I don't like 12ga wire is cause it is too big and ugly
I thought bigger was better... isn't that why the boutique cable people are getting $1000 per meter for garden-hose-sized cables?
Seriously, with Home Depot 12ga cable at something like 50 cents/foot, I can't understand going with anything smaller. Thirty feet is a pretty long run; 16 ga would be undesirable (in my humble opinion, of course).
The desired power is also important. For anything around 100 W/ch or less, 16 is fine for 30'. Now, if you're in the 200 W/ch range, then you need a larger gauge. I'm talking about the power you'll actually send to the speakers, not the amp's rating.
Larry Fine has it right. It somewhat depends on the current and the speakers. If you are only running 6" cubes capable of only 20 watts with 8 ohm minimum then you are likely OK with 16 AWG. For more demanding speakers and higher watts then I would generally say that 14 AWG is a more respectable minimum. For really demanding speakers, 10 ohms may be necessary for the best sound.
I have about a 25 foot run in my demo room and found that going from 16 AWG had a rather large sonic impact in my case. The sonic difference going from 14 AWG to 12 AWG was noticable but not as significant (cable geometry remaining constant).
Starting tomorrow I'm running ~2,000 feet of Home Depot 12-2 twisted pair in-wall wire in my house. (I have vaulted ceilings, and am running redundant pairs anywhere I might possibly want speakers before the roof goes back on!)
The wire was about $125 for a 500 ft roll. The wire is by no means unwieldly. As I posted earlier, I'll bi-wire with the redundant pairs just for grins (and to avoid having to stuff the extra wires someplace).
Hard to imagine it's worth the savings to go with a lower gauge wire.
Originally posted by Larry Fine Richard, three words about your wire runs: Label, label, label!
I ran about 1500 feet of speaker wire into about 12 locations in my house when I built in in 1997. Problem is, I didn't label them where they came out at the amp. So now when I want to hook up a new set up speakers, it takes a little while to find the right pair. Wish you would have posted this a few years ago
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