What’s the best gauge of speaker cable to use?

What’s the best gauge of speaker cable to use?

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That looks like a pretty straightforward question.  However, a better question would be “what speaker cable should I use to get the best sound from my speakers?”
Whilst the size of conductor will ultimately have some influence, the reality for most people is that the length of speaker cable used in most systems is between 2 and 7 metres.  By far the most popular lengths of speaker cable that we terminate here are between 3 and 5 metres.transatlantic-cable-poster

So unless you’re planning obscenely long runs of speaker cable, gauge is something that you don’t have to worry about too much.

There are other factors though when it comes to choosing the right speaker cable for your system.  Most important perhaps are the materials used in the speaker cable’s makeup.

Typically, cheap speaker cables tend to use copper strands for the conductors and PVC to insulate them.  The choice of materials really does have an influence on sound quality.  Basic copper and PVC speaker cables may be cheap but they’re an easy way to wreck the potential performance of your hi-fi or home cinema and remove the enjoyment, the involvement and the magic from your favourite music.

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Chord Carnival SilverScreen speaker cable

Even with the most basic of systems, investing in a good speaker cable can make such a big difference.  Using a speaker cable like Chord Carnival that uses oxygen free copper for the conductors and polyethylene as insulation is pretty much guaranteed to give you more detail and a better sense of dynamics.   Most importantly of all, you’ll get a greater sense of musical involvement than a basic PVC and copper cable would give.  The sound will be warmer, bass will sound more defined, rhythms will be easier to hear and you are going to find yourself listening to a lot more music.

You can take this a stage further.  With the research we’ve carried out, we can see that the relationship between the materials used for the conductor and the material used for the conductor insulation has a big influence on not just musical quality, but tonal quality as well.  Oxygen free copper and polyethylene work pretty well but speaker cables that use silver plated conductors in combination with PTFE insulation are really rather special.  In listening tests, cables built from these materials carry a musical signal really accurately, particularly at the frequency extremes.  This means better defined bass and realistic sounding drums and cymbals.  More than that though, cables that use silver and PTFE tend to bring a real sense of performance and coherence to pretty much every type of music.

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Chord Rumour speaker cable

Chord Rumour is a perfect example of how the choice of materials can affect sound quality.  Rumour is a discreet cable; it’s white, it’s 6mm in diameter, it’s very flexible, it uses relatively small 16 gauge conductors, yet fit it to almost any system and you’ll be rewarded with deep and clearly defined bass lines and tremendous clarity through mid and treble frequencies.  There will be a greater sense of dynamics, rhythm and timing, so important if you’re going to get properly involved with music.   So a good quality speaker cable can turn an ordinary sounding music or home cinema system into something really special, and that makes it a seriously good investment.

So what changes if I use a bigger gauge cable?

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Chord Odyssey speaker cable

We’ve got the perfect example.  We’ve already talked about Chord Rumour; well Rumour has a bigger brother – Chord Odyssey.  The two cables are identical.  They both use silver plated conductors, they both use PTFE as insulation, in both cables the conductors are twisted around each other and both cables have a white outer jacket.  The only difference is the size of the conductors.  Rumour uses 16 gauge conductors with a diameter of 1.29 mm and Odyssey larger 12 gauge conductors with a diameter of 1.83 mm.

Do they sound different?

Yes they do but not how you might imagine.  There’s not more bass or more treble, but everything is better defined, bass notes start and stop with more precision, individual strings on acoustic guitars are easier to pick out and that sense of precision goes right through the frequency range.  The thing you really get more of is music.

Most Chord dealers carry demonstration lengths of speaker cable and pretty much however low-budget you think your system is, it’s worth at least listening to what a good speaker cable brings.  An awful lot of people are more than pleasantly surprised.  Nigel Finn

 

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Technical Advice and general hi-fi tips

Tags:

audio demonstration bass cable carnival chord conductor size gauge insulation odyssey rumour speaker treble

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