Much improved

October 6, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

Over on the PS Audio forums, there’s a thread about cable lifters. You can read it by clicking this link.

Elevating the speaker cables off the floor works to improve the sound.

Should you run out and grab a set of cable lifters today?

Much depends on the state of your system. If you’ve managed to dial it in to where there’s nothing more to gain, then yes, by all means, nab a set of cable lifters.

What sometimes troubles me about these exotic tweaks is our tendency to use them as a crutch.

A freebie.

An excuse not to dig in and do the work of proper setup.

Proper setup takes a bit of work and dedication. Rolling up the proverbial sleeves and getting down to business.

If this idea of really digging in to make sonic magic is appealing to you, I will mention the long overdue book and SACD (and download), The Audiophile’s Guide: The Loudspeaker is finally (and really) available.

Click here to grab your copy.

And once you’ve put in the afternoon’s hard work at getting your system to sing, it makes sense to then elevate your speaker cables.

Icing on the proverbial cake.

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61 comments on “Much improved”

  1. “Elevating the speaker cables off the floor works to improve the sound.”

    Why? Or just another preconception?

    I appreciate (thank you Google) that this is an issue when running megawatt high tension power cables over hundreds of meters from pylons. My speaker cables are flat (Townshend Isolda) and mostly under a rug, the sections between the rug and the speaker are concealed with sticky wood-effect vinyl attached to the floor.

    If you are concerned with them resonating, on the off chance that makes any difference, sticking them up in the air would seem like the worst thing to do. Maybe cable manufacturers should publish the harmonics of their cables to avoid customer disappointment if suspended at the wrong intervals.

    Consulting Robert Harley’s book (556 pages of small print), the only reason he can give is interaction with electrostatic charges from carpets, which I don’t have.

    He is far more concerned with avoiding interactions between signal and power cables behind your rack, because even I know they have electromagnetic fields stretching beyond the confines of the cable. Personally, I have this well covered, with my power units at the bottom of a rack and very few signal cables, all well away from power cables.

    The phono stage is by far the most sensitive component in most people’s systems and, like many people, I keep it as far away as possible from power supplies, transformers or power cables. Mine is well designed with a long cable from the separate 24v DC power supply.

    When I get round to cable risers, please someone come round and put me out of my misery. My wife may already have had me committed.

    1. I thought one of the main reasons for lifting cables was to isolate them from ground borne vibrations and prevent those vibrations transferring to the equipment especially the speakers. Admittedly this is splitting already split hairs in terms of making a difference. I have actually tried this using lifters made from cut pieces of foam pipe insulation. As the blade cut into the foam I had to smile at the insanity of it all, and the fun. 😉 So what about the improvements. Well my jury of one is still out on that but they didn’t make it worse so will stay for now. They also have the advantage of lifting and separating the signal leads away from the power cables. Mmm, perhaps I should be lifting my power cables as well, any thoughts, anyone?

      1. My local supplier sells an AQ product of this variety and someone bought them and posted this review.

        “I can’t say these improve the sound but they do stop my cables acting as a dust mop for the floor.
        My cables were also getting damaged from vacuuming.
        These keep them out of the way. Also look cool and get people asking why I have them as an interesting talking point.”

        I would point out that flat cables stuck to the floor make vacuuming a breeze!

        On the vibration issue, the point of having a stereo system is to vibrate the air and make sound. Is there more or less vibration through the floor or the air? Who knows? Who cares? When I listen to music I tell the elves to go play somewhere else, even so in their their felt booties they don’t make the earth shake.

        1. “My cables were also getting damaged from vacuuming”…WTF?
          Now I’ve heard it all 😮
          All of my “cables” are behind my home-audio gear…
          a place that doesn’t need vacuuming.

          1. I know some of this is going to sound crazy even to dedicated audiophiles. I have two situations that need cable lifters.

