True audiophiles probably know about speaker cable and sound production. On the other hand, if you want to start developing a fantastic sound system, you need to learn about speaker cables.
High definition sound is only as consistent as an excellent speaker cable. However, unlike other types of cabling that most tech-savvy people are aware of, these don’t get much attention. Nevertheless, if you want to experience high-quality sound, we’ll get into the details and complexities of a speaker cable. Moreover, we’ll answer whatever customized questions you may have.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: What is a Speaker Cable
Ever thought of how the sound comes out of your speakers? It’s not magic! It would be best if you had a speaker cable to form an electrical connection between an audio amplifier and a loudspeaker. It has three main electrical features –inductance, capacitance, and resistance. When it comes to choosing a speaker cable, most users focus more on resistance than anything else.
Basics on a Typical Speaker Cable
The significant emphasis on resistance is because of the system impendence and the use of low frequencies. In standard speaker systems, the impendence can range between 3 ohms to up to 15 ohms. Now, most loudspeakers commonly have 4 to 8-ohm impendence.
If the resistance increases, it negatively affects speaker system performance. Sure, you can reduce the amount of current going into your speaker system as the voltage running across the cable increases, but you can compromise on quality in the process.
Another problem is that the loudspeaker creates a back electromotive force. This force should work against a source of low impendence.
If the source impendence increases, less of back EMF is absorbed, and this influences loudspeaker sound quality.
Speaker Cable Materials
Just like in other cables, you need a conductor material as the basis for a speaker cable. Manufacturers have a few different choices, but it all comes down to the performance vs. cost debate.
Copper is the most common choice for making speaker cables. For manufacturers, it maintains a steady balance between conductivity and cost. Conductivity, in this case, means that low resistance runs through the wire.
However, on the flip side, copper can oxidize. A layer of copper oxide starts covering the surface when exposed to air. The oxidation makes a barrier of extremely high resistance between the speaker and cable.
Usually, you can use screw pillars or similar fixes to break through the layer. Even then, you get a level of resistance that’s much higher than what you need.
With silver, manufacturers achieve a slightly lower level of resistance, but it still oxidizes. Not to mention, it’s also more expensive when compared to copper. Compared to a typical gauge silver speaker cable, a cable with thicker copper wire would still be cheaper.
This provides the best performance since it doesn’t oxidize and has the least resistance. However, it’s costly, so manufacturers don’t use gold for the wire itself. Instead, they use it for the point of connection that gets air exposure. At connection points, using a thin layer of gold plating can allow optimal contact.
Chapter 2: Types of Speaker Cable
Of course, you can choose from a plethora of speaker cable types, considering how changing one aspect impacts the overall quality. Besides, it would help if you considered other factors.
Bi-Wire or Single Wire?
Aside from choosing what insulation and materials make up your speaker cable, you can also select a bi-wire cable.
You should use this type of cable when the amplifier and speaker have two pairs of connections – one for the bass and one for other kinds of frequencies. If your speakers only provide a single connection, this makes it easy to decide. However, if your speakers and amplifier have a bi-wire system, then you can benefit from installing bi-wire cabling, which consists of four parallel conductors.
Shielded Speaker Cable
When you’ve already installed the best speakers and amplifiers that suit your budget, you have to consider a suitable speaker cable. Now, should you get unshielded speaker cable or pay extra for proper shielding?
Speaker cable is shielded as a safety measure because it helps protect other low voltage cables that might be running close by. For instance, antenna and microphone cables have low voltage running through them and are susceptible to Electro-Magnetic Induction, crosstalk, and Radio Frequency Interference.
If your speaker cable isn’t sharing the same path with other low voltage cables, it’s fine to use unshielded wires. We recommend that you use a shielded speaker cable when it shares the same path with different low voltage cables. Remember that other low-voltage cables should have adequate shielding, too.
With Or Without Connectors
You can buy speaker cable with or without connectors, but connectors happen to provide more convenience. If you end up purchasing speaker cable without connectors, you should use banana connectors because attaching a bare wire to a receiver is a hassle. We’ve linked to an informative YouTube video on how you can use a banana plug for your speaker cable.
Chapter 3: What Speaker Cable Factors Affect Quality?
A speaker wire works by allowing the transmission of electrical impulses between a speaker and receiver. Just like in any other type of cable, its materials, length, and thickness perform differently under an electrical load.
Certain attributes of a wire impact sound quality. As we mentioned above, this includes capacitance, inductance, and resistance. However, at the same time, it also concerns gauge, length, and composition.
Resistance refers to the loss of energy that occurs during the flow of impulses because of the transmission medium. In essence, if the cable has lower resistance of, more power reaches the speaker.
Inductance is the voltage change that occurs due to varying current. However, in a speaker cable, inductance levels are usually negligible.
If the cable has a higher capacitance, it can hold a greater charge at a particular voltage.
No two metals conduct electricity the same way. For most cables and wires, copper has low resistance and is cheap too. Nevertheless, at the same time, it can corrode if exposed to moisture or even air.
Silver provides a lower resistance compared to copper, but because of its higher price point, it isn’t a practical option for manufacturers. Meanwhile, gold doesn’t oxidize when it encounters air, making it an ideal plug material. However, due to gold’s higher resistance compared to silver and copper, it doesn’t work for cables.
A speaker cable’s resistance is equal to its length. In this regard, experts state two different principles.
- Lengths need to be equal
The speaker cable connecting with each speaker needs to be of the same length. Both speakers experience the same resistance, allowing your system to balance.
