The Black Rhodium Blog

Why does the direction of a cable affect the way it sounds?

 - By Graham Nalty, founder and owner of Black Rhodium

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> ‘direction’ of cable as shown on Oyaide FTVS910

Most people familiar with hi-fi sound equipment will be aware of cables that have been specially marked by the manufacturer to show the optimum direction for connection. In most cases we assume that “the manufacturer knows best” and follow the instructions implicitly.

Some manufacturers, who target their cables towards hi-fi perfectionists, will advise auditioning the cable in the preferred direction for a short time, then comparing the sound quality in the reverse direction, and permanently connecting the cable in the direction that sounds best.

Just how important is cable direction to the enjoyment of music?

At Black Rhodium we consider it very important.

We have found by our own research that lengths of the same wire will sound different if they are reversed. Although ‘wire direction’ characteristics can be considered as being due to uneven cooling as the wire is being drawn, we have found no reliable scientific explanation for this phenomenon, but our ears are sensitive enough to hear a difference.

Follow the direction of the music current

If we make up a single speaker cable using the same wire, the sound will be clearer if the positive and negative conductors are in the opposite direction – so that the current in the wire sees the same direction in the wire as it travels from the amplifier to the loudspeaker and back again.

Most loudspeaker cables, and balanced interconnect cables, are manufactured with the wire ‘direction’ in the same direction for both signal and return connections as in the diagram below.



Wire direction of most manufactured loudspeaker cables

If, as may be possible with a simple ‘twisted pair’ cable, the wires are separated and the signal and return connections rewound in opposing directions, the sound will become clearer with a deeper background silence between musical notes.



Wire direction for better sound quality

This has important implications in the manufacture of all audio cables.

In the case of manufacture of a simple 2 core speaker cable, it is most likely that both cores are in the same direction. But this cannot always be guaranteed. If an audio cable supplier wishes to improve the sound quality by quality control of the wire direction, then two separate processes need to be defined.

Firstly, the full batch of the cable manufactured must be made from the same supply reel. If two reels are used, no one will know if the ‘direction’ information in the wire is the same for both reels.

Secondly the cable manufacturer needs to set up a reliable quality process that ensures that all the wires of one colour are reversed during the process and none of the other colour. Any divergence from these principles will result in inconsistent sound quality within the batch.

Reversing both cables in a stereo pair

If both cables in a pair of stereo cables are reversed, there is an audible difference in the sound.

In our experience this is not sufficient to warrant a prescribed view on which direction the cables should be connected. We do recommend our customers to make their own tests if they wish, but our goal is to give our customers the very best sounding cables without any technical effort on their part.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> +ve Left

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> -ve Left

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>+ve Right

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>-ve Right

Wire direction of a stereo cable as most commonly connected

This is how the direction of wire would look if both cables are reversed

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<+ve Left

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<-ve Left

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<+ve Right

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<-ve Right

This is a stereo cable with both channels reversed. Some experts suggest that you should test your cables in both positions and chose the position that sounds best.

We take the view that all cables should, as by convention, be connected with the printed writing on the cable reading from left to right when connected from a source signal (CD player, turntable, tuner etc) on the left to and amplifier on the right. For speaker cables we suggest that the writing on the cable reads from amplifier to speakers. When cables are to be connected one way only, for example a BiWire speaker cable, we assemble the cable so that its reads from amplifier to speaker.