Balancing Act

There are some awesome AVRs out there, but I think it's a big compromise to run long speaker cables all around the room. Nearly every speaker manufacturer recommends using equal-length speaker cables. So unless you use monoblocks for each channel, you defy that logic.

I am currently looking at getting the Anthem D2 v2 pre/pro and using the Focal SM Twin6 Be active speakers. This eliminates the long runs of speaker cable and allows the use of balanced cables, which I believe are much better in that situation.

I guess the biggest disadvantages with active speakers are needing a nearby power outlet for each one and not being able to choose an amp that sounds a particular way. Also, there are very few active speakers on the market for domestic use. I wonder why more speaker companies don't make active speakers for home theater?

Bottom line—do you believe that long balanced-cable runs are better than long speaker-cable runs?

Darren Gum

Absolutely! You are entirely correct that long balanced cables are much better at rejecting interference and noise than long speaker cables. However, pre/pros with balanced outs are generally more expensive than many AVRs, and then you have to buy power amps or powered speakers, increasing the cost of the system even more. I agree that the best solution is a balanced-out pre/pro and a monoblock for each speaker (or powered speakers), but this is a very expensive approach that few can afford.

On the other hand, I've rarely had any real problems with AVRs and speaker cables, at least in smallish rooms. If the cable lengths are as short as possible (taking into account that the lengths for all three fronts should ideally be the same, as should the lengths for the rears), and the cables are routed carefully (avoiding proximity with AC power cables, for example), there shouldn't be a problem.

I don't know why more consumer speaker companies don't make active speakers. I've always been a big fan of this idea, which lets the manufacturer match the amps to the speakers. As you say, however, this prohibits the user from selecting amps that have the sound they want.

If you have an audio/video question for me, please send it to scott.wilkinson@sorc.com.

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COMMENTS
Joe Dokes's picture

Dear Darren, I've read every double blind study I can find that compares speaker cable and guess what, unless your cable is flat out too small to carry the current, there is now discernible difference between cables. As a matter of fact I would go so far as to argue that a decent 12 AWG extension cord would make a darn good cable, and allow you to buy a lot more movies to actually enjoy. Simply put buy nice equipment that you can afford, use a length of cable that is appropriate for the task and forget about the audiophile mumbo-jumbo garbage about speaker cable. Even the BS about equal length cable. The current travels down the wire at nearly the speed of light, so if you think and extra ten feet is going to make a difference your living in la la land. Although I really like Ultimate AV, I find their unwillingness to call BS on audiophile hocus pocus to placate advertisers a bit problematic. Regards Joe Dokes

Dave Jamison's picture

Joe brings up a good point. I have heard a lot of concerns about speaker cable quality, length, AWG, and whatever. But after checking out many of these theories for myself in my home, I just CANNOT tell the difference. I've been in other peoples homes where speaker hook up was done in REAL sloppy ways. Yet everything sounded fine. In a real extreme case, a friend of mine ran a LONG 24 AWG cable pair from amp to speaker in an indoor swimming pool area. At first, I thought that was just inviting trouble. But, the opposite happened. Those speakers worked fine in that less than ideal environment. I rest my case.

Jeffrey's picture

I think the speaker cable is more of a finishing touch, rather than base element. Many people may not believe the often small benefit it worth the cost, but I believe the benefit is there. A few months back I was looking for a pair of bookshelf speakers for my family room and came across a dealer that proved to be a gold mine. After 4 hours of playing a half dozen models and listening to what I wanted out of my system I settled on a pair of Acoustic Energy Classics. We then started discussing speaker cable, and when I mentioned I was not sure it made a real difference he asked if I had some more time for him to show me that it did. He then cycled 4 different pairs of cables through the speakers I chose and I could hear very clearly the differences in the cables. All cables were under $800/ 8ft pair with most under $250. I found that certain cables had synergy with the speakers I chose (Analysis Plus Oval 12's), and some did not (Kimber 4tc). The difference was not dramatic, but it was very noticea

Jeffrey's picture

P.S. the dealer was StereoTypes in Portland Oregon. Highly Recommended, as they say.

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