Speaker Wiring

| |

Speaker wiring is one of the most critical components of a home theater system. It’s also quite complex and difficult to get right. Speaker wiring might be a little confusing at first, but this article will walk you through everything you need to know about speaker wiring, including how it works, its importance in your system, the various types of wire available for usage, and our suggested speaker wire size.

Speaker Wire Bundle

What is the procedure for measuring speaker wire?

Speaker wire is measured using the American Wire Gauge (AWG). The lower the AWG number, the thicker, or larger in diameter, the wire is. This measurement is precise because it’s based on a standard single length of a conductor rather than an area like other measurements such as resistance (“ohms”).

Bestseller No. 1
Monoprice Gold Plated Speaker Banana Plugs – 5 Pairs – Closed Screw Type, For Speaker Wire, Home Theater, Wall Plates And More
  • Can accept bare wire or spades. Can accept 12 to 18 AWG speaker wires.
  • Color coded Black/red rings for maintaining proper polarity
  • Secure, positive contact with binding posts
  • Corrosion resistant, 24K Gold plated brass plug
  • Each order includes five pairs (10 plugs total)
Bestseller No. 2
InstallGear 16 Gauge AWG 100ft Speaker Wire True Spec and Soft Touch Cable - Red/Black
  • 100-FEET (30.5m) [ RED/BLACK 16 GAUGE SPEAKER WIRE ] - The lower the gauge number, the thicker the wire. Thicker wire presents less resistance to current flow.
  • COPPER CLAD ALUMINUM (CCA) - CCA wiring provides a good conductor for transmitting audio. This is the most economical option when choosing speaker wire.
  • RUGGED PVC JACKET - Allows free, wide and seamless adjustment of the required physical properties of this wire such as flexibility, elasticity, and impact resistance.
  • EASY POLARITY IDENTIFICATION - This two color jacket allows for easy polarity identification. Making a polarity mistake could be damaging to your audio equipment.
  • SOFT TOUCH JACKET - The jacket on our cable is designed with the installer in mind. The flexibility of this jacket allows for easy routing and has a low memory.

The reason we use AWG instead of “ohms” for speaker wire is to prevent confusion with speaker impedance — more specifically “nominal impedance,” which refers to how many total ohms across all speakers there should be at each frequency. Impedance only indicates the actual load placed on an amplifier and has nothing to do with speaker wire size.

Is speaker wire important?

While the type of speaker wire used in your home theater system may seem insignificant, it has a big impact on its performance and sound quality. Not only does it affect performance, but there are also several safety issues to consider. This guide will show you what kind of speaker wire is best for your system, why it’s best, and tell you what to look out for when buying it. Check our guide on How to connect Speaker wire?

What are the different types of speaker wire available?

There are three major types of wiring: copper-based (including stranded), silver-based (pure silver), and carbon fiber-based solid-core conductors. Although each has its advantages, our recommended choice would be Type 14 AWG (American Wire Gauge) copper-based wire.

Copper Based Speaker Wire

The most frequent and readily available type of speaker wire is stranded copper. It comes in a variety of thicknesses and hues twisted together to make it easier to gauge its size because there is no single strand that thick. While the stranded wire is cheaper than pure silver, its bigger strands can cause problems with dropouts and speeds over 10 GHz — although this would be unlikely in live sound situations where the higher frequencies are filtered out anyway.

