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post #1 of 7 Old 07-28-2013, 12:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Here's a question that's NOT about speaker wire gauge, or brand. It's about the types of wire available.

I currently have stranded copper-looking 16-gauge zip cord that I bought decades ago. My speakers have knurled nuts that screw down onto a post, so I twist the strands with my fingers, then bend the twisted strand into a semicircle, then put the semicircle around the post and tighten the nut. No problem.

Today I tried to install some new speaker wire, 14 gauge, that aside from the size looked pretty much like the old wire. I got it at Fry's. It didn't have any special label, other than the gauge and length and the fact that it was made in China.

But it was very different. The strands were much finer, and there were a lot more of them of course. But the big difference is that the strands, while being very flexible, would not stay bent when I tried to bend them. It was like trying to bend a brush or something. The strands just sprung back straight. I couldn't form semicircles with them at all. I tried pressing the strands around my binding post with one hand, and turning the nut with the other. This sort of worked, but left many strands unpinched by the nut. I was worried that these loose strands might end up touching something they shouldn't, so I discarded the new wire, and went back to the old.

What is the difference between the two wires, and how can I make sure I get the first kind next time? I need wire that stays in position when I bend it!

Thanks!
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post #2 of 7 Old 07-28-2013, 12:59 AM
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Originally Posted by HalPri View Post

Here's a question that's NOT about speaker wire gauge, or brand. It's about the types of wire available.

I currently have stranded copper-looking 16-gauge zip cord that I bought decades ago. My speakers have knurled nuts that screw down onto a post, so I twist the strands with my fingers, then bend the twisted strand into a semicircle, then put the semicircle around the post and tighten the nut. No problem.

Today I tried to install some new speaker wire, 14 gauge, that aside from the size looked pretty much like the old wire. I got it at Fry's. It didn't have any special label, other than the gauge and length and the fact that it was made in China.

But it was very different. The strands were much finer, and there were a lot more of them of course. But the big difference is that the strands, while being very flexible, would not stay bent when I tried to bend them. It was like trying to bend a brush or something. The strands just sprung back straight. I couldn't form semicircles with them at all. I tried pressing the strands around my binding post with one hand, and turning the nut with the other. This sort of worked, but left many strands unpinched by the nut. I was worried that these loose strands might end up touching something they shouldn't, so I discarded the new wire, and went back to the old.

What is the difference between the two wires, and how can I make sure I get the first kind next time? I need wire that stays in position when I bend it!

!

Wire that won't bend easily or hold a bend is likely not pure annealed copper. Any quality speaker wire for home use is is at least 99.9% pure copper and annealed dead soft.

Wire gets work hardened during the drawing process and needs to be annealed many times during production and at the end. Copper can work harden to the point where it is springy, will hold an edge, and even becomes brittle.

The wire may also be copperweld (steel core) or aluminum core.

I say take the offending wire back to Frys and make them eat it! ;-)

It ain't right!
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post #3 of 7 Old 07-28-2013, 03:10 AM
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I second that!

Dumb enough to spend lots of cash on this junk!
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post #4 of 7 Old 07-28-2013, 05:28 AM
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Wire that won't bend easily or hold a bend is likely not pure annealed copper.
That's mainly an issue with the gauge of the individual strands, not the composition. Super fine gauge strands look pretty, but they sound the same, and can be a PITA to work with. Guess which of those factors is most important from a marketing standpoint? rolleyes.gif

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post #5 of 7 Old 07-28-2013, 05:43 AM
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post



Wire that won't bend easily or hold a bend is likely not pure annealed copper.

That's mainly an issue with the gauge of the individual strands, not the composition.

I'll bet you a university level metallurgy class and tons of experience (I know you've been around a lot too) that isn't the case.

OK heavy gauge wire can take more oomph to bend, but if it is all copper, properly annealed and some kind of 10 gauge or smaller stranded wire it can be bent easly with needle nose pliers and it most definitely will hold a bend.
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Super fine gauge strands look pretty, but they sound the same, and can be a PITA to work with.

Agreed. The worst of it is usually avoiding loose strands that can short things out. But properly annealed fine gauge wire bends and holds a bend. Consider wire wrapping wire which either bends and holds a bend or doesn't work. Usually 28 gauge or finer. Also very pure copper and nicely annealed.
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Guess which of those factors is most important from a marketing standpoint? rolleyes.gif

You got that right. I have to admit that finely stranded cables with the right insulation have a nice feel in the hand. But its all about looks and feel, and not sound quality.
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post #6 of 7 Old 07-28-2013, 10:04 AM - Thread Starter
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I thought at first it might be the issue of copper vs copper-clad aluminum. But some reviewers of RCA wire (on Amazon) say that it is CCA, but don't go on to say that they can't bend it. So is CCA normally about as bendable as copper wire?

I also thought it might be something that was produced these days to make routing the wire easier. Perhaps routing is more important than bending if most people use some sort of connector like banana plugs anyway, I thought. But it sounds like this isn't the case. Modern speaker wire still supports making little arcs by hand, I gather. And surely electricians have to do this sometimes also.

I probably could have minimized my chances of a dud by buying wire online from a place that posts reviews. Or by going to a hardware store or an electrical supply store, where I can actually handle the wire.

Thanks for the info.
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post #7 of 7 Old 07-28-2013, 08:47 PM
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Aluminum is also prone to expansion and contraction so it can give you an intermittent connection. That's why aluminum wire was banned in houses built after 1977, there were quite a few fires as a result of the aluminum wire shorting out in plugs. Not a big issue with speakers mind you, but I wouldn't want to use it just because me being joe anal retentive ,I would keep going back and cranking down on the terminals and probably breaking them in the process..

Dumb enough to spend lots of cash on this junk!
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