I am in the process of building a home theater. I am relatively new to the audio end but have a background in computers and electrical.
I have been researching the best solutions for speaker wire (price vs quality). I have seen DIY for using network cable for speaker wiring (seems very tedious). Also using other types of wire for better quality and lower price.
However, I ran across a company called Sumiko that is very pricey. They have a loud speaker wire. It looks like coaxial cable (RG6) but it has a copper sheath (cosmetic??) and it may have a different insulation material.
My question is, as I cannot find anything on the subject, would it be beneficial to use dual strands of coaxial cable as speaker wire? Just soldering the solid copper wire to connectors in wall face plates?
It seems, without doing the math, that induction, capacitance, etc... would be great. But I may be missing something.
Anyone have thoughts or experience in this?
I can't claim to be an audiophile and I know there's an abundance of new products out there. But, I can't help to think that the coax looking cable you're reviewing is really a traditional type of coax at all. Probably a braided and shielded stranded wire (maybe solid). Traditional coax has an impedence rating; i.e. 50 ohm or 75 ohm. The whole tenant behind this is that you should attempt to make the source impedence equal the load impedence for maximum amount of power transfer and minimum signal reflection... thus you would "match" the appropriate type of coax to achieve this. So in my thinking a higher impedence wire (coax) will result in loss of power if used for speaker wiring because speakers are very low in impedence. In what dabbling that I have done for my own home entertainment system the word on the street is to use a low resistance high gauge wire for high powered (amplified) systems.
Here's some basic information at Wikipedia;
I can't believe those cats at DIY used network cable for speaker wire (shaking head in disbelief). :no:
Addendum: I'm a Belden cable type of guy... have always used them primarily for communication and instrumentation grade wiring. They do a consumer wire for audio and I found this little document that may add to your arsenal of information.
I'd buy their stuff before going after the monsterously expensive Monster wire.
Anyone that uses "network" wire (Cat5e) for speaker wiring is pretty much as dimwit....:yes:
My personal choice is Liberty Wire & Cable ExtraFlex.
Rated for inwall usage.
16ga. for under 100'.
14ga. for over 100'.
I'm a wannabe audiophile...first reply here.
I highly recommend BlueJeansCable.com for GOOD quality, not overpriced audio interconnection. I also recommend 12-14 gauge wire for speaker runs. Running "bi-wire" (4 wires in a run) is good for speakers that have dual sets of terminals. My recently departed B&W's were like this...one set for the woofer and another for the tweeter. But if your speakers don't have this, simply running 12-14 gauge should do fine. BlueJeans lets you order specific lengths.
Cat5e cable is something like 24gauge. Why in the world would one use that?
Just stick to the rules posted above. You don't need shielding on speaker wire
Buy a nice quality cable, with a nice jacket on it that will last. But don't get sucked into the "audiophile" propaganda, it's a scam. You pay a few extra bucks for quality materials, anything beyond that and you're just foolish... People used plain lamp cord for many dozens of years, and in many blind comparison tests, most people can't tell the difference.
audio quality is 100% subjective to the listener.
I believe what he is talking about is a DIY speaker cable using cat5e. It is done by stripping the pairs and braiding them over and over. You end up with something like 12 gauge wire and a really low inductance. You can get the same thing with decent 12 gauge speaker wire from a place like monoprice.com
Speaker wire is a volitile subject. Go to any A/V forum and ask. Prepare for the fallout.
I would recommend Tri-State Electronic for buying bulk wire......best prices I've seen and you can attempt to steer clear of the craziness of speaker wire debates. I personally use Belden for everything, networking, A/V, lighting control, etc.
Belden has a couple of great choices for speaker wire.......Brilliance Low Cap OFHC cable and High-Strand 5000 series.....both of which I use for Home Theater and Distributed Audio. The Brilliance is a little easier to pull through walls since the jacket is smooth vs. the High-Strand but both work well for sound quality. Wire guage is usually about distance but if it were my theater, I would splurge a lil and go with the 12 gauge. Comes in 500ft spools but if you wire for 7.1 (or more) you can eat up a few hundred feet pretty quick and you can always double up as suggested above.
