## Topic: Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter? (Read 62196 times)previous topic - next topic

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• mkop
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### 10 October, 2003, 11:12:46 PM
I've read some things discussing speaker wiring such as speaker reviews and their is always something like "the included cables are ok but you'll probably want to go and get something thicker." My question is why do I want some huge python of a cable? And what principles are used to decide what size is big enough?

• boojum
• Members (Donating)
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #1 – 10 October, 2003, 11:29:13 PM
If you are driving speakers which require much power you might require larger diameter speaker wire.  Think of pushing water through a pipe as an analogy.  For more force of water larger pipes would make moving more water easier.

I am sure someone who is not a LibArts major can supply a better technical explanation.  Mine is how I think of the answer to your question.  And, BTW, the heaviest guage zip cord is OK.  Monster cable makes you feel good though.  B)
Nov schmoz kapop.

• TwoJ
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #2 – 10 October, 2003, 11:38:43 PM
I think I have never seen such bending of physical laws then the marketers of "special" wire manufactures!
The actual determination of the thickness (gauge) of the wire just goes back to good ol Ohms law, V=IR, if you know the voltage & resistance of the speakers then you get the amount of current that will flow through the speakers. This current then can be carried by a conductor of a suitable gauge, the higher the current the thicker the cable, this is more relevant for power appliences such as the power cord for a A/C unit or a cloths dryer or range has to have thicker wire is that if you tried hooking it up with a 18 guage wire or smaller the amount of current would heat the wire so much that it would melt.

If you believe that a speaker will need the same thickness as a 1500W A/C or heater than the marketers have another convert. They talk about oxygen free copper and getting a "cleaner" signal to the speaker but the truth is that you could make the wire out of silver (very good conductor - better than any copper) and you would not be able to tell the difference between that and a regular power cord that you rip off a lamp. If you can ABX a test like that I'm pretty sure Monstercable would love to enter you in a few tests.

I believe the actual determination of wire load is that the nominal current load must be 50% or less of maximum current load, where maximum current load is determined by some electrical laws about surface area, length, and electron permiability for the particular metal (how easily electrons pass through a particular conductor) of the wire.

The short answer is don't fall for the slick marketing - your ears would have to be 1000X more sensitive to hear the difference!

• ScorLibran
• Banned
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #3 – 11 October, 2003, 01:12:21 AM
[reaching back 15 years to my electrical engineering classes at Auburn]

IIRC, electrons only travel on the surface of a wire, hence to move more electrons you need more surface area of wire.

Braided cable works better than solid because many smaller wires bound together have a lot more surface area than a single cable of the same thickness.

The more current/voltage you need to get to the target, the more "wire surface area" you need, hence the need for heavier gauge braided cabling.  So boojum's analogy of water through a pipe is a good one, except instead of "in the wire", electricity moves on the surface of a wire.

This concept (or my description of it) might be wrong because my major was not EE (it was actually aerospace engineering) and I don't consider myself an expert on matters of electricity.  [Spent more time with Bernouli's Principle than with Ohm's Law.    ]  But I'm pretty sure this concept is the right one.

• TwoJ
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #4 – 11 October, 2003, 01:37:03 AM
Right concept but wrong application, sorry ScorLibran

The travelling on the surface is correct for HF (High Frequency) transmissions, it is known as skin depth (the depth that the signal is carried within the the conductor and is inversely proprtional to the square of the frquency (if I recall correctly), ie the higher the frequency the smaller the skin depth and hense the power is carried on the surface of the conductor and the EM field surrounding the conductor.

Unfortunatly (or fortunatly) the human audio freq. 20Hz-20kHz are not considered HFs and therefore the signal will be carried within the conductor for the most part. If the 50 or 60Hz mains power could be carried on the surface you wouldn't need such large guage wire for power transmission.

It was a few years ago that I came across a test done in one of the electronic mags (yes i'm an EE) between "beastiecables" and regular electrical wire that you get at the hardware store. The verdict was that you could see a small difference with an oscilloscope but that was it, no one was able to actually tell the difference because the difference is not perciable to the human ear.

