Joe K is a Grammy nominated consulting writer with over 25 years experience in pro audio.
Digital audio is not real. But before you freak out, let me explain…
When music or any kind of sound leaves your receiver, computer, amplifier etc., it’s no longer digital. It’s as analog as apple pie. Your ear can’t hear ones and zeros just like your mouth can’t taste a digital cup of coffee. The human body is not built that way. We are still old school.
That’s where speaker wire comes into play. They’re the last analog path your audio takes before coming out of the speakers. Whether it’s for tv, gaming or trying to impress your neighbors with how loud and crisp the new Skrillex Dubstep remix is, there’s a lot of science going on in those little wires hiding behind the couch.
In order to identify the top speaker wires, our research considered factors such as the material used, gauge, and brand reputation for dependability. We examined more than 20 highly-recommended brands, read research studies and analyzed customer feedback. Additionally we, delved into the ongoing debate on the correlation between wire quality and cost. We even tested wires on our own home systems, making recommendations based on our personal experience. Ultimately, the decision on whether to notice a notable difference in sound quality with a specific wire is up to the individual listener, however, all our selected wires ensure a robust and reliable connection for optimal audio.
The Speaker Wire Basics
The science of conductivity and electric current is a deep hole and for the purposes of this article and helping you get the most out of your sound system without having to get a Phd, Im going to stick to a few main points.
The speaker wire that connects your speakers to the main components acts like a nervous system. It allows all the energy and frequencies of your favorite songs, games and movies to get to your speakers which then attempt to faithfully recreate the sound as it was intended. The trick here is to get the audio content to the speakers with the least resistance or coloration. Thats where things get a bit complicated.
There are a few key factors to consider when selecting speaker wire but the first thing to consider is budget. I know thats not a very scientific approach but the truth is that you should be honest with yourself in regards to your experience with audio and audio quality. If you are a seasoned audiophile with a lifetime of experience listening to the most high end of setups, then you should spare no expense when it comes to speaker wire. If this is your first foray into home theatre then maybe don’t spend your every last dollar, but don’t cheap out either, because quality absolutely matters.
When choosing speaker cable, it’s important you consider the material it’s made of. Copper is the standard for electrical conductivity and is preferred for its high conductivity and durability. However, some cables may be made with cheaper materials such as aluminum, zinc, and nickel, which have lower conductivity. This can lead to poor sound quality. To save cost, some cables may also have alloys mixed in, which can make the wire less conductive and cause breaks when bending. Pure copper cable may be more expensive, but it ensures the best sound quality and longevity. Additionally, oxygen damages copper over time, so it’s important to look for oxygen-free copper cable for added protection.
Then there is gauge, or thickness. Generally, the thicker the wire, the lower the resistance and the better the sound quality. However, thicker wire is also more expensive and more difficult to work with. Popular gauges for speaker wire include 4 gauge speaker wire, 8 gauge speaker wire, 10 gauge speaker wire, 12 gauge speaker wire, and 14 gauge speaker wire, you get the point.
- Low gauge numbers (such as 4, 8, or 10) indicate a thicker, more heavy-duty cable that can carry more current with less resistance. This means that low gauge cables can provide better sound quality by transmitting audio signals with less distortion and noise.
- High gauge numbers (such as 24 or 26) indicate a thinner, more lightweight cable that can carry less current with more resistance. This means that high gauge cables can provide poorer sound quality by transmitting audio signals with more distortion and noise.
- In addition, low gauge cables are less likely to heat up and can handle more power, which makes them more suitable for high-power amplifiers. High gauge cables are more prone to heat up, and less suitable for high-power amplifiers.
Another important consideration is connector type. You use speaker wire connectors to attach the wire to your speakers and amplifier. The most common connector types are banana plugs, spade lugs, and pin connectors. It’s important to choose connectors that are compatible with your equipment.
There are hundreds of brands that make and sell speaker wire but I would stick with reputable ones. Monster speaker wire and Mogami are well-known and highly regarded in the industry. Belden speaker cable and Transparent speaker cable are also popular choices. For those looking for something a bit more high-end, Audioquest speaker cables and Transparent Musicwave Super speaker cable are top-of-the-line options.
Simplify and Buy
I think it’s best to look it at as “Good, Better, Best”. Spend what you can afford and are comfortable with. Just don’t cheap out because you will regret it in the long run and most likely spend more for better cables later on.
Here are a few good, better, and best options that we think are the way to go.
Monster Cables have been around forever and their M Series wires are a great bang for the buck.
- Great Customer Satisfaction
- Well built
AudioQuest is awesome, and these cables are a great mid/high level speaker wire. You will not be disapointed.
- Award winning cablle
- Excellent sound quality
- Made of ultra-high purity single crystal copper
- Very high conductivity
- Great costumer reviews