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Do speaker wires really make a difference???

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I just installed a receiver in my room so I just ran some old speaker wires that I had in my house I am not sure what gage but they don’t look too big. I keep reading things on how speakers wires make a difference but what time of difference??? My system sounds pretty decent now. Does it make sound louder, clearer, or what? Is it something that an untrained ear will notice??? I guess what I am asking is will it make a noticeable difference or is it something that is nice to have? Would it over heat the receiver having smaller cables??? I don’t know just wondering... Thanks....
By the way my receiver is 600w 6.1...
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gerry1 Suspended account
It makes a noticable difference if you have a good receiver with good clarity and a good amount of power as yours has. Thin wire or wire full of splicing won't deliver a clear unincumbered signal and can even overload your system. No, you needn't spend a fortune, that's a myth for elitists who don't have anything better to do with their money; good 16g radio shack wire will do fine and deliver fine but your taking your chances with thin cheap wire of low grade conduction ... can even damage your equipment even if you don't "hear" a huge difference. 100w is a good amount of power...think about isn't possible to thin cheap stuff to carry that signal with the efficiency of decent wire. Same is true with your cables ... stay away from the bottom of the line cheapie stuff for the same reason. Again, you don't need to spend a fortune on monster stuff; good quality radio shack stuff will do (but radio shack also sells the junk cheap stuff ... you can buy their better quality stuff without spending a fortune.
Thanks... i had a feeling it would do something bad to the receiver i had the same problem in my car (my amp will over heat cause i had it bridged and i was using thin speakers cable)i have some credit with a radio shack around my house so i will go and buy them today.... another question maybe you can answer it.... does it matter what type of rca i have connected to the sub? i see they sell special ones for that... again my system is sounding fine and i am using a regular yellow video RCA cable...
gerry1 Suspended account
If you're using a decent RCA cable, you're fine. Again, cheap junk is one thing, they need to be good solid cables but if it's a decent cable, you're o.k. Technically, those top notch thick monster cables are better and they can pull out the charts to prove it but if you're ears can't tell the difference, what's the point? Again, has to be good quality for the sake of your listening and for your equipment but unless you have money to burn, that stuff just isn't worth a fraction of what it costs.

I have top of the line Denon and Mirage equipment. I had all really good speaker wire, cables etc. connecting it all and it sounded great. I was able to get some top of the line MOnster wire and cables for a song and I knew it was real and not knock off fakes so I changed everything .... all the cables, all the speaker wire and you know what difference it made...NONE! Maybe the flow of current is better now etc. but not in a way that is audibly different and my old stuff was of good quality but not "top of the line" cables and wire. Didn't make a bit of difference. Fortunately, I didn't come close to the real cost of those wires and cables because I would have been seriously pissed off LOL!
The reason for proper wire guage is a couple of things. Your receiver is designed to work into lets say just for reference an 4 ohm load. Smaller wire has more resistance per foot than heavy wire. I dont know off the top of my head what those values are but there is a difference.
So if you add that resistance of the small wire,to the speaker resistance (4 ohms), you get a value that is higher than 4 ohms. Your amp is designed to put out maximum power into a 4 ohm load,because it is matched (designed for) internally through design, to do this. If you hook up say 2 speakers in series, you would have 4 + 4 = 8 ohms. Would you agree that half the power would go to each speaker? Now imagine now that you really only have one speaker and small speaker wire (which has a higher resistance than big wire) that after the run down the hall and into the other room to the other speaker you now have a piece of speaker wire which measured gives you 4 ohms. Ok 4 + 4 = 8 ohms. but remember when we had two speakers hooked up, each one was half the power. So by using the small wire in our example we have half the power going to the speaker, because the other half is comsumed in the wire. Incidently the wire will start to heat up when more power is applied, becuase it cant handle the power.
Not only that, your amp will run a little hotter,because it is mismatched, and because now you have to turn it up more to get the same loudness out of it,the parts have to work harder and use more current to operate. The small wire is comsuming a portion of the power, while the speaker sees the other. If you use bigger wire this doesn't happen, hence you get more sound, better clarity (because of the good match). when a mismatch occurs due to the improper load (4 ohms) the sound will start to become muddy. Like using a 20 watt speaker when you need 100. another beneifit of using a proper load is that the amp runs cooler. Here is another thing. Different size wire can only carry a certain amount of current through it before it burns up like a fuse. example here for you is pretend you are going to output 100 watts to the speaker through our small crappy wire. The small wire has 4 ohms at x feet. At 100 watts and say 12 volts thats 100watts/12volts = 8.33 amps. Now sen 400 watts to the speaker: 400watts/12volts = 33.33 amps. You can see there is a big difference. Ok eliminate the small wire and use big wire. Now you can eliminate the wire resistance pretty much. now you have the full 33.33 amps at 12 volts going to the speaker instead of 33.33 amps and 6 volts across the speaker. The reason for the 6volts was because since in our example the speaker and the wire were equal in resistance, each had half the power. In a series circuit amperage does not split between the two but the voltage does. These values given here are only for examples only and may not be what system actually is, and are exaggerated a bit, but the theory is still the same. Use big wire and full power reaches the speakers, you are happy, the amp is happy and well, everyones happy.
gerry1 Suspended account
@Kapooty....that was really excellent!
janrocks Suspended account
@ kapooty.. as an ex professional sound engineer I couldn't have put it better myself. A good general gauge of wire for speakers (domestic) is 10A 240v twin core (the kind you find on lawnmowers) Good for about 100W audio. As someone who has melted what seemed to be pretty hefty cable in my time it's important to have cable that is more than capable of carrying the current.. x2 is about right.
nice.... i was able to check the wire that i had and it was 18g cable. i went to radio shack but they only had 25' 16g anything lower was monster cables and thats too expesive... i am going to go to another radioshack and see cause i need about 75' to run to the 3 speakers in the back...i would like to get 14g cables lets see what happends.... just in case does anybody know of a good website to get good cables at a good price??
shraven Suspended due non-functional email address for all your cable needs.
For example: 100ft spool 14awg cable $23.98

Another thing you can consider is doubling your wire runs. Just twist the two negative wires together at each end. In effect it doubles the wire carrying each signal. Your amp is ignorant about whether the total amount of copper carrying the load is in one plastic sheath or two!
good prices they dont have anything on stock but i guess i will wait to next week...Thank!!!
OK First posting here on this site so HELLO Everyone!!!

