Can you hear the "directionality" of interconnects and speaker wire? Kevin LaTour can.

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Steve Hoffman, Dec 24, 2004.

  1. stereoptic

    stereoptic Anaglyphic GORT Staff

    ??? :confused:
  2. arnie35

    arnie35 New Member

    New Jersey
  3. kim kerwin

    kim kerwin New Member

    Agoura Hills, Ca
    Hi Steve, when we used to hang out over at Acoustic Image ( man that was a long time ago) Kenny told me what to listen for. It was obvious that the attack on the instrument( bass, piano, guitar,etc.) was crisper when it was running in the correct direction. I havn't tried checking that in years due to being lazy but there it is.
  4. Damián

    Damián Forum Hall Of Fame

    Spain now
    'Never bothered to find out' here.
  5. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Hi Kim,

    I vaguely remember Kenny talking about that aspect of it. Problem is, Kenny liked everything so bright (um, I mean "detailed") that I didn't put much stock in what he said at the time. I guess what I'm saying is that if HE liked his interconnects with the arrows in the right direction, I would have liked them in the wrong direction just to kill a little of that brightness! :)

    You're obviously off work today, judging by your emails in my in-box.. :laugh:
  6. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    I'm reviving this old thread. Any of you try to hear wire directionality these days? I think I'm possibly getting the hang of it due to the fact that my systems are now highly resolving but who knows? The transient attack seems much more pronounced when hooked up the correct way. Still 50% for me though. Sigh.
  7. sgb

    sgb Senior Member

    Baton Rouge
    Well, as much as I would like to say this is nonsense, I must admit that after taking a pair of my interconnects over to a friend's house for comparison with his that are priced for rock stars, emperors and oil barons, I found the directionality thing to be true. I inadvertently reconnected the cables to my amp & preamp in the opposite direction to which they had previously been installed, but I knew immediately that something wasn't right.

    Since the cable in use can be had at most electronics supply stores for 12¢/foot and is said to be non-directional, my assumption is that cables might be something like some radial tires: once they've been conditioned to run in a certain direction they should be not put on the other side of the vehicle (where they would be running in the opposite direction).
  8. Ok so here is my story like Steve’s that started this thread,

    I worked at an audiophile company for about three months. First of all they had me working on gear with no schematics. Why? Because they wanted to protect their topologies. Holy Cow! I have NEVER heard of any place that would not give a tech a schematic! But there I was fixing units with just my intuition and getting answers from the designer to circuit node specific questions. So then my supervisor would give me sets of tubes that were selected by him to go in to each unit. How were these tubes selected? By dousing! He literally fondled the tubes and would just declare “this 12au7 matches with those two 12ax7’s”. Now I must say that the one day he was gone and could not hand me his tube sets I did have a harder time getting the units to meet spec; go figure! He did this with transformers too. He is also polarizing wire with this same dousing technique. He also polarized the resistors by listening to a FM radio, holding the resistor on one lead close to his lower chest then flipping the resistor to the other lead and SOMEHOW deciding an anode and cathode marking for a particular batch of resistors. Come to think of it though, he forgot to polarize the PCB copper clad, OOPS!

    Now on my last day I confronted him with my issues regarding his quality control practices. He told me he understands my skepticism but he can/and has passed blind tests with his skills. He says his brother can douse for gold also. So when I asked him why was he not hiking around the Sierra Nevada’s with his brother dousing for gold nuggets he said his brother was not mentally stable and could not handle such endeavors.

    Now here is the kicker! During my last week at this company he was “teaching” his girlfriend to perform these same dousing quality control functions.

    What do ya’ do with that!?

    So maybe some “diode effect” is said to be at play here with the wire polarity, but this does not wash with a non DC offset AC signal.

    I know I can’t hear everything but come on! Their gear sounded good but my home system is MUCH more musically involving than anything I heard while I worked there; and my wire and resistors are not installed with polarity concerns.

    Enough chest pounding!

  9. Dusty Chalk

    Dusty Chalk Grounded Space Cadet

    Nope. Can't even hear absolute phase.

    But I do believe (in both).

    If it's the pseudo shielding, and the destination does not ground on the receiving end, then what you should be hearing is a lack of the pseudo shielding (correct me if I'm wrong, but pseudo-shielding doesn't work if you float the ground).

    You may also be hearing burn-in/warm-up (in the cables). What he may have heard more than anything else is that you didn't touch anything. Now, I know audiosignals flow both ways (positive and negative), so I do not buy into this concept of burning them in in one direction is undone when the direction is reversed (in, for example, Kimber PBJ's, where directionality is not an issue), but I do believe every time you move the cables, including unplugging them and plugging them back in could -- nee should -- make a difference.

