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Speaker Cable?

Discussion in 'Home Cinema Speakers' started by hutchingsp, Jan 16, 2003.

  1. hutchingsp

    hutchingsp
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    I need a couple of runs of cable to connect a NAD T741 to a pair of B&W DM601 S2 speakers.

    I'm not a believer in spending a fortune on speaker cables - I don't see how the fact it costs more necessarily means it sounds better, but that's another debate....

    I've done a bit of a dig, and found this site linked from a post on this forum:

    http://www.studiospares.com/viewproducts.asp?cid=2490&ctitle=SPEAKER CABLE&p=1&gid=5

    Having looked at www.sommercable.com this stuff looks half decent - by which from a hifi idiots point of view it's pretty cheap, you know who makes it, and you know the spec (though the figures don't mean a lot to me).

    My question was given the amp and the speakers, should it make a lot of difference if I were to get the cheaper SP225 over the SP240?

    Presumably the more expensive cable is thicker/heavier and so it can handle more power, ohms/impedance and stuff I don't really understand :)

    Should it matter on a couple of 2.5m runs?

    Any other suggestions? Mains cable?

    TIA
    Paul
     
  2. petrolhead

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    7thguest keeps trying to get me to buy QED silver wire. Its approx £4.50/mtr and he swears that his front soundstage sounds MUCH better.

    Cost will obviously depend on how much you need.
     
  3. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    There is considerable controversy on the subject of speaker cable. People usually fall into one of two camps:

    Cheap camp:
    The only thing you have to worry about is that the impedance of the cable at any audible frequency must be a small fraction (say <5%) of the impedance of the speaker. Any actual difference in sound quality outside of this would be in defiance of the laws of Physics, and so any perceived difference in quality outside this is purely the result of the placebo effect.

    Expensive camp:
    Expensive cable just sounds better, even if science has not yet advanced far enough to explain why.

    Personally I incline more towards the first school of thought. Assuming you do too, let's put some numbers in, loosely based on the SP215. Suppose your speakers have a nominal impedance of 8 ohms. This typically means that the actual impedance will drop not much lower than ~5 ohms but there are certainly exceptions to this - B&W Nautilus 800 series speakers, for example, can drop to 3 ohms at some frequencies. We'll take that as being a worst case. Let's say we have some speaker cable with a resistance of 15 ohms per kilometre.

    5% of 3 ohms is 0.15 ohms. This is the resistance of a run of cable 10 metres long. So this particular cable would be fine for those speakers for a run of up to 10 metres. If you wanted to you could err a bit on the safe side. B&W (on their website) for example recommend a cable impedance of 0.10 ohms or lower (rather than 0.15) which would take the safe length down to 6 or 7 metres. But remember that B&W Nautilus speakers are much more finicky than most eight ohm speakers.

    If the impedance of the speaker goes lower (e.g. they are four ohm speakers), or the cable needs to be longer, then you'll need a cable that has a lower resistance, i.e. one that's fatter. Or conversely if a cable's resistance per metre is higher then you can't use so much of it.

    What about capacitance? Well, we can ignore that. :) If you don't believe me, let's say the cable has a capacitance of 150 pF per metre. A 10 metre run of cable would have a capacitance of 1.5nF. At a frequency of 48 kHz (the highest you can get from a 96kHz sampled signal) the reactive load is 1/wC, which is 1/ (1.5x10^-9 * 2 * pi * 48000) which comes to roughly 2200 ohms in parallel with the resistive load (which was 0.15 ohms). This has a negligible effect on the impedance of the cable, and the effect diminishes as the signal frequency drops.

    We don't have figures for inductance, but so long as the wire is straight rather than coiled round anything, that's likely to be negligible too.

    So there you have it, really. Either you believe the physics, or you don't. If you don't then frankly your only option is to audition the cables and see what you think. But it will likely the remain the case that shorter runs are preferable to longer runs, and that if you need a long run then a fat cable will do a better job than a thin one.
     
  4. ReTrO

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    The electrons in silver cables move faster than those in copper cables which makes them sound better, some how. Also silver cables tarnish less than copper, which does increase the resitive properties of the cable.

    It just happens that silver cables cost more.:D

    Personnally I am using Chord Carnival 4 £5/m (bi-wire version) at the moment, and use a mixture of that and Chord Rumour 4 at home £14/m.
     
