Speaker wire guide – How to choose the right gauge, length, and type

What gauge do you need?

A wire’s thickness is determined by its American Wire Gauge (AWG) number, which is an indication of how thick it is. When the gauge number is lower, the wire is thicker, as the gauge number is lower. It is easier for current to flow through thicker wires since they present less resistance.

The thicker the wire (12 or 14 gauge), the better the performance of the speaker and the better the heat dissipation rate on the speaker.

The 16 gauge wire will usually do just fine in short runs (less than 50 feet) between 8 ohm speakers if the run is relatively short. Using it is a great way to save money and make your life easier.

If you need a gauge recommendation for your installation, ask your advisor.

How much wire do you need?

When you want to know how much speaker wire you will need, you will want to run a string from the place where the receiver or amplifier is located to the place where the speakers are. The string should be measured first, and then a few more feet should be added (to allow some slack for easier connection to your equipment).

What type of wire do you need?

If you are looking for speaker wire without connectors, you can also buy that.

The recommendation I would like to make is that you should buy banana connectors if you buy wire that doesn’t come with connectors. There is a lot of work involved in connecting bare wires to a home theater receiver.

In case you wish to install the speaker wire underground for your outdoor speakers, you will need to use wire that is rated for direct burial. If you want to learn more about in-wall wiring, we recommend you check out our comprehensive guide.

There are two conductors and four conductors available in in-wall wire.

When you use a 4-conductor cable to connect your amplifier or receiver to a volume control mounted in a wall in another room, you are able to pull a single cable over the long distance between devices. The volume control can then be connected to each of the stereo speakers in that location by running two-conductor cables to each speaker. A four-conductor wire can also be used to connect speakers with stereo inputs if you plan on using that type of wire.

We recommend that you ask one of our Crutchfield A/V designers for advice on which kind of wire would work best for your installation.

Are high-end speaker cables worth it?

Check out our wide selection of Audioquest speaker cables to see what we have to offer. You can read the reviews left by our customers (mostly 5-stars). The sonic improvements they hear, as well as the quality of the construction, have caused many people to rave about the product.

Connection tips

  1. In order to ensure that your speaker wires are connected correctly to your amplifier or receiver, you should determine the positive and negative leads on your speaker wire, and connect them accordingly. A cross-connection will lead to the music not sounding right if you get one of the connections crossed.

  2. Using a wire stripper, you can remove about a third of an inch from the ends of each lead if you decide not to connect your wires with connectors. This will expose the bare wire strands at the ends of your leads. Make sure the bare wire strands on each lead are tightly twisted, so that no stray strands are sticking out of the wire. There is a possibility that loose strands of cable will contact the other lead of the cable, resulting in a short circuit, potentially damaging the components of your cable.


Speaker wire terminals

A speaker wire terminal can either be a spring clip or a binding post (see illustration below). Speaker wire terminals come in two different types.

With spring clips, you will find that they are very easy to use. It is simple to insert the speaker wire into the clip, then press down on the clip, and release it. In order to hold the wire in place, the mechanism has a spring-loaded mechanism. There are terminals that accept spade connectors, banana plugs, and dual banana plugs for use with spring clip terminals, but they cannot accept bare wire or pin connectors.

A speaker wire can be connected to a binding post very securely, which is a very reliable connection.

If you remove the collar, you will be able to see the hole that is used to connect the pin connectors and bare wires.

A banana plug or a dual banana plug can be plugged directly into the hole in the center of the binding post in order to connect them together.

Once the collar has been screwed down again, there is a spade connector that slides around it to secure it.