Do Speaker Cables Really Make a Difference?

 

Speaker cables are those long wires that connect speaker to receiver. They deliver the sound from your CD player, PVR, or turntable to your speaker outputs. While there are wireless speakers, that’s an entirely different subject. Many people wonder if there are different types of speaker cables. Is it possible to buy cheap dollar store speaker cables for your home theatre system, or do different types of speaker cables really make a difference?

Many people question this as speaker cables are often sold at electronics stores, and the salesperson will recommend one type over another. Your first thoughts may be as to why the cables can be nearly half the costs of the speakers! Not only that, but there are a wide range of price differences.  If you ask any electrician, they’ll say they’re basically all composed of the same copper, plastic, and metal materials.

Generally, most people will agree that you can have differing speaker brands, and they will each sound different. Speakers can be up to your personal listening preferences, and the type of room they’ll be installed in. Of course different electronics will also sound different, such as a CD player, receiver, turntable, TV, etc.

There is great controversy over speaker cables. The controversy obviously lies more with your “premium” types of “high performance” cables which can cost considerably more. You’ll get everyone from beginners, to music professionals, who take one side or the other. Some people will say it doesn’t make one bit of difference. An electrician will say it’s all wires. Some people will say it does matter how they’re made. And even some experts can oscillate back and forth. It all comes down to whether they are worth what they cost.

 

What We Can Agree On

Have you ever purchased cables from the dollar store and they’ve broken after a few months? They’ve made with micro thin wires and a thin covering of protective plastic. The reason they broke is that the cable got twisted around and physically broke the wires inside.

 

Your At Home/In-store Experiment

The only way to prove to yourself that premium cables are worth the cost, or not, is to do an at-home or an in-store experiment. It should prove to your personal satisfaction whether the materials and how a cable is made will actually influence the sound of a stereo system. Other considerations may include whether factors such as capacitance, inductance, and resistance can also impact the general sound of your speaker cable.

 

Materials Required

Anytime you purchase a cheap electronic product, they usually include speaker cables in the box. Most of us have some of those lying around. If not, ask a friend if they have any in their junk drawer, or buy a cheap set from the store. Keep in mind that this experiment involves cutting up cables, so don’t use an expensive set. You’ll also need an X-acto knife.

 

Cable Autopsy

Most speaker cables or wires are held together by a lengthy strip of plastic. Some are clear, some are black, it depends on the manufacturer. Usually these are called lampcord or zipcord. You’ll notice how are made as two wider sets of wires with a plastic join in the middle. One is for the white and one is for the red part of your polarity.

Begin by opening up your speaker cord. Cut that plastic joiner along it’s length until you have a set of two cables.

Your next step is to make a circular cut around the cable’s jacket as close to the RCA connector as possible. The key is to cut as far through the plastic as you can, but to not cut the braided shield part underneath.

In total you want four circular cuts, for a total of four, including both ends of the cables.

Your next step is to make a single long straight cut on each cable, from the circular cut of one cable, to the circular cut at the other end of the cable. You want to cut the plastic but not the wires underneath. You may find this a bit tricky, so start by making a sharp bend in the cable starting at one of the circular cuts you have made at the RCA connector. This has the benefit of opening and widening the cut you previously made. It should now easily lift off and pull away from the shielding.

Place your blade between the shield and the jacket and the blade should slide right along. Now you should be able to just pull off the cable’s jacket in one long continuous strip.

After you’ve removed both cable’s jackets, put them back on. It helps to mark them so you place them back on the same spots.

Your test cables are now ready. Not only are they both the same materials, but the same construction, etc.

Plug your cables into your stereo system just like you would if you were planning on using them. Let them burn-in for several hours. Now your testing experiment is ready to proceed.

Play your favourite recordings. Listen to them until you know how the system’s sounds. Play the same songs over again.

The next step involves doing nothing else but removing the plastic jackets off your test cables. Leave the cables still plugged in. Now, listen to those same songs again.

While this experiment is based on the fact that surrounding materials may or may not affect your listening enjoyment, it doesn’t touch on manufacturers who may use higher quality copper in the wires that decrease inclusions and imperfections that can weaken the signal.

And most people agree that if you’ve spent under $100 on your stereo system you might as well use the cables that came with the packaging, but if you’ve spent thousands, then go ahead and buy those high end cables, because they will sound subtly different.

Conduct your own experiments. You’ll soon reach your own conclusions and can make your purchasing decisions accordingly.


