Connecting Speaker Wires to Speakers and Amplifiers
Speaker wire connects the positive and negative terminals on your speakers (and amplifier or receiver), so it’s vitally important to properly terminate its ends.
Terminating wire strands involves stripping away insulation to expose them, and twisting tightly so as to prevent stray wires from coming into contact with each other or objects that could harm your components. There are numerous types of termination connectors.
Speaker wires typically contain two conductors encased by insulation for connecting to positive and negative connectors on speakers and amplifiers, along with impedance values specific to their speaker systems. They come in various gauges that accommodate various impedance values for your system, with copper content as the best indicator of conductivity and lower resistance levels; some manufacturers use special metals like silver as well but there has not been evidence to show any audible difference in sound quality between using either type.
Speaker wire typically made of copper provides low resistance. Unfortunately, over time it oxidizes which creates an impenetrable barrier between its conductors and connection points and can increase resistance – to combat this, copper conductors in speaker cable are typically covered with an insulating material to protect them.
Companies sometimes produce pure silver wire, which has lower resistance than copper but is much more costly. Although research does not demonstrate any audible benefits from using this kind of wiring in more costly systems, its presence can make their sound quality seem better than it otherwise would be.
Copper Clad Aluminum (CCA) wire offers an economical solution, boasting both superior conductivity and protection from oxidation. Copper has lower overall resistance than pure aluminum, but to achieve equivalent levels of resistance it requires thicker wire. An additional safeguard against corrosion or damage, especially if your cable will be exposed to moisture and dust, is wrapping any exposed portions with electrical tape. Termination connectors should also be utilized when using speaker wire as they offer more secure and protected connections than loosening screw pillars on amplifier or speaker terminals, which could expose conductors to elements. This is especially relevant when connecting outdoor wires to speakers installed into walls or ceilings.
Speaker wires require insulation to protect their copper conductors from coming into contact with anything other than itself, which is an essential function for audio signal quality. While bare copper makes for an excellent conductor, its rough surfaces may interfere with audio transmission causing interference to audio signals; rubber or plastic insulation materials are typically used and come in various colors for matching your surroundings or hiding unsightly wires when not needed.
Other than insulation, speaker wire’s other major factor is gauge or thickness. Thicker wire has less resistance than thinner ones; to select an optimal gauge length based on speaker distance from amp or receiver and any obstructions along its path.
Impedance refers to how much resistance your system presents against electricity flow; typically four or eight ohms for most systems is typical; this figure can change depending on frequency. A higher impedance means more power is lost through heat loss while less gets through to your speakers.
For optimal resistance reduction of long runs of wire, it is best to keep it as short as possible without compromising placement or aesthetics. To do this, strip off both ends and wrap tightly around each other to reduce resistance. Twisting wires together will cause them to move less freely within their sheathing, creating resistance. Next, cover each length of twisted wire with heat shrink tubing; once that sheathing has been covered you can use a lighter to shrink this tubing further, protecting twisted wires from damage while simultaneously decreasing resistance even further. This simple yet cost-effective approach may often go overlooked by audio enthusiasts.
If the proper connections aren’t made between speaker wire and amplifier or receiver, signal degradation will result. This is especially true for long runs of speaker wire; appropriate termination connectors must be utilized to reduce signal degradation caused by mismatched metals and inadequate contact surfaces.
An effective connection between speaker wires and amplifiers or receivers will ensure full transfer of current without distortion, enabling you to move equipment as necessary without fear of damage to its cable. Termination connectors come in various styles; locking banana plugs, BFA (fit binding posts with central pin that prohibit conventional banana plugs from being used), and pin connectors may all work effectively.
Bare wire connections are easy and cost-effective solutions, but their exposed ends can lead to signal degradation if they come into contact with other conductive materials. To minimize signal degradation it is wise to wrap each end around another or connect them directly to metal objects so as to protect against this problem.
Spade lugs and banana plugs may be more expensive, but they do provide more reliable connections than bare wire, while also protecting conductors from corrosion. Unfortunately, however, using spade lugs or banana plugs adds another link in transmission chain which could diminish audio signal quality.
Some claim that bare wire performs better than terminated, yet it is difficult to see how this can be true. When you compare two lengths of 12 foot copper wire that have either single- or bi-wires installed at each end, their resistance levels are equivalent.
Galvanic corrosion occurs when dissimilar metals come into direct contact for extended periods, increasing resistance. To minimize this risk, gold-plated speaker terminals and amplifier connectors should be used; nevertheless, to get optimal audio system performance terminated cable can help. Not only does it protect wire from oxidation but it will make your equipment much more stylish!
Use of too long wire can increase resistance, decreasing current flow and impacting audio quality. As a general guideline, aim to keep cable runs under 50 feet to reduce friction losses from electricity traveling across such long distances and impact audio quality negatively.
Most speaker wire is typically constructed of stranded cable rather than solid core copper wire for several advantages: greater flexibility and no stress cracks as compared to solid copper, as well as being easier to strip and work with when connecting speaker leads to speakers.
Home and car speakers (not subwoofers) generally benefit from 18 gauge wire (12AWG or thinner; 16AWG is ideal) or thinner (20AWG); these may even work for certain installations. Thicker wires may also be suitable but these tend to be reserved for higher power systems or longer runs.
Stranded cable offers another advantage, making connection simple and fast if you plan on moving components around frequently. Connectors such as spade plugs or spring clips make establishing connections much simpler compared to using solid cables, making for quicker and simpler setup times when making connections between components.
Many companies now offer specialty speaker wire that claims to make a significant improvement in sound quality, typically thicker and with an additional silver sheath for improved conductivity. Audiophiles may swear by it; however, for most everyday uses this option may not be necessary.
Unless there is an specific reason for wanting to use exotic wire, stick with the basics. A good quality wire will produce great sound at an economical price; on a tight budget consider using wire from old clothing hangers as speaker wire; this works great while saving some cash! Make sure you strip and twist tight the ends; loose strands could interfere with connection and cause short circuiting that could harm speakers; in this instance you may need special termination connectors at each end of your run of wire.