Cable elevators - conventional wisdom wrong?

Reluctant to put any considerable money in them, the reasons for using cable elevators seemed intuitively correct to me: decouple cables mechanically from vibration and insulate them from the carpet's static. I have therefore built cheap elevators myself using Lego building blocks. (Plastic with a more or less complex internal structure; moreover, there is enormous shaping flexibility, for instance you can also build gates with suspended strings on which to rest the cables)
In their advertisement/report on the Dark Field elevators, Shunyata now claim that conventional elevators are actually (very?) detrimental in that they enable a strong static field to build up between cable and floor causing signal degradation.
Can anyone with more technical knowledge than I have assess how serious the described effect is likely to be? Would there, theoretically, be less distortion with cables lying on the floor? Has anyone actually experienced this?
Cables are suspended in electrical power lines because they are not insulated. Air is the insulator. They use high voltages which tend to breakdown insulation jackets and the whole approach is just cheaper than more costly cables for long distances. I honestly can't see the benefit to having uninsulated speaker cables (speaker cables are so cheap it just does not make sense).

Assuming the speaker cable is already insulated then I can't think of one good technical justification to suspend it off the floor other than it looks really cool.

Here is an explanation of what they are used for and why they are needed in power lines.
I doubt there was any "conventional wisdom" to begin with. As Shadorne said, there is simply no reason to bother suspending speaker cables off the floor.
They're not susceptible to low-level vibration the way your turntable or CDP would be, and static (from man-made carpet fibers) is unlikely to be an issue; if it was, high-end speaker cables would be shielded.

Unfortunatley our passion has an equal mix of genuine products and snake-oil sellers. If you're really keen, try to find some old glass or ceramic mains power insulators. They look ok and cost much less than branded ones.
One good reason to raise cables off of synthetic carpets: better sound. In another listening room, my cables lay on oak flooring and I didn't lift the cables. In my new listening room, the floor is covered with synthetic wall-to-wall carpeting. In this new room, lifting the cables off the synthetic carpeting makes a big difference in clarity/resolution through the midrange. My cable lifters of choice: corrugated cardboard towers cut from cardboard boxes left over from the move, about 6" tall. Cost: $0.

In keeping with the theory that certain materials store energy (e.g., synthetic carpeting) and then dissipate that energy randomly in time back into the cables, it makes sense to me to use materials for lifting the cables that don't store any energy - for me, this means "no plastics." Use wood, paper, unglazed pottery/porcelein.

We can debate the theory, but the ultimate answer is in the listening. When listening, just be cautious with making quick A/B comparisons. My listening tells me that the process of simply MOVING the cable impacts the sound for several minutes to an hour after the cable is disturbed.

Also, be open to getting different results in different systems with different cables. A good friend whose hearing I highly respect has the opposite experience from mine in his room. In his room, and in his system, he says his cables sound better left on the floor, on synthetic carpeting, than lifted. I have no reason to doubt what he's experienced. The point is: he made the listening experiment and chose based on what he heard. My listening experiments in my room, in my system, tell me the sound of my system is better with the cables lifted of the carpet by my cardboard towers. And that's the key to getting better and better sound in this crazy hobby of ours: be prepared to listen and experiment, and trust your own ears.
Point taken, I should have put "conventional wisdom" in inverted commas.

The thing is, since I had my Lego stuff to experiment with anyway I thought give it a try, it can't harm. Now Shunyata's telling us it will harm.
I own the Shunyata Dark Field Elevators. They did improve the sound of my system; however the improvement was let's say 3%. In other words I could hear a difference but it wasn't night and day.

So if we are to assume Shunyata's theory is correct, and given the minimal improvement I noticed, I would probably guess you would barely hear the difference between your Lego's and my Shunyata's.

Karelfd, you could order the Shunyata's from Music
Direct, compare them, and then return them. I believe they have a 30 day return policy. It would be an interesting experiment and I would love to hear the results.

