin effect approximation of the exponential equation, where the depth calculation is good enough as long as you remain within the limits where the approximation is accurate enough. T-lines are the same.

The actual effect short line reflections will have on 1Khz signals for example, is extremely small. 5, 10, even 20 uSec delays on a 1Khz sine is so small that it is ignored in standard work. If I were running a few kilowatts at 1Khz into some load and worrying about delays and losses, I would also ignore ten uSec as well.

Unfortunately, humans have this absurdly powerful capability to discern direction of a sound source at the 1.5 uSec and up level. This level of interchannel time discernment is where the standard engineering techniques begin to fall apart.

The complexity of virtual image localization is sufficiently high, that I always recommend any technical person who wished to consider or argue cables first learn a bit about what humans can hear, as that is really the end result wished..what is audible.

For a low impedance amp feeding a 150 ohm speaker wire to a pure resistive load, the actual current delay at the load will be a function of the line to load match. If load = line, the delay will be exactly the propagation delay, measured in nanoseconds. If the load is very low or very high with respect to the line, it will take a large number of reflections and transits until the load current has settled to 90-95% of the expected value.

Since speakers can vary wildly across the audio band, I would recommend trying to get near the center of the range. It's reasonable to run wires at 25 ohms for example, by using perhaps 5 or 6 independently twisted #18 or #20 awg zips. No specific braiding of rancy stuff, just twiste them independently but make sure polarity is correct at each end.

If you try to go at or below 4 or 8 ohms, you will really have a lot of capacitance in the cable makeup. It has to be noted that capacitance is NOT an issue for any amplifier on the planet as long as the load at the far end matches the cable's characteristic impedance.. But if the load impedance climbs up with frequency, then the amplifier will see significant capacitive storage and may oscillate if the unloading occurs below the open loop unity gain point of the amplifier. The use of a zobel at the far end can prevent the unloading which is the problem.. If your amplifier is marginally stable with a low z cable and high z load, a cable made with a built in zobel will indeed be highly directional.

I do not recommend making the cable lower than the load especially if the load is 4 or 8. My recommendation is to make the cable somewhere in the middle of the load impedance min/max.

ps. are all posts on this site moderator approved, or is this a trial period for bad eggs like me?

jn
I wonder is the impedance matching aspect that has been discussed of value only in theoretical discussion or is there a practical way to realize and assess the potential benefit?

I suppose the best IC would be no IC. Integrated devices like integrated amps, with or without DACs, and traditional receivers are best suited to accomplish that. I wonder if there are ones that focus on the concepts relating to ICs discussed here to "connect" the sections of an integrated device optimally? Or does the nature of an integrated device, ie close proximity of components to connect together in the same chassis just render the issue of how to connect best practically moot?

If there is a concrete significant benefit for an optimal IC versus those actually used in practice, that would seem to argue that integrated devices have a distinct advantage in that regard, ie everything "integrated" optimally by a designer out of the box so the user does not have to be concerned.

That might be one reason to buy an integrated, though close proximity of components in a single chassis is probably a double edged sword and the potential for noise and interference a much bigger issue that works against the goals of optimal performance.

That leaves one with the common path of keeping things separate and having to live with "imperfect" wires to connect everything. Oh well....
Mapman,

For impedance matching in speaker wires to make any difference at all, a few things need to happen.

First, the speaker impedance has to vary enough in the midband frequency range such that a mismatch can cause enough delay variation. If the impedance variation is not large, then playing with the speaker cables isn't going to matter much.

Second, the speakers need to be of sufficient quality that a clear and concise imaging effect occurs. Since the delays will really only affect imaging, if there is no imaging to speak of there will be nothing to "look" at.

Third, the program content has to be sufficiently rich in imaging content that central images are sufficiently stable that you are able to resolve any changes in off-axis image locations with respect to the stable central image. If the program content is insufficient for this, ya ain't gonna discern nuttin.

