Thoughts on speaker wire?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by bousozoku, Nov 26, 2006.

  1. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2002
    Location:
    Gone but not forgotten.
    #1
    I need to order some speaker wire and I don't feel like just buying a roll of Monster Cable in order to have something, especially since it's usually overpriced.

    I'm not trying to be extravagant but I'm interested in good sound at a reasonable price. I'm sure plenty of you have opinions, so if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to hear them.

    Thanks for any help you can give!
     
  2. iMeowbot macrumors G3

    iMeowbot

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2003
    #2
    This old post from Wintermute ought to be a big help :D

    The killer line from the article: "Bi-wiring with lawn-mower cable from the electrical shop will always out-perform single wiring with audiophile cable and at lower cost."
     
  3. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2004
    Location:
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    #3
    Local electronics supply shop, buy heavy guage lamp cord by the metre.
     
  4. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2004
    #4
    Quadruple-braided, crystalline, oxygen-free platinum hand-spun by virgins under the light of a full moon. ;)
     
  5. mr_matalino macrumors 6502a

    mr_matalino

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2005
    #5
    But make sure the packaging says full moon...half moon sucks!
     
  6. jaduffy108 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2005
    #6

    ### As a former audiophile and high end audio shop manager....a good rule of thumb is spend 10% of the cost of the system on cables. *I* always spent much more than 10%. On an **high end system**, good cabling is essential. Monster cable..generally... is *not* good cable. Kimber makes some fairly neutral sounding cable that is a very good value. Problem here is...cables sound different. If your system tends to sound bright/harsh...then you would choose a different cable versus a system that sounds "soft" or "rolled off". "Lo-Fi" systems really will not reveal the differences in cables....so it's a waste of money to invest in cabling. If you want to share the specifics of your system, I would be happy to make some recommendations. Good luck...

    Sidenote: "Bi-wiring with lawn-mower cable from the electrical shop will always out-perform single wiring with audiophile cable and at lower cost." is utter nonsense.
     
  7. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2004
    #7

    Why audiophiles seem to think they know better than professional sound engineers is always a mystery to me.
     
  8. SmurfBoxMasta macrumors 65816

    SmurfBoxMasta

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2005
    Location:
    I'm only really here at night.
    #8
    A couple of things to remember about speaker cables:

    A) Do NOT use common 18 gauge lamp cord from the hardware store! For driving $9 bookshelf speakers from a $20 boombox maybe, but for serious audio, it sux :p

    B) Use cables made for audio signal transmission. They have the proper shielding, flexibility, electrical characteristics, and HQ connectors. And yes, there is lots of it out there that is WAY less expensive than Monster cable.

    C) Keep your cables as short as possible. The longer they are, the heavier the wire AND the shielding needs to be. Starting at 10ft or less, for every additional 10ft away from the amplifier, go 1 or 2 sizes heavier.

    D) Make sure your amplifier is powerful enough to drive your speakers.
    The #1 mistake alot of people make is buying killer speakers and then try to save some moolah on the amp.....WRONG ANSWER !!!!!
    By the same token though, if your speakers only require 20 watts or so, do NOT buy a 500 watt amp!!

    If you do either, it wont matter what kind of cables you have, your system will still sound like crap :p

    E) Do NOT run your cables behind, around or under any appliance that operates with an electric motor......ie fridge/washer/dryer/AC unit.
     
  9. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2004
    Location:
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    #10
    A) Matter of degree and opinion. I am of the opinion that 90% of the population could not hear the difference between 12 Gauge lamp cord and 12 Gauge premium cable. And that 100% of the population could not hear the difference on 95% of the playback/speaker systems in existence.

    B) Shielding is not an issue for power level signals like speaker cables carry. The connectors depend on the sort of connections the equipment has - obviously, the connections have to be good enough to make a good connection. You can control this if you are assembling your own cables. Flexibility is of little concern in a permanent speaker cable setup.

