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Thread: What's different about speaker wire?

  1. #1
    Flashaholic* BatteryCharger's Avatar
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    Default What\'s different about speaker wire?

    Can anybody tell me what the difference is between speaker wire and regular electrical wire? (other than the pretty clear insulation [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img] ) Is there any reason I shouldn't use it for regular electrical wiring? I have a big roll of 16 gauge, don't need to install any speakers but I could use it for other things...

  2. #2

    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    They usually charge you more for it. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]

    There is an overhyped type (and way over priced) that is made with "oxygen free copper".

    In reality the voltage rating of the insulation may be different or unrated. To carry 110 VAC look for wire with a 400 V rating.
    Current carrying capacity is dependant on the wire size itself and if copper or aluminum. Use copper for everything.
    Warning: Insulation voltage must be at least its minimum for a given job. Same with current capacity of the wire. If it isn't properly rated, is alumium, or doesn't have the UL seal I won't think about using it. Insurance companies are always looking for ways to keep from paying.

  3. #3
    Flashaholic
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    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    except for that "MUnster Cable" thats made the third thursday of each month when there's a full moon! < you should hear some of the explainations of why "ours is better" by manufacturers { 2nd or the 3rd shift marketing group maybe?} at the trade shows >

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    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    [ QUOTE ]
    BatteryCharger said:
    Is there any reason I shouldn't use it for regular electrical wiring?

    [/ QUOTE ]

    If you mean household wiring, you are asking for trouble. First of all it is too small (gauge) to be used for anything in the house. Second, it's insulation is certainly not rated for the heat that could be generated, to be considered safe. If you mean automobile wiring, you should be fine.

  5. #5
    Flashaholic* 14C's Avatar
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    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    Do NOT use it for household or common electrical wiring. UL rated wiring only and have household wiring done or approved by a licensed elctrician. Your insurance adjuster lurks!

  6. #6

    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    i definitely would'nt use speaker wire for household 110 volt AC. Most importantly, it wouldn't be safe. Speaker wire isn't insulated properly for that kind of application. Secondly, speaker wire is much more expensive then regular AC wire.

  7. #7
    Flashaholic*
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    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    I HAVE used standard electrical cable as speaker wire, with no issues. Cheap, readily available and overengineered. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]

  8. #8
    Flashaholic*
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    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    Canuke, I prefer to use lamp cord (normally 16ga.) for speaker wire. The original post was asking about going the opposite route, using cheap speaker wire for lamp cord or other 120v applications, a definite no-no. Note that lamp cord (or the power cable Canuke was refering to) normally has 300 volt insulation and UL (or similar) approval. Speaker wire MIGHT have 32v up to maybe 120v insulation, but it usually doesn't say nor is it tested for any particular voltage AFAIK.

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    Flashaholic* 3rd_shift's Avatar
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    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    I have built loudspeaker systems before.
    All you really need to do is, know that it has the least amount of electrical resistance between your amplifier to loudspeakers as possible.
    This can be any type of good wiring that you want to pay for. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]
    This can be industial wiring, household low guage wiring, or a good negotiated price on thick, multistanded "speaker wire".
    Your ohm meter can show you the way on that one wherever you go for wire.
    Good luck guys.

    edit:
    please don't use it for household wiring until you contact the maker of the wire before you try that, or you, your house, your loved ones and even your soul departing charred body may be sol. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/evilgrin07.gif[/img] [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/mecry.gif[/img]

  10. #10
    Flashaholic*
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    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    The biggest difference is profit. Some high-end wire sells for thousands per foot!!! "Improved" power cords sell for several grand/six foot length. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/ohgeez.gif[/img]

  11. #11
    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
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    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    Plain old lamp cord has worked just fine for me as speaker wire.

  12. #12
    Flashaholic* mattheww50's Avatar
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    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    In theory there are differences, in practice the claims are more than a little suspect. As far circuit analysis goes, audio frequencies are effectively DC. The AC transient effects happen so rapidly (they are over in a few hundred nanoseconds, and at 20Khz, the fastest events are measured in tens of microseconds). In theory the skin effect would make a stranded conductor more attractive, in practice at 20khz, the skin depth is likely to be far far larger than the diameter of strands, so while the effect is real the wire strand is so much smaller than the skin depth, it is meaningless. Get to 20Mhz, and it certainly does make a difference, but not as 20 Khz.