Bestseller No. 1
KabelDirekt – Pure Copper Stereo Audio Speaker Wire & Cable – Made in Germany – 14 AWG Gauge – 100 feet – (for HiFi Speakers and Surround Sound Systems, Pure Copper, with Polarity Markings)
  • Made in Germany: State-of-the-art manufacturing practices and rigorous standards ensure a flexible speaker cable of the highest quality
  • Made using the highest quality materials: We use 0.2mm strands of pure copper and a durable yet flexible PVC sheath to achieve exceptional signal quality and longevity
  • Perfect sound quality: Connect your HiFi, home cinema or speaker system with high-end cables from KabelDirekt for an unforgettable sound experience
  • Easy to install: With no stiff shielding material inside and a polarity marking on the outside, your KabelDirekt cable is both, thin and flexible as well as easy to install
  • 36 months warranty: We know you’ll love your KabelDirekt product, which is why we’ve included a 36 month warranty.
Bestseller No. 2
High Performance 16 Gauge Speaker Wire, Oxygen Free Pure Copper - UL Listed Class 2 (50 Feet Spool)
  • HIGH QUALITY 2 Conductor Speaker Wire Flexible Clear PVC Jacket with Red Stripe Polarity Allows for Fast, Easy and Accurate Installations
  • 16 AWG, 26 Strands of Pure Copper Wire per Channel Providing Clearity and Undistorted Signals to all Sounds System
  • 99.99% Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) Conductors. Compatible with Bare Wire Connectors, Banana Plugs, Spade Tips or Bent Pin Connectors
  • UL Safety Certified, NEC 725 Class 2 Rated for Home and Commercial Use
  • Sequentially Marked Every Two Feet in Descending Order From the Start of the Reel to the Core

Another disadvantage is that it can’t carry as much power so you shouldn’t use more than 8-gauge for 100-watt speakers if you want clean sound without distortion. Yet another downside is that it’s sorta rigid so it doesn’t provide the best sound clarity. Coming in around the middle of the road, silver-based wire is more expensive but provides better sound quality than copper-based wires.

Solid core copper-core speaker wire which is made up of a single strand of copper would be our pick for high fidelity applications because you can get excellent performance with its large surface area that helps eliminate dropouts on low speeds and has exceptional speed capabilities on high speeds. However, this type is more difficult to work with since it’s stiffer, which makes running your wiring more complicated if not implemented properly.

Silver Based Speaker Wire

Another alternative for home theater systems is pure silver speaker wire. The biggest advantages of this type of wire over copper-based options are its low resistance, ability to conduct sound well without distortion, and high power handling capacity (which means it’s less likely that you’ll blow a speaker).

SaleBestseller No. 1
Echo Dot (3rd Gen, 2018 release) - Smart speaker with Alexa - Charcoal
  • Meet Echo Dot - Our most compact smart speaker that fits perfectly into small spaces.
  • Improved speaker quality - Better speaker quality than Echo Dot Gen 2 for richer and louder sound. Pair with a second Echo Dot for stereo sound.
  • Voice control your music - Stream songs from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Sirius XM, and others.
  • Ready to help - Ask Alexa to play music, answer questions, read the news, check the weather, set alarms, control compatible smart home devices, and more.
  • Voice control your smart home - Turn on lights, adjust thermostats, lock doors, and more with compatible connected devices. Create routines to start and end your day.
Bestseller No. 2
Amazon Basics 16-Gauge Speaker Wire Cable, 100 Feet
  • IN THE BOX: 100-foot 16 gauge speaker wire cable
  • CONVENIENT: Connects audio speakers to an A/V receiver or amplifier
  • EASY DISPENSING: Comes wrapped around a hard plastic spool for simple dispensing
  • USER FRIENDLY DESIGN: White line on one side of wire indicates the polarity for a proper audio system set up
  • CLEAR AUDIO: Plastic jacket helps ensure high-quality undistorted signals to and from audio equipment

Although there isn’t much disadvantage in using plated solid core copper instead, if pushed around by local building codes or your installation requires an electrical inspector to sign off on the work, then we would recommend going with pure silver wiring instead. Although it’s not recommended in our experience and still think 14 gauge solid core copper should be used to get the best clarity and dynamic range — plus makes everything easier when dealing with complex installs — but do what works best for you.

Carbon Fiber Based Solid Core Speaker Wire

One final option that’s up to five times lighter than copper wire is carbon fiber-based solid core speaker wire. While it can handle high-end frequencies up to 40 GHz, this ultra-thin type of conductive material has a very low power handling capacity which means you should probably stick with 14 gauge solid core silver or copper wires instead unless you have to stay based on local code requirements. This only makes sense in certain complex commercial installations where huge amounts of wiring are being used, or if weight sensitivity is an issue for instance when running your mic cable across the stage during live sound applications. There are also other benefits to using carbon fiber conductor wire such as its resistance against and ability to block out EMI interference or RFI.

