TVs & Home Theaters forum

General discussion

Do speaker cables make a significant Hi-Fi contribution ?

by ColinWonfor / March 16, 2011 6:09 PM PDT

Do you think speaker cables by all manufactures add or distract from you enjoyment of music reproduced by you Hi-Fi. Or is it all rubbish?

Post a reply
Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: Do speaker cables make a significant Hi-Fi contribution ?
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: Do speaker cables make a significant Hi-Fi contribution ?
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
Re: speaker cables
by Kees_B Forum moderator / March 16, 2011 6:59 PM PDT

You need them to connect the amplifier to the speakers. So you'll need a set that isn't rubbish.

Luckily, the requirements are rather low, because it's a low-frequency signal (20-20.000 Hz) and it's a strong signal. And, of course, the resistance has to be low. Any pair of copper cables should work.


Collapse -

IMO, you merely need a low resistance cable between the amp/receiver and speakers. For an ordinary home where the speakers are mere feet away, 16 gauge wire is fine. I do not believe any cable can "add" enjoyment in a technical sense, but if one believes what a snake oil salesman is selling, expensive wires will add enjoyment. Double blind testing has never proven any real benefit, however.

Collapse -
Speaker Cables
by fastskater / March 18, 2011 11:09 AM PDT

Cables make very little audible difference. The price you pay for the special cables isn't offset by any real additonal sound quality. If you have a 500 or 1000 watt system and crank it up then a 14 guage wire might be of a benefit espeically to a sub woofer. The real limiting factor to good sound quality is the media. MP3's really lack fidelity and CD's tend to sound good but lack the smooth rounded notes of vinyl.

Collapse -
Good quality
by rgb6 / March 18, 2011 2:26 PM PDT

As others have said, there are salesmen that insist that expensive cables are better, but no proof. Still, well made audio cables are going to last longer and may have better end pieces--the parts that connect from one component to the other. I recommend Monoprice cables: I have several of them and they are well made and not expensive. See also:

Collapse -
Not just the wires
by mjd420nova / March 19, 2011 4:32 AM PDT

Many of the more expensive speaker wires/cables have had some sort of treatment done to the ends of the wires. Soldering multistrand wires together will help to reduce the overall resistance of the wire itself and eliminate losses from poor terminations. Another factor to take into account is the method the wires are attached to the amplifier and speakers. The typical springloaded connectors are pretty poor methods and would greatly improve fidelity if soldered on lugs and screw down terminals were substituted. With all things taken together, the media source will become the limiting factor in how well the system performs.

Collapse -
Magical cables
by hajash / March 19, 2011 9:29 AM PDT

if you wish to hear the music as it was recorded, just use 18,16,14,or 12 ga zip wire. use a higher gauge for longer runs = smaller number. Now if you wish to change the character of the sound- you could buy some very expensive cable that has awful capacitance or some other awful spec! Remember, your speakers, not the wire are the most important element of your sound system. If you open up your receiver or amplifier, take a look at the wire gauge to the speaker terminals--- ouch. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MAGICAL WIRE...

Collapse -
So no speaker cable is magic
by ColinWonfor / March 19, 2011 6:22 PM PDT
In reply to: Magical cables

So it seems in the opinion of the readers here speaker cables contributes very little apart from conducting current to the speaker drivers and add nothing to the good reproduction of music on hi-fi
So why do companies like Chord, Atlas ans Tellurium Q spend thousands on R&D?

Collapse -
So no speaker cable is magic
by keveri / March 19, 2011 8:11 PM PDT

Expensive, if price is justified, cables may make a difference on hi-end speakers and amps, Out of curiosity I have read reviews on whole house speaker systems > $150,000.00 US. Yes, 150 thousand dollars. Even speakers costing a few thousand each may benefit. Personally I have no experience with speakers > $500.00 US each. I have never read any audio reviews that tested wire/cables with speakers that most of us use (< $2500.00 each) that concluded expensive wire/cables sounded better than inexpensive WELL MADE wire/cables. There is a hi-end market that may, and probably does, benefit though.

