Talk:Speaker wire

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Original discussion[edit]

weasel words.

The fourth paragraph contains the sentences, "Many manufacturers catering to audiophiles as well as those available in department stores make unmeasurable claims about wire being open, dynamic, or smooth," and, "To justify the claims, many rely on less understood electrical properties such as skin effect or resonance." These sentences beg the question, "How many?" This set of Weasel Words could be improved with references to manufacturers that make such claims, department stores that carry the products under question, as well as articles that call into question the claims that the manufacturers make.

The second paragraph describes a predecessor of modern speakers, one in which two electromagnets are used to induce movement as opposed to the more common permanent magnet and electromagnet arrangement. It mentions that a company in France still makes them but provides no references. Fetmar (talk) 18:09, 25 September 2009 (UTC) 18:09, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

original research

The only references made in this article are to Speaker Wire Manufacturers. The following describes areas which need references in order to reduce original research.

1. The first sentence indicates an existing debate in the audiophile and high fidelity communities but does not provide any primary or secondary references to this debate. It also shows bias by questioning the honesty of marketing practices without making any references.

2. The second sentence implies that there is a written history of Speaker Wire, but does not provide a reference.

3. While electric principals are discussed in physics and engineering classes and an understanding of the knowledge is widespread among persons with scientific backgrounds, I do not believe that such knowledge is so commonplace to warrant no reference. In addition, there are possible references for the science discussed ad infinitum. Therefore a reference should be provided not only to resolve original content disputes but also to enlighten the reader. by CEMiii: just read almost any elec engr textbook.

4. References should be added to the NFPA National Electric Code, any applicable TIA standards as well as any other standards that may apply. by CEMiii: no NEC applies.

5. The sentences, "The quality of construction is often just for aesthetic purposes and convenience," and, "Highly stranded wires tend to be more flexible and hence easier to work with," may be invalid as a pair. I may be able to provide a reference that shows the affects of Coulomb's Lawon stranded wires as opposed to a thicker single wire. The sentence, "To achieve a low resistance in the wire, use shorter lengths, a larger gauge of wire, and better conducting materials," is also disputed using Coulomb's Law.

by CEMiii: it is well known by any application engineer that more strands equals more flexibility! That is why all appliance cords, especially sweeper and powered hand sanders have small, highly stranded cords. This is why the trailing cables for mine face-cutting machines [which usually have four 600 volt insulated conductors inside of an overall jacket], welding electrode, and locomotive cables are quite flexible. In the 10y I worked at Anaconda Wire & Cable R&D, I believe the flex testing machine ran 80+ percent of each work day in the Portable Cable Lab!

Coulomb's law will only be an influence for higher currents at high frequencies.

6. The linked Wikipedia article about Gold states that Gold does, in fact, oxidize, proving the following sentence wrong, "However, gold does not oxidize." by CEMiii: the 62nd edition of Handbook of Physics & Chemistry states that gold is unaffected by air.

Oobyduby 21:47, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

Actually, most manufacturers sex up their wires with all sorts of odd stuff. The problem is that nobody seems to be doing ABX testing on them to hear a difference. There are also machines that can measure many properties of the wire to test the claims. Any claim that a wire is 'smoother' or otherwise less than clear deserves special attention, since the wires are not supposed to affect the fidelity of the connection. They shouldn't be 'colouring' the sound.
All of this IS testable, I just haven't a clue why a group doesn't. Perhaps someone can find an independent source of wire tests?
Also, I sent a request to the people maintaining the Coulomb's Law page to see if it's applicable in this situation. If it is, it probably should be added to the article.
Lowmagnet 22:00, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

Cable testing...

Since I haven't included any references, please feel free to disregard or view my comment as a simple statistic. I'm basically taking the sledgehammer to a frog approach on this (test & observe)

According to my testing with frequency generators and oscilloscope/spectrum analysers, I _believe_ that wire can slightly affect the signal or even colour sound, especially when driven very hard. But, I have found no correlation between the price and amount of signal loss no matter which brand, instead the colouring seems to be caused by small errors in production, where bits of wire from the same roll, will have similar defects.

