Tips to Buy Speaker Wires
Your speaker system never fails to bring out the wows even from the most dedicated audiophile. But your drool-worthy speaker system still remains a touch incomplete sans the appropriate speaker wires. The market is flooded with speaker wires of different makes, grades, and from various brands. Some are undoubtedly of a stellar quality and are priced likewise. There are others that are of dubious makes, have equally suspect specs, and do not deliver what they promise. Settling for the cheapest one is not always a wise choice. On the other hand, a high-end speaker with a weighty price tag may be overkill for your particular audio setup.
So how do you choose speaker wires that suit your audio system requirements and isn’t a drain on your wallet either? You are in luck if the owner’s manual of your speakers contains recommendations from the manufacturers. Or else, take cue from the tips provided below.
Choose a wire made of a highly conductive material.
A standard speaker wire should admirably suffice for your home theater system if it is made of a highly conductive metal. The efficiency with which a cable transmits signals determines the quality of performance that your speakers can deliver. A highly conductive metal like copper will enable faster and more efficient transmission of audio signals. However, the type of metal is only a slight consideration when buying speaker wires. You should delve into other technical details as well, like those mentioned below.
Select a wire with low DC resistance.
DC resistance is a measure of the resistance to conductivity in an electrical circuit. So it is no use settling for a speaker wire made with a highly conductive material if it has high DC resistance. A wire with high DC resistance interferes with its ability to efficiently transmit signals and this causes significant loss of data. Resistance directly affects the amount of insertion loss and damping in an amplifier-to-loudspeaker connection and these two in turn, determine the quality of sound that is produced.
DC resistance is thus a critical feature of a speaker wire and you should pore over the technical specs document of a particular make to find out about this value before making a purchase decision.
Choose speaker wires of the appropriate gauge.
The gauge of the speaker wire is as critical a buying consideration as the value of DC resistance. The gauge of a wire is a measure of its thickness or diameter and its resistance or the ability to conduct signals. The thicker the wire and the less resistance it has, the lower will be the gauge value. On the other hand, the higher the gauge value, the thinner will be the conducting material of the wire. A wire with a gauge value of 12 of 14 might prove to be too thick to fit into the respective jacks of the speaker and thereceiver.
On the other hand, if you intend to buy longer wires, say more than 25 feet, you should settle for thicker wires that is, those that have lower gauge values. You can always slash away at the ends of the wires to make them fit into the jacks. You can use 12-gauge wire if your speaker cable will run to more than 200 feet and 14-gauge wire for cables in length between 80 and 200 feet.
Choose the appropriate length of the speaker wires.
While measuring the amount of cable you need for your speakers, do not just measure the linear distance between two components. Instead take your measuring tape and actually run it over furniture and/or the doorway over which the wires are likely to pass to determine the actual length of the cable to buy. If your speakers are placed high up on the shelves, then you may want to add some extra inches to the length of the wires you buy just so they don't get pinched when you are trying to establish the connections. A prudent idea is to add a few more inches to accommodate the possibility of you moving the speakers in future.
Test the wires on your speakers.
While poring over the technical specifications of speaker wires will definitely help you to zero in on the perfect choice for your audio setup, nothing beats the luxury of being able to choose after actually hearing them deliver the goods. If you intend to buy speaker wires only after you have tested them at home, look for sellers who have the appropriate return policies.
After taking into account the above-mentioned features of wires, bring home differently-priced makes for testing. If you have high-end speakers, then any difference in quality will be readily discernible. If you don’t catch any difference in the quality of the sound being produced, you can return the higher-priced model.
Run the speaker test for a considerable length of time and preferably with different types of music so that you can form an idea about the range of capabilities of the wires.
Choose speaker wires that are separately rated for specific needs.
Apart from the efficiency with which speaker wires transmit audio signals, you should also consider your specific needs and/or the particulars of your audio setup before buying these wires. For instance, you may want to run the wires behind the walls or through the ceiling. You should then use wires rated CL2 or CL3 by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Similarly, there are separate ratings for speaker wires that are intended for use outdoors and will be buried underground. The UL ratings are awarded to particular makes of speaker wires after rigorously testing them to see how they resist naked flame and how they can withstand the demands made by stressful conditions.
Now that you know about the factors that you need to consider before buying speaker wires, you must have realized that price should not be one of your primary concerns. In fact, if you can identify your needs and the requirements of your audio setup, you should be able to find speaker wires that fit the bill perfectly without you needing to sacrifice an arm and a leg for them.