Collapse -
P.T. Barnum?
by WildClay / April 12, 2011 6:36 AM PDT

Sorry could not resist.

If one is a true audiophile with very high end equipment (leaving the sound behind as it is so subljective anyway), they live and die by the specs and sarcastically I could add cost, but I will be nice. So if you have 50 grand in amps and another 50 grand in speakers then putting that together with lamp cord must rate as a near sin, not matter how good it sounds.

I also know that if you mess with a given pice of wire you can get difference to show up on the right test equipment. So you may show electical differnces that in theory could make a differnce on a scope, but not make in a meaningful way on a speaker or perhaps listener.

This is what the R&D money is for, if you want someone to pay 300 bucks a foot for speaker wire you better have a story to tell, thus the R&D and one would hope that the story at least in theory should be "better", more true accurate, etc.

But lets face it, if your typical under a grand home theater was adversly impacted by speaker wires BestBuy would never be able to keep up with the returns.

My opinion, if one can not tell in a double-blind test the difference, then no practical difference exists, now as a speaker wire expert, honestly, do you really think in my 600 buck Sony 7.1 receiver and my Infinity Premius speakers, in my non-sounded treated living room, your cable would make any perceivable difference to the average listener or me?

I thought kind of Ironic that they sell a tail piece of speaker wire to essentially un-do what the great wires to, is this a case where two wrongs make a right?

Collapse -
Do speaker cables make a significant HI-FI contribution?
by keveri / March 19, 2011 6:52 PM PDT

There is one situation where just using speaker wire can make a subtle but noticeable improvement. This is for speakers designed for bi-wiring or bi-amping but you're doing neither. Replacing the thin metal bridge between the 2 left and 2 right terminals with wire enriched the midrange frequencies on my Polk RTi A5 speakers (which I luv). Remove the 2 bridges. Insert a short piece of wire through the holes in the 2 left and 2 right terminal studs. Then use banana plugs or u or circular wire end connectors for the wire between the speakers and receiver/amp. You could just wrap the speaker wire around the posts but I prefer a more secure connection. Be sure the terminal nuts are screwed down tight.

Collapse -
Are all reviewer wrong or corrupt.
by ColinWonfor / March 19, 2011 9:01 PM PDT

Are we saying that all reviewer are corrupt or deaf or being con by salesman?

Collapse -
by PistonCupChampion / March 20, 2011 12:32 AM PDT

While I used the term "snake oil salesman," I do not believe most are intentionally misleading anyone. They probably do believe there are audible benefits to high-end speaker cables. But no one has ever proven there are beneficial sonic differences, not in double-blind testing.

Keveri claims he hears a "subtle but noticeable improvement" in his Polk speakers by replacing a strip of metal with a wire, but how did he measure this? There may be a difference (and it could also be a negative one contrary to what he believes), but it is an empirical result not backed up in a scientifically measured way.

Collapse -
bi wire
by tech1tech / March 20, 2011 6:05 AM PDT
In reply to: Neiher

I could probably wrap barb wire with electrical tape put a fancy name on it like The New B-wire high resistance taped, acoustically tuned with built in theft prevention , and someone in a forum will swear that they bring out the colors in the music and the tonality is so much better than regular copper wires.
I have Mission 4 post speakers and use just plain ole 4 wire cable.They sound great no one has ever come in and said the sound isn't fine.No "treatment" was needed on the ends , i just made sure the wire was a gauge suitable to the run i needed and my amplifier was capable.

Collapse -
An incomplete knowledge
by Jelly Baby / March 20, 2011 6:45 AM PDT
In reply to: Neiher

"There may be a difference (and it could also be a negative one contrary to what he believes), but it is an empirical result not backed up in a scientifically measured way...."

