Speaker Wire vs Electical wire (stranded/threaded vs Solid) - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 12-23-2009, 06:13 AM - Thread Starter
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Speaker Wire vs Electical wire (stranded/threaded vs Solid)

Is one better than the other? What is the real difference, other than normal electrical wire (solid) is by far cheaper? Will the sound in my system be the same, or better with one over the other.

On a side note, at what distances from the speaker to receiver should I change guage of wire (and which guage).

I'm changing around my home theater room and need to rewire everything and need more of it so I figured it's a good time to ask.
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post #2 of 16 Old 12-23-2009, 06:28 AM
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Just get speaker wire from monoprice. I like using the inwall wire in the walls of couse and behind my rack.

Just so you know the big difference between say 12g solid and 12 stranded is that the stranded can actually carry more current... the electrons move on the outside of the wire surface... therefore stranded has more surface area and can carry more amperage. Not so much more that it's that big of a deal though. Solid is used in home wiring above 8 gauge I think it is. anything 8 guage and bigger (smaller in number) is stranded.

Just use the table on this page to make sure you select the right size for your distances and speaker ohm ratings.

http://www.roger-russell.com/wire/wire.htm

Bottom line keep it simple... follow the chart, get good wire (monoprice, not monster cable..unless you like spending 30x the price for the same performance) and move on to the fun stuff.. speakers, gear etc.
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post #3 of 16 Old 12-23-2009, 06:42 AM
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+1 "cdy2179's" answer is absolutely correct. Besides, 12ga. solid copper wire is extremely hard to shape into connectors (some will not even take it) and difficult to bend to lay correctly behind your equipment. For most home setups, 14ga. stranded will be more than enough for a good setup. Use Mr. Russell's chart and "it's all good".
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post #4 of 16 Old 12-23-2009, 03:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cdy2179 View Post

Just get speaker wire from monoprice. I like using the inwall wire in the walls of couse and behind my rack.

Just so you know the big difference between say 12g solid and 12 stranded is that the stranded can actually carry more current... the electrons move on the outside of the wire surface... therefore stranded has more surface area and can carry more amperage. Not so much more that it's that big of a deal though.
(snip)

Oh dear, oh dear. This is just so, so wrong.

And even at high frequencies when more of the current travels near the surface perimeter, the current treats the strands as one solid wire.

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post #5 of 16 Old 12-23-2009, 03:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tintaffiny View Post

Speaker Wire vs Electical wire (stranded/threaded vs Solid)

Is one better than the other? What is the real difference, other than normal electrical wire (solid) is by far cheaper? Will the sound in my system be the same, or better with one over the other.

On a side note, at what distances from the speaker to receiver should I change guage of wire (and which guage).

I'm changing around my home theater room and need to rewire everything and need more of it so I figured it's a good time to ask.

i have been an electrician for 20+ years. mulit stranded wire is better for Audio/visual the more strands the better.
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post #6 of 16 Old 12-24-2009, 08:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Speedskater View Post

Oh dear, oh dear. This is just so, so wrong.

And even at high frequencies when more of the current travels near the surface perimeter, the current treats the strands as one solid wire.

You may want to go back and study up on the subject... or look up the NEC load ratings for wire sizes.. when you get up into really big wire 500mcm etc the configuration of the strands (the more strands they pack in there with less air) can get fancy with squared off edges instead of round meaning there's less room for air and more surface on each strand and more stands you can pack in there..you can carry more current on the wire even though it's smaller than a normally configured stranded wire, with the same load rating. It's all about surface area...at any frequency 60hz or 1000hz. it's how the electrons move.

Besides, the OP wanted to know the difference... this and flexability are the differences. Sure it's more info than anyone needs for speaker wire..but the OP asked.
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post #7 of 16 Old 12-24-2009, 09:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cdy2179 View Post

you may want to go back and study up on the subject... Or look up the nec load ratings for wire sizes.. When you get up into really big wire 500mcm etc the configuration of the strands (the more strands they pack in there with less air) can get fancy with squared off edges instead of round meaning there's less room for air and more surface on each strand and more stands you can pack in there..you can carry more current on the wire even though it's smaller than a normally configured stranded wire, with the same load rating. It's all about surface area...at any frequency 60hz or 1000hz. It's how the electrons move.

