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How to Choose Good Speaker Cable - Its Not Rocket Science

Castle Knight 2 Speakers

afj

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The long and short of it all is that it boils down to the copper in the wire. the quality of the copper, the diameter and strands.

Quality - good quality virgin copper is what you want to go with. most decent speaker wire manufacturers use this.

Diameter - youre looking to use a thickness of atleast 16 gauge. the higher the gauge, the thinner it becomes. if the distance of the cable goes more than 10 feet (some say upto 50 feet), and / or if your speakers are rated at less than 8 ohms (6 or 4), you would look to use a thicker gauge - 14 or 12. again on higher end systems, youre safer with a thicker gauge wire

Strands - multi-stranded wires are better than a single strand. im not an engineer but read somewhere that the electrical signal travels along the diameter of the wire and not through it so multi strand is better. i stand to be corrected here. but the end is that multi strand is better than a single strand

Oxygen free cables - Some higher end speaker cable manufacturers claim to use oxygen free copper cable. it doesnt help the quality of sound in any way, but it does stop corrosion on the copper. speakers generally being indoors and in a controlled environment, corrosion doesnt normally become a problem for atleast 10 odd years. or more

Can you use electrical cable - yes you can. as long as the copper is good. the only difference between electrical and speaker cable is the insulation. since electric cables are meant to withstand higher temperatures due to electricity it carries, the insulation is of higher quality.

Banana plugs - the jury's out on this one. personally i prefer connecting it using bare wire. using the theory that the highest quality of gold plated / brass banana plugs cannot improve on the quality of the signal that the copper wires give it. if at all, it can maintain it at 100% or only decrease its quality. one area where plugs score is if the seals / encases the exposed end of the wire, it prevents the copper from corrosion. i've also noticed an audible difference in changing the brass jumpers connecting the highs and lows on my speakers to plain copper speaker wire.

Shielded wire - this could help in shielding from outside dirty noise. lot of debate on this one on the net - at what level of sound system do you start to hear these noises, since the waves for sound going through a cable doesnt really attract a lot of noise. and esp if your cable is isolated from other cables / appliances, it should be a problem.

Disclaimer - this is from my reading on the net and some common sense. yes, there will be some extremely high end systems on which you perhaps will be able to discern on some differences by purchasing extremely expensive cables. but on 95-99% of setups that we have, if we follow the above, we should have some good sounding speaker cables
 

Naztone

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Hi AFJ

thanks for that no nonsense explanation......twas pretty much going round in circles trying to figure which cable....especially since its going inside the wall...cant just rip it off n try something else

cheers
 

afj

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Hi AFJ

thanks for that no nonsense explanation......twas pretty much going round in circles trying to figure which cable....especially since its going inside the wall...cant just rip it off n try something else

cheers

no problem naztone. just make sure it isnt too close to any electric cable. if it is you will need to use shielded wire
 

alok_student2000

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In my experience, a low resistance wire is good enough, despite it being thicker or thinner,, I have a low resistance cable (< 1 ohm resistance)which i use for extension cords, tv, music system,lamps, speakers and it doesn't heat up at all
 

raghupb

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16G wires are OK. I would personally go with 14G or 12G if space permits.
Multi-strand is the desired one. The reason is "skin effect" (yes I am an electrical engineer). I say desired one because skin effect is an important consideration an AC and/or higher frequencies. For DC and audio frequencies, skin effect is not very relevant.
Multi-strand is the most widely available because it is cheaper to draw copper into thinner strands and twist them together than a single thick strand.

Oxygen free is expensive. One might as well replace normal copper wires every 5 years and it will still be a lot cheaper. I have been using the same speaker cables for 15 years and there has been no visible oxidation.

Banana plugs are required for easy swapping. If you are the kind to set up your system and let be, skip them.

Cheers,
Raghu
 

sachinv_81

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Nov 18, 2015
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The long and short of it all is that it boils down to the copper in the wire. the quality of the copper, the diameter and strands.

Quality - good quality virgin copper is what you want to go with. most decent speaker wire manufacturers use this.