....sugests that we have the tools and the ability to measure everything and can understand the measurements we get. Most good scientists work with the beleif that they are using very blunt tools and there is considerably more going on which we can't measure and certainly can't understand with our current level of tec. Electronics and accoustics, when they interconnect are two fields where there are still huge gaps in our understanding of the inter-relationship between the theory and the practice

Collapse -
Jelly Baby
by GIVEUSFREEDOM / April 8, 2011 3:53 AM PDT

It doesn't take a scientist's blunt tool to understand there ARE no audible discernible or even measurable differences between cheap and expensive speaker wire.
To believe so is just simply dumb.

Collapse -
Re: difference
by Kees_B Forum moderator / April 8, 2011 4:04 AM PDT
In reply to: Jelly Baby

So you're one of those who wouldn't GBP 248 (that's some USD 350) for a meter (that's somewhat more than a yard) of the highest grade "Ultra Black" speaker cable? Google ULTRA TELLURIUM BLACK to learn about the utmost importance of keeping the phase coherent.


Collapse -
by GIVEUSFREEDOM / April 8, 2011 8:12 AM PDT
In reply to: Re: difference


Collapse -
Good question - wrong forum
by Jelly Baby / March 20, 2011 6:38 AM PDT

You've asked a question about hi-fi in a forum for home audio and video. Little bit like asking the local slimmers group if titanium spikes will improve your 100m time....

Try a group where real hi-fi is discussed and you'll get a very different answer. I'm not sure which group is correct in the expensive wires make a difference argument but from personal experience I'd say you very quickly hit a very steeply sloping law of diminishing returns. There is a very audible difference between "proper" speaker cable and interconnects compared to bell wire or electrical cable - or to the interconnects which come with sub hi-fi audio systems. However, as the price goes up ever more steeply, the differences soon become increasingly difficult to hear - and in some cases actually sound "worse" than a less expensive cable sio I'm a little scepticle about the need to spend a huge sum on cables.

There are also many people who have spent considerable sums of money on mains cables to "improve" their hi-fi.

Best advice - ignore the sales talk, don't look at the price and just listen - your own ears will tell you if something works or not, then it's your choice whether you think the improvement justifies the cost.

Collapse -
Yes, they actually make a massive difference.
by andyderbyshire / March 20, 2011 9:43 PM PDT

This is the best bit of advice you could get...

"Best advice - ignore the sales talk, don't look at the price and just listen - your own ears will tell you if something works or not, then it's your choice whether you think the improvement justifies the cost.."

Properly designed speaker cable makes a difference to the sound of the music played through your hi-fi system. You don't need to spend massive amounts of money either, but you DO need to buy the right cable.

The better your system, the more you will hear the difference. After 30 years of passionate interest in music, I now have a Linn Active system with 3 separate amplifiers, 1 for treble, 1 for mid and 1 for bass. A few days ago I tried a cable just on the treble and it totally ruined the music from my hi-fi. It was so bad it sounded like something had gone wrong with the hi-fi and I switched it off after 10 minutes and replaced the cable with my standard Linn cable.

To summarise, lots of expensive cables are worse than relatively cheap cable made by Linn or Naim (who both make hi-fi in the UK), so try them first. Solder the connections with silver solder if possible as silver is the best conductor of electricity.

Then clean your mains plugs, fuses, speaker and hi-fi connections with metal cleaner such as Duraglit wadding and start listening to the music.

Seriously, try Linn or Naim cable first, whatever anyone else says.
Kind regards,


Collapse -
The OP never said what equipment he has
by Pepe7 / March 22, 2011 1:16 AM PDT

Most of us do not have your high end Linn equipment with three separate amps, FWIW.

That's the kicker in the whole equation.

Collapse -
To ColinWonfor. Post deleted.
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / March 23, 2011 7:20 AM PDT

Sorry I deleted your post. Web site promotion is not permitted in these forums.


