Long or short cables?

I subscribe to Paul’s Posts of PSAudio. Each morning, he gives his thoughts on audio equipment and music. Today’s topic was interesting to me and I thought I’d ask you guys.

Long or short cables?
Where to place a power amplifier can cause one to question: Long speaker cables and short interconnects or the opposite?

For some with limited space, the answer’s a snap: both source and amplifier are next to the speakers. But for those who have the luxury of space and distance to isolate your sensitive sources from the loudspeaker vibrations, the question of how to connect over a long distance is a head-scratcher.

For many years I was in the long speaker cable/short interconnect camp. The advantages of this setup were many: the equipment’s all sitting together away from the direct pressure waves of the speakers. Moreover, power amplifiers are better equipped to drive complex loads than preamplifiers or DACs.

I now run the opposite: short speaker cables and long balanced interconnects. The switch happened at the urging of trusted friends, though the logic of it has always eluded me. How can a preamp be a better sounding cable driver than an amplifier? One clue is obvious. Driving power over cables has always been a challenge due to theoretical losses and EMI. In a low-level interconnect there’s no power delivered, just signal: easy to shield, and losses are minimal. Still, one clue doesn’t answer why there’s such a sonic difference between a 20-foot and. a 2-foot speaker cable. My final decision was based on simple listening. Long balanced interconnects sound better than long speaker cables.

The one piece of advice I can share is the advantage of getting the source away from the speakers. If you’re forced to keep the equipment near the speakers, try and keep them out of the direct line of fire, preferably between the left and right channels were bass frequencies aren’t as powerful. The worst situation to face is when the electronics are to the side of one speaker or another and within a direct line. That’s to be avoided if you can.

I am quite happy with my setup of long interconnects (50 feet long) and short speaker cables. Further time needs to be spent noodling on the whys of this counter-intuitive technique, but for the moment, it’s just something that works.

I do have a short video of my thoughts about the best way to connect speakers to amplifiers you can watch here.
Yaqin MC-30L, Denon DVD 3900, Sony C69ES CD Changer, Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Turntable, Pro-Ject Phono Box MM, Klipsch KG-4, Monster Cable throughout.


  • Viking64Viking64 Posts: 3,290
    xsmi wrote: »

    I do have a short video of my thoughts about the best way to connect speakers to amplifiers you can watch here.
    I used to have a short video of this too, but now I have a long video, which I prefer.
  • I was in the short cable camp for a while myself and I have my 2 Mac power amps as close to my 1.2tl's as possible Then I discovered there's a lot more to cables than keeping them as short as possible. For speaker cables my dual 24'' bi-wired Canares got put into permanent retirement by a pair of 8' MIT bi-wires. Length be damned here; it was the 8' MIT's all the way over the dual bi-wired 2' Canares even though I didn't want it to turn out that way.
  • pitdogg2pitdogg2 Posts: 10,850
    Man just enjoy the music. By the way you forgot girth. You need more girth in "cables"
  • FestYboyFestYboy Posts: 2,783
    C a b l e s. There Ivan, is that enough girth?
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 19,065
    Cabling lengths should be kept to a minimum, be they line-level or loudspeaker level, I would opine.

    That said, I am kind of a Philistine when it comes to good cable management practices, as this photo clearly shows :|

    37994004266_718a26873b_b.jpgDSC_9749 (2) by Mark Hardy, on Flickr

    Even line-level signals, though, are really quite robust. Ironically, the big problem, I'd opine, with the signal environment these days is all of the hash generated by switch-mode power supplies and digital circuitry. That stuff does run the risk of abusing analog signals and probably accounts for at least some of the ubiquity of "designer cabling" in modern hifi. In the pre-digital, pre-WiFi era, I reckon the more esoteric cable designs might've added much less incremental value.

    Just a bunch of opinions, though, not a single immutable fact stated in the paragraphs above in this post! :/
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