    C) Yes, short and heavy is good for any grade of cable. Especially for amplified signals; the higher the power being delivered, the greater the losses to increasing length and decreasing diameter of the conductor.

    D) Yes. Your total sound is only as good as the sum of the defects in the entire chain -- that includes sound source quality, amplifier distortion, cables, speaker inaccuracy/resonance/distortion/time alignment, the listening environment including speaker positioning, coupling with walls/floors/ceilings/tables/shelves, reflection issues, standing wave/room resonance issues, listening position, and many many more factors.

    Arguably, most setups can make more of a sonic difference repositioning your speakers properly than by spending $500 on cables.

    E) Good advice generally, more important for mic and line level signals than for amplified signals, again because the post-amplification S/N ratio for a speaker cable signal vs. induced interference is way higher than the S/N Ratio of a line or mic level signal.


    PCWorld tested both digital and analog video cables ranging from $18 to $150 (Monster) and $265 (Kimber): "Though the analog cables varied slightly in our instrument tests, they did not produce distinguishable differences in transmitting real video content."

    More reading
    http://www.roger-russell.com/wire/wire.htm#reviewdares

    http://www.audioholics.com/techtips/audioprinciples/interconnects/SpeakerCableFaceoff.htm
    http://www.audioholics.com/techtips/audioprinciples/interconnects/speakercablereviewsfaceoff.php
    http://www.audioholics.com/techtips/setup/interconnects/DIYSpeakerCablesp4.html
     
  10. bousozoku thread starter Moderator emeritus

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2002
    Location:
    Gone but not forgotten.
    #11
    I was thinking about things like this all along but I wondered if things had changed since the old days when the company that sold my first pair of good speakers gave me a roll of lamp cord.

    Remembering a wasted afternoon with wannabe audiophiles switching 2 inch thick cables and not getting decent sound from any of them makes me concerned about putting money into the wrong stuff. I've heard (and played) enough live music to know the difference in brands of certain instruments and if and of their fancy cables couldn't reproduce accurate sounds, what does that say?

    I'm just not convinced that fancy is better.
     
  11. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2006
    Location:
    One Nation Under Gordon
    #12
    Buy the cable for it's physical properties - it should be built appropriately for your needs and if you're buying a brand it should offer a decent warranty.

    Apart from that (the assurance of good build quality, a warranty against defects and the physical properties for your particular needs, be it environmental, visual or otherwise) there is no sense in investing in higher-end cables.

    Perhaps the '10% rule' is appropriate in a very basic system where paying less will get you variable-quality wire (but this level would have to be really low). I own interconnect cables that costs thousands of dollars a metre. Why? Mainly because I can and was curious, and also because my CD players and amps are terribly impressive and they deserve garden hose sized interconnects in order for the whole system to look suitably impressive. As for sound, I could wire them with a £5 interconnect if it was built properly (many aren't and as I said above that's the sole reason why you would want to pay more) and there wouldn't be a blind bit of difference.

    There is slightly more scope for variability as far as speaker wire is concerned but in terms of single-room domestic use the differences aren't sufficient to be relevant.
     
  12. bousozoku thread starter Moderator emeritus

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2002
    Location:
    Gone but not forgotten.
    #13
    It makes more sense to me to spend money on interconnects because of the low current being passed and the chance that cheap cables have high resistance. Alumi definitely isn't as good a conductor as copper and it's not that unusual for cheap cables to use alumi. An amplifier of decent power can transmit signals to the speakers and overcome the extra resistance of cheap cables. I'd be surprised if most home users use constant power of more than 20 watts, even with 200 watts available. The effect on transient power is tougher to gauge but generally damping would seem to be the result.
     
  13. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2006
    Location:
    One Nation Under Gordon
    #14
    It would have to be seriously cheap cables to come to that. As I said, there's a baseline for a manufacturer who's willing to offer a warranty with their product and for it to be built consistently. Monster certainly falls into this category, but there are of course others. Beyond that the only real deciding factor is your physical and environmental needs from the cable.
     
