Lamp Cord or Speaker Wire - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 08:21 AM - Thread Starter
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A friend suggested I run 14-gauge lamp cord for my new speakers, but the A/V shop I bought my Polks at said 16-gauge speaker wire would do. I'm a little confused...is there a shielding difference or something?

I went to Home Depot and they have both but I left without either because I'm not sure how much I should be concerned with the wrapping around the copper wires. The lamp cord had fairly thick white rubber; the speaker wire a fairly thin clear rubber.
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post #2 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 08:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bpeacock22 View Post

A friend suggested I run 14-gauge lamp cord for my new speakers, but the A/V shop I bought my Polks at said 16-gauge speaker wire would do. I'm a little confused...is there a shielding difference or something?

I went to Home Depot and they have both but I left without either because I'm not sure how much I should be concerned with the wrapping around the copper wires. The lamp cord had fairly thick white rubber; the speaker wire a fairly thin clear rubber.

The better the sheilding the less likey you will have problems with interference. The speaker wire will fit into the speaker better.

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post #3 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 08:38 AM
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Lamp cord and speaker wire are often the same damned thing. Don't worry about it. Either wires suggested to you will work fine. I suggest you use the cheaper of the two.

Speaker wires are insulated not shielded, it would be unusual for speaker wires to have shielding.
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post #4 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 08:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drshady View Post

The better the sheilding the less likey you will have problems with interference. The speaker wire will fit into the speaker better.


Speaker cable is not a shielded cable. Nor does it need to be.
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post #5 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 11:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drshady View Post

The speaker wire will fit into the speaker better.

... Two stranded wires of the same gauge will fit equally well.
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Originally Posted by speco2003 View Post

Speaker cable is not a shielded cable. Nor does it need to be.

In theory, there is something to be gained from separating shield ground from signal ground (even better if you can use differential signaling), but with a large-amplitude signal (such as that which drives the speakers) the difference will be small and imperceivable to most people.

Just get whatever appropriate-gauge two-conductor copper wire is cheapest. Just take care to match the speakers' polarity.
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post #6 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 11:51 AM
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Wires have always been a controversial subject.
Speaker wire is supposed to have less steel alloys than lamp cord therefore more conductivity and less possibility of corrosion.
In reality the ear cannot hear the difference. I've read articles that tested Romex wire (copper house wiring) for speaker wiring and there was no difference.
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post #7 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 12:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt.britt View Post

...

In theory, there is something to be gained from separating shield ground from signal ground

.


Except that does not apply to speakers.
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post #8 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 01:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by speco2003 View Post

Except that does not apply to speakers.

Oh? Why's that?
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post #9 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 01:48 PM
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I usually buy speaker wire since it's usually packaged in the runs I need, rather than needing to be cut and priced to length. The stuff is normally only $15 for 50 feet of 16 gauge or so.

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post #10 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 01:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt.britt View Post

Oh? Why's that?

OTOH... can you explain how it does apply?
And... how that recommendation would be accomplished.
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post #11 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 03:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulpa View Post

I usually buy speaker wire since it's usually packaged in the runs I need, rather than needing to be cut and priced to length. The stuff is normally only $15 for 50 feet of 16 gauge or so.

You could purchase zip extension cord. Here is a 100' fut run for less than $15 at
Lowes
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post #12 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 03:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ratman View Post

OTOH... can you explain how it does apply?

Maxwell's equations; more specifically Ampère's law and Faraday's law. The qualitative explanation is that an incident electromagnetic field (say, a RF plane wave) induces eddy currents in a solid, closed conducting surface (the shielding). The eddy currents in turn cause a temporary charge redistribution and an opposing magnetic field that cancel the incident electromagnetic field. The net result is that a solid, conductive, closed surface will mostly reflect plane waves up to a certain frequency (limited by properties of most "real" conductors like resistance). You know the Faraday cage to screen static electric fields and attenuate RF radiation, this is the same thing.
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And... how that recommendation would be accomplished.

