Why bi-wiring is bad

From a link at the Chris Van-Haus website:

One thing that happens when you biwire your loudspeakers is that the input of the high- and the low-pass filters are fed with different input signals. The difference is a result of the high frequencies and the low frequencies being forced to travel different paths, perhaps through different types of cables, but under all circumstances through cables who have seen different loads (a tweeter with a high pass filter has a completely different impedance response compared to a woofer with a low pass filter!).

What happens is that the drivers will work less good together than when their filter halves were fed with equal signals. The result is a generation of more static and stochastic phase error sounds at different directions from the loudspeaker. The stochastic phase error sounds appear because there may be different types of unlinearities in the low- and high-frequency paths.

What does this sound like? Well, usually, just as you may expect from physics, it appears as a change in the reproduction of space and sound stage. Often, the first impression is that the "biwired" sound presents extended "dimensions", more "air", and is more "living". The impression after a week or month, however, is that all recordings sound very much alike, and the "airiness" appears on all records. It does not even sound like air anymore, instead more like a slime that pollutes every record you play. No wonder, since it is not a real, recorded quality but a "speaker characteristic" added to all reproduced material. "Sameness" is another word for it.

I just went back to bi-wiring over the weekend. The first thing I noticed was cymbal-like instruments shimmer much more. Secondly the bass now seemed to be less perhaps due to the greater high frequency information.
On orchestra music the orchestra is now well behind the speakers instead of right at the speaker. Like the article said, this may be a phase or time shift error and the depth may become wearing over time.
Finally there is slighlty better separation between instruments. It's easier to pick out each instrument.
IMHO, I agree. if you want to pass by filters, you should shift to an active configuration.
The advantage of biwiring is that the high and low frequency drivers have dedicated leads to carry their differing current needs. Speakers are NOT fed or forced anything. Electricity wants to run to ground. When an audio circuit is complete the juice gets it chance to run to ground. The crossovers and speaker drivers in the circuit soak up what they need to do their electro-mechanical thing. Exactly because the high and low frequency drivers differ in design and purpose, they benefit from specialized connections. As he necktie said to the hat, you go on a head and I'll hang around.
You believe all this? What are stochastic phase error sounds? My problem with all of this is that in bi-wiring there still is a connection at the speaker between both cables so that the notion that the upper frequencies are somehow being fed a different signal than the lower frequencies seems tenuous at best, untrue at worst. I can understand the distinct advantage of bi-amping with an active x-over, but am still left scratching my head with the explanations for bi-wiring. In bi-wiring I think you simply get more wire to the speaker and then the jumpers or those little plates between the two connections gobble up the whole signal. What is the effect of all that? Electrically probably not a hell of a lot. Sonically, anything you can imagine, I guess. If running different wires from amp to speakers somehow divided the sounds, why would speakers need x-overs in the first place? Thiel is not for bi-wiring. I would probably prefer Jim Thiel's explanation to that of most others. Wonder what that explanation might be? Good day.
All I know is some manufactures (Thiel) are not fans, other (Vandersteen) are. Maybe it's just one of those synergy things that needs to be decided by what sounds best...
Sorry that doesn't contribute to the debate.

"...the jumpers or those little plates between the two connections gobble up the whole signal..."

For bi-wiring the "jumpers or those little plates" must be removed!!

Jumpers are connected in the case of single-wiring.
Although I am far from an expert, I have found Jon Risch's explanation and arguments in favor of biwiring convincing. I, too, had trouble understanding how two different cables that were connected at the same (amp) end could possibly be carrying two different signals. Risch provides a very detailed explanation of how biwiring works and although I cannot confirm the technical aspects it is certainly consistent with everything I have read about speaker crossover design. If you are at all curious the article is well worth the read.

That being said, there is much truth to the statement that one high-quality cable will better a lower-quality biwired cable.


- Paul
I just went and looked at the Jon Risch link above, and while he has some good points, it is very oversimplified and doesn't acknowledge any of the limitations of biwiring, namely:

(1) the obvious potential for intentional and unintentional response "tweaking" that will occur using two cables rather than one, and especially two different cables (which seems to be what he is suggesting, although he doesn't come right out and say it). This can be either better or worse than the performance you would get from a single wire, depending more on random chance than anything else given the complexity of most crossovers. I'm not against tweaking the sound with cables; I just think that you ought to be honest about what you are doing.

