How does bi-wiring work?


To start, I do bi-wire my main speakers. However, I am somewhat confused about how bi-wiring works given that the speakers have internal crossovers and the signals received by them have the same full frequency range going to both sets of terminals.

I confess that I don't see any difference from single wiring in terms of the speaker's performance. What am I missing?

128x128jmeyers

Bi-Wiring, Part 1: 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑺𝒆𝒄𝒓𝒆𝒕 𝑻𝒓𝒖𝒕𝒉 𝑹𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒂𝒍𝒆𝒅

 

Thank you for the video; I watched all 27 minutes. It confirmed -- in spades -- what I had surmised (but only after I paid $600 more for their being "bi-wired").

Talk about being suckered! Jeez!!

wrong….. but

 to extract the full impact of a true biwire your speakers need be properly configured with a separate set of mid / high binding posts AND you must use what is called an external biwire speaker cable AND if at all possible physically separate he bass cable from the mid / high cable ( this is why an internally biwire cable is 90 ineffective. The physics are well understood…. pass current thru a wire and create a expanding and collapsing magnetic field . This field in turn modulates the mid / high signal. 4” matters. lots of good engineers with ears can hear it. I have a nice set of shotgun external biwire cables that i loan out for this express purpose…they have about 50 K fedex miles on them…. your milage…. may vary….

@jmeyers  , your question interests me as well.  I have an ancient (30 year old) pair of B&W 805 (the Matrix seies) that are set up for bi-wiring, so back in the days when I was making a lot of money, I did bi-wire them.  I have a real tough time with A/Bs, plus I am lazy and would rather listen than test and experiment, so I have never tried comparing how I feel about bi-wire versus single wire with supplied jumpers.

With all that typed, if you were to plug in "bi-wiring" or "biwiring" as a serch engine up in the "search discussions" box at the top of the page, a bunch of hits will come up.  I know, because I did that about 40 minutes ago.  Some answers were that bi-wiring makes no difference and some people gave technical explanations of why bi-wiring is a good thing on speakers that are set up to be bi-wired.  Unfortunately (for me), I do not have a great mind for undertsanding that type of technical theory, so it mostly left me blank.

But maybe try your own A/B comparison and/or do the search of the site I described, and see if any of the explanations make more sense to you than they did for me.

(1) I’ve not experienced any bi-wiring performance improvements in my systems, and I’m in the “best-you-can-get single wire + jumpers” camp.

NOTE: bi-amping is a different story.

 

(2) However, others express different positive results in their systems. So here is the “diagonal bi-wiring” option to test out for yourself.

“ … Diagonal bi-wiring connects the red speaker cable to the bass/mid post and the black cable to the treble post. Then jumpers connect bass to treble in the usual fashion. I tested this arrangement out of curiosity and the results were pleasantly surprising…”

https://www.nordost.com/downloads/multiLanguage/NorseJumperinstructions_new.pdf


Each to his own …. Carry on.

It was cheap and easy for me to try. and thought it might offer some benefit, so I did it. Never compared single wire since. At worst, I doubled the wire gauge and added minor wire cost....at best, it sounds wonderful so I leave it as-is and enjoy the hell out of it. 😎

It doesn’t work any different than non bi-wired. From an electrical engineering standpoint, the amplifier terminal and the two speaker terminals are the exact same node. The only advantage IMO of bi-wiring is that the sonic signature of a speaker can be customized by inserting resistors between the the high and low terminals. This adds additional nodes between the amp and the crossovers and changes the filter parameters (that is, it's designed that way -- you shouldn't do that yourself).

Actually the, filter if well designed like for example a Vandersteen ( passing Electrical Engineering since 1977 ) will back the crossover point ALL the  way to the amplifier. Like i said, the basic physics are well understood…. 

