Getting Wired: How to Choose the Right Speaker Wire for Your Home Audio System
With so many different brands and grades of speaker wire on the market, it can be tough to narrow down your choices. Believe it or not, your final decision doesn’t need to be based on a famous name or hefty price tag – on the contrary, it’s more important to look at specifications and characteristics. Not sure what to look for? Just read on: CableOrganizer.com shares tips on how to find the perfect speaker wire for your audio system.
The distance of your speaker-wire run directly corresponds to the gauge (or thickness) of wire you’ll need to use. All speaker wire is based on the AmericanWire Gauge (AWG), a wire-sizing system that assigns numbers (which range from 0 to 40) to standardized wire thicknesses. In the AWG system, the higher the number is, the thinner the wire. Speaker wire typically falls within the 12 to 18-gauge range.
The farther an audio signal travels down a wire, the more resistance – and power loss – it encounters. Because thicker, lower-gauge wire offers the least resistance, it has the best capacity for carrying audio signals long distances – generally speaking, a 12 or 14-gauge speaker cable should give you great results. But don’t go on assumption alone – the best way to find the right wire gauge for your speakers is to know the exact length of the cable runs, then compare them to the chart below.
Will the wire need to go through a wall?
Because fire safety considerations come into play, choosing the right speaker wire for in-wall installation takes a little more consideration than is necessary when you’re picking out standard speaker cable. Start out by consulting local fire and building codes for exact specifications. If you’re going to be running speaker wire in-wall, you’ll need to select a type that is UL-rated and labeled either CL2 or CL3 (Class 2 or Class 3, respectively). These designations ensure that the wire has been tested extensively for current-based heat generation, flammability, and susceptibility to damage, and that Underwriters Laboratories has given it their stamp of approval for safe consumer use and in-wall installation. We recommend Monster XP® CI Compact Speaker Cable.
On the other hand, if your audio setup doesn’t require in-wall wire runs, any type of speaker wire will work, provided that you’re satisfied with its quality. One great all-around speaker wire to try is Monster XP® Speaker Wire by Monster Cable®.
If you’re choosing speaker cable based on the sound quality you want to achieve, you’ll need to take both conductor characteristics and shielding into consideration. When it comes to conductor material, look for speaker wire that’s based on high-purity copper, which is recognized as one of Earth’s finest conductive metals.
Next, think about gauge. If you have a high end, audiophile-quality system that’s geared toward finely nuanced sound reproduction, opt for a thicker gauge speaker wire, even if cable runs between the amp/receiver and speakers are on the short side. A thicker conductor (12 or 14-gauge) provides a wider, clearer path for audio signals to travel along, and allows every little detail to come through.
Shielding – a tightly woven metal braid that surrounds a cable’s conductor – can also improve overall sound quality by blocking interference from nearby power cords and fluorescent lighting. Shielded speaker cable is an especially smart choice for in-wall installations, which often run in close proximity to electrical wiring.For a smaller scale, everyday audio system, high-grade speaker cable isn’t a necessity. In cases like this, basic 16-gauge copper speaker wire does the job just fine, and will help to keep your budget under control.
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