Fourth, if the program content images are derived by the normal pan pot back at the mixdown in the studio, then the IID parametrics are geared towards the studio monitors, not necessarily a good fit to any system in the field. Add that to a lack of ITD content, and then the user is hogtied into attempting to interpret images based on localization parametrics which have little to do with your system, setup, or your hearing capabilities.

Honestly, that's why I just listen to music for the talents of the musicians...

IC's are an entirely different ball of wax. IC's (especially single ended) and powercords conspire to create ground loops which compromise systems no end. It doesn't help that the engineering community has yet to establish test standards for equipment loop sensitivity, both as a victim and as an agressor. In general, the audio community pays little attention to EMC considerations. In the future, that will happen. But until that does, users can only swap IC's and PC's willy nilly to try to compensate for design flaws in components.

jn
The debate about R, C, L and even metal purity, conductor diameter, dielectric material, all the usual suspects, gets a little moot when you consider how superior cables are after they have been broken in, especially if they have been broken in on an AudioDharma Cable Cooker or similar device AND after they have been cryogenically treated. Then you have to ask yourself, does a treated mid price cable sound better than an untreated high priced cable? Lance Armstrong would not have been competitive unless he had used performance enhancing drugs (since everyone else was using them).
It would appear as though the pro use of 600 Ohm balanced interconnects might address that issue.
Perhaps a bit presumptuous of me, but I think the OP point was that we shouldn't have to be swimming in such a vast sea of so many wires with so many imperfections.
Balanced ICs would seem to be an easy solution, but a lot of home gear is not designed to use it.

I have debated going to balanced myself on occasion, but frankly, I like my wire imperfections as a means of tweaking sound when needed. Just goes to show that the best technical solutions do not always win.
With all due respect, while I concede that wires tend to be a consideration in building a system, I would prefer that they just did their job and got out of the way. IMHO, there are better, more efficient ways to "tweak".
GK, I prefer discussing scientific entities. Your statements are not scientifically supported by any test.

If you wish to claim burn in of wires, please provide scientific evidence of such claims.

If you wish to claim cryogenic alteration of either dielectric or conductors, please provide scientific evidence of such claims.

Anecdotal accounts are of no significance as scientific proof. They are useful as a self serving vehicle, but not as proof.

Long time no speak, Geoff. How have you been, how are you doing? I hope all is well with you.

jn
Jneutron -How are you calculating impedance at audio to such low levels? The impedance rises rapidly at audio frequencies and is tremendously non linear. A cable can very easily be 600-ohms at 100 Hz, and drop to 50-ohms at 20 Khz with the open short method.

In don't see any liberties being taken to reduce an engineer's work load when it isn't even working as a transmission line. Oh it's "transmitting" all right, but not voltage.

As short as these cables are, open - short method is used to derive "impedance" even though there is no real impedance as the cable are far too short to manage such LONG audio wavelength. To be a factor, the cable length has to be at least 10X or more the quarter wave length of the frequency of interest. This relates to the fact that a voltage change has to happen BEFORE it gets to the end of the cable and audio speaker cables transit times are too fast for this to happen.

There is NOT true impedance matching reflections in audio cables caused by reactive impedance values verses resistive. The back EMF from your amplifier is many times more severe than so called "reflections" of a hi-current signal in a speaker cable. True, no cable has a 100% transfer to the load (pure resistor), but I think it is somewhat a mistatement to convey it's an "impedance" as it falls well outside what is known under a transmission line situation.

Speaker cable deal in current / power transfer where transmission lines deal in just voltage transfer. With POWER transfer you want the LOAD to be a MUCH HIGHER resistance than the amplifier output or cable so the "power" is dropped in the speaker and not on the amp outputs or the cable. You want the cable to be a pure resistor, too, just NOT a very big one.

