Importance of speaker cable gauge

Why do we bother using heavy gauge speaker wire for our speaker connections when the components in the crossovers often have many choke points in regard to the gauge of connection. For instance, the leads on a capacitor are tiny compared to the cable we typically use for speaker cable. Same with the traces used in crossover circuit boards.
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Comments

  • rpf65rpf65 Posts: 1,754
    Many people will choose a smaller AWG wire over a larger one, if it’s higher quality cables.
  • SchurkeySchurkey Posts: 1,767
    Gauge size means nothing, but resistance does, and as a rule, larger gauge = lower resistance.

    Capacitor leads are not fifteen feet long, and the capacitor doesn't transmit the full amperage of the signal like the speaker cable does.
  • F1nutF1nut Posts: 40,373
    There's a lot more to speaker cable than the gauge....that is once you go beyond generic cable.
    Political Correctness'.........defined

    "A doctrine fostered by a delusional, illogical minority and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a t-u-r-d by the clean end."


  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 14,867
    I can't remember the last time I bought a cable based on the gauge. Clear coat maybe?
    audiothesis.com/

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    Cabling: Wireworld
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  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 18,985
    F1nut wrote: »
    There's a lot more to speaker cable than the gauge....that is once you go beyond generic cable.

    It is as he says.
  • mantismantis Posts: 15,009
    Because of the length of wire you need from amp to speaker. The longer the wire the heavier the gauge you need. Speaker wire from amp to speaker has nothing to do with driver to crossover and all other internal wiring.
    Dan
    My personal quest is to save to world of bad audio, one thread at a time.
  • SchurkeySchurkey Posts: 1,767
    edited June 4
    Gauge size means nothing, but resistance does, and as a rule, larger gauge = lower resistance.

    Capacitor, resistor, or inductor leads are not fifteen+ feet long, and the capacitor, resistor, or inductor doesn't transmit the full amperage of the signal like the speaker cable does.
  • motorstereomotorstereo Posts: 832
    Perhaps the op needs to try some nice 22 gauge doorbell wire as it might be all that's needed in the rig he's running???
  • mlistens03mlistens03 Posts: 2,118
    Perhaps the op needs to try some nice 22 gauge doorbell wire as it might be all that's needed in the rig he's running???

    I used to think that sounded good! But I was wrong.
    Until you get into more expensive cables, larger gauge means lower resistance. Lower resistance sounds better.
    Not Tom, or Trey, or Jim
    NAD C352
    Monitor Audio Radius R90’s/Polk SDA CRS/Mission Freedom 770 IV
    BJC speaker cables, generic RCA’s, one homemade power cable, because that’s going to do any good with the rest of the generic ones.
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    Lafayette LR-1100 acting as a tuner and phono.
    I've always thought the goal of high end audio was not to have your neighbors bang on the wall and say, 'Turn that darn music down' but to have your neighbors bang on the wall and say, 'Tell your friends to go home and you can practice later this week'.
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 18,985
    edited June 4
    Schurkey wrote: »
    Gauge size means nothing, but resistance does, and as a rule, larger gauge = lower resistance.

    Capacitor, resistor, or inductor leads are not fifteen+ feet long, and the capacitor, resistor, or inductor doesn't transmit the full amperage of the signal like the speaker cable does.

    I think it could be argued that impedance is more important in the real world for complex AC waveforms (i.e., music!) being used to drive complex, reactive loads like loudspeakers.

    ... and, I'd argue, that's why there's more to it than gauge (i.e, wire diameter).

  • mantismantis Posts: 15,009
    mhardy6647 wrote: »
    Schurkey wrote: »
    Gauge size means nothing, but resistance does, and as a rule, larger gauge = lower resistance.

    Capacitor, resistor, or inductor leads are not fifteen+ feet long, and the capacitor, resistor, or inductor doesn't transmit the full amperage of the signal like the speaker cable does.

    I think it could be argued that impedance is more important in the real world for complex AC waveforms (i.e., music!) being used to drive complex, reactive loads like loudspeakers.