• ScorLibran
• Banned
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #5 – 11 October, 2003, 01:43:00 AM
Quote
Right concept but wrong application, sorry ScorLibran

The travelling on the surface is correct for HF (High Frequency) transmissions, it is known as skin depth (the depth that the signal is carried within the the conductor and is inversely proprtional to the square of the frquency (if I recall correctly), ie the higher the frequency the smaller the skin depth and hense the power is carried on the surface of the conductor and the EM field surrounding the conductor.

Unfortunatly (or fortunatly) the human audio freq. 20Hz-20kHz are not considered HFs and therefore the signal will be carried within the conductor for the most part. If the 50 or 60Hz mains power could be carried on the surface you wouldn't need such large guage wire for power transmission.

Heh...proof that two classes do not an electrical engineer make!  (In fact, ~sixty classes did not an aerospace engineer make either.  My career's in IT.    )

Thanks for the clarification, TwoJ.

• AgentMil
• Members (Donating)
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #6 – 11 October, 2003, 03:02:01 AM
Quote
Quote
Right concept but wrong application, sorry ScorLibran

The travelling on the surface is correct for HF (High Frequency) transmissions, it is known as skin depth (the depth that the signal is carried within the the conductor and is inversely proprtional to the square of the frquency (if I recall correctly), ie the higher the frequency the smaller the skin depth and hense the power is carried on the surface of the conductor and the EM field surrounding the conductor.

Unfortunatly (or fortunatly) the human audio freq. 20Hz-20kHz are not considered HFs and therefore the signal will be carried within the conductor for the most part. If the 50 or 60Hz mains power could be carried on the surface you wouldn't need such large guage wire for power transmission.

Heh...proof that two classes do not an electrical engineer make!  (In fact, ~sixty classes did not an aerospace engineer make either.  My career's in IT.    )

Thanks for the clarification, TwoJ.

RoFL... look at me I studied to get into Computer and Electrical Engineering but ended up doing Finance... and now I ended up doing Sales... but I am only young so I am gunning to get a nice role as an analyst. Fingers crossed.

EDIT
I got out of engineering cause I was stuck with a bunch of pompous idiots (students included). All they did was talk about engineering!! Sigh went to Finance and met some real people who talked not only Finance but real life itself. Not saying engineering ppl are all pompous idiots... the one in my stream were. I might go back to uni to study something again.

Regards

AgentMil
-=MusePack... Living Audio Compression=-

Honda - The Power of Dreams

• _Shorty
• Banned
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #7 – 11 October, 2003, 03:24:28 AM
the longer the cable of X gauge is, the higher its resistance gets. Using a larger gauge reduces that effect. I seem to recall being pointed by someone here to a comparison of different gauges of wire all 30 feet in length. I believe there was quite a difference below 16 gauge, but after 16 gauge there was no noticable difference. The biggest culprit for the differences was simply the fact that the smaller gauge wire added enough resistance to alter the end result, IIRC. So for runs up to 30 feet or so, 16 gauge bulk cord is more than fine. For significantly longer runs than that I guess you may want to jump up to a larger wire to try keeping the wire's resistance down. Yes, I'm too lazy to search for the thread right now, hehe. Just got back from watching The School Of Rock, pretty funny.

• JeanLuc
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #8 – 11 October, 2003, 05:29:02 AM
There are three major parameters that influence electric conductivity (and thus the sound) of a given speaker cable.

1.
The specific ohm resistance (resistivity with the greek designation Rho, SI Unit is Ohm·mm2/m is a material constant which will be multiplied with length and divided by diameter and result in an non-frequency-dependent Ohm Value.

At 20°C, the Rho value for copper is: 0,0178 Ohm·mm²/m

This pure ohm resistance will neither cause phase shift of the electrical signal nor will it cause a loss in a relevant frequency band. If this resistance becomes bigger, you just lose volume (just like a potentiometer). Only in case of very high currents (some speakers' impedance undershoots 1 Ohm in the low end which will demand high currents from your amplifier), the cable will heat up and thus change its specific resistance and sound. This can happen, but most likely it won't.

2.

