Speaker cable length.

I have a small weekend cabin in the country. I have a modest system there consisting of a set of Polk Audio Monitor 7 tower speakers, an NAD C316 BEE integrated, Schiit Modi 2 DAC and a Denon radio receiver. Sounds much better than you might expect.

Anyway, we recently got a fireplace installed. This means that there will be a speaker on each side of the fireplace with the components on the right side of the fireplace. That means the right speaker is within 2-3 feet of the amp/components. The cable for the left speaker will run under the house from the amp and then back into the house on the left of the fireplace because I don't want it on the floor in front of the hearth. This will require about 16’ of speaker cable.

Will the difference (16’ of cable to the left speaker vs maybe 4’ to the right one) make a difference on a modest system like this? If so, what to do about it? I certainly don’t want 16’ of cable piled on the floor on the right.

Thanks for any input.

P.S.: I have good quality bulk speaker cable from Transparent if that makes any difference.


Give it a shot, to see if you notice a change in sound, before you run the wire under the floor. 

Many will tell you to keep them the same length, supposedly to keep the channels synchronized in time. Electricity in copper travels at .5c. You won’t hear it.

I think coiling up 12 feet of cable under your amp into a large inductor is more likely to be a problem.


Thanks guys. Makes sense. I already ran the cable since the contractor had to run electrical underneath for the same reason.  The holes were there so it was simple. Haven't cut anything to length yet.

@carlsbad2 I think many audiophiles would say they could hear the difference between 16' and 4' at 0.5c no problem. Especially if the cable cost less and $100 a foot. ;-)

I would keep the speaker cable lengths as close to equal as possible. As it is under the floor, you could add some hooks to keep it off the floor- but, don't coil it as you might introduce some electromagnetic anomalies.

 Much depends upon your cable and it's design. If it is something like zip cord, then you will probably have issues. If it something using more advanced design, say shielding and dielectric boxes, the results might be more subtle.


@gdnrbob Can you tell me why I should keep them at equal lengths? What will I notice if they aren't? What should I look for?

If the electricity moves at 1/2 the speed of light (up to 90% according to some sources), the difference in transmission time would be somewhere around 750 millionths of a second (according to my possibly very flawed math). Is that perceptible? Does it cause other issues?

The speaker cable on the right side does not need to go under the floor so if it needs to be the same length, 16' of it it is going to have to go somewhere in the room.

As mentioned, speaker cable is made by Transparent but it is bulk cable. No bricks etc. It looks to be 10 AWG but might be 12.

The audiophile rule of thumb is that always keep both lengths the same. It is one of those things that has never been worth my while to test. It is easier to be safe. There may be many technical reasons not to do it. One is that electrical wire (non-single crystal) is made of thousands of small grains with boundaries and the signal is very slightly delayed by these causing smear. A while ago I actually read a scientific article on this… and it happens differentially across the frequency ranges. So the grains act like little capacitors. Anyway, you can see how across vastly different lengths you end up with different effects between the speakers.

Yes, coiling up wire puts wires next to each other. I am sure Transparent is shielded. I have had a coil or two here and their over my lifetime.

I hope this is helpful. 

I’m gonna go with the signal is moving at such a ludicrously fast speed that 12ft. differential will mean the same as zero. Just use the lengths you need to use, no more, no less and save your worries for other things like how the smoke particles getting into your gear is going to affect it.

I wouldn't worry too much in this system. The crossover components' tolerances would be far greater than any anomalies imparted by the additional cable length.

I am of the school of the shorter the ru the better, hey it is all subjective do what works and sounds good to you. 

@n80 different lengths of the same cable should have different resistance; in this case it should be a vanishingly small figure. Whether it’s an issue for your amp, let alone an audible discrepancy, you’ll just have to find out.

Pull 16 ft under the cabin and loop it back up to the right speaker, if needed.

@OP. You can do a simple experiment but it will require the two different lengths of cable. Use one speaker, and a mono source and then listen to the two respective lengths of cable and ask if you can hear a difference. Ideally, you would do this blind with someone else swapping over the cables.

It's not a perfect test because, theoretically, any difference could be magnified in the final stereo installation - but for the setup you are proposing i.e. not your main system, it's probably representative enough.

BTW since electricity in a copper conductor propagates at approximately two thirds of the speed of light there is not going to be an audible propagation delay factor in what you hear coming from the speakers.

However! As you have access to sufficient cable, why not just put the excess cable on the "short" run under the floor.

@n80  when people say they can hear things that are impossible to hear, my BS meter pegs.  


"Dude if they are different lengths your speakers will be OUT OF PHASE"

What a ridiculous statement.

One of those situations that can actually be measured if you really wanted to and had the equipment to do so. I’ve tried running equal length cable having both under the Obstacle with one looping back to the speaker when the distance was adequate to take up the extra cable. Satisfied my what if thinking, but that was all ! Did  A/B testing with several audio people using on one side a 13’ shorter piece.., “0” audible difference. The equipment is a large multiple speaker system and very revealing, the DIY wire being of good quality with complementary fittings. Would seem to be an either way personal try it situation, my guess won’t make any difference.