The basic RF shielding effect is accomplished by a coaxial cable. However, you rarely see coaxial cable used for speaker wiring for a few reasons. First, it's not frequently made with the necessary characteristic impedance (basically the square root of the inductance divided by the capacitance)--which must match the source and load impedances for maximum power transfer--and it would probably be pretty expensive to do so. If the characteristic impedance doesn't match the source and load impedance, the signal will reflect at the ends and the cable will dissipate power through a variety of mechanisms (so you can't just use your 75 ohm coax CATV cable to hook up a speaker!). Second, and more importantly, as I said before, the large amplitude signal used to drive a speaker isn't going to audibly degrade with the addition of some microvolt-amplitude RF noise. Third, if you really need EM wave shielding, some electrical conduit will be a lot cheaper than coax cable.

To go a step further and separate the signal and shield grounds, you would usually use something like a triaxial cable, which is pretty rare even in the scientific world where it is sometimes needed. This shields the signal reference conductor with another conductor that is usually connected to chassis ground. We use triax cables for low-noise measurements (femto-, pico-, nanoampere levels) where even those eddy currents induced by RF waves in the outer conductor (the signal reference in a normal coax) can cause measurable noise (we also built a Faraday cage room with aluminum foil ).

Sorry for any confusion, I didn't emphasize enough that separating signal and shield ground is something that is only necessary when you're dealing with very small signals. My comment was just a random musing to indicate that having a separate shield isn't totally snake oil. Speco2003 is correct that it isn't a concern for speakers, I was just wondering if he had an additional comment since he seemed to skip over my brief original statement that explained why.
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post #13 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 03:51 PM
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What is a small signal?
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post #14 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 04:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt.britt View Post

My comment was just a random musing ... Speco2003 is correct that it isn't a concern for speakers.

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post #15 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 04:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt.britt View Post

Maxwell's equations; more specifically Ampère's law and Faraday's law. The qualitative explanation is that an incident electromagnetic field (say, a RF plane wave) induces eddy currents in a solid, closed conducting surface (the shielding). The eddy currents in turn cause a temporary charge redistribution and an opposing magnetic field that cancel the incident electromagnetic field. The net result is that a solid, conductive, closed surface will mostly reflect plane waves up to a certain frequency (limited by properties of most "real" conductors like resistance). You know the Faraday cage to screen static electric fields and attenuate RF radiation, this is the same thing.

The basic RF shielding effect is accomplished by a coaxial cable. However, you rarely see coaxial cable used for speaker wiring for a few reasons. First, it's not frequently made with the necessary characteristic impedance (basically the square root of the inductance divided by the capacitance)--which must match the source and load impedances for maximum power transfer--and it would probably be pretty expensive to do so. If the characteristic impedance doesn't match the source and load impedance, the signal will reflect at the ends and the cable will dissipate power through a variety of mechanisms (so you can't just use your 75 ohm coax CATV cable to hook up a speaker!). Second, and more importantly, as I said before, the large amplitude signal used to drive a speaker isn't going to audibly degrade with the addition of some microvolt-amplitude RF noise. Third, if you really need EM wave shielding, some electrical conduit will be a lot cheaper than coax cable.

To go a step further and separate the signal and shield grounds, you would usually use something like a triaxial cable, which is pretty rare even in the scientific world where it is sometimes needed. This shields the signal reference conductor with another conductor that is usually connected to chassis ground. We use triax cables for low-noise measurements (femto-, pico-, nanoampere levels) where even those eddy currents induced by RF waves in the outer conductor (the signal reference in a normal coax) can cause measurable noise (we also built a Faraday cage room with aluminum foil ).

Sorry for any confusion, I didn't emphasize enough that separating signal and shield ground is something that is only necessary when you're dealing with very small signals. My comment was just a random musing to indicate that having a separate shield isn't totally snake oil. Speco2003 is correct that it isn't a concern for speakers, I was just wondering if he had an additional comment since he seemed to skip over my brief original statement that explained why.

Very well said. Much better than I could explain. :-)

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post #16 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 04:52 PM
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I agree... but it has nothing to do with speaker wires.
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post #17 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 04:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt.britt View Post

Maxwell's equations; more specifically Ampère's law and Faraday's law. The qualitative explanation is that an incident electromagnetic field (say, a RF plane wave) induces eddy currents in a solid, closed conducting surface (the shielding). The eddy currents in turn cause a temporary charge redistribution and an opposing magnetic field that cancel the incident electromagnetic field. The net result is that a solid, conductive, closed surface will mostly reflect plane waves up to a certain frequency (limited by properties of most "real" conductors like resistance). You know the Faraday cage to screen static electric fields and attenuate RF radiation, this is the same thing.