A cable always states a capacitance (C, measured in the SI unit Farad) which states a complex (frequency-dependent) Resistance RC (RC hyperbolically follows C/f which means that in the low-end, RC gets higher) ... your target should be to avoid a cable with a high capacity (funny thing is that thicker cables show even higher capacities).

Capacitance causes a positive phase-shift BTW.

3.

Inductivity (I, measured in Henry) is the third major resistance which mostly occurs when winding up cable to some sort of coil ... this resistance is complex as well and affects the high frequencies (RI follows I·f) - a cable with higher inductivity might dampen high frequencies.

Inductivity causes phase shift as well, in a reversed direction to capacitance.

If you take a look at a frequency crossover network, you will find resistors, capacitors and coils put together to split up frequency bands according to the used chassis in the loudspeaker.

As you can see, your cable doesn't need to be thick as long as you do not cover long distances or loading the cable with extreme currents - thick cable will show higher capacitance which might influence bass response in a negative way.

Marketing allows a lot of so-called "wonder cables" to be established in the high-end (or high-price) segment - but I think that no one will be able to reliably ABX some high-end Monster cable against standard copper cable of the same diameter (changes in simple loudness due to variation of diameter might be detectable, though).

What you might be able to ABX against speaker cable is perhaps some thin wire, used for door bells or telephones ....
The name was Plex The Ripper, not Jack The Ripper

• boojum
• Members (Donating)
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #9 – 11 October, 2003, 06:18:09 AM
Reading the posts of my learned engineering colleagues remiinds me why I should stay away from discussions of speaker cable.  At the end-up no one can put forth a really clear explanation of how speaker cable works, which might be why some folks buy two six foot cables for US\$15,000 and think they did a smart thiing.  Me, I'm sticking with the heaviest lamp cord.
Nov schmoz kapop.

• fewtch
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #10 – 11 October, 2003, 07:56:07 AM
Baah... I think I want to try \$15,000 speaker cables with my lamp, maybe with such expensive cables the light will be "bright" and "heavenly" ...
Bring back dynamic range... www.loudnessrace.net

• Pio2001
• Global Moderator
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #11 – 11 October, 2003, 08:53:30 AM
Speaker cable blind tests :

Placebo at work : http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/12/...les/23down.html
ABX tests (negative) : http://www.pcavtech.com/ABX/abx_wire.htm

Skin effect evaluation :
http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....50&#entry135877

Frequency response of speaker cables, theory :

Gauge : a 2.5 mm2 cable (big lamp cord) should stand 3000 W IIRC. If you don't pump up more than 3000W from your ampli (this might cut off your electric supply anyway) it's OK.

The resistance of the cable interacts with the impedance of the speaker.
Say that the speaker impedance varies between 4 and 8 Ohm according to the frequency, the ampli output is 0.08 Ohm, and the cable 10 meters and 0.75 mm2 (cheap speaker cable).
Resistance of the two wires of the cable (20 meters) :
0.0178/0.75*20=0.47 Ohm.
Voltage difference at 4 and 8 Ohm :
At 4 Ohm :
V4=E*4/(4+0.08+0.47)=0.936 E
V8=E*8/(8+0.08+0.47)=0.879 E

With V4 volage on the speaker at 4 Ohm, V8 at 8 Ohm, E being the Thevenin Voltage of the ampli.

The attenuation is
20log(0.936/0.879)=0.54 dB

Ths might or might not be audible according to the width of the frequency range affected.

If we suppose that the speaker impedance can fall to 1 Ohm at a given frequency, as suggested by -, then we get 3 dB of loss at this frequency, that should be audible. But I wonder under which condition an 8 Ohm speaker can fall to 1 Ohm.

Since these data are near the threshold of audibility, and thicker cable not much expensive, it's better to stay on the safe side and use a thicker cable.

Frequency response of speaker cables, measurments :
http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....50&#entry135916

• AgentMil
• Members (Donating)
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #12 – 11 October, 2003, 09:06:42 AM
Quote
Baah... I think I want to try \$15,000 speaker cables with my lamp, maybe with such expensive cables the light will be "bright" and "heavenly" ...