    Albeit a very very small difference.
  10. Electric

    Electric The Medium is the Massage

    I haven't read all the posts in this thread so I don't know if this has been covered. When one is using directional cables, which direction between amp and pre, etc., are you following? The manufacturer of my cables, Gronenberg in Germany states that cable direction should always be out from the pre and therefore not necessarily the direction of the signal.
  11. Tony Plachy

    Tony Plachy Senior Member

    Pleasantville, NY
    jkm, Welcome to the forum. :wave: I always use directional cables in the direction of the signal. So they go out from my pre to the power amps, however they go into the pre from my sources like my phono amp and SACD player.
  12. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Follow the writing on the wire if there are no arrows. The writing should point to the direction of the final amplification. In other words: It should go in the direction of the signal flow> From CD player (source) to pre amp. From pre amp (source) to amp. From amp (source) to speaker, etc.
  13. Electric

    Electric The Medium is the Massage

    Thanks guys. Great to be here.

    Here's the diagram from Groneberg. What do you make of it? Direction does not follow signal.

    Attached Files:

  14. quadjoe

    quadjoe Senior Member

    I voted "Never bothered to find out." The last thing I need is to obsess about whether or not I have my wires connected backwards. I do connect for correct phase, because that is something that is very easy to hear and rather unpleasant to boot. I use the best cables/speaker wire I can afford at the price I'm willing to pay, but that is more to ensure correct amplifier compliance/loading especially since I have a very long run of speaker wire to my surround speakers. Years ago, I used to listen for flaws in my system, but I realized that I wasn't enjoying the music as much. So now I listen to music, not my system: while my system is modest by comparison to many of yours, much of the time it is transparent to the music it is reproducing. No, it isn't perfect, but even if I spent $1,000,000, it still wouldn't be perfect, but then I'd be back to listening for flaws in the musical reproduction, and that just isn't any fun to me.
  15. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter


    Just look at the writing on your wire. The writing will be in the same direction as the signal flow. That's the way to connect everything. CD player to linestage, the words should go towards the linestage (or receiver) and so on. It's easy to do. Why not do it?
  16. quadjoe

    quadjoe Senior Member


    Since you asked, I guess I'll give it a try. BTW, I just took a look at my speaker wire, and lo and behold, I do have it the correct direction, although I assure you it wasn't on purpose, although I do remember that when I connected it it seemed logical for me to see the writing on the wire, but my purpose was to keep everything in phase. :) I'll check the rest tomorrow (I have to move a 500 lb cabinet which has all my gear and the 32" HDTV). I'll let you know if I can hear a difference.
  17. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort

    Yes I can. I had my friend change it on me (or not) at random just to make sure I wasn't just hearing things, you know? He must have switched the things a dozen times. Was right each time.

    They're old AudioQuest Topaz and Ruby. Yep, I can hear either type when reversed. Same was true of a Monster cable (400? This was 15 years ago). In fact I can hear a difference between sets of the Topaz, among the few sets I have. But I can't hear any difference whatsoever when a cheap "throw-away" type RCA cable is reversed (at least not the one we tried). I was listening to vinyl via my Grado SR-60's through the jack on the Teac open reel deck. The interconnects were swapped at *either* the TT to pre, or pre to the deck. Much more pronounced when the TT to pre was reversed. The Topaz is a warm one (too warm and fuzzy, many may say) with a more musical mids while the Ruby seems more accurate with much better lows and highs, but thinner/harsher upper mids. The cheap cables were also tried everywhere but sounded just as "nice but bleh" no matter where tried or in what directions. So the type of cable in question matters. Some, evidently, just don't make any difference at all how you use 'em.

    Now, I seriously doubt I could tell at all if it was one way or the other without having a direct comparison. It's not like I heard anything I could tell you "oh, I can tell when a cable is wrong when..." We are talking about subtle - like hearing a fussy piece of gear cold compared to warmed up. Moving a speaker a bit will make more difference IMH. What I heard was a subtle shift out of focus (almost like phase, really) particularly in higher freq. ranges, focus of soundstage depth and a subtle blurring of surface body. Have you heard a record played back with great but oh so slightly fuzzy sound, then heard it with everything "dialed in" where you sense the "sizes and shapes" of intruments/sounds better, the highs focus and the vinyl noise / hiss is made quieter and/or more precise? I guess that's best I can describe it right off.

    Not knowing beans about the technicalities of cables (I tried a bunch I could afford and bought the ones I liked for a given gear), I've no theory about the physics involved. As far as I'm concerned you can get perfectly good sound with any cable that works nicely with the gear, including that throw away stuff. If a person can't hear any difference, it's probably not there in their system or too tiny to matter, I suppose. Do what works...

