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Old 12-29-2010, 09:15 AM   #1
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In wall speaker wire


Is in wall rated speaker wire really necessary when only four foot per run are in the cavity? I'm hooking up my surround sound speakers and would like to use 12 gauge wire and it seems like the insulation is much thicker on non in-wall wire anyway. BTW I'm not using in-wall speakers, I just want to hide the wires without using that plastic track stuff on the walls.

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Old 12-29-2010, 11:07 AM   #2
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In wall speaker wire


Just use NM-b. Romex. It works great for speaker wire. Its much much cheaper than speaker wire and works just as good. It is also deigned to be installed inside walls and fished into walls. It's your best choice.

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Old 12-30-2010, 08:36 AM   #3
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In wall speaker wire


Yes. It's the fire rating that's the problem. The insulation, to be installed in a wall, has to meet certain standards in case there's sparks and such, otherwise it'll cause fire to spread when you think it's out- it's really smoldering inside and can light off again days later. Don't mess around too much with putting the wrong stuff in the walls.
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Old 12-30-2010, 08:50 AM   #4
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In wall speaker wire


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Just use NM-b. Romex. It works great for speaker wire. Its much much cheaper than speaker wire and works just as good. It is also deigned to be installed inside walls and fished into walls. It's your best choice.
JV sure this will work, and you will hear sound out of the speakers, but it certainly is not what is normal or recommended.

Speaker wire is multistranded for a purpose.

The purpose being, to increase the overall surface area, were electrons travel.

Lamp cord yes, NM romex NO
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Old 12-30-2010, 09:21 AM   #5
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In wall speaker wire


AC needs surface area, DC needs diameter. Romex will work fine, the stranding is to make it flexible, you'll never hook solid wire up to a speaker run without a few cuss words.

Anyhow, I'd need to check the code, but loose THHN or something I think is all right. Besides, 4 feet? It's probably not going to be an issue even if there is a fire. I'm not saying that, but just maybe...

I would definitely use speaker wire before lamp cord, though. Neither are fire rated, and one is actually made for the application.
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Old 12-30-2010, 09:31 AM   #6
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In wall speaker wire


JPraski - AC needs surface area, DC needs diameter.

Agreed, and yes amplified sound is "Direct Current" with alternating voltage, or better said, fluctuating voltage, hence the improved signal transfer across multi-stranded wire.

What do you think speaker wire is? Lamp cord (available in many gauges) with clear insulation!
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Old 12-30-2010, 09:45 AM   #7
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In wall speaker wire


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AC needs surface area, DC needs diameter. Romex will work fine, the stranding is to make it flexible, you'll never hook solid wire up to a speaker run without a few cuss words.

Anyhow, I'd need to check the code, but loose THHN or something I think is all right. Besides, 4 feet? It's probably not going to be an issue even if there is a fire. I'm not saying that, but just maybe...

I would definitely use speaker wire before lamp cord, though. Neither are fire rated, and one is actually made for the application.
Agreed that solid wire will be a beast to work with at the speaker connection points. The only advantage I can think of in this situation is that it would probably be easier to fish solid wire thru the wall cavity (but stranded wire can be fished easily enough with a fish tape anyway).

If you are going to go to the trouble to have a clean-looking installation, you might as well do it correctly with in-wall speaker wire. No sense in spending hundreds/thousands of dollars on TV/audio equipment and then skimping on the conductors that make you be able to hear it!
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Old 12-30-2010, 12:03 PM   #8
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In wall speaker wire


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JV sure this will work, and you will hear sound out of the speakers, but it certainly is not what is normal or recommended.

Speaker wire is multistranded for a purpose.

The purpose being, to increase the overall surface area, were electrons travel.

Lamp cord yes, NM romex NO
I have two speakers outside that are run in NM cable and sound just as good or better than the ones inside with expensive large diameter speaker wire. Stranded wire has no advantages as far as sound goes. Wire is wire. Solid NM should not and cannot be attached to the speaker terminals. NM can be used with Modular Speaker wall jacks.
I used 14/2 NM on a new build for a customer and have never had one complaint. The whole house is wired for music using NM.

