Speaker wires


Maybe not the right forum to post but since this is the most active ..

What is the difference between speaker wire gauges? Is 18 better than 12 gauge or is it the other way?

Does Monster cable or other branded cables offer a huge performance difference as indicatde by their price? Or can I buy a Phoenix Gold and get good sound

All your help is greatly appreciated.

Speaker wire is an entire topic unto itself.

At the basics, the lower the gauge number , the thicker the wire, so for carrying large currents a thick wire is preferred. Personally, I would never wire speakers with anything less than 14 gauge, but that's just my opinion.

Wire for speakers, unlike house wiring, cannot be judged on gauge alone. High frequencies do not travel down the entire thickness of the wire but rather travel along the outer circumference, something known as "skin" effect.

I will not attempt to try to poorly expain all of the parameters of the speaker wire which effect sound transmission, ie: oxygen content, tightness of internal wire wraps, crystaline structure and surface finish. I would like to refer you to a couple of web sites which will do a far superior job.

www.audioquest.com has an excellent explanation.

Also check out www.taralabs.com

I'm sure there are many more sites, but these are the only two I have visited.

Good Luck


Thanks Tim. I read the tech stuff at the two links provided.

However, each manufacturer claims their cables are the best... any suggestions from experience which brand is best suited (price/functionality compromise). Is is worth paying 3-4 times for a Monster or Audioqwest or KimberKable etc. I couldn't find any good review of speaker cables anywhere.

Also does using banana plugs contribute to loss of signal?


Personally, I would never wire speakers with anything less than 14 gauge, but that's just my opinion.

when you say that, you mean, you would prefer a 12 gauge instead of a 16 gauge?

If you know how to solder a wire joint then you should buy beldon cable and some better termintions and DIY. You'll learn something new and save money.

Every connection leads to loss of signal integrity.

I have gone to banana plugs for a number of reasons.
-they are easier to get into the back of my receiver
-they avoid any stray strands of wire from shorting out
-bare wire may "creap" with binding posts and thereby allow the connection to become loose.

I've also heard about the oxidation of copper wire when using binding posts but I struggle to see how plugs are immune to this. (Unless it's gold to gold with soldered wires)

I also believe good banana plugs provide a larger area of surface contact with the speaker.

All this being said, I believe in banana plugs and would also recommend soldering them onto the wire to avoid a poor connection and oxidation, in the future.

Yes, given the choice between 12 and 16 gauge, I would use 12 gauge. If running low wattage over short,10ft runs, it probably doesn't matter, but it cannot hurt.

Is it worth the extra money? That has to be your decision. I have heard friends claim they can hear a difference, and I personally went with Prism Omni cable.

Again, I must remind you that I am not an expert in speaker cables and have researched as you are now doing.

A number of high end stereo shops have offered to give me a set of speaker cables to try out and return if I can't hear the difference.

You may want to phone around and see if they will do the same for you.


John K.
Anon, the correct gauge of speaker wire depends on the length of the run and the impedance of the speakers. Copper wire is copper wire; neither monster cable or even more outrageously priced wires can do a better job than standard lamp cord of adequate gauge for the situation, so don't waste your money, there's no difference in sound whatever. An excellent discussion of the topic by a professional is found here.

The best termination is bare wire, period. Belden or Canare or zip should be used in appropriate gauge for application. Treat the bare wire with light coat of oil before connecting. Strip new wire connections every 2-3 years.

Hey John, Thanks for the link. Very helpful in reassuring me that not every facet of audio needs to be cutting edge, or else it's obsolete.

John A.
Just caught this thread.

"Treat the bare wire with light coat of oil". For copper? For anything? Oil is an excellent insulator.

Bare copper is the best contact. If you are obsessive, clean off any oil or grease with some volatile organic solvent such as alcohol (methanol or ethanol), methylated spirit, wood alcohol, carbon tetrachloride. Do not worry about the ozone layer; it will be in better shape if you have good HT because you will be less likely to drive to the movie theater. That was a joke. Well, irony.

phil akerman
hey, what happened to the idea, that there is absolutely no point in getting expensive speaker wires? I read about double blind tests being carried out a couple of years ago, that showed, that self-proclaimed audiophile experts, couldn't tell the difference between 5000$ cables, and 10$ cables...provided, that they couldn't see the make of the cable, while listening. Does this still hold? - Just curious :)

John A.

It still holds. Several of us had a go at this one recently on

Receiver Connection Questions


Don't listen to people who say cable doesn't make a difference it does. Not a grand one mind you but quite audible and effective. I was priviged enough to bring home XLO, RS Megacable, Phoenix Gold, Wireworld, and Tributaries speaker cable all at once (all comparable in price give or take $1). I brought in 5 other people for the blind test using a number of CD tracks from different artists. EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM INCLUDING MYSELF HEARD A DIFFERENCE IN EACH CABLE SET. In fact, we were all able to come to a concensus of the tonal characteristics each imparted on the sound. Now I was only comparing cables around $2-$3/ft. It may not make much of a difference in higher prices varieties.

My final take was that a speaker cable can help tame a bright set of speakers or the reverse if wished. Bottom line is, if you can bring some home as Tim suggested, what have you got to lose? Try a test for yourself.