(2) Even more important, the fact that biwiring will automatically and by default restrict the crossover design itself to a true parallel type. This in itself and all by itself is way more than enough reason to give up biwiring, in order to have the flexibility in crossover design to pursue series alignments or any number of more complex schemes.

There are a lot of pseudo-"experts" out there, and quite often I find that I am honestly not satisfied with their answers to complex technical problems; they seem to latch onto an "answer" without having adequate technical proof of the superiority of this answer. Biwiring is not necessarily a bad thing, and it is not necessarily a good thing. It is going to depend on the exact speaker drivers and cabinet design, the exact crossover topology and parts, the exact wire used, and even the amplifier(s)' own characteristics. This is one giant ball of issues all rolled into one, and any one of them is going to have a tremendous effect on the end result, but of all of them, the wire is probably going to affect it the least. That is why I refer back to #2 above; far better to be able to optimize the crossover properly than to be stuck in a "parallel" universe forever.
Just from a logic standpoint, this doesn't appear to make sence to me. It sounds right off that what is being stated is that the different drivers receive signals that are not identical, because of the different laods of the drivers.
Since one driver is not getting a signal affected by the load of another driver.
The last time I checked, this was the reason for biwiring.
If I understand this correctly, he is claiming that this is wrong because the signal does not have the same load? The speakers have different laods, feeding them a signal which is effected by all loads of all drivers will not change this.
If, as he infers, the signal is the same because the load is shared, the drivers would as a rule react differently because they have different loads. The signal would actaully be different to the different drivers, not the same, by the very nature of his claim.
Last but not least, his claim of less static and stochastic phase error caused by single wiring, and/or containing all loads in the same signal is unfounded in this statement. And therefore, his assesments.
And I see myself as not knowing too much about this subject. I just see his statement, reasons, and conclusion as contradicting within itself.
It could be that he left out some information, mistated, or that I don't know enough to be able to understand correctly, or it is supposed to be understtod that the reader of such have a certain level of knowledge on the subject.
Go read Martin Dewoulf of Bound for Sound, Israel Blume Coincident, and many other will state the facts. Bi wire is a not anything more than a way for cable companies to sell two cables.
If you are bi amping thats legit and works.
I had my speakers changed over to single wire. Drastic improvment in the sound.
Less is more in Audio
This pseudo-scientific explanation does not address the known, and measurable, back EMF from the drivers modulating one another. Although not eliminated by biwiring, it is greatly reduced.
I have never been able to bring myself to believe the commonly-heard explanation that biwiring somehow reduces or eliminates an alleged modulation of the mid/treble frequencies supposedly caused by the back-EMF of the woofer. In fact, the whole "back-EMF modulation" concept has a stink of implausability about it to me, but I'm not expert enough (actually, at all) to really know why I suspect this. There's just a 'lift yourself up by your own bootstraps' air about the concept.

Besides, it doesn't seem as if the amplifier is 'seeing' anything different in biwiring, other than the extra set of cables. I tend to believe it is simply just the presence of this additional wire that results in any sonic change. But then again, I'm a Thiel owner, so what the hell do I know? (Saves on cable costs, tho'...)
I have difficulty embracing this idea. As we all know electricity follows the path of least resistance. Thus, to suggest that it is "forced" seems to be no more than melodrama, the manner in which many people elect to prove the various versions of "The word of God" is a classic example of this.

I am curious, does anyone know of a speaker in which the cables are not split into four or six leads between the terninal and the crossover? Please explain the difference. Would not one bennifit, by bi-wiring, due to the fact creating different signal paths lowers the over all electro magnetic field in which various frequencies have to contend with (split between two cables).

However, correct me if I'm wrong. The point expressed about choosing to use different types of cables makes scents, because various cables tend to accentuate certain frequencies or sonic characteristics. Thus, your uotcome would be unusaully colored program material.

