Cable placement

August 31, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

A great deal of angst can be had when it comes to the proper placement of cables.

The worry is getting audio cables too close to noisy power cables and vice versa.

Truth is I have never found this to be a problem. Yes, my OCD gets the better of me when I see a tangled mess and yes, my system seems to sound better after straightening them out. I suspect that’s more psychological than practical.

Truth be told the psychological is every bit as important as the practical. It all has to do with mood. If our mood is good our music digs deeper and resonates more.

Like having the lights on low, I think it’s every bit as important to clean up the cable mess as it is to make neat the entire room.

It simply sounds better.

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57 comments on “Cable placement”

  1. As with many audiophile fads its all in the mind ,is a linn LP12 really that much different to a AR Legend,if you have just paid for the LP12 the answer will be of course it is ,every one else will just smile and agree .

  2. I don’t disturb my wires (cables)
    I let them ‘lay’ as they want, that way I’m not stressing the copper wire.
    Since they are all behind my rig, they pose no problems with getting in the way nor with looking messy.
    I use upside-down Chinese takeaway food containers (clean of course) & rebar chairs to keep cables
    & wires two & a half to five inches off the ground & away from each other.
    Chinese takeaway food containers & rebar chairs cost nothing πŸ˜€

      1. Hi Mitchell,
        “A picture is worth a thousand words” but unfortunately I can’t post a photograph here.
        A ‘rebar chair’ is a plastic spacing device that is used to elevate rebar (iron concrete reinforcement mesh/bars) so that said rebar is positioned in the middle of the concrete slab, footing or foundation, instead of it just lying on the ground where it will give very little reinforcement to the concrete.
        Google ‘rebar chairs spacing’ for pictures that will make you go, ‘Ah-ha!” πŸ˜‰

            1. Or, you could simply cut down some plastic juice bottles when you’ve consumed the juice. This will keep at least part of them out of the landfill (or worse, the ocean) and it will also lower the demand for rebar chairs so we can leave more tar sands in the earth and save our boreal forests. Designing and creating your own cable risers will hone your creative skills and help stave off dementia so you can enjoy your music longer. 😎

                1. LOL Yeah, and your wife can sell off most of your CD collection to pay for your meds. 😎
                  Maybe you only need to keep one if your CD player has a ‘random’ select button. 😎

    1. Mate does it matter? World’s easiest A/B testing.
      I do remember the TAS when Enid Lumley first offered the concept. With universal derision.

        1. Martin do you perceive any improvement or difference by lifting your speaker cables off the carpet.
          I ask because I once tried it with polystyrene cups. Nothing.
          Which proves that my system was not very resolving. Or that the claimed benefit was either fallacious. Or not applicable in my system.

          1. Peter,
            Once upon a time it did make a difference.
            In a different listening room, with different (possibly more resolving…possibly) home-audio gear.
            These days I do it just as a matter of course, because it doesn’t cost me any money to do so.
            However, & more importantly, the rebar chairs keep my power cables from coming into direct contact with my loudspeaker wires & my interconnects.
            Furthermore, the rebar chairs also keep my interconnects from bending (dipping down to the floor & back up again) as they make their journey from my SACD player to my integrated amplifier; using the rebar chairs keeps them at the same level all the way along…again, not costing me one red cent.
            Because they are 7N PCOCC, I do my best to keep them from bending unnecessarily πŸ˜‰ ✌

      1. Peter, in case you haven’t noticed, cable risers have become an item. If not for their sonic contribution, then for their aesthetic contribution to the dedicated listening rooms of well-heeled audiophiles. Audience and Synergistic Research are two cable companies that come to mind, and Massif Audio Design, who works with exotic wood species also makes some elegant risers.

          1. It’s a different aesthetic, that’s all, FR. I really hope Santa brings you some more arched cinder blocks and spray paint so you don’t hurt your back bending over to turn on the gear on your floor. Seriously,
            I think that would look pretty cool. You’ve already got the plyboo shelves to cap them off.

