Cable choices with your Martin Logans.

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DaVinci Media

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I know that cable discussions can be contentious, but I am genuinely interested in what the members here think. Is there a cable that you believe goes very well with your ML speakers. I am most interested in the speaker cables used at this point, but also wondering about power cable upgrades. Please let me know what cables you are using and what cables you have tried. If there is an existing thread that covers this, please point me towards it. Thanks in advance for your constructive responses.
 

JonFo

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Not sure if I should fire up the popcorn machine, sit back and watch the show, or do something constructive ;)

I'll do the right thing and start sharing some knowledge and resources.

First, any discussion about cables used on ESLs should have this article by Roger Sanders (an ESL designer and maker of the awesome Sanders ESL amp) as required reading: Sanders Sound Systems - Cables White Paper

Secondly, there have been many prior discussions and shared experiences on this topic at MLO, so here are a couple I chose to re-surface.


And will share that I use Blue Jeans Cable; back in 2008 I installed 175’ of BlueJeans Cable 5T00UP 10 gauge speaker wire (for panels) plus 175’ 12 gauge (for woofers), which I terminated with 15 banana plugs plus shrink-wrap tubing, and it all came to under $315, including shipping. Works great on my all-active setup with zero passive crossovers to worry about in terms of cable interaction.

The Belden cable BJC uses is very good, and one of the attributes I wanted was its UL-rated, and CL listed for in-wall. Since I run my cables through my crawl space, this is a must.
 

Ronin

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When I first got my CLXIIz panels I had Beldon Iconoclast SPTPC speaker cables. In my system this proved to be a bit bright. I have switched to Kimber Monocle XL and have been very pleased.

I do have a AQ Thunder power cable for my amp direct from a dedicated 20a circuit. All other boxes use a PS Audio power cable. Given what the power cable to my panels does (provide a very low voltage to charge the panels) I have never even considered a expensive power cable there.

Good luck in your search.
 

msimanyi

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I have standardized on a couple companies for my cables, though I'm always willing to experiment if a trial period is permitted.

For speaker cables I was using Blue Jeans Cable's Belden offering - the Belden 5T00UP. Their locking banana plugs are fantastic. But... I relatively recently discovered Iconoclast cables and tested their Series 1 (it's the only speaker cable listed on the website) in TPC (Tough Pitch Copper) and SPTPC (Silver Plated Tough Pitch Copper.) I strongly preferred the latter, though I agree with Ronin it may have been just a hair bright. But... they also had (have?) their Series 2 cable in very limited supply, only in TPC. It seems to be the magic balance for me, capturing much of the benefit of Series 1 SPTPC without the brightness, and adding other improvements. It's discussed in a rather lengthy thread on the PS Audio forum.

I've also tested their Gen 2 XLR cables, both in the "standard" ETPC (Electrolytic Tough Pitch Copper) and UPOCCC (so many letters, I'm not writing it all out.) I *greatly* prefer the latter, but I'm using the former for an interconnect in my office system. The latter are doing duty between my processor and amps, as well as my DAC to my processor.

For power cables I've integrated a variety of Shunyata cables. I have their very affordable Venom 14 NR power cable on my AppleTV and I also have one on my network switch. I have the Venom V10 NR on my streamer at work. I have their Delta v2 NR, Alpha v2NR and Sigma v2 NR on various components in the home system. Working up the price rungs, each has significant improvements over the others. I'm afraid to listen to their Omega power cables.

I'm also using some Iconoclast / Belden power cables in my office system.

To summarize:
  1. Blue Jeans Cable / Belden: excellent value, very reasonable performance.
  2. Iconoclast speaker and interconnects: very high performance at a price that is not low, but considerably lower than many of the competitors they target. Iconoclast wiring is made by Belden to the spec of a former engineer who had decades of experience with them, and are assembled and distributed by Blue Jeans Cable.
  3. Shunyata Research: similar to Iconoclast with varying (high) levels of performance and value, more with a nod to the former than the latter.


Final comment: every cable upgrade I did fell between "easily discernible and a very large improvement" to "I can't believe a cable can do that." This isn't just my opinion - my brother and a friend of ours also listened and commented similarly. In many cases, it was greater than the effect of changing out a component - amp, dac, streamer, etc - for a considerably more capable one. Sorry I can't offer more objective info like JonFo does above, but I will encourage everyone to audition cables in their home systems and find out for themselves if they like the results.


Edit: I have NOT tested power cables to the ML speakers themselves. I seriously doubt that would result in audible differences, though I will likely try it on the 15As since they're powering the woofers.


Edit 2: if I recall correctly, Iconoclast chief designer’s personal system is based on CLX speakers, so he personally tests them on a relevant speaker for us in these forums.
 
