When you buy a speaker or a pair of speakers, you also have to buy a speaker wire (or wires).
This doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In fact, we have put together a list of things to know before you invest in a speaker wire.
If you pick a bad quality speaker wire, you will get a bad quality audio output. There’s no arguing the fact, and there’s no way around it. That is how it is.
So read on to find out what you need to think about before choosing the oh so important wire for your speakers.
Useful Key Terms
To save us explaining ourselves over and over, we have put together a few key terms that may come up over the length of the guide. Feel free to refer back to them as and when you need, to help with the explanations in the different segments.
1. AWG: American Wire Gauge. The measurement of a wire, from thin to thick. This is dictated by a number. The lower the number, the thicker the wire. The higher the number, the thinner the wire.
2. OHM: A unit that describes an electrical devices’ resistance.
3. Electrical Resistance: How an electrical device controls the current that runs through it.
4. Watt: A unit of power.
Can A Speaker Wire Be Too Thick Or Thin?
The width of a speaker wire is important, but it doesn’t overly dictate overall function.
The wire thickness is owing to what’s inside, rather than outside, of the wire. So, the outer coat isn’t too relevant here. It’s the inner size we are focussing on.
Speaker wires are measured by a gauge system called AWG, or American Wire Gauge. Normally, the gauge of a speaker wire can be from around 12 gauge up to about 18. These figures can fluctuate slightly, but generally speaking, that is the range you should be aiming for.
Contrarily, the lower numbers equal thicker wires. The higher numbers describe thinner wires.
Thick wire is suited to speakers with higher watts and power and long wires. Similarly, a thin wire is suited to lower watt speakers and shorter wires.
The key thing to do is to decide what the correct gauge is in relation to your speaker set-up. Find out your watts, and go from there.
To answer the query, yes and no. It’s an open-ended question that is decided by multiple external factors. You can definitely pick the wrong speaker wire for the job. So in that sense, yes, a speaker wire can be too thick or too thin. But, appearance-wise, it’s not important. It’s what is inside the wire that should be your focus.
Can You Cut Speaker Wires Safely?
Cutting wires can be a risky business. Tampering with anything electrical requires a certain degree of basic knowledge in order to avoid complications and electrical fires or outages.
So, can you cut speaker wires safely?
If you know what you’re doing, then yes you can.
Here are our top tips for cutting speaker wires safely.
1. Turn the power off. Do not attempt to cut any wire of any sort while it is connected to a power source. This can lead to electrocution, which is a serious ailment.
2. Get the right cutting implement. Lots of people lean towards using shear-type cutting devices for cutting wires. They are thicker and easier to use and navigate. Here are two excellent wire cutting products you can opt for.
Option One: Ares
Option Two: Klein
These are in the right ballpark for the type of thing you should be using when attempting to cut wires properly. Normal kitchen scissors may do the job however, the blades may not be serrated or sharp enough to cut properly.
3. Measure up! Surely, we’ve all been there. We cut before measuring, thinking our eyes know best. Trust us, they rarely do. You might want to take a punt and cut what you think is best. But, it’s a method best avoided. Wherever you are able to, measure up your area. Measure the length that you want your wire to run from and to. Cut accordingly.
4. Double check everything is back where it should be before inserting the wire into any power source. You don’t want any nasty shocks, after all.
Does Speaker Wire Age Poorly And Lose Function?
Speaker wires, like anything, are often subject to poor wear and tear, especially as they get a few years into their existence.
That being said, speaker wires tend to last a long time, especially good quality ones. Of course, if you go cheap and cheerful, then it might be a different story.
If you look after them properly, they should age just fine and retain function perfectly.
How To Look After Your Wires
Don’t get them tangled. Wires weren’t made to be tangled. If you keep things tidy, this will increase the lifespan of your speaker wires tenfold.
Store them properly. If you ever find yourself not using your speaker wire, wrap it up properly. We’ve all been there, a box full of indistinguishable wires melded together for all eternity. It doesn’t have to be the case. If you store them properly and wrap them neatly, they will be preserved and work just fine the next time you find yourself plugging them in.
