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are high-end speaker wires bunk?  

post #1 of 492
Thread Starter 
hey dudes,

here's a quote from this article i read:

"...So what do our fifty hours of testing, scoring and listening to speaker cables amount to? Only that 16-gauge lamp cord and Monster cable are indistinguishable from each other with music and seem to be superior to the 24 gauge wire commonly sold or given away as 'speaker cable.' "

the whole article can be found here:
http://www.sundial.net/~rogerr/wire.htm

so are high-end speaker wires bunk?
post #2 of 492
Yes.
post #3 of 492
Quote:
Originally posted by nerdb0t
hey dudes,

here's a quote from this article i read:

"...So what do our fifty hours of testing, scoring and listening to speaker cables amount to? Only that 16-gauge lamp cord and Monster cable are indistinguishable from each other with music and seem to be superior to the 24 gauge wire commonly sold or given away as 'speaker cable.' "

the whole article can be found here:
http://www.sundial.net/~rogerr/wire.htm

so are high-end speaker wires bunk?
They are bunk for everybody except those who spent a fortune on them. However, if you perceive they make your system sound better, and you have tons of excess cash, then what's the harm. It's like giving a hypochondriac a placebo. The power of suggestion is a wonderful thing.

Chris
post #4 of 492
My favorite is when they describe the wires they use prior to doing a review.
That is a great help to know.
I guess we will always have the pitiful and the anal to deal with.
post #5 of 492
If you go with 30-35 cents per foot #12 speaker wire, you need never look back. And you might get by with 20 cents per foot #14.
post #6 of 492
Amazing how well the emperor's new clothes are selling in the 21st century.
post #7 of 492
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post #8 of 492
I went with 12 ga stranded wire and it was near impossible to fit into the spring clips for the surround jacks on my receiver. The price for buying cheap equipment...I ended up getting pin connectors for the end.

That being said, some of the stuff you get with electronics is really crap. I had a kenwood system come with what I think is 22 gauge wire. That isn't really enough to handle the electrical load over a long distance. Getting 12ga wire that is of a reasonable quality (some cable is for power and not intended for speakers) should work out for most things. I ended up getting 100' of 12ga wire at Home Depot for about $30 and am pretty pleased. $7 for a wire stripper (I have had incidents with razor blades :) ) and maybe even splurge and buy some banana connectors (or pins, like I needed) if you don't feel like wiring up just the bare wire.
post #9 of 492
Quote:
Originally posted by nerdb0t
hey dudes,

here's a quote from this article i read:

"...So what do our fifty hours of testing, scoring and listening to speaker cables amount to? Only that 16-gauge lamp cord and Monster cable are indistinguishable from each other with music and seem to be superior to the 24 gauge wire commonly sold or given away as 'speaker cable.' "

the whole article can be found here:
http://www.sundial.net/~rogerr/wire.htm

so are high-end speaker wires bunk?
Yes! Oh boy! Back to the trenches!:D
post #10 of 492
What I don't understand... is "high end" fiber optic connectors...

I mean, if I'm not mistaken, it's a digital signal, it's either there, or it isn't... or can outside influences mess with the integrity of the signal, causing drop-outs?

I would think as long as your $12 Toslink connector isn't dropping out, there isn't much to improve upon in that situation.
post #11 of 492
Audiophiles are popular targets for all kinds of bunk science products, but cables are by far the most common for one simple reason. You can start building cables for an investment of only a few hundred dollars in tools and materials, on your kitchen table. Provided you can produce good-looking cables with reasonable worksmanship and (even more important) event a psuedo-scientific reason why your cables are superior, you'll enjoy commercial success marketing to the audiophile crowd. Contrast this to the real circuit design expertise and the engineering and funding needed to design and manufacture speakers or electronics, and you can see why cables are so attractive as startup products.

What makes the scheme work is even fairly wealthy people who pay $1500 to $25,000 for a pair of speaker wires have a powerfull subconsious reason to hear an improvement - and almost always do. The new cables sound "so much more transparent" that they obviously now need a $1000 power cord to go with them. Naturally.