Gimme some of that... I want my room to bask in that "heavenly" light!! LoL
-=MusePack... Living Audio Compression=-

Honda - The Power of Dreams

• TwoJ
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #13 – 11 October, 2003, 11:03:37 AM
What I think most "real" audiophiles will tell you is that you are better spending more \$\$\$ on good quality speakers (where there is a difference between \$50 and \$500 speakers) then on python cables.

Of course I highly recommend that you buy that \$15,000 cable for the lamp because the clarity & brightness will illuminate your stereo in such a blinding light that it will seem the clouds in the sky have parted and a heavenly halo will be shining down on your stereo (an analogy). Don't use with a halogen since the transformer will mitigate the halo effect!

@AgentMil - While I agree that too many engineers are consumed by the technical details (could have something to do with why they chose engineering) some of us still have other interests and are hopefully not too pompous. I actually just switched back to EE from being a logger and while some EE are pretty full of hot air, they are still a bit easier to work with then drunk chainsaw toting drug-addicts. Moral - every profession has their pompous idiots (I know - except lawyers of course.)

• JeanLuc
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #14 – 11 October, 2003, 12:05:16 PM
Quote
But I wonder under which condition an 8 Ohm speaker can fall to 1 Ohm.

Older Infinity (Kappa 9 Model IIRC) fell down to some 0,5 Ohms at 30 Hz - this Loudspeaker was known to fry Amps according to ohm's law one after another ...
The name was Plex The Ripper, not Jack The Ripper

• _Shorty
• Banned
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #15 – 11 October, 2003, 01:30:27 PM
http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=3119 is the one I was thinking of, the article from the cables.zip file. But it's no longer there and I can't seem to find my copy at the moment. Pretty sure I saved it, but possibly I renamed it, heh. Where is it?!?! hehe

found it, I'd extracted it to .\cables\ somewhere and deleted the zip, heh. http://www3.telus.net/~phuncky/cables.zip

• sshd
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #16 – 11 October, 2003, 07:05:20 PM
There sure is some interesting information about electronics and cables above. I am ignorant in this field and there is much of the above I do not understand. However, I noted an interesting thing - everyone is obsessed with the cable alone and completely ignoring the enviroment. I think this is wrong, based on this previous experience:

Back in 1997 I bought an external DAC and wanted to connect it to my 1993 CD player. Both CD player and DAC had coax and optical connectors. I really wanted to do it optically - seemed the coolest way. A digtial signal is a digital signal - there should not be any difference whether connecting via optically or electronically. When I purchased the optical cable, the guy at the shop told me there was and recommended me a very expensive coaxial cable. I ignored him and purchased the optical one.  When I went home I compared the connectors using a cheap signal cable for the coax connection - it was considerable better than the optical. The explanation for this came a few years later: The 1993 technology for optical circuts was not good enough to transmit a digital audio signal. So while the optical cable was in perfect condition, the problem was in the enviroment.

I am not going to claim anything, as I have no real knowledge. But I am going to bring two things from the enviroment. Perhaps someone would like to comment on those?

1. Zip/cobber wire corrodes. I moved my speakers two years ago. They had only been standing in their previous position for 1½ year. When I unplugged the speaker cables the ends were visible corroded - even though they were firmly connected to speaker and amp all the time. I assume the corrosion will become a problem at some point. I also assume it becomes a problem slowly - that is slow degradation of sound quality.

Furthermore the length of the cable is discussed, but not how the "cable path". I know that things happen when you wind up excess cable in a circle/coil. I also cannot help wondering what happens if a 240V power cable is running along of across or twisted around a few places? What about the antenna cable for the TV and sattelite disc? I am using cheap solid core twisted pair network cable myself for my speakers. It was recommend by a friend and I am quite satisfied. However, I know this cable can be damaged by bending it sharply.

Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #17 – 11 October, 2003, 08:14:51 PM
Pio2001,
I'm rather observer, but you're the best

Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #18 – 12 October, 2003, 01:03:35 AM
Quote
[reaching back 15 years to my electrical engineering classes at Auburn]Braided cable works better than solid because many smaller wires bound together have a lot more surface area than a single cable of the same thickness.