Collapse -
Market research
by ColinWonfor / March 23, 2011 2:51 PM PDT

No Problem it was only market research anyway.

Collapse -
It doesn't really matter what you posted
by Pepe7 / March 24, 2011 12:22 AM PDT
In reply to: Market research

You clearly came to the forum in your original & subsequent posts with a very pre-conceived notion regarding how cables relate to sound quality. Obviously the situatation is not as black and white as you would make it out to be.

Collapse -
by ColinWonfor / March 28, 2011 5:15 PM PDT

No I started it to see the points of view on the public regarding there knowledge and open mindedness on cables and there effects on audio. It has been very interesting, having been a sceptic myself once a long time ago. The results suggest most folk are blind to new ideas that have no perceived value, not the same however when it comes to Cars, IPODs, Phone or even movies. But research and development and cost to produce this new cable may have been far more than the design of a phone which would have been based on known knowledge and not a complete rethink. Interesting how our mind work is it not.
Well I am of to rethink the car now and save the planet lol.

Collapse -
It really sounds like you bit off more than you can chew
by Pepe7 / March 29, 2011 3:32 AM PDT
In reply to: No

Without any specifics, I'm afraid you are simply blue-skying this issue, and beating a very dead horse.

If you can come up with something valid that proves I should replace the more than adequate audio cables on my less than audiophile quality equipment, I am all ears ;).

Collapse -
That choice can and should be only yours
by ColinWonfor / March 29, 2011 5:19 AM PDT

Dear Pepe7

That was not my point sorry or my purpose. That choice can and should be only yours. And since I can not promote any product here, you will have to hunt down spec yourself, and rightly so.


Colin J. Wonfor

Collapse -
Hey Colin
by Pepe7 / March 29, 2011 5:29 AM PDT
Collapse -
We can only search and find the truth.
by ColinWonfor / March 29, 2011 4:08 PM PDT
In reply to: Hey Colin

Sorry Pepe7, no can do as your has Onkyo in it, therefore it must be promotion mine would also be promotion if I did the same. But why not search my name??? It is there nothing to hide.

Collapse -
Yes [OT]
by Pepe7 / March 30, 2011 12:49 AM PDT

I know who you are. Audio cable of the year ring a bell? But a pedigree doesn't impress, I'm afraid. I'm surprised that someone of your stature could not understand the difference between someone having a vested interest in selling a product vs someone not connected with an AV brand simply posting a composed search string. The forum rules do not prohibit my post, but unfortunately you would have to disassociate from a particular company for yours to be allowed as such.

Collapse -
Not all of them
by WildClay / April 12, 2011 6:49 AM PDT

I am sure the engineers make the cable show real differences on test equipment, and then convey to marketing people why this is "better" or more accurate in a purest sense.

No one actually has to be lying, I am sure one vendor could say there is less phase displacement on my wires than any other wire on the market and be 100% honest and sunk a lot of money in to getting that result out of the wire. The marketing person and/or some die hard audiophiles may believe they can hear a differnce or perhaps do, (I am not aware of anyone passing a double-blind test between high end speaker wire and lamp cord of the right guage.)

Again, I do not say this as an absolute, personally I have never owned super high end gear, have heard plenty of it, but never owned it so I can't say if it makes an audible difference in that gear, but I can say without a doubt it makes no meaningful, perceive able difference in consumer grade audio equipment, which is generally a receiver well under a grand and even less for all speakers in the mix.

Popular Forums
Computer Help 49,613 discussions
Computer Newbies 10,349 discussions
Laptops 19,436 discussions
Security 30,426 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 20,308 discussions
Windows 10 360 discussions
Phones 15,802 discussions
Windows 7 7,351 discussions
Networking & Wireless 14,641 discussions


CNET bought a house!

Take a look inside the house where we will be testing connected locks, thermostats and other smart home products so we can tell a complete story.