I've read the threads - but will larger wire help *me*?

Discussion in 'Home Theater Projects' started by Phil Jones, Nov 30, 2003.

  1. Phil Jones

    Phil Jones Auditioning

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    I have read the wisdom of the members here regarding large speaker wire, and I've been made aware of all of the controversies.

    I just got an Onkyo 660 HTIB (best sound for the price by far), and it comes with pretty skinny wire (18 or smaller I'd imagine).

    My question is: Am I ( a non-audiophile, but a guy who enjoys having a properly calibrated HT, has an SPL meter) going to notice a difference or not? If the difference is LARGE, I'd go to Home Depot and pick up some 12 gauge wire, but if it's something I'm going to have to convince myself of, I'd probably rather not spend the $$$.

    Can anyone help?

    Thanks.
     
  2. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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  3. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    I doubt the thicker wire would make a noticible difference for a HT system. If you use a SPL meter, you will adjust for the LOUDEST frequency of the test-tones and get most of the compensation that way.

    Spend the money on DVD's. Later, when you upgrade to more sensitive/accurate speakers, consider the 12 ga route.
     
  4. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    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 issue that thicker speaker wire addresses is resistance, or rather, the resistance of the wire coupled with the impedance of the speakers at the other end. Obviously, thicker wire has less resistance.

    Whether or not larger-gauge wire will improve a speaker’s sound largely depends speaker itself. For instance, the first time I tried increasing gauge size in the mid-fi stereo system I had back in the early 80s, I noticed a remarkable improvement – both bass and treble were noticeably improved.

    However, at the time I was using nominal 4-ohm speakers that had 2-ohm drivers, and the speaker cable runs were pretty long – probably 20 ft. or more. So obviously any significant change in the resistance of the speaker cable would be readily “seen” by the system, more so than if the speakers had been 8-ohm with short runs.

    It’s well known that the elements in a passive crossover, especially the resistors, can make changes to the way a driver sounds. It’s also well known that a speaker’s impedance can vary widely at any given frequency. So it doesn’t seem out of line to expect that speakers using low-impedance drivers, or speakers where the impedance drops very low at certain frequencies, could be very much (read audibly) affected by whatever resistance is added by the speaker wire. Or perhaps the particular amplifier in use reacts more readily reacts to subtle changes in resistance at lower impedances. Either way the end result is the same.

    So, the million-dollar question, will changing to larger-gauge wire make an audible improvement? Obviously it depends greatly on your particular speakers, but it’s safe to say there’s a very good chance that you’ll see an audible improvement with large-gauge vs. small gauge wire.

    That certainly was the case – surprisingly - with a good friend of mine. He doesn’t really have a discerning ear, and he was using so-so speakers that came with a Yamaha rack system (remember those, from the 80s?). He had the speakers set-up on either side of the equipment rack and TV, with speaker leads being probably no more than 6-ft. So when he asked me if he’d hear an improvement if he changed out the cheesy 20-gauge wire that came with the system for some 14-gauge, I said “Probably not.” To my surprise, he reported it made an audible improvement. Needless to say, after that it was hard for me not to recommend the use of large-gauge wire to everyone.

    I’ll agree with Bob that with most home theater programming it may not make a difference, especially for the rear speakers, but I would at least use have large-gauge wire for the front three channels.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  5. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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