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Expensive speaker wire vs. lamp cord?  

post #1 of 376
Thread Starter 
I had some really crappy old speaker wire that I replaced with a thicker guage and better insulation, which the packaging assured me was important to getting optimum sound. I didn't spend a fortune or anything but you know what, I didn't notice ANY difference at all in the sound.

This got me wondering...has anyone done any blind testing with top-of-the-line speaker wire vs. cheapo wire? From an electromagnetic interference standpoint, I can see why better insulation might be necessary in some circumstances. But I honestly wonder if it's worth it. I figure stuff like room dimensions and building material affect the sound more than the speaker wire. Maybe if I already had a very high-end system, I might be able to detect a difference, but in general am I wasting money getting better speaker wire?
post #2 of 376
Quote:
but in general am I wasting money getting better speaker wire?
yes....

copper is copper... the electrons do not care what kind of fancy jacket the speaker cable has....

and as for shielding.... it is not an issue at the speaker levels.... maybe in certain situations for line leve cables (interconnects) but not for speaker cables.....

cheers!

:)
post #3 of 376
Trust your instincts, Bob.

And don't listen to the "My system is so good I can hear the cables" crowd. Maybe they think they can, but when challeneged they act suspiciously like one is challenging their manhoods. (Which leads one to doubt their objectivities. ;))
post #4 of 376
The most interesting cable story I ever read was from Audiophile's Buyer's guide which review several digital coax and toslink interconnects, with claims that there were definite differences in the cables. I fail to see how any well designed digital interconnect can influence the sound in any way.

Reedl
post #5 of 376
Quote:
Originally posted by DMF
Trust your instincts, Bob.

And don't listen to the "My system is so good I can hear the cables" crowd. Maybe they think they can, but when challeneged they act suspiciously like one is challenging their manhoods. (Which leads one to doubt their objectivities. ;))
Are you calling them 'girlie men'? (Arnie quote of the day) :D
post #6 of 376
Quote:
Originally posted by tubeguy44


copper is copper...


:)
Since you are from Minnesota, you should know the falsehood of this statement. The best copper comes from Michigan. :D
post #7 of 376
Quote:
Originally posted by Swampfox
Are you calling them 'girlie men'? (Arnie quote of the day) :D
Please don't encourage him. Or should I really say them? (Arnie and DMF) ;)
post #8 of 376
A recent Absolute Sound cable round up article actually touted the use of Home Depot extension cables for speaker wires.....really.

I am clearly NOT a cables matter kind of guy (unless they are broken, then they matter a lot!), and I found that article a hoot. The author even went on to say (and I am paraphrasing here) that he considers cables way down in the pecking order of things to worry about. After which Robert Harley inserted a disclaimer into the article saying that this is NOT the official position of TAS.

A lot of what I read in TAS I consider complete and utter Bull Sh*t, but I have to say I was surprised that they even allowed the article to be printed.

BGL
post #9 of 376
Okay, I see we have most of the players for the one side, and we're just waiting for the other team to show up so we can get this brawl started.:D

Ringside seats still available:)

Jim
post #10 of 376
To hear the difference in speaker cables you need:

1) Equipment capable of the resolution.
2) Music that will show difference
3) To a degree, ear training, or knowing what to listen for.
4) Good hearing... not everyone has the same hearing ability.
5) An open mind.
6) Quality interconnects also capable of detailed sound resolution.

I was an engineering type, believing wire was wire. I laughed at those who read the audiophone magazines, notably one friend.

I finally took my interconnects to a high end store. I did NOT use my equipment to compare cables. I used the best the store had. Not cheap.

My basic interconnect at that time was Radio Shack Gold A/V cables for audio and video. Wire is wire, remember????

The demonstration took me by surprise. Even my basically untrained ears could hear an OBVIOUS difference between my RS and their Straightwire Brand cables. With THEIR equipment. Sound improved when price went up, up to a point. There was a point when I could no longer distinguish a difference between higher priced cables. Limit of my ears I guess, or their cables.

To shorten the rant, I also discovered the differences in amps and sources. I upgraded my sound system and also upgraded the interconnects. I also upgraded speaker cables. A similar test between my 12 gage cheap cable and their high end cable ended up like the interconnect test. There was a difference. TO ME.

So, I am now a believer in the difference between cables.

And now, not to cause any grief to anyone, or to give offence.....

The vast majority of home theater, in my opinion...the equipment, and the compressed audio in movie DVD's is not exactly high resolution. You will probably not hear much of a difference with HT gear. So high priced cabling may not really be of value.

In my audio system, I use great cables. In my HT system, I just use good cables. I am sure the HT system could benefit to some degree using better cables, but it's not worth the price for me.

