Need Recs: Long run of speaker wire vs. long run of balanced interconnects to amp

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by DanielG, Dec 12, 2003.

  1. DanielG

    DanielG Agent

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    Based on my setup, I either have the choice of:

    (i) amp in other room with all the rest of the equipment - 35ft runs of speaker wire from the amp to the front speakers (would use good 12 gauge wire but nothing near as good as if I only had 8ft runs) (I'm also using a Rel Storm so I'd need a long run from the amp to the Rel as well) and 3ft runs of balanced interconnect to the amp; or

    (ii) just amp in living room near speakers - 35ft runs of balanced interconnect to the front channels in my amp and then 8ft runs to the speakers and 15ft run to the Rel.

    While neither is ideal, I have no choice and am interested in thoughts on which setup sacrifices the least in quality. Right now, based on looking at various speaker wire (say Monster, Kimber or AudioQuest) and various custom order XLR interconnects (say from Signal Cable), I'd be paying either $3-6 per ft for the wire or about $200-220 for the XLR cable.

    At this point if its relevant, the equipment that are my top choices for purchase are: Amp-Bryston, Speakers - B&W Signature 805s or Red Rose Rosebuds, Processor - Anthem, Sub - Rel Storm III.

    Thanks,
    Dan
     
  2. Thomas_Berg

    Thomas_Berg Screenwriter

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    run the XLRs long. the signal is balanced, so the length of the cable is irrelevant. do a google search on differential circuits and/or the engineering behind balanced circuitry if you want to know exactly why this is.
     
  3. Ernest Yee

    Ernest Yee Supporting Actor

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    If these are just to fronts, I would say that you might as well do the speaker wire option. Those 35ft runs will have pretty much negligible signal loss in terms of signal loss if you use 14ga or 12ga wire.
     
  4. Tim Hoover

    Tim Hoover Screenwriter

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    I second Thomas' suggestion. Balanced interconnects are specifically designed for least-possible signal loss over long runs.
     
  5. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    The theoretical answer is that a long run of interconnect is preferable to a long run of speaker wire. In line with that thinking, a long run of XLR makes more sense than a long run of RCA interconnect. This theoretical answer is predicated upon the thinking that there's virtually no FR loss with reasonably long lengths of interconnects while there can be something like a 0.2 dB drop off with a similar length of speaker wire up around 20 kHz.

    Note that I said theoretical. Now comes the question of whether this theoretical difference translates into an audible difference. Given that you've chosen or are thinking about well designed equipment, the answer is that there would be no audible differences other than perhaps a slight difference in signal levels, and I do mean slight, that get compensated for once you balance your system with an SPL meter.

    The problem then becomes for you, the consumer, in selecting wire or cabling to complete the connection process. Anyone who has done even a basic search on the internet, gone into a store, opened a magazine, read reviews, popped into audioasylum.com where people treat wire as a component worthy of enormous expenditures of monies, becomes quite properly confused and bewildered. This mainly results because the word best[/be] is frequently used. It is of course the wrong question, but it's the question anyone wanting to sell you promises wants you to ask. After all, it permits them an opportunity to wax eloquently over such things as 'skin effect', braiding, the nature of the copper, the type of dielectric (PVC, teflon, polyethylene, etc.), and god only knows what else. These white papers from the various wire mongers can be in conflct with each other.

    The correct question is of course, what do I need to get the job done. In other words, what are my minimum requirements such that there is no audible degradation of the signal? Once that question is asked, and once a proper listening test is conducted, one finds that in virtually all situations that the following statement holds true for well constructed cables (it's not all that tough to make good connections now!): Given two cables of similar length and gauge, there is no audible difference. Does that mean any cable of a given gauge works as well as another one? Of course not. We have to come back to the question, "What are my minimum requirement?" If you've got a passive preamp, you want a low capacitance cable as it is capacitance that is important in interconnects. Passive preamps were never designed to drive long lengths of interconnects. Further, there's a few poorly designed, but well regarded (people are strange I tell you) amps from companies like Naim, that can't deal with high capacitance in speaker wire. Go figure.

    I believe you should consider what arrangement suits you best from a practical point of view. Does having the preamp in the same room as where you listen work better for you? If so, that'll dictate which arrangement you should pursue. If you want to go XLR there are a couple of good choices that are very cost effective.

    1) Find a store in your area called Guitar Center (online, they're Musician's Friend) and have the make up some XLR cables made from microphone wire such as Canare or Mogami and terminated in Neutrik Connectors. A reply from Anthem on this topic reads as follows...
     
  6. DanielG

    DanielG Agent

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    Chu,

    Thanks for such a detailed and informative response! It certainly gives me a lot to think about.

    I do have a couple of follow-up questions.....

    --Anthem seems to have no problem with using longer interconnect runs (I asked them directly) so should I assume that the issue you mentioned with passive amps and capacitance is not a concern?

    --I've heard from some people that in addition to a volume level issue there is a qualitative drop off with longer speaker wire runs, even when using 12 gauge - but if I'm following what you said correctly, I think that from a theoretical standpoint there shouldn't be a qualitative issue and that just feeds back into the whole speaker wire debate.

    --Unfortunately, since all my wires are run through conduits under the floor and it is a pain in the neck to change-out the wires, I will not be able to do listening tests (particularly true because for each of the balanced cables the heads would have to be removed to be run through the conduit and then reattached because its only 3/4in. conduit)....though if I could get a long balanced cable that I could return perhaps I could just do the test in the room with the speakers without running the cables (not sure someone will cut a custom length and let me return it).

    --do you know if there is any trick to terminating the balanced cables? I am working with an experienced A/V guy who says he can do what is necessary, but I don't want to go in this direction to get a benefit that may be lost because terminating the cables with Neutrik connectors isn't easy.

    --while all things being equal (i.e., "fancy" shorter runs of speaker wire aren't better than long runs), I'd prefer to have the amp with all the rest of the equipment in the other room, it would be out of sight so I have no aesthetic concerns. While I need to get a surge protector/line conditioner type device for that room because of the plasma tv, I'd probably have to get a better one if I have my amp plugged in to it as well.

    Everything boils down to a quality of sound issue and given the various comments I have received here and elsewhere I gather:

    (i) there is no downside to running the longer interconnects and

    (ii) there is likely not a significant downside to the longer speaker wire, but that there might be some quality/signal loss.

    As a result, I'm tempted to really explore the long interconnect route.....

    Thanks,
    Dan
     
  7. Tim Hoover

    Tim Hoover Screenwriter

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  8. Tim Streagle

    Tim Streagle Stunt Coordinator

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    Sound engineers and musicians do indeed use balanced interconnects to route signal from mixers and sound booths to amp racks on stage. In pro audio it is beneficial to have amplifiers close to speakers for several reasons;

    (1) Damping factor is kept at it's maximum with shorter speaker cables
    (2) Long speaker wires are easily damaged (rolled improperly, driven over, etc.) and difficult to hide.
    (3) Large diameter speaker wire is more difficult to route through conduit than thin, balanced signal cable.
    (4) Clipping lights and other amp indicators are easily monitored when the amps are in plain view.
    (5) MUCH cheaper.
    (6) We usually run one stereo send over the balanced line and use active x-over to split frequencies at amp rack.
     

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