Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Audiophilia: Biwiring Bliss

My new audiophile-grade speaker setup is 95% complete! The rather large surrounds arrived late yesterday (B&W 602 s3) as did my crimping tool to properly terminate my speaker cable.

I've learned most of the ins and outs of wiring this stuff up - speaker terminations, crimping, soldering, solid core vs stranded core wire, AWG sizes, etc, etc. But by far the biggest performance enhancement has been biwiring the speakers.

B&W speakers are designed to be biwired - the speakers come equipped with two pairs of binding posts. The posts are bridged together when connected with a conventional single pair of wire leads. When biwired - in theory - they allow a cleaner signal path because the woofers' current pull from the amp is separated off from the tweeter's. There's also some electromechanical feedback gobbledygook from the woofer that can be isolated away from the tweeter's signal path. All that really matters is that it should allow for cleaner high and low end sound.

And it does.

When I first plugged in the 703s with a single pair of wires the sound was clearly better than my roommate's Paradigm Active/20s. But it wasn't the $3k sound that I drooled over in the auditioning room. It was better, but not superb. More accurate but not engaging or thrilling.

Once my spade lugs and crimping tool finally arrived (more on this later) I was able to biwire and compare the 703s and the 602 s3. Both improved markedly with biwiring.

Bass was deep as ever but the midrange and high end snapped into sharp focus. The accuracy and attack was remarkable and gripping. Perhaps the bass was as good as it ever was but it too seemed more articulate and more musical. This may be due to simple contrast - with the mid and high end standing so strongly on their own, the already strong bass may have just seemed more impressive without actually improving. Who cares - whatever the case the difference was impressive.

The huge 602 s3 ("bookshelf" speaker is a misnomer) fared quite well. It couldn't go quite as deep as the 703s (but still respectable) nor express the same level of detail but I can understand why people recommend it as a great main left/right speaker for more modest budgets. My first thought was that I drastically overspent on my surrounds, that I should have gone smaller and cheaper. But as the 703s opened up with biwiring, I realized only the best satellite could even attempt to keep up with my brilliant mains.

The HTM7 center channel was biwired and the surrounds were put in position and I brought out the Dark Side of the Moon multichannel SACD. Holy crap. Now I know I got my money's worth and then some. The biwired speakers brought out another level of realism in the Eagles' Hell Freezes Over DVD in DTS.

In the two-channel world James Taylor's Greatest Hits album continues to impress. Make that shock and impress. His "Sweet Baby Jane" is a spectacular recording as is "You've Got A Friend". It's hard to imagine how an SACD version might improve upon the CD.

If your speakers are designed to be biwired, do it. Holy crap.


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