Diameter - youre looking to use a thickness of atleast 16 gauge. the higher the gauge, the thinner it becomes. if the distance of the cable goes more than 10 feet (some say upto 50 feet), and / or if your speakers are rated at less than 8 ohms (6 or 4), you would look to use a thicker gauge - 14 or 12. again on higher end systems, youre safer with a thicker gauge wire

Strands - multi-stranded wires are better than a single strand. im not an engineer but read somewhere that the electrical signal travels along the diameter of the wire and not through it so multi strand is better. i stand to be corrected here. but the end is that multi strand is better than a single strand

Oxygen free cables - Some higher end speaker cable manufacturers claim to use oxygen free copper cable. it doesnt help the quality of sound in any way, but it does stop corrosion on the copper. speakers generally being indoors and in a controlled environment, corrosion doesnt normally become a problem for atleast 10 odd years. or more

Can you use electrical cable - yes you can. as long as the copper is good. the only difference between electrical and speaker cable is the insulation. since electric cables are meant to withstand higher temperatures due to electricity it carries, the insulation is of higher quality.

Banana plugs - the jury's out on this one. personally i prefer connecting it using bare wire. using the theory that the highest quality of gold plated / brass banana plugs cannot improve on the quality of the signal that the copper wires give it. if at all, it can maintain it at 100% or only decrease its quality. one area where plugs score is if the seals / encases the exposed end of the wire, it prevents the copper from corrosion. i've also noticed an audible difference in changing the brass jumpers connecting the highs and lows on my speakers to plain copper speaker wire.

Shielded wire - this could help in shielding from outside dirty noise. lot of debate on this one on the net - at what level of sound system do you start to hear these noises, since the waves for sound going through a cable doesnt really attract a lot of noise. and esp if your cable is isolated from other cables / appliances, it should be a problem.

Disclaimer - this is from my reading on the net and some common sense. yes, there will be some extremely high end systems on which you perhaps will be able to discern on some differences by purchasing extremely expensive cables. but on 95-99% of setups that we have, if we follow the above, we should have some good sounding speaker cables

Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I was about to raise a query regarding 14/16 AWG cables. I will be installing my new HT in my leaving room & the room size is ~20 x 16 feets where the surround speakers (8 Ohms) will be installed with an approx. length of 42-45 feets (through ceiling) & the guy whom i have engaged for cabling says the 16 gauge cable is out of stock & will be available only after one week & only 14 gauge is available. I was confused whether going with 14 gauge will result in drop of signal strength but after reading your views i am good to go with 14 gauge cable.

Please do let me know if you have any different views.

Thanks again :clapping:

Sachin.
 

asliarun

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Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I was about to raise a query regarding 14/16 AWG cables. I will be installing my new HT in my leaving room & the room size is ~20 x 16 feets where the surround speakers (8 Ohms) will be installed with an approx. length of 42-45 feets (through ceiling) & the guy whom i have engaged for cabling says the 16 gauge cable is out of stock & will be available only after one week & only 14 gauge is available. I was confused whether going with 14 gauge will result in drop of signal strength but after reading your views i am good to go with 14 gauge cable.

Please do let me know if you have any different views.

Thanks again :clapping:

Sachin.

45 feet of cable run is quite a bit. The wire would start presenting significant resistance. 14 gauge would be a safer choice.

Please refer to this article which says the same thing:

Speaker Cable Gauge (AWG) Guidelines & Recommendations | Audioholics
 

sachinv_81

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Thicker the better. 14 AWG or 12 AWG if you can source it.
Try to get wire that is in wall spec'ed. Better insulation.
Check out monoprice and bluejeanscable.
The prices per 100ft are very reasonable.
Access Series 12AWG CL2 Rated 2-Conductor Speaker Wire, 250ft - Monoprice.com
Speaker Cable at Blue Jeans Cable

Cheers,
Raghu

45 feet of cable run is quite a bit. The wire would start presenting significant resistance. 14 gauge would be a safer choice.

Please refer to this article which says the same thing:

Speaker Cable Gauge (AWG) Guidelines & Recommendations | Audioholics

Thanks fot sharing your views, I'm going with 14gauge cable.. :)
 

afj

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depending on your setup, 14-12 gauge should be good. since youre taking it through the ceiling etc and if aesthetics isnt a problem, then you can go with a good brand of electric cable (eg finolex) - it will cost less. if youre running it in wall and close to house electric cables, its a good option to go with shielded wire
 

raghupb

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+1 to afj

Finolex also makes speaker wire up to 14 AWG
Finolex electrical wire (even 12-10 AWG) is cheaper than speaker wire.

Cheers,
Raghu
 
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