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Does Speaker Wire Reall;y Matter?


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17 replies to this topic

#1 of 18 OFFLINE   Greg Labate

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Posted October 06 2004 - 05:31 PM

Does it really matter what 16 gauge speaker wire you use? Is it all just hype (Monster Cable, etc.) or can you really tell the difference enough to justify the extra $ for a brand name?

#2 of 18 OFFLINE   Kenneth Harden

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Posted October 06 2004 - 05:45 PM

Some people say yes, some people say no.

If you have low-medium price speakers, don't get expensive stuff, just generic. It will be fine.

However, if you are doing long runs (25, 50+ feet), you might want 12 AWG.

#3 of 18 OFFLINE   frank manrique

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Posted October 06 2004 - 08:11 PM

You can get "genetic" speaker wire as it will do perfectly fine with your intended application.

Costly speaker wire doesn't do diddly squat, so is pure hype.

Just be sure you use a sufficiently large gage if you are going to use long runs.

You can get it relatively cheap from a myriad of sources, including on-line vendors (for example, check Cable Wholesale's site--CableWholesale.com--they got a 500'--they only sell in bulk--spool of 12 ga. clear speaker wire that goes for $124...and a 1000' spool for double that figure. Do the math on comparable rolls of overrated, overpriced Monster speaker wire and see what you come up with!). Posted Image

Save your money, my friend...save your money... Posted Image

-THTS

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#4 of 18 OFFLINE   Chris Quinn

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Posted October 07 2004 - 01:37 AM

My latest speaker wire is a 12 gauge heavy duty extention cord from Home Depot. I think it was $12 for 50 feet. Bright yellow or orange speaker wire may not work for most people. LOL!

Yes, you're paying for it to say Monster on it.

I would say 14 gauge over 16 though and stay away from the two-tone stuff. The silver colored wire is aluminum in the two-tone.

#5 of 18 OFFLINE   Brian Corr

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Posted October 07 2004 - 01:50 AM

I agree with the above.
In addition, not only is Monster over priced, the clear coating they use on their wire is crap. Over time, it becomes sticky and helps the wire to oxidize.
Gauge is the most important factor. Use an adequate gauge for the distance.
You may also look at the strand count, as the more strands there are, the more flexible the wire is, making it easier to terminate or connect. 14 gauge is more than adequate for most residential runs.
For more info, check out Belden's site.

For example:
http://bwccat.belden....5=null&P6=null

#6 of 18 OFFLINE   Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted October 07 2004 - 07:58 AM

Chris,
Quote:
I would say... stay away from the two-tone stuff. The silver colored wire is aluminum in the two-tone.
Are you sure? It doesn’t seem to be as brittle as aluminum would be, plus is looks shiny, not flat like most aluminum metal stock. And it’s a darker silver color, like nickel - which is what I’ve always thought is was.

If you have any definitive information, I’d be interested in seeing it, ‘cause I’ve never been quite sure what that stuff was.

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Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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#7 of 18 OFFLINE   Chris Quinn

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Posted October 07 2004 - 08:02 AM

You're probably right. Makes since with the problems from aluminum wiring they used in the 60s and 70s.

#8 of 18 OFFLINE   Sam A

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Posted October 07 2004 - 08:14 AM

does wire really matter... gosh that should be its own web site. ive read and read and read and read...
YES it matters, really? NO. when you push the limits of 'normal' It will probably matter. if the length is very long, if the amount of power running thru is very high, yes it will probably matter. But for HOME applications, unless you own Skywalker Ranch or Bill Gate's house, run of the mill is fine. It is allways better to err on the side of caution, but not enough to let Monster make enough $ to rename a ballpark

#9 of 18 OFFLINE   Philip Hamm

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Posted October 07 2004 - 08:34 AM

No.
Philip Hamm
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#10 of 18 OFFLINE   Brian L

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Posted October 07 2004 - 08:35 AM

FWIW, I am clearly a "wires don't matter" kind of guy.

Actually, let me clarify that. Wires do matter if they are broken. If not, than they simply get the hell out of the way.

A few issues back, Absolute Sound (once in a while, I buy it, and I do so for amusement purposes ONLY! And I buy Playboy for the articles!) had a speaker cable round up. Among all the absurdly priced stuff, one of their reviewers actually "tested" Home Depot outdoor extension cable used as speaker wire. And he gave it a rave review, particularly when 100 feet of the stuff is what, $50????.

He then went on to say that he considers cable to be very, very low on the totem pole of things that matter in audio systems. Of course, Harley had to insert the comment that this was NOT the official position of TAS.

In that or another issue, he tried to push the point in a "round table" discussion that if an one amplifier does in fact sound different than another, it should be measurable. Guess how far that one got?