The basic RF shielding effect is accomplished by a coaxial cable. However, you rarely see coaxial cable used for speaker wiring for a few reasons. First, it's not frequently made with the necessary characteristic impedance (basically the square root of the inductance divided by the capacitance)--which must match the source and load impedances for maximum power transfer--and it would probably be pretty expensive to do so. If the characteristic impedance doesn't match the source and load impedance, the signal will reflect at the ends and the cable will dissipate power through a variety of mechanisms (so you can't just use your 75 ohm coax CATV cable to hook up a speaker!). Second, and more importantly, as I said before, the large amplitude signal used to drive a speaker isn't going to audibly degrade with the addition of some microvolt-amplitude RF noise. Third, if you really need EM wave shielding, some electrical conduit will be a lot cheaper than coax cable.

To go a step further and separate the signal and shield grounds, you would usually use something like a triaxial cable, which is pretty rare even in the scientific world where it is sometimes needed. This shields the signal reference conductor with another conductor that is usually connected to chassis ground. We use triax cables for low-noise measurements (femto-, pico-, nanoampere levels) where even those eddy currents induced by RF waves in the outer conductor (the signal reference in a normal coax) can cause measurable noise (we also built a Faraday cage room with aluminum foil ).

Sorry for any confusion, I didn't emphasize enough that separating signal and shield ground is something that is only necessary when you're dealing with very small signals. My comment was just a random musing to indicate that having a separate shield isn't totally snake oil. Speco2003 is correct that it isn't a concern for speakers, I was just wondering if he had an additional comment since he seemed to skip over my brief original statement that explained why.

How does, if it does, the two component's impedance come into play? Speaker and amp are very low impedance compared to the other components in and outs where shielded cables are used.
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post #18 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 04:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bpeacock22 View Post

A friend suggested I run 14-gauge lamp cord for my new speakers, but the A/V shop I bought my Polks at said 16-gauge speaker wire would do. I'm a little confused...is there a shielding difference or something?

I went to Home Depot and they have both but I left without either because I'm not sure how much I should be concerned with the wrapping around the copper wires. The lamp cord had fairly thick white rubber; the speaker wire a fairly thin clear rubber.


Your length of run has a bearing on the gauge used.
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post #19 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 04:56 PM
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Post #3 pretty much addressed the OP's question. I hope this thread can be closed because it has drifted off topic and has outlived it's usefulness.
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post #20 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 04:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drshady View Post

Very well said. Much better than I could explain. :-)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ratman View Post

I agree... but it has nothing to do with speaker wires.


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post #21 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 05:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt.britt View Post

However, you rarely see coaxial cable used for speaker wiring for a few reasons.

There are only two reasons: power handling and the practicality of using the flimsy foil shield on some coax as a return. You get around these obstacles and your off to the races. Impedance matching for amp/speaker load is irrelevant.

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Post #3 pretty much addressed the OP's question. I hope this thread can be closed because it has drifted off topic and has outlived it's usefulness.

too late
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post #22 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 05:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sprung2 View Post

You could purchase zip extension cord. Here is a 100' fut run for less than $15 at
Lowes

I've never seen it available at my Lowes. Only rolls where you have to cut a length.

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post #23 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 08:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulpa View Post

I've never seen it available at my Lowes. Only rolls where you have to cut a length.

It is conveniently not stocked with all the other wire.

I had the same problem. I think it might be where they have accessories for electronics and networking thinks like cat5 cable and remote controls. I can't remember for sure what it is next to but it should be in the store somewhere. I did find it eventually by accident when I was looking for something else. They are a good deal cheaper than Home Depot.

If you can manage to find someone who has a clue they may be able to tell you which aisle to check.


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post #24 of 44 Old 07-28-2007, 11:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ratman View Post

I agree... but it has nothing to do with speaker wires.

Doesn't it? Surely you've heard the 50/60 Hz tone resulting from a speaker wire encountering a length of power line before?

