Bi-wire vs single wire

Warning, long rambling post.

This is a subject that drives me a little batty at times because not all speakers benefit from bi-wiring. I came close to ordering a pair of Tekton Moabs, and couldn’t decide if I should go with the bi-wire option or not. The speakers I had before my current Von Schweikert’s, which were custom-built linearrays, sounded much better with a single run of wire, but only if I eliminated the jumpers as well. If I used terminated jumpers, bi-wiring the linearrays sounded better, but when I accessed the crossover and summed the leads running to the high frequencies to the bottom set of binding posts, eliminating the need for jumpers, the speakers performed much better.

Yesterday, after speaking with Walter Liederman from Underwood HiFi, and discussing his new line of cables, the subject of bi-wiring came up.
I told him how much better my Von Schweikert speakers sounded bi-wired, vs using very good terminated jumpers. Walter replied, saying he doesn’t believe in bi-wiring, or using terminated jumpers. He suggested instead to use the shortest possible leads of bare 12 gauge unterminated wire as jumpers. Last night I decided to give it try. At first, I tried 14 gauge silver wire.

Side note, before I jump into what I heard, I’ve been out and about listening to various speakers at local dealers, in search of my next speaker upgrade. Two speakers really grabbed my attention. The Revel PerformaBe F228Be, and the Focal Kanta No. 2. Both of these speakers use beryllium tweeters, and had a very extended, detailed, and airy top end, all the while sounding very natural. They were also very resolving in the mid-range and bass. The Revel’s had some of the best bass I’ve ever heard, tight, fast and extremely articulate. Overall though I thought the Focal’s were slightly more engaging. Both of these speakers recalibrated my brain, and revealed shortcomings in my current speakers.

Okay back to the jumper experiment. The silver jumpers not only changed the sound in the lower frequencies, but the top end as well, which I wasn’t expecting. The first thing that grabbed my attention was an across the board improvement in clarity. It was like going from a lower quality Vivitar lens to a higher quality top of the line Zeis lens. Pretty much everything else improved as well, except for a slight sheen in the upper frequencies, so I decided to try using copper instead. Had some 12 gauge copper wire laying around so I made up four short 2 1/2" leads.
The copper definitely integrated better with the copper speaker cables I was using. I completely lost track of time and became immersed in the music for the next 5 hrs. This simple free tweak moved my speakers much closer to what I liked about the two above mentioned speakers. Thank you Walter! I was getting bass impact and slam on a completely different level than before. Image depth, specificity, immediacy, and transparency were also on another level. Well after this little experiment I’m more inclined to use a higher quality single run of speaker cables in the future, vs a double run of lesser quality. And if given an option, not order speakers in the bi-wire configuration. I wasn’t about to access the crossover in my Von Schweikert speakers and modify them, but as it turned out, the Walter Liederman tweak worked wonders.


Yeo that’s how I do jumpers, as per the pic :slight_smile:

First, Understand what bi-wire does. It isn’t a “belief” system at all. And, the bi-wire capable speaker ALWAYS benefits from bi-wire as the advantages happen in front of the speaker terminals.

Bi wire lowers IM, Intermodulation Distortion. IM distortion happens when multiple sine waves are sent down a wire and “add” to form the single reference voltage at the speaker terminals. The problem is that some frequencies “modulate” together to create frequencies that were not there before…IM distortion.

When you bi-wire, it allows the frequencies to be divided up into two frequency “halves” and with fewer frequencies to intermodulate together and thus lowers IM distortion.

The cross-over has to be made to allow bi-wire, true. But it is a benefit as the “beat frequencies” created are in front of the speaker so lowering garbage in reduces the garbage out.

Can you hear that remains…but you can DEFINITELY measure it.

Galen Gareis


Aren’t those same multiple sine waves still traveling down both speaker cable runs when bi-wiring? The amp is still sending out the same signal regardless of whether it’s traveling down one or two runs of cable. What an I missing here?