Gary
post #12 of 492
You bet it does. My wife was never into music (from the equipment side). She was happy with an AM radio. When we got married I was already into HIFI so she used my equipment. We were in, what to me at that time was a high-end store, and the salesman was talking about the new speaker cable they just got in. He was talking about how much it improved the sound. Being skeptical, we put him to the test. He agreed that if we couldn't tell the difference we could bring it back. So we tried it. Guess what? My wife thought it sounded much better than the cheap stuff we were using. So she was hooked. Does it make your system sound better. Absolutely !!!!!! We have since upgraded all components and speakers to a complete Linn system, and it sounds fantastic. So, yes those speaker cable did make my system sound better. Especially after she got the bug. She now has her sights set on some Revel Studios in Ferrari Red.
post #13 of 492
Hmmmm........I think RJ is on to something here.

The new "AudioWAF" speaker wire company is just about to be launched!!!
post #14 of 492
I think they can make a very nice difference. Some systems are more sensitive to others and can benefit more. I do think that companies are guilty of lots of marketing hype just like any other product and basically have some deep scientific explanation of why their product will make a difference more than the competion. After all, if they are not cheerleaders for their own products, who will be?

Just like any other component, there comes a point when it pays to upgrade something else vs. cables or wires. If makes little sense to buy a $200 DVD player and then spend $100 on a digital cable. There are much more cost effective upgrades. Fortunately there are some very good sites like www.diycable.com that use some of the Jon Risch type designs where you can get power cords, cables and other things that will get you 90-95% of what the ultra-expensive can potentially get for you.

One must also remember that with a product sold via a distributor and dealer network that the costs will be more so the comparative value of sites like above (I don't mean to make it the only site that one can get stuff out as there are plenty of others, e.g. www.homegrownaudio.com, wwwlatinternations.com, www.bettercables.com, etc.). So an assembled power cord at $79 at a website might be the wholesale equivalent of what would cost perhaps two to three times more at retail.

Part of what makes expensive wires are the cost of the connectors. A good electrical connection is important. Again, there may be more cost effective upgrades or connectors than $200 for 8 top of the line WBT locking bananas on a pair of speaker wires. Everyone has different priorites. I don't hold much faith in marketing hype for any product. I listen on a variety of systems and let my ears and budget be the judge. I make virtually of of what I use (I think I still have one store bought cable in one of my systems). There are some very good budget speaker wires out there - for example JSC 4x16 gauge hi-strand stuff (http://www.jscwire.com/) is not too bad at I think about $0.40/ft. Belden 83030 also is very nice at a step above that and is about $46 for a 100 ft. spool and comes in 10 colors so that a spool of red and a spool of black are very easy to use. It is 16 gauge and and I made up a sample (which my brother now uses) of a double run vs. $600 (name brand) cables and I thought is was better. My advice would be to upgrade other things and get something decent for speaker wire and as the budget permits, experiment.
post #15 of 492
Wow. Guess I had the wrong impression of this place. Half the time I went into this forum or dare I say it, the tweak/DIY forum it was all about how great a new silver plated power coord was.
Glad to see that some of the population here isn't rich beyond belief and/or just doesn't buy the marketing...I would fall into both of those catagories. :)
I was beginning to think I was alone. Whew.

I have actually thought about making my own cables and selling them as insanley high end stuff. C'mon, where else could you build something and then mark-up the price a few HUNDRED times and have the customers thinking they are budget cables...thank you kimber.
Too bad I don't have the heart to make up some rediculous "scientific" reason that the cables would deliver sonic perfection...used car salesman I am not. :D
post #16 of 492
Lucky, with high-priced cable you are dealing with the mark-up like any other product in the retail chain. I would guess that the price of raw materials that goes into an automobile (is a Mercedes SL500 worth 3.5 Corvette convertibles as far as parts?), referig., stove, etc., would also be of very small amount as compared to what the product is sold for. One of the high end cos. will sell their expensive cables at 25% of retail to sales people, way below what the dealer pays for it. You are paying for lots of listening time, experimentation (R&D), salaries, rent, equipment, business luncheons, and lets face it - advertising. I hesitate to pick on any product but there is a speaker that does tons of advertising and a large portion of the population would identify with its brand name signifying something good (I personally think they are horrible at their price point). Advertising is not cheap and to make and maintain a name that customers going to retail establishments to buy other things recognizable, makes the retailers happy. It took me a long time (I'm slow) to figure out that making my own stuff required an outlay of time, materials and tools but that the end result is I can make stuff that is really top notch and allows me to spend money on other parts of the system
post #17 of 492
Unfortuntely high end speaker cable seems to require a burn-in to get it working right. Use the cheapo stuff and avoid the burn-in period! :)
post #18 of 492
It is good to see reason prevails on this site.