  14. Me1000 macrumors 68000

    Me1000

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2006
    #15
    I use monster cable for my home theaters 7.1 surround sound,
     
  15. caseystrom macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2006
    #16
    Copper wiring is copper wiring. Monster is cheaply made and sold for way too much money. You CANNOT hear the difference between $20 Monster and $2 lamp cable for driving your speakers.

    I am tired of all the debating. Stop giving Monster your money. For speaker cable the only thing that matters is the durability and gauge of the cable.
     
  16. bousozoku thread starter Moderator emeritus

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2002
    Location:
    Gone but not forgotten.
    #17
    Am I somehow hurting you by having posted this thread? You seem to be quite irritated for the small number of posts in it, especially since there are nearly as many posts about virgins as there are posts on Monster cable.
     
  17. bartelby macrumors Core

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2004
    #18
    I'm glad someone else sees sense. If people can't hear the difference between quality cabling and household wire then they shouldn't be listening to music!
     
  18. Dreadnought macrumors 68020

    Dreadnought

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2002
    Location:
    Almere, The Netherlands
    #19
    Wiring doesn't have to cost a lot, but if you have big speakers and a powerplant for an amp behind it, use thicker cables! 6 square mm cables are no extra luxury.
     
  19. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #20
    Want best bang for the the buck? Buy an AC extension cord and cut the ends off. For some reason Home Depot can sell you a 100 foot extension cord with a plug molded on each end cheaper then they can sell you the same length and size of wire. OK maybe you don't like the look of orange round speaker wire then you will have to go the the electrical section at Home Depot and buy brown "lamp cord"

    With speakers all that matters is the gauge of the wire. You need it to be large enough that there is no loss. If you have a engineer handy he can computer the minimum required gauge based on the Amp's power, speaker impedance, and the length of the wire run. But for most applications #12 wire (either orange extension cord or "lamp cord" will be total overkill.
    If you are talking 100+ watt amps and 60 foot runs go with #10. If you are doing a bigger project hire an audio profesional.
     
  20. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #21
    Then there are no people on earth that should be listening to music. I have never seen even one study in a peer reviewed paper where anyone could hear the difference. The key here is "peer reviewed paper" Lots of posting on the Internet and stoies and such. Bt not one double blind study of a statistically valid number of listeners. This is like the stories about cell phone causing cancer. People think it might but the dats is not there.

    In any case unless you've spend a LOT of many for you peakers the wire s the least of your worries.

    Speaker wire testing is a great project for anyone doing a statistics class in need of a project. What you would do is get about 100 listeners in a room and have them mark a sheet of paper to indicate if they were listening to "good wire" or "cheep wire" every 30 seconds. Do this for one hour while someone in the back room flips a coin at random intervals -- heads he goes with "wire A" tails with "wire B" while even he does not know which wire is which. You could conclude that one wire is best if the listeners were able to "get it right" more than 50% of the time. I have yet to read even one statistically valid study.
     
  21. bousozoku thread starter Moderator emeritus

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2002
    Location:
    Gone but not forgotten.
    #22
    Well, I don't think I got further than where I was when I started. I ended up buying a 50 foot roll of Acoustic Research Pro II branded speaker wire. The price was close to the cheapest Monster Cable variety at $4.00 more than what I paid.

    I was considering buying banana plugs but I'll see how it works out without them. I haven't had the need in the past but they are convenient in a tight space.

    Thanks to all for your thoughts. The thought of cutting up my workshop extension cord and using that in plain sight of visitors certainly gave me a grimace and a chuckle. The virgins spinning platinum in moonlight--I just can't find words for that. :D

    The speakers are due Wednesday but the receiver is still in Japan and will be a couple of weeks. Those custom jobs are so impressive. ;)
     

Share This Page