Which is the optimal length of speaker wires?

General HiFi discussion, using the Tune Method to evaluate performance

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lejonklou
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Which is the optimal length of speaker wires?

Post by lejonklou » 2010-02-05 01:18

This is a subject I've wanted to investigate for a very long time. I've just never done it. As the result might vary with different models of speaker wire, let's decide that the following discussion refers to K400/600 unless a different wire is specifically referred to.

Background is this: I have many times replaced one length of wire with another length (which includes many other parameters such as connectors, soldering joints and age). Without any proper comparisons, I have never really experienced that ultra short lengths of speaker wire is the best. I have, however, concluded that 10 m long wires don't sound very good in comparison with one that is only a few m.

My impression is that a longer wire has a "slower" sound with more "hang" in the musical presentation. Too long and it gets dull and lifeless. In comparison, short wires sound more "short" and staccato-like. Incidentally, the very same phenomenon applies to mains power cords, where I have found that each model does indeed have an optimal length.

My thought is this: I don't find it difficult to use only one speaker to evaluate things. It doesn't have to be stereo. Then one could use a long run (is 5 m enough?) of K400, split in half, to create two long single wire runs. Both are terminated in an identical way and they are compared to check if they sound alike. Either they sound alike, or there's a tiny bit of difference between them.

The worst sounding cable is then cut down 0.5 m and re-terminated at the speaker end. A new comparison will tell whether it's now better sounding than the longer one. If it is, the longer and worse sounding cable is then cut down 1 m, making it 0.5 m shorter than the best. Again a comparison - and repeat until the shorter cable is no longer better than the longer one.

Does this sound like a good idea? It will require some time, some K400, a bunch of connectors and I know it's not a profitable project (my advisors will sigh and roll their eyes), but I simply want to know!

Comments, criticism and reflections most welcome!
Last edited by lejonklou on 2013-11-08 22:17, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Tony Tune-age » 2010-02-05 01:54

Lejonklou, that does sound like a good experiment and using the same type of "speaker cable and connectors" can be a constant bench mark.

Historically, I have used two meter long speaker cables, from a variety of manufacturers. My most recent set of speaker cables are one meter long, and sound better than my previous speaker cables.

However, not all the variables were the same (i.e., different cable companies, different cable styles, different connectors, etc.). But based on current performance, the shorter cable does sound better in my system.
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Post by paolo » 2010-02-05 11:57

That's an interesting test Fredrik!

I've never seriously compared different lenght of K400, the job you are purposing is probably very reliable but also very time consuming. I sincerely confess I'll hardly find the time to make such test but I'm very interested to know the outcome if you do it! :mrgreen:
Oh well, you can probably re-use the Linn knekt bananas more than once, I've done it infact and they work fine. I mean, you can desolder a banana from an already tested cable, clean it with new solder, taking off the excess just vigorously shaking the connector while still hot, and then resolder the connector in a freshly cutted cable just as if it was new.
In my experience, if you use the same solder and don't "cook" the connector, you get nearly no difference in sound compared with a new one.

Let us know!

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Post by k_numigl » 2010-02-05 13:05

Fredrik,

I'm inclined to think that, in order to be able to generalise the results, you have to define
the 'boundary conditions' carefully. One concern is: If you use a two or three way speaker,
there will be a difference between single- or multi-wiring. As the improvement, that a
multi-wiring setup brings, seems to stem from the particularly short distance over which the
backward effects of crossover and speakers can interfere with the neighboring frequency
ranges, it might well be that the length of the cable is important for this effect. The effect
would presumably vary according to the use of 2, 3, 4, 5-way speakers.... Thus, I would
either use a one-way speaker, or fully multi-wire the test setup (which makes the test
quite tedious).
Second concern is, that with the 0.5 m steps the audible differences might be
unpleasantly small. What about starting with say 6 m (for ease of calculation only),
cut it into a 2 (=1/3) and 4 m (=2/3) part, compare these three? This would have
the advantage that you immediately see whether there is a simple length-related trend.
Difficulties arise only when you want to optimise between 4 and 6 m afterwards.
(With every other person I'd be concerned about soldering consistency, too. Including
myself, of course.)
Third concern is that it would be best for reliable results, to be able to switch back
to a previous setting. It could be that 2.5 m is great, 5 m is great also. Cutting 0.5 m
successively off, would hide this. If you detect a trend by using thirds as above, this
is less likely. (And if you don't detect such a trend, you perhaps have to determine only
the lower length limit of a 'good cable'?)

