Cable Tales – The Inside Story

December 8, 2011
2 mins read

As an audiophile and a geek, I’m easily amused by the technical aspects of the hi-fi industry. Cables in particular get me thinking (sad I’m told), so I’m always listening for little gems of information that can help complete my understanding of this exotic and mysterious field of study.

Recently, I’ve been chatting to a speaker designer about a new high-end loudspeaker that his company is about to release. The speakers had been put through the final stages of testing and were just about ready to roll out, but a small and seemingly inconsequential change seems to have made a big sonic difference and put back the launch slightly.

The new speakers are internally wired with a specific gauge of aftermarket cable that’s used in all of the company’s models. The designer insists that this cable is extremely good, with a very low DC, capacitance and inductance. However, a new midrange driver is being implemented in these speakers and apparently, this driver is incredibly sensitive to any changes in terms of ancillaries or crossover components.

So he tried substituting the existing cable with a larger gauge of the same type from the WBT inputs to the mid/HF crossover circuit and then from the crossover to the mid driver itself.

As the designer put it: “And bloody hell! The difference! Why with such a small length? I know in theory but it does not make sense to my old brain that the sound could change SO much and present such a more precise and wider image, depth of field, and “I’m singing JUST to you” presentation from some female vocals

After that change, he decided to attend to the bass driver as well by changing to the same cable gauge as now used on the midrange. Once that length of cable is run in, the speakers should be good to go (yes the cable needs to run in).

I raised the topic of internal speaker wiring with Bjorn Bengtsson, Nordost’s International Sales Trainer when I saw him last year. He said that Nordost would have no hassles with speaker companies using any of the Nordost cables in a speaker as long as the crossovers were optimised for the specific cable because the differences compared to plain old cables can be substantial. A speaker company that’s taken this to extremes is Danish company Raidho, which uses Nordost’s very high-end Valhalla cable to internally wire its top of the range C-series speakers.

Another example that comes to mind is a set of Canton standmount speakers that belonged to a friend of mine many years ago. They had been internally rewired with silver cable and the results of this modification were impressive; the speakers and the relatively humble system they were hooked up to performed far in excess of expectations. There was definitely some system synergy in place but that silver rewire made a big difference (standard crossovers notwithstanding).

What I’m getting at is fairly obvious. Cables make a difference, sometimes subtle, sometimes huge and they can exert their influence even in an area that’s usually out of sight and therefore out of mind. The skeptics will deny this until the Earth stops turning but I have to point out a law of hi-fi (which also applies to other sensory pleasures such as cuisine, cars, art, photography etc.) – if you can’t see, hear, taste, smell or feel a difference between the budget offering and the more expensive choices, well then congratulations, you just saved yourself a pile of money.

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