            1. Lp,
              I have another four of them in my garage, as yet unpainted.
              Truth is, at my age, I need all the stretching exercise that is
              available to me.
              Come the day that I hurt my back bending in front of my
              SACD player whilst holding nothing but a remote control,
              you can forget about the dementia & just shoot me πŸ˜€

              1. I hear you, FR. Besides, we wouldn’t want you to get a hernia trying to make life easier. That would be too ironic. 😎
                My late mother-in-law lived on the 2nd floor of her apartment building and insisted on taking her laundry up and down the stairs to the basement herself, not to mention hauling groceries. She passed away at 93, so obviously she was doing something right. But beware of that remote control. You might discover that you have bonded to your listening chair. 😎

    2. FR, You just won the “Tony Plachy Innovation of the Year” award ( which is worth $0.00 and there is no award certificate πŸ˜‰ ). Unlike SNTBCWS with his flat cables under the carpet, my cables are Kimber Select which are fat braided cables that are worth significant dollars. I have a long run between my preamp and my stereo power amp and I have medium length very fat speaker cables.

      They are all on the floor! I live in constant fear of stepping on one of them and ruining it. Rebar chairs, what an outstanding idea! I can get my cables off the floor and I do not care if it does not improve the sound. I will have one less worry in my life. THANK YOU !!!

      1. You’re very welcome Tony.
        I was building in-ground swimming pools until December 2020 & so I had access to an abundance of rebar chairs πŸ˜€
        Interestingly, I have mentioned them at least 3 times before in the last 3 years, but this is the first time that at least 3 people have shown such an interest in them.
        Timing is everything.

  3. I have a hifi rack that has all the power stuff on the lowest shelf (conditioner, power supplies for turntable, phono stage and fibre optic switch), the phono section up top and the server and all-in-one in the middle. So the signal and power cables don’t cross and the few signal cables I use (usb and RCA from phono amp) are only 0.6m long.

    Stacking components vertically seems much easier and is basically how hifi is designed. If units were to be placed beside each other, they would be designed as towers.

    My speaker cables are flat, run under carpets and the visible bits made invisible using wood-effect sticky vinyl, so they are basically stuck to the floor.

      1. Flat components are designed to be stacked. If you want them side by side, with short, organised cabling, towers make more sense.

        Things like P20 and BHK600 can’t be stacked, you’re just going to get a room-full of boxes on the floor with cables everywhere. If you worry about cables, it’s self-induced paranoia.

        My entire hifi including turntable is in a small unit on wheels. Very 1980s. The cabling has to be organised so they don’t snag the wheels. The only incoming cables to the stack are 1 x power and 1 x ethernet, with speaker cables out.

        1. Each to their own, however, I have only two ‘boxes’ on the floor next to each other.
          One is an SACD player & the other is an integrated stereo amplifier connected together with 1 meter of high-end interconnect.
          They are positioned between my L & R loudspeakers.
          There is no way in hell that I would want my gear stacked on a wobbly-wheeled dead tree construct when I can have them sitting securely on vibration absorbing ISO-Pucks & 2″ thick bamboo boards, ON THE FLOOR where they belong, horizontally positioned so that the L & R taps on said integrated amplifier are exactly where they should be, one on the left & one on the right, not one on the ground & one up in the air, which is how they would be if my amplifier was turned through 90 degrees & ‘stacked’ vertically…not to mention that one of the massive heat-sinks on said integrated amp would be hard-up against the bamboo board & therefore would likely overheat that channel.

          Furthermore I don’t want the transformers of either ‘box’ within inches of each other, which is what I’d get if I had them stacked vertically, as you suggest.

