So, you just bought yourself the most epic set of speakers. You may have even bought surround sound and center channels speakers to set up the perfect home theater. Unfortunately, you then realize that you need to buy the wires separately. What gauge speaker wire do you need?
This can often get confusing for several folks. When you look at the market for these speaker wires, you will quickly realize that there are multiple types of it, such as 18AWG, 16 AWG, 14AWG, and 12AWG. For most people, they have no clue what these numbers stand for and how they affect your speaker.
So, in this article, in addition to talking about the speaker gauge wire necessary for you, we will also talk about what exactly this is and how they work and affect your speaker.
Speaker wire is necessary to make an electrical connection between audio amplifiers and loudspeakers. The new speaker wires tend to consist of either two or more electrical conductors, which are insulated individually by plastic such as PE, Teflon, or PVC.
On the other hand, it can also be insulated by rubber. However, that is not as common as using plastic. The wires are identical electrically but are marked to identify the right audio signal polarity.
Back in the day, speaker wires were typically made from stranded copper wire, and it was insulated with waxed paper, rubber, or cloth tape. For more portable applications, a lamp cord wire was more commonly used.
Understanding what a speaker wire gauge is quite easy. When we talk about the gauge of the speaker wire, we are basically referring to the size of the wire that is used in order to transmit the electrical energy, which represents the soundwave that travels through this wire to the loudspeaker from the amplifier.
The speaker wire’s gauge will determine the amount of current it is capable of carrying. That being said, with the speaker wire, they are mostly all about the capacitance, inductance, and resistance. These are the metrics that determine whether or not the speaker wire is capable of handling the power and the frequency response requirements over the wire’s length.
Great speaker wires will have zero capacitance, zero inductance, and zero resistance. Speaker wire gauge is a characteristic that will affect the capacitance and the resistance directly. For this reason, the speaker wire gauge is an important factor when you are choosing one. In fact, we can also say that it is the most important factor.
The thickness of the speaker wire is identified by its AWG number, which stands for American Wire Gauge. So, the lower the AWG number, the thicker the speaker wire will be. Thicker speaker wires will have a lesser resistance to the flow of the current.
You will find thick speaker wires such as 12AWG or 14AWG to be recommended for high power applications, low-impedance speakers (four or six ohms), and long wire runs.
For shorter runs, which is something less than 50 feet to eight-ohm speakers, you can use a 16AWG wire or even an 18AWG wire. These are easier to work with and are definitely the most cost-effective.
It is also important to note the length of the speaker wire you need. To figure this out, simply take a string and run it from the amplifier or the receiver location to each of the speaker’s location. Now, measure this string and add a couple of extra feet to it so that you can provide it with some slack for much easier connections to your sound system.
There are two types of speaker wires you can buy: one that comes with connectors or one that comes without it. If you choose speaker wires that come without connectors, we recommend that you buy banana connectors. Trying to attach bare wire ends to a sound system can be the worst thing to do.
On the other hand, if you are going to be running the speaker wires inside your ceiling or your walls, then you will need a UL-rated speaker wire that is labeled CL2 or CL3.
In-wall speaker wires are available with either two or four conductors. With a four-conductor wire, you can pull a single wire over a long distance to the in-wall volume control in a different room from your receiver or your amplifier.
Thereafter, you can run a two-conductor wire from the in-wall volume control to every single one of the stereo speakers in that particular location. The four-conductor wire is also ideal to connect stereo-input speakers.
Yes, the speaker wire gauge does really matter in several cases. For instance, this is extremely important if you are an audiophile and are looking to match your wires and speaker in the best way possible to get the ultimate delivery of audio.
In such cases, you would also prefer to dig deeper as there are countless formulas that involve the impedance of your speakers and your audio source, and the distance between the two. This can tell you which gauge to select.
Yet another case wherein speaker wire gauge can really matter is when you are running long speaker wires. In such cases, stick to 12AWG or 14AWG speaker wires. Even if you have low-impedance speakers, it is ideal that you stick to speaker wires with a lower AWG number.
It goes without saying that these speaker wires aren’t cheap. So, you can get away with using 16AWG or 18AWG wires if you are using a regular eight-ohm speaker that is placed at a decent distance from the amplifier or receiver.
If you are the kind who just casually listens to music, then, in all honesty, the speaker wire gauge is not exactly the most important thing you should worry about. If you don’t wish to spend too much money on these speaker wires, a 16AWG wire is definitely a safe bet.
Do you now know what gauge speaker wire do you need? In a nutshell, we recommend that you stick to the lower AWG wires only if you match the criteria listed above as these are not too cheap. Nevertheless, you can also get away with using 16AWG speaker wires as they are not too bad in particular conditions.