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audioxcel

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I own a pair of Sequels that I bought new in 1988. I started out with a standard 12ga OFC cable. It sounded good. About 10 years later. I began to experiment with cables that I could afford considering that I use 20 foot runs for each speaker. I tried some Audioquest and some DIY cables which were better than the generic 12 gauge cables but not like wow better. Then, I bought some Kimble 4TC which were a lot better in all parameters. A few years, later I happened on a pair of used 8TC and bought them. They were better than the 4TC in control. I have used them for the past 20 years without the urge to change them but I now have a pair of 12TC that I got a good deal on and will be trying when I repanel (3rd time) this winter. I use a Mirage BPS400 to seamlessly fill only the deep bass through a Mirage active crossover and have never felt any bass is lacking.
 

Jazzman53

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Member @Jazzman53 has designed and built his own cross-connect coax cables and documented the process here: Cross-Connected Coax Speaker Cables

Maybe he can comment on this some more, especially for those of us with no crossovers in the ESL path.

I've used several different DIY cables, including the very expensive cross-connected, Teflon jacketed coax cables recommended by Jon Risch.

My experiences may differ from that of Martin Logan owners because my homebuilt ESLs use a different (resistor-segmented) panel design which is an easier, more resistive load for the amplifier. Hence; mine are less reactive to cable variables.

A conventional ESL (ML) is sensitive to cable configurations because even a small increase in the cable inductance adds to the transformer’s leakage inductance, which then affects an ESL’s characteristic high frequency response peak and coincident impedance minimum. This is why
Roger Sanders recommends cables with minimal inductance, like the ones he sells.

A cable can be configured for minimal inductance by weaving the conductors, or for minimal capacitance by separating the conductors, but you can't have both in the same cable. Physics says that inductance and capacitance are "conjugate variables" (reducing one variable increases the other proportionally, and visa-versa).

Speaker cables will have some combination of inductance/capacitance plus resistance, but the mix can be tailored by the configuration.

According to the cross-connected coax cable's designer, Jon Risch:
“Cross-connection is used to reduce the inductance to an absolute minimum. Merely paralleling the center wire and shield would create two separated different polarity composite conductors with an inductance much higher than the cross-connected pair.”

I wouldn't know how to verify Risch's claim. What I can say is that my system sounded great using the cross-connected coax cables.

Previously, I was using DIY cables made from Mogami coax (not cross connected) with the stranded, spiral wound shield conductor, which I believe is the same cable used in the ESL-specific cables sold by Roger Sanders' company, Inner Sound. My system sounded great with those cables too.

I recently moved my speakers farther apart so I needed longer cables. Rather than building another set of $$ Risch cables, I opted for cheaper 12AWG Blue Jeans cable, and my system sounds great with these too.

As I noted earlier, my homebuilt ESL is an easier load to drive than a Martin Logan, but I honestly don’t know that I could tell any of these cables apart in a blind listening test, even if I could switch between them rapidly, which I’m not setup to do.

Intellectually, I know that the Mogami cables would have very low inductance and high capacitance. Whereas the cross connected coax cables are claimed to have very low inductance and moderate capacitance, and the Blue Jeans cable is probably somewhere in the middle-- but I'm not hearing a difference with my speakers.

I’ve always believed that high dollar cables offer no discernable benefit over similar gauge lamp cord. I just like tinkering and building things, and the cross connected cables tweaked my curiosity so I built them.

My advice is to invest in what makes a difference first (speakers & amps), and then play with cables if you want to-- but use 12AWG minimum wire size. And if you're worried about cable types; avoid ulta-low capacitance cables (like ribbon cables) for your Martin Logan ESLs, as these would have very high inductance.

Jazz
 

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jtucker

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I'm using DIY Mogami W3082 coax speaker cables. They are what Roger Sanders sold at one time:

When I made the change, I thought I could hear some slight improvement to the higher frequencies, but it was subtle at best.
 

Robert D

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Has anyone here ever analyzed the sound produced by using different speaker cables? Measure and compare the graphs? Many of you use software here that can do that. I'm wondering if there would be any difference.
 

DanR

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Your timing for me is impeccable on this post Shawn. I currently am using Morrow speaker cables on my Odyssey speakers specifically Sp-5 Morrow, they power the panels only as I have modded the woofers to now be actively crossed over, big, no very big improvement on the bass response on the speakers. But the Morrow cables specs don’t match up well with electrostatic use. So in researching what my options are and reading the Sanders white paper I am going to do a shootout with three different cables.
1) Bluejeans cables 5T00UP Beldon cable, I ordered these terminated with locking bananas
2) I’ll assemble this pair myself using the Mogami W3082 cable terminated with Sewell Deadbolt bananas
3) I’ll assemble these as well, following jazzman53 instructions (thanks for the excellent instructions jazzman)
Jon Risch cross-connected coax using Beldon 89259 coax cable, again terminated with the Sewell Deadbolt bananas.

I’m hoping to get them all built and broken in by November when the new panels for the Odysseys should be done. So any input and suggestions are welcome, I know JonFo and Tosh won’t be shy😂 and that’s what I’m looking for constructive tips/criticisms and advice. I’ll post what my impressions of the different cables are as I go along.
 