          No, no ,no sir…vertical towers will not do πŸ˜‰ ✌

          1. The cabinet is factory biscuit/glued, made from 1″ thick panels. The castors are heavy duty (150kg each), screwed to the base of the unit through 8mm sorbothane sheet. The phono stage is isolated from the power units by Devialet Expert, which has a 4mm thick solid copper base and an equally thick solid alloy case. Consequently the phono, which has 76dB gain, is totally silent with the amp volume at maximum listening level. The turntable is sitting on IsoAcoustics Iso-pucks.

            So nothing wobbles or vibrates. Quite the opposite. No cable paranoia. A few simple modifications from Amazon to a basic cabinet from a local factory.

            1. No cable paranoia here either.
              It was the ‘tower’ equipment that I disagree with more.
              Different strokes for different audio folks πŸ˜‰ ✌

              Btw, your cabinet will vibrate, even if you think that it doesn’t…physics.

        2. Most professional/commercial gear is designed to be rack mount. Broadcast, computing, communications, etc. Ergonomic, controlled thermal environment, massive copper power buss bar systems, space saving, etc…

  4. Again generalities don’t work in ALL cases.

    I’ve had cables where laying them on the floor detracted from the sound and others where there seems to have been no difference. So experimentation can cost little to nothing to convince yourself whether or not it does in your setup.

    A general tangled mess can make finding what goes where a great exercise in frustration when moving things around later. The more stuff that needs to be interconnected the bigger the chance for interconnect tangle.

    1. Hey Mike, as brothers from different mothers, your making common sense out of many conflicting comments make me want to give you an online fist pump.

      In my former days as an EE, we talked about system integrity all the time. Being neat is a virtue, not a detriment. As Audiophiles, many of us are constantly messing around with our cables and everything else in our systems. Keeping cables on risers or on the floor looking organized may very well be more important than the noise issue. Whether or not it makes an audible difference which I usually don’t hear is secondary to having a mindset of system integrity.

      Mike, keep a sharp eye on your emails today cause I’m sending you one or two photos of this monster movie shoot that I’m managint at my friends place. Speak soon.

  5. I have similarly found when re-connecting and cleaning the contacts, reorganizing the cables, the system seems to sound more focused, stronger imaging, etc. etc. I suspect this is almost all psychological. This reminds me how important the psychological aspect of listening really is, and may go a long way to explain the continued fascination with cables, risers, shun mook pads, and other “enhancements”. Audio listening for me can vary immensely on my mood, time of day, and others listening. A very under estimated effect.

  6. Whether we like/believe it or not, the psychological connection is everything to audiophiles. We put everything into making our experience the best each time.

  7. The most nonsensical thing I ever heard about cables ( and IMO most of it is nonsense) came when i bought a pair of hoity toity speaker cables. In the lit that accompanied them was something to the effect that if you disturb them at all….moving them, in other words….they won’t sound right for a while. That, alone, was enough to cement my view of cable silliness.

    1. There is never any absolutes when it comes to audio gear. My pair of Zenwave Audio SCR-14 speaker cables exhibit this behavior. When I remove and reinstall them it takes about 6 hours for them to go back to normal. When first received, it took about 2 weeks before they stabilized. Dave at Zenwave said upfront this is the character of its construction due to materials used.
      Anywhere there is wire with a signal flowing, creates a magnetic field that induces current flow in the surrounding cables. Can it cause problems and can it be heard, well, everybody home is unique?

      1. Yes, David, our situations are all different. Carpet can also contain significant levels of static electricity, and that can vary with humidity as well as traffic across the floor.

  8. I, too, have never had a problem with cable placement. I do follow the rules of not running cables closely parallel to each other and I cross them at an angle. All my cables are well-shielded, except for unshielded speaker cables, which I keep away from other cables.

  9. A few years ago my wife and I purchased a 55 year old Mid Century Modern home, with an equally vintage home audio system. For the era it was a high end system, with quality 2-way stereo speakers mounted in each room’s ceiling. All the wiring for a total of 16 speakers terminated behind a hidden panel in a beautiful walnut media cabinet.

