How to Choose Speaker Wire Gauge

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When deciding what speaker wire gauge to choose for your audio system, keep in mind the size of your audio system, the length of the wire between speaker and power source and the quality of wire. Choosing the correct speaker wire gauge is extremely important if you're looking to get the best performance possible from your audio system. The American Wire Gauge (AWG) number, or simply the gauge thickness, identifies speaker wire. Speaker wire tends to fall between 12 and 16 gauge in home and car audio systems, with the lowest gauge numbers being the thicker wire that can handle high levels of electrical current more efficiently.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Determine how long each run of speaker wire will be from the power source (amp) to the speaker. This step is especially important for home audio applications, because the speaker wire runs are typically 10 to 20 feet or more. Longer runs of wire require thicker-gauge wire for best performance and for less strain on the amplifier or receiver.

  • Decide which gauge wire you should use for your particular situation. As a general guide, you should use 12-gauge wire on up to 30-foot runs; 14-gauge wire on up to 18-foot runs; and 16-gauge wire on up to 10-foot runs. Keep in mind that these figures are based on a 4-ohm resistance load, which is typical for the average car audio setup. Many home theater systems, on the other hand, use 8-ohm or higher loads, meaning you can safely run the wires on even longer runs than the above figures without loss of sound quality.

  • Determine what quality of wire will work best for your system. If you're using high-quality components (amplifier, speakers, head unit), opt for high-quality speaker wire as well. Higher-quality speaker wire will cost more than “average” speaker wire, but it will also deliver the best sound quality, last longer and be more resistant to interference from other audio/video cables in your system. You get what you pay for when it comes to speaker wire.

Tips & Warnings

  • For high-power systems (150 watts or higher), 12-gauge wire is always a good choice.
  • Know how much power (watts) and what load (ohms) your audio system is running before you select your speaker wire.
  • If you're using low-quality components in your audio system, it's usually all right to use lower-quality speaker wire if you're looking to save money.
  • Never use a higher-gauge speaker wire than recommended, because it will put additional strain on your amp, which reduces its lifespan. It also affects sound quality.

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References

  • Photo Credit speaker wire image by Paolo from Fotolia.com
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