So let's say you arrive at your "complex" impedance by adding the vector sum of the real and imaginary (capacitance and inductance) parts. That would be HUGELY capacitive to get to an 8-ohms value with such low real component resistance and inductance. Most of the magnitude is a CAPACITOR! Why on earth would you want to load the circuit with all that capacitance when POWER or VOLTAGE is NOT dropped across imaginary values but only the resistive one? Capacitors and Inductors store voltage and current, only to release it later on (minus their internal resistance, anyway). Add a bunch of imaginary capacitive component to your speaker leads and you create a messy situation even at RF. Talk about phase shift and imaging issues, there is no transfer of energy, just storage and release of energy at in opportune times. It doesn't sit around forever. The higher the capacitance, the worse it gets. We aren't storing nuts for the winter, we want to eat them as the come down the line.

Power is current squared time resistance, and I sure don't want as much POWER dropped on my cable as the speaker (same "impedance")! Of course this doesn't happen since the cable is NOT high resistance so POWER can not be dropped on the speaker cable. But, highly capacitive leads DO NOT aid the transfer of power to the load, either. I also don't want much dropped inside the amps output stage (usually less than 0.05-OHMS). I see nothing here that says you would want to, or can, match a cable to a speaker.

The skin effect calculation is "wrong"? Well, All I see is you have a different opinion right now. Multiple credible sites use the most common methods and all arrive at about 18-mils at 20 KHz. Where is your documentation on your method? I agree that "approximations" can boil stuff down too far. Saying so is one thing, showing us is another. We're all tired of sayings.

For delay, Velocity of Propogation is one over the square root of the dielectric constant. All good dielectrics are stable from 1 KHz to well into the GHz range, Teflon changes less than +/- 0.05 and is 2.15 nominal from 1KHz to 10 Gig and more. The delay is JUST the effects from the dielectric material group delay (some have more than ONE dielectric), and nothing more. It is design agnostic, zip cords or otherwise. You can measure the delay at 20 Hz, but it isn't going to make a huge difference in the arrival time at the end of a ten foot cable.

I still see the yearning to be like the RF guys. Why?

As for others, where's the beef in your audible beliefs? In God we trust, all else bring data.
Directionality - rice puffs.
Cryogenic copper - rice puffs.

We need to start digging out provable facts and using them, not just "hearing" them, to make better and practically priced audio cables. Are people being taken advantage of? Well, what do YOU think? Information is power. Get some.

I have thick skin so getting some good heads to knock me around is actually fun. Learning is NOT a spectator sport.
jn, thanks for your response.
Seems to me that the moderators delay posts if the poster has any history of by chance negatively effecting sales.
@ rower30, Read my 3-19-13 post,I have great respect for your knowledge,but remember,even when you have such profound education,and the fact you prefer data as means of proof,you cannot change what the humane ear hears!,I have told you 2 times in this thread my proof,that is humane hearing!,and the fact most audiophiles buy equipment based on what they hear!cheers!
Jneutron wrote,

"GK, I prefer discussing scientific entities. Your statements are not scientifically supported by any test. If you wish to claim burn in of wires, please provide scientific evidence of such claims."

Sorry, this is not some government lab, it's a forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences, including listening experiences. And my experience is that burn-in of cable is critical to how they sound and that trying to evaluate the sound of any cables without proper burn-in is just plain silly. I wish not to discuss scientific entities, I wish to discuss sound.

"If you wish to claim cryogenic alteration of either dielectric or conductors, please provide scientific evidence of such claims."

I couldn't care less about scientific evidence. Besides, I made no such claim, but apparently you are! Mox nix to me, the only thing I'm interested in is how it sounds. I trust my ears, one thing you apparently don't.

"Anecdotal accounts are of no significance as scientific proof. They are useful as a self serving vehicle, but not as proof."

I never claimed they were scientific proof. This is a hobby. Get over it. There is no scientific proof for many things in this hobby. It sounds like you think we should wait until NASA or AES or some government lab comes out with proof of cryogenics and burn-in of cables in terms of how they affect their sound. I kinds doubt that will ever happen. So are we supposed to sit on our hands?