Does not matter with that system at those speaker lengths. I’m not putting down that system. In fact,  I feel the NAD 316bee is one of the best value for money pieces out there. All you need is a BlueSound Node 2i and an inexpensive turntable with your choice of speakers and you are done. This store that I bought gear from is even having an NAD show. I just want to see the new NAD M63 preamp and how it sounds with h the M23 amp. They are also showing some speakers but I am covered there. www.holmaudio.com. I bought my Revel Studio 2 speakers from hear. They are a little power hungry. I believe the Holm Audio show is from11:00 am to 9:00 pm this Thursday. Anywho, that is a perfect system for your cabin. Very cool!

Townshend Fractal speaker cables can be of dissimilar lengths due to the way they treat the copper wires. 

@n80 ,

Differing lengths will have slight impedance differences -probably not that much but it can affect the sound balance/quality. It also might affect the amplifier.

I forgot the right side would have all the extra cabling, not the one under the floor. You could just drill another hole or two and put the extra cable under the floor in order to hide it, or just casually drape it somewhere unnoticed.

I would tend to agree with the other posters that you probably won't hear a great difference, but why take chances? If I did try two unequal lengths, I would have a backup plan in case it didn't work out- Like budgeting for another set of cables. Something like AQ GO-4's which are relatively inexpensive (and will probably be an upgrade).

A lot of this is system dependent, so what might work for one guy might not work on another guy's system.


I have never heard a difference using different length speaker wire/cable. I would not think that a difference would be heard in your situation. You did say "The holes were there so it was simple." regarding running your speaker cables. Hopefully you are not running your speaker cables through the same holes as your electrical power (romex) lines. Your speaker cables should be 6" or more away from power lines when running parallel to them and ideally cross them at a 90° angle.

It is unlikely this will cause you any sorts of problems, but you can overcome any issues with thicker wire.  Run 12 gauge or thicker and you should be fine.

There’s a lot going on inside those cables besides just getting electrical energy from Point A to Point B at a fraction of the speed of light. The insulation (dielectric) is not electrically inert, which is to say that it acts as a capacitor absorbing, then releasing energy slightly out of phase with the main signal. So, 5x the length will increase this by a factor of 5, and the cables will sound different.

Whether this effect, and other factors, will be audible to this listener in this space with this system is difficult to predict. As some have suggested, and blind A-B comparison may put your mind at rest.


many audiophiles would say they could hear the difference

What they say and what they can blindly ID are usually polar opposites.

I had contemplated this issue several years ago when I had to do the exact same thing for my speaker wire run in my living room.  Left speaker is a 20’ run and the right speaker is 55’. Both cables are Canare 4s11.   I considered running a loop for the left speaker but in the end I simply ran the length that was needed as my determination was that the voltage travels at the speed of light so how big of a difference could there really be?  Well, I’ve been dealing with a sound imbalance ever since.  I’ve tried swapping out the speakers and swapping out the amps just to eliminate that as a possibility for the difference.  I’ve tried multiple toe in adjustments and speakers configurations.  The best solution I came up with was to put a potted plant in front of the left speaker to help balance it out and it does work ok.  My preamp does not have a balance control so this was the best I could do.  TBH, it wasn’t until this morning and reading this thread that the one thing that I didn’t think of as a possibility was the difference in cable lengths for the speakers.  As of now I am of the belief that the cable length can make a difference.  My cables are run down through the floor and through a soffit in the basement ceiling that contains other runs of cabling and power wires so there are other variables as well.  I do cross power at 90 degrees and am conscientious of my cabling runs.  This system is mostly used for background listening and fills the room just fine but it is a struggle to get good sound.  If this helps the OP in some way, please learn from my mistake as there’s no easy way to fix it now.  

I have an 8' run and a 17' running under the floor similar to your config.

Imagining is spot on centered, volume  seems the same level in both.

Cables are Morrow SP4 or SP5 can't remember. Amp is Hegel H20, speakers Magico A3.

I'd say you're overthinking this. Just cut the one cable to the length you need it and listen. It's a weekend cabin enjoy the music. And then go outside and chop wood.

@wlutke …”Pull 16 ft under the cabin and loop it back up to the right speaker, if needed.”


Great idea!


Great sound quality comes from dozens of choices. They are additive. While you may not outright hear a difference between the equal lengths of speaker cable, it still may matter with the sound quality you ultimately get. Since you already have the cable it is worth being safe on the subject.

@hsounds No internet or wireless down at the cabin! I can stream Qobuz over my cellphone. Sometimes.

I'm happy with the system the way it is. I mostly play music off of an old laptop via the Schiit DAC.

The whole system cost less than $500 and I wish some audiophiles could hear it. Even though I have a nice high end system and a semi high end system at home I have yet to be dissatisfied with the sound of this modest system at the cabin.