Also if one has a limited budget, wouldn’t one higher quality speaker cable, with short jumpers, be better than two lesser quality runs for bi-wiring?
I think a big part of what mucks up jumpers is adding more solder connections, needed for terminations. At least that’s what I found with this recent experiment.

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No, the load current frequencies senses the X-over and the signal frequencies go the way the load is the LEAST for each frequency. Same as how cross-over works, too. The apparent resistance to frequency divides the current up.

As to if one better wire is better than bi-wire with lesser wire, well, that’s an experiment for sure. Could go either way based on what your definition of “good” and “bad” wire is.

Pick good or bad wire, I’d bi-wire when you can. Use good wire now…and add a bi-wire later.

There is plenty of factual data on bi-wire and how it works and measures.

Last thought…maybe the last. when you bi wire, the capacitance DOUBLES and the Inductance HALVES to the amplifier. Be sure the load is still appropriate for your amp. Some speaker cables aren’t designed to allow bi-wire as they achieve low L at the expense of higher C. This can be OK with ONE set of leads.

Galen Gareis

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Hmm, now that you mentioned it, I’m using one run of MG Audio speaker cable. They do say not to bi-wire with it, but I figured they meant do not use two runs of their cable, which I wasn’t. But perhaps it’s still an issue even with the other manufacturers cable.

What he said. Absolutely correct, as long as used on a bi-wire capable speaker, such as any Vandersteen.

Can someone explain what constitutes a true bi-wire capable speaker? I know there needs to be to sets of binding posts, but it appears some manufacturers do it differently. For instance, my Von Schweikert speakers keep the high and low frequencies separated all the way to the crossover. So you either have to bi-wire or use jumpers. When I quizzed the owner of Tekton speakers about the difference between his bi-wire option vs bi-amp option, he said with the bi-wire option, you can if you want, just use one set of speaker cables, and no jumpers would be necessary. That means the high and low frequencies are not separated all the way to the crossover, however with the bi-amp option they are separated. I would think to do bi-wiring correctly you’d want to keep the high and low frequencies separated all the way to the crossover.

The best explanation for this topic is on the Vandersteen website. If you find one of their manuals, it will contain a detailed discussion on biwiring, biamping, etc.

Jim K


    February 11

as long as used on a bi-wire capable speaker

Can someone explain what constitutes a true bi-wire capable speaker? I know there needs to be to sets of binding posts, but it appears some manufacturers do it differently. For instance, my Von Schweikert speakers keep the high and low frequencies separated all the way to the crossover. So you either have to bi-wire or use jumpers. When I quizzed the owner of Tekton speakers about the difference between his bi-wire option vs bi-amp option, he said with the bi-wire option, you can if you want, just use one set of speaker cables, and no jumpers would be necessary. That means the high and low frequencies are not separated all the way to the crossover, however with the bi-amp option they are separated. I would think to do bi-wiring correctly you’d want to keep the high and low frequencies separated all the way to the crossover.

The Vandersteen article;

What is bi-wiring and what are the advantages?

Bi-wiring uses two separate sets of speaker cables to connect a single pair of loudspeakers to an amplifier. Coupled with a crossover designed specifically for bi-wiring, it offers many of the advantages of bi-amplifying the speakers with two separate amplifiers without the cost and complexity of two amplifiers.

We began experimenting with bi-wiring back in the early ‘80s, an era when horizontal bi-amplification was considered the ultimate way to drive quality loudspeakers. (Horizontal bi-amplification used one amplifier to drive the low-frequency section of a speaker and a second amplifier to drive the high-frequency section.) We noted that speakers sounded better when bi-amplified by two amplifiers than when driven by a single amplifier. Surprisingly, this superior performance was evident even when the speakers were bi-amplified by two identical amplifiers at a low volume level and the amplifiers were each driven full-range without an electronic crossover. We initially believed that the double power supplies and other components of two amplifiers were responsible for the improvement, however building amplifiers with twice the power supply and doubling-up on other critical components failed to provide the bi-amplification benefit.