"People would be much better off if they believed in too much rather than too little." PT Barnum

Yes, it's been a little while, are you are still at the government lab?

Geoff
I have copied your post and am interjecting comments in "" "" marks, it gets less confusing that way. I wish I could color my inserts red, but such is life..

First however, one clarification on a comment you made earlier, that a vacuum dielectric would have no capacitance. Totally wrong. Capacitance is proportional to epsilon free space times epsilon relative. For a vacuum, epsilon relative is 1, and epsilon free space is 8.854 times 10e-12 farads/meter. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND HOW AN ENGINEER COULD MAKE THIS MISTAKE.

How are you calculating impedance at audio to such low levels?

""As I've stated prior, hf impedance is 1/sqr(L/C) At lower frequencies inductive reactance is very small, and the conductor resistivity starts raising the impedance. The full form is of the style "(R +L)/(C+G)". Unfortunately there is no equation editor on this site..sorry.""

The impedance rises rapidly at audio frequencies and is tremendously non linear. A cable can very easily be 600-ohms at 100 Hz, and drop to 50-ohms at 20 Khz with the open short method.

""I've stated that as well If you wish a general feel, the Belden website illustrates this for a general 75 ohm cable. For audio use, I recommend a value 2 to 6 times the hf value""

In don't see any liberties being taken to reduce an engineer's work load when it isn't even working as a transmission line. Oh it's "transmitting" all right, but not voltage.

""Do yourself a favor. Get an HP 8721A reflection bridge and look at the reflections which occur in the audio bandwidth. You will learn something new.""

As short as these cables are, open - short method is used to derive "impedance" even though there is no real impedance as the cable are far too short to manage such LONG audio wavelength. To be a factor, the cable length has to be at least 10X or more the quarter wave length of the frequency of interest. This relates to the fact that a voltage change has to happen BEFORE it gets to the end of the cable and audio speaker cables transit times are too fast for this to happen.

"" you are repeating generalizations and approximations which were simplified for engineering use. This discussion is beyond that. You need to ask more questions and make fewer incorrect generalizations.""

I'll jump to one other erroneous statement of yours for brevity. You've provided quite a bit of erroneous statements, but I believe everybody's time is better served by you asking questions on this topic. I am happy to teach you if you wish.""

The skin effect calculation is "wrong"? Well, All I see is you have a different opinion right now. Multiple credible sites use the most common methods and all arrive at about 18-mils at 20 KHz. Where is your documentation on your method? I agree that "approximations" can boil stuff down too far. Saying so is one thing, showing us is another. We're all tired of sayings.

Documentation?? On Bessels?? Really?

Do yourself a favor, google Bessel functions, google skin effect approximation, look it up in a good E/M textbook, something. I gave you an exact engineering statement on how time varying rate of change Lenz effect current exclusion occurs within a cylindrical conductor, and you come back with that???

You need better sites. Just because it's on the internet doesn't mean it is correct.

Please pay attention: The exponential equation is the solution for an E/M PLANAR WAVE driving into a conductive surface NORMAL to the boundary. It is NOT THE EQUATION FOR CURRENT REDISTRIBUTION IN A CYLINDRICAL CONDUCTOR WHERE THE CURRENT IS AXIAL. Skin effect in a cylindrical conductor is a consequence of Faraday's law of induction within the conductive material due to the internal magnetic field caused by the axial current. The exponential equation is an APPROXIMATION EQUATION used so that engineers do not have to get mired into the bessels. ""

I still see the yearning to be like the RF guys. Why?

""If this question is intended for me, you are barking up the wrong tree. What I speak of here is a very small subset of what I do for a living.""

I have thick skin so getting some good heads to knock me around is actually fun. Learning is NOT a spectator sport.

""It is good you have a thick skin, you are going to need it. You are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.. (no offense intended, I just HAD to use that statement..)""

I have been told you are an engineer. What I have seen posted by you is a mixed bag of engineering facts, incorrect statements, typical internet factoids. Are you an engineer, and if so, what kind?

