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Where can I get cheap 10-gauge speaker cable?

Discussion in 'Home Cinema Speakers' started by NicolasB, Dec 18, 2002.

  1. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Actually I just made that quote up. :) But anyway, I'm looking to buy 20-30 metres of speaker cable, and I'd like something reasonably thick but not too pricey. Maplins do some 10-gauge wire for £3.50 a metre, but I suspect they're charging a little extra because it's "oxygen free copper" which I don't care about. Anybody do it cheaper?
     
  2. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Hi there....you're buying £2900 pounds worth of B&Ws and you want to buy £3.50/m speaker cables.....can't help but say you're wasting the speakers and amps....you may as well use bell-wire.
    I don't generally buy a cable simply because it looks good or has OFC inside(or whatever) but seriously,you're doing the equipment a massive injustice and yourself into the bargain,by buying cables at that level.
    Have a listen to a few from those shops you mentioned....begin with something from QED,then try some of the more expensive stuff...use the cheapest that you can't hear any further improvement from.
    If you've bought B&W's and Bryston amps,you'll need a good quality cable with high current capacity,and good LF/HF characteristics.....as you know,I use Kimber 8TC with my B&Ws and Krells.
     
  3. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    All the evidence I have to hand at the moment suggests that expensive speaker cable is a con. I agree that it would be useful to have cables that can carry a high current, hence I am looking at 10-gauge stuff rather than Maplin's standard 69p per metre wire, but until and unless somebody can show me some measurements that indicate that cable of this quality has a significant effect on the signal passing through it, I'm not likely to change my mind.

    There are areas of audio reproduction where what's going on is complex and not all that well understood by science. One obvious example is the question of reproducing ultra-sonic frequencies and the influence this has on perceived sound quality. If you play a person a pure (sinusoidal) sound wave then they can't hear it if the frequency is above 20 KHz. For a long time people assumed that this meant that if you filter out all frequency components above 20kHz in a complex signal it won't make any difference to people's perceptions of the sound. Now we're beginning to realise that actually the ultrasonic components of a complicated signal (say a full orchestra playing) do seem to make a difference to the way the sound is perceived.

    But this problem has nothing to do with the ability of physicists and engineers to understand the way that sound propagates through air. It is because there are limits to how well they understand the mechanism of the ear and the interaction between ear and brain. By contrast the question of how well a piece of wire can transmit an electrical signal is extremely well understood. And there simply isn't any aspect of the way that electrical signals propagate down wires that could conceivably make a difference.

    It's easy enough to see how really cheap cable could cause a problem. Let's say we've hooked our Nautilus 803 speakers to some cables that have a resistance of 0.3 ohms. The impedance of the speaker varies from about 8 ohms to about 3 ohms, depending on the frequency of the signal. That means that the ratio of the impedance of the cable to the impedance of the speaker varies from 3.6% to 9.1% of the total impedance, depending on the frequency of the signal; or to look at it in a more useful way, the impedance of the speaker will vary between 90.9% and 96.4% of the total. That's a big enough variation that it might cause a (barely) audible drop in output volume at the frequencies where the speaker impedance is at its lowest. But the point is that the lower the resistance of the cable becomes, the less significant this effect is. If we reduce the resistance to 0.05 ohms, you're now talking about a difference between 98.3% and 99.3%, and it's most unlikely that this will make any audible difference.

    You could conceivably get a similar effect if the cable exibits a significant reactive load. If it has a significant inductance it will tend to diminish high frequencies. If it has a significant capacitance it will tend to diminish low frequencies. But again, if you actually put in the numbers for typical inductance and capacitance per metre, the actual difference this will make is negligible. There are various other physical effects that people will mention in an effort to justify expensive cables, but with any of them the fact remains that the effect is so small it cannot be audible. Gold-plating connectors can be useful because it prevents oxidation (which introduces very high resistances). Shielding could be useful to prevent interference. But otherwise if the cable can comfortably accomodate all the necessary current, and if its impedance at any frequency is comfortably much less than that of the speaker at the same frequency, it's not going to make a difference.


    Of course many people will say "oh, I switched from cable A costing £5 a metre to cable B costing £50 a metre and it just sounded so much better I couldn't believe it." These people are of course all telling the truth. But critically we are now no longer talking about anything remotely to do with what wires actually do to electrical signals. Now we're talking about psychology. If a group of ill people take a placebo drug then more of them will get better than if the same group takes nothing. The people who get better really are better - there's nothing illusory or imaginary about the recovery. It's simply that what made them recover is nothing to do with the contents of the placebo pill. In the same way if a system sounds much better when you put expensive cables on it, the improvement in the quality of what you hear is real - but it's still nothing to do with the cables. It's to do with the interaction between ear and brain. And that is something which has been verified by experiment.
     
  4. Silent Fly

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  5. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    I think I may have read that page before.... According to that I would actually be fine with 12-gauge wire, but I figure I may as well err on the safe side.
     
