Speaker Cable Gauge (AWG) Guidelines

Discussion in 'A/V Interconnects, Cables & Power Conditioning' started by admin, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. its phillip Audioholic Ninja

    its phillip
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    That post was made back in november 2008. I don't think he'll be around to respond :D
  2. Mfalcon Audiophyte

    Mfalcon
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    oops...

    Well... I stand corrected. Perhaps more important than the speaker gauge to buy, I've become a bit less ignorant. Thanks guys.
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  3. dinster Audiophyte

    dinster
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    Rickster71,
    Dude, political correctness is grossly abused, have you ever heard the term "chink in his armour" for the less educated, ignorant, and overly sensitive, it might be perceived as having something to do with China, but alas, no, it refers to a small chip, a small imperfection. Get with it mate.
    Secondly something overlooked in the article is the quality of the wire, the geometry and the properties of the dielectric. Must say, I once made up speaker cable with car battery wire, going on the principle that a lower resistance would be better. It was horrible, sharp and edgy to the point of not being listenable. So for a cable sceptic, I eventually had to concede that there is more to it than just resistance.
    Look forward to any comments on what properties other than resistance, are important.

    I notice someone else referred to "chink in Armour", sorry about the duplication, but that kind of ignorant, self righteous comment gets my goat. With respect to stranded cable, apparently it is the signal jumping from strand to strand that degrades it. Don't know of any solid core speaker cables, the closest thing is a multi-strand litz wherein each solid conductor is individually insulated (Nordost, for instance, I'm sure there are others). I figure the best advice would be, keep an open mind, try different options, and you will be surprised at how different different cables sound, choose one you like.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2012
  4. bikemig Audioholic Chief

    bikemig
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    Great article. When I set up my 2 audio systems, I didn't know anything about cables and decided to use 12 gauge speaker cable from Monoprice even though I use fairly short runs. It's a bit hard to work with but I figured what the heck might as well use a thicker gauge. Now I understand some of the reasons why it makes sense to go with a thicker gauge.
  5. Rickster71 Audioholic Spartan

    Rickster71
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    I think you have me mixed up with someone else. :confused:
  6. Alex2507 Audioholic Slumlord

    Alex2507
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    No kidding. You're always talking about how you love those ******. :eek: :D
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  7. lsiberian Audioholic Overlord

    lsiberian
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    I thought the same thing. I still remember the picture of him at that beach.

    I will say if you speaker cable isn't large enough to be used as a weapon then it's not large enough. You never know what you might need if a desperate criminal enters your home to steal your custom built speakers. :D
  8. Rick Royce Enthusiast

    Rick Royce
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    Best cable stranded or solid core

    Normally Palerider should have the opportunity to defend his own position. However, since his post is 3 years old at least I can not get accused of stealing the words out of his mouth. :D

    I think he is adhering to the fact that solid core string can be bundled tighter than stranded cables in the manufacturing, everything else equal. In theory this would decrease the inductance and allow a more even impedance and frequency linear response.

    However, in practice there might be other considerations:
    1. Will the stiff and inflexible solid bundle core really hold its original tight configuration even after some bending?
    2. Will the stiff construction allow proper termination?
    3. Will it have an audible effect in the first place?

    So in practice it might be more difficult to determine which speaker cable construction is best. These outrageously expensive cables (Achievum Live Mk 2), out of which I still own the noticeably cheaper :p little brother Mk 1, have stuck with the stranded litz wire also in their cost no limit cable.

    So it is just for the eager minded to test for themselves to see what works best, there are many DIY options. (and for the ones who does not believe in this cable mambo jumbo at all, spend the money on a few new cd instead and chill-out)
  9. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

    gene
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    That is simply NOT true. Stranded wire of the same gauge as solid core wire, even if each strand is NOT individually shielded still exhibits Litz like behavior where the sum of the strands still exhibit less inductance with increased frequency than compared the solid core equivalent. The only advantage solid core wire has is stiffness which is something not needed and often not preferred when dealing with speaker cables.
    gene,
  10. Alex2507 Audioholic Slumlord

    Alex2507
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    I was going to say the same thing but my rebuttal was going to be way more technical and I didn't want to spend the time doing all that typing. Thanks for summarizing my thoughts. :rolleyes:
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  11. DS-21 Full Audioholic

    DS-21
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    Not only that, but also solid-core wires are more likely to break after repeated bending than stranded wires are.

