Cable Risers Do Improve SQ - for 10% of systems

Excellent video by Danny Ritchie of GR Research telling how cable risers made a clearly audible improvement in his system - and discussing how this can work.

Mainly by the reduction of interference to the EM field around the conductor caused by static electrical charge in the cable dialectic.

[Put “What’s up with audiophile cable risers?” into YT.]

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They always make a clearly audible difference in my experience.

I’ve been going back and forth with cable risers under speaker cables for years. I never found them to be a 10 out of 10 improvement. More like a 5-7 out of 10 improvement or so. And different cables respond differently too. The NACA5 seems less less affected by / responding to risers than a Cardas I still have.

I sort of gave up on them all together for visual and practical reasons. They look messy to me and vacuuming is unpractical too.

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I have wood cables risers. I would say they improve maybe by 5% . A bit subtle but it works.

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I use hockey pucks to decouple my cables from the floor. Bought a box of 50 off Amazon (gave half to a fellow Naim friend). Cheap and effective.

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I use Audioquest cable risers under my Chord Epic X speaker cable and I can easily hear an improvement in clarity - blacker silences. It’s certainly not a night and day improvement but to me it’s a worthwhile one. I’ll now be putting Cardas wooden blocks beneath my Chord Ethernet cables.

I think the science behind these, like so many things in audio, is a bit questionable. But that’s not the point. If they work then they work, full stop. Many things in this hobby are not an exact science or do not have an exactly convincing scientific or engineering explanation. That to me has always been one of the fascinating things about hi-fi. There are unknowns, still to be discovered.

There will be people who scoff. Just like some people claim that all cables sound the same. The interesting thing about this to me is that such folk usually quote some misunderstood, incomplete or pseudo-scientific reasoning to justify their position. They don’t actually appear to use their ears! eg. all wires sound the same as all they do is conduct electricity. At best this rather misses the point as there is far more to cable science than just conducting electricity. But moreover it fails to take into account that when you do actually listen it’s blatantly obvious that cables do sound different!

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I do use my ears…

…and it’s not “blatantly obvious” to me that cables sound radically different. My ears are probably not good enough, that must be the reason.
Some cables are so expensive - isn’t it wiser to invest in better electronics?

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It’s a wonderful thing to have ‘cloth ears’ (or notvto have ‘golden ears’) - it can save a lot of hassle and money, while getting maximum enjoyment from music!

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Or maybe normal ears without expectation bias based on belief. We’ll never know.

This all overlaps with the thread on tweaking. I feel that a huge reason why lower end systems can be so enjoyable and often more fun is because you don’t do things like cable lifts. The system often isn’t sensitive enough to manifest the difference.

One problem with high end hifi is that in order to make a truly high performance bit of hifi sensitive enough to extract and then preserving the most minute of audible details and preserving them through a long chain, you invariable make it sensitive enough to be affected by environmental conditions. They are two sides of the same coin. Hence, a lot of care is often needed to get really expensive systems to sound their best whereas, below a certain (but still really good) level, you just plonk it on a rack, dump the slack cable on the floor and press play and enjoy.

I did cable lifts with rings of aeroflex on my Naim system. Can’t say I noticed a difference but OCD made me do it because the system cost enough to warrant every reasonable effort.

I don’t bother on my 2 box entry level Luxman system. The whole point of that system is simplicity.

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I have never tried exotic cable risers specifically made by audio manufacturers. However, I have tried various DIY and cheap cable riser made out of small pieces of dense foam and wooden blocks. They didn’t bring any effect to me.

Just lately I read about cable lifters made from ceramic and gave them a try. These aren’t costly and are rather cheap. The effect wasn’t immediate but after a few days, I noticed the slight harshness or brightness in the treble and midrange was gone as music flowed in a more organic manner and with ease. The overall presentation changed to slightly warmer, just slight without losing dynamics and life. A slight hardness in the treble was gone.

The sound quality before using the lifters wasn’t really bad and it was actually quite good. The cable lifters brought a small but appreciable improvement to my system. Without the lifters, cable lying on the floor, the high frequency or treble has a slight graininess or coarseness ie. Slight crackling or splitting of notes. This was somehow eliminated as the sound turned smoother after the cables lifters were placed. Ditto the midrange and bass as the overall effect was a smoother, slightly warmer and organic sound and better flow without compromising on the detail and other aspects of the reproduction.

If anyone has tried some cable lifters but did not perceive any difference in sound quality, I can only think of two possible reasons - type of speaker cable and type of cable lifter. I used the cable lifters on Chord Signature XL. I haven’t tried them on NAC A5 but have no intention of doing that at the moment, and there are chances that the lifters won’t bring an audible effect to the NAC A5. If using DIY lifters, try some ceramic or porcelain based ones. They don’t come in the form of lifters, usually insulators.

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I could remove the lifters and reassess the situation but life is too short for doing that. All I want is to just enjoy the music.

For me, once I feel the electronics are good enough ie. having the intention of keeping them for good, I have the tendency of spending on good cables to optimise the system. The cables may not be very costly but perhaps slightly better than the budget stuff.

Is this something that applies in all cases, or just when you’re in a room with carpet? Our entire house is varnished wooden floors, so the opportunity for static discharge into the floors is pretty minimal.

Fair question. It all depends on where you draw the line and how much money you have at your disposal. I have paid £500 for a mains cable and that for me is extremely expensive. But there are cables costing £5000 and even £20,000. The question I would need to ask myself is - if say I had £10K at my disposal would I rather buy a £10K mains cable for my amp or would I upgrade the amp. Certainly upgrading the amp is better perceived value. It’s difficult to get too excited about paying £10K for a 1m length of wire with plugs on each end! But knowing the difference that an excellent cable can make to performance perhaps the choice is not quite so clear-cut.

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I use pipe lagging cut into 50mm lengths and placed about every 300mm along the length of my naca5 to keep it off the wooden floor(no carpet). It cost virtually nothing and gives a small but noticeable improvement to the sound.

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There seem to be conflicting opinions on this. Some schools of thought are that wooden floors present no problems because as you say there is minimal static charge compared to say nylon carpet. I have also seen it said that any floor re-radiates EM energy so they are all bad.

Also there is the question of isolation from mechanical vibration which supposedly is the whole point of some cable lifters.

As I said earlier I think the science behind these things is at best questionable. The only important question to ask oneself is ‘do they work?’. For me the answer is yes. But I’m not convinced it’s for the reasons that many people believe.

I completely agree here. This is why some very simple and relatively cheap systems can sound so entertaining whilst some very expensive systems can seem to disappoint. That’s why I’ve tried to keep my set up as simple and tweak-free as possible. I don’t want to end up with something that fails to perform because a spider has dared to walk across one of the speaker cables!

This is my view and experience too.
I try to keep my system at - or very close to - the tried & tested by Naim. Also because so far, I’ve not been disappointed following Naim’s path. But I do like to try the occasional tweak. Simply because it’s fun and while most are not worth the money or effort, some do work. They allow you to fine-tune the system to your liking, room etc. Could be speaker cable, a power strip, an interconnect, plug etc. Only one variable at a time and listen to it for at least a week or so. No silly A-B switching. But this is just about honing and polishing, nothing fundamental.

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And maybe type of floor, and possibly(?) output circuitry of power amp.

Indeed. Steve Sells made an interesting observation in a podcast posted on the forum a while back as to why cable lifters may work when lifting speaker cables off certain types of flooring.

Edit : Here’s the podcast link originally posted by @MrUnderhill

https://parttimeaudiophile.com/2022/01/13/an-interview-with-naim-audio-the-occasional-podcast/

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Yes, that could add to the possibilities.