What You Need to Know About Speaker Wiring Cables


Closeup of transparent speaker wire.
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With regards to audio system, the wires or cables you employ are vital. They might not have an effect on the sound high quality total, however if you would like every little thing to work correctly, ensure you’re utilizing the proper device for the job.

Sorts of Speaker Wire

Lately, we take care of two forms of audio system: energetic or powered audio system, and passive or non-powered speakers. Speaker wire is for carrying a signal from an amplifier to passive speakers. We’ll look at cables for active speakers in the next section.

Speaker Wire

Probably the most widespread methods of connecting audio system is naked wire. With this, you get a size of a pair of wires: pink (optimistic) and black (unfavorable). You don’t have to know an excessive amount of about how audio system work to make use of these, simply ensure you’re matching the pink and black wire to the matching terminals on the again of your audio system.

Naked speaker wire can get unruly after you’ve used it a number of instances, resulting in pricked fingers and dodgy connections. To fight this, we’ve seen the introduction of the banana plug, so named due to its resemblance to the fruit. Speaker wire with banana plugs is similar as naked wire, it’s simply simpler to plug in.

Banana plug on speaker wire
Kris Wouk

Speaker Cables

For those who’re coping with setting up a home surround sound system or a simple stereo setup, the two types of wire above are likely all you need. That said, if you’re using studio monitors for an audiophile music listening setup, for example, you may see some other connections.

Studio monitors and outdoor speakers typically use speaker cables with a single 1/4-inch tip ring sleeve (TRS) cable for simpler connections. Sometimes, you’ll additionally encounter the extra proprietary Speakon connector, however this isn’t widespread for house use.

Cables for Powered Audio system

Lately, increasingly more audio system use their very own built-in amplifier. Whether or not you’re speaking a couple of Sonos One or only a subwoofer, audio system with built-in amplifiers use totally different connections than their passive siblings.

When coping with connections for powered audio system, assuming they aren’t wi-fi, there are two forms of connections: balanced and unbalanced. The problem right here is coping with line noise and background noise.

Unbalanced Cables

Balanced connections present much less noise, however require particular connections and aren’t at all times obligatory for house use. Unbalanced connections are technically noisier, however use cheaper cables, and also you’ll discover they sound nice for many house makes use of.

Stereo unbalanced RCA cable
Kris Wouk

For unbalanced connections to audio system, there’s one main cable normal used, which is RCA. You’ve probably seen loads of these cables should you’ve ever wired up a house theater system. These typically are available pairs of pink and white cables for stereo, however often, you’ll see singles.

RELATED: Residence Theater Wiring: What Are All These Connections?

Balanced Cables

In case your powered audio system are studio screens, you’ll often see unbalanced RCA connections, however balanced connections are way more widespread. The 2 sorts you’ll encounter essentially the most are tip ring sleeve (TRS) and XLR, which stands for “exterior line return,” although you’ll seldom see that used.

XLR is the usual connector with regards to professional audio cables, alongside TRS, and also you’ll see this on mid to high-end audio system. It is a safer connection, however these cables are usually dearer than TRS or RCA cable.

Closeup of an XLR cable.
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We’ve already touched on TRS speaker cables, however they aren’t the identical because the TRS audio cables used for powered audio system, regardless of sharing the identical connector. TRS audio cables use shielding to stop interference, whereas this isn’t obligatory when utilizing a TRS connection between an amp and passive speaker.

Shielded TRS audio cable
Kris Wouk

Ensure you use precise speaker cable for passive audio system, as a result of whereas speaker cable doesn’t want shielding, it does should be thicker than TRS audio cable.

Gauge and Size of Speaker Cables

A lot of the speaker wire you encounter will vary from comparatively skinny to extraordinarily skinny. It’s because more often than not, that is all you want, particularly for house use. However go searching on the internet, and also you’ll discover speaker wire and cables out there a lot thicker in diameter than what you’d usually use at house.

What is that this for? The longer a run of cable, the thicker in diameter the cable must be. For those who use too skinny a cable, this may end up in worse sound high quality, and it could possibly doubtlessly harm your amplifier and even pose a hearth hazard.

For those who’re working cable lengths over 20 toes (6.1 meters), you’ll need to begin taking a look at thicker speaker cables. Bear in mind, we’re primarily speaking about passive audio system and unbalanced connections right here, as balanced connections will forestall a number of the noise that lengthy cable runs introduce.

Usually, speaker wires run from 16 gauge to 12 gauge, with the upper quantity representing a thinner cable. The thinner 16 gauge wire is ok for shorter runs in your house, however for longer cable runs, contemplate 14 or 12 gauge.

Do Some Cables Sound Higher Than Others?

There are cable manufacturers charging as much as a whole bunch of {dollars} for speaker cables and different audio cables. The query is: are these really value the additional cash?

There isn’t any scientific proof that utilizing gold or different pricier supplies will present higher sound popping out of your audio system. For those who’re trying to improve your sound, stop thinking about cables and look into upgrading another part of your setup.

That stated, higher supplies like shielding and supplies much less liable to corrosion are helpful and do price extra. Pricier speaker cables do have their worth, however for many house use, plain previous skinny speaker wire must be all you want.

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