Single core (non-flexible) cables seem to have much smaller signal loss than the equivalent diameter/isolation, twinned (flexible) cables.

The easiest way I have found to measure defects is to look around 5-20GHz waveforms and their shape, by simply storing an "image" of samples on the oscilloscope and overlaying it with a second waveform from the other end of about 20m cable. Now, I agree that this procedure is explained in a very un-scientific and probably downright stupid manner, but anyone who can borrow (or god forbid, buy) 20GHz test equipment can easily "see" results in this way, and hopefully have the time and patience to publish a free scientific report on it. (I can't do this anymore since I've switched to active speaker systems entirely)

Yes, "audio isn't 20GHz", but the test still seems to be useful since according to all my test results, the errors on high frequencies using short lengths of cable seem to have a direct relation to more subtle errors seen at lower frequencies when extending the cable length 100-200m. 07:07, 30 March 2007 (UTC)


Does anyone have a better close up picture of the stripped wire?--Light current 15:45, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

Capacitance Causes High-Frequency Loss?[edit]

Someone just added several paragraphs on this topic. Let's stop and think this through:

  • For the purposes of argument, let's assume 100 pF per foot. This strikes me as outrageously high; I just measured some 14 gauge zip-cord-like cable on my precision LCR bridge and got 16 pF/foot, but wot the 'ell, ehh? 'Factor of >6 safety margin.
  • Let's assume 20 KHz, the worst-case frequency.
  • That means the capacitive reactance is about 80Kohms per foot at 20 KHz. So let's take a 20 foot (rather long) speaker cable. That means that the total capacitive reactance of the cable is about 4 KOhms.
  • The output impedance of a transistorized amplifier is something less than an ohm, but let's take a hypothetical 16 Ohm tube amp instead. 'Nuther safety margin.
  • Connected to this amp, our incredibly capacitive speaker cable will cause, at 20 KHz, the loss of about 16/4000 = 0.4% of the signal.

Based on all this, does anyone see a reason why we shouldn't revert out (or substantially attenuate) the new section on cable capacitance?

Atlant 17:37, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

The editor went on adding material, eventually creating an example based on speaker wire with a capacitance of 1000 pF/ft. At this point, my threshold had been reached and I reverted out the entire section.
I have no objection to a mention of capacitance, but its effect in speaker wires is negligible for essentially all practical cases.
Atlant 12:18, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Eh? You say 80k per foot and a 20 foot wire, and get 4k? Unless my calculator needs batteries or I need sleep, that should be about 1.6 megohms. Which gives us a signal loss of about 0.001%, further showing it is almost completely negligible. 07:42, 29 March 2007 (UTC)
The anonymous author above is wrong, 20 "resistors" (model of capacitance) in parallel result in 20 times less resistance. So indeed 80k / 20 = 4k. I also agree that the above measured 16 pF/foot (in my case a calculated 42 pF/m for cheap 2.5mm^2 cables) is much more realistic.
Woutput (talk) 20:45, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

Hi guys! Old conversation, but here is a followup anyway. :)

I calculated fresh tables of capacitive and resistive losses based on the original equations. To put the data into perspective, I looked some sample values of capacitance per foot and inductance per foot, and calculated maximum cable lengths for <= 1% loss. Hopefully it is adequately neutral in the face of the great speaker-wire debates. Txinviolet (talk) 23:49, 23 May 2011 (UTC)

Gold plating explained[edit]

Sufficient thickness of gold plate is useful to prevent troublesome increase of contact resistance due to corrosion in some conditions, such as damp locations, or where extremely low noise and maximum reliability are important, such as recording studio microphone leads.