Please pardon my ignorance,

some users will apparently seem to benefit sonically when biwiring while others may not, or may even seem to experience a degradation. Karls has a good handle on the situation; it is a simple synergy issue.
It's like I bring a cable or a component who's sound I prefer at my house over to your house. It may be more compatible, less compatible, or possibly (but doubtfully) even sound the same as used with your own cables or electronics.
The "problem" that biwiring attacks is *cable intermodulation*, which is not caused by reflected power (networked cables can take care of that issue) but by the *forward power* of all frequencies traveling the same path simultaneously. Intermodulation is a real & measurable phenomenon & it is significantly reduced by biwiring.
I am not taking up an argument here with CDC's reported results, what you heard is certainly what you heard. That experience cannot however be carried over to any other rig unless the physical makeup is completely identical.
It would seem that bi-amping will create the desired effects that some ascribe wrongly to bi-wiring.I have heard the first step in more than one hi-end system followed by the installation of a matching amp where theresults that one wants come forth.
One might ask oneself why certain well-respected speaker manufacturers like Thiel and Dynaudio don't provide biwiring capabilities with their speakers when binding posts cost maybe 5 bucks each maximum. But don't ask me; I recently went from a single run of cheap Tara speaker cable to biwiring my Platinum Audio Solos with a run of AP Oval 12's and that's the biggest sonic difference I've heard in my rig in a long long time.
If you ask the wrong question, you are likely to get the right answer to the wrong issue.

This is taken from the Cobalt Cables website:


BI-wiring is a technique becoming quite popular in speaker applications. However, in our opinion, there are only a few situations where BI-wiring makes sense, and MANY situations where BI-wiring is just hype. Here are a few "qualifiers" to tell if BI-wiring makes sense for you:

• Your amplifier or receiver AND your speakers have two distinct sets of terminals per channel.

• You are running higher than average (200W+) power to each BI-wired channel.

• You are running longer than average (20 ft.+) cable runs to each channel.


I have orederd a pair of Bi-wireable Wharfedale Diamond Anniversary edition and do want to experiment w/ them, since they were $78 a pair brand new.

I also have a pair of Swans M1 which have separate crossover boards and only one set of binding posts. The manufacturer does not recommend Bi-wiring. They have bi-wireable speakers to satisfy the demand for such.

Time will tell...
Bob is right. There is no right or wrong answer. Every system is different. The only difficulty to overcome is the belief that there is one right answer.
Zaikesman, as far as the audibility of back emf many of us will disagree, however the existance of back emf is measureable and even intuitively understandable. A speaker is a transducer; it converts one form of energy into another. When an electrical stimulus is applied the motor converts it into the mechanical energy of cone movement. The motor can work either way. If you push in the cone an electrical impulse will be generated at the input terminals of the speaker. When a speaker is excited and moves outward in response to an impulse it does not stay there. No, it is returned to center mechanically by the spider. This centering of the cone causes an electical impulse at the speaker terminals. I think that even your Thiels operate this way. It seems to be unproven but some believe that the back emf of one driver creates a signal at the input of the other driver through the crossover which is a much shorter path, with less resistance than through speaker wire, down and back as it were. It would seem possible that this signal could also have an effect on the output stage of the amp. Marty
I'll just chime in off-hand, and not too technical (cause I don't know'em all and I'm tired). But alot of the biwiring hype is crap, I think. Alot of speakers feature dual binding posts simply as a selling point (fact) and most systems really don't stand to benefit from it. Personnally, Chris VanHaus nor Jon Risch are two not to get knowledge from (at least not without some many grains of salt). There are electrical changes that occur when biwiring (the stuff Risch babbles of), but in most systems when you run the calculations, the numbers are completely insignificant (just like the whole "high performance" cable issue itself in many ways). The cited intermodulation distortion in cables, I believe this is bending truth almost into a lie (it just doesn't happen), and LCR values rarely cause shifts of 1/20db, 1/10db is generous. And as others pointed out, biwiring isn't even an option if the system has a series xover (however, parallel xovers are by far the most popular).

That said, there are a few select circumstances where there is, may very well be some truth/benefit to biwiring--aka measurable and significant psychoacoustically. (I'm open to both sides) Half this comes from other sources a little more reputable giving somewhat scant mention in passing that the whole thing (biwiring) isn't ludicrous, the exact specifics I'm not completely sure of. The other half, I know, is with ESL's (not all though) and other speakers with demanding impedences curves in the high-freq., certain low impedence cables can correct deviations that may be in the neighborhood 3db with "standard" cable (so the high performance cables are a reality here, just with a single run). And extending that, if this was a two-way or more system composed of at least one transducer being ESL (although not necessarily) using a seperate run for the highs, esl, and lows, cone, it might stand to clean things up bwiring with "optimized cable". Its certainly one instance where I can actually see talk of optimizing a cable for a specific driver and being signficant in curing some distortions. ESL's have a little different electrical characteristics than "typical" cones in certain regards. But when Rish talks of it in a general hodgepodge way, I tune out--optimizing a cable to a 'normal' tweeter and 'normal' midwoof is an inaudible event. Even then the truth of the issue is I'm sure more obscure than that. I'm not even saying everyone with Martin-Logans are the few who stand to benefit from this (there's exceptions to the rules).