Robert D

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Your timing for me is impeccable on this post Shawn. I currently am using Morrow speaker cables on my Odyssey speakers specifically Sp-5 Morrow, they power the panels only as I have modded the woofers to now be actively crossed over, big, no very big improvement on the bass response on the speakers. But the Morrow cables specs don’t match up well with electrostatic use. So in researching what my options are and reading the Sanders white paper I am going to do a shootout with three different cables.
1) Bluejeans cables 5T00UP Beldon cable, I ordered these terminated with locking bananas
2) I’ll assemble this pair myself using the Mogami W3082 cable terminated with Sewell Deadbolt bananas
3) I’ll assemble these as well, following jazzman53 instructions (thanks for the excellent instructions jazzman)
Jon Risch cross-connected coax using Beldon 89259 coax cable, again terminated with the Sewell Deadbolt bananas.

I’m hoping to get them all built and broken in by November when the new panels for the Odysseys should be done. So any input and suggestions are welcome, I know JonFo and Tosh won’t be shy😂 and that’s what I’m looking for constructive tips/criticisms and advice. I’ll post what my impressions of the different cables are as I go along.
It will be good to get your feedback. Do you use REW software? I'm wondering if it could measure a difference in speaker output when comparing the 3 different cables. It would be nice to have data to back up the highly subjective listening test. Objectively, does the sound wave differ?
 

Leporello

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I know that cable discussions can be contentious, but I am genuinely interested in what the members here think. Is there a cable that you believe goes very well with your ML speakers. I am most interested in the speaker cables used at this point, but also wondering about power cable upgrades. Please let me know what cables you are using and what cables you have tried. If there is an existing thread that covers this, please point me towards it. Thanks in advance for your constructive responses.
I feed my CLS II’s with 6’ of the Blue Jeans 10 gauge Belden with locking banana plugs from my Parasound JC 1 monoblocks mounted near the speakers. If anyone thinks there would be a “night and day” improvement” with something else they are welcome to bring them over to my setup. Otherwise I haven’t the time to “audition cables”. I have tried it, and never thought any differences I might be hearing were worth any fuss.
 

DanR

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It will be good to get your feedback. Do you use REW software? I'm wondering if it could measure a difference in speaker output when comparing the 3 different cables. It would be nice to have data to back up the highly subjective listening test. Objectively, does the sound wave differ?
I do have REW and associated equipment so I’ll dig out my mic and a PC when I get all 3 sets broken in and the new panels installed so it will be a bit. But I agree it ill be interesting to see any measureable differences there may or may not be.
 

Brandon Hartwick

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I'm not going to get into this too much because I really think people put WAY more value in cables than they're worth.

Just keep in mind that they use plain PVC jacketed wire from the binding posts to the crossover, then it goes to whatever wire is used in the step up transformer. After the signal goes through the transformer it goes through 2 16 gauge wires to the connector on the front baffle, then from the baffle connector it uses another kind of wire that's soldered to the stators.
 

DanR

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Thanks for that info Brandon, I was going to ask if anyone knew how the signal path went from the binding post to the panels👍
 

Brandon Hartwick

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Thanks for that info Brandon, I was going to ask if anyone knew how the signal path went from the binding post to the panels👍
A few weeks ago a spent an entire night reverse engineering a power supply and crossover from a Quest.

Martin Logan speakers are really cool, they're different and that's why I like them so much. But honestly there's a lot left on the table with some of these, especially the older models. The build quality can be kind of mediocre (no bracing anywhere) and a lot of the wiring and stuff inside could definitely use some love.
 

DanR

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I agree Brandon, and I’ve been kind of following the post and comments on the Quest panels and line array, really interesting, are you going to run an active crossover on those panels?
 

Brandon Hartwick

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I agree Brandon, and I’ve been kind of following the post and comments on the Quest panels and line array, really interesting, are you going to run an active crossover on those panels?
Most definitely, the flexibility it offers is awesome.
 

Robert D

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I do have REW and associated equipment so I’ll dig out my mic and a PC when I get all 3 sets broken in and the new panels installed so it will be a bit. But I agree it ill be interesting to see any measureable differences there may or may not be.
Yes! Id like to see what happens with that. I dont know how to use the software and dont have the mic for it. Im sure I could learn, but havent taken the time to. Should be a cool experiment.
 

Robert D

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I'm not going to get into this too much because I really think people put WAY more value in cables than they're worth.

Just keep in mind that they use plain PVC jacketed wire from the binding posts to the crossover, then it goes to whatever wire is used in the step up transformer. After the signal goes through the transformer it goes through 2 16 gauge wires to the connector on the front baffle, then from the baffle connector it uses another kind of wire that's soldered to the stators.
Yeah, thats what I wonder about too. Isnt a chain only as strong as its weakest link?
 
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