Speaker Wire

What you really need to know about speaker wire

As with all analogue RCA cables, speaker wire is subject to a world of mythologies, pseudo-science and superstitions that cause people to go out and spend way too much money. Regular old copper is an amazing mineral; it's cheap and it's an almost perfectly clean conductor. Silver is a very good conductor also, with small gains in total impedance over copper so it's used to make very expensive speaker wire and audio cables. In practical application, the difference between silver and copper speaker wire is so small there is no audible difference between them.

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The price is certainly different, though. Copper wire can be purchased for around a buck a foot while silver is a traded commodity. Double-blind testing has concluded there is no audible difference between copper and exotic cables in study after study. The only way promoters of exotic cabling can continue to implore audiophiles to waste money on exotic conductive materials is by questioning the validity of double-blind testing. More often, peddlers of high-end cables and wires prey upon the unaware or are simply well-meaning but are unaware themselves.

As a general rule your gauge should meet the following:

  • 16 gauge for less than 100 feet.
  • 14 gauge from 100 to 200 feet.
  • 12 gauge for runs greater than 200 feet.

Don't be fooled by the acoustic snake-oil salesmen trying to distribute silver or other exotic materials in their speaker wire. Nothing is better than old fashioned copper zip wire. Oxygen-free copper wire is slightly more expensive than regular copper wire. Oxygen-free simply means it'll be free of natural imperfections in the copper, like trace amounts of iron, that will add to the total impedance by microscopic proportions. Oxygen-free copper offers no audible advantage over regular old copper wire and isn't worth spending extra money.

When working with speaker wire all you need to know is the length of the run you're covering and buy the correct gauge. Wire is sold in a value called guage which indicates the total impedance per unit of length of the cable. Lower gauge wire is thicker and is used for longer runs of wire.

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