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Originally Posted by CharlesJ View Post

How does, if it does, the two component's impedance come into play?

It's a simple principle of circuit theory that source and load impedance should match each other to maximize the power delivered. If you add a transmission line between the source and load, its characteristic impedance (which is not just its resistance) needs to match as well.

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There are only two reasons: power handling and the practicality of using the flimsy foil shield on some coax as a return.

Your CATV cable isn't the only kind of coaxial scheme ever conceived. There's no reason you can't make (much) larger gauges of coax, like this 50 Ω RG-8 10 AWG cable, which should be good for at least 20 A with its thick copper braid shielding. Once again, the trick with coaxial cable is matching its characteristic impedance with the typical low impedances of speakers, which might be very difficult or expensive. You might have to adjust the load impedance with some passive components (which I have seen done before with coaxial speaker wires), though this isn't a great solution.

Quote:


Impedance matching for amp/speaker load is irrelevant.

It's only irrelevant if you don't care about power being wasted.

Anyway, this is neither here nor there. I'm very sorry for derailing the thread and please accept my apology if I've stepped on anyone's toes with my ranting.
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post #25 of 44 Old 07-29-2007, 04:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt.britt View Post

Doesn't it? Surely you've heard the 50/60 Hz tone resulting from a speaker wire encountering a length of power line before?


It's a simple principle of circuit theory that source and load impedance should match each other to maximize the power delivered. If you add a transmission line between the source and load, its characteristic impedance (which is not just its resistance) needs to match as well.


Your CATV cable isn't the only kind of coaxial scheme ever conceived. There's no reason you can't make (much) larger gauges of coax, like this 50 ? RG-8 10 AWG cable, which should be good for at least 20 A with its thick copper braid shielding. Once again, the trick with coaxial cable is matching its characteristic impedance with the typical low impedances of speakers, which might be very difficult or expensive. You might have to adjust the load impedance with some passive components (which I have seen done before with coaxial speaker wires), though this isn't a great solution.


It's only irrelevant if you don't care about power being wasted.

Anyway, this is neither here nor there. I'm very sorry for derailing the thread and please accept my apology if I've stepped on anyone's toes with my ranting.

The wavelength of electrical signals within the audible range are too long and the typical cable length over which they travel to short to act as anything but DC. Thus its the DC resistance of the coaxial cable that dominates at these frequencies and cable lengths(The dc resistance being much much lower than the characteristic impedance of a coaxial cable) and any power loss is due to simple I^2 R losses such as the case with regular speaker cable or zip cord.
There are also coax that use drain wire, no one said catv coax (rg6) was the only one in existence.
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post #26 of 44 Old 07-29-2007, 06:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt.britt View Post

Doesn't it? Surely you've heard the 50/60 Hz tone resulting from a speaker wire encountering a length of power line before?.

No, I have not and you can come to my home and check. I have 14AWG speaker wires running in parallel with power cords as well as an 8 outlet (15 year old) surge protector.

The only thing between speaker wire and the 'outside' world is some insulation. There is no "shielding".

And again... not applicable to speaker wire, which is not impedance matched. Impedance constantly fluctuates between the amp and speakers.
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post #27 of 44 Old 07-29-2007, 07:14 AM
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I'd continue to respond, but since we're so off topic and you've expressed your consternation at my having derailed the thread, I'll just let you have the last word.
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post #28 of 44 Old 07-29-2007, 08:19 AM
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Thank you.
Feel free to begin your own thread that is more specific to the physics of shielding, grounding, impedance, etc in regard to speaker wire.
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post #29 of 44 Old 07-29-2007, 01:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt.britt View Post

It's a simple principle of circuit theory that source and load impedance should match each other to maximize the power delivered. If you add a transmission line between the source and load, its characteristic impedance (which is not just its resistance) needs to match as well.
.


I was really asking about impedance of the two components affecting picking up external noises; low impedance has more immunity and high impedance, or are equally susceptible.
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post #30 of 44 Old 07-29-2007, 01:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesJ View Post

I was really asking about impedance of the two components affecting picking up external noises; low impedance has more immunity and high impedance, or are equally susceptible.

I don't think you can make a general statement about any correlation there.
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