            1. My power amp is on an amp stand. Why? Believe it or not, to protect it and my feet from me licking into it. ( I know that sounds crazy, but it is the truth. ). The amp stand is great and it works. ( Also, the amp stand has NO effect on the sound of the amp which is built like a Sherman tank. ) The problem is the amp is now so high off the ground that the speaker cables ( Kimber Select ) have their heavy metal ends hanging off the ground. This means they are puling on the connectors ( spades ) and I want to relieve that pulling stress. Thus I need some tall ( about four inches ) cable lifters. I plan to make some out of wood, but I have yet to do so.

            2. The interconnect cable that runs from my preamp to the amp has about six or seven feet that runs on the wooden floor. I have it routed so it is away from the main foot traffic, however, it could accidentally be stepped on. Thus, I think cable lifters are again needed to protect the cable.

        2. Well there’s good vibrations and bad vibrations. Max Townshend was one of the first to try and address this issue with his seismic isolation products.
          BTW, I hope you’re not sending those elves round to mine, someone’s always hiding my glasses.

          1. I use Max’s speaker cables and their design is such that they don’t interact with externally and hence don’t need shielding or risers. His Podium is brilliant, used one until recently, still have some of his bars.

      2. I use cable lifters to separate my interconnects in speaker cables. It make my cable runs a little neater than leaving them on the floor. This is one tweak I can’t give an answer as to whether it makes my system sound more musical. Then again they are running on a ceramic floor so there’s no carpet for them to lie on.
        I also try to keep crossing wires as close to a 90° angle as possible which is close to impossible but I try.

        When you talk about power cables, I believe it’s very important to keep the magnetic field radiating from them away from signal carrying cables but when I see how many power cables I have coming out of my P12 regenerator and Duet, a few of them which travel far enough too close enough where I may want to have them separated and the best way to do that would be with cable risers. I don’t spend a fortune on them though. I found an individual on eBay that makes his own using a 3-D laser printer out of some kind of an inert material for $10 each but that’s as far as I will go with regard to spending a fortune on them.

        When all (or (most ) of my cables seem to be run properly, I consider this tweak increasing the ‘system integrity’. In the end I ask myself the question did I make my system less musical and the answer is usually no so since I’m not spending a fortune on this type of tweak, it really doesn’t hurt.

        1. The gravity problem. I had that with a UK version regenerator as the receptacles don’t hold heavy plugs. They fell out if you went near them. (Note for PS Audio – Olson Direct in the UK have been making industrial grade receptacles for 60 years). The ones I have from Furutech and Shunyata are home brew and rock solid. Same for iFi.

          I did have to lift some speaker cables off the floor behind my rack in my previous room, which I did on each side by putting a nail in the wall and suspending the cable in a loop of string. Fat Rat would have been proud of my ingenuity.

          I checked my audio dealer’s Facebook page – perhaps the top high-end dealer in the UK – hundreds of pictures and cable risers appeared only once, in a demo set up by Transparent Audio. Otherwise, cables lying happily on the floor.

          1. PSA may still sell their own power receptacles at a better price than the ones you purchased. I have been using them for many years and I’m quite happy especially when I see that some of the high-end companies are charging in excess of $200 a pop for similar receptacles which may have slightly different exotic metal contacts.

      3. Richtea,
        I use rebar chairs to keep my interconnects spaced from my power leads.
        I use three upside down Chinese food containers to keep my loudspeaker wires off the floor.
        They cost me nothing, so I don’t care whether there is a marked improvement in SQ or not.

  2. I guess today one more time you’ll get the one or other post explaining why what you hear isn’t meaningful and that others‘ measures taken are exactly those which make sense 😉 That seems especially the hobby of those audiophiles, who never personally tried what you talk about. 😉

    1. In the comments after that article our very own Ruston said:

      “And I join as another believer in the value of lifting cables. I’ve found less impact lifting cables off of hardwood floors, but I hear significant beneficial effect from lifting off of synthetic carpets. In my system, cable lifters have simply been folded corrugated cardboard on edge – the solution does not have to be expensive.”

