Week of October 2, 2005
Q: I am wondering if 12 gauge speaker wire is necessary or is 14 gauge all right? I am considering using 60 to 75 feet of wire. Also, could you say something
about connectors please? What do you recommend overall?
John Lindborg Rogers, MN
A: .For connectors, bare wire, while not as convenient as a connector, tends to be the most reliable connection once it is fastened to the binding posts of the receiver and speakers. If you want a connector that can be attached and detached quickly, I recommend banana plugs.
The gauge required depends on your speakers and their impedance rating. The goal is to for the wire resistance to be less than 5% of the speaker’s impedance. To determine what you need, a handy chart is available at http://www.roger-russell.com/wire/wire.htm . In your case I would recommend 12 gauge just to have a little cushion, though 14 gauge would probably work just as well
Looking at the chart on the website, you will see that 16 gauge wire is adequate for up to around 50 feet for 8 ohm speakers. Most home speakers have a rating of 8 ohms, meaning for most people and most wire runs 16 gauge is that is necessary. I recommend Home Depot or other home supply stores- 16-gauge wire is available there for less than 20 cents per foot.
The question most correspondents follow with is “What about the expensive speaker wire pushed so heavily in big-box stores and fancy audio salons, selling for dollars or more per foot? They tell me it will make my system sound much better.” I have a one-word answer for such claims, but I can’t use it in print, so the word I will use is “Baloney.”
It has never- I repeat, NEVERâ€¦ NOT ONCEâ€¦ been scientifically proven that fancy wires, even those costing thousands of dollars per foot, sound better than ordinary wire from a hardware store- as long as the ordinary wire is of adequate gauge. People THINK they hear a difference, but when scientific controls are applied to comparison tests and the test subjects do not know which is the expensive wire and which is not, listeners are unable to distinguish between cheap wire and expensive wire. It’s simply all in their head- if they expect to hear a difference, they will. But remove the power of suggestion and it all goes away.
If you read the excellent website I list above, you will see that scientifically controlled testing has shown that no sonic differences exist between expensive and ordinary wire. It’s just wire, and carrying electrical signals between a receiver and speakers is a very simple task, no matter the claims to the contrary.
You can read more about the subject in an excellent essay written by speaker designer John Dunlavy. It can be found at http://www.verber.com/mark/cables.html . To see how the owner of a wire company reacted when faced with a blind listening test, visit http://www.vxm.com/21R.64.html.
If I seem passionate about the subject- it is because I am. People are getting shamelessly misled and ripped off left and right spending hundreds of dollars on pretty wires that do not help the sound of their system. Instead of wasting it on wire, the money could be spent to get a better set of speakers when the system is initially purchased, or on acoustical room treatment- both of which will huge dramatic, easily noticeable improvements in sound quality. I am just waiting for a smart class action lawyer to take up the case of fraudulent claims, junk science and sales practices used to sell overhyped, overpriced wire and cables.
I can understand why someone may want something nicer than 16 gauge wire from Home Depot- appearance. If you have a $10,000+ system, you probably want something a little nicer to connect it than lamp cord. The sonic benefits are nonexistent, but appearance does count for something! But if you ever buy expensive wire, just know it is for show.