 

There are many choices when choosing the best sound system for your home’s entertainment system. After you’ve chosen your big screen TV you’ll need to decide on how to best deliver the sound to your living room. Your first choice is sound bar versus centre channel speakers.

A sound bar is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a long rectangular box that houses all the components of the best speaker system. Generally, it sits right in front of your television screen.

Centre channel speakers are a surround sound system, and consist of many individual speakers placed around the room. The speakers connect to a centre channel that is generally placed behind the projection screen to give the allusion that that’s where the sound is coming from.

There are pros and cons of buying each type of speaker system. If you’re purchasing for a bar or restaurant you run, the rules may be a bit different. We’ll assist you in choosing the best speakers for your home theatre set-up. This guide will assist you in opening up your mind to different types of speakers. Each also requires a slightly different installation. And you’ll also be interested in learning about how the sound quality can differ for each type of system.

 

Benefits of a Sound Bar

There are some great benefits to purchasing a sound bar that you should note before making your choice.

Simple Installation

The first is that installation is super easy and doesn’t require the services of a technician. You’ll find that the connectivity is also simple. The plugs snap into each component and you’re done. There are minimal wires to install, as you only have to connect a sound bar, and perhaps a subwoofer, rather than 4 or 5 speakers that have to be wired around a room.

Sleek, Modern Design

Today’s sound bars have a sleek design that works with the modern design of a living room. The sound bar can be installed below a TV screen on the wall, or simply sit in front of the screen on an entertainment unit.

A sound bar is also a good solution for the smaller apartment or a smaller living room that doesn’t have a lot of space.

Pretty Good Sound

The sound bar can also provide excellent virtual sound. This sound can mimic the surround sound experience without have several speakers scattered throughout the room. Many people who have small apartment living rooms are pleased with a sound bar speaker.

Sound bars are also a lot better than stereo speakers at anchoring dialogue to the centre of the screen. Unless you have your viewers sitting at the right spot for regular speakers, the dialogue may be all over the room.

People who watch a lot of drama movies may prefer to purchase a sound bar, as it will create a more uniform sound experience around the room.

And purchasing a sound bar is still going to be way better than only listening to sound through your tiny television speakers. It will make the sound from your TV stronger and clearer. If this is your goal, rather than having a complete surround sound experience, then you’ll be happy with the sound bar.

Affordable

A good sound bar is going to cost from $200 and up. Most people who have a large flat screen TV are willing to spend some cash to buy the best speakers for their entertainment system, but may balk at the $400 price tag of 5.1 channel home theatre speakers.
Cons of a Sound Bar

There are some cons to using a sound bar rather than centre channel speakers. These may affect your decision to buy one or the other.

Bass Levels Will Suffer

A sound bar can’t recreate the bass levels as well as your traditional types of speakers. For this reason, many sound bar systems also come with a separate subwoofer.

If you’re watching dramas with a lot of dialogue you won’t miss the bass levels. But if you watch a lot of action adventure films, or musicals, you may wish to look at regular stereo speakers instead.

If you know you’re going to miss those bass levels, you may still need to purchase a separate subwoofer with a sound bar. This can increase your costs. Some of the Klipsch systems include a subwoofer with their speaker systems to make the purchase simpler for you.

Not the Best Choice for Larger Spaces

You’ll also need to take care in placing your sound bar and subwoofer. There may be specific sweet spots created around the room, making one seat more desirable than another. This means that you won’t get a complete surround sound system in your larger room. The sound bar may not work adequately for larger living rooms or recreation rooms.

A sound bar may be great for a single person in a smaller space, but not for a larger family in a bigger recreation room who will also be enjoying the speaker system.

Limited Placement

A sound bar cannot be placed on the ground like speakers, or you’ll lose most of the sound. Your two choices are either wall-mounted, or on the entertainment stand in front of the TV. Some people may have neither of these spots available, so they may have to ditch their old furniture and buy a new entertainment unit so they can adequately set up a sound bar for the TV.

 

Benefits of Centre Channel Speakers

Your second purchase option for your home theatre system are centre channel speakers. These are for people who prefer the traditional style of speaker and enjoy doing the installation. There are benefits to installing centre channel speakers in your home.

Better Sound Experience

Buying centre channel speakers will give you a complete and full range surround sound experience, just like you can experience in a large theatre. Not only do you get to choose from five different types of speakers but you may also place the additional speakers in different locations, which will provide the most optimal acoustics.

