Dumb Question: Equal lengths of speaker wire

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Greg Johnson, Feb 27, 2002.

  1. Greg Johnson

    Greg Johnson Stunt Coordinator

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    I remember reading somewhere that it is desirable to have equal lengths of speaker wire going to your front channel speakers. Is there any truth to this. I currently am setup that way but am using cheap 12 ga. monster wire. Was thinking of upgrading to some Audioquest Slate wire at approx. 6 dollars a foot. I need about 10 feet for the right channel and only 4 feet for the left. At that price I wouldn't want to "waste" my money.

    Greg
     
  2. Tony Genovese

    Tony Genovese Supporting Actor

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  3. brucek

    brucek Second Unit

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    Greg,

    Don't worry too much about the length of your speaker cables other than the fact that you might want to rearrange at a later date and wish you had them both 6 feet.

    Electricity travels near the speed of light in a wire depending on its velocity factor.

    This speed is approximated to about a nanosecond a foot. The accepted explaination would be that if you had one speaker wire 50 feet longer than the other, then that signal would arrive about 50 nanoseconds later than the other.

    Well, this is about 1000 times less than human hearing can even begin to detect, so don't worry about the lengths of your cables and phase differences.

    brucek
     
  4. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    There is more to consider than the speed of electricity: resistance.

    I recently did a pro installation where one side had 15ft. cables, the other 35ft. I measured a 1 or 2dB difference (forget which) in SPL levels in the speaker with the longer cables.

    Of course, that’s nothing that can’t be fixed by a tweak of the balance control, but it never hurts to know what to look out for.

    Also, low-impedance speakers are sensitive to resistance from speaker cables. I used to have some 4 -ohm 2-way speakers that had 2-ohm drivers, and they sounded remarkably better when I switched to large gauge speaker wire.

    Of course, not all 4 –ohm speakers use 2-ohm drivers. Some use 4 –ohm drivers or even 8-ohm.

    Nevertheless, I think anyone with 4-ohm speakers needs to be more cautious in this regard. A few feet difference probably is no big deal, but one cable say, twice as long as the other might make an audible difference.

    Regards,

    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  5. Mark Starratt

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    Glad I read this thread. I was going to "even up" my main speaker runs tomorrow (day off woo-hoo). However, after reading here, I think the differences in length aren't worth worrying about. I also like the fact that I have a little extra cable to move the speakers to clean around.
     
  6. Jeff D.

    Jeff D. Supporting Actor

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    There is truth to this, but people sometimes misinterpret. The argument is always how fast electricity travels. No one is suggesting that by having 3 feet more cable on one side, the sound will arrive 1 second later. The difference is not THAT detectable.

    However, uneven speaker wire lengths will have the effect of smearing imaging a bit. It all depends on the difference. Anything up to a 5 foot difference is usually ok. Beyond that though, and I would try and match.

    /Jeff
     
  7. Joe-T

    Joe-T Stunt Coordinator

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    I've wondered about this topic. I personally always use equal length cables just to be sure and because I am perfectionistic about symmetry, but I've never made any real comparisons. Now what I'm wondering about is the difference in signal speed between high and low freq. information. Is the technology of "Time-Correct Windings" from Monster Cable and other such concepts true or useful?
     
  8. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    The WORST numbers for resistance for 12 ga wire I have seen is 0.018 ohms per foot. Waynes 20 foot difference ammounts to something like: 0.36 ohms - not really enough to explain the 1-2 db difference. (dont ask me to do the math...it's late[​IMG] )
    Note: I had a 4-5 db difference on my new DefTech towers. I was freaking out (as it was 4 month ordeal to get them). When I flipped the wires, the right one was still louder (so it was not the amp or the 3 ft extra wire). Turns out there is a side-wall 3 feet away on the right, but none on the left. The reflections from the side-fire woofers were enough to make one speaker louder. I simply dialed down the woofer in that speaker and suddenly both towers matched. Wayne, could there be a nearby reflection causing the difference?
    Joe/Jeff/et.al: A few years ago some guys did the math on another fourm. The challenge was: "How much 12 ga speaker wire DIFFERENCE does it take to produce a 1% phase-shift (timing to the rest of us). The math worked out to needing a 80 foot difference.
    Time Correct windings: Funny how these wire companies learn things about signal transmission/electron "preference" nobody else in the world knows even after years of study and practical use. [​IMG]
    It's basically "junk science": just enough true physics to protect them from being called outright fraudsters, but it's importance is over-hyped as some dominate effect.
    Think of trying to tell you that keeping your car clean reduces friction through the air and will increase your gas mileage. Yes, this is true, but it has something like 0.00001% effect on your gas mileage. There are many other issues that swamp/negate the clean-car effect. But if it will help sell "snake-oil" car polish, they will techno-babble you
     
