Sound Advice Column: Choosing speaker wire, close-up lenses for Olympus digital SLR cameras

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Distributed By McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Q:  I’m confused as to what gauge of speaker wire to use. From my limited knowledge, the different gauge has to do with the distance and size of speaker. Is this true? I’m planning to purchase the Insignia NS-B2111 speakers for my surround sound system and want to make sure I wire it properly.

M. Young, Atlantic City, N.J

A: Different speakers and lengths of wire require different gauges. The size of the speaker does not matter. What matters is the resistance, or impedance, given in ohms.

The rule is the total resistance of the wire should be less than 5 percent of the rated impedance of the speaker. Your Insignias are 8-ohm speakers, which means 16 gauge is good for up to a 48-foot run (per speaker.) Speaker wire of 14 gauge is good for an 80-foot run, and 12 gauge is good for 120 feet.

A very useful wiring chart can be found at Roger also goes into great detail discussing speaker wire and the scams associated with it. It’s an absolute must read if you are putting together a sound system. Would you believe there is speaker wire selling for over $1,000 per meter? Using hyper-expensive speaker wire is like filling up your toilet tank with bottled water at $1.29 per pint in the hopes it will flush better. Copper is copper and electrons are electrons, and no amount of made-up pseudoscience by the wire companies can change that.

If you are putting together a sound system, buy inexpensive wire and use the money you save for something that makes an audible difference, such as a better pair of speakers or some nice stands to place them on. You’ll not only get better sound, but also true value for your hard-earned money.

Q: My sister and I are thinking of getting macro lenses (spring flowers and all) and aren’t quite sure where to look. Everything we find seems to be for Nikon cameras and we are not sure what’s compatible with our Olympus E-510 cameras. We’re sort of wondering if we made a mistake getting Olympus, even though we love our cameras. Do you have any suggestions?

L. Bass
San Jose, Calif.

A: You definitely did not make a mistake getting the Olympus! In fact, it is one of the best systems going for macro photography. Olympus microscopes are some of the finest in the world — the company knows a thing or two about making optics for close-up imaging.

Fixed focal length lenses are definitely the way to go for macro photography. I strongly recommend you buy the 35 mm/3.5 Olympus Macro Lens. You can get it for $199 from I occasionally use an E-510 and Olympus 35 mm macro for close-up images I use on my Web site. It’s always been a fantastic performer, extremely sharp with great color and no distortion.

All digital SLRs these days take fantastic images, and you will hardly go wrong no matter what you choose. You see more products offered for Nikon (and Canon) SLRs because they are the two top-selling digital SLR brands. Both make great products, and if you are a professional they offer cameras and lenses you can’t get anywhere else. For everyone else, I think Pentax and Olympus offer more for the money with image stabilizers built into the camera body, noticeably better kit lenses, and higher quality construction throughout. Be sure to compare all the brands before you buy.

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