Speak wires differ in gauge, length and type. Selecting the appropriate speaker cable can impact the sound quality of the system it is wired to. Regardless of the speaker size and quality, a low quality speaker wire will result in poor sound quality.
Since speakers are seldom sold with speaker wire, it is helpful to know a bit about them and how to choose. To select a speaker wire, you’ll have to choose the wire gauge, length and type.
AWG (American Wire Gauge) is an identifying number that corresponds with the thickness of a wire’s conductive copper bundle. Lower gauge = thicker wire and better capacity to pass the amplified audio signal. Speaker wires range in thickness between 12 to 16 gauge.
Elements to consider when choosing the wire gauge include your budget, the quality of the speaker being used and the desired sound quality. Another element to consider is the distance between the speaker(s) and the receiver/amp. Long wire runs can cause significant power losses and therefore require thicker cable.
Choosing Wire Type
A standard speaker wire will suffice if you are not running it through the walls. However, if you plan on running the wire through the walls, you’ll need a UL rated in wall speaker wire. . An Underwriters Laboratory (UL) wire checks the heat generated by the current flowing through wire, how quickly the cable will catch fire and even spread it, when exposed to flame; it is also susceptible to damage from external stresses.
For an underground outdoor installation, you’ll need a direct burial rated wire.
Determining Wire Length
To determine the length of the speaker wire, measure the distance between your components. If you are running the wire between rooms or spaces, you may want to use a string to run it through the spaces, along doorways frames, corners and other objects along the way. Measure the string and allow extra wire length. When running the wire, do not bend it around sharp corners, it can impair performance. Instead, use gradual turns of the wire where needed.
Other speaker wire quality indicators
Other than the gauge, a higher quality wire is made with higher quality metals that increase conductivity.