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What are the different types of speaker cable and what do I need? - Comprehensive Speaker Cable Guide
What is speaker cable used for?
Speaker cable is mainly used to connect passive speakers & subwoofers to a power amplifier to transfer both power and signal. Often used with Hi-Fi & home entertainment systems, larger commercial speaker installations (100V Line), in gardens for outdoor rated speakers & even other devices such as intercoms & switches. Speaker cable plays a vital role in almost all audio applications and comes in many forms for different uses.
How to use speaker cable & connect your speakers
Most speaker cable is supplied un-terminated & may require some minor prep for use. If you have a reel of cable, cut your cable down to the length you need and strip the sheathe at each end, exposing the conductors. If you’re unsure how much of the cable sheathe to strip, 1 inch should be more than enough for most applications. Once the conductor ends are accessible, you need to twist them together to create a strong connection. Now that the cable is prepped, you can either connect them directly to your speakers & amplifier, or add some banana plugs to make connecting the cable even easier.
If you’re not using banana plugs, you can connect the bare ends directly to both your speakers and amplifier. Speaker cable usually has 2 cores, one core will connect to the Positive ( + ) terminal and one to the Negative ( - ) terminal. All of our speaker cable has a polarity marking to identify which core to connect to which terminal, whether it be a red line on one of the cores or the inner sheathes are red and black.
It is important that when you are connecting your speakers and amplifier together, you are consistent with the polarity.
Is there a difference in quality between Oxygen-Free Copper and Copper-Clad Aluminium Conductors
Speaker cable is often available with either oxygen-free copper (OFC), pure copper / bare copper, or copper-clad aluminium (CCA) conductors. Oxygen-Free Copper is extremely similar to pure / bare copper but has been refined further to reduce the oxygen levels in the copper to an absolute minimum (this prevents tarnishing). Whereas Copper-Clad Aluminium uses a layer of copper to coat an aluminium core. Generally, a CCA cable has a much higher resistance than a pure copper cable but is fine for most installs and is much cheaper than pure copper alternatives.
To counter the higher resistance, it is generally advised that if you are using a CCA Cable, you should use a higher gauge.
What gauge speaker cable do I need?
Speaker cable is available in a range of different gauges. Depending on the power of your speakers and the overall impedance that they run at, you may need a thicker cable than you would for a system with comparably lower power. As a general rule, speaker cable thickness (AWG) should be around 5% of the speakers electrical resistance level (Ohms). The further you travel, the thicker the cable would need to be. For example, a speaker at 8OHM with a cable distance of 80ft, would require a cable with a gauge of 14 AWG. However, we have taken the time to figure all of this out so you don’t have to. If you order one of our speaker systems that includes cable, you can rest assured knowing that it is perfect for the speakers and amplifier supplied.
If you are going down the 100V line route, things work a little differently, check out our handy blog on 100V Line Public Address PA Audio Music Systems.
Speaker Cable Types
Indoor Speaker Cable
Indoor speaker cable, often referred to a 2 core flex or figure 8 wire, is the most common type of speaker cable and is what you’ll most likely require for setting up a home cinema or Hi-Fi system. As well as speaker systems, indoor speaker cable may also be used for other applications, such as door intercom systems.
We stock indoor speaker cable in a variety of gauges, from 18 AWG (0.75mm²) to 11 AWG (4.00mm²), as well as with both pure copper & copper clad aluminium conductors.
Check out the range of indoor speaker cable.
Outdoor Speaker Cable
Outdoor Speaker Cable is sheathed in a weatherproof & UV resistant polyethylene outer jacket, making it suitable to be permanently installed outdoors where it can withstand the elements. As well as being weatherproof, it’s generally suitable for 100V Line systems as the polyethylene outer jacket means it’s double insulated as well.
We stock outdoor speaker cable with both pure copper & coper clad aluminium conductors, as well as a 4 Core version.
Thanks to this range of cable being rated to 300V, it is also a great choice for outdoor power cable in the form of 2 core flex (always consult an electrician).
Check out the range of outdoor speaker cable.
Low Smoke Zero Halogen Speaker Cable
Low Smoke Zero Halogen (LSZH) Speaker Cable, sometimes known as Low Smoke Halogen Free (LSHF) is made of a thermoplastic that emits a limited amount of smoke and no halogen when exposed to high heat sources such as a fire. In a fire, a halogen-containing plastic material releases hydrogen chloride, a poisonous gas that forms hydrochloric acid when it meets water. This type of cable is suitable for use in commercial buildings where it is permanently installed to meet building & fire regulations.
We stock low smoke speaker cable in a variety of gauges, from 18 AWG (0.75mm²) to 11 AWG (4.00mm²), as well as with both pure copper & copper clad aluminium conductors. We also have a 4 Core version.
Check out the range of low smoke speaker cable.
Double Insulated Speaker Cable
Double Insulated speaker cable is required for 100V Line Systems to meet health and safety requirements. The insulation refers to the sheathe (jacket) that the cable is housed in and being double insulated is a requirement for certain building regulations.
We stock a variety of double insulated speaker cable that has been stress tested. It’s available in a range of gauges with both CCA and Pure Copper options.
Not only do we sell a range of double insulated speaker cable, all our outdoor rated speaker cable & low smoke speaker cable is double insulated and suitable for 100V systems.
Check out the range of double insulated speaker cable.
Multicore Speaker Cable
Multi-Core speaker cable is often used in permanent installations where you may require running a speaker cable through a wall to multiple points. Using a multicore cable means you only need to run a single cable rather than two separate cables.
We stock a low smoke zero halogen 4 core speaker cable and an outdoor rated speaker cable, both of which are double insulated & have pure oxygen free copper conductors
Check out the range of multicore speaker cable.