I fully agree with Rushton. Like him, my dedicated listening room has synthetic carpet, and also like him I have used pieces of cardboard (and have for years) to keep speaker cables elevated with the same significant results he has obtained. However, raising interconnect cables off the floor has never registered any improvement in sound for me, but as they say, YMMV.
I use cables that have mass loaded non ferrous dielectric insulator to absorb and deflect vibration and emf. Can it get better....always. Tom
There's a few interesting points here.

Firstly, Justin who has the Shunyata's, says he thinks the lego would have much the same effect. This is what I meant by snake-oil sellers; I'll bet the Shunyata's are a bit more expensive than Lego!

Secondly, Shunyata's own website says that the Dark Field elevators are made of "...electrically conductive foam. This allows static charges to migrate through the elevator eliminating the build up of static field differentials between the floor and cable that would otherwise create noticeable signal degradation."

Now, if you're going to use a material that conducts static charges, you might as well leave the cable in contact with the carpet in the first place, as this will have the same result. Static charges wont dissipate into the air unless the voltage is massive (millions of volts), so all the Shunyata's are doing is allowing the static charge to spread up the elevators to the speaker cable sleeve. Leaving the cable on the floor does the same thing.

And thirdly, I still advocate that the only true way to listen for such small variations (like the 3% mentioned above) is with moderately quick A/B comparisons; trying to compare any sense (hearing, sight etc) to the memory of a sense (what we heard/saw a few minutes/hours ago) is very unreliable. Not only are you relying on your memory for comparisons, but so many other influences can change in the time between comparisons that you can't be sure what caused any difference.
Might I suggest that you first try the following cable lifters, which I suspect must have been mentioned in some previous post. They will give you the opportunity to run a listening test prior to any purchase. Each cable lifter is comprised of three wooden chopsticks and a rubber band that binds them about 1/5 of the way down their length. Spread the long ends into a tripod and secure them down in the weave of the carpet. The shorter ends above the rubber band create a “basket” that should secure most cables. My Supra Swords are not the most well behaved cables and two of these little tripods support a spiral of three passes behind one of my speakers. They also present a very small visual signature.

If your letter carrier delivers your mail bundled with rubber bands and you order Chinese take-out every so often this experiment will cost you only your time. Good luck.
There is no electrical benefit to raising your speaker cable off of the carpet. What noise are you going to couple from a static charge, and how are you going to couple it? The static is not changing so you are not going to couple it via capacitance or inductance. You could run your speaker cable over the top of the terminals of a couple car batteries and it wouldn't make any difference. As to mechanical vibrations, those are not going to get coupled through your speaker cable. You can pick the cable up and shake it and you won't measure a difference in the audio signal (so long as you have good connections at the amp and speaker - and if not, the solution is some type of strain releif of grommet system, not keeping the cable off the carpet.) Try a little experiment. Have someone sit with their back to you listening to music. Pick up a section of cable and move it in front of a CRT. Then take the section of cable and tap it or shake it. Your "blind" observer won't hear any difference in the audio. Perhaps the report of Dark Field elevator only applies to situations involving the Dark Side of the Force. Seriously, from an engineering standpoint this is nonsense, makes about as much sense as passing a magnet over your brachial artery to align the iron in your blood - and I am sure that someone would notice a big subjective difference if they tried that too - they would just "feel better". Spend money on something that actually makes sense. Your carpet is not hurting your audio. Next time you go to a concert see where the cables lie for the recording equipment.
I have also been trying out these techniques with my Cardas speaker cables.
To the contrary, the effects were mixed! It worked at first. The mids and highs were cleaner, the image rose higher. But after a few days, the system sounded as if some bass had been cut off, the mids were also coloured. At the end, I took off all the treatments and it just sounded more natural!
When we talk about elevating speaker cable off the floor, we never talk about the embarrassment factor. What do you say to your mother-in-law? I finally concluded that, if there is a difference, I don't want to know. I'm glad to hear that there are some technical reasons why I need not lose much sleep over this one.
Thank you all. There is a wealth of information here. If I may draw a conclusion at this point: differences, if any, are small enough not to have to worry over my system's performance if I'm not using the Dark Field elevators. On the other hand, I do like to experiment and so will gladly take up some of the suggestions (Justin, sorry, can't engage MusicDirect in this since I'm based in Europe but I'll look out to find someone with a comparable sales policy over here). To me that's one big fun factor in this hobby, always something to discover (even if once in a while the discovery is there's nothing new under the sun after all ;^))