Me, I am an electrical engineer. I design, build, and test superconducting magnets for particle accelerators, medical synchrotrons, antimatter confinement bottles, and MRI's....in addition to my other responsibilities which are more esoteric.

I appreciate and share your desire to maintain some semblence of scientific reasoning in all this. I just have a rather more advanced understanding of the problem, and find it is always necessary to teach others what they need to know. Your need to learn this is by no means unique in this regard. As I stated initially, "we" are going in 300 or more directions because so many people, you included, continue to promote somewhat erroneous engineering and physics concepts. Promotion of erroneous beliefs is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

jn
Rower,sorry to respond before you have a chance to see my last post..

These two paragraphs tell me everything I need to know about you.

"quote"
So let's say you arrive at your "complex" impedance by adding the vector sum of the real and imaginary (capacitance and inductance) parts. That would be HUGELY capacitive to get to an 8-ohms value with such low real component resistance and inductance. Most of the magnitude is a CAPACITOR! Why on earth would you want to load the circuit with all that capacitance when POWER or VOLTAGE is NOT dropped across imaginary values but only the resistive one? Capacitors and Inductors store voltage and current, only to release it later on (minus their internal resistance, anyway). Add a bunch of imaginary capacitive component to your speaker leads and you create a messy situation even at RF. Talk about phase shift and imaging issues, there is no transfer of energy, just storage and release of energy at in opportune times. It doesn't sit around forever. The higher the capacitance, the worse it gets. We aren't storing nuts for the winter, we want to eat them as the come down the line.

The skin effect calculation is "wrong"? Well, All I see is you have a different opinion right now. Multiple credible sites use the most common methods and all arrive at about 18-mils at 20 KHz. Where is your documentation on your method? I agree that "approximations" can boil stuff down too far. Saying so is one thing, showing us is another. We're all tired of sayings.

"end of quote"

It is quite clear that you have not taken any courses in E/M theory.

I would be happy to recommend some texts for you. Don't worry, I won't recommend Jackson nor Becker. Both are far too involved for you (actually, for all humans). I was thinking Rojansky or Shadowitz perhaps.

Or ask.

As a start, several equations along your path of learning.

E = 1/2 L I squared
E = 1/2 C V squared
Z =sqr(L/C)

Using these equations, you should be able to determine the relationship between the energy stored within the cable as a consequence of capacitance, and the energy stored within the cable as a consequence of inductance. You may even note that they are equal when the signal travelling down the wire has the voltage to current relationship which matches the characteristic impedance of the cable.

You may or may not understand that the only signal that can travel down a wire pair is a signal which has the voltage to current relationship consistent with the cable impedance. It does.

You may or may not realize that is is impossible for a cable to carry a signal at the base propagation velocity if that signal has a V to I ration which is not that of the cable.

Therefore, when an amp says "100 volts" into a cable which has a characteristic impedance of 100 ohms, that 1 amp signal will travel to the load at the line impedance. NOT THE LOAD IMPEDANCE. If the load impedance is 100 ohms, the event is over once the signal arrives, typically 2 nSec per foot.

If the load is 10, one transit will NOT produce 10 amps into the load. It will take quite a few.

Very important point... YOU ARE CLAIMING SUPERLUMINAL SIGNAL VELOCITIES.

Doesn't happen.

AND, what I am saying has been measured. Get a reflection bridge.

you said:

""Information is power...get some.""

pssst. I have news for you..

Be nice, get nice. Be arrogant, get same.

John
H Geoff, same employ for me, same games for you I see. It'd be a boring world if you conformed...I don't want a boring world..

Rower..I just knew I'd mess up the quotes...sigh...

Audiolab...

Much of what Rower has stated is in error or misconstrued, you should not expend energy confronting such content.

A general question:

Is it possible to bold or italicize in this forum? I'm trying to be clear and not mis-attribute.

jn