Cabling Your System

ystem setup is one of the great variables in audio performance, but while all systems and situations are unique, when it comes to connecting everything, there are certain fundamental steps that apply in virtually every case. Yes, there are (very) occasional exceptions, but they are rare enough that the essential steps outlined here should be considered a default solution, a departure point for possible further refinement, if you will.

The cable strategy that we are defining here is neither brand nor system specific; it will work for all equipment and any set of cables that meets the basic criteria. However, if your setup doesn’t obey these cardinal rules, then the chances are that you are not really hearing what it’s capable of. Should you then simply follow these rules by rote? No -- but you should definitely investigate to see if applying them improves the musical performance of your system.

There are nine essential rules to bear in mind. Click on the links below and you’ll get more information on each in turn.

  1. Treat cables as a component in themselves; make sure that you use the same cables throughout the entire system.

  2. Provide a dedicated, clean ground for the AC supply.

  3. Front-end first: most of us assume that speaker cables are the first priority and power cords the last. In fact, it’s easy to demonstrate that the reverse is true.

  4. Source components such as digital transports and record players require dedicated cable designs to deliver optimum performance.

  5. When it comes to cables, tidiness is next to Godliness. Taking time over your cable dressing can make a surprising difference to system performance.

  6. How your cables are supported affects their sound; it may not be practical or pretty, but it is worth knowing about.

  7. Connectors -- or, why buying by the label can often lead to disappointment.

  8. The exception that proves the rule: dedicated cable solutions.

  9. Cable burn-in and settling.

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