Braided cable is used much more often than solid cable for the simple reason that it's more flexible.
A pertinent and strong example is, if headphone cables were solid, those of us who use portable MP3 or CD players would probably be buying new headphones every month or so, because the wires would keep breaking.

At least, this is what I was taught three years ago in my Electrical Technology course.

• TwoJ
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #19 – 12 October, 2003, 01:16:03 AM
Quote
However, I noted an interesting thing - everyone is obsessed with the cable alone and completely ignoring the enviroment. I think this is wrong, based on this previous experience:

The topic was started on wires not enviroment, and I don't believe people have been obsessed with cables (no one is saying "buy mostercables or you might as well not listen to music")

Quote
A digtial signal is a digital signal
- Although it should be the case - I can tell you that in practice it is not always that way. Prime example was my last MB which was getting random data errors from the VIA chipset - because of what i guess was interference the digital data was getting corrupted.
There are quite a few reasons I can think of why your optical transmission sounded worse than the coax but I doubt it has to do with the actual transmission of data. I remember some early designs would actually have a DAC from the CD player and then a ADC to the optical out - and conversly on the reciever another DAC. So the signal goes through 2 stages of unnecessary quantization which doesn't help in keeping the origianal signal. There was also promblems with optical out of different manufacturers that would overdrive the sensors which caused considerable errors in transmission and reception. But I'd say the problem was with one or both units and not the "enviroment" in that case.

1) corrorosion is a problem, there is another niche market that deals with terminators that reduce the amount of corrosion that the ends will experience, also for certain countries like Japan, where there is a high humidity in the air, they will plate the conductors with metals such as gold which are more resistant to corrosion. But a normal interior should not have a problem for at least a few years and yet if you do notice that the wires are getting corroded then just snip off enough wire to get back to non-corroded copper.

2) the cable path should be intelligently laid out; Don't run it near mains line which could affect a 50/60Hz hum into the speakers, the cables lying in a coil is not that big an issue but it is more important that you keep the legnth of the wire to  the speakers from the amp as short as necessary- an said before the longer the cable the more resistance and hense the signal is degraded more. As for the cable from the TV or satellite these use the stardard coax cable which by designis suppose to eliminate EM radiation outside of the cable so they should not affect your speaker cable

• lucpes
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #20 – 30 October, 2003, 08:43:09 AM
Quote
Say that the speaker impedance varies between 4 and 8 Ohm according to the frequency, the ampli output is 0.08 Ohm, and the cable 10 meters and 0.75 mm2 (cheap speaker cable).

Here's something more beefy - impedance varies between 1 and 10 Ohm:

impedance curve: http://www.rageaudio.com.au/kappa9.jpg

speaker specs: http://oellerer.net/infinity_classics/Kapp...y_kappa_9a.html

Could you redo the calculations for these? A quickie would be more than 3dB reduction (both in low frequencies & highs).

Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #21 – 30 October, 2003, 09:07:04 AM
Quote
Baah... I think I want to try \$15,000 speaker cables with my lamp, maybe with such expensive cables the light will be "bright" and "heavenly" ...

What an absolutely killer idea for a parody webpage.

I'm going to start on working on this right now!

Dex

• lucpes
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #22 – 30 October, 2003, 09:27:49 AM
Nice  I always wondered why the lights in my house look a bit muffled

Back to the original topic, I'm in the 'As thick as it gets' & 'Size does matter' phase, for use with these

• fewtch
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #23 – 30 October, 2003, 10:09:19 AM
Quote
Nice  I always wondered why the lights in my house look a bit muffled

Back to the original topic, I'm in the 'As thick as it gets' & 'Size does matter' phase, for use with these

Are those planar speakers?
Bring back dynamic range... www.loudnessrace.net

• lucpes
Why does the gauge of speaker wire matter?
##### Reply #24 – 30 October, 2003, 10:46:20 AM
No, conventional drivers but dipole (open baffle) & require a hell lot of power to drive. More pics (unfortunately uncared for sets) here: http://oellerer.net/infinity_classics/RS_I...body_rs_ii.html

PS. I like them better than the HD600 for listening (ok, the Senns are a tad bit better in microdetail & dynamics but 'everything's in your head' instead of a conventional, wide front sound field)