A speaker converts electrical energy into acoustic energy by using magnets and coils.
If you don’t know much about speaker wires, you may be tempted to just pick one and buy it, thinking that it won’t make much difference which one you get.
However, that’s definitely not always true. There’s so much more you need to know about them than that. What they do, essentially, is connect speakers to either receivers or amplifiers.
They do this by bringing an electric current from the source of the sound to the speaker – this is the audio signal.
While better speakers will of course give you a better sound performance overall, this isn’t the only thing for you to think about if you want to improve your sound quality.
The gauge of the wire you’re using to hook your speakers up to your sound source is another factor that will come into play that you’ll need to consider.
What Is The Gauge On A Speaker Wire?
If you’re going to buy a wire for your speakers, one thing you’ll need to take into account is the gauge. The gauge of a wire refers to how thick it is.
Essentially, a higher gauge number means that you’re dealing with a thinner wire.
The term AWG (standing for American Wire Gauge) is a commonly used measurement when it comes to rating wire thickness for speakers.
There are many different AWG sizes, but for most purposes, 14 AWG, 16 AWG, and 18 AWG are the ones you’re likely to see for day to day use.
They’re usually the ones used for home theater or speaker setups, with the others having more specialized uses.
We’ll go into detail about 14 vs 16 gauge speaker wires to help you learn if and how they’re different and which one to choose between the two.
14 AWG wires are somewhat thicker than their 16 AWG counterparts. A standard 14 gauge wire is 1.6 mm in diameter, whereas a standard 16 gauge wire comes in with a diameter of 1.3 mm.
What’s The Difference Between Different Gauges Of Wire?
A thicker wire will usually have lower resistance than a thinner one. So, if we’re comparing the resistances of the two kinds of wire, the 14 gauge one will have less of it than the 16 gauge one.
By keeping the resistance of the speaker wire low, the audio signal won’t be degraded by the resistance. It’s easier for an electrical signal to travel through a wider speaker wire than through a narrower one.
If the speaker wire has a smaller diameter, the signal will find the wire harder to flow through.
Thinner wires create more resistance for sound waves to travel through. When there is high resistance, the quality and fidelity of audio signals will deteriorate
If you want to run a longer cable to connect a speaker with a distant sound source, consider using thicker wire so that you can reduce the resistance.
If you want to use a speaker wire to connect a speaker to an audio device, then a thinner speaker cable will do a perfect job of connecting them.
What’s The Best Gauge For Me?
You might be confused about which speaker wire gauge to use for your own setup. The best option between speaker wire with 14 gauge or 16 gauge wires depends on various factors, including:
- The impedance rating of the speakers that you’re using.
- How far the speaker is from the sound source.
What Is An Impedance Rating?
When talking about things such as watts, volts, and power, many audio writers often use the analogy of water flow in a pipe because it’s an analogy people can easily imagine and that is relevant to their own experience.
Imagine that your speaker is a pipe. The audio signal (and therefore the sound you want to play) takes the role of the water in this analogy. It’s easier for more water to flow through a wider pipe, right?
You can think of a speaker with a lower impedance as being like a wider pipe. While one lets through more water, the other lets through more electrical signal, and therefore more sound.
It’s an imperfect analogy, but for our purposes it’ll do just fine.
Because of this, you see amplifiers rated to deliver 100 watts into an 8-ohm impedance or 150 or 200 watts into a 4-ohm impedance.
The lower the impedance of the speaker, the easier it is for the electricity (meaning the signal, or the sound you want to play) to flow through the speaker.
An impedance rating of between 4 and 8 ohms is common in most speakers. For this particular application.
A 14 gauge speaker cable should be used to connect speakers up to around 40 feet away whereas a 16 gauge speaker cable should be used for speakers within a distance of less than 24 feet.
For connecting speakers, 14 gauge speaker wire should only be used for distances up to 60 feet whereas 16 gauge speaker wire should only be used for distances up to 36 feet.
If you have a 14 gauge wire, it’s best used for connecting an eight-ohm speaker up to a distance of 80 feet, but no more.
In contrast, if you have a 16-gauge speaker wire, it’s best used to connect an eight-ohm speaker to a distance of 48 feet but no more.
If you go beyond the recommended length for a wire of any gauge, reduced performance, including lower audio quality, is likely to be the result.
The take home message here is that which wire is the right one for you depends mainly on the impedance rating of the speakers you’re using, as well as how far those speakers are going to be from the source of the sound.
If you’re not too concerned about sound quality and just want a cable that will work, then it doesn’t matter all that much which gauge of wire you opt to buy.
If, on the other hand, you’re an audio enthusiast who values high sound quality and wants to know which wire gauge is best for your speakers, the gauge of a wire is a factor you should consider.
If you’re looking for something that sounds good, you shouldn’t sacrifice sound quality just because it costs less. While a 16 gauge wire might be cheaper, it might not be the best fit for your setup.