Also, check out your clear jacketed speaker cables, or even AC power cables (for lamps) in your house after a few years. The PVC attacks the copper and corrodes it. Takes time, but it does. Not great for sound. I threw away some speaker cord that was black and green under the jacket.

Just my opinion. FLAMES BEGIN!

:p
post #11 of 376
Thread Starter 
Interesting.

Taking everything everyone has said into account, I still think I'll sink my $ into better speakers first. Thanks!
post #12 of 376
"an open mind"

I think you meant " a good imagination"

I use Home depot 14 guage wire and it sounds just fine. Ran all 7 speakers for under 50 bucks.
post #13 of 376
Quote:
Originally posted by Bob McLaughlin
Interesting.

Taking everything everyone has said into account, I still think I'll sink my $ into better speakers first. Thanks!
> That's a much wiser investment. You'll notice a bigger difference in sound quality by getting better speakers rather than better wire.
post #14 of 376
I think the type of wire you use for your speakers counts to a certain degree depending on what type speakers you have, the power output, distance of cable run as well as environmental factors such as EMI, plus other types of attenuation and interference etc...

I think that the environmental factors are not really related to home HT use because 99.9% of the homes should not be filled with high levels of interference anyway. As long as you use the proper AWG rating to accommodate the length of cable run as well as power output rating you should be just fine running the cheapest cable that meets the above mentioned criteria.

Anyone who spends hundreds of dollars on speaker wire for domestic HT use is crazy. It is purely a psychological thing. You think that because you are spending the extra money you are getting better sound when in fact you are not.

As a test go buy both an expensive set and cheap run off the mill set and have a friend install it for you when your not in the room. Demo it and then change the wires again and see if you can tell them apart. I'm pretty sure that you will not be able to.

If you want better sound in my opinion change the rooms sound dynamics first or change your equipment. Wire is wire, bottom line.

Just my opinion.

Regards,
Ross
post #15 of 376
Well,
I did a cable test around 6 months ago. There is a difference. Why it is I have no idea since my science training tells me otherwise. With digital of course there is no difference because nothing is being transmitted over the wire in terms of audio, it's just bits and the device on the other side converts it to audio. So with digital interconnects, compUSA or radio shack is fine.
However for speaker lengths, where audio is transmitted and the presence of noise can actually distort the sound, you will hear a different sound with a different cable. Is it worth the money? No, of course not. But if all cost the same you would definately see more people not using plain ole lamp cord. However, the cable is a component. So it will respond differently to different systems. One cable may be more bassy for one set of speakers and more mid range to another, depending on the amp too.
Again, I have no idea why this is, but I've seen it, or rather heard it.

Best thing to do is get 2 or 3 sets from e-bay and see which you like the best for your setup. You can either sell all the sets back and buy new cable in the desired length you want, or just get boring electrical supply cord.

Here is my official stance:
If you own a system that cost $1000 or more on just 5 speakers then you should get audio cable.
If you own a system that costs less, regular RCA or Phillips cable that is 14-12 guage from Wal-Mart or Sears will work fine.
Even when you do get audio cable do not spend more than $3 a foot.
Once you own a $10k system you're on your own with cables since someone spending that kind of cash has specific tastes in all components, unless of course they are just rich and throwing money at a HT system.

Seth
post #16 of 376
Quote:
This got me wondering...has anyone done any blind testing with top-of-the-line speaker wire vs. cheapo wire?
I have done both sighted and double-blind testing of various speaker and interconnect wire (Transparent, MIT, Kimber, Home Depot, Harmonic Tech). The systems were Aerial and Wilson in acoustically treated spaces with Theta and Lexicon front ends. During the sighted testing, we felt reasonably confident that we heard differences (between all the cables). During the double-blind tests, we were unable to reliably pick out the 'better' cable over numerous trials. The only exception was the MIT cable (which purposely low pass filters the signal in their 'network' boxes). We were able to hear (and measure) the difference with the MIT. However, I think their premium for a low pass filter was not worth the added cost (just use the tone control in your front-end).
post #17 of 376
Well fred, unlike most girlie men, you have managed to insert all the pseudo-scientific and subjectivist arguments into the same post. IMO that's worth something.


Here's your manhood back.



:D:D:D
post #18 of 376
If the differences can be "heard" then they can be "MEASURED" (unless one is hearing immeasurable flooby dust stuff).

So ... post the measurements. Then I'll believe.
post #19 of 376
Well now, here's a conundrum.

If a measurement proves there is a difference, will one believe it if one cannot hear it?

If hearing proves there is a difference, will one disbelieve it if one cannot measure it?

:confused:

I'm not argumentative; I'm merely contrary. :p
post #20 of 376
Is it possible there is a correlation between Political party affiliation and the ability to hear the difference in cables?

Hmmm... Maybe I shouldn't go there.