    ... and, I'd argue, that's why there's more to it than gauge (i.e, wire diameter).
    As I agree but to someone who doesn't know Impedance complex waveforms and reactive loads gauge is a very good place to start.

    A rule of thumb would be something like this.

    If you have a Home Theater system and your driving small speakers of wire lengths under 50 feet, you can use 16 gauge good quality speaker wire.
    If your getting closet to 50 feet then it's not a bad idea to use 14 gauge.

    For a Home Theater system with large front speakers and large center channel but smaller surrounds or a exact matching surround to the main and center I suggest suing 14 gauge speaker wire.

    High current amps and large speakers with runs under 50 feet I suggest going 12 gauge wire.

    These are some general guidelines to help anyone get started. Quality is something for the person with the wallet to decide. I never suggest cheap speaker wire as I have seen issues with using such cable but starting at like belden , Liberity , or even entry level Audioquest speaker wire you will be fine for most entry to mid fi systems.

    When you start building a more serious system is when you want to start really learning about higher end cables and what makes sense for the given system your building.
    Dan
    My personal quest is to save to world of bad audio, one thread at a time.
  • B-ManB-Man Posts: 4
    edited June 5
    Why do we bother using heavy gauge speaker wire for our speaker connections when the components in the crossovers often have many choke points in regard to the gauge of connection. For instance, the leads on a capacitor are tiny compared to the cable we typically use for speaker cable. Same with the traces used in crossover circuit boards.

    An analogy would be "Why do I need a heavy extension cord when using power tools outdoors ? The windings / brushes / etc. in the motor aren't very large gauge." Yes, the windings in the motor are small but you need the heavier gauge extension cord to prevent voltage drop and the resultant current drop that negatively affect the performance of the motor.

    A speaker converts electrical energy to mechanical energy. It's the sum of its parts that determine the actual electrical load and, like the motor in your power drill, it needs sufficient voltage and current to perform its work.
    Post edited by B-Man on
  • Tony MTony M Posts: 6,045
    edited June 7
    B-Man wrote: »
    Why do we bother using heavy gauge speaker wire for our speaker connections when the components in the crossovers often have many choke points in regard to the gauge of connection. For instance, the leads on a capacitor are tiny compared to the cable we typically use for speaker cable. Same with the traces used in crossover circuit boards.

    An analogy would be "Why do I need a heavy extension cord when using power tools outdoors ? The windings / brushes / etc. in the motor aren't very large gauge." Yes, the windings in the motor are small but you need the heavier gauge extension cord to prevent voltage drop and the resultant current drop that negatively affect the performance of the motor.

    A speaker converts electrical energy to mechanical energy. It's the sum of its parts that determine the actual electrical load and, like the motor in your power drill, it needs sufficient voltage and current to perform its work.

    That seems like the perfect analogy. ;) Well put.

    I can see why car audio specialists use 8 ga. wires ( maybe bigger?) for their massive subwoofer systems now. I guess that's to the amps from the batteries. I guess 12 ga. to the subs themselves. Their demand for current has to be outrageous.
    Most people just listen to music and watch movies. I EXPERIENCE them.
  • SchurkeySchurkey Posts: 1,767
    ...which is why it's too bad that speakers aren't trending toward 16 or 32 ohm, instead of 2-3-4 ohm impedance.

    Low-current, high-voltage amplifiers would be inexpensive. Current costs money, voltage is practically free.
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 18,985
    edited June 7
    Tony M wrote: »
    B-Man wrote: »
    Why do we bother using heavy gauge speaker wire for our speaker connections when the components in the crossovers often have many choke points in regard to the gauge of connection. For instance, the leads on a capacitor are tiny compared to the cable we typically use for speaker cable. Same with the traces used in crossover circuit boards.

    An analogy would be "Why do I need a heavy extension cord when using power tools outdoors ? The windings / brushes / etc. in the motor aren't very large gauge." Yes, the windings in the motor are small but you need the heavier gauge extension cord to prevent voltage drop and the resultant current drop that negatively affect the performance of the motor.

    A speaker converts electrical energy to mechanical energy. It's the sum of its parts that determine the actual electrical load and, like the motor in your power drill, it needs sufficient voltage and current to perform its work.