  6. rjw

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  7. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Well....your ears,and your £2900 speakers.....all I'd suggest is borrowing some decent cables and listening....if you can't hear any difference Vs.Maplin's stuff,then nothing lost.
    The argument of actual measured data Vs.audible differences has been visited so many times over the years,that if it was purely down to measured data,we'd all still be using high negative feedback amps of the mid 80's Japanese era with the same awful flat sound,but amazingly low distortion measurements.
    I'd also direct you to HFN's comparitive review of several different types of cables(under blind listening conditions)plus the associated lab measurements(by Paul Miller of Miller Audio Research) for a bit of good objective reviewing...sorry I cant remember the issue number.....sure someone here will though.
    Why not forget the Brystons,buy one of those old Japanese power amps,bags of power,low distortion,and rock bottom secondhand prices.:rolleyes:
     
  8. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    I may do that, if only out of curiosity. In the meantime using fat, cheap cables isn't going to damage the speakers.

    Yes, but often not very sensibly. Fundamentally measurement is always the right way to go. There is only ever one problem: people measure the wrong things.

    See above where I was talking about the importance of ultrasonic frequencies for one example.

    The problem with the Japanese amplifiers you're talking about (I would speculate) is they were designed to produce nice numbers under highly artificial conditions. Imagine you have two cars and you want to compare them in terms of miles per gallon. Both manufacturers probably quote the mileage obtained when the car travels at a steady 56 mph. But in the real world you don't travel at exactly 56 mph all the time. So the real-world mpg figures may be very different from what the steady-56-mph figures suggest. It may well be that the car with the poorer 56mph figure is actually more economical under real-life conditions.

    Perhaps the measurement done on the amplifiers consisted of feeding a perfect single-frequency sinusoid into them and measuring the THD at the output. But the problem was that the amps' ability to accurately reproduce a sinusoidal signal at one particular frequency did not translate into an ability to reproduce a complex, broad-spectrum signal with similarly low levels of distortion. If you measure the actual distortion on an amp's output signal when you are feeding a variety of real musical signals into the input and comparing the output with what a theoretically perfect amplifier would do to the same signal, then the measurement becomes useful. (I suppose strictly speaking you should be comparing the sound output from the speakers with the original input signal).

    Another sort of problem can derive from the fact that the original source material may be far from perfect. A well designed system may be able to extrapolate back to what the original sound source must have sounded like in order to produce the recording in that form. Again, this can be measured; but what you need to measure is the eventual sound at the listening position compared with what it would have been at a live performance. If you simply compare the amp output with the amp input it may not tell the whole story.
     
  9. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Well....only a suggestion to use the best measuring apparatus we have,as well as that you'll eventually be using at home....the human ear.
    I can only speak from experience,knowing that like everything else in this arena,you have to be prepared to try(preferably without buying!) and then decide.
    Any reasoned argument is fine until your own subjective requirements are taken into account.....why for instance buy the B&W's as opposed to another similarly specced speaker.
     
  10. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    I apologise if I'm getting a little worked up about this. :) The problem is that so many people seem to treat audio reproduction as if it were a form of magic, and a number of rather unscrupulous wealthy businessmen like to take advantage of this.

    Because the sound output that it produces carries less distortion when compared to the original live sound than is the case with most other speakers in that price bracket. Or, to put it another way, compared with similarly priced speakers they sound better. These two statements are largely equivalent. The only time it gets complicated is that different ear/brain combinations find different types of distortion more or less upsetting. That's why different people prefer different pieces of equiment. But that doesn't alter the fact that the more one can minimise any form of distortion the better.

    Why does one speaker sound better than another? Uncle Eric recently posted a very good article on this subject over in the speaker forum. Some of the factors involved include:

    - The ability of the speaker cabinet to restrict internal standing waves, e.g. by adjusting shape, size and damping

    - The ability of the construction to suppress vibrations within the cabinet and mounting

    - The stiffness of the cone, which needs to flex as little as possible

    - The internal damping of the cone, so that if it does start to flex the flexing rapidly dies away rather than leading to a prolonged vibration ("ringing")

    - The lightness of the cone which needs to be able to accurately accelerate and decelerate very quickly without overshooting

    - The stiffness of the suspension

    - The shape of the aperture (which needs to minimise reflections from the edges)

    - The texture of the surface around the aperture (B&W speakers have dimples which makes for a smoother airflow in the same way as the dimples on a golf-ball make it fly farther)


    There are two points here. First, none of this is magic. It's physics. And the aim is always to reduce distortion. Second, it's hard to say how much of a difference any one feature will make. It may well be that the B&W dimples don't actually make enough of a difference to be audible. Not having seen the numbers, I couldn't say. But, given the necessary numbers, it is possible to work out just exactly how much difference the dimples do make, and in the same way one can work out how much difference it will make if a piece of speaker cable is silver-coated or not. And the kind of difference that high-end speaker cable is supposed to make tends to be magic rather than physics.
     
  11. chips

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    Nicolas, I was putting forward much the same arguments as you a few months ago regarding speaker cable. The Beekeeper made a one line post “Look to C rather than R” :rolleyes:
     
  12. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Nic,I give up!....I know,as well as yourself,all of the objective arguments and figures on these topics,and am well aware of the "gurus" and charlatans that exist to feed on people's willingness to spend....you simply have to retain an open mind,despite the figures.
    Maybe it's down to my opinions being different to yours...I simply didnt want you to waste a £3k plus system for a few "haporth's of tar" so to speak....Nuff said.
     

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