Having said that, reason is a relative thing. I recently became intrigued with Cat-5 cables (Chris's recipe) which are very popular on Audio Asylum. I was able to get a spool of Teflon coated Cat-5 cable at no cost and began braiding a 27/9 bi-wire set, by 8'. My family and friends laughed at all the effort I put into these things and the blisters I developed on my fingers.

The way I looked at it, a little labour and a couple of connectors was all it would cost to see for myself what the buzz on Audio Asylum was all about. I was very happy with my system, Anthem AVM 20, MCA 5, 100v2's & Studio CC, bi-wired with 12AWG for the high end & 10AWG for the bass. So there was no burning desire to change the speaker wires. I have nothing against a cheap & successful tweak however.

In the end it had a cost of about $150.00 for the bananas, heat shrink tubing & cable shield to make these cables. They came out about the size of a garden hose and look cool, but thy are not all that flexible.

As to the sound I can honestly say there is a difference. Not a huge improvement, but there is greater clarity in a system that was already very detailed and accurate in its presentation.

The improvement shows at both high & low levels. Although I have not taken a measurement with my SPL meter to check for an actual change in level, I note I have changed my common volume levels since installing these cables 2 month ago. I had the default setting at -35dB at power up with my old cables, which was fine for casual listening of music and television viewing, I now I find myself turning it down to -40 to -45dB so as not to disturb others in the house. At the other end of the scale I notice I now listen at higher levels, -15dB to -9dB, for serious listening. I rarely listened beyond -15dB with my previous wire as I perceived it to be loud. I believe this to be a function of greater clarity/accuracy.

Do speaker cables make a diiference? Yes. Would I spend $500.00 or more on wires? No. Would I make another set of Cat-5 27/9 cables, even if I had to buy the wire? You bet, in fact I am bulding a 27/9 set for the CC. Have my friends and family stopped laughing at me? Not even close and I thought I was being reasonable.
post #19 of 492
I think if you have cable that is insulated well and uses decent plugs, you'll be in good shape. I don't know how reliable lamp cord would be in the long run, so I wouldn't use it, but I also wouldn't spend big bucks on gee whiz magic cable.

A dealer in Chicago told me he once sold a guy $30,000 speaker cable (can't recall the brand). He said he even felt "weird" about selling it--although I'm sure the sale helped ease though feelings. Far be it from me to tell people how to spend their money, but still, that's just utterly insane. I mean, the tax on such a purchase could buy a pretty decent entry-level system.

Jim
post #20 of 492
I have evaluated many interconnect cables ranging from $100 to $1000 and found that there were definately differences between some copper vs Silver cables, but also heard very little difference between the majority of cables.
I have heard very little difference between Speaker cables, but definately heard a difference going from Vampire continuous cast copper cables to the Analysis Plus Oval 9 speaker cables which are reasonably prices.
post #21 of 492
Of course they are indistinguishable,Monster is just lamp cord with a fancy jacket! And a higher price tag! :D BTW,I wouldn't refer to Monster as high end wire.

Wires do make a difference,period. The majority of the difference is due to gauge change,more so than esoteric designs. Everyone here will have different opinions on this,because it is all relative. Relative to equipment,listening habits,etc. This is a debate that you will never get everyone to agree on. The bottom line is this,experiment for yourself and try out what you can. In the end,go with what you think sounds the best,and is worth the money. You are the one that enjoys your system,not some reviewer,manufacturer or salesman. BTW,I do agree that a lot of the high end cables,that do make a difference IMO,are WAY overpriced. Just my 2cents. But then again,I'm not selling them! :D
post #22 of 492
"BTW,I wouldn't refer to Monster as high end wire. "

really, how about these??

<http://www.monstercable.com/productP...n=195&mixtype=>

Sigma Speaker/Interconnect Kit SRG SIK 131053 4,500.00 ea.

Sigma Retro® Gold: A Modern Classic Audio Cable
Monster's Sigma Retro Gold cables may very well be the best cables ever made. Some things are extraordinary because of their simplicity, like the Golden Gate Bridge or Rockefeller Center. They are as ageless and timeless today as when they were conceived. It is with this sense of the classic that Monster created Sigma Retro Gold speaker and interconnect cables.