I'd like to throw in some alternate thinking here.
I am an audio enthusiast, and test listen to various kinds of set ups and I love looking into new ideas.
As for cat5e cable for speaker wire....well, that really depends on the set up.
If you use just standard cat5e, which generally has pvc jackets...then that won't work so well. PVC attacks copper over time. Yes, that also means that your standard speaker wires (which many are pvc) are not the greatest choice either. Also, if you use just one network cable per speaker, then of course the gauge size is going to be way too small.
However.....a known speaker wire upgrade is to use cat5e PLENUM cable. The key is plenum. Plenum cable will generally use some form of fire rated jacket material....and most of the time the jacket around each conductor is teflon....teflon will reduce the "skin effect" to almost a nil. (maybe too much information). The other advantage is that each individual conductor is insulated, giving a perfect seal around each, with no spaces. In a standard speaker wire, companies boast "oxygen free". This is because when exposed to oxygen, copper will get damaged over time. Even "oxygen free" cables, which are stranded, have small amounts of oxygen because you have a bundle of round strands bunched together. In between each strand will be a space, in which oxygen will end up...but in such a small amount that they can call it "oxygen free". It will still attack the copper over time.
With using cat5 plenum as speaker wire, you must use multiple cables tied together to make up the overall awg size. Some people like to braid them and even remove the outer jacket for even better results. In the end, with cat5 plenum cable correctly set up, you can have a speaker cable which is much higher quality than some of the expensive high end standard speaker cables. It will cost less, but a bit more time.
And again, yes just using a single standard cat5 cable will yeild poor results.
With regards to the original question....
The use of dual coax style cables is a concept which was designed by Jon Risch (google it). This is a tedious process, but yeilds an extremely high quality cable. You will be hard pressed to find a better quality speaker cable, as long as it is built with the correct materials and in the correct form.
Bluejeancable is good, if you are looking for high quality lower priced diy alternatives then try diycable.com.
You could twist a bunch of cat5 plenum cables together without stripping the outer jacket if you wish. This still will yeild fair results (better than average), but will be a bit more tedious to pull. For ease, just stick to the standard speaker wire solutions as some have listed above. If you want higher quality, just try your best to stray away from pvc in direct contact with the copper conductors.
Im sorry, but I completed this build and anyone who says that it is not a success is the idiot here. Why do people always cast judgement before acually trying for themselfs.
Seriously. The whole builds costs about $30. It looks cool, and you made it yourself. In addition, the difference from standard $5 per meter cable and the cat4e was simply astounding.
Im sure if you own teac or sony gear you arent going to notice any difference at all. Like putting a 4" exhaust on a standard Datsun Sunny.
You will only ever notice an improvement if the cable is a restricting factor of your system. Surely most of the crap you buy from large chain stores will never really need any better than the wire they come with.
I used 4 lengths of cat5e for each length.
Also it seems that the claimed noise cancellelling benefits of the twists seem to have been completely overlooked here.
The facts of the matter are. I noticed an astounding difference over the garbage I bought from dicksmiths. My ear doesnt lie.
Of course you can list all the websites you want connecting to $500 speaker cable. They will be better cables most certainly.
But cost for quality.. braided cat5e wins for me.:thumbsup:
either that.. or network cable should soon be replaced by speaker wire? right? (think about it)
I've been a lifelong audiophile, and excepting the occasional mismatched system (once saw someone who had used 24 gauge telephone wire for the rear surround speakers on a HT system) I have yet to hear an appreciable difference between the inexpensive 12 gauge wires and the expensive stuff (and I used the best Monster Cable product when I wired in my 7.1 system).
My best advice here is if you live near a Home Depot type store, check out their outdoor 12 gauge low voltage lighting wires--they are inexpensive, much more so than the (mostly) extension chord wires that are relabeled as speaker wires and sold at a premium cost, and the coating is thick and will last even when buried for years. With 12 gauge you're good for 200 watts RMS at a distance of between 50 and 80 feet--usually adequate to wire in the rear speakers.