However gold flashing on consumer grade connectors is normally a marketing exercise, with no significant real world benefit for 3 reasons. On such equipment the plating is too thin to be effective. And even the effects of thicker gold plate would be insignificant compared to the noise and reliabilty issues of more or less all indoor domestic equipment. Tabby (talk) 21:05, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Banana plug safety[edit]

"in many European Countries the banana plug is coincidentally the same plug used for live electrical outlets (with 230 volts)."

no! But banana plugs do fit mains sockets in some euro countries. Tabby (talk) 21:06, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Perennial audiophile controversy[edit]

Given the standing arguments about audio equipment, it would help the quality of the article to refer to multiple sources on effects of electrical characteristics on audio performance. I'm tagging to request more references; if you disagree, please explain before untagging. chrylis (talk) 20:48, 13 October 2008 (UTC)

Suggest merge[edit]

Suggest merge of non-duplicated content from High-end audio cable which is covering the same topic. --Wtshymanski (talk) 19:01, 16 November 2011 (UTC)

  • Oppose It's a reasonable sub-topic for audio cables, and speaker cables are the most prominent of the different cables discussed under it.
Once again, Wtshymanski seems to have run out of anything useful to do, so falls back on randomly merging anything that crosses his infinite number of banana-smeared keyboards. Andy Dingley (talk) 21:00, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
It's shameful how we flirt, isn't it, Andy? But as I explained, I'm straight. --Wtshymanski (talk) 21:10, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
Don't make me pull the car over, kids! ^_^
The merge suggestion isn't bad but it isn't critical, either. I'm neutral on it. Binksternet (talk) 21:16, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
Seems if we're going to explain the difference between some "high end" "Interconnect" system as opposed to using 16 gauge zip cord, we have to explain an awful lot of physics and EE theory. Might as well explain it once, in one place, that way cutting the usual Wikiconfusion in half. This is why content forks are a bad idea - it leads to internal inconsistency. --Wtshymanski (talk) 02:39, 17 November 2011 (UTC)
That's a good argument. Binksternet (talk) 03:06, 17 November 2011 (UTC)
It's a bad argument - the perceived virtue of "explain it once, in one place" assumes that we're running out of bytes to store it. Duplication (whilst this is no argument to encourage it) certainly doesn't have the costs it would have on paper, or if we did literally have to explain things twice. Our real goal should be to make whatever is clearest for the reader, and for the range of potential readers we'll be supporting. Many of these readers will be interested in speaker cable specifically, rather than the even more subtle aspects of improving interconnects or (Maxwell forbid) audiophile mains cables. Andy Dingley (talk) 19:23, 17 November 2011 (UTC)
──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Bytes are cheap, the Wikimedia foundation can buy a terabyte for less than they spent on coffe and donuts last week. But reader time and editor time is scarce; is it really the best use of human lifespan to skip between the two articles, trying to figure out the physics and EE theory from two disparate and unsynchronized sources? --Wtshymanski (talk)
As your main interest at present is trolling my edits and reverting them just for the Lulz, then I question whether you have any interest in what's best for an encyclopedia. Andy Dingley (talk) 20:56, 17 November 2011 (UTC)

Speaker wire vs. zip cord[edit]

Currently, the article begins "Speaker wire, also known as zip cord ...." But that's not really correct; not all speaker wire is zip cord, nor is all (or even most) zip cord used as speaker wire. I'll tweak the wording to make it more accurate. Mahousu (talk) 22:48, 15 January 2013 (UTC)