  5. EvilMudge

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    Nic.
    good post as ever. I would however say that there are measurable differences between different speakers depeding on geometry, construction, cable length load at each end. Frequency response, harmonic distortion and 'ringing' are all measurable in the vast majority of cables.

    The problem with this is that the differences encountered are not sufficiently great to explain the 'audiophile' difference. Yes the placebo effect does seem likely.

    The perfect cable is unfortunately a myth.

    As for a suggestion, try high grade data cabling - token ring cables are some of the most popular (and cheap - a lot of companies are ripping this stuff out and replacing it with Cat 5e or better.)
     
  6. hutchingsp

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    Well, I tend to believe in the first camp too.

    So, on a technical current/resistance etc.. level, have I got this right:

    Speakers nominal impedance is 8ohm, min impedance is 4.3ohms per the manual.

    5% of 4.3ohm is 0.215ohm

    Speakers suggest 0.1ohm cable impedance

    SP225 is < 13ohm K/M which is 0.013ohm per meter

    2.5m x 0.013 = 0.0325 which is less than 0.1ohms

    So the SP225 would be suitable?

    I'm perfectly happy to believe that it's worth replacing bell cable with something better, but I'm not convinced that just because something costs more it will be better - "better" is pretty subjective anyway.

    If I open the Maplin or CPC catalogs there's a multitude of no-name speaker cable which is I'd suspect technically of an extremely good quality (it just isn't sheathed in goat fleece or whatever makes the music sound best this week).

    The problem is that with cheap cable as well as expensive cable there's just so much to choose from that you can't help but wonder why you should choose one over the other?

    Paul
     
  7. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Corrosion can certainly be a problem, and the quality of the insulation on the wire, not just in electrical terms, but in terms of its ability to keep water out, can be significant. One advantage to using wire with transparent insulation is that you can see if the copper is turning green! :eek: Corrosion on contacts can be an issue - two dissimilar metals in contact corrode much faster. One reason why putting new cables in can make the system sound better is simply that the actual point of contact between wire and connector has shifted to a bit where there's no corrosion.

    Silver has a lower resistance than copper, which means that silver wires can be thinner and still have the same resistance. And, as you say, it is less likely to corrode. I am not totally persuaded by the benefits of silver plating wire, though. That's just asking to get a layer of corrosion between copper and silver all the way along the inside of the wire....
     
  8. 7ThGuest

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    Hey petrolhead that is you, Cheap & Camp :devil: only joking.

    Get yer hand in yer pocket you stingy g@t.

    Will try and get you some demo cables from RS/Global tomorrow, so don't say I don't do anything for you :)

    Regaeds

    7ThGuest :)
     
  9. mattheu

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    Wow, so much techinal stuff.
    Where do you guys get it from.
    Is it a little knoledge gathered from friend or are you slightly technical and not afraid to put your thoghts down.
    I hope people don't blindly except what is written.

    As for not knowing inductance of wire? Its is there , it is quotable for the known conductor per metre un- coiled. ( not very big though!)
    I'm not a avocate of spending a fortune either and would sit in the first camp.
    The silver and electrons faster, hm, true enough, but as long as they get there together eh! ( remember the frequecy is near DC.)
    Why would corrosion exist between the sliver plated wire and a copper inner if applied properly. They are disimilar, but for galvanic corrosion to occur at least 3 ( some notation 5) conditions need to occur. This situation is not one.
    If it were then silver plating copper to avoid galvanic corrosion , would be self defeating. Galvanic corrossion, though at the terminals , may be seen.
    My thought on cables, is more of matching the output stage of the amp to the speaker, problem. And all of the inheirent problems of matching with dynamic impeadances.

    And if you thinks its better, your money your choice.
     
  10. daninthemix

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    I fall into the latter of Nic B's two groups, and when I went from QED Genesis (silver plated I think) to Kimber 8TC (copper) I noticed very little difference initially, then over the course of a week or more the sound opened up greatly and I now think it is a much better cable.

    So there you go - I've gone and advocated cable differences and burning in in one sweeping statement.

    Certainly the two-way amp/speaker interaction is one of the most important dynamics in the sound of a system (maybe second to the speaker/room interaction), and changing the speaker cable is changing this interaction.
     
  11. petrolhead

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    About time ;)
     
  12. 7ThGuest

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    what about 'servicing the boiler' does she still need doin' :D :D

    Check your emails !!

