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Speaker Wire Guide

What Speaker Wire Size Should You Use? The Appropriate Gauge, Type, and Other Considerations

Wondering what dimension speaker wire you want? You’re not alone – there’s loads of confusion in terms of hooking up speakers & getting the best type and gauge of wire. In this information, I’ll present you the best gauge and type of speaker wire you’ll want. I’ll additionally cowl much more, too:

  • What speaker wire “gauge” means
  • How to test which speaker wire is constructive or detrimental
  • How to attach speaker wire to terminals or splice it
  • Copper clad aluminum (CCA) vs pure copper wire

Quick reply: What dimension speaker wire do I would like?

Speaker wire dimension fast information

  • For most cases utilizing house or car speakers (not subwoofers) 18 gauge (18AWG) is okay. 18AWG wire is good for about 50W for 4 ohm (car) speakers and 100W for 8 ohm (house stereo) speakers.
  • For increased power methods or longer lengths, 16 gauge is a superb choice.
  • For longer lengths (50-100ft)/(15-30.5m) you’ll have to go up 2 gauges (14 ga.) to keep away from shedding power. Very long lengths of speaker wire lose a little bit of power over the long distance on account of resistance. Using bigger wire will help cut back or keep away from this. (See my detailed chart later for more information)

First and foremost, it’s essential to know that you shouldn’t spend cash on larger speaker wire than you want. It’s a waste of your hard-earned cash to get wire that’s larger (and prices extra) than what you want. It won’t enhance the sound or something like that, regardless of what salespeople could inform you. The dimension of speaker wire you want relies on 3 issues you’ll be able to simply test:

  1. Your stereo or amplifier’s power output (normally listed as watts “RMS”)
  2. The Ohm ranking (“impedance”) of your speakers
  3. Length wanted

However, should you’d like a simplified reply right here’s a chart to suit the wants of most individuals.

Simplified speaker wire dimension chart

Wire SizeRecommended For
18 Ga.Car and residential speakers as much as 25 ft with common power ranges (50W RMS and below)
16 Ga.Longer speaker runs for car & house stereo speakers; Moderate power subwoofers (under 225W)
14 Ga.Long (100ft+) speaker runs or increased power purposes resembling high-power 2 or 4 ohm subwoofers.

In most cases for on a regular basis listening at medium or low power ranges (50W RMS or under), 18 gauge (18AWG) wire is what you want. It’s a good compromise between value and dealing with because it’s normally priced well and easy to seek out.

Choosing speaker wire for long distances

The desk above works well for many cases. But what should you want say 50ft and even 100ft of size? In that case, you’ll wish to double the dimensions by selecting a wire gauge 2 sizes up. Wire gauge (the quantity of copper in them) doubles by transferring to not the subsequent gauge, however as an alternative the one after that. Example: 18AWG wire will lose about 4 watts at most power if it’s 50ft long. To keep away from this, we’ll pick a wire gauge 2 sizes up: 18 -> 16 -> 14 gauge.

Speaker wire power & size chart

If you’d like lower your expenses through the use of a smaller gauge wire right here’s a useful chart I’ve made primarily based on the most power you should use with wire for various lengths. With it, you’ll be able to pick the best wire primarily based in your type of speaker, how a lot power you’ll use, and one among a number of shut lengths chances are you’ll want.

Wire GaugeLength/Power for 8 Ohm SpeakersLength/Power for 4 Ohm SpeakersLength/Power for two Ohm Speakers
20AWG3ft: 263W, 16ft: 49W, 25ft, 32W 50ft: 16W3ft: 131W, 16ft: 25W, 25ft: 16W, 50ft: 8W3ft: 66W, 16ft: 12W, 25ft: 8W, 50ft: 4W
18AWG3ft: 418W, 16ft: 78W, 25ft: 50W, 50ft: 25W3ft: 209W, 16ft: 39W, 25ft: 25W, 50ft: 13W3ft: 104W, 16ft: 20W, 25ft: 13W, 50ft: 6W
16AWG3ft: 664W, 16ft: 125W, 25ft: 80W, 50ft: 40W3ft: 332W, 16ft: 62W, 25ft: 40W, 50ft: 20W3ft: 166W, 16ft: 31W, 25ft: 20W, 50ft: 10W
14AWG3ft: 1056W, 16ft: 198W, 25ft: 127W, 50ft: 63W3ft: 528W, 16ft: 99W, 25ft: 63W, 50ft: 32W3ft: 264W, 16ft: 50W, 25ft: 32W, 50ft: 16W
12AWG3ft: 1679W, 16ft: 315W, 25ft: 202W, 50ft: 101W3ft: 840W, 16ft: 157W, 25ft: 101W, 50ft: 50W3ft: 420W, 16ft: 79W, 25ft: 50W, 50ft: 25W

For instance, a 2 Ohm car subwoofer with as much as 250W of power from an amp however only needing 3ft of size can use 14AWG wire. (Instead of a bigger, costlier wire)

What gauge is speaker wire?