Besides, the op wanted to know the difference... This and flexability is the difference. Sure it's more info than anyone needs for speaker wire..but they asked.

+1
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post #8 of 16 Old 12-24-2009, 05:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cdy2179 View Post

You may want to go back and study up on the subject... or look up the NEC load ratings for wire sizes.. when you get up into really big wire 500mcm etc the configuration of the strands (the more strands they pack in there with less air) can get fancy with squared off edges instead of round meaning there's less room for air and more surface on each strand and more stands you can pack in there..you can carry more current on the wire even though it's smaller than a normally configured stranded wire, with the same load rating. It's all about surface area...at any frequency 60hz or 1000hz. it's how the electrons move.

Besides, the OP wanted to know the difference... this and flexability are the differences. Sure it's more info than anyone needs for speaker wire..but the OP asked.

Do we have really, really big wires in are house? Of course not. The question was not about skin depth as it relates to frequency (at high frequency a copper pipe works great and is sometimes used with radio transmitters and antennas). The question is about stranding verses solid wire at audio or power line frequencies! There is no difference between solid and stranded wire. Litz wire is a whole different ball game, so leave it out.

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post #9 of 16 Old 12-24-2009, 05:25 PM
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Now, I'm sure that someone will point out that in wire sizes that we may use say 8AWG to 16AWG, the wire impedance does rise at 20kHz. But the question is about the difference between solid and stranded wire.

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post #10 of 16 Old 12-25-2009, 08:12 AM
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you spend thousands on a receiver, speakers, sub, etc so why is this even a question? Who the heck would even think of using electrical wire for speakers? I just dont get it?
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post #11 of 16 Old 12-25-2009, 08:21 AM
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the op wanted to know the difference... what's wrong with knowledge???? Like I said go to monoprice and don't worry about it.
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post #12 of 16 Old 12-25-2009, 11:22 AM
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For more information on wire, speaker cable and skin effect than most people want to know see:

http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~jcgl/Sc...ect/page1.html

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post #13 of 16 Old 12-26-2009, 05:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tintaffiny View Post

Speaker Wire vs Electical wire (stranded/threaded vs Solid)

Is one better than the other? What is the real difference, other than normal electrical wire (solid) is by far cheaper? Will the sound in my system be the same, or better with one over the other.

On a side note, at what distances from the speaker to receiver should I change guage of wire (and which guage).

I'm changing around my home theater room and need to rewire everything and need more of it so I figured it's a good time to ask.

One wire is designed for speakers and one for Electrical in wall use. Why use a wire that not designed for the job? Use speaker wire for speakers and Romex for Electrical.

14 gauge speaker wire will do just about any length well except when you start getting over 100 feet. Then you want to switch to 12 or 10 depending on lengths. Most home theater runs are shorter then 100 feet per speaker. If going in the wall use CL3 rated in wall use speaker wire.
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post #14 of 16 Old 12-27-2009, 10:48 AM
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First of all, Romex is not necessarily cheaper than real speaker wire. You can find speaker wire of the same gauge for half the price of Romex and less.
Also, Romex is stiff, more difficult to terminate, and sounds like crap.
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post #15 of 16 Old 12-27-2009, 02:08 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cdy2179 View Post

Just so you know the big difference between say 12g solid and 12 stranded is that the stranded can actually carry more current... the electrons move on the outside of the wire surface... therefore stranded has more surface area and can carry more amperage. Not so much more that it's that big of a deal though. Solid is used in home wiring above 8 gauge I think it is. anything 8 guage and bigger (smaller in number) is stranded.

This is absolutely not true at all.

The reason very large gauge wires are inevitably stranded is because it becomes very difficult or impossible to bend large-diameter solid-core wires, and the flex-life of the wire is a serious concern because it will just crack and break if you flex it much.

The skin effect is of no concern at audio frequencies, let alone 60hz line-level power.