Good point. Thanks! Binksternet (talk) 22:50, 15 January 2013 (UTC)
Also, rubber-insulated speaker wire still exists, so I added that in, too. Mahousu (talk) 23:05, 15 January 2013 (UTC)
Moreover, I'd never encountered the phrase "zip cord" until just now. It's alway been "speaker cable" to me. Mr Larrington (talk) 15:36, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
As seen in the usual industry magazines such as Stereo and HiFi/Stereo Review, the term "zip cord" was being used by hi-fi enthusiasts at least by the early 1960s. It always referred to the kind of AC cable commonly used for lamps. The "zip" of "zip cord" came from the fact that the two insulated conductors were easily separated from each other. Here's an example of the term used for lamps in 1987. Binksternet (talk) 17:07, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
Common enough term in the US, but it has no currency in the UK. Mostly because, since some time in the early '70s, we've not used Class 0 insulation for mains appliances. Our cheap cable still has a second overall sheath over it, so won't rip down.
Our only common use for rippable low-voltage two core is for doorbells. So we call it "bell wire" instead. Andy Dingley (talk) 17:21, 2 March 2015 (UTC) = reliable?[edit]

One of the recent references added to the article is from Is that a blog? Is it reliable? I see no author listed at the page Perhaps the OCC can be brought into the article from another source. Binksternet (talk) 02:57, 16 April 2013 (UTC)

simple electrical resistance is by far the most important characteristic of speaker wire[edit]

Russell and others say that resistance is far and away the most important characteristic of speaker wire, much more than capacitance and everything else. This fact is in the article body, so I don't see the need for a fact tag on it in the lead section. Binksternet (talk) 03:00, 16 April 2013 (UTC)

As written this is neither a scientific nor engineering statement it's a value statement of what should matter, which is why if used as-is should at least have a citation. It also excludes other simple characteristics, like length or heat resistance which could be more important to a particular user.
Changing it to "largest measurable electrical.... " and or "dominant electrical characteristic" would narrow the scope of the statement and make it provable. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Eriksq (talkcontribs) 14:51, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
In terms of "sound quality" it's not even correct. Having low reactivity is much more important. However even "cheap" speaker cable does already have negligibly low reactivity. It's still an important factor in good cable, but it's a factor that's achieved for almost no effort.
It's perhaps true to say that electrical resistance is the factor that can be usefully improved by going from low quality cable to adequate quality cable (which is probably what the original editor meant), but that's not the same thing as "most important". Andy Dingley (talk) 15:07, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
Okay, I can see your point about the wording. I think what the article text is trying to convey is that there are inexpensive speaker cables available, ones with ample metal and low enough resistance, that are virtually the same utility as expensive speaker cables. Lots of questions show up at internet forums such as "do expensive speaker cables make a difference?", and there are various rants about "the myth of speaker cable", so I think this article should serve as the technical backstop giving hard facts rather than dubious marketing claims.
You're right that resistance is "the factor that can be usefully improved" but in many cases it would be a lateral move, from skinny wire to thicker wire (more conductor mass per unit length) of the same basic quality. Binksternet (talk) 20:55, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
I think that's a separate point altogether – although one that's also worth making. My own (non-stage) speaker cables are 79-strand from the car electrics place, because it's a cheaper way of buying bulk copper than anything from a hifi shop.
I see there as being two factors worth mentioning about how to buy speaker cable:
  • It's useful to buy a low resistance cable, as this does work better than a thin cable.
  • Low resistance cable can be bought for a reasonable price, by buying bulk copper rather than brands.
However I'm just a little wary of turning the first into a statement that can be read as "the primary quality of speaker cable is resistivity (and not reactivity)" Andy Dingley (talk) 11:11, 17 April 2013 (UTC)

Polarity is important because...[edit]

I took out the following addition appended to the sentence about polarity, the addition in bold for convenience here: {{quote|The two wires are electrically identical but are marked to identify the correct audio signal polarity so that the speakers will not be connected in opposite polarity which often results in a loss of bass as one speaker will "push" while the other "pulls."