Ok you speaker wire experts, I saw someone say on another thread that he was "running 4 strands of 16 gauge wire to each speaker." I guess two to negative and two to positive. Does that really equal some lower gauge?

How did you run connect the cables from the cd to the receiver? Were there enough outputs to connect them all simultaneously and someone was able to swith them at will, or did you have a splitter that all the cables were connected to and someone controlled without telling anyone what was playing, or did someone unhook one set of cables and put in another set and then compared?


We used the last method. I had to rent the splitter if I wanted one, and figured it would color the sound itself anyway. I unhooked/rehooked each set about 4 times each. I kept a master log of the order used in each cycle as did the listeners with their respective comments. Random cycle each time. I of course knew which cables were which, but I didn't offer my opinions until the end of the night, and while I did lean a bit toward the higher priced cables (maybe subconsciously because I knew they cost more) the panel of listeners did as well. Most auditioners said the same things (in their own words) about each cable. It makes sense though. I mean you have a camp of people who swear up and down that all amps and receivers sound the same. Is that true? Not to my ears!:)

Jed, theoretically, that should give you lower inductance than a thicker guage cable with the same amount of, or only slightly more, resistance offered by the thicker cable. A win-win of sorts. So yes it will make a difference. However, in real life whether two 16awg runs sounds better than a 10-12awg single run depends on the makeup/design of each cable as well. I have preferred 15awg cables to 12awg myself. It just depends on the sound received through the speaker in the end.

Oh! G-man. I did use the front speaker A/B feature for quick switchover between two runs at a time for on-the-fly comparisons.

John A.

Thanks. You went to some trouble with that test, and it is good of you to let us know.

But were all the cables the same length and gauge? Did you and your friends listen at exactly the same volume control and other settings for each cable?

John A.,

Yes on all counts save one. The gauge on two of the cables were different from the rest. I don't recall what the gauge difference for those two cables were (I could go look it up). But I was going more for a price point comparison first and foremost. As it happened Radio Shack offered a much thicker gauge for the money and I can't recall the other off gauge cable.

John A.

You know I am deeply sceptical about cable "quality". From there, I would predict that it was the heavier gauge cables that sounded best. This would have been because their lower impedence made the speakers sing more for the same gain setting on the amp. (See my posts of Oct 21 and Oct 22, in the thread linked above in my post of Nov 24 on this thread).

If this is correct, at the same price point, it pays to get "cheap", Radio Shack-type, or unbranded cables, they are likely to be heavier gauge. This would be because a larger proportion of the retail price is materials and manufacturing cost, and less of the price goes into advertising and bribing dealers.

But tell me if I am wrong. You make a strong point!


Actually, out of the cables tested: Gauges from 12-16 in range for the price point I stated the RS cable came out as second to worst. Being the thickest gauge, as I stated above, at 12awg (two other performers were also 12awg, I looked up my test seeing as this thread has been interesting to me.) I was actually quite surprised, because truthfully I went into the test thinking similar to yourself.

The last place finisher was also a 12awg and easily noticable as worse than the others as it added a decidedly tinny sound to the high frequencies and had a drop off of the lower frequencies. That tinny sound bugged the whole panel as obviously one expects not to add or subtract anything from the sound with cables. Although that last place cable, as I stated above, could help someone with a system sounding too warm. (I am trying not to state the order of finish for each as that is getting a bit off topic.) Also, as I already stated the difference a cable makes is not huge but subtle. It really didn't hit us that the last place finisher colored the sound so much until we compared it with others. Afterwards, we knew what to listen for and were able to single that cable out time after time, again a 12awg.

Actually, that sort of test has really helped me tune my ear to audition other equipment such as amps and A/V receivers as this section of the forum was intended to discuss.

Paul T
While we are on the subject I will throw a curve ball, does bi-wiring make a difference to some people do to the reasons manufacturers tell us concerning crossovers and such or is because by bi-wiring your actually doubling the wire size?

If you have insufficient wire diameter bi-wiring can help. Otherwise I don't see (due to the laws of physics) that bi-wiring does any good. I haven't read scientific journals that state any real benefit of bi-wiring--except in "tweako" mags. And those mags govern much of the business--hence speaker manufacturers often feel compelled to sell bi-wirable speakers--or else be considered flawed. I am sure wire manufacturers like this very much.

Bi-amping on the other hand can have a significant improvement. Significant generally being an overblown terminology on my part. But it could be a recognizable improvement. As you have your separate amps acting as active crossovers and omitting the speaker crossovers.

John A.

This is good. Thanks. Can you rank the cables and state the gauges? I can't quite grasp the bottom line from your description of the result.

Also, can anyone help with what "gauge" means in either cross-sectional area or diameter? I am not completely metric, am happy with fractions of an inch or multiples of a "thou", but still unfamiliar with "gauge". Is twice the "gauge" twice the diameter? Or half? Or what?

Where I am now, cables are sold according to diameter, in mm. A typical store, selling cable from a drum, by the meter, has 5 mm; 2.5 mm; 1.25 mm. When I said "heavier gauge" I meant "greater diameter".


There was a whole thread on bi-wiring. I shall try to find it and post back.
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