    And even an "audiophile" can tell the difference between a speaker wire with continuity and a broken speaker wire.

    In a double-blind test, even! :)

    (That said, I still have about 200' of 14AWG solid core speaker wire from when Mitek cleared out all of the US-made Esoteric Audio stuff for less than scrap value. I don't currently use any of it because it's annoying to route, but I save it for future in-wall usage as it's CL3 rated.)
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  12. jneutron Senior Audioholic

    jneutron
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    Hey Gene, long time no speak.

    If a stranded and solid are in isolation, and their inductance per foot measured vs frequency, they will be identical at DC In fact, the internal inductance of 15 nH per foot is independent of the guage of the wire as well.

    As the frequency goes up, The solid conductor will begin the process of skinning, so it's inductance will begin to drop because the center of the conductor will have less current, so there will be less magnetic field within the conductor. A stranded conductor will have less conductivity with respect to eddy currents, so it's inductance will drop slower than that of the solid conductor. Litz will hold it's inductance the longest. Here, the size of the conductor will factor, as the smaller wires will go to higher frequencies before the effect starts to be noticed.

    When wire pairs are considered, there are more effects as a result of proximity. Litz will be very resistant to proximity, so it's per foot external inductance will remain quite stable. Solid on the other hand, will be more susceptible to the effect. It's external inductance will be heavily dependent on the current centroid location, so as the current centroid gets closer to the other conductor, the effective conductor spacing drops, and with that, the per foot inductance.

    Cheers, John
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  13. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

    gene
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    Wow John, I didn't think you were still lurking in the forums. How you been? Still working for BHL? When are we gonna finally create a stable black hole and understand gravity once and for all? LOL.

    I've measured similar gauge solid vs stranded cables and found the stranded typically measure better. I seem to remember writing about this years ago but can't find the article :( Anyways, I see NO reason to use solid core wire over stranded wire for speaker cables. Stranded is better b/c its flexible and much easier to terminate.
    gene,
  14. jneutron Senior Audioholic

    jneutron
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    Still waking up on the same side of the dirt.. Doing fine. My current employer is the same.

    Sometimes it's the twist tightness, sometimes the thickness of the insulation, sometimes the meter can't distinguish Rs from Ls.

    I also see no reason to choose between stranded or solid, other than for convienience or flexibility.

    John
  15. Rick Royce Enthusiast

    Rick Royce
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    Inductance

    Perhaps I was unclear in my post or misunderstood something.

    But I was thinking like this:

    Assuming a simple twisted pair cable ("zip cord"?). The greater the distance between the twisted pair the greater the inductance (and the lower the capacitance). Correct?

    A stranded wire will inherently have some air in the cable cross section (which the solid wire will not have). To achieve the same cable DC resistance a solid cable consequently will have a slightly smaller diameter than an equivalent stranded wire?

    Further assuming that both the stranded cable and the solid cable are dressed in the same internal thickness of insulator.

    Then wouldn't it be fair to assume that the distance between the centre of a twisted pair solid wire would be closer to each other than twisted pair of stranded wire? If so, the inductance would be lower (and capacitance higher) for solid wire than stranded wire assuming the cable DC resistance is constant.

    The AC resistance behaviour in this Audiholics test, would give some support to my reasoning and less support for any "litz" behaviour in stranded wire that has not been individual insulated.

    Or please feel free to correct me where i might have done logical errors or are factually wrong.
  16. GranteedEV Audioholic Ninja

    GranteedEV
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    Is ~.15ohm added DCR a significant amount for a 4 ohm speaker?
  17. JohnA Audioholic Chief

    JohnA
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    no, there is more difference just in the crossover components then that. for example if you have a 5 mH inductor that has a rated DCR of 1.95 ohms and is +/- 3% tolerance you can have a difference of up to .10 ohms just between the inductors of two (L/R) crossovers...
  18. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

    gene
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    Yes.

    Possibly but your splitting hairs. I suggest you look at the AWG tables on line between stranded and unstranded cable.

