Longer interconnects or speaker cables?

February 22, 2019
 by Paul McGowan

10 comments on “Longer interconnects or speaker cables?”

  1. Hi Paul,
    I really enjoy reading your responses to reader questions and watching your videos.
    I read with interest your response regarding longer interconnects or speaker cables and your reasoning and conclusion that shorter speaker cable is preferred.
    In my case I own Naim Electronics; Naim specifies a minimum length for speaker cable and wants the cable longer rather than shorter. They also require owners of their amps to use Naim speaker cable because, as I understand it, their cable provides a necessary inductive load for their amps. So as an owner I’ve followed this practice.
    This is contrary to what almost all other manufacturers do. Can you provide the technical reasons for this company’s practice as it relates to equipment design? (I know this is a long question and relates to another brand’s stuff but thought I’d ask and give it a try.)
    In any case thanks for the ongoing education – and entertainment!

    1. Paul, good video! I currently have my system set up like yours with short speakers cables and long interconnects and I enjoy the sound. Does your answer change at all if the interconnects are unbalanced?

    2. Naim’s an interesting company and I have also liked what they do though I don’t always agree with them. However, if their people design their amplifiers to need a certain inductive load I would follow their advice. It’s not how I would design an amplifier but we are different companies.

      We try our best to design amplifiers with low output impedance and immunity to complex loads. That said, let’s imagine that Naim does the same thing. It could then be that they use the square wave test to model the perfect load on their amps and then specify it as such. That’s one approach that might make a little sense, though I am not certain that’s what I would do.

      On the other hand (and here’s my cynical side coming out) it might be a good way to sell more cables and keep Naim owners in the fold with all Naim products. Since most people haven’t a clue what to believe they just trust the manufacturer – which isn’t a bad thing.

      Bottom line is to try it as well as experiment with other solutions if you’re truly curious.

  2. Unless you’re running a passive preamplifier in which you want the cables to be short. Am I correct in saying that Paul? My Creek integrated Amplifier uses a passive preamplifier. So I use 1/2 meter interconnects and 7.5 feet cables to hook up my speakers.

      1. Michael Creek has designed some good passive preamplifiers in his integrated Amplifiers. The pot is excellent as I notice no variation in the left right balance or any alteration in linearity at any setting.

        There’s also no balance control which I like. You don’t have to worry about the balance control not being accurately set when it’s in the center position or any noise in the circuit if there’s no balance control. I never liked the idea of having to adjust the balance control to get accurate stereo separation.

        He also designed the amplifier to attain it’s full output at a low voltage from the source since there’s no active preamplifier. Most components have more then enough voltage to fully drive the amplifier without the need of an active preamplifier. Still there is a slot inside the unit to add an active preamplification stage if you require it. But finding one for my unit is almost impossible so I just go with the passive. I have never heard such a transparent preamplifier in my life.

        I guess there’s nothing as transparent as having no preamplifier. I know that you did a video and you were not that fond of passive preamplifiers. Maybe Creek has built one that don’t have the problems you described in other passive designs because it sounds fantastic. Though no matter how good the design it’s still going to need short interconnects.

        My guess is passive preamplifiers probably work best when the designer designs it to work with it’s amplifiers as is the case with an integrated amplifier.

        1. Wondering if all balance controls are designed to be out of the circuit at the center position? I know some preamplifiers with balance and tone controls have defeat switches to take them completely out of the circuit but those defeat switches can also be prone to noise I would think. My Creek has no tone controls either and I’m thankful for that. Not needed in a Hi end system.

          1. Most aren’t, actually. The good pots made specifically for balance controls had a center strip of metal at the 0 point that was as close to not being there as possible but those were rare. More common was a simple detent that rested the wiper element on the resistive surface where it didn’t attenuate.

            Modern balance controls, like on our equipment, don’t actually exist because the controls are all digitally controlled. So when you use the balance it’s simply changing the same volume element on one channel or another as the main control affects.

            1. Hmm I’m wondering if the same can be done with a digitally controlled Equalizer that’s done with a digitally controlled preamplifier? Most audiophiles don’t like EQ’s in their systems because it destroys the purity of the sound and might alter phase and other important elements of the sound. I often wonder if there will be a digital component that could successfully take the place of all the room anomalies that need to be corrected with the use of diffusers sound traps, etc. ? Maybe even make speakers that are designed to sound good away from room boundaries sound good near a wall.

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