Image showing a comparison of common speaker wire gauge sizes

Speaker wire doesn’t have only one dimension (gauge). Most speaker wire follows the American Wire Gauge (AWG) customary that makes use of a chart of various gauges. It assigns a quantity to every customary dimension & electrical conductor ranking. Likewise, every dimension is rated for a specific amount {of electrical} present capability. Speaker wire is available in a large range of normal sizes primarily based on the American Wire Gauge (AWG) standard. The American Wire Gauge customary, additionally much less generally often called the Brown & Sharpe wire gauge, is a standardized wire gauge system used since 1857 for the diameters of spherical electrically conducting wire. Diagram showing example scale sizes of AWG wire gauges 18 to 12 AWG wire charts use a numbering system the place a smaller quantity is bigger wire with extra copper conductors. Likewise, a bigger quantity is used for smaller wire with fewer conductors. I understand it appears type of odd, however when you begin utilizing it you’ll get used to it fairly shortly.

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Why wire gauge issues

The AWG is very essential as a result of it means you might be certain what dimension of speaker wire you’re getting similar to some other power wire you’d purchase. Speaker wire is handled the identical (since it’s the similar, principally!) as common power hook up wire which additionally follows the AWG customary. Most speaker wire offered at present is made up of two wires connected as a pair with one marked because the constructive wire (I’ll cowl this later right here). Gauges accessible normally range from about 20 or 22 gauge to 10 gauge, with 18 gauge being the preferred.

Stranded vs strong wire

Comparison of solid vs stranded wire Solid wire (left) is a horrible choice for speakers & audio methods. It’s very arduous to bend & curve, it will possibly break when uncovered to fixed vibration, and it’s additionally tougher to make connections with. Stranded wire (proper) is tremendously simpler to cope with. Stranded wire is made up of numerous tiny copper wire strands, making it very versatile and in addition simpler to strip, crimp to connectors, and work with by hand. All speaker wire strong is stranded wire – that means it’s made up of a bundle of 16-60 or extra tiny copper stands. It’s very versatile and in addition easy to cope with for stripping the wire & including connectors or twisting it by hand. Solid wire, however, has only one conductor. Since it’s generally used for home & industrial electrical wiring, you could be tempted to make use of leftover strong wire on your speakers. Solid wire is a horrible choice for almost all audio methods and particularly car audio installations. But why?

Use stranded, not strong wire for speakers

Solid wire is okay for properties or buildings because it’s by no means moved as soon as put in. However, it’s very arduous to bend into place and can be topic to break over time when uncovered to fixed vibration like in a car or truck. Over time, the wire can develop weak spots which break! I strongly advocate you don’t hassle with strong wire because it’s not well worth the threat or problem. Many sorts of strong wire (like for house outlet wiring) have insulation that’s tremendous arduous to strip, too.

How a lot wire do you want?

Speaker wire length estimation diagram It’s at all times best to measure to verify – however since many individuals use speaker wire for nearly the identical issues there are some frequent lengths that work. In the diagram above you’ll be able to see some frequent lengths for speaker wire that should be within the “ballpark.” Buying & utilizing speaker wire is certainly a type of cases the place the previous recommendation “better to have too much than not enough” applies! You don’t wish to run out of wire due to not planning well. To work out how a lot speaker wire you want, my ideas is to make use of one of many following:

  • A tape measure
  • A long size of power to run

Be certain to attempt to take curves & bends under consideration however don’t fear about getting it precisely proper. Measure the gap after which add just a few toes (2 or so is good) to account for little variations. A tape measure works well and so does string or rope you’ll be able to place alongside the trail the place the wire will go. Mark the size, then measure it. I like so as to add a minimum of 1 foot of size for every wire part for house stereo use and a couple of toes every for car stereo installations to play it protected.

Figuring out how a lot wire to purchase

When it comes to purchasing speaker wire, one factor to know is that it provides up quick! Here are two examples to point out what I imply:

Speaker wire size instance #1

Home stereo instance:

  • Front speaker lengths measured: 2 x 6ft
  • Rear speakers measured: 16 & 22 ft

Total wire wanted: 6 + 6 + 16 + 22 = 50ft (15.2m)

Speaker wire size instance #2

Car stereo instance: Running wire from the dashboard head unit to entrance door speakers and to rear deck speakers.

  • Front speaker lengths measured: 2 x 8ft
  • Rear speakers measured: 16 & 20 ft

Total wire wanted: 8 + 8 + 16 + 20 = 52ft (15.9m) Speaker wire is often offered in rolls resembling 25ft, 50ft, and 100ft, though some retailers supply it by the foot as well. Precut lengths are additionally accessible generally, too. Those are normally round 6, 12, or 18 ft. However, as a rule you’ll lower your expenses by shopping for a good high quality by the roll. Just make sure you don’t purchase poor-quality wire or overpriced wire (extra about that later). Just bear in mind this rule: by no means take probabilities with speaker wire size – don’t guess. Buy a minimum of slightly bit greater than your estimate.

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Which speaker wire is constructive? Which is detrimental?

How do I test if a speaker wire is constructive or detrimental?

