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Audio cables myth debunked!

Last response: in Home Audio
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December 18, 2008 6:43:57 PM

Short version:

"A wire resistance of less than 5% of the nominal speaker impedance is chosen to work well with almost all speaker systems and can be considered conservative. Even a resistance of less than 10% of the nominal value could be used with some speakers and would not be audible. " -Roger Russel

This page has the most unbiased information regarding speaker wires that I have ever found in a single place.

Read, learn, enjoy, save money, spend it on something that matters to you.
December 18, 2008 7:18:49 PM

Tom Holman of APT and THX fame did a paper measuring the change in frequency response of a speaker due to different types of wire being used. At the time some audiophile cables were Litz wire which has a very complex impedance. Using resistance as the only criteria is very simplistic.
We all accumulate different experiences when we experiment with things like speaker cables. I wanted to try modifying a pair of Duntech DL15 loudspeakers so I started doing a single mod to one of the pair and then comparing the difference. One of the changes I tried was the internal wiring. I changed one connection at a time and compared as I went. There were differences.

Of course there is a lot of very overpriced stuff out there. I would suggest making your own comparison. If you have decent speakers (some speakers are not very revealing of differences) and are using regular 2 conductor parallel wire split one of them into 2 separate cables and twist them together into a spiral making a "twisted pair". Put some tape at the ends to hold it together and reconnect to your speaker. You can now compare. You would need a mono source or switch to do this correctly but try it if even if you don't.
December 18, 2008 7:45:53 PM

the whole point is that once you have a decent sized cable (awg16 seems to be good enough for pretty much everything short of olympic distances), you won't have any differences in your cabling system.

Anything else is "pride in ownership" and something close to placebo effect. No blind tests of cables of similar gage and similar length on same speakers with same source and no delay between hearings (insta switch) can show that there is a difference between said cables.
Related resources
December 19, 2008 4:43:53 PM

The review is very good and would help a lot of people from being mes-informed, I also agree with americanaudiophile about the twisted pair, although I haven't check the resistance difference. My main concern on some of my applications is to reduce RFI and EFI, like running the wire close to high current equipment like 600W light with ballast.
December 19, 2008 5:39:33 PM

The twisted pair changes the inductance of the cable. The question is not are there measurable differences (there are) and more than just resistance. Your speaker and amp have impedances, which are reactive not just resistive, which interact with the wires impedance. I have done double blind tests and it can be a trying experience.
If I were to flash a picture in front of you and them flash 2 others and ask which was the same as the first you might never be able to do more than guess. If a graphic artist or photographer did the same test they might be able to do it but the way the test is run would make it more difficult than just placing a 3 pictures in front of you at the same time. You can't do that with sound can you?
There is science mixed in with the hype of audiophile speaker cables and it is tough to know which is which.
December 23, 2008 4:16:35 PM

I agree that the test methodology can be biased, like it has been demonstrated in the linked article. Then again, you also compared my abilities vs the ones of a pro (graphic artist, photographer). I'd assume there are "pro" listeners out there (musicians, orchestra directors, etc) that could be better suited to take on those double blind tests.

Anyway, I'm not against paying a decent amount for nice looking cables. I am against spending 50 000$ for re-wiring your system with cables that will sound the same as your 200$ cabling. I just want people to get the correct information so that THEY can decide whether or not to spend lots of money on some components.
December 24, 2008 5:47:43 AM

Agreed. While there is a point to getting somewhat decent quality cable, there is no point in going to something like this when standard Monster cable (or even some cheaper stuff) will sound identical.

Actually, the stuff I'm using right now is pretty darn cheap, and in comparing it to some other cable (that I borrowed from my dad) that was almost $200 for a 10 foot length, there was no audible difference (the comparison was done blind). That was all it took to convince me not to spend the money on any more expensive cable - I used it for a subwoofer upgrade instead (which made a huge difference :) )
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