      I get that, I have hardwood floors and he’s addressing Robert Harley’s issue of electrostatic charge from synthetic carpets.

      As far as capacitance is concerned, my flat cables have capacitance at least 10 times a typical speaker cable. It is eliminated with a network.

        1. I used Nordost cables for over a decade when I had wall-mounted bookshelf speakers. They were stuck to the wall using masking tape behind a row of books. I never sprayed them! They are good for electrostatics and QUAD because of their extremely low impedance. Lots of people (like me) use(d) Atlas Hyper 2.0 for the same reason and much lower price.

      1. Electrostatic charge is created from movement like lifting cables up and down to measure a charge with a meter. Movement causes electrons and protons to separate. The separation of electrons and protons creates electrical energy. Opposite charges attract but insulated materials keeps the electrons and protons separated, creating storing energy.
        Static items not moving or rubbing against each other will not create a electrostatic charge caused from electron separation.

    2. I did not see any before and after numbers published nor could I find the video link mentioned. I question how was the cable constructed and what was it made of? Most LCR meters are cheap and are not capable of measuring minute amounts of capacitance. The leads of lower end “test instrumentation” can be higher than what you are trying to measure.
      Also assuming the floor is not grounded. I have grounded floors and work benches. You will not measure stored potential energy via capacitance.
      I spent half my life working in the >980MHz domain. The closer you approach millimeter wave few picofarad is a very big deal.
      I made my phone preamp using 0.030 Teflon substrate 2oz copper both sides. I am guessing PS Audio and its peers uses cheap FR4 1 oz copper.
      It seems to me pc substrate material may have bigger impact then fussing with egg cartons…

  3. Would love to buy the book (and the music).

    BUT:

    I’m located in Germany, and to send a box with a book in it around half the world seems outdated these times. Is there any option to get this as a PDF or ebook? Or am I missing something?

    And: It seems also strange to me to define the download format upfront. Why can’t I “just pay for the music” and then download any format I want/need?

    Thnaks

    1. There is a Kindle edition.

      For some reason in the UK the Kindle edition is slightly more expensive than the hard copy book, which makes no sense. It is usually a lot cheaper. The Kindle edition of this book (£21.34) is three times the price of what I paid for his earlier Audiophile book (£7.39). Hopefully that will sort itself out.

      The accompanying Octave release is much more sensibly priced that the last one, there is a 16/44 download version for $20.

      1. Steven, thanks a lot for your help! I found the Kindle edition, got it and made a separate purchase of the 96/24 files. All good now 🙂

        1. I shall probably buy the book out of curiosity.

          It’s a bit late for me to make any use of it because my music room was built, treated and the speakers professionally installed in 2021.

          I sampled the tracks on the disc and some are not dissimilar to my own list that I’ve used for auditioning hifi, which is quite different from setting up a pair of speakers, which only took 2 or 3 tracks from the same CD. It took 45 minutes for mine to be set up, whereas one dealer told me he had to get the client to buy DSP hardware and it took weeks to get things working.

          1. I wrote to Paul about this issue so I have no problem mentioning it here too.

            The tracks dealing with distance from the microphone have a persistent low frequency hum. It measures around 47Hz. Paul says it is the roof AC in the warehouse where it was recorded. It is insidious and distracting. The sound of the women voices is also not very clear as it probably has some weird reflections associated with the space.

            If you want to capture properly the effect of distance from the microphone and not confuse it with room effects, you would record this in a very dry room.

            The other tracks sound quite well, so I am surprised that these three are so weird. I think Paul should clarify this given it is a part of his loudspeaker book.

            Also, how come any of the golden ears, high resolving, veil removing, cable elevating people did not notice this?

            1. [CtA: Also, how come any of the golden ears, high resolving, veil removing, cable elevating people did not notice this?]

