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Bi wiring (and cables), what a load of ******** (long)

Discussion in 'Cables & Switches' started by Nic Rhodes, Sep 4, 2002.

  1. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    Bi wiring (and cables), what a load of rubbish (long) pt 1

    Fed up of the pseudo mumbo jumbo that gets passed off as authoritative guides to bi-wiring I have decided to put pen to paper. Flame away. ;)

    I DON’T believe bi-wiring works. This is audiophile nonsense (a self confessed obsessive audiophile speaking). It is audio flim flam, garbage put about by What Hif-Fi and it’s readers (or the ones who believe what they write anyway). Full stop. I have never seen any serious research that would make me think otherwise. (Please no What HiFi quotes, this will just wind me up more). I am a serious researcher and will look at any authoritative journals like AES or others for further guidance. I am open to any serious comments. But in my experience, non of my tests (rigorously controlled, not of the usual hook it up and turn the volume up demos from shops) have proved otherwise and I have the national cable collection here in Cumbria following my experiments to date. I am also willing to undertake any tests within my capability (no Gallos today!). I can match levels to 0.1B with both sound meters (non Tandy, quality units) and multi-meters / digital oscilloscopes to test things. I have access to a decent variety of speakers.

    The late Peter Snell was an early bi-wire fan, and later recanted saying it was ‘baloney’. Many TOP speaker companies now either don’t offer the ‘dual’ terminals at all or do so only for bi-amping purposes. Many speak openly about it’s detrimental effects.

    [Bi-amping is not to be confused with bi-wiring - they are totally different animals. Bi-amping can lower IM distortion in the critical mid range frequencies and to which the ear is most sensitive, as Paul Klipsch and others have demonstrated over many years. You also get about 4dB more headroom, which can subjectively increase the perceived dynamic range.]

    The law of superposition (the basis for why your speaker can reproduce a complex series of wavelengths simultaneously) states that any two voltages applied to a linear network (in this case, your crossover) will have the same voltage transfer as if they were applied separately. Simply stated, it says that any two currents applied simultaneously to a linear network result in the same current as when applied individually. If the crossover is poorly isolated (bass to Mid/treble) no manner of cable TWEAKING will correct it. Regarding the cable theorists (suppliers?) claim that running bass and treble frequencies protects the delicate trebles from the mean bass currents is sheer nonsense, and shows a complete lack of knowledge of the principles of electro-magnetism that govern signal transfer of audio frequencies over short distances. It is invented for you to buy- wire and not based in science / engineering.

    As I have said repeatedly here previously there have been some situations where bi-wring may have compensated for a poorly designed crossover network, but that does not make the principle valid. Poor crossover design is quite common unfortunately.

    Don’t believe me, try this

    Replace the pressed metal tags of you speakers bi-wire terminals with cables and listen to the gains. Bi wiring? No just removing detrimental cheap pressed tin plate. Cheap and easy upgrade. Note many manufacturers now supply wire links, I wonder why?

    Still not convinced and want to try bi-wiring: Well consider your £200 cable. You bi-wire with another £200 cable. It sound is better, is this because of your bi wiring or is it because you now have £400 of cable with different electrical properties, like R. A great test is to try Kimber 4TC, then bi wire with more Kimber 4TC. Finally try single wiring with Kimber 8TC (same number of wires as bi-wired 4TC and a very similar construction). 8TC is the preferred option, it has lower R, therefore bass is better reproduced. No bi-wiring gains but gains simply because of better electrical properties.

    Well I am a technical sort of guy, lets use science to look at the differences between single wiring and bi-wiring, try

    http://www.pcavtech.com/techtalk/biwire/index.htm

    I think this accurate analysis of the science behind the techniques says much. There is no difference electrically guys, wake up time.

    Now I am not saying cable don’t make differences, they do, it is all down to C, L and R Simple and basic electrical characteristics. Simple first year engineering. Then we have screening, RFI issues and a host of other things to add to the cable debate. However I will say that if you satisfy the requirements for the engineering basics (R, C, L, screening and RFI) than I can hear no difference between them. What I do say is that properly designed and performing cable isn’t expensive and more often than not any differences are elsewhere in the system (amp stability, level differences, poor connectors, oxidation etc etc). How many crimp loudspeaker connections? Well done QED for their excellent airtight AIRLOCK crimps or do you want to send your delicate audio signals via lead solder that oxidises? Connections just need to be tight and corrosion free.

