Long or short cables?

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Where to place a power amplifier can cause one to question: Long speaker cables and short interconnects or the opposite? For some with limited space, the answer's a snap: both source and amplifier are next to the speakers. But for those who have the luxury of space and distance to isolate your sensitive sources from the loudspeaker vibrations, the question of how to connect over a long distance is a head-scratcher. For many years I was in the long speaker cable/short interconnect camp. The advantages of this setup were many: the equipment's all sitting together away from the direct pressure waves of the speakers. Moreover, power amplifiers are better equipped to drive complex loads than preamplifiers or DACs. I now run the opposite: short speaker cables and long balanced interconnects. The switch happened at the urging of trusted friends, though the logic of it has always eluded me. How can a preamp be a better sounding cable driver than an amplifier? One clue is obvious. Driving power over cables has always been a challenge due to theoretical losses and EMI. In a low-level interconnect there's no power delivered, just signal: easy to shield, and losses are minimal. Still, one clue doesn't answer why there's such a sonic difference between a 20-foot and a 2-foot speaker cable. My final decision was based on simple listening. Long balanced interconnects sound better than long speaker cables. The one piece of advice I can share is the advantage of getting the source away from the speakers. If you're forced to keep the equipment near the speakers, try and keep them out of the direct line of fire, preferably between the left and right channels were bass frequencies aren't as powerful. The worst situation is when the electronics are to the side of one speaker and within a direct line. I am quite happy with my setup of long interconnects (50 feet long) and short speaker cables. Further time needs to be spent noodling on the whys of this counter-intuitive technique, but for the moment, it's just something that works. I do have a short video of my thoughts about the best way to connect speakers to amplifiers you can watch here.
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Paul McGowan

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