 

I have identical single and shotgun bi-wire versions of the same cable and marginally prefer the shotgun bi-wire so that’s what I use.  I attribute the difference to basically doubling the gauge of the cable that significantly reduces resistance.  In the end I don’t care why, I just know it sounds better.  But, and this is significant, the difference is subtle enough that I’d upgrade all upstream electronics first before I’d consider going to a shotgun bi-wire cable because I think you get potentially bigger improvements there.  But, if you feel like you’ve got all that sorted I think bi-wiring is at least worth trying.  A more significant improvement occurred when I used banana jumpers in addition to my shotgun bi-wire spade cables.  Using both together significantly tightened up the bass and improved imaging and I won’t listen without the jumpers.  Don’t know why it works, but it definitely does and a cheap tweak so well worth trying IME.

@soix  , this is probably a stupid question, but what is "shotgun" biwiring?

And to clarify--does it matter that the jumpers you used in conjunction with the biwire are bananas?  The reason I ask about that is because I still have the (gold plated) jumpers that came with my B&Ws, but they are not bananas, they are contoured strips designed to just fit underneath the speaker terminal nuts, and since they accomplish the same thing, would the bananas actually have a different effect?  (I can see where the bananas would be easier to experiment with and use.)

. . . @soix , I guess this is the answer to my (above) question?

 

If your speakers are bi-wirable and you're still using the stock jumpers between your binding posts, you are not hearing all that your speakers are capable of. Most stock jumpers are made from inferior metals and then gold or nickel plated for corrosion resistance. Sound quality never enters the picture, so stock jumpers offer a harsh, smeared and tonally deficient presentation. This is where the Norse Series Bi-Wire Jumpers come in; simply replace your stock jumpers with these high quality cable-based jumpers for a shocking sonic improvement.

this is probably a stupid question, but what is "shotgun" biwiring?

@immatthewj No, that’s an excellent question. Shotgun bi-wiring refers to having two physically separated cables running for both the high and low signal legs. There are also internally bi-wired cables where both legs run together next to each other in the same sheathing rather than running separate and are just separated at the end where the cables connect to the speakers.

And to clarify--does it matter that the jumpers you used in conjunction with the biwire are bananas? The reason I ask about that is because I still have the (gold plated) jumpers that came with my B&Ws, but they are not bananas, they are contoured strips designed to just fit underneath the speaker terminal nuts, and since they accomplish the same thing, would the bananas actually have a different effect?

While the straps do the same thing, they’re basically crap and even if you don’t bi-wire you’d be well served to replace them with decent shoe jumper cables with banana connectors (bananas so you don’t have to double up on spade connections with spade jumpers). So, replacing the crap straps with real wire cables should yield sonic improvements even if you’re using single wire.  What surprised me was using banana wire jumpers with shotgun bi-wire cables still produced a significant improvement. Hope that clears it up a bit.

 

Thanks, @soix  , yes, that absolutely clears things up.

I guess I am shotgun biwiring.  I do have two separate runs to each speaker (to make it easier on the amplifier end I had one run made with bananas to use on the amp end, but spades for the speaker end).

HOWEVER:  in multiple places I zip-tied the two runs together (they are long runs and doing that makes things more sanitary); so would you think that doing that with the zip-ties defeated the benefits of the shotgun method?

I was shocked (I know I should not have been) by the prices of some of the jumpers when I just a bit ago did a search on MD.  For example:  $1200 for a set of Shunyatas!!  I was leaning more in the direction of the Kimber 4TCs for $124, except they are out of stock right now, so I punt in a "notify me when . . ." request.

Out of curiosity and if it's not too personal, how extreme did you go with your jumpers?

. . . I just took a look on PCX and Furutech as a set of four for $237. . . .

Out of curiosity and if it’s not too personal, how extreme did you go with your jumpers?

