Opinions differ and even manufacturers can’t agree on which is the best method
Some swear by single wire, some believe biwire is better and other simply provide the biwire terminals for commercial reasons. Still, I have heard on several occasions that there really is a quite distinct audible difference.
For this article, the matter is investigated using Apogee Duetta Signature and Diva speakers. Cables used are Transparent Reference XL and van den Hul Skyline Hybrid.
As I am writing this article, I know that the refurbished set of Duetta Sigs made for a skewed comparison because their crossovers had been modified in such a way that the treble and midrange were much louder and more aggressive than they should be, but at the time that I conducted this review, I was not aware of this. So, naturally I strived to bring the original Dueatta Sigs closer to the sound of the refurb’d ones. To that extend, I conducted a little experiment using van den Hul Skyline Hybrid Y-speaker cable. This is the very same cable that came with the refurb’d Duetta Sigs and because it worked so well there, I decided to use it again.
Biwire/single wire listening – Duetta Signature using vdH Skyline Hybrid
Because I have had mixed results with single wiring, I decided to make a Y-cable: 2 parallel cable-pairs originating from each single spade on the amplifier side. I first connected only the single runs to treble and connected the treble to the bass using solid core OFC wire. Sound wasn’t bad, but also clearly behind the refurbished Duettas in terms of dynamic differentiation and overall soundpressure. The music felt very restrained and soft. Switching to bi-wiring mode but leaving the cross-connections between bass and treble in place, making for an effective cable diameter-doubling, the sound did not improve, actually it got worse as the bass further fattened while the sense of dynamic restraint was still there.
Removing the cross connections did the trick – believe it or not – but now the sound seemed to be freed from dynamic constraint. Sure, the refurb’d Duetta Sigs were still the livelier pair, but we know now that they have a false start. Nevertheless, where the original Duetta Sigs sounded woolly and witheld before, now they sounded nicely open and unrestrained. And pace was better, too!
What does this teach us? Well, for one it indicates that with the Dueattas, biwiring really does pay off. A bigger copper diameter however does not. I do need to note one small variable that may also play along here, which is the capacitance of the unused cable end in the situation where the Y-cable is only half-used. Sure , the 2,5 meters won’t do much, but I have seen, and heard, stranger things. Still: the experiment with removing the cross-connections between bass and treble is very real and unaffected by the aforementioned variable. When the Duettas are used, the subwoofers are not connected.
Biwire/single wire listening – Diva using Transparent Reference XL in shotgun mode
Another weird CP experiment… or have you read anywhere else where someone has used two pairs of single wire Transparent Reference XL speaker cables? I sure haven’t. And I’m not even sure if Transparent, the company, would recommend this seeing as the extra cable and its associated network boxes might bring extra loading for the amp to the table, capacitance for example. But that kind of knowledge never bothers me and I have just given it a go.
Take note: for the Divas, I do use the subwoofers.
Diva – Single wired
There really isn’t anything to complain about: soundstage is wide and deep, bass is solid and powerful, midrange is gloriously rich yet articulate and dynamically very expressive and treble, well treble’s just always perfect with Transparent, isn’t it. Bass and MRTW are coupled this time by two short pieces of vdH Skyline Hybrid, which works surprisingly well. (I will conduct experiments using different wire but that’s for another article).
Diva – Bi wired
Once again: this probably isn’t the same as using a genuine Transparent Bi-Wire cable, but it’s actually called Shotgun Mode: using two same cables. The model sixes’ Cardas connectors luckily offer plenty of room to screw in the double spades. Then the listening resumed… hmmm. Wasn’t the bass now woolier and wasn’t the overall sound now less coherent? Yup, it was. There was no denying it: this was absolutely no improvement. I double-checked the connections but I hadn’t made any mistakes. Perhaps the second set of cables needed some running in? They had been lying unused for years after all.
I gave the cables two weeks of playing time. And in my situation that means both music and cinema use, so although they may still need more time to fully awaken again, I thought it enough to at least form an opinion, if only based on a still-developing sound. Over the coarse of these two weeks, I had adjusted to the new situation: near the end of the first week I must admit to not hearing the downsides anymore. In fact at some stage I had actually forgotten that I was conducting this experiment, which is a good sign. Or a sign that I am actually easier to manipulate than I am willing to admit. You be the judge.
After two weeks I prepared to revert back to single wire listening and collected a few CDs with which I would make the comparison. After listening to a few tracks, the second set of cables was removed and the vdH cross-connections reinstated. Another surprise: “was there any difference at all?”, I asked myself aloud. This was a tough one. First off: the sound didn’t improve much, which was a sign that the second set did indeed need some time to wake up again and had gotten up to scratch. But given the experience with the vdH and the Duetta Sigs, I was expecting a huge fallback in dynamic differentiation. Not so. In fact: the more I listened, the more I became aware that focus and articulation through the midrange was now better, with the single wire configuration, that is. I then focused on the bass, which I expected to have become less voluptuous. Well, perhaps that was ever so slightly the case, but the difference was subtle. No doubt this was also due to the Rel Stratas being in use, but they are only used for the very lowest frequencies and already cut off at 32hz, so there is no way that they would totally obscure the differences between single wire and biwire. They are a factor though, admitted. Moving on to the soundstage, this time I couldn’t detect any difference at all! Not in size, depth, width or imaging. Treble, finally was also identical. So, what’s the use? If anything, it’s slightly deeper/fatter bass when biwiring.
Unlike the Dueatta Sigs, that really benefit from being biwired, the story is very different for the Divas. Either they don’t respond much to being biwired, rather than single wired, or, at least don’t exhibit the usual effect of sounding notably larger when biwired. Or, it could be that “shotgunning” 2 Transparent cables really isn’t putting these cables to good use. They might even work against themselves with their network boxes’ contents. Who knows. It could also be that the “bigger when biwired” effect is depleted by the fact that the Divas are man-high. I’m just guessing here.
The good news is that either way I won’t have to shell out for a second pair of Reference XL’s, phew!