    Removing the hidden panel revealed that some electrical genius, ignorant of Ohms Law spliced with wire nuts and electric tape the eight 8 ohm speakers per channel in parallel, before hooking into a cheap 50 watt receiver. So 50 watts into 1 ohm. Explains why all the speakers were fried. Adding to this joyous discovery, all the speaker wires were unidentified, and had brown insulation.

    Over 100 hours spent across a year of weekends, the rats nest of speaker wires is gone. Now behind the hidden panel is wiring NASA would approve of. In place of the bundle of wires poking out of a hole in the plaster is a 32 plug speaker panel with labels identifying every wire’s room, placement and polarity. Wires connected to the new 16 channel amplifier are in color coded in 4 wire bundles and labeled. Finally, the plaster hole behind the hidden panel is repaired and painted.

    My wife asked me why I bothered to repair the plaster hole, when no one would ever see it? I told her because l would know the hole was there πŸ™‚

    PS I hate wiring.

          1. In reality, the final home system is a hybrid. Streaming input and control to the hard wired speakers by WiFi, and additional WiFi speakers to cover areas like the bathroom.

            So I’m not narrow or wide minded, sort of middle of the road πŸ™‚

  10. I should try some of those rebar chairs, as I have a pair of speakers that have 3 speaker cables, one to each speaker and one that connects the two speakers together out of phase for crosstalk cancellation. Maybe it will make a difference, plus it’s a cheap way to find out, thanks for the idea fat rat.

  11. Oh my, another cable post….
    Hear that? Is that… a can opener?
    Do I smell…. WORMS??
    OK… YOU started it.

    True story.
    The other night I was listening to my gear when I noticed an ant. I believe it was a Formica rufa – more commonly known as the red wood ant, southern wood ant or horse ant. (I am currently unaware if particular ant species is a contributing factor in this authentic tale of marvel to follow). This ant, we’ll call him Fred, crawled up onto my left channel speaker cable. Suddenly there was burst of sonic delight from the left channel. The highs were brighter, the bass was tight and precise. And as that lil six legged creature crawled along the cable the audible improvements enhanced logarithmically! (I am currently unaware if direction of travel is a contributing factor in this factual tale of awe). It was as if a veil had been lifted! So that night I lined the peaks of my cables with a fine embankment of sugar to entice further aural bliss. And to my astonishment, the mere addition of the simple carbohydrate compound ALSO made significant enhancements – this time to the upper midrange. Amazing!! I am now impatiently awaiting a pilgrimage of herds of those little eusocial insects – I just cannot IMAGINE how the musical merger of arthropods and monosaccharide will raise my tympanic auscultation to a previously speculated unattainable encounter of auditory euphoria!!! I owe a debt of phonic gratitude to Fred. But all is not without caveats; I have had to eliminate my subwoofer as it tends to hurricane the granular audio enhancement off the cable and all about the carpet. I plan to experiment with various forms of adhesive to bind the audio sweetener to the cable sheath. I shall indeed keep you updated.

    Oh, it’s good we audionuts can laugh at ourselves…
    Matter fact, the way others likely view us – it is probably necessary.
    I was overly keen to use the term ‘antsy’ in my story, but that would have cheapened its true meaning.

    It’s just hard to get thru the day without at least ONE judgmental curmudgeonly passive aggressive wrant…

    1. I find it much easier to consume dark chocolate while listening in the dark, than to try and herd ants.
      I hope Fred does not pulverize the floor joist beneath your subwoofer, Pikpen. 😎

  12. I agree with you Paul, if you believe that anything including tangled wires can mess up the sound you will hear it. It’s our duty as audiophiles to make sure nothing gets in the way of the sound. Wires have feelings and they reward you when you take care of them.

    1. Taking care of them means not bending the bejesus out of them to make them ‘look’ neat & tidy.
      Taking care of them means leaving them alone to lie on the floor how they want.
      Do you like being bent out of shape by other people?
      I know for a fact that you don’t πŸ˜‰ ✌

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