12 Guage Speaker Wire the “Best Speaker Wire for Your Home Theater”

The examples below will illustrate why 12 guage speaker wire is usually best for home theater applications or high end stereo speakers:

Six Factors that affect Speaker Cable performance:

1. Insertion loss of cable – the Resistance of the wire12 Guage Speaker Wire

2. Length of Cable (also increases resistance)

3. Ohms of Speaker loading

4. Inductance of speaker cables

5. Capacitance

6. Amount of Power being run through speaker cable

Determining the Size of Cable will depend on The Power of Your Amplifier and the Length of Speaker Cables:

Worst case scenario?

When 12 guage speaker wire may not be enough.

In extreme cases (high powered subwoofers with amplifiers over 2000 watts) you may need to use a 10 gauge or even 8 gauge cable. ~ most amplifiers are no-where near this powerful.

 

The length of the cable is very important.

The longer the cable, the more resistance the cable itself presents to the current passing through it.

This causes “insertion loss” – which lowers the power received at the speaker from the amplifier.

In other words; the cable eats some of the power through resistance.

The speaker “receives” less power than the amplifier actually sent.

My recommendation is, play it safe…

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Use a cable that will not build up heat and can easily handle the power to which you are applying to it. For most home theaters this will be 12 guage speaker wire.

You could probably even get by with 14 guage speaker wire.

Some Typical Cable run scenarios and the recommended diameters, these are play it safe cable sizes:

What about Low power amplifiers and Speaker Cable?

If your cable run is between 0 and 40 feet and you are pushing less than 200 watts use 14 gauge cable. Longer than 40 feet use 12 gauge just for added safety, not because it is necessary (14 gauge speaker wire would still work fine but why put yourself in the position to upgrade if you get a more powerful amplifier?).

If your cable run is between 0 and 6 feet and you are pushing less than 200 watts use 16 gauge cable.

Use of 14 or 12 guage speaker wire is fine too and will result in less insertion loss.

Parts Express carries a large selection of Audio Amplifiers – Amplifiers for your home, car and professional sound installations.

Medium Power Amplifiers: How Large of a Speaker Cable do you Need?

It all depends on the length.

If your cable run is between 0 and 20 feet and you are pushing less then 500 watts, use of a 14 awg speaker wire is fine.

The wattage loss (insertion loss) for 20 feet of cable in this example is only 24.33 watts lost.

What Size Speaker wire is best with High power Amplifiers?

If your cable run is between 0 and 20 feet and you are pushing at or less than 1000 watts, use 12 awg speaker wire.

12 guage speaker wire will keep insertion loss to a minimum:

The wattage loss for 20 feet of cable in this example is only 31.02 watts lost.

As an example 10 gauge cable would present a loss of 19.68 watts as a comparison.

For up to 20 ft of cable length a 10 gauge cable can handle 2000 watts while a 12 gauge speaker wire size can handle 1960 watts with over a 150 watts lost between the amp and speaker.

This is still considered a safe loss ratio. Parts Express has most of my cable needs they have Wire & Cable – We carry a large selection of bulk reels to completed cables in every style and length.

Have an Extremely High Power Amplifier?

It is highly unlikely that you would need this much power in your home theater system. But I wanted to include it just to prove the point.

If your cable run is between 0 and 20 feet and you are pushing at or less than 5000 watts, use an 8 gauge cable. This will keep you well within operating parameters.

The wattage loss for 20 feet of cable in this example is only 62.32 watts (lost).

A 6 gauge cable would present a loss of 39.27 watts as a comparison. This with 5000 watts of input power.

Most Audio Cable connectors will have no problem transferring power from wire to speaker.

However, I recommend the use of quality speaker wire connections with good corrosion resistance and reliability.

I like WBT connectors and use them exclusively.

WBT cable plugs are very expensive though, and there are many other brands that will work fine too.

I use Parts Express for most of my cable parts. Find parts here: Wire & Cable – We carry a large selection of bulk reels to completed cables in every style and length.

If you are considering what cables you will need for your system, buy speaker wire using the above examples. This data will keep you safe and your system sounding it’s best.

For “most home theater installations 12 gauge cable is more than you will ever need”:

 

*All of the above measurements and data are present with a 4 ohm speaker load.

The calculator and data for these measurements can be found at:

http://www.bcae1.com/images/swfs/speakerwireselectorassistant.swf

Some Things to Watch out for:

Aside from the speaker wire gauge, how can you know a specific design will work well in your system?

Most speaker cable, if able to transfer the current – will do the job fine.

There are some differences between cables as to how they may sound and in some cases you get what you pay for.

But, often the home theater and stereo cable market is highly profit driven with extremely high profit margins.

Meaning you can often do better than buying your cables off the shelf and paying retail prices for them.

You can build them yourself.

DIY cable building is actually very easy.

Speaker Wire is not rocket science and there are a number of ways to get great performance for less money. Read through the “Other Related Articles” below to learn more.

 

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