Ask the Editors: Does Speaker-Wire Gauge Matter?

speaker-wire gauge

Q: Does speaker-wire gauge matter when connecting my Klipsch R-26F and R-15M speakers to the Marantz SR5011 AV receiver I am planning to buy this month? The cable length is about 12 feet.

– Darren Tebo


A: To a certain extent, yes—but only insofar as you don’t want to use really thin wires. Out of all the cables in an AV system, the speaker cables carry the most voltage, so they need to be somewhat more stout than analog interconnects.

As you may know, the gauge of a wire indicates its thickness, and it’s usually specified in terms of AWG (American Wire Gauge). The lower the number, the thicker the wire, and the lower its resistance to electrical flow over a given length. As the length increases, so does the resistance at a given gauge.

Another factor is the impedance of the speakers; the lower the impedance, the thicker the speaker wires should be. Your Klipsch R-26F and R-15M speakers exhibit a nominal impedance of 8 ohms, which is quite normal, so you don’t need thicker wires for that reason.

Lower resistance is better, so why not just get super-thick speaker wires? Because they are difficult to work with, especially in terms of routing around the room and installing banana plugs or spade lugs—or even just wrapping bare wires around the speakers’ terminals. Also, beyond a certain gauge, any audible benefit to a thicker wire is negligible. Finally, super-thick speaker cables can be very expensive, and they are unnecessary.

For most household installations with 8-ohm speakers and relatively short cable runs—like yours—16 or 14 AWG is fine. If you need especially long cables—over 50 feet—or if the speakers are low-impedance (say, 4 ohms), go with 14 or even 12 AWG.

Some might wonder about “exotic” speaker cables that look like fire hoses and cost as much as a car. In my view, these are a total waste of money. Also, oxygen-free and/or high-purity copper don’t make any significant difference in the sound. So-called zip or lamp cord works just fine in most situations. If you want to buy cables specifically marketed as speaker cables, go with inexpensive brands such as Monoprice or AmazonBasics.

If you’ve got an AV question, please send it to Scott Wilkinson (scott@avsforum.com) or Mark Henninger (imagic, mark@avsforum.com) via PM or email.