  9. Joe-T

    Joe-T Stunt Coordinator

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    Bob, I know this is a very hot topic of debate, but I'm just curious what your opinions on higher level (aka. really expensive) speaker cable is. So far I can't tell the difference, although I haven't tested any exotic cables.
     
  10. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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  11. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    Well, since you asked...[​IMG]
    Expensive vs Cheap speaker wire:
    Expensive speaker wires DO sound different. I'll even go out on a limb and say "better".
    But you have to put things in perspective:
    - Consider someone who puts 220 mph speed rated high-performance tires on his Yugo. Yes, it will drive "better", but the car wont take advantage of the tires.
    - Consider someone with a 19" color TV and is using the $25 Radio Shack component video cables. He wonders if it is worth upgrading to the $300 Monster Video 3 cable set. Sure, the Monster cables are "better", but I doubt he will notice any improved picture.
    This is why the "10% rule" is good: Add up how much your speakers cost, take 10% of that and look for wires that cost about that much.
    The Science: Speaker wires have some electrical properties called "Impedence" and "Capacitance". The Impedence affects the higher frequencies, the Capacatance affects the lower ones.
    Then their is the more subtile "Reactive Capacitance & Dynamic Impedence". This is how the wire changes the signal when it suddenly changes frequency.
    When you buy the more exotic wires, you get wire designed to minimize these effects, and a corresponding increase in quality control.
    The net effect on your music with the more expensive cables is... a small ammount. The net effect on your pride in your system .. a large ammount. It's not a bad thing to own a very precise, high-quality knife/tool/car/speaker wire.
    Does this help?
     
  12. Joe-T

    Joe-T Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks Bob, that's what I wanted, simply your opinion on speaker wire, and it was absolutely not my intention to start yet another heated debate on the subject. I'm glad I didn't. I just like to obtain certain peoples opinions on certain subjects.

    JOE
     
  13. Bob Christensen

    Bob Christensen Stunt Coordinator

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    IMHO, the differences that we are talking about in speaker wire legth are NOT worth worring about. Life is too short. But the fact that you MAY want to use them in a different arrangement may make you wish that you had equal length speaker wires in the future. Just do not store the "extra" length as a coil.

    As far as expensive speaker wires go, I will decline an answer, since I have used very expensive, as well as very inexpensive speaker wires, both to good effect.
     
  14. Pep Guidote

    Pep Guidote Agent

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    Bob, pardon my ignorance buy why shouldn't I "coil" my excess wire? Will just a couple of turns increase inductance that much? Or will it be more susceptible to interference (i.e. acting like an antena ?)

    Either way, how should I store the extra length?

    -Pep
     
  15. Mark Starratt

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    I'm rather curious about this as well. I've tried,albeit not that hard, to keep my speaker wire runs as short as possible. However, I do keep a small "loop" behind each tower to allow me to it about two feet in either direction.
     
  16. Bob Christensen

    Bob Christensen Stunt Coordinator

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    By coiling the speaker wire, you are, in effect, creating an air core inductor with your speaker wire. Inductors are typically part of crossovers, used to roll off high frequencies. So by coiling your speaker wire, you are, in effect, adding another inductor to your speaker’s cross over, and could see an unwanted roll off of high frequencies, which would alter the overall tone of your setup.
     

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