HiFi Meditations- Are Better Speaker Wires Snake Oil?
I have long made it a habit to talk to clients about the speaker wire and interconnects that they are using in their systems and I am always surprised by the responses I get. The responses range from “Of course I use the best wire I can for my system!” to “Those fancy wires are all snake oil and marketing hype!”
Outside of the analog vs. digital debate nothing starts more controversy in our hobby than the great wire debate. Over the years I have been through many trainings, from some of the most well known wire companies and even I get a little glossy eyed hearing about dielectric this and time correction windings that! As always the bottom line is; do better wires/connections help a system? I have long held that they do, but not because of my experience in home theater and hifi. If you really want to see the difference a cable can make, plug a nice guitar into a nice amp with a crappy guitar cable. Then swap the crappy cable for a good cable. I became a believer when I went to a gig and my crappy cable failed. I got a loaner from a fellow player and was amazed at the difference. My Strat was more open, there was more separation between notes in chords, that beautiful bell like quality that single coils have jumped right out. And I got more sustain and “tone” with distortion. It was as though my guitar’s sound had been covered in Vaseline and somebody had come along and cleaned it off. This incident occurred years before I was in the hifi business and when I started selling hifi I carried this experience with me. I thought that if it worked on a simple rig like a Fender Strat into a Mesa Boogie amp then the same should be true in a complex system like a home theater. And wouldn’t you know it I did hear a big difference.
So I can hear the doubters saying; it is all crap! Monoprice wires are fine, wire is wire there isn’t any difference. And maybe there isn’t. If you want to give up an accurate soundstage and don’t want to hear all the overtones from cymbals and violins. If you are okay with sloppy bass and singers sounding like they are in a box then the cheap wires are just fine. Want to cover your system in Vaseline? Use the cheapest cables you can find.
Now I am NOT saying that you should go crazy on the other end either. I am a huge fan of balance, in other words if you buy a nice $2000 pair of speakers it would be a little crazy to spend $3000 on wire. But $200 to $500 for a pair of speaker wires makes tons of sense for a pair of $2000 speakers. Because a two channel rig or home theater is a system that means that your performance is capped by the lowest performing piece of gear in your system. Why would you make such a great investment in a beautiful, great sounding pair of speakers and then stick them in a closet?
If you doubt the benefits of better wire and interconnects, I would encourage you to at least entertain the idea and ask for a demo. I have done this for clients before, switching out speaker wire, a digital cable or a pair of interconnects is easy. Better yet see if the person you work with would let you take a pair home for a demo on your own system, with some type of return policy available if you don’t like them. If you don’t hear a difference then; no harm no foul. If you do, you can start making decisions about how you are going to unlock the full potential of your system. In all the years I have been sending cables home with clients it is a rare occurrence when they come back. Recently my co-worker Anthony had a client call to say that it was criminal for someone to buy a specific set of speakers without getting good wire. After owning a set of speakers for two years she finally got some great wire and was BLOWN AWAY by the incredible improvement they made.
I do feel compelled to say that wires and interconnects are not a panacea for all issues. If the system isn’t set up properly or the speakers aren’t placed correctly there is only so much better wires will do. My point in all this is; if you are doubter give a careful and honest listen. You may well discover that you are missing out and that the wires you are using are doing a huge disservice to the wonderful gear that you already own. If you know that better wires have benefits, pass the knowledge along. Loan a friend a nice pair of speaker wires, you could open whole new worlds of performance up to them! As always the proof really is in the listening. Have an open mind, give an honest detailed listen and I believe you too will find the benefits of better wire and cables far outweigh the cost.
If you have a personal story about your experience with speaker wire and interconnects please take a moment to share it on our Facebook page or give me a yell to share your experience!
And always remember; the proof is in the listening!
Do you have questions, ideas, or products you would like to see reviewed? Let me know what you want to see in this blog in the future! Contact me at JHeld@hifihousegroup.com