    Wire Gauges

    The AWG table below is for a single, solid, round conductor. Because of the small gaps between the strands in a stranded wire, a stranded wire with the same current-carrying capacity and electrical resistance as a solid wire, always have a slightly larger overall diameter.

    the distance differences are so negligible that it's not even worth debating. I'd still rather have multiple uninsulated strands over a single large solid core stranded wire (assuming equivalent gauge) b/c: its more flexible, and still has a slight advantage over solid core at higher frequencies with respect to AC resistance. I believe I misspoke prior about reduced inductance, but I actually meant AC resistance.

    This is a good read:
    Skin Effect and cable impedance

    At low enough frequencies (<10MHz) I argue that stranded uninsulated wire still exhibits "litz like" behavior.

    I've honestly not been thinking much about cables in the last 5-6 years. All the research I did and wrote for this site back then made me realize with speaker cables, you really only need to concern yourself with the lowest loop resistance possible. Keeping the conductors reasonably close together will take care of inductance as you've seen in the measurements I've made of most well designed low resistance speaker cables.
    gene,
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  19. DS-21 Full Audioholic

    DS-21
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    That's all technically correct, don't forget the application: speaker wire.

    Twenty kHz is still a "low" frequency as far as signal transmission goes, so all that stuff, while true, really doesn't mean anything in this context.


    I've always thought the term "zip cord" referred to a "shotgun" (side-by-side) arrangement rather than a twisted pair. I only throw that out there because I may be wrong.

    Sometimes images are worth more than words.

    Here is a (bad, but useful enough) picture of two 14AWG wires with PTFE ("teflon") insulation.

    [​IMG]

    The first one is solid core (Esoteric Audio Isopath). Note that I had to prop the outer jacket in the heatsink of a component to get it to lay the way I wanted it to.

    The second one is a mil-spec (MIL-W22759-11) stranded (19 strands of 27AWG) silver-plated copper. Note that it is flexible enough to just go where I wanted it to.

    I haven't taken a caliper to them, but the former doesn't seem materially thinner than the latter does, by eyeball.

    The second one (along with a 16AWG version of same for shorter runs, and a double-run of either one for very long runs) is mostly what I use for speaker wire. No, it doesn't sound any different than any other wire. But the silver plating makes corrosion a non-issue and the teflon jacket makes the outer diameter of the wire thin for a 14AWG wire. Thin wires may look less audiophool-impressive, but they are easier to route and hide. And at surplus pricing, one can generally find spools of the stuff, in 2-conductior pre-twisted form, for around a quarter per foot for 16AWG and 35-cents a foot for 14AWG. For some reason 12AWG and up rarely comes up around here as surplus, and when it does it's a lot more expensive than 14AWG and smaller.

    Furthermore, any differences between the thickness of stranded v. solid in terms of center-center distance will be completely swamped by likely differences in insulation thickness. Here's another (awful) picture that demonstrates such differences:

    [​IMG]

    The wires are, from left to right:

    -16 AWG stranded (mil-spec M22579/11, silver plate OFC copper) with teflon insulation.
    -14 AWG solid core six-nines OFC copper with teflon insulation (Esoteric Audio Isopath, same as above)
    -12 AWG stranded six-nines OFC copper with PVC insulation (Esoteric Audio -"Streetwires" car-fi marketed wire, purchased ca. 1994)
    -8 AWG stranded six-nines OFC copper (JL Audio XA-BLUSCS-8; I don't know what gauge the individual strands are, but they are visibly finer than the 16AWG mil spec wire's 29AWG individual strands) with PVC insulation

    Note how much thicker the PVC jackets are, compared to the PTFE jackets.

    All of those (except the 8AWG stuff, which while sold as "speaker wire" is really beyond overkill for that application and more suitable as a power wire for car audio amplifiers. That's how I use it) are perfectly suitable for speakers. Assuming a run short enough and loudspeaker nominal impedance high enough to result in de minimis loss from the 16AWG one, nobody will ever be able to tell a difference between them.
  20. mtrycrafts Audioholic Slumlord

    mtrycrafts
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    Since you have all this at your fingertips, how much less current in the center, say at 20kHz, between16 ga and 12 ga and same cables at DC and 20kHz?:D
    Thanks.

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