I agree. Monster cables are a marketing rip-off. I heard a talk by an
audio engineer in which this was thoroughly analyzed. The main benefit of
those very large cables is in the profit margin. Then there is the placebo
effect, which can seem very real to a believer.
I used to know a self-styled "audio expert" who once showed me an article
in which five amplifiers were evaluated by an engineer. Four of them were
the $2000 to $5000 range. The fifth was a popular unit which sold for about
$250. His rather extensive testing rated the $250 unit right in the middle
the pack. My erstwhile buddy used this to argue that the testing was
and that the engineer didn't know anything about what he was doing.
He then went on to claim that engineers and musicians tended to own the
On the other hand, one of the finest sounding systems I'd ever heard was in
a little recording studio. This was many years ago, long before CD's, etc.
record player was a transcription player with a 35 lb turntable (lots of
content...). The speakers were a gargantuan pair of Altec Lansing Voice of
Theatres. And the amplifier was a $69.95 DynaKit... And, as I recall, the
speaker wires were lamp cord...
Personally, and I'm an engineer by trade, tend to suggest landscape lighting
in higher powered systems or for long runs, although lamp cord works just
for lower power/short runs. Lamp cord is typically AWG 16 or AWG 18.
Landscape lighting wire looks like lamp cord, but comes in AWG 12 and
AWG 14. And it is highly flexible and abrasion-resistant.
But, if you are going to plant it in the walls where it won't be flexed,
plain old power wire (Romex, whatever...) will work just fine. The problem
is what to use where you come out of the wall. I'd run the wire between a
couple boxes and put on a blank outlet plate in which I'd installed a couple
pairs of banana jacks. Then use lamp cord for the short runs between the
amplifier and jacks and the speakers and jacks. Or you can use a couple
1/4 in. phone jacks (you can get right angle phone plugs that won't protrude
more than about 1/4 in. from the wall...)
One thing NOT to do is to use the ground wire as a "common" and the
white and black wires as the "hot" speaker wires. You WILL get some
crosstalk between the two channels. But, if you have some, say, 14/3 with
ground, you can, say, use the black and white for one channel and the
red and ground (bare) for the other. For the same reason, use a plastic
outlet plate, not a metal one, to keep the two channels separate, should
you elect to use phone jacks.
Be aware that any length of wire in excess of about 15 feet can act as
an antenna and bring unwanted signals down the line to the amp where it
can get amplified and sent back up the wire and through the speakers.
I used to run a College sound recording studio and a CCTV studio and had
major problems at one stage from the local radio station signal getting
into the system through the long mic leads (we were in 'line of sight'
with their powerful transmitter tower). The problem was eventually
traced back to a single mic lead with a 'ground fault'.
I am also a radio ham and at one time lived in an apartment building and
never caused any interference problems until the 'super' came home one
day with a new 'surround sound' system and I was blasting right through
it whenever I transmitted! The problem was nothing to do with my set up
(I hadn't changed anything) but rather it was his very long runs of
cheap speaker wire picking up my signal and feeding it back through the
very poor filtering on his 'cheapo' amp. The solution in this case was
to fit ferrite rings/loops at either end of his speaker leads and he
never heard me again.
If you are going to run long speaker leads it may pay you to invest in a
few ferrite rings/loops and save yourself a lot of headaches down the
road. They are readily available from the likes of Radio Shack at
Just remember that when you go into Radio Shack, speak very slowly and don't
ask for "ferrite rings, ferrite supressors or even the word ferrite." Just
ask for those donut looking thingies that you've seen on some wires before.
That's a great tip, Larry. Would you mind detailing how these ferrite rings
are installed? In my case, consider that I'd have my wire running in EMT
for one set of speakers, and in PVC sch. 40 plastic in the other. Each
set terminates in a steel box, and the runs would be made of stranded 10
gage THHN wire, color coded to insure proper phasing. I'd like to make
sure we don't get any noise that isn't a part of the music!
Ferrite 'noise suppressors' can come in several forms such as beads,
rings, hinged 'rectangles' and cylinders. The fitting of each type is
different in each case.