Bestseller No. 1
Nilight - 50004R 120 Pcs/60 Pairs Quick Splice Wire Terminals T-Tap Self-stripping with Nylon Fully Insulated Male Quick Disconnects Kit, 2 Years Warranty
  • Self-Stripping electrical tap connectors - Nilight self-stripping electrical t-tap connectors makes tapping into an existing wire a quick and easy job
  • Versatile kit - 60 piece T-Tap Wire Connectors plus 60 piece; Male Quick Disconnects will last for numerous wiring projects. Marine, automotive, scientific, home wiring projects - you name it
  • Thick tinned copper contacts - Thicker tinned copper contacts provide maximum conductivity and prevents the wire from shorting out efficiently
  • Quality t-tap connector housing - Quick splice T-Tap connectors will securely lock on the wire. Plastic housing will not open after it has been snapped on the wire
  • Perfectly fitting male quick disconnects - Nylon male disconnects have been designed to lock tightly on the T-Tap connectors to prevent sliding out
SaleBestseller No. 2
Atlantic Original Gaming Desk- 44.8 inches wide, speaker stands, cable management and more
  • MADE FOR GAMERS – Atlantic’s Gaming Desk is specifically designed for all your gaming gear, so you can focus on that epic battle. Made with sleek charcoal colored carbon fiber laminated top, provides ample room for your monitor, PC, laptop, games, speakers and more and monitor shelf dimensions- length is 15.5 inch left to right ,width is 7 inch front to back, height is 6.25 inch from desktop
  • FEATURE RICH – this gaming computer desk includes a charging stand for your tablet or smart phone, speaker stands, game storage, under-desk basket, controller stand, built-in wire-management, rear power strip holder, cup holder and headphone/VR headset hook
  • MONITOR & SMART PHONE STAND – 6H x 7W x 22L inch elevated shelf supports up to 27 inch monitor, remove shelf for up to 32 inch monitor. You can also charge your smart phone or tablet and have it comfortably at hand. These features free up valuable desktop space and with its smooth, rounded contours offer a contemporary style that adds a touch of sleek sophistication to any home office, dorm room or bedroom.
  • GAME ROOM ORGANIZATION - whether you have a dedicated game room or a just place where you need a desk, the Gaming Desk helps you work and play. Keep all of your video game equipment in one place where it is easy to use
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE - our Customer Service team, based right here in the U.S.A. works hard to provide support for a wide assortment of items. For more than 30 years, California based Atlantic, Inc., receive calls with various questions about our products and we apply our best possible efforts to deliver the best possible solution for your purchase

When it comes to this sort of wire, the best thing to use is “Clapton Wire,” which has a stranded center core covered by braided carbon fiber. The reason for using stranded copper instead of solid core is that it can conduct sound better since there is less resistance and distortion, resulting in superior sound clarity.

The main disadvantage of Clapton wire over solid-core options is that the stranded cores tend to break off more easily during installation (so make sure not to pull on them too hard) but other than that they’re no big deal.

How can I identify a safe speaker wire?

When it comes to speaker wire, there are two primary things to look for: gauge and connectors. The thickness of the wire is referred to as gauge, while how it will be connected to your equipment is referred to as connectors. Solid core and stranded are the two most frequent varieties of speaker wires.

Speaker Wire Guage

The speaker wire gauge is how thick the wire is, not to be mistaken with its resistance. The thicker the speaker wire, the more power it can carry without breaking or smoking. Wires that are lower than 14 AWG should never be used as they will not be able to carry enough power over long distances and over transformer taps.

The minimum wire gauge required for electrical safety in your home theater system is 18AWG. The reason for this is that it can handle high-power speakers safely and because it has low resistance, which increases sound clarity. Using a higher gauge than 18AWG can reduce audio quality.

Solid Core Stranded Core

Solid core speaker wire is made up of a single strand of copper, while stranded wire has several smaller strands wrapped around the conductor. In terms of performance, they’re both about equal so you can pick whichever one you think would be easier for your application based on what comes in different lengths. If you have quite a bit of length from source to destination, then go with solid core wiring since it tends not to fray or break as easily when handled rough (although this doesn’t apply if you’re using Clapton Wire uses stranded copper instead). If you’re dealing with a short length of wiring that’s easy to move around and flexible then go with stranded wire instead.