Just some thoughts...
Klaus

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Post by Charlie1 » 2010-02-05 15:22

k_numigl wrote:Third concern is that it would be best for reliable results, to be able to switch back to a previous setting. It could be that 2.5 m is great, 5 m is great also. Cutting 0.5 m successively off, would hide this. If you detect a trend by using thirds as above, this is less likely. (And if you don't detect such a trend, you perhaps have to determine only
the lower length limit of a 'good cable'?)
What about a single 15m length - that would give you 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1m lengths. Then, if the best two lengths are 3 and 4m, for example, you could cut down the 5m length to 3.5m and re-run the test using 3, 3.5 and 4m runs.
Of course, one problem is if the 5m length sounds best, then you've got nothing to make up the 4.5m run with, but you'd probably want 5.5m too so would need more cable anyway.

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Post by lejonklou » 2010-02-05 20:05

Klaus: Many thanks for your suggestions! I'm not sure I understand your reasoning in the first point, however. You are saying that single- or multiwiring (perhaps even aktiv/passive and different speaker models) could influence the optimal length. But if that really is the case, it would be likely that different models of speaker wire is optimal for different models of speakers (and power amps/passive/aktiv/single-/multiwire).

This is clearly not the case. Regardless of whether the speaker cable is feeding one single treble unit, two parallel bass units or a complete 5-way speaker with passive filter, an optimally terminated set of K400 has always been the best in my experince. After having tried lots and lots of different speaker cables with many different speakers and amps, my conclusion is that the cable has a quality of its own and there is no matching to consider. My suspicion is that the same thing applies to the length of the K400. And probably to the length of interconnects as well, regardless of what it's connected to in both ends.

I agree with you about the necessity to check this, however. This can be done after the experiment by using three lengths; one of the optimal length, one a bit shorter and one a bit longer. These three could be tried in various other systems to see if the optimal length wins every time.

Regarding the 0.5 m length difference, I think they will be easy to tell apart and I will most likely use smaller steps than that. I am doing comparisons that are miniscule all the time. When determining the optimal length of my new UK power cord, I could easily tell 5 cm differences apart on cables that were more than 250 cm long - and those comparisons were all done blind.

My suggested method has the advantage that the cutting down can be made as small as necessary. This means; I could start with a difference of 0.1 m and if they are difficult to tell apart, I remove another 0.1 m from the short one. If that (5.0 versus 4.8 ) makes them possible to tell apart, I will probably stick to 0.2 m steps in the following comparisons.

Your third idea of being able to go back is worth considering. Cutting down means I can't. But why would it be necessary, as I am not cutting down the best length? I am always cutting the worse of the two.

For your scenario to happen (both 5 and 2.5 m being great), the sound quality needs to decrease when cutting down and later increase again. But if 5m sounds better than 4, I won't cut down the 5m. I will keep it. Then I will cut down the 4m more to see if it somehow improves. If it gets better at 2.5, I will have both 5 and 2.5 m to compare.

Charlie: Yes, that's a possibility. With a lot of cords, I could go back and recheck. I did that with power cords, but my conclusion there was that it wasn't necessary. Also, I'm afraid that a large amount of cords, all with their own connectors and joints, will drastically increase the risk of them sounding different due to other factors than the length.

One advantage with my suggestion is that it starts with a check of both cords sounding very alike. And when an optimal length has finally been found, it can be further validated by comparing it with a new cord of the exact same length.

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Post by Tony Tune-age » 2010-02-07 17:33

Lejinklou, could the optimum power cord length depend on the cord technology?
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Post by k_numigl » 2010-02-07 19:57

My point was not a better or worse matching of cable and speaker, but I had the following in mind. Let us accept for the moment that the advantage of multi-wiring is there and stems from the fact that the backward effects of the speakers do not interfere with their frequency neighbours. If you use single wiring, the cable length over which interference can take place is all the way between the amp and the speaker. With multi-wiring, this length is reduced to the small distance between amp-output and the place where the multi-stranding starts. If this is true, I would expect simply that the shorter the cable gets, the better is the performance, because there is less interference. But this is only one effect of cable length. And presumably depends on the speaker used (= how much is there which can interfere: 2-way, 3-way, and how strong is this ‘reflectance’, etc.). Other effects, which are related to the cable itself (inductance, capacity, more?), might lead to a different optimum length. I understood that it is the cable properties you are interested in, and tried to isolate this parameter from other effects.

The suggested 2m steps came only from my expectation that differences might be small, what is apparently not what you expect. So take it as an acoustic dilletant’s fear of not being able to draw firm conclusions. And, of course, if you are completely shure about better and worse, and there’s not ‘pros here and cons there’, you never have to switch back.

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Post by lejonklou » 2010-02-07 22:12

Tony Tune-age wrote:Lejinklou, could the optimum power cord length depend on the cord technology?
Yes, it clearly does. With the Power One, which is 0.75 mm2, I rapidly concluded that it sounded best somewhere between 1 and 2 m. Longer ones were fat and slow, shorter ones sounded a bit distorted.

I also tried Ching Cheng cords (1 mm2) and found them to sound the best at slightly less than 2.5 m. The 1 mm2 Volex cords should however not be any shorter than 2.5 m.