Why Sigma Retro?
Sigma Retro isn't for everyone. It is not for listeners who want their sound "colored" or enhanced. Sigma Retro Speaker and interconnect cables were built to recreate the sound as it was heard in its original environment. A superior audio system needs superior cables to reproduce every lush nuance of music as it was initially made.

Monster's Sigma Retro cables are carefully manufactured with ultra-pure 99.9999% copper. It is then put through a special annealing process to give it the finest conductive properties, while staying flexible and corrosion-resistant for the purest and most detailed midrange.

Sigma Retro's advanced proprietary insulation materials have also been chosen with specific care. First, patented MicroFiber® is wound around the various wire networks to provide proper isolation and protection from contact generated noise, to ensure the quietest background and the greatest freedom from cable-generated noise. Then a distinct cross-linked polymer dielectric, PEX-2®, is pressure-extruded using laser-controlled precision dies to the precise dimensions to produce the insulation, which reduces capacitance and ensures stability for a wide range of frequencies. Since PEX-2 does not chemically react with copper, it guarantees that the impeccable high frequency performance will not degrade by corrosion at the copper surface. Lastly, the Super MultiTwist construction rejects audio bandwidth distortions for greater clarity and imaging.

For the best possible connection, Monster's Sigma Retro speaker terminations feature 24k platinum/gold contact alloy spade connectors. These spades are flat on one side for maximum contact area, and Turbine® textured on the other side for a secure clamp to the binding post. Sigma Retro Interconnect Cables offer a stylish 24k gold contact RCA connector housed inside a termination which resembles a jet engine.

Oh, did I mention that Sigma Retro cables are beautiful looking, too. For the ultimate listening experience, hookup your entertainment and sound systems with Monster's Finest Sigma Retro Speaker and Interconnect Cables.



$4,500 for a set of speaker cables is pretty high end. Do people really think that $50 wire is the only thing Monster makes (although according to the article, that would be as "high-end" as anything else.

Are these the same type of people that think the only car that Honda makes is a Civic, or have you heard of the NSX?? Just curious??

as far as the issue at hand, I have $350 cable, is it "much better" I don't know for sure, but I didn't pay close to $350 for it, so I don't care. But some people swear by power cords, magic rocks, insolator feet, etc, etc... I am a little sceptical.
post #23 of 492
btw, my dads buddy just got the $45,000 transparent cable, my dad asked him if he notices a difference, he smirks and says "it is all between the ears" for whatever that is worth.
post #24 of 492
I knew someone would start. If you bothered to read the article(doubt it) they were referring to basic entry level speaker wire. Just as when 99% of people refer to Monster products,they are referring to the basic cables. I'm not going to get into a pissing match over this. When I said that I think high end cables are over priced,these would take the cake. Of all the high end systems I've ever seen (even at Monster dealers),I've never seen these used. I think that speaks for itself. I'm sure someone somewhere has them,but an expensive price tag doesn't necessitate a "high end" label. Besides,Monster figures if they can rip people off for entry level cables,why not do it to the rich people too? BTW,about the NSX comment,I've owned a performance shop for cars for about 6 years,so let's not get into that debate. Oh and one more thing, this :D means joke,remember?
post #25 of 492
For DIY types who want to experiment with something a little better than zip cord, Percy Audio sells Kimber wire in bulk. You can get the original wire Kimber built his business around (4PR) for $1.80/ft. At that price, it's not worth it to braid your own Cat5.

I'll probably get some and see if it sounds better than my 10 ga. zip. There are some theoretical (and measurable) advantages to braided cable - lower inductance and improved RF rejection - but my speakers are a pretty mellow load and I'm not near any radio or TV stations so I'm not expecting too much. Still, I won't have to worry about the copper turning green from reacting with the insulation, like happens with some cheap wires, and $1.80 isn't all that much more than good zip.

