When we didn’t care

February 27, 2017
 by Paul McGowan

In the late seventies and early eighties, we didn’t care about cables. There were none to care about.

And, we had great systems. Jaw droppers that opened new vistas for those upgrading from the ordinary to something extraordinary.

We managed just fine without expensive cables. Yet, when they were first introduced, our great systems got even better. Our horizons had been extended, like climbing a hill for the first time.

I am not picking on cables.

I just wanted to point out how great systems can be assembled even when you have less than perfect components.

Your setup may be humble. That doesn’t mean it cannot be great.

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25 comments on “When we didn’t care”

  1. I remember that in the late seventies there was already a vivid discussion among audiophiles concerning speaker cables, Paul. Power cables and signal cables became an issue much later. However isn’t it strange that even a modest stereo system is able to reveal the cable effects – provided the amp matches the speakers? Thus I wonder if the recording and broadcast studios really invest in a decent cable design seeing the poor monitor speaker designs being widely used.

  2. Paul,

    I am not picking on cables too.

    For years now I’m using cables that have been cryogenically treated and were made by Vestal virgins.
    In doing so, I place great value on the fact that the running direction is clearly marked, so that the electrons know in which direction they have to march.
    This leads to an ice crystal clear reproduction which is completely immaculate like the virgins.


      1. Mark – Many years ago I heard from an electrical engineer that electrons don’t actually flow along the wire but transfer the energy they receive to the electron next to them and so on. A bit like standing in a line and elbowing the guy next to you and he does the same to the guy next to him. Your thoughts on this please.

    1. Really, the virgin thing only works when items are rolled on their thighs, like Cuban cigars.

      I hope that doesn’t ruin the cryogenic treatment.

  3. Back in the early cable design days I was friends with Stephen Hill and David Salz (still am with DS). When I visited, David was often in the garage spinning wire by hand, then soldering connectors. I still have an original tonearm cable, but sans TT for decades

  4. Nowadays there is no discussion anymore about different cable sound.
    At least not among people with ears.
    Compare, for example, Transparent cables with Siltec cables.
    Day and night. If you don’t hear the difference, you’re probably deaf.

      1. Thanks for the compliment Bernd.
        Confirms what I thought of you. Very unpolite, rude person.
        But if you get your kicks out of “so eine dreckige Bemerkung” be my guest.
        Gute Nacht.

    1. I thought so, too, but it seems there’s still discussion.

      I wonder how people who don’t hear noteworthy cable differences should i.e. hear Directstream firmware differences, which are clearly minor to most cable differences IMO. Not to speak of other really minor sound differences.

      At least they are saving money, which is not too bad!

      1. Well jazznut, of course there is discussion.
        I said “Nowadays there is no discussion” just to provoke some reactions. I like to do that every now and then and it always works 😀
        But I meant what I said about differences in cable sound !
        And you have a good point in what you say about Directstream firmware differences, vs cable differences.

  5. Paul, I can’t say the specific year but Robert Fulton introduced his Gold FMI speaker wire sometime in the ’70s. Soon after he followed with the less expensive Brown wire. Both were much thicker than the standard 18 ga lamp cord common up until then. Very soon afterward other companies began introducing “specialty” wire.

    But your point is well taken. I think many of the systems of that time were capable of delivering high levels of musical enjoyment, even without the “exotic” parts/treatments some demand today. My modest tubed Dynakits, AR-4, Dual, Empire system put together in the late ’60s certainly connected with the music for me, no matter the stock interconnects and lamp cord.

    1. My wife hated the Fulton gold speaker cable feeding a pair of Snell type A’s. She used to trip on it as it crossed a doorway to the speakers. She didn’t much like my dealer after that either.
      I ditched the cable, but still miss the Snells. A tragic loss to audio when Peter Snell passed.

  6. Paul,

    Cables started to become important late 70’s , I do remember well, David Salz (now wire World) showing off to me his prototype cable , circa 1982 as an improvement over our then standard. In the 70’s we were always fiddling with cables , especially silver vs copper


  7. I run a set of Linkwitz Orions, which are a multi-amplified loudspeaker. 4 channels on each side for a total of 8. My cable runs are 25 feet long each. That’s 200 feet of cable. Linkwitz himself runs zip cord and so do I. Even with running 14 gauge zip cord from Parts-Express, that’s not cheap. Try to do that with some of the more exotic cables and I’d have to take out a 2nd mortgage on the house.