    About the only thing that counts in speaker cabling is DC resistance, the reactive components are two small to care about in the wiring.

    So if you want to run 100 watts into an 8 ohm speaker, you are going to have to deliver about 3.5 amps,or 5 amps with 4 ohms. At 8 ohms,3.5 amps is about 30 volts, so anything that is insulated well enough to use as line cord is more than adequate. What you want to look out for are loses in the line. The loss is I^2 R, so for the 8 ohm load, at 100 watts, each ohm resistance in the line to the speakers will result in about 12 watts loss, and a reduction in the power delivered to speaker (i.e. 2 ohms in the line makes an 8 speaker a 10 ohm load). At 4 ohms, each ohm in the line is 25 watts! So while 16 gauge wire will very easily carry the current for 100 watts, the loss from 20-30 feet is such that you may be expending a fair amount of energy warming the wire. You probably don't want the wire to represent more than about 10% of the load for applicatoins where you are talking about more than a few watts. That suggests that for you need to look up the resistance of various wire sizes per foot, and pick a size accordingly. For the 100 watt example, something like 10 gauge for a 30 foot run would be a better choice than 16 gauge.

  13. #13

    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    Ah, but the original poster wanted to do it the other way. And this might not be a very good idea. I just pulled out a roll I had setting around. Recoton SWR-16100 AWG#16. Wire gauge is enough for most zip cord applications. Common lamp cord is typically #18. Spool is labeled pure copper. So far, so good. Now the kicker. Looking at wire itself. No insulation voltage rating. No UL label or stamp. Good for speakers or other low voltage (Class 2 - under 30 V) applications only!

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    Flashaholic* 3rd_shift's Avatar
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    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    [ QUOTE ]
    gwbaltzell said:
    Ah, but the original poster wanted to do it the other way. And this might not be a very good idea. I just pulled out a roll I had setting around. Recoton SWR-16100 AWG#16. Wire gauge is enough for most zip cord applications. Common lamp cord is typically #18. Spool is labeled pure copper. So far, so good. Now the kicker. Looking at wire itself. No insulation voltage rating. No UL label or stamp. Good for speakers or other low voltage (Class 2 - under 30 V) applications only!

    [/ QUOTE ]

    My tragic point exactly. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/icon23.gif[/img] [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/mecry.gif[/img]

  15. #15
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    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    There was a magazine called Audio that researched "speaker wire" back in the late 80's with interesting results. They tested to over 1,000 watts using dummy loads and reactive (speaker) loads and tested the results.

    Basically, they said all speaker wire companies are practicing in fraudulent claims. The one they picked out in particular was Kimber Cable. They advertised with oscilliscope waveforms and showed how 18 guage speaker wire distorted the waveform VS their "premium" stuff. The waveform was at 20MHz!
    Audio took the Kimber Cable and 18 gauge wire... tested it at 22KHz (highest frequency possible out of a CD) and there was a difference so infinitely small that it would not make a difference. The BEST human hearing can hear distortion of 0.1% only if it is test tones... with music the differance has to be much higher.
    Audio had a system that ran over 500,000 dollars and what speaker wire did they use? European 12 gauge 220V extension cord!
    Back in my DJ days, I used 50 foot cable to power subwoofer boxes at 750 watts at 4 ohms per box. Worked fine...no problems. The cables are made by Rapco and are rubber coated, lined with a rope like material so idiots can step on it.
    The Rapco cables now wire up to Infinity Overture speakers and they transfer current just fine. If I did not have them laying around, I would of used 220V, 12 gauge wire.
    Since an entire industry is based on fraud, Peter Gransee of Arc should take advantage. Make an "Audiophile" edition Arc4(A) Use silver solder instead of regular solder lines in the electronics... maybe throw a piece of "oxygen-free copper" wire in there somewere. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/crackup.gif[/img] The price must be at the strataspheric level to be taken seriously, say "On Sale"! for $899.
    For "true clarity of COLD light emitting diodes...they must be driven with the WARM current drive of electron tubes! Purchase the new Arc4 AT edition with silver connected electronics and TUBE driven current drivers for the classic WARM color of traditional lighting! Optionally color matched to your Kimber Cable at a small additional charge. On sale now for only $1,795.00" [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/crackup.gif[/img] [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/crackup.gif[/img] [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/knight.gif[/img]