Don’t be rough with them: Speaker wires can be sensitive creatures. They will likely be more prone to damage if they are trodden on, ridden over by chair wheels, disturbed by your pet, etc. If they are in a safe and out of reach place, there is less likelihood of them being exposed to external threats to their well-being.
Treat them like they are nocturnal: That’s right. Keep your speaker wires away from any direct source of sunlight. Overexposure to sunlight can cause overheating, melting, and general decay.
Maintenance and Cleaning: Copper wire can sometimes fall victim to the dreaded oxidation. If this happens, it’s probably worth buying a new speaker wire. You can fix it yourself by removing the layers that are oxidized and replacing the copper.
To avoid oxidation, clean your speakers. Unplug your speakers and dust them once in a while. Remove your wires and let them sit separately from your speakers.
Remote Wires: What Are They, And How Are They Linked To Speaker Wires?
Remote wires are most commonly placed in cars, trucks, lorries. Any car type device with four wheels that has a stereo system. That is where you shall find a remote wire.
What’s their purpose? They connect sound systems to amps. Thus creating one hell of a sound system.
Speaker wires will do just fine when it comes to filling in or replacing a remote wire. As long as it is made from copper, of course.
When switched on, a remote wire kicks out 12V. This is a whole load of power for any audio system, and you should get a crisp and eardrum deafening sound.
The copper acts as a conduit to keep things hooked up to the power source, and therefore keeping the ship afloat and the audio rocking.
Are Thin Wires Okay To Use For Speakers?
Thin wires are not the greatest things when it comes to speakers and audio quality.
Thin wires tend to have a high gauge and therefore a high resistance. High resistance normally equals poor sound. You know that tinny sound you get in your headphones when there’s a loose wire somewhere, yeah, that’s what we are talking about.
If you can avoid thin wires, we recommend that you do just that. This is especially relevant if you have a long-distance speaker chamber. You won’t get a great sound out of a thin wire.
Ideally, look for something in the range of 12-15 gauge. Sixteen at a push is fine for lower voltage speakers, but it won’t quite make the team for a more powerful system.
Lengths Of Speaker Wire: Are They Relevant?
As with the other things we have looked at so far, the length of your speaker wire is absolutely relevant. There is little point in investing in a wire that is not the right length for your system.
If it’s too long, there is a higher risk of it becoming tangled and defunct. This can affect the overall audio signal coming from the speaker cables. Thicker wire is at less of a risk than thin wire when it comes to getting entangled.
At the end of the day, speaker wire length can actually dictate the quality of the sound. So it’s worth getting it right.
You can use simple measuring tools such as measuring tapes to get an accurate picture of the length and size of your area and therefore the length of wire that is required. If you end up buying a wire that is too short, you will only end up having to start your set-up all over again.
The only other thing to consider when it comes to speaker wire length is whether you are using a single speaker or a pair of speakers.
If you are using the latter, a pair of speakers, you have to get wires that are equal lengths to one another. If you don’t, one speaker may sound better than the other speaker. The audio may be unequal, and the quality will be compromised. Nobody wants that.
This is an overall thought summary. When it comes to choosing the right speaker wire for your speakers, you have to think about your overall setup. Get the length measurement right, get the thickness right, and you should be onto a winner.
Remember, everything is relevant when it comes to the quality of sound. There’s no point whatsoever in running a thin speaker wire across a distance that is too long for it to cope with. Given that, it probably wasn’t coping all too well in the first place.
Final Words Of Wisdom
If you have read through everything we have to offer about speaker wires, you are likely feeling like a bit of an expert right about now. Our final words of wisdom are as follows.
Follow our advice.
You might be tempted to go for a cheaper, non-branded wire. To be honest, with regard to speaker wires, we advise against it.
A thicker speaker wire will always win over a thinner wire, any day. Thicker speaker wires are attuned to top sound quality when connected to a pair of speakers.
If we have to single one feature out as most important, we will always go for the thickness of the wire.