What Gauge Speaker Wire for Home Theater Is Ideal?

What Gauge Speaker Wire for Home Theater Is Ideal
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When it comes to home theater speakers, cable or wire quality is always a source of argument. Most of the time, homeowners ask what gauge speaker wire for home theater.

Basically, most speakers available do not come with speaker wires, and it is up to the owner to choose the right thickness or gauge and the type of wire to be used for home theaters.

What Is a Speaker Wire?

A speaker wire is the cable that is used to connect the speakers and amplifiers to your home theater system. Speaker wires have three electrical properties: resistance, inductance, and capacitance. The most important factor to consider when choosing a speaker wire is resistance.

Using low-resistance wire means more power and better sound. The thicker the wire, the less resistance it has with the current flow. This is where choosing the proper wire gauge enters.

What Gauge Speaker Wire for Home Theater?

The AWG or American Wire Gauge is the standard basis of wire thickness. The lower the number, the thicker the wire, and as mentioned earlier, the thicker the wire, the lower its resistance.

It is recommended to use a thicker wire gauge for high-power applications and extended wire runs. Moreover, it is better to use 12- to 14-gauge wires for low-impedance speakers with ohms ranging from four to six.

On the other hand, if you are setting up an eight-ohm speaker with a shorter wire run, say, less than 50 feet, it is okay to use thinner wire. It is not only cheaper but generally easy to use and work with.

Speaker Wire 101

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In this section, we will discuss the common wire materials and the types of wires typically used for speakers.

Wire Material

Keep in mind that the purer the material of the wire, the higher the cost. Nonetheless, using the most expensive ones does not mean higher quality sound. So, it is really your call when it comes to which wire material you will choose.

  • Copper

Because of its low price and low current resistance, copper has become a popular choice when it comes to speaker wires. However, copper requires proper coverage and insulation because it has a tendency to oxidize.

When pure copper wire is exposed to air, it undergoes a physical reaction and covers the exposed surface with copper oxide. This weakens the connection between the source and the speakers.

  • Silver

Silver is less resistant compared to copper, so it generally has a thinner gauge and lower resistance. However, it is an expensive material for speaker wires.

  • Gold

Gold is another pricey wire material, but it does not oxidize. Hence, it can be used even for open terminations. Nevertheless, gold has a high resistance compared to silver and copper and is not really advisable to be used for speaker cables.

Types of Speaker Wires

Are you planning to run the wires inside your ceiling or walls? Then, you will need to buy a UL-rated CL2 or CL3 speaker wire. On the other hand, if you are installing an outdoor speaker with the wire underground,  you will need to buy a wire that is specifically made for direct burial.

Here are other things to consider:

  • Single vs. Bi-Wiring

Another thing that you must carefully consider is whether to go for single wire or bi-wire. It is really easy to decide on this. Basically, if your speakers come in single wire connections, you use a single wire. However, if there are two sets of speaker connections, you can opt to use either a single wire of a bi-wire.

Audiophiles and sound enthusiasts claim that there are some benefits in bi-wiring. For one, it is believed to improve levels of detail and at the same time, create a more open sound stage. Nevertheless, some argue that single wiring is better as it gives out a more coherent sound and excellent music quality.

Remember, the type of wire you use depends on your preference but also bear in mind that bi-wires are relatively pricier compared to single wire configs.

  • With vs. Without Connectors

Another thing is whether to buy wires with or without connectors. When you buy speaker wires sans the connectors, you will need to purchase banana connectors since it would be a difficult task trying to attach bare wire ends to a receiver.

Connection Tips

How much wire is needed is another query that most people ask when it comes to home theater installation. To figure out how much wire you actually need,  you can simply run a string from the receiver to the speakers. Measure the string used and add several feet to allow some slack and easier gear connection.

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Here are some useful tips that you can do when connecting your home theater and speakers or amplifiers:

  • Carefully identify the leads (positive and negative) of your speaker wires. Connect them properly. If not connected right, or if one of the connections is missed, your audio won’t sound right or worse, it won’t give any sound at all.
  • Use a wire stripper when hooking up speaker wires without connectors. Take about half an inch of insulation from the ends of both positive and negative leads, allowing the bare wire strands to get exposed. Tightly twist the bare wires, making sure not even a single strand stick out. Loose strands may cause damage to your home theater components due to a short circuit.
  • It is not necessary to break-in the wire. While some companies are selling break-in services or wire cookers that break-in the speaker wires, this step is unnecessary.
  • Speaker wires do not need to be of the same length. While it seems viable for speaker wires to be identical in order to eliminate phase shifts, this is not really the case. Do not worry if the wire on one speaker has a foot or two longer than the other one. You would need miles of difference for you to hear any discrepancies because of this.

Bottom Line

With all the information we provided here about speaker wires, we hope you finally understand what to consider when choosing wires for speakers, as well as what gauge speaker wire for home theater is the best.

If you are still uncertain, you may ask a professional installer or check out your speaker’s installation manual for usage instructions and more tips.

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