    That seems like the perfect analogy. ;) Well put.

    I can see why car audio specialists use 8 ga. wires ( maybe bigger?) for their massive subwoofer systems now. I guess that's to the amps from the batteries. I guess 12 ga. to the subs themselves. Their demand for current has to be outrageous.

    The only problem with the analogy is that, except near stall, I think that the motor presents a pretty constant impedance load to its power supply. Regardless of the "power factor" (related to the "reactance" of the load) of an AC motor, it only matters at one frequency (60 Hz). A loudspeaker's capacitive and inductive reactance vary as a function of frequency. The signal feeding an AC motor is certainly a pretty consistent, purely sinusoidal 60 Hz waveform.

    Music? Not so much.

    PS the large-gauge cables in car power supplies are needed because (as touched on above, albeit in a slightly different context) car power supplies as such operate at low voltage (approximately 13.8 VDC); the only way to draw a lot of power at 13. 8 VDC is to use a lot of current; thus the large gauge wiring.

    By Ohm's law: Power (watts) = Voltage (volts) x Current (amps)
    (assuming a Power Factor of 1, i.e., a purely resistive load)

    200 watts of power at, say, 100 VDC represents 2 amps of current.
    200 watts of power at 13.8 VDC represents 14.5 amps of current
  • AndohaspolkAndohaspolk Posts: 18
    All very good points, but the the question still remains, why use a substantial gauge wire for an 8 foot run when it’s still going to have the “bottleneck” where the current hits the traces on the crossover board. Surely a 14 gauge wire is able to pass much, much more than a trace on a crossover board.
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 18,985
    No "traces" on my crossovers -- FWIW.
    Not that they have to deal with more than about 3 watts (single-ended 2A3 direct-heated triode amplification).

    37629795824_0ff460c13c_b.jpgDSC_9782 (3) by Mark Hardy, on Flickr

    Also, I think a good case can be made for the best idea being to eschew high-level passive XOs entirely in favor of low level, active XOs and multiple amplifiers.

    If anyone is really concerned about this sort of stuff.
  • SchurkeySchurkey Posts: 1,767
    edited June 8
    All very good points, but the the question still remains, why use a substantial gauge wire for an 8 foot run when it’s still going to have the “bottleneck” where the current hits the traces on the crossover board. Surely a 14 gauge wire is able to pass much, much more than a trace on a crossover board.
    Schurkey wrote: »
    Capacitor, resistor, or inductor leads are not fifteen+ feet long, and the capacitor, resistor, or inductor doesn't transmit the full amperage of the signal like the speaker cable does.
    Voltage drop due to resistance will be a matter of material, construction, gauge, and length. A short lead on a resistor or capacitor won't drop voltage much because of the lack of length. The resistor, capacitor, or inductor by design and intention is filtering out signal voltage and current, so there's less amperage to transmit compared to the "full range" going through the speaker cable.

    There are "Industry Standards" and "code" for copper wire gauge and length vs. voltage drop. I'm not sure those standards fully apply in the case of speaker cable, but they'd be a moderate starting point.

    All losses are additive. Large-gauge cable provides "full" voltage and current to the downstream components. It's not like you can match the cable to the crossover except in the most general way.
  • Viking64Viking64 Posts: 3,254
    mhardy6647 wrote: »
    No "traces" on my crossovers -- FWIW.

  • lightman1lightman1 Posts: 9,858
    edited June 8
    Look at it like water flowing through pipes. You have a main feed coming into a building. Say a 4" line. That has to be distributed throughout the structure at pressure. It goes into a manifold of sorts and dropped down to 3", 2" ...down to half inch at a faucet. That manifold is the crossover in your speaker. You have 1000 gpm being reduced to 3 gpm at the sink (tweeter). 25 gpm (mids).... 150 gpm at the boiler (woofers).

    Simple distribution of various pressures.
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 18,985
    lightman1 wrote: »
    Look at it like water flowing through pipes. You have a main feed coming into a building. Say a 4" line. That has to be distributed throughout the structure at pressure. It goes into a manifold of sorts and dropped down to 3", 2" ...down to half inch at a faucet. That manifold is the crossover in your speaker. You have 1000 gpm being reduced to 3 gpm at the sink (tweeter). 25 gpm (mids).... 150 gpm at the boiler (woofers).