Lamp cord cannot be fished or hidden in any wall. Speaker wire unless intended to be used in this fashion is also off limits.
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Old 12-30-2010, 12:03 PM   #9
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In wall speaker wire


Some of the speaker systems are using CAT5 phone wire and it sounds great.
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Old 12-30-2010, 12:13 PM   #10
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In wall speaker wire


Cat 5 will work, although it's a bit thin. Monster speakers with humungous amplifiers shouldn't use that, but little surround cubes would be fine. Then again, there's 4 pair of wires, you can parrellel the CAT5 and have 4 wries for each terminal, if you can manage to squeeze them all in there.
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Old 12-30-2010, 12:35 PM   #11
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In wall speaker wire


The systems I have seen only used one pair. There was no need to parallel the conductors. IMO monster cables are way over priced.
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Old 12-30-2010, 01:06 PM   #12
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In wall speaker wire


I totally agree with that, for sure. However, 24 gage is still a bit thin. I wouldn't have a problem using it, but I have no clue how much these super boomer speakers use, I'm just saying something big enough to break windows is probably going to need more than CAT5. Most speakers it'll be fine- a roll of radio shack speaker cable isn't much bigger, and works just perfect. However, if it's between 4' of fire rated speaker cable, and 4' of CAT5, the speaker cable is probably the choice, the insulation being beefed up is going to cost a lot less than 6 extra copper wires you don't even use.
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Old 12-30-2010, 01:55 PM   #13
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In wall speaker wire


You can use what you like, its up to you, but I sure would like to know what article in NEC indicates the use of fire rated wire for speaker wiring, I have found language addressing this where fire systems and alarms and emergency speaker systems are wired, but not for home stereo use.

Would be nice to know for future reference.

And as far a the guage of wire used it depends on both wattage of system, and length of wire.
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Old 12-30-2010, 02:06 PM   #14
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In wall speaker wire


Here's an excerpt of an article, there are many reasons for using high quality speaker wire, but as the article states if you can't hear the difference then it really doesn't matter other than the increased load you put on the amplifier thus increasing heat output and reducing its life.

Not convinced quality matters when it comes to speaker wire?

Speaker cable is an important part of your speaker setup. Very old or very cheap speaker cable can degrade sound quality. Of course, if you have a hard time believing speaker cable quality makes a difference, you're not alone many people fear that those recommendations are just hype. Here's a suggestion: choose good-quality cable to go with your new speakers. Make sure you buy it from a retailer with a good return policy. Try it out at home, and compare the wire's performance to the sound you get from old, thin cables. If you don't hear a difference, just return the cables. Many people do end up hearing a difference, of course, and this is especially noticeable with higher-quality speakers.
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Old 12-30-2010, 03:12 PM   #15
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In wall speaker wire


Either stereos are a manufactured unit, and the wires are part of the appliance- in which case, you need wires approved by the manufacturer- or they are Class 1 power Limited Circuits. I have heard both from people who should know, personally I don't think it's a big deal. If I were to do this, I'd just use the speaker wire, it's not a plenum. (Maybe that's what the OP was mistakenly talking about? Going through the wall as in, plenum or riser wire?)

725.49 Class 1 Circuit Conductors.
(A) Sizes and Use. Conductors of sizes 18 AWG and 16 AWG shall be permitted to be used, provided they supply loads that do not exceed the ampacities given in 402.5 and are installed in a raceway, an approved enclosure, or a listed cable. Conductors larger than 16 AWG shall not supply loads greater than the ampacities given in 310.15. Flexible cords shall comply with Article 400.
(B) Insulation. Insulation on conductors shall be suitable for 600 volts. Conductors larger than 16 AWG shall comply with Article 310. Conductors in sizes 18 AWG and 16 AWG shall be Type FFH-2, KF-2, KFF-2, PAF, PAFF, PF, PFF, PGF, PGFF, PTF, PTFF, RFH-2, RFHH-2, RFHH-3, SF-2, SFF-2, TF, TFF, TFFN, TFN, ZF, or ZFF. Conductors with other types and thicknesses of insulation shall be permitted if listed for Class 1 circuit use.

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