Friday, April 6, 2012

Insight into Speaker Cables

There are a lot of myths about speaker cables, but in the end it's thickness that counts, and 12 gauge should be heavy enough for any reasonable domestic application. I've taken several comparative listening sessions over the years, and the sort of cable you want to use involves no sonic degradation that I (or anybody else in the tests) could hear. You could even cable the whole distance from amp to speakers using 12-gauge, but it would probably be more convenient to use something more flexible for the actual connection to components. Specialty audiophile cables would serve that purpose nicely, although more modest cables would work just as well."

This cable at the right was sold as speaker cable several years ago by such places as Home Depot and Lowes. It sold for 33 cents/foot. It had transparent insulation and was 12-gauge. It was much less expensive than the brand names. It did not have any coding to identify one of the cables for proper phasing. I had some of this cable for about 6 months and noticed it was turning color. Now it has turned a very pronounced green on the surface of the copper cable, indicating a chemical interaction with the insulation and the copper. A new piece of cable is at the right for comparison. Although the cable may not corrode any further, it doesn't inspire confidence, particularly if the insulation comes close to the connecting terminals. Such audio cables are quite used in home theater speakers as well.

Perhaps the transparent insulation was an attempt to mimic the more expensive speaker cables. Without researching the chemical properties of the insulation or the need to code one of the cables, it was not well thought out for use as speaker cable. I have heard complaints by others about the same problems. The normal lighting cables and cable supplied with the receiver shown above do not have these problems. I still have some of the #16 lamp cord that was used at the shows back in the 1970’s and it still shows no sign of oxidation, corrosion or patina. Such cables find use in car speakers, car stereo systems and car amplifiers.

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