We love the reaction we receive when visitors to our shop play music on the systems in our main listening room (AKA the blue room). We have state-of-the-art amplification, the best turntables and photo stages, high-resolution streaming, and plenty of 200-pound speakers. In addition, the room has a good mix of acoustic paneling and carpeting.
But one of the most significant improvements we’ve made to improve the sound reproduction of the listening room was one of the least costly, and you probably can do it also. We’ve bi-wired all of the speakers.
What is bi-wiring?
To understand how bi-wiring (and bi-amping) work, let’s consider how speaker systems work without modifications.
Audio systems come in all shapes and sizes, with complexity ranging from simple to baroque. But from a bird’s eye perspective, an audio system contains two main parts: an amplifier and a speaker.
The amplifier takes the electrical signals you want to hear and boosts them up to the correct volume before sending them to the speaker. The speaker contains components: a tweeter for high notes and a woofer for low notes.
When using a single speaker cable, the large amounts of bass energy carried within the single cable (often referred to as back EMF) create an adverse effect on the upper frequencies. Back EMF is prominent because up to 80% of the amp’s power goes to driving the bass.
A typical setup uses just one wire connecting the speaker and the amplifier. But in bi-wiring, we add a second cable, provided the speaker has double connection posts. Note: the two cables must be identical or exhibit identical characteristics.
In a bi-wire setup, the cable feeding higher frequencies no longer handle the large magnetic fields caused by the high current needed to produce bass. Bi-wiring does not affect bass fundamentals but allows the high-frequency signal to travel along a less disturbed path.
“It is always worthwhile to take advantage of bi-wiring benefits when the speaker manufacturer has gone to the added expense of providing this capability. The performance benefits of reducing distortion in this way are substantial.- AudioQuest”
Many of today’s speakers can be bi-wired, meaning the speaker has separate inputs for the woofer and separate inputs for the higher frequencies. Hence, bi-wiring is a way of splitting your audio signal between the high and low frequencies. You run two cables between each speaker and your amplifier to do this. One wire carries high frequencies to the tweeter, and the other takes low frequencies to the woofer.
In doing this, you can improve the output of the mid-tones. In addition, bi-wiring reduces the impedance differences between high and low frequencies and results in more precise sound.
Also, remember that speaker wire does make a difference. Are you still using zip cord for your speaker connections? Upgrade to a better speaker cable, and you’ll enjoy much better sound. And compared to new speakers, it’s inexpensive! But if you also bi-wire, you’ll hear better imaging, cleaner midrange, cleaner highs, and it will be quieter between the notes. Just remember to take the jumpers off your speaker posts!