Stranded cabling is supposed to take into account the effective cross-section of the actual cable, not the size of the cable, so for power and analog audio where skin effect is not an issue, there really should be no difference between an equivalently gauge wire, except that the stranded cable will be every slightly larger diameter. Sometimes though the diameter is measured instead so in that case the solid-core wire will have slightly greater total crossectional conductor area and be slightly better (less resistance).

Bottom line: use a proper stranded speaker cable for ease of use and avoiding code issues of using something like romex in this kind of application. It should be comparably priced, far more attractive looking, and easier to deal with. Romex is ugly, difficult to deal with, and there really isn't any meaningful benefit to going with a solid-core wire that's going to be a PITA. IF you want more gauge, just get a larger-gauge stranded speaker cable.
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post #16 of 16 Old 12-27-2009, 05:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisWiggles View Post

This is absolutely not true at all.

The reason very large gauge wires are inevitably stranded is because it becomes very difficult or impossible to bend large-diameter solid-core wires, and the flex-life of the wire is a serious concern because it will just crack and break if you flex it much.

The skin effect is of no concern at audio frequencies, let alone 60hz line-level power.

Stranded cabling is supposed to take into account the effective cross-section of the actual cable, not the size of the cable, so for power and analog audio where skin effect is not an issue, there really should be no difference between an equivalently gauge wire, except that the stranded cable will be every slightly larger diameter. Sometimes though the diameter is measured instead so in that case the solid-core wire will have slightly greater total crossectional conductor area and be slightly better (less resistance).

Bottom line: use a proper stranded speaker cable for ease of use and avoiding code issues of using something like romex in this kind of application. It should be comparably priced, far more attractive looking, and easier to deal with. Romex is ugly, difficult to deal with, and there really isn't any meaningful benefit to going with a solid-core wire that's going to be a PITA. IF you want more gauge, just get a larger-gauge stranded speaker cable.

Never said it was stranded for the purpose of carring more amperage.. that's only a characteristic.. All 12guage is "rated" for 20amps (even though stranded has the cability to carry more than solid at that diameter the difference is very very small) read my post above that and it clearly states that below 8 guage stranded is used in elctrical wiring.. solid would be way too hard to bend..DUHH! As for the amperage characterics you may need to check out the NEC... National Electrical Code. Just because you aren't aware that not all 500MCM cables carry the same amp rating doesn't mean it's not so. Different Strand configuation becomes a big factor and a big cost increase too of course.


Just so you know I'm no Joe blow.. I'm and Electonics Tech certified in Communiction among other things, it's my job to know this stuff and I've been to several schools on the topic for installation and inspection and studied the NEC more than I care to think about.

No one actually suggest the OP use solid wire or ROMEX seriously that's just nutz... if anyone's confused of this try reading the thread and not taking things out of context. the OP asked a question and it was answered..

For Audio it doesn't matter... just get speaker wire and let this thread die

For the few that are convinced they know it all try Googling stranded vs solid... looks very much like my first post.. here's a paragraph of the first google hit....

Stranded vs. Solid Wire
This one is a bit of a mind-boggler, but it's important. When electricity flows through a wire, it mostly flows on the surface of the wire, not through the middle. This effect is more pronounced on high frequency AC than it is on DC or low frequency AC. This means that a "wire" of a given size that made up of many smaller strands can carry more power than a solid wire - simply because the stranded wire has more surface area. This is one reason why battery cables in your car and welding cables are made up of many very fine strands of smaller wire - it allows them to safely carry more power with less of that power being dissipated as heat. However, this "skin" effect is not as pronounced in a typical 12V DC automotive application, and the wire and cable used there is stranded for flexibility reasons.

When looking at a chart or description of wire capacity, take note of whether it is referring to stranded or solid wire - some charts may not specify but instead assume a default based on the typical wiring used in a given application. For example, almost all automotive wiring is stranded while almost all home wiring is solid. For most applications, flexibility or the lack thereof will be more important, but for very high frequency AC applications, stranded wire might be a requirement.
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