So we looked at the speaker wires. With two amplifiers, bi-amplification used two sets of speaker cables so we experimented with doubling-up the speaker wires and with larger wire. Neither duplicated the bi-amplification improvements. Then we considered that in a bi-amplified system, one set of wires carries the low-frequencies and the other set of wires carries the high-frequencies. We modified a speaker’s crossovers to accept two sets of cables and present different load characteristics to each set so that the low-frequencies would be carried by one set of wires and the high-frequencies by the other set of wires. Finally we heard the sonic improvements of bi-amplification with a single amplifier.

Additional experiments with a Hall Effect probe revealed that high-current bass frequencies created a measurable field around the wires that expanded and collapsed with the signal. We believe that this dynamic field modulates the smaller signals, especially the very low level treble frequencies. With the high-current signal (Bass) separated from the low-current signal (Treble) this small signal modulation was eliminated as long as the cables were separated by at least an inch or two. (To keep the treble cable out of the field surrounding the bass cable.)

The crossovers in Vandersteen bi-wirable speakers are engineered with completely separate high-pass and low-pass sections. The bass inputs pass low-frequencies to the woofers, but become more and more resistive at higher frequencies. The treble inputs pass high-frequencies to the midrange and tweeter, but become more and more resistive at low-frequencies. The output from the amplifier always takes the path of least resistance so deep bass frequencies go to the bass input (Low impedance at low-frequencies) rather than to the treble inputs (High impedance at low frequencies). For the same reason, treble frequencies go to the treble input (Low impedance at high-frequencies) rather than to the bass inputs (High impedance at high-frequencies). At the actual crossover frequency, the output from the amplifier would be divided equally between the two inputs as they would both have the same impedance at that frequency. Because of the different reflected impedances of the cables, the crossover between the woofer and midrange actually occurs at the wire ends where they connect to the amplifier.

The benefits of bi-wiring are most obvious in the midrange and treble. The low-current signal to the midrange and tweeter drivers does not have to travel on the same wire as the high-current woofer signal. The field fluctuations and signal regeneration of the high-current low-frequencies are prevented from distorting or masking the low-current high-frequencies. The back EMF (Electro-Mechanical Force) from the large woofer cannot affect the small-signal upper frequencies since they do not share the same wires.

The effects of bi-wiring are not subtle. The improvements are large enough that a bi-wire set of moderately priced cable will usually sound better than a single run of more expensive cable.

All the cables in a bi-wire set must be the same. There is often great temptation to use a wire known for good bass response on the woofer inputs and a different wire known for good treble response on the midrange/tweeter inputs. This will cause the different sonic characteristics of the two wires in the middle frequencies to interfere with the proper blending of the woofer and midrange driver through the crossover point. The consistency of the sound will be severely affected as the different sounding woofer and midrange drivers conflict with each other in the frequency range where our ears are most sensitive to sonic anomalies. The disappointing result is a vague image, a lack of transparency through the midrange and lower treble and a loss of detail and clarity.

Some of the benefits of bi-wiring are from the physical separation of the high-current bass and low-current midrange/tweeter wires. So-called bi-wire cables that combine the wires in one sheath do not offer the full advantages of true bi-wiring although they may be an excellent choice for mono-wiring the speakers.

The cables should all be the same length. This is not due to the time that the signal takes to travel through a cable, but rather that two different lengths of the same cable will sound different. If the cables connecting one speaker are a different length than the cables connecting the other speaker, the resulting difference in sound between the two speakers will compromise the imaging and coherence of the system. If different lengths of cable are used for the bass and midrange/tweeter inputs of the speakers, the effects will be similar to those experienced when using two different cables as described above.