@immatthewj Another great question. So, the person who recommended I try this was Chris Sommovigo (RIP) from Illuminati, Stereovox, Black Cat, etc. when I was reviewing some of his interconnects and speaker cables. In an offhand comment he mentioned I should try his jumpers with my Acoustic Zen Shotgun Bi-wire cables. I said, uh, what??? He was adamant so he sent some thin banana jumpers (i.e. nothing like my garden hose cables) and I was beyond skeptical, but as soon as I plugged them in the improvement was immediate and undeniable and they haven’t left my system since. I say this because I’m not sure it matters so much which cables you use for jumpers, and at least in my case they didn’t have to match my speaker cables to make a significant improvement — and the price of the jumpers Chris sent were WAY less expensive than if I bought AZ jumpers. I think you can get very good banana jumpers that are reasonably priced from Audioquest from Audio Advisor, Crutchfield, etc. and they may be more than fine and can probably be returned if not. That’s prolly what I’d do. Highly recommended to at least try. Maybe just try these as they’d work with your mix of banana and spade connectors and give you an idea at very low cost…

https://www.crutchfield.com/p_703PSCBIWR/AudioQuest-PSC-BiWire-Jumpers.html

As for the question of the zip ties with your cables, unfortunately I got nuthin’. I’d think it could work depending on how well your cables are shielded, but obviously you could try it both ways. Personally, I’d have bigger fish to fry rather than worry so much about that, especially if your cables are well shielded. But that’s just a non-educated guess.

Let me make it simple. Biwiring is nonsense. It is exactly as effective as the gauge of the combined cables. Nothing more. Biwiring sends the exact same signal down both sets of cables. Any field effects are equal in both cables. Single wired speakers split there feed to the crossovers at the rear speaker connector. Biwiring does it at the amplifier. All filtering of the input is done at the crossover. If you want to make a genuine difference, pull the passive crossovers out, use line level electronic crossovers and biamp.

The audioquest web page has an excellent tutorial on bi wiring. I use two separate pairs of type 4 to good effect.

Not very well. 

If biwiring helps, then your original speaker cables were inadequate. 

"Bi-wiring" is not a marketing ploy.  But may not be the best way to get the most bang for the buck for some listeners.  All things being equal, if you break out the total gauge of one cable into 2 cables, you'll be adding manufacturing costs in producing 2 cables, complete with another outer jacket, terminations, and additional labor. 

Part of the cost/performance bi-wire "argument" is that the higher frequencies do not require as much gauge as the lower end.  Therefore, put less of the "good stuff" (i.e. better material) on the top end thus extracting the best sonics from those materials, and bulk up (add meat) to the bottom end with less expensive materials to get more gauge.  This optimizes the cable budget using the most cost effective materials where they'll yield the best sonic benefit(s).

Some are not fans of additional jumpers and connections with a single cable/biwire connections, and prefer the straight line from the amplifier to the speaker input terminals that bi-wiring provides.

We can argue this until we figure out how to plug a digital bitstream directly into our brains.  I think it's a cost/performance conversation with no "winners" or "losers" in sonic performance if it's done "right."

 

Simple. It doesn't. I suppose in the instance where someone is using 24 gauge wire it might help, but using one 18 gauge wire would do exactly the same thing. This is a great example of lay intuition. The industry is perfectly willing to support it because they get to sell you another stupidly expensive cable. 

Now, bi amping is another issue. This is where you delete the passive, analog crossover entirely and use an electronic analog or digital crossover and separate amps to drive each driver. This can have huge advantages if done correctly. It requires careful amp selection and crossover programming. 

Some people believe the base gives feedback in to the highs this why some designers bi wire the proper way. One set for base one for highs

I have separate amps some for base some for mid some for high on electronic crossover.tri amp in mono disadvantage is 6 amps for 2 speakers no cross taLk

Anyone with even a modicum of electronic savvy knows that bi-wiring is nothing but hooey.  Others who argue differently are just displaying their ignorance.

 

Biwiring makes a noticeable difference in my three sets of ATC speakers. I have done the experiment numerous times. I also found that I preferred the sound with the stamped stock jumpers rather than expensive jumpers that I have tried. Go figure!

I add that I have a modicum of electronic savvy!

i guess i should have made the AND font size 60…. and separate the bass wire 4” from the mid / high….…..

every now and then reading comprehension kicks in and somebody borrows those frequent flyer shotgun biwire Audioquest hyper litz Type 6 cables…. 

