"What a refreshingly honest blog about listening to music through hi-fi. So happy to see views based upon the enjoyment of music rather than so-called sound 'quality'." - Peter Comeau, Director of Acoustic Design at Mission / Wharfedale

Saturday 26 October 2019

Speaker Cables Upgraded

I know there are those who thing a bit of wire 'twixt amp and speaker is just that - a bit of wire, and that nothing other than something is enough.

But I've heard enough cables to know that, within a system context, they can make a difference.  This doesn't mean all cables make an appreciable difference in all systems.  Nor does it mean that all systems benefit from changing cables.

Plus, there seems to be no direct relationship between the price of a cable, and its performance in a particular system.  So the best approach is to try a few - if you like what you hear, keep them. If you don't like what you hear don't keep them. If you think there is no difference in what you hear, keep the cheapest one.

And that about sums up my views on cables.  I don't rant about them making no difference. I don't swear blind that they can make a seismic change in a system. I don't extrapolate the experience in one system to all systems. Just try it and make up your own mind.

The 'musings system, in the last 15 years or so, has relied upon various flavours of Linn's heavy gauge multi-channel speaker cables.  So that's K400 for bi-amp / bi-active scenarios, K600 for tri-amp / tri-active scenarios and 2x K400 for quad-active for the Majik 140s.  And its just got on with its job and although I tried a number of different cables in the system over that period, the K stuff just seemed even handed and decent enough VFM.  For other systems I've found vanDamme blue in 2.5mm and 4mm gives great VFM and is even handed in the same way that the K cables behave.

A few years ago, local Naimist R tried out some SuperLumina cable against his existing NACA 5 (a cable I never liked in my system, but a great favourite for many years amongst Naimists).  In his Naim / Kudos Super 20 system it was a revelation - the whole thing sounded much more grown up. Lots of the over edgy presentation went away and the music flowed better. In Naim terms it was like upgrading an XPS to a 555DR power supply - so pretty significant. This was supported by hearing the same comparison in a dealer's place with a variety of speakers.  In every combination the SuperLumina was a step up from whatever cables were in place at or below the same kind of price.

So it had to be tried in the 'musings system and it brought similar benefit, but here its worth bearing in mind that one run of SuperLumina was only replacing 1/3 of the cables in use in a tri-active system. As is often the case with the PMC Twenty.26, after trying the cable across all the drivers, one at a time, it was the mid-range that benefited most from the cable improvement.  This closely followed by the treble and last the bass.  All sounded better with SL over K400/600.

Unfortunately its pretty expensive, and once in a system it tends to stay there as buyers are unlikely to have any reason to move on, so used examples are both infrequently available and snapped up very quickly. So this would have to be a gradual process, which was probably a good thing so the spend could be spread over time too.  The first length I purchased was negotiated in with the PMC purchase, the second pair obtained about 9 months later was secondhand and a few weeks ago the third pair entered the system, being "ex-dem" from a dealer.  It has been, therefore, a 20 month process to gradually replace 3x K lengths with 3x SL.  To make upgrades of this magnitude in an active system isn't something I can afford to do in one big lump, one of the downsides of the more complex approach.  The good thing though, is that feeling of getting a couple more improvements along the way...

Here's a picture of the full stack of cables behind the left hand speaker, for those who like that kind of thing :)

So now the system is

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