    To all the arguments that you can't hear what can't be measured, I'd like to point out that some animals are proving to be adept at detecting airborne elements of cancer - for sake of an example - where we and all of our ultra-sophisticated "sniffing" technology can not. The animal is not making it up. There's nothing at all in the air which can be determined by our instruments, but the fact remains that something is being detected by some means. Obviously, our measurements are not good enough. It would appear that some of our electrical measurements just aren't comprehensive in some applications that's all... :)
  18. Electric

    Electric The Medium is the Massage

    I understand what you're saying Steve, but the manufacturer of my cables says otherwise. I'm confused.
  19. Doug Sclar

    Doug Sclar Forum Legend

    The OC
    You're not necessarily floating the ground. It's the shield that is lifted on one end. When I've used this technique for unbalanced signals, I generally used 2 conductor shielded cable. The signal and ground are carried on the two conductors. It's the shield that is connected on only one end. This essentially prevents current from flowing throught the shield. Of course you can actually lift the ground as well in some situations.

    I may add that I did a lot of experiments with grounding. I once built a phono preamp, based on a Marshall Leech design, on a solid block of aluminum. It was 2" thick and weighed like 5 or 10 pounds. I drilled and tapped a large grounding screw in the center which was my main grounding point. In this case I had my ground and shield connections made with spade lugs. By changing the order or even splitting the spade lugs I could hear changes. Unfortunately, there was the problem I never could resolve.

    One method made some records sound better which would make me think that I had found the best way. However, other records sounded worse with the new method. Sure enough I'd reverse it and the records that sounded worse now sounded better again. I could surely hear a difference but had no way to know which way was right. Perhaps neither method was right.

    There is another interesting thing that happened during that listening session. I was doing this testing with a good friend who was also an audio engineer. I had a roomate who was not into audio at all but did like music. He was there when we were listening and told us we were both crazy. He said nobody could hear these differences since he couldn't. I told him that was not true. Most can hear these changes, but only a few can recognize them. Once I told him exactly what to listen for he could hear the differences as well. He was willing to bet me that he couldn't hear the differences, but I didn't want to take his money. :D

    So my point to all this is that I have no doubt that some can hear differences when cables are reversed. The question is whether these changes are beneficial in all cases or is this just a sort of tweak that is better in some cases and worse in others?
  20. LeeS

    LeeS Music Fan

    I believe there is something to cable directionality. One day we were experimenting in the studio with a highly resolving system and you could clearly hear it get fuzzier when the direction was the reverse of the mfrs recommendation.
  21. Drifter

    Drifter AD survivor

    Vancouver, BC, CA
    I was skeptical about "directionality" of wire but since I wasn't working tonight I decided to do a little test. I tried reversing each of my speaker cords (to the direction of the writing on the wire) and found a dramatic difference in the sound. The stereo image was dramically improved and there was more "presence" to the sound. Thanks, Steve!

    I plan to have a friend help me do a blind test in the near future just to make sure I am in the exact same listening spot each time the cords are reversed.
  22. Dusty Chalk

    Dusty Chalk Grounded Space Cadet

    The one between the DAC and the pre is odd. Most manufacturers would recommend that it go the other way.

    BTW, isn't "in the direction of the signal" a bit of a misnomer, since signal is A/C? To paraphrase a gentle chiding I received once on another board,"...last I heard, electrons travel both ways..." (in audio).

    I'd think a better test would be to burn in two sets of identical cables, one backwards. I bet, short of pseudo-shielding, they'd sound the same.
  23. Drifter

    Drifter AD survivor

    Vancouver, BC, CA
    Well, the final sound emanates from the speakers not the amp.
  24. soundQman

    soundQman Forum Resident

    Arlington, VA, USA
    I can't, but my cables don't appear to have directional markings. If they were the type that did, I'm skeptical that I would hear much of anything different. I can't tell much difference between different cables either, so the directionality would likely being even less audible than the different brands. Less than zero, heh.

    Then again maybe my system isn't "resolving" enough, or my ears for that matter.

    I wonder what could be going on physically to make a difference? As another poster pointed out, there isn't really a unidirectional flow of current going on in the cable with the signal anyway. It's more like a complex varying sinewave-like potential (voltage) being applied across the input of the power amp from the output of a preamp, for example. Or a voltage from the output of the power amp being applied to essentially a non-linear, frequency-varying R-L-C network in the case of speakers. The wire itself just adds an extremely small impedance element (mostly resistance, R) to the amp-speaker circuit unless it is a very long wire connection.

    There might be some directional effects with shielding if a cable were deliberately constructed assymetrically that way, but I can't quite imagine it.
  25. Could this polarity thing be similar to "perfect pitch" hearing? I can notice if a song is being played a bit fast or a bit slow, yet others really can't tell, even if they've been trained to listen for it. Perhaps I may fall into the category where I can't tell?, but then I never really did a true a-b "blind test" where a friend switches the wires, etc. It could make a difference?, but the question is "how much of a difference"? Perhaps I'll have to give it a try if I feel infinitely bored - otherwise, I'll just enjoy my stereo system as I already do now.

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