 

Biwiring is nonsense. It does nothing but might cause a phase/time issue.....BiAMPing is a huge improvement to many speakers with a good crossover BEFORE the amplifiers. That is truly what the four terminals should be referenced for.

Part of the cost/performance bi-wire "argument" is that the higher frequencies do not require as much gauge as the lower end.  Therefore, put less of the "good stuff" (i.e. better material) on the top end thus extracting the best sonics from those materials, and bulk up (add meat) to the bottom end with less expensive materials to get more gauge.  This optimizes the cable budget using the most cost effective materials where they'll yield the best sonic benefit(s).

How in God's name can a single amplifier put the highs on one wire and the lows on another? And if it could, would not different gauge wire cause all kinds of phase/timing issues......(I know at the frequencies of HiFi audio this really doesn't matter...)

@rbertalotto …”Biwiring is nonsense.”

Just out of curiosity. What bi-wiring configurations have you tried and what were the system components?

I used to have a Cardas bi-wired Golden Cross cables with my ESS AMT 1D speakers with a Threshold 500s amp and Threshold T2 preamp. The Cardas sounded much better because of the warm nature of the cables. I was not making much money and there was no way I could get a non biwired set to test.

I’ve used doubled up Audioquest Type 8, and then Audioquest Gibraltar where there is “optimization” for high and low frequencies. 
 

Many people I know who understand far more than I do about electronics and noise (including a physicist who was PM of the first LIGO construction) say that biwiring should not make a difference. But, like so many things in audio, it does, at least to my ears. I have done the experiment enough times that I have convinced myself, and Bill Low certainly agrees.
 

My formal electronics training was taking and auditing a year of electrical engineering for mechanical engineers at UC Berkeley (I was a grad student in Geology helping to build some lab measurement systems), taking a bunch of BS Physics major courses and labs as an undergrad, and have experience helping design and build laboratory equipment used on the JOIDES Resolution scientific drill ship and in other geology and chemistry labs. I’ve also built and modified audio equipment earlier in my life. Oh yeah, Thevanin equivalent, now I remember!

Biwire looks cool. 😎 I don’t know if it helps. But my 805’s are set up for it, so why not. I’m a believer that quality construction and heavy gauge is what is needed in speaker cables. I’m not one who believes in noticeable sonic differences found in super expensive cables, but neither do I believe I’m being served well by coat hangers  :) 

So I spent $175 for a 3’ pair of WBC ultimate 7 AWG. Very well made, lots of good copper, very sturdy bananas. I’m very happy with them.

@soix  , thanks for the input--very much appreciated, and I'll try those affordable jumpers from Crutchfield (the link you provided).

I never understood bi-wiring myself, but since my B&W 805s were set up for it and I believe B&W was recommending it and I could afford it . . . I was like, "why not."  I actually felt I heard a difference, but then again, I am realistic and I have always known I do not have "a golden ear" and so I also knew that I may have been hearing confirmation bias.

However, after all of this discussion and reading (from a few sources at this point) that the stock strips that the manufacturer uses to connect the terminals (if not biwired) are junk . . . one thing that biwiring DEFINITELY did was to eliminate those strips.

I live in the camp that believes that speaker wire makes a difference, so if that is true, it only stands to reason that the connection between the biwireable terminals would make a difference (if not biwiring).

@immatthewj Great.  When was the last time you encountered a legit potential tweak for 30 bucks?  I (and maybe others here) would be interested in your impressions.  Again, my experience was tighter bass and more defined imaging within the soundstage so those might be two things to pay attention to among others.

@soix  , just a quick update:  looking at those Audioquest jumpers on Crutchfield they did not appear to me to be terminated with bananas, or actually terminated with anything at all.  So I went to AA's site to look at them, and they had some Q&A about them, and what I got from the Q&A was that they are to be wrapped around the terminal posts of the speakers.  Which is not what I want to do--I definitely want the jumpers to terminate with bananas.  So I started looking on AA to see what else they had in the way of jumpers, and they actually showed quite a few ranging from cheap all the way up to (imo) way  expensive.  They do sell the Kimber 4TCs at a more reasonable price than at MD and  I would have bought the Kimbers from AA but they are out of stock.  Along with about every other set of jumpers I looked at there at AA, including the Audioquest jumpers.