    7ThGuest :)
     
  13. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    One thing I just remembered. "Which?" magazine recently did some reviews of loudspeakers. They also did a comparison with supposedly "golden-eared" audio experts of three types of speaker cable. Their definition of "top-end" is somewhat amusing, but anyway:


     
  14. alexs2

    alexs2
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    As you said,Nicolas,their definition of top-end is amusing(almost risible!),and I'm not surprised they couldn't tell the difference.
    I expect they were using a top-end amp/speaker combination also!

    There's no point in expecting differences to be noticeable when using relatively cheap cables,and when partnered with amps/speakers of similar qualities,any differences are going to be lost anyway.

    I'm not slagging lower priced gear(having had plenty myself!)but saying that a good cheap cable(QED or similar at this price level) will deliver the goods,without incurring a huge price penalty.

    Likewise,there's little point expecting Krells to deliver large amounts of current at varying frequencies into low impedance loads through bell wire! :cool:
     
  15. EvilMudge

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    I hope so too, if anyone takes anything I say as the gospel truth I'd be very ashamed.
    As for where people get their knowledge from, I can't say for others. Practical stuff I get from reading too many magazines, websites and forum posts. Theoretical stuff I get from my degree course and occasional jobs I do.

    The which? article is amusing certainly. Personally I look for the most neutral cable I can find, at any price I can afford. Sadly this has to be in context rather than from reviews.
     
  16. MvB

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    Hi guys,

    for everyone interested there's a great book out that's called 'the supercables cookbook' by Allan Wright. He shows how to build great cables at very low costs. I tried some of them and were very surprised. Since then its my cable bible :)

    I belong to the first group, too.
    Here something that's cheap and good:

    Try buying computer ribbon cable with 10 or 12 solid wires. Pick the first half as + and the other half as -. Try not to fold the cable and don't bring it near magnetic fields or metall.

    If you want to use copper cable (not so good):
    For 2,5 m it's really enough to use about 0,75^2 mm non solid copper cable. More would make the sound dull und unclear for this short distance.

    But, if you use chinch cable: you'll get much more out of a good chinch cable than of speaker cables. Kimber got in the right direction. Try some from the cookbook. It's cheap and worth the effort.

    Cu
    MvB
     
  17. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Originally posted by mattheu
    Wow, so much techinal stuff.
    Where do you guys get it from.
    Is it a little knoledge gathered from friend or are you slightly technical and not afraid to put your thoghts down.
    I hope people don't blindly except what is written.
     
  18. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Quote:

    Originally posted by mattheu
    Wow, so much techinal stuff.
    Where do you guys get it from.
    Is it a little knoledge gathered from friend or are you slightly technical and not afraid to put your thoghts down.
    I hope people don't blindly except what is written.


    Anyway...in my case the comments I made were based on too many years of upgrading etc....I've used everything from bell wire,through mains cables to lower grade purpose built stuff and finally onto the Kimber 4TC and 8TC I use now,and have found an increase in resolution with each upgrade,and sometimes very large steps in quality(especially when changing to Kimber from Linn biwire cables a few yrs ago).

    I wouldn't blindly accept anything from most reviewers,and have a few whose views I would trust,coinciding with my own.

    Kimber's website is well worth a look,just for Ray Kimber's views and work on cable theory and practice.

    www.kimber.com
     
  19. Lowrider

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    You are forgetting the most important issue, what sounds good in my system, might sound bad in yours...

    For instance, Cable Talk 3.1, less then 3 pounds/meter, sounded much better in my system than Kimber 4TC, in the end, and I tested many speaker cables, only DPA, more than 70 pounds/meter, sounded better...

    The point is, you have to test in your system, the most expensive cable might not "work" there...
     
  20. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Absolutely true,Lowrider,and something I always try to point out when posting anything here....by all means look at reviews etc...but always try before you buy.
     
  21. EvilMudge

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    Lowrider has hit the nail square on the head.

    £1000 a metre cables may be perfectly neutral, but if you're amplification and speakers are both lacking in bass response, then an inferior cable which has a lower impedance value at low frequencies will probably sound better. Put the biased cable into a very neutral system and it will come out flabby and overblown in the bass.
     
  22. alexs2

    alexs2
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    In reply to 'Mudge's post,I definitely found that Kimber cables worked better with my Krells than the(much heavier guage)Linn biwire cables I was using previously,so it's not just down to current carrying capacity of the cables.....the Kimbers have a woven arrangement of fine and heavier guage conductors that quite a few others have found work very well with amps capable of very high current delivery.

