Speaker Wire & Connectors
One important but often overlooked part of the system is the wiring. We will give some recommendations on what to look for when choosing speaker wire. First, look for stranded wire that is specifically designed for use as speaker wire. Also, look for an oxygen free composition as the added resistance from oxidation of the wire strands is reduced.
Speaker wire thickness is labeled by a number with either gauge or AWG for American Wire Gauge. The smaller the number, the thicker the wire. The most appropriate gauge to use is determined by the length of the speaker wire run.
Although thicker wire has higher current capacity, it is not always better. Thicker wire becomes harder to work with, more difficult to hide and the cost per foot goes up significantly below 14 gauge.
Sixteen (16) gauge is fine for most runs up to 50 feet. 18 maybe used in distances less than 25 feet. However, we like to recommend 14 gauge wire for most applications up to 100 feet in length. It offers the best combination in flexibility, cost and performance. If you have a very long run over 100 feet with a high power application, then 12 gauge is recommended.
If installing speaker wire in the wall, we recommend using a CL-3 rated wire. This will be stamped on the wire’s outer jacket or on the spool it comes on. The CL-3 rating indicates the jacket is suitable for pulling through walls and the wire itself can handle the voltage from the receiver or amplifier. Further, if running speaker wire in the wall, leave at least 6 to 8 feet of additional wire hanging out the wall to make the connection. While that may seem like a lot, it’s better to have too much than too little.
What about the connectors? Which is best? With everything from single and dual banana plugs, to pins, to spade lugs to bare wire, the choice can be confusing. The answer is it depends.
Pins are only appropriate for spring clip style speaker connections, found mostly on our smaller RM Series satellites and certain subwoofers. They are not ideal for multi-way binding posts.
If you like to disconnect the speakers frequently, either for cleaning or adjusting, we’d recommend banana connectors. They are much easier to disconnect. Most of our speakers can accept quite large bare wire, up to 10 gauge, sometimes even 8 gauge wire. On the other hand, if your system is “set and forget” and you almost never disconnect things, then use bare wire or spade lugs. When using bare wire double check all the strands are in the terminal and not sticking out. If they’re sticking out it can cause loss of performance, or worse a short circuit.
If you’re mounting the speaker to the wall, it is best to use either bare wire or spade lugs. Banana plugs typically stick out so far that they will hit the wall.
The connection recommendation remains the same on the receiver or amplifier end, however most A/V receivers are extremely cluttered with several channels of outputs close together. In this case the banana plug is the best connection especially if you’re using thicker speaker wire. Keep in mind some receivers will not accept the standard spacing for a dual banana plug.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on the speaker wire or their connectors, but it is the final link that delivers power from the receiver to your speaker
This article was last modified Mar 7, 2014