I don't recall the dudes name, but I remember thinking that he is not long for the world with TAS.

BGL

#11 of 18 OFFLINE   frank manrique

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Posted October 07 2004 - 08:54 AM

Robert Hardley is the primary reason why I stopped subscribing to the Perfect Vision video rag, which was already quite iffy prior to him taking the editorial helm from Harry Pearson. Posted Image

By the way...the 10 ga. and 12 ga. speaker wires (the silver-colored leg is plated stranded COPPER and not aluminum) I use is so flexible that is truly a great pleasure to work with...

-THTS

"...hi, my name is Frank...and am an SVS bassaholic..."

#12 of 18 OFFLINE   Brad_See

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Posted October 07 2004 - 05:21 PM

A funny thing happened recently and all of you who hate the cable and wire hype might get a kick out of this.

I'm a member of a message board for people who play electric bass. It's the largest such message board on the internet so it draws a lot of advertisers and industry types. Anyway, there was this company called TARA labs who had a representative come on the board and make some SPECTACULAR claims about their power cords and cables. All kinds of crazy stuff that basically made them sound like magic. Well, we have a lot of no-BS type people over there so they challenged them to let some of the members do some of our own testing with some of their borrowed cables. These cables normally cost like $1200 or so each. FOR A POWER CABLE! Posted Image So they actually stepped up to the challenge and some cables were sent out. Before we could even finish testing them though an article popped up in Stereophile magazine noting that the police had raided TARA Labs and confiscated thousands of cables. Turns out they were made in China and TARA labs was adding "Made in America" stickers to them. Awesome!

What's funny though is there were a few people on the board who'd had previous experiences with TARA cables and thought they sounded incredible. The people that tested them though had less than stellar reports... Those people included an electrical engineer, a guy who runs a major electric bass outlet and one of the higher-up engrs at QSC electronics. I guess it just further shows that people hear what they want to hear.

brad cook

#13 of 18 OFFLINE   frank manrique

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Posted October 07 2004 - 08:56 PM

quote:
__________________________________________________ ________

These cables normally cost like $1200 or so each. FOR A POWER CABLE! So they actually stepped up to the challenge and some cables were sent out. Before we could even finish testing them though an article popped up in Stereophile magazine noting that the police had raided TARA Labs and confiscated thousands of cables. Turns out they were made in China and TARA labs was adding "Made in America" stickers to them. Awesome!
__________________________________________________ ________

Just like W...-Mart seems to do! No wonder I haven't seen Tara Labs ads lately. Great post!

By the way...guess where most of the so-called "high-end" audio stuff is been made (ALL brands of speaker wires, interconnects, etc.)... Posted Image

-THTS

"...hi, my name is Frank...and am an SVS bassaholic..."

#14 of 18 OFFLINE   Chu Gai

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Posted October 07 2004 - 10:13 PM

Well a certain amount of stuff, like Transparent's line, Analysis Oval, and several others is made by New England Wire & Cable. To get the best prices though, one generally goes overseas.

#15 of 18 OFFLINE   Oachalon

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Posted October 08 2004 - 05:01 PM

I went from 16 gauge speaker wire that i got $100 feet for $10 to the 12gauge popular speaker wire on parts express. I think its is sound king or something. I changed speaker wire because i switched rooms and the stuff i had before wasnt long enough and the 12 gauge wire was the cheapest wire i could find. Anyhow there was not one difference in sound between the 2. Maybe if i was running 1000 feet of wire to one speaker i would notice a difference but 20 feet runs makes no difference.

#16 of 18 OFFLINE   Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted October 09 2004 - 09:46 AM

Many years ago before I knew much of anything about this stuff, I switched from 18 ga. to 14 ga., and could immediately tell a difference – which was surprising, because I wasn’t expecting anything at all.

As Oachalon has done with his experience, it would be easy for me to definitively conclude from mine that “larger gauge wire makes a difference.” However, the speakers I was using at the time were a design with a 4-ohm nominal rating that used 2-ohm drivers. So it’s easy to see how reducing the resistance of the speaker wire (i.e., switching to larger-gauge wire) would make an audible difference when the operating impedances were so low to begin with.

Since then I’ve simply made it a point to use 12 ga. wire, so I honestly don’t know if the speakers I have now would “care” as much about the wire gauge as my old ones did.

While most cable debates rage endlessly, speaker wire is the one thing that seems to get the largest consensus, namely that large gauge makes an audible improvement in sound.

The reason probably has to do with resistance. Anyone who has seen graphs showing a speaker’s impedance curve knows that the impedance changes with frequency. Some speakers have fairly linear impedance across the entire frequency spectrum, but others can run the gamut from extremely high to extremely low. If a speaker’s impedance drops particularly low at certain frequencies, it makes sense that resistance added by small-gauge speaker wire could easily affect the way the speaker sounds at those frequencies. And it makes sense that in that situation, changing from small- to large-gauge speaker wire would make an audible difference.