I'll A/B in my second system where I have easiest access, but I can't do it straight away since I've only just made a change that had a considerable sonic impact. I'll report to you guys in a couple of weeks.

Also, sincere thanks for a very matter-of-factual discussion on a topic such as this.
When I was a kid I used to collect glass and ceramic insulators. The kind you see on old telephone poles along railroad tracks. There are still hundreds of thousands if not millions of these still in use in rural areas. Just look up at the poles when driving along some old tracks. Most no longer even have wires on them anymore but what are they going to do with all that old glass, so they just leave them up there. What I'm getting at is they are ideal for use as cable elevators, if you think you need them. Go to any flea market even antique stores and get all you want for a buck a piece. All shapes, sizes and colors. Some are worth a lot of money to collectors but most are worthless, except for cable elevators and door stops.
The reason I use cable lifters (homemade version) is that it makes it easier for me to vacuum the rug without accidentally running over them.
Hi, Clio09

I second your comment. I tried with "Quartz made" ( exact English Name I may not be sure, Black-silverish Mineral:
and Padouk-wooden made elevators, really cannot feel anything. Now I had two extended plastic rod standing out horizontally behind the rack, and use Nylon (cloth-hanging type )ropes to make "hanging freely" my speaker cables and
Power cables. Some articles had products also selling
" free-hanging".... and much convenience for my maid
( though it is a restricted and protected area for her
to be near, but I cannot shoot her if I am not in the house
!!!! )
Rushton is 100% right - try getting your cables off the floor, and give it a chance. I have personally heard the effects of lifting a cable off the carpet exceed the differences between cables themselves.

From an electrical standpoint, carpet serves as an enormous dielectric - and normally one of very low quality (nylon or polyester). Audiophiles spend enormous sums on cabling, accepting as fact the dielectric component, along with metal composition and cable geometry, add together to represent the sonic signature of the cable itself. Letting the cable sink down into the carpet, and take on the charactertistics of that dielectric equates to a significant amount of the money, effort, and benefit of purchasing better cable being wasted.
I use some Myrtle blocks , Cardas and Ayre makes them. They are actually fairly cheap.
To get more height, I cut a little block out of some Maple wood and then place the myrtle blocks on the wood.
Heck, I think I have seen the Myrtle blocks cut with a V in the center to hold the cable.
You can stain or paint them any color.

Anyway, I own all Synergistic Tesla Cables and they recomended for some reason not to use the porcelin elavators I had.

I actually think they do sound better with the wood.
Read the section of this article that deals with wire and resonances: ( To the lithocephalic: Don't bother!
Having visited a fellow audiophile with a highly evolved and revealing system, I was intrigued by his insistence on the benefit of elevating his cables. It was done with stiff construction paper cut and formed into 5" vertical cylinders with tape, and then baggies filled with kitty litter for mass (to remove resonance) that filled 90% of the cylinder. I thought of it as an extreme tweek that I would never accept for esthetic reasons, but gave it a try in my system to see. The improvement was major, and I never looked back! Varying their height also allows separation of IC's and PC's. A suspended cable can be affected by room sound, and can transfer the vibration to the equipment, so use as many as necessary to prevent this. The cost is next to nothing. The benefits major. Try it for yourself. Listen!
Mike VansEvers once demonstrated that a rather generic IEC connector on one end of a powercord could be made to sound different by tightening or loosing a short machine bolt that had been substituted to go through and through the connector at the ground wire location. A few observers could recognize "a difference" however the difference was so minute that no one could indicate which way was better. Virtually everything seems to make a difference but these 55 year old ears have trouble telling one from another.
The porcelain cable risers (nice looking- whitish base and brown top) are actually high voltage line insulators and as such they are brilliant. As a cable riser they are out of place due to the brown top- this is actually an iron ferrite glaze which in its intended role, acts as a conductive surface so that high voltage uninsulated wires do not spark when they come in contact with the insulator (in the old days when insulators were made out of either bear porcelain or glass they did spark). However when a speaker cable comes in contact with the iron ferrite glaze it creates an electromagnetic "bump in the road" that manifests itself as a thickening of the mid-range, loss of low frequency control, and a loss of air and slight compression of the sound stage when compared to either wood or Plexiglas cable risers.