  16. #16

    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    The first difference between the two is that the speaker wire doesn't have a ground wire in it. The second difference is that the speaker wire is only rated for maybe 100 volts and wire used for home wiring is rated at 600 volts. Also the minimum size wire to use in home wiring is 14 gauge wire on a 15 amp breaker and 12 gauge wire on a 20 amp breaker.
    The only thing that speaker wire is good for is low voltage, and less than 10 amp applications.

  17. #17

    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    In my experience, audiophiles tend towards nutty - or worse.

    Tube amps, oxygen-free copper speaker cables, their obsession with everything analog - they're all pacifiers; they feel a need to differentiate themselves from the masses and label themselves as "elite."

  18. #18

    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    hey tube amps are nice idle.i would never buy one i cant aford em but they do seem to deleiver way better bass response

  19. #19
    Flashaholic* 14C's Avatar
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    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    There IS a "warmer" response in my experience from tube amps and radios. I still have an old tube AM/FM radio in my closet that needs some work. I really like the audio from it.

    It's all subjective though.

    I agree the speaker wire sales crap is overboard.

    What it all boils down to is current handling and attenuation for speaker wire.

    Home wiring meant to handle loads is current capacity, insulation and a UL rating for insurance (also some considerations about connectorization as with aluminim).

    As a very simplistic rule wire meant to handle domestic home installs will work well for speakers if properly installed. The opposite is NOT true.

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    Flashaholic* Unicorn's Avatar
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    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    [ QUOTE ]
    idleprocess said:
    In my experience, audiophiles tend towards nutty - or worse.

    Tube amps, oxygen-free copper speaker cables, their obsession with everything analog - they're all pacifiers; they feel a need to differentiate themselves from the masses and label themselves as "elite."

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Kind of like those nutty flashaholics arguing about beam shapes and whether this type of stipled reflector is better than that type? [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

  21. #21
    Administrator Size15's's Avatar
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    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    The difference I found was that speaker cable wired up to your amp looks cool and expensive. Mains cable wired up to your amp looks cheap and nasty. I have a bit of both actually. Speaker cable wires up the centre and front pair and mains cables (different types) wire up the rear pair.

    I was shocked and horrified that I couldn't hear the difference. I worked with a BBC Sound man who used power cords to wire up speakers so that kinda convinced me. If the BBC does it then it must be okay!!

    Al

  22. #22
    *Flashaholic* jtice's Avatar
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    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    Unless you get really high end stuff, there is no difference at all.

    I have used extention cords alot of the time for speacker wire. Its the same GA. and same thickness of rubber insolation.

    SOME speacker wire is made of better metals, such as higher levels of copper and such.
    But, unless you are building a high end system you are fine with just about any wire, as long as the GA is big enough.

    Personally, I think the RCA cables make more of a difference in sound then the speacker wires.

  23. #23
    Administrator Size15's's Avatar
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    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    Interconnects are a different kettle of chips altogether I agree. Perhaps a subject for a different thread.

    Al

  24. #24

    Default Re: What\'s different about speaker wire?

    [ QUOTE ]
    Unicorn said:
    [ QUOTE ]
    idleprocess said:
    In my experience, audiophiles tend towards nutty - or worse.

    Tube amps, oxygen-free copper speaker cables, their obsession with everything analog - they're all pacifiers; they feel a need to differentiate themselves from the masses and label themselves as "elite."

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Kind of like those nutty flashaholics arguing about beam shapes and whether this type of stipled reflector is better than that type? [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

    [/ QUOTE ]
    Aye.

    The wingnuts I find myself associating with... [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/icon3.gif[/img]

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