I guess my bottom line is, biwiring can benefit, but I don't know the specifics well enough--with most systems its not an issue (like 99% of'em). And this is all assuming your driving your system with a capable/well engineered amp. If you've got some of these tube amps, like the SET thing going with a damping factor of 1, or less, you'll run into serious problems (colorations) when the output impedence is greater than the speakers resistance I can't see coming to any conclusive improvements in sound with that much distortion. At that point even resistance is a big deal in cable. (Well engineered 'current drive' amps in a multi way (aka biamped, triamped) system is about the only time you want to experiment with output impedences being nearly equal to that of the driver).

To address the thread: I think he's just hypothesising about something he thinks he's hearing. Stochastic=random. I'm not into it. Not to mention, room colorations which can put a nice +/-2db speaker anechoic to real world performance of +/-7db, suddenly the cable is really really insignificant on alot of grounds.
I think that bi-wiring can allow one to tailor the sound to their liking via selecting different cables for top and bottom. It may also reduce series resistance, which is never a bad thing.

I also think that using different cables can introduce time delay distortions between the top and bottom end. This has to do with dielectric absorption, geometries, etc... Not all cables pass the signal at the same rate or "speed". This is called "velocity factor" and some are much "faster" than others.

I do believe that one can hear and measure the differences in response when doing TRUE bi-wiring ( two completely separate and isolated runs of cable per speaker ). These differences becomes more apparent as the cable designs become more divergent from one another and lengths of the cables increase.

I also believe that one can hear and measure differences between various single speaker cables within a system. I also believe these differences can be of quite a great magnitude under specific conditions. Some of these variances might be large enough that they may almost equal the sonic differences that occur when one tries different speaker placement.

The bottom line is that one makes their decision, likes the end result, hates the end result, can't tell a difference either way, etc.... Do what you want to do and enjoy your music and system. Who cares what anybody else thinks. It should all be done for fun, education and entertainment. If we can do this and share our results, we multiply the fun, education and entertainment factor. Sean
I have a set of Martin Logan Aerius i's. I have had them for 5 years and have been biwiring them for about two years now. Switching to biwire configuration made an instantly recognizable change to the sound, larger, in my experience, than changing the interconnects or the type of speaker cables used. To me, the sound really opened up and the bass tune and definition really improved. I have no idea what the technical reasons for this are, but the difference is quite large and apparent to anyone who listens. It may be possible that the improvement i am hearing is actually some kind of "static" and "stochiastic" distortion creating a "false sense of air" but every time I try going back to single wire, even using high quality jumpers, I don't like the sound. If it's distortion, so be it.
Bi-wiring is nothing more than a long jumper when you use the same exact cables. I have heard good results using different cables for lows and highs, however.
I was going to purchase the Acoustic Zen Halogram speaker cables and called them. Robert told me that he prefers the single wire with jumpers on his system. That was good enough for me, even though I was bi-wiring with my old cables. I am waiting ont eh new wires now.
When I had more mid-fi products, I was a big fan of bi-wiring. Now, bi-wiring robs my system of musicality. I feel with higher quality equipment, bi-wiring reveals a lot of incoherencies that can otherwise be negated by simply single-wiring with an adequate jumper.
Well maybe my stuff ain't good enough. With no less than 5 different wire purchaces--Where I bought the single run;used the jumpers--latter got the second run of the same wire,EVERY_TIME big improvement.Reminds me of the article about a pre amp designer saying an aftermarket cord did nothing for his pre.He was probably hearing-challenged. I've also read some ludicrious opinions from Roger at XLO. Hey,these guys may be great designers of equipment----But in the end they learn more from the end user. Why do you think there is a MK1/2/3/4?---Some of that comes from user feedback.
Just thought I'd add: While the designing part may be rocket sceince----The listening part ain't.
That's what I'm initially finding Viggen. With the emphasis on ADEQUATE jumper.
If it was rocket science, I'm sure we would have the thing mounted upside down, asking if it looked right and whether we should try it, then half of us would say, "I prefer to mount it this way" and we would all be dead.