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cables, and reasonable expenditure/expectations (1 Viewer)

Ryan Muldoon

Auditioning
Joined
Feb 20, 2002
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14
I'm trying to figure out a new stereo for myself, including determining what the budget is. In my search so far, I have been rather impressed with NAD equipment, especially given their price point. I am likely to go with a c160 preamp, c270 amp, and either the 521i or 541i cd player. If I need to conserve some money, I will instead switch to getting the c370 integrated amp. As for speakers, I am strongly considering either the B&W CDM-1NTs or PSB Stratus Minis. I'm still listening to different speakers though, so this may change, but probably not substantially.

My latest trouble is figuring out the whole cable situation. Some sources I read claim that for the lengths that I am considering my speaker cable to be (probably no more than 10 feet...maybe less), just plain old home depot 12 AWG wire is going to be identical to the far more expensive stuff. All that I have been able to find that most parties agree on (And I can make sense of why it matters) is that bi-wiring speakers is a good idea. But, with speaker cable, should I invest in the more expensive (probably ~$80) cables like those found on rhinocables.com? Or just use zip cord? Then, concievably I could also look into the DIY arena, making cable from CAT5 cable, or something similar. Is it worth the effort?

Also, there is the similar problem with interconnects. Do they actually make that substantial a difference? And if they do, what is a reasonable amount to spend for that difference? At what point is a better cable not going to make a difference on my system? I don't want to shortchange my fairly substantial investment by getting crappy cables, but I don't want to waste money needlessly either. Any help in this department would be fantastic.
 

Saurav

Senior HTF Member
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Feb 15, 2001
Messages
2,174
In my experience, I did hear a slight change with different interconnects, but I've tried 18, 16 and 12 gauge wire, and didn't really hear any difference. My runs are around 10' too. If you're DIY-inclined, you can build your own interconnects for not too much money, which will equal much more expensive interconnects in construction quality, shielding and so on.

CAT5 speaker cable - I've toyed with the idea, but haven't tried that yet. I built my own interconnects using basic Belden coax (not the expensive 89259 that's touted in so many places) and Dayton locking RCAs - pretty good value, IMO, ~ $10 for 2 pairs from PartsExpress.

Now that I'm running lower wattage amps, I'm actually thinking of trying 20 gauge magnet wire as speaker cable.
 

Mike Matheson

Second Unit
Joined
Jul 15, 2000
Messages
416
So Ryan, how many $$$ do you wish to spend? :)
I'd probably start out with basic good quality cabling and then begin to try cable swapping/tweaking. Any local dealers that you can borrow cables from to try out?
Using Radio Shack gold or Acoustic Research Pro plus Home Depot 12 guage you might be able to wire your system for, let's say, $50. Stepping up to the lower-end BetterCables, RhinoCables, CatCables, etc., plus a different 12 guage wire might be $75-$100+.
And then of course there's the fancier stuff (mid- to high-grade from the aforementioned and similar companies, biwiring, etc.). Probably $150+++.
All these numbers are guess-work (don't know which wires you need; didn't check the latest prices at the various websites), but maybe you could give some feedback regarding where you'd like to go with things (i.e., how many $$$).
An alternative to sinking that much money into cables, at least initially, might be to check out power products such as BPT's balanced power isolators--IMHO, I expect you'd see/hear more of a difference by putting money here than into fancier wires, given your associated gear.
 

Bob McElfresh

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May 22, 1999
Messages
5,182
Hi Ryan.
(probably no more than 10 feet...maybe less), just plain old home depot 12 AWG wire is going to be identical to the far more expensive stuff
Uhhhh.. We get a lot of questions about thickness based on long runs of wire, and 12 ga is the recommended thickness.
But dont assume that means inexpensive 12 ga will sound the same as botique 12 ga. These are different.
A good rule to follow is to budget 10% of your equipment cost for wires. It's a good way to keep your wires in preportion to your equipment.
My personal advice would be for you to run Home Depot or Parts Express "Sound King" 12 ga wire for all your speakers, and use AR brand interconnects.
This would be a starter set of wires. Low cost, easy to obtain, gets you 90% of the way.
After a few months, your speakers are broken in, your ears are used to the sound, etc., then you can try some upgrades and decide for yourself if it's worth it.
I believe the consensus is that speaker wires will make the biggest difference, then the interconnects. (But I dont remember the more recent go-around on this issue).
 

Ryan Muldoon

Auditioning
Joined
Feb 20, 2002
Messages
14
Thanks for the replies so far!