If this is a pattern that holds true for speaker cables and interconnects, it's possible that the best sounding length of K400 and K20 is not the same... But I don't know. If I make this test I will however stick to K400. No point in using the 1 mm2 installation cable that I sometimes use - it's a lot cheaper to experiment with, but I don't know if the results will be valid for any other cable.

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Post by lejonklou » 2010-02-07 22:16

Klaus: Ok, I see your point.

I guess the way to go about it is to try the lengths in different environments. I will probably first determine the optimal lenght for single wired 109's, and later check if it works the same in passive and aktiv multi-wiring.

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Post by ThomasOK » 2010-02-07 23:32

It certainly sounds like an interesting test to me. My only concern with the original description was whether the .5m length differences would be short enough but you've addressed that in a later post (as I figured you would).

In one of our conversations a while back I had mentioned that the Nordost people claimed that there was an optimum length for cables of just a bit over 4m (they didn't say exactly what it was but stated that if you ordered 4m cables they would make them the exact right length). They claimed that this 4m length was best for any type of cable: interconnect, speaker and power. It seemed suspect to me and we don't know what they actually listen for so it will be interesting to hear how your results come out.

I thinks it is a great idea especially as it will be you doing all the work and not me! :wink: I've already got plenty of comparisons to make as it is.

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Post by jiddu_k » 2010-02-08 09:37

Of course a short cable would mean that at least the amps will have to be placed between or even directly at the speakers. I´ve read several times that people recommend placing the system at the side of the room (some even say: as far away from the speakers as possible) and as I recall most Linn retailers I´ve ever been to have used this set-up. Maybe if it will turn out that short cables (0-3 m) perform better, system placement should be considered as well.

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Post by Tony Tune-age » 2010-02-08 13:43

A company called Synergistic Research makes many of their power cords at a particular length, which is considered the best sounding length for that cable technology. Apparenlty they can make these power cords longer, but the longer cords may not sound as nice.

Some companies don't advocate a particular length of cord, as it pertains to the best sound. However, many companies suggest purchasing longer cables in an effort to make more money.
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Post by Azazello » 2010-02-08 14:18

I remember hearing that Linn interconnect is 120 cm because it sounds best at that length?

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Post by Tony Tune-age » 2010-02-08 15:10

Based on my experiences with Linn interconnects, and primarily on Linn components, there is validity to their statement. It becomes more challenging to determine optimum length with other cable companies.

Analog signals have been very sensitive to cable length on my system.
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Post by Tony Tune-age » 2010-02-21 19:17

Lejonklou, has there been any developments with your speaker cable experiment?
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Post by lejonklou » 2010-02-21 19:18

Sorry, no time yet. The production of the new Slipsik 5 boards has taken all my time during these last weeks.

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Post by Tony Tune-age » 2010-02-21 19:32

Good luck wih the Slipsik 5 board Lejonklou, hope all goes well :) .
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Post by Tony Tune-age » 2011-05-05 14:25

Tony Tune-age wrote:Lejonklou, has there been any developments with your speaker cable experiment?
Any there any recent developments with your speaker cable experiment?
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Post by lejonklou » 2011-05-09 23:02

Thanks for reminding me, Tony. I've been too busy with electronics to do anything about this, although I'm still curious.

When I release a Lejonklou speaker cable, I will certainly perform these tests before release. And then offer it in one optimal length only. *grin*

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Post by Tony Tune-age » 2011-05-10 22:53

lejonklou wrote:Thanks for reminding me, Tony. I've been too busy with electronics to do anything about this, although I'm still curious.

When I release a Lejonklou speaker cable, I will certainly perform these tests before release. And then offer it in one optimal length only. *grin*
Sounds good, I'll be very curious to learn more about your speaker cable product!
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Post by lejonklou » 2013-11-07 21:18

This project is now completed.

The optimal length of K200/400/600 terminated with soldered Linn Knekt bananas is 2.48 m.

I will soon describe what I did and found and then make this post a sticky (a post that stays on top in the forum). Loudspeaker cable length really makes an important difference.

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Post by Charlie1 » 2013-11-07 23:07

If I post mine back, will you please solder back on 30cm. Tx ;)

Seriously, that's great information. Must have taken you ages.

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Post by rowlandhills » 2013-11-07 23:27

Unusual for you to order 2.18m cables originally, Charlie!

Mind you, that's about what mine are too. I ordered 2m ones from Anthony and he said he was at the end of a roll so would I like a touch longer. Think I'll have to get the tape measure out and check exactly what they are...
KRDSM, Tundra to 242s
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Post by Music Lover » 2013-11-08 12:07

lejonklou wrote: 2.48 m
How critical is each cm?
Is it "wire length" or total length including Linn Knekt bananas?

Any thoughts regarding a cable with bananas at speaker side and Speakon at power amp side?
It's all about musical understanding!

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