    Tom Nousaine’s 1995 paper to the AES is good here for those with a technical bent on cable differences.

    I quote the following for interest from elsewhere on the internet giving the story of the paper as it can do a better job than me, from

    http://www.vxm.com/21R.64.html

    but quoted in full here for completeness

     
  2. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    Immediately following the meeting in Boston, Summer wrote the following letter to the Boston AES. Please note that Summer once again restates he is prepared to participate in a comparison test.


    "To the Editor: January 18, 1995 Last night's Section meeting with Tom Nousaine was an interesting experience for me. I needed the experience to prepare for a talk that I am going to give to the New York AES section later this spring.

    My undergraduate degree is in physics and my doctoral work was done in statistical analysis and research design. It is important to examine the validity of double blind testing at revealing subtle differences which audiophiles consider important. I intend to conduct an experiment in an area outside of audio to see what level of difference must exist for a double blind to statistically validate it. Perhaps someday I can share the results of this experiment with the Boston Section.

    We invited Tom Nousaine to come to Maine to hear the difference in cables in our reference systems. I would like to extend the invitation to your membership, not for the purpose of comparing cables, although we would certainly do that if anyone wanted. The reason for anyone coming would be to hear a very good audiophile sound system in (a) very good room. The room was designed by Ed Bannon of TAJ Soundworks. It is about 29' x 19' with no parallel walls and solid construction. We have a variety of equipment to cover the upper range of audiophile tastes, and best of all, cable by Transparent.

    Anyone can contact me at 207-929-4553 to set up a listening session. I look forward to attending more of your sessions this season and I intend to become a member.

    Jack Summer
    Transparent Audio
    Hollis, Maine"


    Fast forward several months, to the week of September 25, 1995. Tom Nousaine flies all the way from Chicago to Boston. His avowed mission: Take up Summer on his cable comparison offer. After all, President Summer had publicly made Tom a promise -- in writing no less. While in Boston, Nousaine also attended another Boston Audio Society meeting, on September 27th.

    The day following the meeting, Nousaine, in the company of several other BAS members, including BAS founder Alvin Foster, drove all the way up to Maine, to Transparent Audio. Upon arrival at their destination, the President of Transparent said, quite incredibly, "What cable comparison? No way." Tom and Jack then got into another spirited discussion, which more or less followed along the puerile lines of "But you promised!" "Did Not!" Did Too!" Did Not." etc.

    Nousaine and his BAS companions then said they were willing do a double blind; no one will know which cable is which. But the now Transparent Summer remained adamant in his position: No comparisons of any kind. No Pepsi cable taste test.

    After more such highly transparent repartee, ruffled feathers were finally soothed all the way around. They all then sat down and listened to some nice Wilson X-1 music in Summer's very impressive home. Transparent cables were used throughout, of course. Tom, et al, finally drove back to Boston.

    If I wasn't there in the BAS/AES audience back in January, 1995, I would have had difficulty in believing any of this wired-up fiasco. But I saw and heard Summer make his cable comparison offer to Nousaine at the January meeting. Summer even repeated his offer in writing.

    The Inevitable Conclusion: The Transparent Audio President is the one who seems to be bogus in his proclaimed promises (but we still don't know about his cables).

    And so it goes in the high end, in the never ending search for truth, beauty, good music, and profits.
     
  3. Big Jim

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    good post Nic.

    As someone who just about stayed awake through an engineering degree, cable snake oil has always seemed dubious at best. It's always nice to read some common sense on a subject.

    Can you reccomend a selection of sensible well engineered cables with decent L C R characteristics for us?

    When terminating cables what do you think of the various options? I use qed airloc bananas for convinence...
     
  4. MartinImber

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    I admit to Biwiring - but I agree on the principal of total cable amount rather than seperating.

    However I wrap onto binding posts on the amp, and put through the holes for the treble bass jumpers on the speakers.

    The better cable sounds better but I haven't tried single wiring with expensive cable
     
  5. paiger

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    Nic, don't worry, they're coming to take you away haha.