Since short runs of speaker cable sound better than long runs, consider placing your electronics between the speakers rather than off to one side. If for convenience or aesthetic considerations, the electronics must be located a considerable distance from the speakers, it is usually preferable to place the amplifier between the speakers and use long interconnect cables and short speaker wire.


What you are missing is the woofers create a back electromotive force that has an effect on the other drivers in the system. When you bi tri or quad wire as I have in my system that force has to travel all the way back to the amplifier and out the other cable to get to the other drivers. On the way it meets up with the low impedance of the amplifier output stage which damps it out before it can make the return trip. My B&W 800 Matrix has four input terminals. One for each woofer and one for the midrange drivers as well as one for the tweeter. I have them Quad wired with Kimber Kable 4 TC connecting them to my BHK250. Believe me it definitely makes a differece.


In my experience, it’s definitely a try before you buy tweak. I thought maybe I could just hear a bit cleaner mids/uppers but I’m confident I wouldn’t be able to pick it out blind.

Using rather revealing ATC monitors. I sent the 2nd set of cables back.

Thanks for posting this information. Based on the article there could be several reasons why my single run with minimalist jumpers sounded better. I was using different lengths of cables, and from different manufacturers. Add to that, I probably shouldn’t be bi-wiring with MG Audio ribbon speaker cables, based on manufacturer recommendations. At some point I’d like to try an optimized bi-wiring setup. I did find another set of conventional speaker cables lying around, not ribbon type, to test bi-wiring again. Definitely not as high quality as the MG Audio cables. The sound was nowhere near as good as the single run of MG Audio cables with simple non terminated jumpers however.

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Gary, did you get the metal shirting plates with your Von Schweikert speakers? If so, did you listen to a single wire run, using the shorting plates instead of the jumper? Curious as to how it may have sounded in comparison.

My Von Schweikerts sound much better bi-wired. I tried the shorting bar and short jumper cables. Go figure.

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I wouldnt know the reasoning or the technical grounds behind it sounding better, but years ago I DIY bi-wired my Diapason Asteras and since improvement was clearly noticeable I have kept these. Nothing fancy at all (Lapp Kabel Ollflex with Purist Audio connectors) but it does sound more pleasing in my experience!

When I first set up the speakers I tried the metal plates, didn’t like them as much as the jumpers I had on hand.

What cables are you using for bi-wiring your Von Schweikert’s?

All other things being equal, I find bi-wire always sounds better than single wire with better dynamics and spaciousness, but not with one bi-wire cable, but two separate identical separate cables.

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UK manufacturers such as PMC or ATC use separate binding posts for their 3-way passive. speakers. My PMC system is 3-way (happens to be active with my own amps) but I choose very different cables for the different frequencies. Inside the speaker there needs to be quite long lengths of fairly ordinary cable (because of the transmission line cabinets I can’t get to the actual input terminals - I can get to the crossover though). So, for example, the tweeter ends up having to use about one metre of cable internally. However, for the tweeter I use a 2.25m run of thinnish silver plated cable from the amp and can hear a vast difference between 2.25m and 3m of the same cable (the extra .75m cable length definitely dampens high frequencies). I can also hear vast differences between using 1m or 1.2m or 1.5m balanced interconnect cable. With a revealing system one can easily hear differences between cable types and cable lengths so one ends up using cable to tune the overall sound.

A friend of mine has spent a lot of money on his Naim/B&W system and it sounds terrible (I hate reflex enclosures) - he uses one long run of the latest Naim cable - it’s too bassy (or maybe it’s too treble-light - I don’t know he refuses to let me experiment).

At the moment I’m using Analysis Plus Oval 9 on the lower and Oval 12 on the upper. It’s good, but I’ve auditioned single run and bi-wire Iconoclast and MasterBuilt cables. They are both better than the A+ Ovals (not that the Ovals are bad by any means), and in each case the bi-wire was better than a single run. Using the Ovals while saving up for a speaker cable upgrade. :slightly_smiling_face:

Oh and they look sensational.