Cable length and changes in sound?

@rower30, I’ve been wondering about something - specifically with regard to ICs. Is there a way to “assume” how an IC will sound at longer lengths (say 5-10 meters) if one has only the opportunity to listen to a short sample of the same? Most online retailers only have 1 or 1.5 M IC samples for trial. Makes it tough to figure (even if the equipment can be temporarily rearranged to use these cables) how a more appropriate, longer length cable, will sound.


Not in any way that you would or should accept. Words are words. This is also why we use the 1.5 MTR / 5 feet standard length. It can only get better the shorter the cable. The fact that we all have a different reference to what is too much or too little energy through the frequency ranges makes this an endless discussion.


Does that mean, conversely, it can only get worse the longer the cable?

Absolutely. Reactance is a LENGTH defined variables like it or not. L and C are storage of current and voltage and release either out of phase with the resistance. The size of the inductive and capacitive reactance changes the effect on the analog signal.

The Xc and Xl are frequency and reactively determined and that’s a LENGTH defined value based on L and C added up as the cable gets longer or shorter.

XL = 2πfL
XC =1/2πfC


I always wondered if it would make sense to move all my gears to the sidewall, but then I need 9 to 10 meters of Iconoclasts XLR. There is no way the sound will be better compared to a 5’ pair.

But Paul is saying to achieve the best sound, the gears should be relocated from between speakers to the side. I do not have soundstage issue and I do not want to spend more on longer cables to get worse sound, even if center image could get better.

I moved my gear to the side vs. between the speakers and liked the results. It cost me a 12ft. pair of Iconoclast OCC to replace 5 feet of the same. The better result far exceeded any difference that may have be due to the longer signal cables.

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Is there a point where one can reasonably assume that below a certain speaker cable length, for ex., shorter than X ft. the actual differences are too insignificant to be audible? 5 ft? 10 ft?

That is good to know. My listening area requires a longer run. Maybe one day.

I’ve always taken the view that a longer interconnect between the pre-amplifier and power amplifier is better than longer speaker cables.
So I run, 7m Iconoclast pre-2-amps and 1.5m Iconoclast speaker cables rather than 7+m speaker cables.
What’s Galens thoughts?
Cheers. Frank

IC, Especially XLR, are designed to go long runs. Cable +I/O and the expected cable high impedance looad. Speaker cable not so much.

The reactance does change, but yes, get the length reasonable and resukyts are benign. Curiously, the basic “character” of a cable is consistent to length as the ratio of all the aspects that give it a sound are constant.

How does that work? At RF (it’s easy there) Impedance is a VECTOR (fancy word for ratio) of the real to imaginary parts of the signal. The equation is SQRT (L/C). As the length goes up, the ratio stays the same as L and C follow along with the length. Using basic number 2/4 = 4/8 = 8/16 and so fourth. At true RF, the termination can be a PURE RESISTOR. Why? Because the equation assumes we are at true stable transmission line frequencies where SQRT(L/C) is the impedance. Since L and C are opposite degree phase the “angle” of the vector is math wise a pure number because the two phases cancel. Presto, theory says it is a pure resistance at RF thus we can terminate into a resistor.

The Return Loss, RL, is the mismatch to the load AND the remainder of the vector’s reactive value BELOW where the cable is a pure resistance or…the wrong resistive value compared to the resistor used as a load. Some call that resistive and vector mis-match SRL or the STRUCTURE of the cable missed the intended vector magnitude. Some devices have a variable load you can tune for the lowest reflections based on the cable’s true structure (impedance). You can cheat and test SRL, when you and I are stuck with true RL as our stuff is a set ideal 75-ohm resistance (that coulkd be off too!). We can’t remove a 73-ohm’s cable SRL to a 75-ohm load.

But, audio cables are NOT even close to RF and reactance properties and phase shift are always there through audio. How do we know that? Like Vp through audio, the phase for L and C go from zero at RF to a maximum value at DC where it looks capacitive. And again, this happens right through the audio band. All passive cable does this. ALL of them. Just look at an open-short impedance + Phase trace.

But RF’s impedance equation explains HOW a cable retains and impedance no matter the length. It also rats out more of analog’s problems.


We want to improve the WORST thing in our systems. With a turntable, moving the table away from noise significantly improves the clarity of the sound over anything the cable can offset. Thus, moving the table is better than longer cables and where ever that is, may not be off to the side, is where the table really wants to be.

Want proof? Set your needle on a STILL record. YELL at the cartridge / headshell and listen to your voice come out the speakers. The vibration moves the needle and how it all works. The music is playing more than once in a room with the playback speakers. This smears the sound. No cable can be better than removing that as an upgrade.

XLR can go 100 feet per the specs and some even 200 feet. 30 feet is pretty easy for a good XLR cable.

I’m hoping this doesn’t turn into the classic “long ICs vs long speaker cables” discussion - which is not to say that isn’t an important discussion, but my original wondering was along the lines of -

In my room my TT and phono pre are on the opposite side wall from my preamp and other source gear. This is a new arrangement (and my feeling is better than my old arrangement for space utilization, less noise pickup, and symmetry issues). But it leaves me with the problem of selecting a balanced IC that will be 6M long. Nobody out there that I know is lending selections of 6M ICs for trials and comparisons. And the cost to risk buying new and taking the loss on a flip is too high (for me).

Places like The Cable Company typically top out at 1.5M from their lending library, but you can’t always count on that. 1M is the safe bet. Now I could move the almost 300 pound behemoth of TT and stand to a temporary location where I could connect using 1M cables, which leads to the basis of my question. Let’s say I do this (oh my aching back! :weary:) and borrow a bunch of trial cables from a place like TCC. At 1M, how can I be sure what a choice will sound like if I decide it’s the one and buy a 6M length. I would guess that ICs having very large capacitance values per foot, for example, might sound worse at longer lengths than one that might be equally good but have a lower c/ft.

Maybe… ah i see Galen already answered all this as I was agonizing through this response! Thank you sir! :pray:

Very good point! I will keep that in mind when we do a future remodel of the room.

BTW, I can join @straightwire in saying that, if you have the opportunity, getting all your equipment out from between your speakers will result in a noticeable improvement in sound.

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