    Seriously, what cable do you prefer? I am looking into making my own with Cat5, probably 2 twisted together per speaker. What you think of this idea? Apparently, you still need to split each cable into two cores (red/white). Can't remember why. I read about it at www.tnt-audio.com . What do you think? I am currently using Cable Talk 3.1 which is pretty boomy compared to some QED Silver I have tried.

    Steve
     
  6. StJonno

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    Thanks for that Nic, hopefully it will put this one to bed, although it probably wont. Having a background in electronics I have always found the bi-wiring argument difficult to accept. The resistance (keeping it simple) of a half decent cable is so low and the fact that both cables are joined at one end was always enough to stp me from ever even trying it. As a slight aside, the saying goes 'a chain is only as strong as its weakest link' well, the cable used inside the cabinet of some speakers to join to the cones from the crossover etc is often quite thin and soldered onto the crossovers and cones
     
  7. Charlie Whitehouse

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    Call me Mr Picky again but the head of design at Transparent is actually Jack Sumner. His wife Karen is president of the company and I have met her a few years ago, at one of the hifi shows. Formidable lady! :eek:

    Looking at that PC AV Tech Home analysis, the final conclusion of the complex analysis says:

    "(Conclusion)

    We have shown that Biwiring (electrically is the same) Single
    wiring if Zw ~~ 0 and Zw << Zs

    (IOW, Biwiring has no electrical effect if the speaker wire is
    properly designed for the speaker and the length of the wire, and the wire has lower series impedance than the source impedance of the power amp - both these conditions are commonly satisfied)"

    Does it not bother you that assuming Zw is virtually zero seems like a bit of a big assumption. At 20kHz, many cables may have an impedance of some tenths of an ohm due to their inherent inductance. The source impedance of a solid-state power amp may also be of a similar magnitude at that frequency. In any case Zs, according to the notation is the impedance of the speaker not the amplifier. So which is it that Zw has to be much less than? Za or Zs? I haven't done the detailed maths to see what the result would be with real-world speakers, crossovers and cables, it may well come out with the same answer, but this proof as presented doesn't quite do it for me. :devil:

    When you say that Transparent cables have a C problem, is this of a magnitude greater than, say, Max Towshend's flat 'Goertz' cables?

    Just playing :)devil:)'s advocate :D
     
  8. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    No. :)
     
  9. Jeff

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    When I moved my amp to the back of the room I went from bi-wired fronts to singles, I had lost the crappy bits of metal so I replaced them as Nic says with small bits of speaker cable. I can't say I noticed any difference. Good post Nic.

    Jeff
     
  10. MikeK

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    Following several recent threads on the S+S forum, I was thinking about doing a post like this myself.
    Nic's saved me the trouble now :)

    If anyone can find a copy of Tom Nousaine's "The Great Chicago Cable Caper" online, that's also worth a read as I recall
    (post a link too, as I wouldn't mind a copy of that again - I've lost it now after the usual 2-3 system rebuilds a year you have to suffer with windoze :) )
     
  11. Charlie Whitehouse

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    Nic,

    I don't dispute the conclusion. By all that's reasonable, treating cables, speakers and amplifiers as 'lump' impedances should by all the accepted laws of physics yield the result that there is no difference in the single-wire / bi-wire case, save any difference in the impedance of the cable(s). But the proof as presented simply says that 0 ohms is the same as 0 ohms in parallel with 0 ohms. With a bit more clever algebra, it should be possible to do the proof without making the assumption that Zw is zero, as it plainly isn't. All I'm saying is the proof is poor. :( :)

    And, you didn't answer my other question! :devil:
     
  12. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    I am working on it ;) with twins screaming in the corner. :D
     
  13. Charlie Whitehouse

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    As a fully paid up contributor to the NSPCC, I would hate to be held responsible for their neglect! :eek:
     
  14. Gordon @ Convergent AV

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    Nic,

    I must say I've never tried bi-wiring with two lengths of the same cable against single wiring with two lengths of the same cable.... I will sometime.

    I must also say that for virtually every installation I do I single wire with Ixos 6006 gamma geometry cable. How is that in your cable comparisons?

    Interestingly when roaming around Steyning (B+W research centre) and talking with the bods there they are adamant bi-wiring is a waste of time too. In fact the on;y reason for the bi-wore terminals on their speakers is marketing.....