    Simple distribution of various pressures.

    arpjs8mji3fo.png


    ... and, as long as I am expropriating images from teh interwebs :|

    xv4vtbzm6ikr.png
  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 10,127
    Are speaker cable gauges in the same area as black paint. I would like to buy one of these gauges. :)

    Bud - Silicon Valley

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  • FestYboyFestYboy Posts: 2,767
    I'll defer to Big D Wiz, and his vijahoes (as per AvE). Those "traces" can and do pull some serious current.
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 18,985
    I've seen some rather immolated crossovers, though.
  • F1nutF1nut Posts: 40,373
    All very good points, but the the question still remains, why use a substantial gauge wire for an 8 foot run when it’s still going to have the “bottleneck” where the current hits the traces on the crossover board. Surely a 14 gauge wire is able to pass much, much more than a trace on a crossover board.

    If you tried it for yourself, you'd know why.
    Political Correctness'.........defined

    "A doctrine fostered by a delusional, illogical minority and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a t-u-r-d by the clean end."


  • tonybtonyb Posts: 29,744
    +10000000 ^^^^^^^
    HT SYSTEM-
    Sony 850c 4k
    Pioneer elite vhx 21
    Sony 4k BRP
    Tad 803 bookies
    Polk 500 surrounds
    Polk s35 center
    SVS SB-2000
    Sonos

    Music-

    Joule la-100 pre
    B&k 1430 amp
    Cary xciter dac
    Cullen modded Sonos
    ERA D5 bookies

    Cables-
    Acoustic zen Satori speaker cables
    Analysis plus crystal oval ic's
    Wireworld eclipse 7 ic's
    Audio metallurgy ga-o digital cable
  • heiney9heiney9 Posts: 23,860
    edited June 9
    All very good points, but the the question still remains, why use a substantial gauge wire for an 8 foot run when it’s still going to have the “bottleneck” where the current hits the traces on the crossover board. Surely a 14 gauge wire is able to pass much, much more than a trace on a crossover board.

    Did you even read and understand the many excellent responses? Either that or you just want to be a contrarian. The signal at the "traces" is different than the signal output to the speakers 8' away.

    If you don't like that basic and true explanation, then just move along and stop asking questions you really don't want an answer to.

    Also it's been said, gauge isn't really much of an issue for standard runs of cable. There are far more important factors than gauge. Standard Zip cord at 18ga vs. 8ga won't sound much different for an 8' run, if at all.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Plus DAC | MIT Shotgun S3 | MIT Z P/C's | updated SDA 1C| SQ Box Touch/Welbourne Labs P/S- Tubes add soul!
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 29,744
    Someone piss in your cornflakes this morning Broch ? :)
    HT SYSTEM-
    Sony 850c 4k
    Pioneer elite vhx 21
    Sony 4k BRP
    Tad 803 bookies
    Polk 500 surrounds
    Polk s35 center
    SVS SB-2000
    Sonos

    Music-

    Joule la-100 pre
    B&k 1430 amp
    Cary xciter dac
    Cullen modded Sonos
    ERA D5 bookies

    Cables-
    Acoustic zen Satori speaker cables
    Analysis plus crystal oval ic's
    Wireworld eclipse 7 ic's
    Audio metallurgy ga-o digital cable
  • heiney9heiney9 Posts: 23,860
    No, not yet! Lol, Just tired of people asking questions and then questioning the discussion with the same question. I think it was pretty well explained the difference of wire in a cross-over vs. 8' runs of speaker cable.

    Didn't seem like the OP liked the answer, so decided to ask the same question, like somehow the answer would change.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Plus DAC | MIT Shotgun S3 | MIT Z P/C's | updated SDA 1C| SQ Box Touch/Welbourne Labs P/S- Tubes add soul!
  • lightman1lightman1 Posts: 9,858
    tonyb wrote: »
    Someone piss in your cornflakes this morning Broch ? :)

    I'll do it! What's your address Brock?
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