12 vs. 10 Gauge speaker wire

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Alex_Santos, Jan 22, 2002.

  1. Alex_Santos

    Alex_Santos Second Unit

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    Im going to buy the speaker king wire from parts express. Im just wondering if anyone has any opinion about which would be better. Also, anyone know about the dayton bannana plugs that they sell. Thanks.
     
  2. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    12 is adequate and easier to work with. i assume you're not running several hundred feet. no idea on the daytons
     
  3. Mark Austin

    Mark Austin Supporting Actor

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    The 10ga. will increase your damping factor by quite a bit.
     
  4. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    what kind of numbers did you work up for improvements in damping factor Mark?
     
  5. Alex_Santos

    Alex_Santos Second Unit

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    easy guys, no fights now. Im not going to be running large distances. I only have a 10x12 room so my setup will be pretty short. I was just wondering if it was worth it to step up to 10 gauge for only 10 extra.
     
  6. Mark Austin

    Mark Austin Supporting Actor

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  7. Alex_Santos

    Alex_Santos Second Unit

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    anyone else with an opinion?
     
  8. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Audio magazine tested a lot of different speaker cables a number of years ago. More accurately, they took scientific measurememts of them. They tested everything from 20ga. to 10ga., and even some ribbon cable (!).

    Of course, larger gauge wire offered measurably less resistance, but if I recall, they also reported that cable larger than 12ga. showed significantly increased capacitance.

    However, what they did not tell us was what effect, if any, capacitance has on sound quality.

    I think you will find, Alex, that 10ga. wire is quite expensive. There’s really no good reason to use it unless you have an extremely long cable run, like a couple hundred feet.

    Regards,

    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  9. Mark Austin

    Mark Austin Supporting Actor

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    Wayne A. Pflughaupt,

    The difference here is $.31/ foot between 12ga. and 10ga..
     
  10. Alex_Santos

    Alex_Santos Second Unit

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    the only reason that im thinking about the 10 gauge is because the price difference is so small. The longest run im going to make is probably 20 feet, if that. The consensus is that the thicker the better so wouldnt 10 be better than 12?
     
  11. TylerZ

    TylerZ Stunt Coordinator

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    IMO, if your longest run is only going to be 20 feet there is no reason to go any thicker than 12ga. I don't think you'll notice any difference in audible quality between the two at that distance.
     
