Monowiring, bi-wiring or bi-amping in Hi-Fi. What are they?

What is bi-wiring and bi-amping? Bi-wiring is one means of connecting a speaker to an audio amplifier. Typically, a single cable runs from the output of the amplifier to the terminals of the speaker enclosure (this connection is called monowiring, however worthy of improvement). In bi-wiring, however, each speaker has two pairs of connectors and two cables are run from the output of the amplifier to the speaker cabinet. One corresponds to high frequencies, one to low frequencies (via two separate crossovers).

Bi-wiring versus monowiring

Bi-wiring is a connection with a double cable Speaker between the amplifier and the loudspeakers. With only one bi-wire cable, all audio frequencies They pass through it and the speaker's crossover cuts them off and sends them to the speakers. Many speakers are built with a crossover that allows them to accept low frequencies and high frequencies separately. In this cable the speaker will have four terminals instead of two (LOW+/LOW- and HIGH+/HIGH-).

bi wiring

In the case of a speaker with dual connections that is connected with a single cable, there will be a jumper made from a metal strip that joins the LOW+ to the LOW- and the HIGH+ to the HIGH-. So, in order to use the bi-wiring connection you have to remove this jumper, so that two independent inputs are created. One goes to the woofer (LF: Low Frequency) and the other to the midrange + tweeter (HF: High Frequency). If instead you use the classic connection with a single cable, the jumper should be left so that the signal goes to both terminals.

One of the advantages of using a double cable is that it should reduce magnetic interference. Another is that it gives a larger overall cross-sectional area than a single cable would, and also that the current drain from the woofer doesn't affect the smaller signal going to the top end. However, a technical analysis suggests that while bi-wiring may offer differences, they are so subtle that they are not tangible.

However, some audiophiles have found a significant difference in reduced treble harshness and improved bass control. However, detractors of bi-wiring claim that nothing changes electronically. They playfully refer to the practice as " buy-wiring ", claiming it is all just a marketing ploy to sell more speaker cables.


Bi-wiring versus bi-amping

Ricable has always maintained that bi-amping is certainly effective, but when it comes to bi-wiring a bit more caution is needed, as it all depends on the design of the amplifier. If the amplifier has been developed and optimized for bi-wiring, it makes sense to use it, otherwise it is better to save space and money on double speaker cables and rather buy only one, but of higher level.

What's the difference between bi-wiring and bi-amping? The main difference, as you can guess, is that bi-amping is done with two amplifiers, which gives a whole different meaning to this kind of connection. Just to mention it, bi-amping can be either vertical or horizontal. The first is to use two identical amplifiers and use one to amplify each speaker individually, the second is to use one amplifier for low frequencies and another (same or different) for high frequencies.

It is the best solution but also the most expensive one, to be adopted for very high level systems. In bi-amplification we start from the concept that each amplifier acts on a specific range of frequencies to directly drive the loudspeaker responsible for the reproduction of that specific range. In this way intermodulation phenomena and other undesired effects are avoided as much as possible; for example, the amplifier that treats the highest frequencies doesn't have to work with the low ones too, with benefits for the power supply and the performance.

Bi-wiring cables. Do you need them?

On the market there are Speaker cables specially designed for bi-wiring, that is with two connectors on the amplifier side and four connectors on the loudspeaker side. According to the philosophy Ricable, after some technical tests, this type of cable has no effect compared to the use of a standard cable with the addition of valid jumpers (do not leave the manufacturers' metal plates). On a technical level, there's no reason to prefer them to an arrangement with a monowiring cable connected to the other pair of binding posts through jumpers of the same conductor. Except for the negligible fact that, with the jumpers, the cable length is about ten centimetres longer.

Either way, the cable itself is not an active crossover and has no means of separating the high frequencies from the lows, so the only effect of bi-wiring is a complication in itself in the connection from amplifier to speakers, often with a deterioration in the quality of signal transmission.

In conclusion, we always suggest to simplify and, in case you have only one amplifier with bi-wireable speakers, to buy a standard cable with its jumpers. You'll spend less and get an identical, if not better, result.

hifi jumpers how to connect them

How to connect jumpers and speaker cables

When we buy a loudspeaker on its back we will have, in most cases, four terminals, in pairs of two, to which we connect our speaker cable, supported by standard jumpers. But how to connect jumpers and speaker cables?