Which speaker wire is positive diagram with examples The most typical sorts of constructive wire markings are proven right here as examples. 99% of the time, determining which wire is constructive is absolutely easy as soon as you already know what to search for. The good information is that when you already know what to search for, 99% of the time it’s very easy to inform which speaker wire is constructive and which is detrimental. Here’s a list of the commonest constructive speaker indicators:

  1. A printed line or sequence of strains is on the constructive wire
  2. One wire’s insulation is crimson or a distinct coloration than the detrimental wire (most frequently crimson is used)
  3. One wire has a copper coloration and one has a silver end
  4. The constructive wire could have small “+” symbols and/or wire gauge data printed on it
  5. An imprint or molded stripe is made within the constructive wire’s insulation

Of the 5 varieties, imprints can sometimes be slightly bit tougher to note so generally it’s good to look very carefully under good lighting. Also, constructive wires that use a “+” print is usually a little arduous to learn generally, too.

Which is constructive: copper or silver?

Closeup example of positive & silver speaker wire

These are much less frequent, however of speaker & power wires which have a copper and a silver coloration, you’ll be able to pick one of many two to be constructive. However, as a rule the copper wire is handled because the constructive. The “silver” wire is definitely copper wire that’s been flippantly coated (“tinned”) in most cases. Once you already know which is the constructive wire then the opposite is the detrimental wire.

Music makes use of alternating present (AC) alerts and doesn’t circulate in only one path. We use one wire because the constructive one when connecting speakers to be constant when connecting them. That’s to keep away from having some speakers wired “out of phase”, which simply means speakers taking part in with the other movement because the others which leads to poor sound. It’s essential to you’ll want to join your speakers all the identical approach for the best outcomes.

How to chop and strip speaker wire

Wire stripper tool examples

Examples of the commonest wire stripping & reducing tools. A wire stripper can lower & strip most wire whereas a crimp tool can strip and in addition crimp connectors for wire. Wire reducing pliers are very useful for reducing small to massive wire. Automatic wire strippers make stripping wire tremendous easy. There are a variety of reasonably priced tools for reducing or stripping speaker wire.

All of the tools pictured above can lower and strip wire. If you’re utilizing crimp connectors, a crimping tool is best. For the simplest possible take away of wire insulation, computerized wire strippers, accessible from about $15, are great and make the work tremendous easy to do. Expect to spend about $7-10 for the fundamental hand tool you want.

Note: You can use wire reducing pliers for each reducing and stripping speaker wire. Just pinch the wire insulation tightly and pull it to the side, and it’ll pop off.

How to splice & prolong speaker wire

How to splice speaker wire diagram Splicing speaker wire isn’t very arduous and there are just a few methods to go about it. However, I don’t advocate simply twisting wire collectively. It’s unreliable and can come aside over time. You also can doubtlessly injury your stereo or amplifier if the wire turns into uncovered and creates a brief circuit. Instead, listed below are 2 methods you’ll be able to splice speaker wire with skilled outcomes:

  1. By soldering and insulating
  2. Using crimp connectors

Soldering is a bit tougher to do, however the profit is it’s essentially the most dependable approach to join wires. You’ll want a soldering iron (a minimum of 15W, though I like to recommend a 25W or increased one), solder, electrical tape, and a tool to strip the wire. Image showing example crimp tool and crimp connectors A crimp tool (left) is usually reasonably priced and easy to seek out. Some embody crimp connectors. Blue crimp, or “butt” connectors (proper) work well for splicing the ends of speaker wire. Crimp connectors are dependable and simpler to make use of, too. It’s a easy as stripping the speaker wire, twisting the wire strands tightly, then inserting them into the connector after which crimping it tightly on every finish. A crimp tool might be discovered for under $10 should you store rigorously.

Copper-clad aluminum vs copper speaker wire

Copper clad aluminum vs copper speaker wire illustrated diagram

Copper clad aluminum (CCA) wire has, in the previous few years, change into an increasing number of frequent as the value of copper wiring has gone up. It’s a type of “little things” you won’t know when shopping for that firms aren’t telling you. Unlike pure copper wire, copper-clad aluminum makes use of an aluminum wire core with a skinny copper plating. From the surface, it misleadingly appears to be like the identical due to the plating.

Aluminum gives a lighter weight and decrease value than copper, so it’s at first look it could look like an effective way to exchange costlier copper wiring. However, the issue is that aluminum isn’t as good of {an electrical} conductor as copper. Aluminum has only 61% of the conductivity of copper (in different phrases, it has 39% extra resistance) that means it’s going to take bigger aluminum wires to get the identical wire high quality.

Everyday use & what to know

In most cases like common listening & typical power ranges, it’s probably not an issue in day-to-day use. However, should you’re going to drive speakers at increased power ranges or need absolutely the best on your cash, you’ll want you’ll want to search for packaging that specifies wire is 100% pure copper. When shopping for CCA speaker wire, to get the identical high quality as true copper wire transfer up one gauge in dimension. For instance, to exchange 18 gauge copper wire use a 16 gauge CCA wire.

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