- Lengths need to be as short as possible
Since a speaker cable’s resistance is proportional to its length, it’s ideal for keeping lengths as short as you can afford to. This way, the resistance reduces. However, at the same time, you need to keep both speakers separated at an adequate distance to get the best stereo effect.
Wires with a low gauge rating, i.e., thicker wires, tend to have less resistance. For a typical residential stereo setup, it’s okay if you use an ordinary wire. This is 16-gauge speaker cable, and unless you need hundreds of feet worth of wire, or need to run premium speaker systems, it will work fine.
Chapter 4: Cost Vs. the benefit of a Speaker Cable
You can choose from a range of speaker cable types. Some will be expensive because manufacturers will say that their cable has improvements, which increases the price.
In the end, the wire gauge is the most crucial factor. A 4mm wire is a maximum gauge any person would require. In contrast, 1.6 or 2mm is an adequate gauge rating for the short cable runs used in home systems.
A speaker cable with 4mm wire will be very thick. Audio experts use this cable in well-known recording studios. This is mainly because the cable needs to run very long; they need to install it around the studio.
Chapter 5: Speaker Cable FAQ
We’ve introduced you to all the basics a typical customer should know before purchasing speaker cables. However, you might still have some questions when it comes to using it and implementing modifications. That’s why we’ve answered some FAQs for you.
Does The Direction Of My Speaker Cable Matter?
Any sound expert who has worked with speaker cables for a considerable amount of time can attest to the fact that directional sound always sounds better. This means the sound will seem more defined when you connect the cable in a specific direction.
When you purchase speaker cables for your sound system, connect them so that the print on the insulation reads in the same direction of the signal. In practice, the ‘C’ of Chord needs to be closest to the amplifier.
Manufacturers don’t have any statements as to whether or not a directional sound is more better. The matter is highly debatable. However, in terms of experience, the difference in sound varies between slight and minimal.
Experts argue that the relationship between sound quality and direction affects coherence and timing. If you connect it in this way, you may feel that the sound is articulate.
Do I Need To Burn-In My Speaker Cable?
Just as how the direction of connecting speaker cables sparks debates, so does the topic of burning in one’s cables. Manufacturers can’t offer a perfect explanation as to how it happens. Nevertheless, professionals can agree that when you use a cable, there will be changes in sound quality over time.
Just like in the case of direction, the extent to which you’ll hear a change in sound varies from cable to cable. Nevertheless, a general rule in the industry is that you should use a new speaker cable for at least 100 hours before you can experience its best performance.
Can I Terminate My Speaker Cable At Home?
Most types of speaker cables are available off of a reel so you can prepare and terminate your cable at home. Many sound expertise websites have guides on terminating cables that can help you achieve the desired result. Nonetheless, there are certain helpful tips. Experts suggest crimping the spade/banana plugs wherever you can because it allows the system to produce an ideal sound.
You can use screw-type connectors, but over time, you’ll begin to see some oxidization. Due to this, you’ll have to check the screws – they may eventually work loose, which negatively impacts sound quality in the long run.
Therefore, if you’re using copper speaker cables, you’ll have to remove the cable occasionally. Then, cut the oxidized part, re-strip the speaker cable, and finally, fit it back. Sure, it sounds like much work but putting in the effort is worth the fantastic sound quality. You should repeat the same steps if you want to connect the speaker cable’s bare wire to the binding post directly.
How Can I Clean My Speaker Cable?
Regardless of what type of sound system you have, we recommend that you keep the cables clean. Even if it’s a small, all-in-one, sound unit, unplugging and cleaning all the connections is good practice for when you’ll have a bigger system.
Of course, plugging out all connections and re-organizing them is difficult. However, you don’t need to do it every so often. The most suitable approach is doing so once every six months. This frequency will allow for impeccable sound performance.
Start by disconnecting your system from the mains, unplug the speaker cables, and interconnects. Then, use a high-quality contact cleaner to wipe down all sockets and plugs. Blue Horizon Clean-IT and CAIG DeoxIT are good examples.
Chapter 6: Custom Speaker Cable
Many companies out there manufacture speaker cables for general use. However, if you’re an enthusiast who enjoys high-fidelity sound production, why should you settle for less? Your company might require custom cabling that caters to your specific needs rather than a one-size-fits-all design. This scenario makes it necessary that clients have the option to get premium, customized services from a reliable manufacturer.
What We Can Offer
Our cabling service, CLOOM Tech, makes customized speaker cables for clients that meet performance and material needs. Clients may need a different type of speaker cable for robust sound systems in outdoor locations. That’s because indoor and outdoor systems have varying durability. Here’s what we can provide to companies looking for a custom cable manufacturer.
- Custom tooling services
- Original or equivalent parts
- Small and larger volume production
We take small and large quantity orders for custom cables – this allows you to test prototypes before ordering large batches. Our company delivers on clients’ requirements using either original or equivalent parts, as mentioned in the spec sheet. This way, you get excellent quality at affordable prices.
Besides, we provide other types of specialty services. Our services include custom tooling capabilities for advanced molding requirements, as well as fully molded and locally built cables.
We follow a rigorous in-house production process. We fulfill each custom assembly order correctly and on time. Thanks to our vast experience in different industries, we understand cable-manufacturing requirements extensively. This step allows us to provide impeccable service each time.
You should know these few things before dealing with a speaker cable manufacturer for products. We answered some of the fundamental questions surrounding the use of speaker cables. However, this guide is just the tip of the iceberg. You can learn more about our process, company, or services by getting in touch with us. We’d be happy to hear from you!