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Speaker wire gauge, does it matter?

Well, the simple answer is Yes! Just like the tires on your sports car would matter, the type, gauge, and length of your speaker wire do matter. Now in saying that, if you just have a standard car, putting racing tires on it does not make it a sports car. There are some variables to think about in choosing the type of wire you are going to use.

When you are thinking of a stereo system, what are you considering? Theater surround sound or a 2-channel setup? The difference between these is not much of a difference. It will be how much speaker wire you will need and how many speakers you plan on having in your theater. A theater can utilize per channel as much if not more of what a 2-channel system would use.

What does the gauge of the wire mean? The American Wire Gauge or AWG is what you will find on most wires and especially speaker wire. The thing to remember that the smaller the number, large the cable will be. The gauge of the wire is important as the more power you are sending to the speaker the larger the wire you will want to have.

Should you set up your system with 2ohm, 4ohm, 6ohm, or 8ohm? Let’s start with, why this would matter. Lower the impedance (ohms) the more current that will run through the speaker itself. When you are putting together a high-powered system with many watts and you are trying to wake your neighbors up, having a 2ohm system can be better than an 8ohm. Not all Surround sound receivers are allowed for lower than 4ohms, so check the specifications of the one you have or plan to get. 2-channel amplifiers and processors typically will allow you to reach the 2ohms level.

AWG Scale
AWG Scale
So now let’s look at the distances from the amplifier to the speaker locations. Distance plays a large part in this. The number of watts you are pumping through your speakers, the ohms you are at, and the gauge of the wire will matter in this equation. Look at the chart and notice how the gauge of the wire goes down as the distance increases or as the ohms decrease. Remember that once you go beyond the 50’ length, at any wattage or impedance level, you will start to lose high frequencies. As we go deeper and deeper, things get to be more and more complicated. I am trying to keep this technical, but not get too deep into it. So, let’s stop at this level of technicality.

The highlighted point to pay attention to is the specification on your amplifiers, can they handle 2 – 8 ohms of impedance? What are the speakers you are using and what can they handle for watts and impedance? How far from my speakers will I have the amplifier? Once you figure this out, have a look at the chart above and you should be good to go.

Suggestions of speaker wire: 14-AWG wire or 12-AWG wire

Suggestions of speaker wire connectors: Banana Plugs or Spade Connectors

Suggestions for testers: db Tester or an Impedance Meter

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