Audio myth 4

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Myth: Using audiophile speaker cables improves the sound, compared to an equally heavy gauge of normal electrical wire. Fact: The most important feature speaker wire can possess is low resistance at audio frequencies. The makers of expensive audiophile speaker cable claim their products are better because they have a frequency capability that extends into the MHz range. But there is no evidence that wire capable of carrying frequencies many times higher than what it will actually carry is useful or worth the extra money. The only truly negative effects you could attribute to speaker cable are too high a resistance (which affects an amplifier's damping factor), and high frequency losses due to cable inductance and capacitance. But you would need a long cable length before the reactive components (inductance and capacitance) affect anything within the audio range. So, while low-resistance wiring is clearly important (for the damping factor), nearly any sufficiently heavy wire will suffice for a speaker cable in the lengths used by most recording studios. Heavy gauge zip cord is ideal for runs of twenty feet or less, and it's readily available in #14 and even thicker gauges (my edits reduced the number of words in the original post).
While I have agreed with most of what Ethan's posts suggest so far, I will have to take a stand on this one. "Heavy gauge zip cord is ideal for runs of twenty feet or less.." them's fightin' words! I know this rankles those who cannot explain why, using only test equipment (and therefore it must not be true), but reality is very different from what has been written here. If, by "ideal", the author means the speaker/amplifier combination performs as expected on a test bench, then we are in agreement. If, by "ideal", he means there would be no sonic differences between heavy gauge zip cord and a decently designed speaker cable, then I would suggest the following possibilities: he has not actually compared the two, the reference system does not possess sufficient resolving power to hear the differences, he does not know what to listen for, or he believes test results over ears. Whatever the case, the differences between zip cord and well designed speaker cables are huge, sonically obvious on most systems, and covered in great depth by these very posts. In fact, this statement is so wrong I don't think it is worth a lot of time to debunk it. And here is why. We each see the world through individual biases, or lenses. The author I am quoting sees the world through the lens of his test equipment and finds it easy to justify his position using those tools. My lens is my ears and I observe something very different because of it. Each of us believes we're right and the other person simply misses the point. I can easily prove my observation to anyone showing up at my front door. Ethan can prove his by displaying irrefutable numbers. Who is right? Undoubtedly we're both right in our somewhat myopic observations; not necessarily in our conclusions. If you'd like to watch an interesting video sent to me by a reader, click here to see how biases distort our world view.
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Paul McGowan

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