Most speakers don't come with speaker wire. Choosing speaker cables for your home theatre system entails several questions and challenges.
While selecting the best speaker cable, some of the common questions are: How much wire do you need? What type of wire do you need? Are high-end speaker wires worth purchasing?
In this blog, we will shed light on answers to these questions, help you pick the speaker cable that effectively and precisely transmits the audio signal from the amplifier or AV Receiver to the speaker. And that’s not all, we share connection tips, and bust myths about speaker cables, so you circumvent any potential damage.
Since it’s up to you to select the right speaker cable, read on, so you don’t miss out on the useful information in this expertly curated guide from the AV experts who literally breathe the AV air.
Things about Speaker Cables that Audiophiles and Causal Listeners should know
- To understand how much speaker wire you would require, run a string from your receiver or amplifier location to each of the speaker locations. Measure the string and add a couple of feet to facilitate an easier connection to your gear.
- You can choose to buy wire with or without the connectors. Banana connectors can be a good choice. Prefer terminating speaker cables using good quality Banana Plugs in place of bare speaker wires. There are three common banana plug styles: shrouded, unshrouded, and retractable shrouded. Avoid bare wire as it can get really stressful.
- Do expensive speaker wires sound better? There are some who appreciate the quality of the build and the sonic improvements they experience with a high-end speaker cable.
- Other key points to consider when buying a speaker cable are the thickness of the copper wire, flexibility of the speaker cable, quality of the insulation, capability of the insulation cable to reject the frequency noise.
- While choosing the right speaker cable, for high powered systems and or longer cable lengths exceeding 10 metres, the 12 AWG or 14 AWG speaker cables will be ideal. For lower-powered systems and or shorter cable lengths, the 16 AWG, 18 AWG or 20 AWG speaker cables would prove to be better.
- The smaller the AWG (American Wire Gauge) number, the thicker the copper conductor, and the better its capability to pass the amplified audio signal.
- Ideally, spending 10% of your total home theatre budget on all cables is appropriate. This includes speaker cables, interconnects, HDMI and power cables. It would be great if you could spend at least 2-4% of your total budget on just speaker cables for enhanced sound results.
Pay Heed to these Connection Tips
- Identify the positive and negative leads of your speaker wires, while ensuring you connect them to your speakers and your amp or receiver. If you get one of the connections crossed, your music quality will be adversely affected.
- If you opt for a wire without connectors, use a wire stripper to take about 3/8-inch of insulation off the ends of each lead, exposing the bare wire strands. Twist each lead's bare wire strands tightly, so no stray strands are sticking out. This would eliminate the problem of a short circuit that can damage your components.
Types of Speaker Cables for Home Theatre Systems
- Ribbon or flat speaker cables: These are flat cables for hard to fit areas like under carpets, etc.
- Regular speaker cables: These are the most common, regular cylinder-shaped cables.
- Armoured speaker cables: Designed with an additional layer of protection, these cables are suitable if you want to run the speaker wire inside your walls. These speaker cables are ideal for commercial installations like in studios, cinema halls and entertainment lounges. Generally, these speaker cables are installed during the construction phase.
Common Myths Busted about the Speaker Wire
- It’s a common misconception that the speaker wires should be identical to cut out phase shifts. Electrical signals travel through speaker wire at a blazing fast speed, which makes it difficult to hear any imperceptible difference. So having wires a foot or two (or 10) different is not very significant.
- Although thicker wires are better at reducing the effects of resistance but using extremely thick wire yields no audible benefit that is easily perceptible.
- Often companies try to sell wire "cookers" and break-in services, but in reality, speaker wire doesn’t physically alter the wire enough to cause any audible change. That’s why ‘break-in’ is not critical.