For listeners who enjoy a lot of bass, you’ll get the maximum bass out of centre channel speakers. This may also be the best setup for the audiophile who wants only the best home theatre system presentation, and has also gone to the expense of purchasing a big screen TV and several comfortable arm chairs for their entertainment room.

For the Audiophile

Many people enjoy audio/video as a hobby. They enjoy shopping around and putting together a home theatre package. These people take their time with installation, and may even build their own home theatre system furniture. They’ll ensure that there are no wires showing, and that every seat in the room has the best sound experience. These types of people will shun the simplicity of a sound bar which is simply not good enough for them.

The Social Aspect

People who go to the expense of setting up a home theatre system with centre channel speakers are the ones who are more social. If you’re the type of person who enjoys watching the game with a large group, you’ll enjoy showing off your home theatre system to your friends.

Adaptable

If your sound bar breaks, you’re going to be left without a good source of sound, but if one of your speaker breaks on your centre channel speaker set, you’ll still have several others to use until you can get the broken one fixed. You can also replace one speaker at a time if you wish to upgrade. You’ll have the adaptability in upgrading and maintaining your speaker system.

 

Cons of Centre Channel Speakers

Centre channel speakers may not be for everyone. Here are some of the cons of buying this setup.

More Complex Installation

The time it takes to install centre channel speakers can be much longer than your simple plug-and-play sound bar. For people who aren’t technically-oriented, or people with mobility issues, they’re not going to want to spend time or effort on trying to get the system set up properly.

Besides the lengthier installation time it’s more expensive to not only buy centre channel speakers, but to install these types of speakers. Many people choose to hire a technician to install these types of speakers. There can be considerable costs associated with this as there is an hourly fee charged. You’ll also be at the mercy of their schedule and will have to wait for your speakers to be installed.

Suitable for Bigger Rooms

If you decide to buy the centre channel speakers you’re going to need to run wires from the receiver to each of the individual speakers. Not only do the speakers take up more space, but you’re going to have to find space for those wires, and a reliable way of tying them down so they don’t get tripped over, or look unsightly.

Many people conisder that bigger speakers means that they’ll be better. But while they may provide the looks to impress your friends, they can be deceiving too. Large speakers provide that loud eardrum pounding sound, which is great for a large room. However, a smaller sound bar or smaller speakers are still capable of providing good sound too.

Centre speakers may also be a poor choice for badly insulated apartment buildings. You run the risk of annoying your landlord and neighbours.

Greater Expense

There can be greater costs associated with buying centre channel speakers. This is because there are five plus speakers required, which means more materials used to manufacture them. People who want a better surround sound experience will also be tempted to purchase the best speakers they can afford, and are more likely to spend hundreds of dollars, rather than the budget-conscious person who is happy with a $200 sound bar.

 

How to Choose Your Brand New Speakers

Whether you decide on a sound bar or centre channel speakers, there are some other considerations to take into mind before your purchase. You’ll need to consider performance standards. Your four main considerations are going to be: sensitivity, frequency response, power handling, and impedance.

Sensitivity

The sensitivity is based on a speaker’s ability to convert the wattage or power, into decibels, or volume. Surprisingly, to get the higher sensitivity, the speaker needs less power to deliver great sound. You’ll want to check the sensitivity rating of a potential purchase. For example, 85 dB, 89, dB, 92 dB, etc. Higher is better.

Frequency Response

The frequency response is based on the range of frequencies the average human ear can hear. Usually it lies from 20 to 20,000 hertz (Hz). It’s certainly possible to feel more than hear the lower frequencies, such as below 35 Hz. These come from the subwoofer. Check the frequency response range on any speakers you are checking out.

Power Handling

The power is in watts and is based on how much it can deliver before the speakers are toast. The higher the handling, the louder the speakers will be.

Impedance

Impedance is the electrical resistance against the current flowing from the outputs. This will fluctuate as your speakers deliver sounds at varying frequencies. 8 ohms is normal, though you’ll see some as low as 4 ohms. Ensure that your receiver matches up for compatibility.

In the end, it will be up to your ears to choose the best speaker system. Listen to a few different types in your local electronics store and don’t be afraid to shop around. Always do your homework first before choosing the best speaker system. Review the specs and the performance standards for each system you are considering. Consider whether the pros and cons of the sound bar or centre channel speakers will work for or against your intentions of your home’s entertainment system. Now that you understand speaker features you’ll be able to make an informed decision for your room.

Whether you choose a sound bar or centre channel speakers, it really does come down to personal preference, as it’s you who will be listening to your home theatre system every day.