@quadgar The cable is running through the holes along with nomex wiring. I can't believe I didn't think of that. Now, they are not touching. At least 1/2 inch apart and only that close for a few inches. I might have to drill separate holes. Crap. I did not want to do that. I wonder if there is a simple way to shield the cable for that short distance....even for placebo effect?

@erik_squires The cable is at least 12. Maybe 10 AWG. I'll check this weekend.

@tunehead I think you're probably right but there is just enough audiophile in me to worry about little crap like this even when I don't believe I'll hear anything. But, I got all the wood chopped and its already getting warm down here.

Several folks have mentioned A-B testing. That will be simple to do. Will probably do it just to make myself feel better.......or a lot worse.

Sometimes I HATE being an audiophile.


No it will not make any difference.  My main system has 1 15 foot speaker cable and 1 23 foot speaker cable. In the 25 years in this house I have never heard a difference or imbalance in either channel.  The cords are 11 gauge.   I have used 3 different sets of speaker cables in this configuration.  Do not coil the extra wire, that is a recipe for disaster. 

The imbalance in series resistance and other loss factors will not even approach audibility in this instance, with the excellent heavy gauge TA speaker wire you are using. Carlsbad2 has it right!  Noel Lee came up with that BS to further line his pockets.  Much greater length disparity and thinner wire, at some point becomes a thing to consider.


I will play around with it. I'll try to get the longer cable as short as possible and the shorter cable at 5-6 feet. That way I might get the disparity down to 6' vs 12'.

I do want to get the speaker cable off the nomex wiring. Will the nomex  interfere just being close or would they have to be touching to cause an issue.

Hi @n80  I have a family room system set up exactly as yours, with one speaker on each side of the fireplace and the components on the middle of the side wall.  The long run is 10 feet longer than the short run.

I dwelled on this same question, and after speaking with several cable manufacturers got their same reply, that the different length would not be audible.

I chose to make my ables from Furutech FS Alpha 36 wire and Furutech spades from VH Audio.  I left my homemade 10 g copper wires to the low end and ran the Alpha 36 to the high inputs.  Sounds great and no extra cable under the floor, and saved cost over extra wire as well.

"I do want to get the speaker cable off the nomex wiring. Will the nomex  interfere just being close or would they have to be touching to cause an issue."

- It is a good idea to keep the signal cables away from the power cables (including Romex uninsulated wire) at least an inch or two. If you have to cross, try to do it a 90 degree angle, do not parallel them.

@n80 This falls under the rule of don't sweat the small stuff.  I've had vastly different lengths of speaker cabling and could never tell the difference.  In fact one time I coiled one up about 50 feet of 10ga and intentionally put the tweeter cabling on top of it.  Turned off the tweeter amp and the mids amp and blasted just the base amp (>500w per ch)  and zilch, zero, nada coming out of the tweeters.  

Cut it or don't cut it, only your brain will know.



For many years, in my second audio system,  I am using cables of different length, one is about 3 times longer than another. I used different speakers and amplifiers. I noticed no problem and no differences at all. 

I love chiming in on posts like this!   I’m always entertained by the ludicrous responses regarding speaker cables and all the BS people have bought into and the BS put out by some guy with absolutely no clue wtf he’s talking about.  It’s best to keep cables about the same length but not at all an issue if cables are larger than 18 gauge.   You want to try to keep impedance about the same as a good practice but again, from an engineering perspective not that critical.  

Have you considered that running outside and presumably therefor being subjected to outside temperatures, etc. may result in the cable itself being damaged by the elements and for that reason not a good choice? Understandably you don't want the cable running on the floor in front of the fireplace. However, is it possible to run it underneath a carpet placed in front of the fireplace or, alternatively, can you run the cable unobtrusively up one side and down the other side of the chimney to the speaker. I had to do that in my house and there are ways to make the wire very unnoticeable while you accomplish your objective. Running it behind the molding which likely will line the sides of your chimney can help with this cable hiding effort.

@pmiller115 The cable runs under the house in the crawl space right along the sill plate. So it won't be exposed to wet or sunlight or even extreme temps.

I checked and the cable is 12 awg with good quality insulation around the outside of the 2 wires which also have good thick insulation on them. Where the cable goes down through the floor there is nomex. The speaker cable is only close to the nomex for a few inches and I put a plastic divider between it and the speaker cable.

I cut the short cable at about 4' and the long cable is probably 11'.

I cannot tell any difference in sound quality and did not feel the need to A-B test so I can't say for sure if there is any difference at all. I can say that there is no difference in the level of listening enjoyment............which would probably be a better measure of audio quality than many of the other nuances and descriptors we audiophiles try to convince ourselves are actually objective.

This is a total non-issue. The only effect if taken to the extreme would be to slightly reduce the damping factor. Could you hear it? Well if you measure the DCR of the woofer voice coils you will find a small difference and nobody bothers with that.