Ready to hook up your new sound system and blast your favorite songs?
Before cruising around town letting everyone know how sweet your system is, you need to know how to get the best quality sound from those speakers. And the trick is an often overlooked part: the wiring.
Wiring can make or break a car audio system, no matter how expensive your speakers and subs are.
Here is everything you need to know to choose a speaker wire for your car audio.
- 1 How to Choose the Right Type of Speaker Wire
- 2 What is the Right Length for Speaker Wire?
- 3 Car Audio Speaker Wire Gauge Guide
- 4 How Much do Speaker Wires Cost?
- 5 What Size Speaker Wire for Subs?
- 6 Choosing the Right Strand Count
- 7 Speaker and Receiver Terminal Compatibility
- 8 Where is the Best Place to Buy Speaker Wire?
- 9 Getting the Most Out of Your System
How to Choose the Right Type of Speaker Wire
Speaker wires typically come in copper or silver. While silver is a higher quality metal and can produce better sound, copper is generally more reliable because silver can contain impurities that mess up the signal.
Oxygen-Free Copper (OFC) is one of the best options. It is an excellent conductor of electricity, which helps deliver clear, high-quality sound to audio equipment.
What is the Right Length for Speaker Wire?
The first thing you need to figure out when choosing a speaker wire is length. To measure the proper length, first, use a string to simulate your speaker wire. Run it through your car from the audio dock to where you want to set up your speaker wires.
Make sure to leave some slack at any corners so you don’t cut off the signal when using actual wire. Depending on the location of your speakers, the wire should run along with the inside corners of the car.
When you finish, cut the string at the end and measure the length in feet. You will most likely want to buy a wire that is a bit longer than the string to give you some wiggle room.
Car Audio Speaker Wire Gauge Guide
Gauge is simply the thickness of the wire. It ranges from 10-gauge to 18-gauge as defined by the American Wire Gauge Standard (AWG). This standard is used worldwide
A lower gauge means the wire is thicker, and thicker wires transfer sound better than thinner wires. Subwoofers and amplifiers usually use lower gauge wires. Speakers, crossovers, and tweeters usually use higher gauge wires.
Gauge is the second specification you should look for when choosing a wire. So you should first confirm that the wire you’re looking at has an AWG measuring.
If it does not, you could end up buying the wrong wire for your audio system. The longer the wire, the worse the sound will be once it transfers through to the speakers.
You want to minimize the length as much as possible. But if you do need to use a long wire, you can use a lower gauge to keep sound quality high.
In a car, you are not likely to need more than 80 feet of cable, so a 16-gauge wire will work. However, if you do require longer cables, here are a few helpful numbers:
- 80-200 feet: 14-gauge wire
- 200+ feet: 10 or 12-gauge wire
How Much do Speaker Wires Cost?
Speaker wires range in price based on size (gauge), length, and quality. Typically, the lower the gauge, the more expensive the wire will be, as it transfers signals better than higher gauge wires.
You will also find the price goes up along with the quality of the copper (or silver). Most of the time, you get what you pay for with speaker wires.
You can find cheap copper 16-gauge wires for a little over $10. On the other hand, a high-quality 14-gauge wire can cost over $150.
It is best to spend time researching the options available to you before making a purchase. Consider that higher quality, durable speaker wire can save you money over time in replacement costs.
What Size Speaker Wire for Subs?
The subwoofer is one of the most important components in a car audio system. A quality subwoofer brings the whole setup together. To deliver the best quality sound possible from your sub, your choice of wire is key.
Subwoofers sound best when hooked up to 12, 14, and 16-gauge wires. The thicker the wire, the better for subwoofers.
Subs can be the most demanding part of an audio setup. Thicker wires help transfer and conduct that enormous signal to sound crisp and clean when it comes out the other end.
Choosing the Right Strand Count
Strands are the number of wires within the cable. Cables with individual strands are of higher quality than cables with a single solid wire.
Multiple strand cables are much more durable. If one strand happens to break, the loss in signal is minimal. The loss of signal can be much greater if a solid wire breaks.
Cables with individual strands are also much easier to install and maneuver. This is especially important when weaving car audio equipment through small spaces.
Speaker and Receiver Terminal Compatibility
Before purchasing a wire, check your receiver and speaker terminals and make sure the wire is compatible. The terminals should be color-coded, and they come in two types: binding post terminals and spring terminals.
Binding post terminals are compatible with banana plugs, dual-banana plugs, or spade connectors. Spring terminals are compatible with bare wires or pin connectors.
If the wires are not compatible, they will not work correctly and you will need to buy new ones. This step can save a lot of hassle down the line.
Where is the Best Place to Buy Speaker Wire?
Speaker wire can be bought in most large tech stores and department stores, like Best Buy and Home Depot. Smaller audio retailers should carry a wider variety of options to choose from, however.
Purchasing speaker wire online is also a good option. Amazon is worth checking out, as well as lesser-known online stores, such as Monoprice.
Just make sure the wire is pure copper, that it is the correct AWG measurement for your system, and the copper is oxygen-free.
Any quality product will tell you this information on the packaging or in the online description.
Getting the Most Out of Your System
The flashy parts of your audio system are the speakers and subs, but choosing the right speaker wire is equally important to deliver the sound you are looking for.
It might not be as fun as shopping for speakers, but the correct wiring will help you get the most out of your system for years to come.
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