And what are the double binding posts for? To connect our speaker in bi-amplification or bi-wiring.

These alternative modes of connection, almost always for the use of a small circle of enthusiasts, if not used, require that the HF (high frequency) and LF (low frequency) terminals remain jumpered together. The aim is to make the crossover work in unison.

Why is it that loudspeaker manufacturers, given the scarce use of bi-amping/bi-wiring, produce speakers with double connections? Well, it's difficult to give a precise answer, but one can speculate that it is to offer a more versatile and complete product. Or maybe it's because they are "more showy" and attract more attention from buyers. Certainly, they are present on almost all the speakers and, consequently, they have to be understood and managed properly, to avoid that a possible advantage becomes a disadvantage.

Immediately after having made the purchase of our new speakers, we will put to assemble them and we will be caught by a doubt. Should the speaker cable from the amplifier to the speakers be connected to the bottom pair or the top pair? That is, to the input intended for bass or high frequencies? And above all, will the jumpers supplied by the manufacturer of the speakers be adequate for the task they have to perform or will they ruin our efforts to improve the quality of the audio emitted by the system?

How to connect jumpers. Up or down?

The fundamental importance of jumpers arises from the fact that, over time, loudspeaker manufacturers have decided to make loudspeakers with two pairs of connectors and, therefore, a split crossover. The jumper is necessary to carry the signal at both high and low frequencies. But, in mono-wiring, where is it best to connect your speaker cable? Below or above? This is a question that many people ask themselves and to which we will try to give an answer.

Somebody says that the cable coming from the amplifier should reach the tweeter (or better mid-high) binding posts and not the bass one, leaving to the "chunks" or jumpers the task of bringing the signal to the woofer binding posts. High frequencies are the most delicate and sensitive portion of the audio spectrum, also because of the low voltages involved. According to these opinions, for this reason it is better that the signal from the amplifier reaches the tweeter binding posts without any other pieces of cable or metal bars in between (in simple words: contact resistance is minimized).

hifi jumpers how to connect them
hifi jumpers how to connect them

Others, instead, believe it is better to do the opposite, that is to privilege the woofer, the component that requires more power. In reality the differences are minimal, and only rarely does anything really change. What we suggest is first of all to make sure that the jumper doesn't act as a bottleneck in your system (see below how) and then make some attempts according to your ear and your system to understand if something changes.

There is no such thing as better quality than what we like best, even according to our own suggestions or habits. You can also refer to the instructions that accompany the product. It is true that it is about ten centimetres of cable and, unless the quality is particularly low, the problem does not arise. If it weren't that, sometimes, the standard jumpers are actually of very poor quality: a strip of brass.

How to understand if the jumpers are good and up to our system

As far as jumpers are concerned, the only way to check their goodness is to try to move the speaker cables from the bottom to the top terminals, and vice versa, but there are many different deductions that we could draw. So, let's make all the possible hypotheses and draw all the imaginable conclusions about how to connect jumpers and speaker cables. Here is the list of possibilities, presented in a schematic but exhaustive way:

  • move the position of the jumpers; if the sound changes, the jumpers are probably acting as a bottleneck and we recommend changing them for optimal performance;
  • If the sound doesn't change, maybe the jumpers do an excellent job and are adequate for the system.

Caution, though. In case the sound does not change, the following aspects should also be considered:

  • If the sound doesn't change, it may be that the speaker cables are so poor that they can't convey enough detail for us to hear differences;
  • Another hypothesis, if the sound does not change, could be that the system is not revealing enough and the jumper is not acting properly on the sound.

Having done the necessary tests, you find yourself needing to replace the jumpers on your speakers. Keep in mind that these should be of equal or better quality than the conductors that make up your cables Speaker - brass will not do.

For a choice without compromise, Ricable proposes its jumpers Dedalus e Invictuswith the former also optimised for the Magnus series or other lesser speaker cables. These are available in spade/spade as well as spade/banana versions. It is also possible to request a custom length. As for the speaker cables, however, the choice is more varied and takes up the four, now classic, series Ricable, namely Primus, Magnus, Dedalus e Invictus.