Of course this is true for two home speakers, or two professional subwoofers, but the "loss of bass" is not exactly part of the result when there are high frequency drivers wired in an array. Binksternet (talk) 03:19, 16 April 2013 (UTC)

A great deal of this article is focused towards a home user, so adding this as a possible symptom fits with one aspect of the intended audience. Just saying that the cables mark the correct polarity does not help a non-technical user from understanding the WHY's of it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Eriksq (talkcontribs) 14:10, 16 April 2013 (UTC)

In what case is a speaker system capable of delivering some bass, and will not also suffer badly if polarity is reversed to one channel / bank / driver?
This note should go back in. Andy Dingley (talk) 16:31, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
Cardioid subwoofers. Binksternet (talk) 21:17, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
Really? They use a reversed drive unit (which is analogous to reversing the polarity), but they also introduce a delay which has the (frequency dependent) effect of cancelling this.
If two such subwoofers were set up together and one was out of phase with the other, there'd certainly be a problem. Andy Dingley (talk) 22:28, 16 April 2013 (UTC)

Choosing a speaker wire[edit]

This series of edits changed the whole emphasis to be less about the technical characteristics and more about the consumer choosing a speaker cable. The new section called "Selection" had very little information and no references. Same problem with the new section called "Flat Cables".

I don't agree that the reader will be served with a less technical article. Binksternet (talk) 03:35, 16 April 2013 (UTC)

Actually I thought about this, and I realize that the article is trying to serve many different aspects of speaker cables simultaneously such as the marketing, culture and debate, and technical aspects.
In doing so, not only is the material interwoven and confusing, but there are a lot of beliefs being discussed as facts.
In addition, line level audio cables will share a lot of the same information regarding marketing, social and cultural issues about speaker cables.
So, I propose the following:
1. Create a separate topic "Audiophile Cables" to contain the marketing, social, cultural and other issues that are not purely technical where claims and counter claims for speaker, digital and line level cables can be contained.
2. We reduce "Speaker Cables" to a purely technical discussion about electrical characteristics, manufacturing, etc.
3. Moderate comments which are scientifically sounding but really are biased to one person's technical views into a less biased format that allows for the possibility of future discoveries.
Also, I may need some help finding resources regarding flat cables being good for running under a carpet, that part I thought was self-evident.
What do you think?

Erik — Preceding unsigned comment added by Eriksq (talkcontribs) 14:06, 16 April 2013 (UTC)


The topic of "speaker cable" is greater than the technology involved. It's big business, it has it's own marketing process and culture, it's a subject of much hobbyist effort and consumer activity by people of various value sets and history. It is a disservice and incomplete bias to view them as purely technical devices. We should find a reasonable way to incorporate all of these aspects into the information where there are those who wish to include it.

This is why I believe we should make it a priority to cleanly separate purely technical discussions and other aspects. It alternates between technology and argument, between general and consumer issues and expert opinions being taken incompletely or mis-characterized. We may even need to create separate sections for broadcast, sound reinforcement, public address and home use.

Even before my edits this article was a mixed message mess, not just with biases and mixing of technology and opinion but even with some technical aspects which were repeated in various sections. I suggest that your issues with my edits, and my issues with existing content would be best served by separating the issues.


Erik — Preceding unsigned comment added by Eriksq (talkcontribs) 14:16, 16 April 2013 (UTC)

I am not as interested in separating technical aspects with "consumer issues", as this opens the door to snake oil claims, the pushing of tiny (inaudible) improvements through very expensive processes, and so on. I think the article should stick to technical issues. Binksternet (talk) 21:16, 16 April 2013 (UTC)


Much of what is written here is general discussion about the electrical characteristics of conductors in general and could apply equally to small signal conductors. We should rely on the relevant wikipedia sections to cover this instead of repeating that material here and/or consolidate information that is relevant to small signal and speaker level conductors. The charts however are very useful, specific, and relevant.

More relevant to the technical aspect of speaker cables may be a discussion of the audio signal transmission between the amplifier, wiring and speaker which would illuminate and replace the broad claims of audibility and home audio environments. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Eriksq (talkcontribs) 14:30, 16 April 2013 (UTC)

I just read the section on Damping factor, it's pretty complete, so I suggest we rely on it for this.

Eriksq (talk) 15:49, 16 April 2013 (UTC)