Ideally you should look for a speaker cable riser that does not conduct electricity. If you live in an area that has a lot of static electricity, take a very thin wire and some electrical tape, give your speaker cables a few wraps with the thin copper wire (bare 28 gauge and not more then one or two wraps), and secure with electrical tape. Now place the bare wire in contact with ground- this will give your speaker cables a electrostatic drain without the detrimental effect of draping your cables over a conductive medium.

A good zero cost way for people to experiment with cable risers is to take 8 CD jewel cases (empty- CD's contain a metallic disk- usually aluminium) laying your CD cases in a "V" pattern on the floor 4 per 8ft speaker cable run. Now lay your speaker cables atop your CD case risers being careful to position the risers below each speaker cable in such a say as to allow the speaker cable to lay the way it wants to- not forcing it into a position if possible- this too will improve sound. Many people are surprised at the clarity and control this imparts to their speaker cables and best of all, its a free experiment.

Yours in music,
Ted Denney Lead Designer Synergistic Research Inc.
Ted, Precison Audio clearly states that their cable risers are coated with a non-conductive glaze vs what you described as a, "...conductive surface so that high voltage uninsulated wires do not spark..."

Ted... very interesting and easy-to-do experiments to improve audio quality... Thanks!

I use wooden chopsticks (bundles of three) stylishly bound with a small ziptie... does improve audio quality on non-natural (wool, cotton) carpets.

Dark Fields have improved the sound for me. Better seperation, lower noise floor and enhanced definition.
I don't know about all that but the Shunyata Dark Field Elevators look nice at least ;)
I bought the Hifi Pyon Mythologies first custom elevators for my Synergistic Research cords and they work great. They do take a week or so to settle in but after there is a noticeable difference in detail, defenition and black background. They raise the cords off the carpet about 4-5 inches which is perfect height from the QLS's MPC's and other cords plugged into it. Very elegant semi gloss black. Ok'd by Ted D. himself specifically for the S.R Tesla power cords and speakers active sheliding...check em' out.....AAA+++

Regards Bacardi
If I may summarize the opinions on this thread:

> risers improved SQ by 3%
> risers resulted in large improvement in SQ
> risers resulted in no SQ improvement
> risers resulted in worse SQ
> use plastic risers
> use anything other than plastic risers
> use those glass thingees from telephone poles
> avoid the glass thingees
> collect the glass thingees and sell them to an antiques store
> use one particular brand of risers or don't bother using risers at all
> don't even try risers if your mother-in-law lives with you
Mmarvin19 - Truly brilliant summary, although I might offer a slight amendment to the last: don't even try risers if you HAVE a mother-in-law. They'll heckle you even if all they do is visit every now and then...and that will open the door to heckling from everybody in the family, except for the dog.

Speaking of dogs, one of my friends and I both have Shelties, and we've noticed that, if we can get them to lie on the speaker cables, the sound warms up just a bit after about 5 minutes. I'm not sure it works with any other breed.
Unfortunately, our conventional electrical understanding doesn't allow an answer to your question. If you try raising your cables and using different materials, you will hear differences. There are multiple components to these differences. Vibrations, static, EMI, RFI etc. all detract from the realism you hear from your speakers. My best advice is to leave your ears guide you as science, given our present understanding, cannot.