These are 'normally' very small (less than 1/4" dia.) and are slipped
onto a wire before it is attached to a piece of equipment. Usually used
internally on a device.
These can come in a range of sizes up to several inches in dia. They can
also be 'salvaged' from the back of old speakers or TV tubes (be careful
of high voltages if messing with TV tubes even if they are switched off
and unplugged!) To fit a ring to speaker wire you simply pass the wire
around the ring several times by going through the middle and around the
outside. Six to eight turns are normally sufficient to block any stray
signals. Make sure the 'turns' are equally spaced around the ring.
These are the most common type found in Radio Shack and are two 'U'
shaped pieces of ferrite mounted in a hinged plastic holder with a clip
to keep the 'loop' closed. Undo the clip, open the 'loop' and wind
several turns of your speaker wire around one half of the 'loop' then
cross over and wind the wire around the other half. If you wind
clockwise on one side wind counter-clockwise on the other side. Close
the loop and re-clip when you are done.
These can come as either solid or split (like the 'rectangles'). You
have more than likely seen this type many times and not realized what it
is. The 'bumps' on a computer monitor cable are ferrite cylinders to
prevent stray signals getting to the monitor. For solid cylinders you
simply pass the wire through the hole in the centre and hold them in
place with either electrical tape or a small cable tie at either end.
Split ones 'normally' come in a hinged plastic fitting. Undo the
fitting, slip the speaker wire into the 'slot' between the two halves
and close the fitting again. If the cylinder slides on the wire use
either electrical tape or a small cable tie at either end to stop it
Whatever type you use they have to be fitted at each end of each set of
'long' wires in your system (the shorter wires are not 'normally'
affected) as close to the device in question as possible (i.e. where the
wires connect to the amp and speaker). A short length of wire (say up to
6") sticking out of the 'connection' end is OK if you don't have room to
fit all the ferrite rings/loops/cylinders close to the amp.
The ferrite used in permanent magnets has a different composition than
the linear ferrites used in attenuator cores and is already in
saturation. In addition to adding a little inductance, the material in
an attenuator core is "lossy" at RF frequencies, turning the RF energy
There could be (and possibly is) internal filtering on your monitor but
my guess is the manufacturer was trying to save a few cents/pennies. It
is certainly more 'usual' to see them fitted at each end particularly in
the case of long speaker wires.
Most designs of the ferrites just clamp over the wires.
Do make sure that the wires for one channel aren't connected to the other
channel as some amps use differential drive to get the power up for the
output. Even just if you have a "correct" hot and ground, the current is
high enough that one channel will feed to the other if you tie the grounds
together anywhere in the system.
The wire size is a good one for higher power amps as you will be driving a 8
ohm load generally and any resistance between the speaker and the amp will
drop the quality of the sound by allowing the speaker to resonate more as
the impedance of the wire is increasing the source impedance that it sees.
Why isn't there an Ozone Hole at the NORTH Pole?
With the controls of the system set for normal listening, stop the CD,
tape or whatever. Turn up the volume control about 5 or 10 db and
listen carefully. If you don't hear any stray signals, as they say,
"Don't fix it if it ain't broke." If you do hear a bit of a local
brodcast station or ???, try the ferrite beads.
Yup....no point in fixing what ain't there! However, long speaker cable
runs *are* prone to picking up signals and sometimes those signals may
be short lived (a passing car transmitting etc.) As the ferrite
'filters' are fitted close to the respective equipment and not in the
wall I would suggest you run the cables and try it. Then if you are
getting problems you know how to fix it.
Thanks, Ted. Now I understand what I'd be looking for.
One question I've had for years is why I have some (very little, but
noticeable) 60 hz in one channel and not the other. Been that way since I
bought the Mc2300 way back in '75. Any clues?
I'm down to the point where I run nothing but 3/4" flex plastic conduit
for all my data/audio lines. That way I can upgrade to whatever is the
current state of the art. Who would have thought that Cat 5e cable would
now be obsolete when I did some remodeling 5 years ago? Especially since
5e was not available when I did it!!!
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