    Even with the same amps and speakers,the Linn cables produced a somewhat deadened sound with little or no depth...strange but true!
     
  23. Lowrider

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    I could, and I did buy my electronics just by reading tests, of course I could return if I didn´t like, but speakers, and even more so cables, you just have to ear in your system...

    When I started this AV mania, almost two years ago, I didn´t care about cables, 20 years ago, when I was just into hifi, there weren´t many options...

    But, after several upgrades, I now recognize they can make or break the whole system...

    Price is not even the main concern, but stick to the 10% basic rule, and you will be able to enjoy a lot more your system...
     
  24. uncle eric

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    I strongly disagree.
    Well before cables will "make or break" a system. There are other much more important considerations.
    In the make or break list hit parade,

    1) Acoustics
    2) Front end (Source)
    3) Source material
    4) Speakers
    5) Proccessing
    6) Amplification
    etc etc etc etc
    Somewhat lower in the food chain, cables.

    I've also never agreed with the 10% rule. The best rule is no rule.
     
  25. daninthemix

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    Eric - personally I would swap 2 and 3...only because a great source will expose a muddy sound mix and show it for the sow's ear it is. Some of my CDs/DVDs I swear I could almost count the number of times the actual music's been through a mixing desk (of questionable quality :rolleyes: ).
     
  26. uncle eric

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    Yep, 2 & 3 is a close one indeed.
    Interestingly enough, a friend just contacted me saying how much he agreed regarding the source material. This seldom gets a mention.
    It should. After all, its crucial. Unlike varying qualities of cable.
     
  27. Lowrider

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    I don´t buy any "hit parade list"... :devil:

    You can have the best system and it will sound lousy in a bad room, or with bad recordings... :rolleyes:

    I tried a Plinius power in my system, it couldn´t handle my Sonus Faber EAII speakers, lousy sound... They shine with Bryston... :D

    The Kimber 4TC, and many other speaker cables dulled the sound of my Concertos... :(

    The DPA interconnects wide opened the sound of my system...

    The Van Den Hul PCs tightened the bass and increased dynamics, not to mention I got rid of very bad sound around 19:00...

    As for the 10%, it is just a general guideline, as good as any other, above that you´d probably better replace some other components...

    The hit parade is spelled synergy in my book... :cool:
     
  28. Lowrider

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    Anyway, i agree source material is very important, I already mentioned in another thread, that it is my system´s weak link, so my next upgrade will be DVD-A when a digital link is available...

    Also, the cables are the last components to get, as they generally depend on your other components, again, some systems are more sensitive to cable change than others...
     
  29. RobertP

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    Interesting reading!

    I think the way you look at it is based on the information you have gathered on the subject.

    Those (like me) that have had electrical / electronic theory education and/or experience understand the resistance, capacitance, inductance RFI, you name it, type arguments - and have a theory based view of what is correct. I believe that based on electrical principles, low resistance for speakers and good shielding for interconnects is all you need worry about.

    If you have read all the experts (with interests in cable sales) and don't understand the jargon, then of course you get what you pay for. Expensive must be better. Or it must be if you spent a lot of your money buying it.

    I'm no audiophile. I have a basic ht setup. I would love to read somewhere if a double blind test has shown cables of equal resistance to sound different. link anyone?

    I followed the link to the kimber site and listened to the audio. The weave theory seemed to have some basis - cat5 networking cable uses a similar cancellation of noise approach. However it makes little sense at the frequencies involved in speaker outputs. I won't say what i thought of a lot of the other 'facts' he came out with.

    My HNC electronics was a very long time ago so I may have forgotten more that I remember...but to me cable is cable (and electrons travel at the same speed (of light) in any conductive medium). So..what did I get wrong :rolleyes:

    One last thought... take the lid off your amp or back off your speaker and look at the internal wiring spec connecting to those huge speaker terminal posts...
     
  30. staffspeted

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    A word to anyone who might think cables make no difference.
    Had my system in for about 2 months now so its "bedded in" so to speak. Originally installed with the Panasonic Bellwire speaker cable supplied with the kit . With Xmas out the way I decided to not break the bank but upgrade my cable so off to Acoustica I go and purchase 25 mtrs of QED Original at 2.50 per metre.
    That evening my wife sits down for her dose of Eastenders and other such crap only to comment "Have you turned the bass up or are they new speakers?"
    Now for a tone deaf with no AV interest whatsoever to notice,there must be something in Speaker cable Quality!!
     

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