The other thing you need to watch out for is whether or not your connectors are going to be compatible. The most common options here include spade blade connectors, banana plugs (which we’ll be using), and barrel connectors (Pioneer makes one specifically made for speaker wiring called “banana jack adapters”). Except for barrel connectors, which don’t work very well at all since they tend to break easily and slip off as soon as cables are moved even slightly, both spade blade and banana plug options perform about equally as well. For those who use mono amps or power amps that require speaker wire with banana plugs, you can also buy cables that already come with them attached so there’s no need to do it yourself.

I think the best option here if this is your first time installing speaker wire is to go with something like what we’re using for this tutorial which is dual-terminal (2-pin) Pioneer Type S banana clips (one side has a plastic flange). These come in both 14 and 16 gauge sizes and tend to perform very well at least over the last few years whereas other options seem to be more hit or miss depending on who makes them. It should be noted though that other brands may use other types of connectors, which, unlike our 2-pin connectors, look like they would make installation much more difficult.

Bestseller No. 1
Monoprice 102821 Access Series 14 Gauge AWG CL2 Rated 2 Conductor Speaker Wire/ Cable - 250ft Fire Safety In Wall Rated, Jacketed In White PVC material 99.9% Oxygen-Free Pure Bare Copper
  • Oxygen-free 99.95% pure bare copper conductors
  • 250 continuous feet of 14Awg 2-conductor speaker wire | on a spool
  • The white Outer jacket is CL2 rated, making it safe for use within the walls of residential class buildings
  • Each conductor has an individual, color-coded jacket enclosed within the outer white CL2 jacket

In addition to the difference between solid core and stranded wire, there’s also a few different types of insulation material being used for speaker wires these days. One common variant uses PVC insulation which is more flexible than nylon insulation but tends to be less durable with lower melting points so if you do have any custom cables made up using PVC it would be best not to run them over high heat sources (like near speakers or other equipment that gets hot). Another option out there is Teflon, which has better heat resistance properties but at the same time doesn’t flex as easily so it can be harder to run wiring through tight spaces if you’re not careful. Nylon insulation is probably the most commonly used type nowadays since it offers both good flexibility and heat resistance without being too brittle like PVC insulation is.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What gauge wire should I use?

    Typically speaking here you want to pick the lowest gauge that your equipment is rated for; however, it’s best not to go any lower than 14 AWG (American Wire Gauge) as anything smaller tends not to safely maintain its current carrying capacity. If you plan on using 8 AWG or larger wiring then be sure your power supply can handle it since some amps (especially older ones) may run into issues with this size of wiring.

  2. Is stranded wire better than solid core?

    Not really, although there are a few differences between the two: Solid Core: – The best choice if running long lengths of cable – Doesn’t flex easily so it’s best to avoid bundling and wrapping it around other stuff (other than using ties) – More durable if the insulation is harder (like nylon or Teflon insulation) – Provides less surface area for electricity to flow through, which means there will be slightly less voltage drop over distance compared with stranded wire. Stranded: – The best choice for shorter lengths of cable since it fits more easily into places where you need to put bends in the wiring – Doesn’t break as easily as solid core wire when handled roughly (since there isn’t a single solid copper core like with solid core wiring). – Offers better flexibility and doesn’t kink as easily as solid core wire.

Previous

Home Theater Receiver Buying Guide

Richard

About Richard

Over the years, Richard has tried his hand at a variety of creative outlets. While he doesn't consider himself to have reached a level of expertise, Richard has mastered various instruments and most recently enjoys composing cinematic works that take listeners on an emotional journey. He takes great pride in remaining unbiased and dedicated to the audience, constantly striving for improvement and innovation. He is an audiophile and loves to test out new home theater receivers, music systems, hi-fi systems, soundbars, speakers, televisions, earphones... pretty much anything that can produce sound!

Leave a Comment