..Doyle
post #21 of 376
If someone declares he can hear the differences between cables, this statement is OK as long as it is not considered a fact.

For the time being, hard facts points to the direction that differences can not be heard at all, unless extreme conditions are present during the test (huge cable lenghts or cables as thick as human hair :D)
post #22 of 376
The following is an excerpt from a response by Bill Low of AudioQuest to a cable review done by Art Dudley in the august issue of Sterephile,

<<<<Energy hitting the auditory system is not the same thing as the brain (CPU) presenting the information content of this energy to the consciousness -- and therein lies most of the misunderstanding in the hi-fi world.>>>>

I am not sure what that means, in my experience, if I can hear it, I am conscious of it unless I am asleep.

Just curious,

Jim
post #23 of 376
Quote:
Originally posted by keenan
The following is an excerpt from a response by Bill Low of AudioQuest to a cable review done by Art Dudley in the august issue of Sterephile,

<<<<Energy hitting the auditory system is not the same thing as the brain (CPU) presenting the information content of this energy to the consciousness -- and therein lies most of the misunderstanding in the hi-fi world.>>>>

I am not sure what that means, in my experience, if I can hear it, I am conscious of it unless I am asleep.
Actually, as a card-carrying neurobiologist, I find both statements less than useful. Bill is, I think, saying that it's not what you hear but what your brain interprets that counts. While one can make a case for that, I take it to mean that either you must have something significant to hear or your brain is synthesizing the percept.

You, I believe, are saying that if you hear it, you are conscious of all of it. That may not be true for masked tones and certainly doesn't account for attentional issues.

My, haven't we come far afield from talking of wires and current!

Kal
post #24 of 376
Quote:
Originally posted by Kal Rubinson


My, haven't we come far afield from talking of wires and current!

Kal
But you have to admit it certainly is interesting. :)

Jim

P.S. What is your take on the battery on the cable?
post #25 of 376
Quote:
Quoted by Seth
Why it is I have no idea since my science training tells me otherwise. With digital of course there is no difference because nothing is being transmitted over the wire in terms of audio, it's just bits and the device on the other side converts it to audio.
The digital signal representation going down a digital interconnect is actually an analog signal waveform, surprised? It's simply the job of the receiver chips the cable is plugged into to decode that analog waveform correctly into a digital representation i.e. 0/1 or on/off .

Just to confirm, I'm in the wire doesn't matter camp.
post #26 of 376
Quote:
Originally posted by BruceD
The digital signal representation going down a digital interconnect is actually an analog signal waveform, surprised? It's simply the job of the receiver chips the cable is plugged into to decode that analog waveform correctly into a digital representation i.e. 0/1 or on/off .

Just to confirm, I'm in the wire doesn't matter camp.
Yes, I'm surprised. What sort of analog signal waveform? A voltage based signal?

Jim:confused:
post #27 of 376
I'm sure there are measureable diffrences between cables. Wire length is also factor also. The question is, are they perceivable?

The most practical way to approach this for most people would be to buy regular home depot 12 guage, and be done with it.


Digital stuff, if your hearing diffrences, the EE would designed the equipment should be shot.
post #28 of 376
I have measured(mic,laptop,spectrascope) the differences between stereo interconnects (not digital). Basically, there was a "big" difference(less dynamic) between the generic interconnects that come with most audio equipment and the the mid/high end cables. However, the dynamic differences between the mid and high were very slim.

generic= free, mid=$50, high=$150

Regards,
PolkThug

(For speaker wire, I use 12g home depot)

Don't ask me for a subjective opinion on which one sounded better, I'm trying to be objective with this post. :)
post #29 of 376
Quote:
Originally posted by filecat13
Well now, here's a conundrum.

If a measurement proves there is a difference, will one believe it if one cannot hear it?

If hearing proves there is a difference, will one disbelieve it if one cannot measure it?

:confused:

I'm not argumentative; I'm merely contrary. :p

False assumption: That hearing can prove anything. Non-mathematical "proof" is what will convince most who apply the scientific method to the problem. Thus the proof must be shared. But hearing cannot be shared.

Interesting how this argument reduces to the essential difference between a science-based culture and a magic (phenomenon/myth-based) culture.

Hmmm. Maybe the question about political affiliation isn't so off-the-wall as it seemed at first.
post #30 of 376
To answer Jim's (Keenan) question. Whether it is a voltage or current based waveform doesn't matter. What Bruce is referring to is that receiver chips that are receiving "digital" signals are really circuits that take an analog signal and then apply a definition to that signal as to what constitutes a 1 or a 0. Anything below a certain level is defined as a 0 and anything above another level is defined as a 1. Depending on the circuit logic, these levels change. Digital chips are really analog circuits that have been constrained to only accept 1 and 0 levels.

..Doyle
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