    There was a speaker designer at Linn in the eighties. Called Rod. He went to live in New Zealand. Rod designed the Nexus speaker and HElix before leaving. He was sure that from measurements there was absolutely no way bi-wiring could make any difference, He was also incapable at that time to measure any difference in bi-wiring V single wiring. He claimed he could definately hear a difference though. I only know this as he was interviewd along with many other speaker designers in HiFi Review.. Just thought I'd throw that in....

    I believe that cables do make a difference....even digital incons...don't know why though. I think we're on the same wavelength!

    Gordon
     
  15. karkus30

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    Speaking purely as one who has listened to Bi-Wired speakers. My conclusion was that bi wiring offered no improvement in sound quality, I decided this about 7 years ago when Bi wiring was all the rage, so its no suprise to me.
     
  16. bjd

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  17. Gambit

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    I think you'll find one of the main problems with articles like that is that the reviewer (or whoever) sets out with the mind frame to NOT hear any differences. They don't want to, so if they hear a tiny difference, then it might have well not happened, so it didn't. I think you'll find there are very few truely objective studies into this. Cable manufactures will obviously say "yes they do make a difference" and a jilted guy who spent has his mortgage on cable only to discover that he can't hear the difference will say "no, they don't". If you, as a listener, have gone out and sampled different cables for your own ears then no review or science jargon should persuade you for or against this argument. As Gordon said, the guy Rod knew that cables should make no difference, scientifically, but they did. And IMO, the do.
     
  18. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    As I stated in the beginning I am interested in any serious research. I.E I and many others have an open mind on this. I don't think we are going into this 'with pre conceptions'. I offered to look at any research and try any tests. No takers, as per normal.

    There is much info on this ALL done in controlled conditions. NONE shows any statistical difference. People just don't want to listen under controlled conditions. Many are scared or have vested interests......

    Anyone one can make differences audible under non controlled differences. I can easily fake something will roll off, higher levels, tweaked sub etc. This is why / how shops sell cables. Ask them to do them under proper controlled conditions (matched to 0.1dB) then the answer is a very different one. To date NO one has been willing to take up Stuart Robinson challenge on cables here under controlled conditions. I wonder why if it so easy to win such a good quality cable.

    I will write more on differences later today if I have time.

    But you sell cables don't you. I wouldn't have expected anything else. ;) I doubt very much your employer would like it if you told people not to buy cables. :) I know OTHER INDUSTRY regulars here have had their knucles rapped by suppliers by saying the truth which may be detrimental to sales of certain products.

    No flames from anyone, hardly any discenters, why do people buy so much cable then?:(
     
  19. Gambit

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    As usual Nic, a good post (bugger):)
    I understand that you are genuinly interested in research, hence the bit about "make your own mind up".
    I might sell cables, but I don't work on commision and I buy them for myself. If I knew an "inside secret" I wouldn't buy them myself.
    But I feel I have, in fact, got conclusive evidence that they do make a difference... My mother could tell the difference between cheap, freebie phono's and a decent pair:eek: :D
     
  20. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    Would this be a bad time to ask whether cables have the highest profit margins in retail? ;)
     
  21. Gambit

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    Nearly, but not quite. ;)
    They do have a good one.
     
  22. karkus30

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    Nic, although I am dubious of bi-wiring, this does not apply to differences between cables.

    I am friendly with a guy from a speaker manufacturer and I have tried out different cables and there are differences.

    Whats even stranger, is that during development of the Xover the sound could be altered by changing the position of a connection in the circuit itself. The move did not , in theory affect the circuit, just the cable position. At this point both myself and the designer were dumbfounded as there seems no logical reason why. So to counter this, we did blind tests using my wife as the subject, she was able to tell on each occasion when we had repositioned the cable.

    I am sure if you wanted to do a bit of hands on research Neat would be happy to help, give me a shout by PM if you want to go ahead and I will attempt to organise.
     
  23. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    If the designer didn't know why this happens then he needs a little more training me thinks. :D I normally charge £75 / hr (for large jobs).

    Interactions between component in crossover is well known and the correct spacing / positioning of the components (at 90 degrees etc) is I thought common practice in the industry. Perhaps the desire to PCB everything has had it's toll. yes the difference are easy to hear but has nothing to do with cables but emf between components.
     