Mike, the trouble is that I don't *know* how much money I'm willing to spend, because I don't know what that money will actually buy me. It's safe to say that I won't go much over ~$150 for cabling. But I'm not just going to buy something because it is more expensive...I'd rather use that money on more cds if the more expensive cable doesn't make a difference. Unfortunately, the local dealers I've been to don't seem to have any cables to loan out.

I do know that I'd like to at least try biwiring, since I can make sense of why that makes a difference.

But before I either spend a lot of time/energy making DIY cables, or money on RhinoCables, I would like to know that I would be gaining something from them over the 100' spool of 12 ga wire from home depot or parts express. Like, with the level of equipment I am buying (not ultra-high-end, but certainly not lo-fi), will cables actually make that much of a difference?

I think Bob's advice makes sense. But that still leaves me with the issue of how do I evaluate the myriad products available at roughly the price point I'm willing to go (and below). There is no resource that I've found that

does a direct comparison of wires, or how they might fit into a given system. And since I can't get any of the supposedly better wires without either commiting time or money, it's hard. So I appreciate everyone's advice.
 

Saurav

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2001
Messages
2,174
In your situation, I would consider DIY. Sure, it's an investment in time, but at least you are guaranteed quality materials and construction, with a little practice. At the end of the day, any differences brought about by cables would be subtle, especially when placed in the context of other potential changes (like moving your subwoofer 6"). That way, you can set up your system without spending too much money up-front, and you'll know that you haven't handicapped the other components with your cables. Then, you can try out comparisions sometime later when you have the time and the opportunity.
 

John Sully

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Feb 25, 1999
Messages
199
All I can say is: don't spend too much.
For your speakers 12AWG zip cord is just fine. You won't hear any difference between this and the high priced spread. As far as component interconnects go, a decent quality cable, such as the often recommended Radio Shack Gold or AR cables, will do just fine. There is no, and I repeat for emaphsis, no, reason to spend hundreds of dollars for a cable. If you want to DIY Canare cable and interconnects are very good and reasonably priced. However, the tools necessary to build them cost about $100. If you need lots of cables this is a good way to go, however www.markertek.com offers good deals on Canare cables (get the Markertek brand) if you only need a few cables.
 

Mark Rich

Second Unit
Joined
Oct 24, 2001
Messages
457
For the components you are considering you should get some decent cables. This does not mean expensive.

I use the RhinoCables speaker cables for my surrounds. They replaced Monster 12AWG zip style. Bettercables sold this same type of cable until recently with many favorable reviews.

Other on-line cable makers that sell it are:

Cobaltcables.com

Heartlandcables.com

For analog audio you can do much better than the AR or RS cables. The Canare coax cables are not the best choice for this application. For video they are fine but not for analog audio. Try Rhinocables.com DiyCables.com Catcables.com or Outlawaudio.com
 

Keith Ro

Agent
Joined
Feb 7, 2002
Messages
35
Do you believe in double blind testing?

If so, then you should probably buy the cheapest reasonable quality interconnects and cables you can find. Most tests I've read about seem to show that people can't tell the difference between cheap and expensive cables when they don't know which ones they're listening to.

Even those who hear large differences between cables will concede that speaker type, speaker placement and room acoustics all play a much, much larger role. So, if you're price conscious, save your money or put it into the speakers -- that's where you'll get the most bang for your buck.
 

Pete Jennings

Second Unit
Joined
Sep 13, 1999
Messages
333
Ryan,
I just built three 13' Canare Star Quad speaker cables. Not counting the cost of a crimper and heat gun, I spent a total of $73.11 to build them. I terminated them in a bi-wire configuration, with Analysis Plus spades at the speaker ends (to fit the 3/8" posts on my B&W's), and Analysis Plus banana's at the receiver end. I have solid cold welds under the heat shrink, so I feel very satisfied with the quality of my termination job.
People can argue speaker cables differences until the cows come home. *I* care how good my setup looks as much as I care how good it sounds. I dressed my cables up nicely, in fact they look pretty much the same as these cables by Cable Solutions on eBay. I used white heat shrink on the jacket ends instead of the grey they used.
I am pleased with the performance and cost effectiveness of the Canare speaker cables. The actual cable ran $.65 a foot! Three of the same terminated cables from Cable Solutions would have cost me $217, so again not counting the tools, I saved $144.39. Counting the tools ($60) I still saved $84.39 on my cables. It would have been much more than that to have purchased three terminated 13' "name brand" cables.
Bottom line? I am happy with my cables, and to borrow a line from Metallica "Nothing else matters."
Good luck with your quest!
Pete
 

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