A Few Basic Rules For Speaker Cables - October 2022

First off, I am not going to venture into the controversial world of brands, designs, sound, and such.

There are a thousand different opinions with millions of participants all using all sorts of terms, which, if spoken to a real musician or band, would leave them wondering what drug you were using to either buy it or avoid it.

Instead I want to address some basic fundamentals. In general, speaker cable lengths should be kept to a minimum. The longer the length, the greater the resistance. This typically starts to really show up in most basic systems once you exceed about 10 feet. There are certainly important differences at shorter lengths with more serious systems. As you exceed 10’ there is a growing loss of clarity, again, with most receivers or amplifiers. This is because most amplifiers are designed around an 8 ohm load. So, adding 2 or more ohms can be, and often is, a significant proportional change. One of the ways around longer cable lengths if one has a preamp to power amp combination, is to use long interconnects from the preamplifier to the amplifier. Preamps are usually designed around the 50 to 100 thousand ohm load so adding a few ohms here or there has electrically very little impact.

Another typical issue is excess cable length for all sorts of reasons. The common mistake is to neatly coil up that excess and stuff it some place. This is a bad idea. Depending upon the excess length and the tightness of the coil, you end up creating an inductor. Inductors store energy in a magnetic field and in the process oppose any changes in current through them. In short, the amplifier ends up working harder to achieve the volume you want while also affecting both dynamics and clarity. So, what do you do? Well, go to the hardware store, buy some wire ties and lap the cable back and forth on top of itself and tie it tight. This is not a perfect solution but certainly substantially better than creating a coil.

Q: So, Lou, do you know of any tricks particularly when dealing with different cable lengths for stereo and home theater? Glad you asked. Yes, but you need to do a little homework or work with a good dealer. Depending upon the lengths, you change, with proper electrical calculations, the gauge of the wire. Shorter runs will have a lighter gauge than longer ones, basically. Some manufacturers do make different cables that allow you to do this easily. Others may not.

Just one more thing and I have seen this recently. How about splicing cables? Ah, no! You end up creating all sorts of issues the least of which is the potential for creating a short and blowing up the amplifier section of whatever you are using. At the very least, a fuse can be blown. At worst, a wonderful pyrotechnic display.

There truly is a great deal more to talk about when it comes to speaker cables after 40 years of experience but that is best covered in my store as it can vary case by case. Lou

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