At that point I took a look at the jumpers @yogiboy previously mentioned, and that led me to look at what else was availabe at 'Zon, and I decided on "Worlds Best Cable" (yes . . . I know, I know . . . but I honestly did not pick them because of the brand name) 6" pairs of 8AWG for $50.  I'll update after I receive them and get a little time listening with them installed in addition to the shotgun biwiring with Kimber that I am currently using.

 

@megabyte , it just hit me that "WBC" = "Worlds Best Cables." A couple of hours or so ago  I just ordered a set of 6" 8AWG WBC jumpers to experiment with, in addition to the shotgun biwiring I am already doing.

your speakers need be properly configured with a separate set of mid / high binding posts AND you must use what is called an external biwire speaker cable AND if at all possible physically separate he bass cable from the mid / high cable

@tomic601 , oops! I missed the "AND" part. (My eyes are bad and getting worse every day.) I am shotgun biwired with two separate runs of cable, but they are actually NOT separated AT ALL. (They are running completely right next to each other.)  As a matter of fact, as I was talking to @soix about, since they are long runs of cable and I was trying to keep things sanitary, I have them zip-tied together in places. I don’t if this mitigates the zip-ties at all, but I also have the cables individually wrapped in automotive spiral wrap. But removing the zip-ties and separating the cables 4" wfouldn’t be all that difficult. But I would also say that at the binding posts where they terminate, I don’t think that those posts are even 4" apart.

We need to recognize that the concept of bi-wiring came from speaker manufacturers, not cable manufacturers.  Some of the most brilliant, and respected minds used real science to reach their conclusions.  Based on my limited understanding, when a woofer is moving it creates back EMF, thus interfering with the upper frequencies.  I would suspect this phenomenon can be measured, and validated.  The concept of bi-wiring caught fire with the majority of "legit" speaker companies adopting it, and touting its sonic benefits.  This may be the case of "mass duplification" (lots of people being duped) or some of the best of the best talent in the industry saw and heard something real here.

It is not the function of cable companies to debunk manufacturer's marketing materials and methods.  If so, they'd rip them a new one for the crappy cables they use internally and their sonically degrading "high manufacturing/service efficiency" connection/termination methods.  So, offering up a product that embraces a (respected) manufacturer's credibility position is neither blind, nor unethical.  Just good business, based on a solid foundation.

Even if biwiring has audible benefits, it creates a whole load of unneeded complexity. It also means that the speaker cable budget has to be split across two sets of cables rather than using one better cable for the same budget and more than likely negating any audible benefits from bi-wiring with inferior cable.

@puptent no the filter in the, speaker is functional 

The debate about the better single cable + jumpers vs the lesser twin cable bi-wire set…plays out often at GREAT non dogmatic music loving Audioquest dealers nationwide…..I’ve spent quality time at 2 with VERY similar systems ( not identical ) and obviously different rooms and have heard both arguments win…. One dealer carries AQ, Kimber and Nordost, the other AQ and Cardas. One great thing about a superb dealer / customer relationship is the loan of both sets…

Another reason the sonic plus of biwire is frequently missed is the 8’ or worse… soggy sonic sponge wire i see ….. get monoblocks…..  my cables are 30”….

Also for the gauge freaks… check the size of wire from your output devices to the binding posts on your amp…. before y’all go nuts…

Finally get a fantastic set of binding posts w low mass spades or better rings where you can get a gas tight connection… Cardas makes a massive example…totally bad A and sonically EVIDENCED to even the deaf….

I have tried bi-wire several times over the years on several different speakers and sometimes there was a difference and sometimes there wasn’t. I have always wondered about that cheap piece of steel most speaker companies seem to use.  So a couple of months ago, I bought a pair of good quality jumpers and the difference on my KEF’s was immediate. Could this be the difference I heard when I tried bi-wire, the bypassing of that cheap piece of steal?

live and learn!