  24. karkus30

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    Nick,

    yes, moving the whole component would have an affect, but it was merely the connection point that was altered and only by a few mm at most.

    Just for information Neat do not use PCB mount. All components are custom made and hard wired.
     
  25. Charlie Whitehouse

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    Nic,

    If it saves you some time, I measured the shunt capacitance of one of my Transparent Music Wave Super Single-Wire speaker cables. For a 10ft length, it came out as 1.5nF. By way of comparison, Kimber 4VS would come out at around 0.5nF for a similar length, I believe, and the Goertz cable I mentioned would be something like 4nF (based on figures published in Ben Duncan's articles mentioned below). So the Transparent is somewhere between the two. I don't think that that level of capacitance is going to cause too great a problem of HF rolloff in the audio band. It's probably a much smaller influence than the amplifier and speaker impedance variations. It's also there as part of a network to limit the bandwidth of the cable beyond the audio range, so I wonder why you say it's poorly engineered, when the design of the network is deliberate?

    Out of interest, and since you prefer 'scientific tests', did you ever read Ben Duncan's series of articles 'The Great Cable Test' in the July, August and September issues of HFN in 1999? What did you think of the conclusions? Have you tried to replicate the findings? Do you believe the experiment was flawed in some way? If you don't have a copy of the articles in question, I can probably supply a copy of the July and September issues but August seems to have gone AWOL from my collection! :( :)
     
  26. buns

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    Wow!! This is one incredible discussion!

    I noticed as i read through a comment along the lines that there was no difference in control conditions. Now this i totally agree with. I also agree that the logic behind biwiring is somewhat questionable and i would argue from a basic physics viewpoint that biwiring is 'harder' (i mean that in a loose way, i mean more complicated and complexity is a forerunner for difficulty which holds hands with degredation). I agree futher that bi amping is indeed of great benefit.

    I do however think different cables will sound different in a NON controlled setting. But, that is of course due to the effects of extraneous fields and such likes. As such i consider that the design of the cable is the important part, i think two similarly constructed cables will sound very similar. I dont believe in cables needing to cost the world. I think that home made cables like those from tnt are as well engineered as many expensive consumer solutions.

    If we didnt live in a consumer kind of a world, audio cables would be of a single design, because that design would be the best. We fairly much know what properties we need, so this means we must also know the optimal cable construction. Basically, any two cables you can buy off the shelf are going to be very similar, irrelevant of price. One may have fancy names and materials, but ultimately the essential factors are the same.

    I waffled a lot there........:D Basically, considering some listening experience, i will never buy another expensive cable. I know that the same quality can be home made at a fraction of the price.......so can anyone give me a ling to a 'soldering guide'!?

    great post!

    Ad
     
  27. paiger

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    I'm drunk. I have a Sony 1080, a Sony DVPNS-700, connected by QED Quinex 2 phonos. I also have Ruark Contemporary R speakers (the strongest link). I'm listening to Roger Waters 'In the Flesh' SACD and I have it quite loud.

    It sounds furkin brilliant. My speaky cables are Cable Talk 3.1 (or something).

    So, if I had an AV32R, a Brysoton Power amp and a decent transport what will it sound like.

    I tell you what, if you don't have this SACD, you must get it. The lady who sings the backing is simply aaawwweessssome. Would blow Tom Jones off the stage.

    Merry Xmas, I love you all.

    Steve
     
  28. karkus30

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    Now , theres a thing, had to go and pick my copy up and check, its has SACEM marked on it, not sure if thats SACD or not.

    Went to see him live at Manchester..........bleeding brilliant and that female vocalist got applauded after completing her solo, the applause went on for so long, they had to pause their playing...what an atmosphere.

    As to blowing Tom Jones :eek: I wouldnt like to say.
     
  29. paiger

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    I think you missed out the 'off the stage' bit:devil: .

    She has one hell of a voice though. I still have it on now and it's getting late.

    Absolutley superb. The best thing I have bought for ages.

    I recommend. £18 well spent.

    Steve
     
  30. Apocalypse

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    1. Who is Roger Waters?

    2. Can someone explain this speaker cable connecting the 2 sets of binding posts thingie in detail, I assume you loosen all 4 binding posts then tighten them down on bare speaker cable then put just 2 banana plaugs in the R and L :confused:
     

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