              I did (with the 1st edition “Audiophile Ref. Music” CD). Found the vocals perfectly clear throughout the 3 depths check A Capella sequences. I “focused on” the spacial depth differences (as it was meant for), not the Cool A/C natural ambient sounds of the venue!! If the room acoustics bugs you, don’t listen to it again!! 😉

              1. You did?

                No one mentioned it here. I did not hear the tracks for the first book, only the ones associated with the loudspeaker positioning book.

                I do find those tracks distracting and unhelpful. If you like 47 Hz hum in your recordings, I don’t.

                1. Nothing to complain about…sort of adds “Ambiance” to the recorded music. But you are right, would rather have a totally dead background with studio recordings!

                  1. If you are interested on the effect of “ambience” or reverberation, there is an episode of Watch That Sound from Mark Ronson on Apple TV specifically on reverberation. Pretty cool.

                    The issue to me with the track is that if you want to show something specific, you should limit the effect to the specific thing and not add more potential for confusion.

            2. CtA,
              It is presumptuous of you to assume that all contributors here, that can hear properly, are interested in purchasing Paul’s home-audio set-up books & accompanying CDs…I for one am not & have not.
              Having said that, I have listened to a few tracks from an Octave Records jazz CD & at least on one track there is an annoying sound throughout said musical track…I have no idea what it is.
              It sounds vaguely like constant brushes on skins recorded too loudly.

  4. I learned from a member on the forum a fantastic hack for cable elevators. Home Depot sells Grip-Rite 2 1/4” rebar high chairs, 20 of them for less than $5!!!

    1. Yeah, I mentioned rebar chairs here about three weeks ago.
      So I’m not going to mention them again…ooops 😮

      They are free from selected worksites, if you ask nicely.

  5. If cables lying on synthetic carpet fibers can degrade sound, I’d be skeptical about using a plastic riser. I have no science to base that on, other than to say they’re both made of synthetic petrochemicals. I’d feel better about ceramic, or for the cheapest solution, a folded corrugated cardboard “tent,” like someone else mentioned.

    But it’s all hypothetical to me, as I can almost guarantee if I installed the “finest” cable elevators money can buy, I’d likely not hear a difference. Maybe if my system tipped 6 figures, and my ears were 40 years younger…

  6. Cable lift = cable elevator = underwire support…
    Something that has been around for some time in the woman’s under garment industry.

    One would just think basics would be optimized 1st before adding the polish….

    How much does the guide address the non-box speaker placement? (Dipole panels or hybrid panels)

  7. Why would anyone wait until their system is dialed in to add inexpensive cable lifters? “If you’ve managed to dial it in to where there’s nothing more to gain, then yes, by all means, nab a set of cable lifters”

  8. Funny timing. I had just viewed a video on YouTube on this subject. I decided to experiment and make my own with bits and pieces of materials I had in my garage before spending on some exotic and expensive commercially available product. To my amazement I was hearing fine details I had never heard and a more clearly defined soundstage on a system I thought had been tweeked in every possible way.
    Weird, ha?

    1. Not really. Audio systems, especially with digital source, are subject to noise generating mechanisms; which disturb the clarity of low level signal information in the sound – just enough to be obvious to the ear. Only scrupulous attention to detail gets rid of all the gremlins, and static is one of the biggies in this area.

      Fully convincing, immersive SQ is not possible IME until every last issue has been sorted – you know you’ve done enough when it becomes impossible to locate a single speaker as the source of any sound, no matter how close you are to it.

  9. Dear Paul,

    “Elevating the speaker cables off the floor works to improve the sound.”

    Would you please tell us your personal theory for why this is?

    In what ways did cable lifters improve the sound of your IRS system?

    Thank you very much!

  10. Again, what is needed is a lifting device that raises the cables in real time to truly test, measure & deduce optimal height for SQ changes or improvements (should there be any for your particular level of system).
    I SHALL build such a device! Somewhere between my freedom 95 retirement & my depends dependency, cheese slid cracker, hiding cookies under the pillow & lick the curtains days. I promise.
    So what if the patented Kipulator Kablelift makes your room look like a mountain climbers entropian rope-n-pulley bed-head cat’s cradle suspension bridge on LSD… your wife already thinks you’re a bit cra-cra and you’ve already penny-pounded yourself into the hobby this far already haven’t you? As long as it doesn’t squeak when you lift ‘em. Periodic audio-grade lube maintenance may be required.