Why not go with lower gauge wiring? Well, it's not the heating factor that some people think will occur when attempting to overpower a wire, it's an issue of protecting your speakers. When you exceed the power capacity of the wires, you induce distortion and that can easily cause blown tweeters. That can get expensive, much more so than spending the additional $$ to wire it in right. It's cheap insurance.......:) .
Calculating Equivalent Wire Gauges
Unless the electronics you are using are very discrete.....any stranded 2 conductor wire is going to sound about the same. The only consideration is wire gauge vs length. Use some good flexible 12 gauge vanilla speaker cable and you will have covered your bases. Remember that the signal going through your equipment is encountering a plethora of caps, diodes, and many other passive components. If you are spending 5-10K for a preamp and oodles more for a pair of Krell monoblocks....then you might want to be a bit more choosey. The point of diminishing returns occurs quite rapidly when buying "designer" cables. I have been in the consumer audio business for 25 years....wholesale, manufacturing, and design. Trust me...the highest profit margin in any audio store is speaker cable, interconnects, and such. Open up your speaker cabinets and look at the quality of wire. Unless you have some pretty exotic speakers, it's likely that you will see a lot of 18 or 20 gauge "specd" wire. I would be dissapointed if I did not encounter a good deal of hate mail from people who have wasted their money on expensive cables and interconnects.
The above post is pretty spot on....
Speaker wire, like analog interconnects, can be best thought of as tuning devices, depending on the rig one is using. If everything is Big Box Store equipment on the lower end, it doesn't matter as much. Once one starts entering into the mid-fi and hi-fi realm, it starts mattering more.
The price of speaker ( or interconnect ) cable doesn't equate to sound "quality", since everybody's ears ( and gear for that matter ) are different, but it can be a measuring stick for construction quality. Case in point, Monster Cable. I'm sure PT Barnum smiles in his grave every time a person is "sold" a Monster Cable product under the ruse of it being "good".
A roll of 16 ga "zip cord" speaker wire from Radio Shack is not going to sound the same as a set of "quality" speaker cable. I know this from my own first hand experience. Years ago, when I started getting into mid/hi-fi gear, the last thing I swapped was speaker wire and I wished it was the first thing. My rig at that time was a Sunfire amp and pre-amp, along with Phase Technology PC500 speakers. I grabbed a pair of Kimber Kable 4TC cables off FleaBay, swapped out the Radio Shack 8 ga ( really thick with loads of tiny conductors ) with the KK and I was amazed at the difference. It was almost as if I had new speakers.
Back to the tuning aspect of cables.....the construction and materials used in them determine - more or less - how they pass the electric current and as such the sound you hear. Some are more pre-disposed to passing along higher frequencies, others mid-range, others bass, some do 2 of 3 in various combinations, etc. etc. So, if one has gear ( especially speakers ) that's very forward, using cables that accentuate the high frequencies can make the whole system sound too bright, and that may not sound good to some. It's wise then to get cables that aren't as forward. For example, a transistor amp ( say Adcom ), partnered with older Klipsch speakers, wouldn't be an ideal set up for "bright" speaker wire.
The problem with all this is, unless you're able to demo different cables, or the store you're buying cables from has pretty much the exact same gear on the floor that you do, you'll never know how anything is going to sound until you get it home and hooked up, so it's a crap shoot.
Some good information.....and a lot of mis-information.
At the end of the day, the BIGGEST factor in speaker wire performance is wire gauge. Sorry, but the frequency range of audio is just not that high to be greatly affected by the LC (Inductance Capacitance) of the wire (unless you have some really crappy setup).
Here is a blurb out of Wikipedia.....(love the blurb about skin effect)
Lets assume we are sending 100W (or at least trying to) to a speaker. If we assume that speaker has an 8 ohm impedance, then we are looking at 28v at the speaker with a currant around 3.5A.
What is important to understand is that in the case of signal transmission...the maximum power is transmitted when the impedance of the load and source match. If you use a small gauge wire, you are going to get more voltage drop across that wire, hence, you end up with inefficient power transfer. Case in point...if you use 16g wire....and it's about 100' long....you increase the 'effective' resistance of the load by 5%.
The name of Roger Russel has been mentioned once or twice...so instead of trying to rephrase what he has said....read it for yourself....
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