Yer all sort of missing the point here, the wire you use is all about the resistance it has for a givin length. A real skinny 3 foot piece of 28 gauge wire (#28) will not really have a noticeable amount of resistance (ohms) difference from an 8 gauge wire that is 3 foot long. It's when you start getting into wire lengths of 8 feet & more that wire diameter will really begin to come into play with really skinny #28 wires. An acceptable amount of resistance for a length of wire to have is 5% of the resistance of the speaker or less. So for an 8 ohm speaker, keeping the resistance to .4 ohms or less is great. A 50 foot chunk of typical 16 gauge wire has .2 ohms resistance. So #16 wire is more than enough for anything anyone is going to do here.

As far as melting , do the math, at 1000 Watts (as if you could to 1 speaker) times 2.5% (amount of power used in the wire) = 25 watts of heat over 50 feet. Think christmas tree lights (The little white ones). And this would be worst case with a 6000 Watt stereo at full tilt.

Remember, resistance is resistance regardless of what power you are running, so whether you're pumping 60 watts at normal listening volumes or have it cranked to 1000 watts, the amount of resistance your wire has remains constant (and in the case of #16 wire, insignificant)

Any way, if you really wanna dig into it...Go here

Bottom line from him is....

16 gauge zip cord will work great right up to 50 feet of length for an 8 ohm speaker.

Beyond 50 feet you get into many other issues of the wire acting as a capacitor & such regardless of its size....Who the heck is gonna run a wire more than 50 feet??

Hope this helps further clarify the wire size issue for you and saves you some money. Sorry if I've offended those of you who spent way to darn much on monster sized wires, the physics of electricity really doesn't care about how much you spend, only resistance.

Peace to All
janrocks Suspended account
Again correct.. My melting experience was running a sound rig in the 100,000 watt range,(2000 watts into 2 ohms on the bass end) where cable sizes and lengths are critical. I know that's not a domestic type problem. I also noticed that overloading the cables on a fairly regular basis does over time increase the resistance (work hardening from heat cycling?)

Also seemingly overlooked is the capacitance of the cable per foot.. This can cause strange ringing effects, overshoot, and in extreme cases damage to the amplifer output stages. Some of the exotic plaited speaker cables are awful in this respect.

Now I just use .75mm 25 strand mains cable. Cheap, effective, sounds good enough for home use and comes in a variety of colours.

For runs of over 70 feet you should really investigate 100v line equipment.
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 28 Feb 2007 @ 2:13
janrocks is right about the capacitance and there is inductance as well.
Three things we are dealing with is resistance, inductive reactance and capacitive reactance which the result is given in ohms. So the wire is more than just pure resistance. When we are dealing with AC such as audio,weird stuff happens. The wire size and length changes all three values. I would also think that if the wire size is too small and starts to heat, might also cause the wire to change resistance. If you measure the resistance in a light bulb and try to calculate it, it just doesn't add up to the wattage it says. That's because when power is applied to it, the resistance changes, because of a thing called positive or negative coeffiecient. I think the light bulb is positive where the resistance actually increases. You know I can tell you by experience, I have made do with what i have or can afford then end up messing up something and am sorry afterwards or end up costing me more by trying to cheat the syatem than it would have if i had done it right the first time. Take your time and do it right, the way you want to do it,even if you have to wait to get the stuff you need.
You can see how weird all this can become. With all the information given in all the replies, should help you out alot. Also make sure you hook the speaker up correctly polarized, or one could be out of phase with the other and other reasons.
Hey Again,

Just want to say that we could go on and on about what amounts to be very insignificant properties of speaker wire; heat, capacitance, inductance and such. I could write intelligently on this topic for page after page, but I won't cause; First, this forum isn't the place for that. Second, I'm too lazy to write that much when it's already been done and if you go to Roger Russell's "Speaker Wire - A History" web page, you'll see it.

Bottom line answer to the original post is this, 16 ga (or better) wire will absolutely work delivering peak performance 100% of the time in any conventional home audio system no ifs, ands, or buts.

If you believe otherwise and have not gone to the link I posted earlier and read what Roger Russell has to say on this matter, then your opinion is based on something other than fact.

Now, as far as cosmetics are concerned (the elephant sitting in the middle of the room here)....I completely believe that higher end speaker wires look awesome, they are beautiful things and if I had money out the wazoo I'd have them hooking up my speakers if my wires were visible. There is a real "cool factor" to them undoubtedly. But, they do not function even a tiny bit better than brown lamp cord. High end wires are like Tag Heuer watches vs a Timex, both will tell you the time perfectly well, one of them just looks a whole lot cooler.

Also, the only other issue which may come to light here is, if you're building a new house and you have the opportunity to pre-wire your speakers in the wall, there may be building codes about the wire you install which is going to be underneath the sheet-rock. Check with your electrician before you start running anything which will be buried in the wall.

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