I prefer ceramic isolators, with one on every wire, including those with no contact with anything except at each end. I have, however, experience the benefits of wood on top these isolators under speaker wires. I also know that raw silk pads under these speaker wires at the isolators absolutely killed the sound. Also, with the exception of the Townshend interconnects, I have always rejected ferrite rings anywhere.
Tbg might be on to, after several days of settling in with the Dark Fields, I noticed that some of my favorite recordings were sounding a bit constricted in the midbass and middle C range of the piano etc... Highs were also sounding slightly dry. Hmmm, I will experiment further, but there may be a costly trade off with the risers.
OK, I can say that there is definately a reduction in transparency and low level detail along with a dullness evident in the lack of sustain on instruments. Body and weight of instruments are also decreased. After trying various Shunyata products over the last two years I can safely say that the "House Sound" is a bit dull, lifeless, dry and lacking in weight and energy. Live recordings sound less exciting and piano in particular sounds damped and lacking in overtones and sustain (most notable here). I am returning my Dark Fields asap.
It would be interesting if you could compare and report back on the Dark Fields to simple CD cases used cable elevators as outlined here:

Yours in music,
Ted Denney III
Lead Designer, Synergistic Research Inc.
I may do that. Several years ago Jonathan Valin did a review of the ceramic cable elevators and concluded that there was no free lunch. He found that the body and weight of instruments were reduced, thus affecting their apparent palpability and solidity. As a designer, I would be careful as to how much of the "Music" is often discarded in an attempt to address other supposedly more important aspects of the reproduction of sound. Lack of distortion, a lower noise floor, blacker backgrounds, smoother highs and enhanced transparency, to cite a few examples, are worthy goals indeed. The problem arises when the pursuit of ideals overshadows our emotional connection with the music. A presentation that has all of the hallmarks of "Audiophile Sound" but none of the connective tissue that conveys a sense of drama, emotion and realistic scale, is worthless. Live music is clear, dynamic as hell, full of contrast and color. Without these crucial ingredients in good measure, the listener may as well be a robot...or worse, a reviewer!
Ted, I want to use something that looks a little nicer than CD cases. I also see that you recommended in another forum/thread you recommend wood blocks at least 4 inches from the ground. Is there a specific kind/brand of wook block to use?? What are your comments on the Hifi Pyon Mythologies that Bacardi is using? Does this seem to fit your requirements. If you search here on "Pyon" you can see the seller here on A-gon.

Bacardi, How are you liking the Hifi Pyon Mythologies??? Have you noticed any negatives like Dave_b did with the Dark Fields?

I'm going to take the Dark Fields out tonight and report back in a few days...

Thanks everyone for all your input!
Hi guys, thanks for reviving this thread, most interesting findings being reported here. Over the months, I had settled for acrylic Quadraspire QX50 as support, maybe that could be the "nicer" alternative to cd jewel cases that Joeyboynj is looking for? Here is the description of their product:
Ted, could you add any thoughts on this please? (Presuming, it is not considered to be a no-go to comment on a competitor's product; if it is then I appologize)
I totally agree about the aesthetics. The suggestion to try CD cases is only for proof of concept for people who doubt that cable risers can make a difference- it costs nothing and also serves as a means to try a polycarbonate cable riser against other materials. Different materials have different signatures and this can serve to fine tune the balance of a well set up system.

WOW- those are sexy cable risers! I'll get a set for my home system as I'm looking for cable risers that compliment the modern decor of my home- thanks!

Yours in music,
Ted Denney III
Lead Designer, Synergistic Research Inc.
PS. I have also had good luck with risers made from hard wood and MDF.