  8. An audio modifier/designer I know told me in the late 80’s about the virtues of litz wire. He sold me some 12 gauge equivalent wire and I found myself a solder pot. The cable looks like junk in its raw state (and sounds best that way). I have not looked back since. If there is anything better? To me its only different. Very accurate transfer of the signal without any apparent smearing and time delays …. which causes other problems. Its not forgiving, nor romantic…. But, when the system is good, the cables make able to know it very good.

    1. Way back in the early 1980’s I learned about the importance of high quality audio wires from Ken Mavrick, who used to have an audio store in West Hollywood,California. I first learned about the importance of hook up wires themself, at first as to the internal wiring of a speaker itself and their effect on audio reproduction itself. Anyway, experimenting with different wires over the years, I believe that I have created an extremely high quality speaker wire, for a reasonable cost. Presently I have hooked up to my Martin/Logan speskers a one foot-actually 15 inch long-pair of MG Audio Design’s top of the line speaker wires. They sell for $900, but with the 10% repet customer discount, they come to only $810. OK, between the other end of the MG Audio Design speaker wires and the speaker wire connections on my amplifier, I use three Jenna Lab 18 gage hook up wires-instead of just one or two-to each MG Audio Design wire itself to my amplifier. That is 12 Jenna Lab’s 18 gage hook up wires in total. The result is truly extrodinary. Oh yes, the Jenna Lab wires are $6 a foot. Currently I am using 6, 17 foot long Jenna Lab’s wires for my left channel. 6, 10 foot long wires on the right side. It averages out to a 14.5 pair of speker wires in otal. Total cost-slightly under $1900. It comes to $900 for the first foot and $72 each additional foot. Both MG Audio Design and Jenna Labs are very small audiophile wire manufactures, but both very highly reguarded in the audio community. All I can say is that if you combine one product from each one that you can achieve a level of audio reproduction only avaliable at a much, much higher price, and then some. I am retired and anyone can come over and check it out most anytime. I live off of 30th street, just south of Glenwood, s very easy to get to. Just give me a call at (720) 550-6908.

      1. Hi Alan,
        Thanks for the invitation. I can’t take you up on it, however, as I’m retired as well and in the Eastern half of this country. It’s good to know that there are others with a passion for this pursuit. I know that when we get all of our audio contrivances including cables lined up correctly, we don’t just hear it; we feel it both physically and emotionally. The room becomes a venue and the recording becomes a performance.
        It’s a shame that others just don’t get it.

        1. I myself learned many yeas ago that using hook up wires from a truly high end audio wire manufacture was possible, that they might serve as speaker wires themself with very good results. In fact I had used four 11 foot Purist Audio Design hook up wires that I was able to obtain. Anyway I learned about 10 years ago about Jenna Lab’s 18 gage hook up wires, which were available to the public for $4.50 a foot. Then, purely by chanch, I was able to obtain a one foot pair of Shunyata’s top of the line speaker wires. Well, just connecting the two different wires together between the amplifier and speakers really worked. Later I was able to obtain a one foot pair of MG Audio Design’s own intermediate silver speakers wires to replace the Shunyata wires. An incredible improvement. Later I obtained a one foot pair of MG Audio Design’s top of the line speaker wires with, again incredible results. Last, but not least, I at first added another run of the Jenna Lab hookup wires instead of just one-for a total of eight of them. Then I added a third Jenna Lab wire to the total-12 to the system. It was by chanch that I posessed enough of the Jenna Lab’s wires, but it sure works. The Shunyata wires are now my jumper wires for Martin/Logan speakers. I have another story to tell about using a short pair of the mG Audio Design speaker wires used to drive a Stax electrostatic headphone system can do for it. But that is another story.

          1. Hey Alan,
            I enjoyed your comments. I’m a ready-made wire guy myself. Over 30-40 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to move in and out of my system, various cables from Audioquest, Synergistic, Vandenhul, Acoustic Zen, and Nordost. It’s interesting that when I change components in my system, I often have to change cables as well in order to take the full measure of the new component(s). I’m lucky that over the years, I haven’t needed to sell any of my cables and have quite a few to chose from. I can mix the old with the new in a synergistic way to improve the presentation and get where I want to be. Right now, I’m using Nordost Heimdal II for speaker cable to my planar magnetic Wisdom dipoles, and very old Vandenhul Magnan cable to the woofers (the best woofer cable I’ve ever experienced but 15 yrs old). I have mixed various interconnects from Nordost (Heimdal II), Vandenhul (First ultimate carbon fiber), and AQ ( diamond pure silver) in my system. Every change makes an appreciable difference whether in frequency response, depth, fullness or soundstage width , and I really don’t think I’m dreaming these things. It sounds like you’re having fun as well. Congratulations.

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