http://www.percyaudio.com/
post #26 of 492
Quote:
Originally posted by HighEndWire
Lucky, with high-priced cable you are dealing with the mark-up like any other product in the retail chain. I would guess that the price of raw materials that goes into an automobile (is a Mercedes SL500 worth 3.5 Corvette convertibles as far as parts?), referig., stove, etc., would also be of very small amount as compared to what the product is sold for. One of the high end cos. will sell their expensive cables at 25% of retail to sales people, way below what the dealer pays for it. You are paying for lots of listening time, experimentation (R&D), salaries, rent, equipment, business luncheons, and lets face it - advertising. I hesitate to pick on any product but there is a speaker that does tons of advertising and a large portion of the population would identify with its brand name signifying something good (I personally think they are horrible at their price point). Advertising is not cheap and to make and maintain a name that customers going to retail establishments to buy other things recognizable, makes the retailers happy. It took me a long time (I'm slow) to figure out that making my own stuff required an outlay of time, materials and tools but that the end result is I can make stuff that is really top notch and allows me to spend money on other parts of the system
I'd like to see a speaker cable that has one hundreth the amount of R&D time a corvette or mercedes (or any car for that matter) has. I have can think of a few cable companies (perhaps there is an add for one at the top of this page) that I have yet to see any major advertisments for. Granted I do miss out on those wonderful audio mags, so I may be mistaken. I still say ANYONE with the time could make (not design, make) a cable and then directly quote some technobabble from a star trek episode and sell the thing at a cost 100 times more than the money he/she put into it.
I would be willing to bet the amount of R&D invested in a cable pales in comparison to the marketing. An engineer could design a cable with good intentions only to have a marketing department warp his/her design into some wonder wire that can dramtically improve not only the bass, but the stereo imaging and it might even tell you the winning lotto numbers if you're willing to listen. Until someone finds a cable company that doesn't run away with its tail between its legs the second a double blind test is mentioned, I'll stand by my belief that marketing plays a much greater role than science EVER will in this consumer oriented world, let alone the audio industry.

Now that im done ranting...what kind of cables have you made yourself? :)
I've thoght about it but have been too lazy.

Definatley reasurring to see that you guys are down to Earth. :) Now where were ya a few months ago when I was bickering with the guy that own the super duper power cable company?! :p
Never did get a clear answer from him....
Whew, time for bed.
post #27 of 492
A couple of years back I had to upgrade my live rig and got some 10 gauge wire to feed the direct radiator 18" speaker cabinets from the QSC MX-1500 amplifier. I A-B'd the old 16 gauge wire against the new 10 gauge and thought I noticed a big difference. Later on though I blew a one of the 18 inchers and guess what I found inside the speaker cabinet? 22 gauge wire running from the speaker to the input!

If people could look inside their components and speakers I am sure they would be surprised as well. What sense does it make to have a monstrous gauge cable in between the small gauges at the destinations?
post #28 of 492
Bluescat: You are correct,and most don't know this,but that is why a lot of people open their speakers and rewire them with better wire and/or upgrade the crossover pieces and/or replace the generic push on tabs for the speaker terminals. Obsessed? Weird? Enthusiast and music lover? You decide. To each their own. The bottom line is if you think it is worth it,great and enjoy. If you don't,then great too. Enjoy the music!
post #29 of 492
I was a believer in cable differences for many, many years. Then after reading the results of some of the double blind comparisons of cables - such as those conducted by John Dunlavy wherein multiple audiophile magazine reviewers could not tell the difference between $1000+ speaker cables and #12 wire when connected to speakers that won the Stereophile Speaker of the Year award (identities of the participants were kept confidential by Dunlavy) - I decided to conduct my own comparisons.

To keep a long story short, after numerous comparisons with speakers ranging from $900/pr to over $10,000/pr, with wires ranging from #12 to $2700/pr, with listeners ranging from casual & spouses to 30-year audiophiles and high-end audio shop owners, my results mirrored those of Dunlavy. In properly conducted double blind comparisons, wherein the listeners were reduced to only using their ears (and not their eyes) to tell speaker cables apart, not a single person could do it.

Nearly every participant was a believer in cable differences and quite adamant about it. Nearly every one perceived differences both before and after the double blind comparisons - and this includes me. However not a single person could "prove it." I was absolutely convinced I was going to pass, before one particular comparison I thought the differences were vast. But as soon as I didn't know which cable was which, I could no longer perceive any difference at all. It was a fascinating & educational experience.

The same results happened in the interconnect comparisons between Radio Shack Gold and a host of expensive interconnects. Much to the chagrin of the participants.

My advice to anyone who might ever participate in a well-designed test: Don't bet on your ability to pass!!!

Tom B.
post #30 of 492
Great post Tom...I think I'm going to bookmark this.
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