  12. brucek

    brucek Second Unit

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    Alex,
    The 12 gauge speaker cable is an excellent choice as is most any parallel zip cable from Home Depot or Radio Shack....I'll tell you what I think about the differences between it and a 10 gauge cable.
    The 12 gauge cable will exhibit a simple resistance of about 1.62 ohms per thousand feet. So, for example, a typical 10 foot speaker cable, your cables simple resistance will be about 0.0324 ohms. In relation to the 8 ohm speaker you're likely using, this can be considered statistically insignificant, and effectively lossless.
    The 10 gauge will exhibit a simple resistance of about 1.02 ohms per thousand feet. So, for a typical 10 foot speaker cable, your cables simple resistance will be about 0.0204 ohms. In relation to the 8 ohm speaker you're likely using, this also can be considered statistically insignificant, and effectively lossless. If you like percentages, the 12 gauge in this example with respect to its simple resistance would exhibit a loss of about 0.4% loss of power in the wire in the form of heat and the 10 gauge would exhibit a loss of about 0.25 % loss of power in the cable. Not much difference there.
    Both cables will also exhibit some series inductive reactance, which increases with frequency and length. In a typical zip parallel cable, a standard ball park value is about 0.20 microhenries per foot. The interesting thing, is that the inductance changes very little with changes in wire diameter. Yes, the higher the guage (smaller wire), the higher the inductance, but it's really, insignificant.
    So, at 1000Hz your frequency dependant series resistance (inductive reactance) would be 0.00125 ohms. Again, completely insignificant. At 20000Hz (worst case), then your frequency dependant resistance (inductive reactance) would be about 0.2512 ohms. In relation to your 8 ohm speaker, this would be a 0.13dB loss in the form of heat at worst case 20Khz. Can you hear a 0.13dB loss at 20Khz or even hear 20Khz? Either way, both the 12 gauge and 10 gauge will suffer about the same insignificant roll off from this reactance factor.
    The loss from parallel capacitive reactance in a low impedance interface isn't even worth deriving because it is so insignificant. You see, we don't generally get concerned about capacitance in speaker cables because this is a low impedance interface. I'll explain. The output impedance of a typical amplifier is around .02 ohms and it's attached to a load of about 8 ohms. This is a very low impedance circuit. Unlike inductance, capacitance provides us with a "parallel" reactance. This frequency dependant resistance is "across" or in parallel with the load. The load is 8 ohms. A typical parallel load that the capacitance of zip cable provides is many orders higher than 8 ohms. It's in the thousands of ohms. If you want to do the math - go ahead. It's not significant enough to even talk about. If we were discussing interconnects, of course the opposite is true because it is a high impedance connection.
    Actually it's a benefit to have the two wires running parallel to each other in a zip cable. Parallel zip has lower inductance than two separate wires. This is because the close wire to wire spacing, resulting in a magnetic coupling, lowers the inductance. If you separate them you have now effectively created a loop, and there is a whole set of different formulas to calculate inductance for loops. I won't go into it. This separation actually lowers the capacitance of the cable (which we don't care about) while raising it's inductance.
    Anyway, I personally feel "system damping factor" is quite important to the sound. I'll give you my thoughts on it.
    Damping generally effects the "tightness" of bass frequencies. The higher the number the better.
    It's the amplifiers ability to control or damp the speakers voice coil oscillations. When a signal is sent to a speaker and then stopped, the speaker cone continues to move, and creates or presents a back voltage to the amplifier. If the output impedance of the amplifier, combined with the impedance of the interconnecting speaker wires, is very low (read a short), then this oscillation is damped and the bass sounds very tight. The higher this combined impedance, the more the speakers voice coil will continue to move and effect the sound.
    This of course is where the bass mushy-ness of tube amps comes from. Tube amps generally have an attribute unlike solid state amps that their output impedance is usually unacceptably high and is non-linear and rises as the frequency increases. You can see how this non-linearity, besides being a source of distortion (read "warm" sound) in the damping formula makes a tube amp pretty undesirable if you're looking for accuracy. But, some people like the sound of distortion, that's their business.
    Anyway, damping factor is a ratio of the load impedance (generally considered a flat 8ohms) to the output impedance of the amplifier. Very nice, but generally in practice though, you have to take into consideration the impedance of the wire connecting the two devices and the fact that speakers with passive crossovers are an extremely non-linear device.
    Again, the short answer is that the higher the number the better.
    The long answer is that in most solid state amplifiers the output impedance is fairly constant (read linear) and very, very low over the entire audio spectrum and as such can almost be ignored in the formula because the system impedance is overwhelmed by the non-linearity of the speakers crossover plus the interconnecting wire resistance. This is the reason to ignore small differences in amplifier specs of damping. It's usually insignificant in relation to the effect of the speaker wire. I'll show you why shorter speaker wires are better.
    Lets look at the formula for damping using a figure of 300 for damping. This yields about 0.026 ohms output impedance:
    (speaker impedance) / (amplifier output impedance)
    = 8.0 / (0.026 ohms)
    = 300 - this is a very acceptable amplifier damping factor.
    Now add in a typical connecting wire of 10 feet of 12 guage zip cord.
    12 gauge at 10 feet yields about 0.0324 ohms of pure resistance. Capacitive reactance can be ignored as insignificant, as can inductive reactance at the lower frequencies of interest here and this short length.
    (speaker impedance) / [(amplifier output impedance) + (wire impedance)]
    = 8.0 / (0.026 + 0.0324)
    = 137
    Anyway, you can see how the system damping factor dropped even when using very heavy gauge wire. It shows the importance of using a low gauge interconnect and the importance of using short speaker wires. But all I've shown is the effect of 12 gauge wire on damping. The difference between the 10 gauge and 12 gauge would be considered fairly small and could ne ignored. The 10 gauge in the same 10 foot length only changes the damping in the example above to about 172. Not much.
    So what does all this crap mean? It means there isn't much difference between 12 gauge and 10 gauge in the distances you're discussing. If the cost is the same, I would choose the 10 gauge.
    What gauge do I use? 9 gauge............. [​IMG]
    brucek
     