Yours in music,
Ted Denney III
Lead Designer, Synergistic Research III
Joeyboynj, I really like them. The Mythologies are pretty solid to hold the heavy S.R Tesla power cords & they blend well with todays interior designs and furniture. Soundwise when I incorporated them in my system I had installed 2 Teslaplexes so I can to an extent comment where the differences in sound quality came from(LOL). I do notice a little more clarity, definition, & astonishingly silent backrounds. The Teslaplexes did there own enhancing. Maybe as time goes on I will notice more. I defenitly have not had any negative affects towards the sound after the Mythologies where put in my system. I actually have 8 total with 2 for sub cords. I have't even put them under any of my speaker wires, I will later add more just to let the Teslaplexes settle so I can tell a difference after to justify any positive affects. I will then report back.

I just found these. Signal Cable makes Acrylic Cable Risers as well and they are cheaper than the Quadraspire QX50. Check them out.
Re-checked the Dark Fields in my system and found an immediate dulling of the sound and a blunting of leading edge transients. Not good! The product is a failure as far as I am concerned.
I have to agree with dave b on the dark fields.
Not only did these things sound bad but they fell apart after 1 month. Can you spell junk!!!!
Stay with Wood or Acrylic, much better effect on the the over all sound.
Given all the talk about them, I decided to pull them out of my system and what do you know, they were dulling transients, obscuring low level detail and detrimental to articulation not to mention that the build quality is quite questionable as one of them is already falling apart. Needless to say they aren't going near my system again. Looks like it's time to go back to the Acoustic Revive well.
Hey Guys.

We sell THESE but they're not too difficult to build if you've got the tools and a Saturday afternoon. I still say this is the best approach yeilding the best sonics and there's reason for it - but if I told you I'd have to kill you ;)

At one point we tried applying ERS cloth as the carrier but while it changed the sound more dramatically, it wasn't in a positive direction. Try it yourself and see what you think.

Have fun!

Just a note to address the "junk" and "falling apart" comments.

We have received some original sets of the DFE's back that had an issue with humidity weakening the type of adhesive used. The issue was immediately addressed and there have been no further incidents. Anyone that still has a set with the adhesive problem is welcome to return those to their dealer for a replacement set, or perhaps a credit depending on the dealer policies. This was a simple error in an original production run. We stand behind the issue and have corrected it.

As to the performance comments, these will be taken into context with all the response and comments received from dealers and customers. The DFE's were developed from sound theory and tested using mainly open braid and non shielded cable systems. Though they have worked extremely well in many different systems since coming to market, no product of this type will likely ever be universal in result given how many different systems, environments and cable designs are out there in every conceivable context. The best advice is always to evaluate and base a purchase on the outcome.


Shunyata Research
Samuel, I suspect that most any manufacturer could or would claim that their cable risers were developed "from sound theory." I guess sound here has two meanings-well based and sounding good. I assume you mean the former. If so, what is that theory?

About five years ago, I made or bought some 25 different types of risers. I folded cardboard into triangular shape with notches for the cables. I had chopsticks with twistems around their centers. I had glass blocks and glass isolators found behind at power substation as well as ceramic ones also found there. I had ceramic tiles with two angled together and held into position on a wooden base. I made sting supporter and monofilm supporters with wood supports. I made risers out of maple, walnut, pine, oak, and even some with ebony tops. I tried china cups, earthenware bowls, stemmed glasses. I got tall risers made of the material that chips are or were shipped in. I bought ceramic entirely dark brown Suspenders from Rightway Audio shaped like electrical isolators and from a surplus isolator site in Iowa defective 18K volt 15" tall isolators with lead bases. I don't think I tried jewel boxes, but I did have plastic cups and paper cups. I use one gallon milk bottles with their top cut off. I am probably forgetting some of my attempts. All of these were, of course, without any "sound theory," just shots in the dark.

Everyone of these help over having the cables on the ground, but one stood out, the Rightway Audio Suspenders. I think they are out of business now and I have never tried the present company making such ceramic isolators product.

I must say that I bought Combac speaker wire wooden supports at a later date, which were nice under my speaker wires,but they had to be on top my Suspenders. I do not see these feet on the Combac page now.

I will just turn further experimentation over to younger audiophiles and enjoy my Suspenders.