It logically follows that speakers with a linear impedance curve and/or higher-ohm drivers may not respond as dramatically to a change to larger gauge wire, if at all. This is probably why you get varied responses from people as to whether size matters (or not). Obviously it depends on the particular speakers involved, and the length of the run.

It also makes a difference if we’re talking about the front vs. the rear speakers, too. Since the rears carry mainly ambient information, subtle changes from speaker wire won’t be as readily noticeable.

A disclaimer, this is simply a theory based on my own experiences and what seems logical given my admittedly rudimentary knowledge of electronics. If anyone has speakers with impedance curves that drop extremely low in places, they’d be in the best position to more definitively evaluate any differences between large vs. small gauge wire.

Bottom line, most of the knowledgeable folks on this and other Forums recommend using 12ga. wire when budget allows and application permits. Will it make an audible difference? Maybe, maybe not. But do you really want to go through the time and expense of buying speaker wire in various lengths and gauges and conducting extensive listening experiments? And where would any conclusions you come to put you if you change out your speakers in a few years?

Just go with the 12ga. and be done with it.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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#17 of 18 OFFLINE   Terry St

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Posted October 09 2004 - 01:16 PM

Here's a pretty basic table of wire gauges needed for different loads and run lengths. It's a good place to start. As a general rule, lower gauge won't hurt, but won't help past a certain point either.

Most snake-oil speaker cable companies spend an inordinate ammount of time telling you how wonderful their wires are at conducting electrical signals, but the fact is plain old copper does a pretty darned good job whether it's oxygen-free, mono-crystal, or just plain Home Depot. Copper oxidizes quite easily in certain environments (e.g. Anyplace humid or briny.), so either get cables with good, well-sealed jackets or replace them every so often. (Unless you live in a house-boat on the ocean every-so-often is probably measured in decades, unless the cable jackets react with the copper themselves and accelerate corrosion)

Typically, the majority of resistance in any cable run comes from the terminations and connection to the speaker terminals. Bare wire is perfectly fine for most people and beats poorly terminated cables any day. If you live in an heavily oxidizing environment you may have to cut back the ends of your cables every so often to expose uncorroded copper. In such environments, good terminations combined with well-sealed cable jackets can make this unnecessary. Terminated cables are also easier to hook and unhook if you move your speakers around a lot. That is simply a matter of convenience however. Just don't feel like you have to spend an extra $200 on wires with high-end WBT terminations on them when bare wire would have been enough for you. (That gold plated WBT crimper just kills me every time I see it!)

One last piece of advice... Try to find cables that have color coded wires. I found some el-cheapo multistrand oxygen free 12AWG copper wire from the local Rona. (Home Depot clone) It was something like 57 cents a foot. The nice thing about it is that, inside of a nice heavy opaque green outer jacket, it has two individually insulated wires, one white and one black. Color coding makes keeping in phase easy. Many expensive boutique cables sacrifice such practical details as this for the sake of looking cool, and I have no doubts many "believers" noticed a big difference simply because they hooked their speakers up out of phase.

#18 of 18 OFFLINE   MannyE

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Posted October 09 2004 - 04:49 PM

whew!

When I saw the title on this thread, I figured, "Here we go again!" I actually made a very similar post to this many moons ago when I first started getting "into" audio, both for HT and 2-channel stuff. But so far, it's nice to see cooler heads have prevailed.

I just want to throw in my 2 cents, which is to agree on the guage thing.

When I first bought my Def-Techs, all I had was zip cord (regular electrical lamp wire) to hook the things up with. I still remember three weeks later, when I finally had time to go to HD and get the big-ass 12 guage speaker wire they sold, which back then I think was 59 cents a foot or some ridiculous number like that, I terminated them with AR bananas (the solderless screw types) which I think cost like 4 bucks a pair, and heard a huge difference!

In my experience, the bigger wire sounded better.

Later, someone brought a set of Transparent (I think they were 2 or 3 meter lengths) Cables, with the fancy looking box thing and fancy-schmancy connectors and, although I politely agreed with the enthusiastic owner that the music sounded more "lively" (I felt bad he had spent like almost 300 bucks on less than 20 feet of wire) I really did not hear a difference.

Now perhaps, my DefTech BP2002s are not "worthy" and maybe if I had a pair of 10K or more speakers I would notice a difference...I don't know. Even if I can one day afford to blow 100K on a source/amp/speaker combo, (which MIGHT justify 1K on a pair of speaker wires) at that point I will hire a band to play when I want to hear music!
Ni!!