  13. Chris White

    Chris White Second Unit

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    Note: No science found here. [​IMG]
    I've actually tried both 10 and 12 gauge in my system. I started with 12 gauge. Later, Parts Express had a big sale on SoundKing 10 gauge so I decided to try it. In my admittedly non-scientific testing, I was unable to discern any difference between the two. The 10 gauge SoundKing is very soft and flexible so it is actually a bit easier to handle than the 12 gauge, but it is also considerably more difficult to find connectors for 10 gauge.
    By the way, I've since replaced the 10 gauge SoundKing with Belden 1810A (4-14 gauge connectors wired in pairs) and I can hear an improvement (albeit a subtle one) over the zipcord. (It may not in fact exist, but at least I believe I can hear it.)
     
  14. Mark Rich

    Mark Rich Second Unit

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    Chris,

    Did you try or think of trying the Canare version of the Belden 1810a? Any reason for choosing the Belden version? Thinking of trying some of this cable type just cant decide which to go with.

    p.s. Thanks for posting your great DIY cable info.
     
  15. Chris White

    Chris White Second Unit

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    At the time I decided on the Belden, I read a few posts comparing the two that seemed to favor the Belden. However, I haven't compared the two and I would be really surprised if they were any different. I believe BetterCables uses the Canare for their audio cables, so that's a pretty good endorsement.
     
  16. Mark Austin

    Mark Austin Supporting Actor

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    brucek,

    Thanks for the interesting science lesson there, but I saw a lot of "insignificant, and "not much", "not that much", and "not really significant" statements abounding in your article. Where is it we are supposed to find out where and when things are "insignificant" etc.? I mean where is it that we can make the claim the a damping factor of 137 isn't that significant from a DF of 172?
     
  17. Alex_Santos

    Alex_Santos Second Unit

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    Chris, does that UCF stand for University of Central Florida?
     
  18. brucek

    brucek Second Unit

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    Mark,
    Well your right, I did repeat those statements in my post. In engineering, we like to look at all the facts and eliminate low order effects, and then try to make an informed conclusion with what's left. This is how many equations are derived. You throw out or ignore effects that have no real significance or that are miniscule in relation to another larger effect that is overwhelming a situation.
    For example, if I find that a typical, one meter speaker wire is exhibiting a parallel load at 20KHz of 90 Kohms due to its capacitance, I am given the license to say it is "not significant" in relation to the 8 ohm load of a speaker. Do you not agree that the number 90,000 is "significantly" larger than 8. I do. But I'm not allowed to say it doesn't exist.
    Sometimes you have to interpret effects in relation to their degree of change. Yes, 172 seems to be a large change in damping from 137, but here it's a matter of whether that degree of change is even remotely "hearable" - and of course it isn't. You'll have to trust me on that one. [​IMG]
    It's very interesting that cable manufacturers and their associated web sites have been able to effectively use science to their advantage to completely ignore the "significance" rule. For example, they will apply the effects of electromagnetic phenomena for current propagation through a conductor to their cables. A rather creative job is done discussing current bunching, skin effect and frequency blurring when all these effects only apply at high frequencies. I'm referring to radio frequencies (RF) in the hundreds of mehahertz. What do they have to do with audio? Can I say nothing? No, but can I say that the effects are so ridiculously 'insignificant" that they can be ignored? Yes, of course I can. Believe me, if I sat around a table with a bunch of engineers and scientists and started discussing audio and current bunching in the same sentence, there would be laughter. Have I made my point why I used the word "significant" so many times?
    To think that anyone could tell the difference between 10 foot speaker cables of 12 gauge and 10 gauge is a little hard to believe.
    I'm afraid the explanation for the observed differences in sound can be attributed to the differences in the people that listen. Audiophiles want so badly to believe that if they change a simple cable on their system that it will suddenly be better, that they're willing to ignore science and take the familiar stance that "if I hear it - it exists", even when they're claiming 2 + 2 = 5......................................
    brucek
     
  19. Chris White

    Chris White Second Unit

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    Chris, does that UCF stand for University of Central Florida?

    Yes it does.
     
  20. Mark Austin

    Mark Austin Supporting Actor

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    brucek,

     

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