    My fear is the resulting personal audio notebook that would surely follow:
    TUNEAGE – OPTIMAL LIFT HEIGHT
    Dire Straits – 6.24”
    Film & the BBs: 5.187”
    Steve Morse: 2.57”
    Nickelback: lift until cables completely disconnect from amp and speakers

      1. You can sub anything Rap or the Foo Fighters in there if you rather…
        Or in your case – Waterless Pink Floyd… 😉

        I’m not sure why Nickelback get such a bad rap.. but it’s law now – they ARE the band one MUST pick on. Chad Kroeger and his Ramen Noodle hair… But if you like ONE of their songs – good news! You’re gonna like them ALL!
        It must be kinda like that “town/area” girls joke we all grew up with – you remember those:
        What is the difference between a (insert your local picked-upon town here) girl and a hockey player?
        The hockey player will shower after the 3rd perio…

        OOH! Thank GAWD we are mature now and no longer tell such crass jokes. And then have to apologize for them.

  11. @Picpen – good one!

    I would want an auto-log, and remote controlled option.

    Let me know when your invention is ready (if you are still alive) 😉

    1. Copy that – for a mere $750K down, you can get in on the ground floor with stock options..! 😉

      I also want to devise a joystick controlled symmetrically mirrored wheeled speaker platform – joystick moves your speakers in/out, forward/back and twisting the joystick toes them in and out. Dialing in speakers (especially dipoles) into a room would be SO much easier.
      Make it a cool million and I’ll make you a partner!
      Downside – micro moving my Magnepans (ooh! quadruple alliteration bonus points!) is about 57% of my weekly exercise…

  12. Nice. Good contrast. I always liked the Polk; a million years back when back when I used to work at a brick & mortar we sold them – one cocky salesman used to approach the young gals “Can I interest you in a Polk?” Different times…

    I agree, my perfect soundroom would have my 3.7i on one side and some great box speaker on the other. My current box is a pair of DCM Time Frame TF1000. (Heavy buggers like your Polks) Pretty amazing bass from an 8″ driver. Transmission line done right.
    I’d love to hear the Apogees, have never sampled any.
    Too many speakers, so little opportunity.

  13. The old Polk SDA line definitely perform better with crossover upgrades, their newer tweeters they designed to replace the original ones and all the other upgrades that can be done to them. The frequency response of the SDA 2a is 15hz to 26khz not bad for one dome tweeter, two 6.5″ midrange drivers and a 12″ passive radiator.

  14. Something to keep in mind … plastic is the enemy if you have static noise worries; so, whatever you do, avoid using items made of this like the plague – wood and paper are generally very friendly; experiment, experiment, experiment …

  15. Cable lifters. Yep.

    C lifters make a world of difference. If you think your interconnect, speaker cable, or power cables transformed your system and your life, then you haven’t heard the massive, overwhelming, powerful yet subtly quiet but loud difference that C lifts will make.

    No doubt about it, a set of C lifts would transform a blaring PA system into sound equal to – or better than – PS Audio’s Aspen FR30. No doubt.

    But – you have to get the right C lifts. The right ones are made from Igumabubu wood. 100% natural, the process of curing the harvested natural product involves fermenting in specially constructed vats full of spittle and saliva of the villagers who gather the special wood. Curing can’t be rushed. It takes 5 years to soak and cure the valuable product.

    Once you place this precious tweak into your system, the benefit will bore into your brain, and remain there, altho your spouse might not.

    The world needs more tweaks only audiophiles can detect. Why give money away to Ukraine bravely fighting for its very existence against a barbaric assault, when you can spend that money right here – on cable lifters. Racing cones. Green sharpies.

    Rock on.

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