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Detachable Amplifier Power Cord, 18 or 14 AWG?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by crewser, Apr 25, 2015.

  1. crewser


    Oct 24, 2012
    Wondering if anyone has ever truly noticed an appreciable difference in sound from their bass amp by using the heavier 14 than lighter 18 gauge power cord? Seems to me, as long as the power cord meets/exceeds the required specs of the manufacturer (ie.. 10A, 125V) it should be more than adequate and sound perfectly fine. I've also seen general purpose computer power cables that appear to be the same rating (18 AWG), deducing that they are probably interchangeable.
    JimmyM likes this.
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You are correct. And there is no difference in sound. AC cable "sound" does not exist, despite the 100% unscientific claims of the ripoff artists charging a fortune for AC cables.
  3. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    Correct, as long as it's appropriate for the amp... ie. you wouldn't want to use an 18awg amp on a (real) 2000 watt amp, 16awg would probably be more appropriate and may be required by the safety agency approval specs.

    Snake oil power cable sales and marketing are IMO a sad industry that preys upon people's lack of knowledge or understanding about the subject. If they can't explain the engineering and science behind their product in a way that is consistent with solid science and engineering principles, then they should keep their marketing mouths closed until they go to school and learn about the science they pretend to know more about than the real scientists and engineers that have disproven their claims.

    There are uncanny similarities to the "perpetual motion" sales and marketing fields... ;)
  4. I don't know if I've ever seen a 14g one. But we use 240v here.

    Audio nutjobs will tell you their crystal impregnated amp feet improve the clarity. YOU might hear something off in a homemade sub code gauge cable.
  5. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Use any cable and you will be fine. Practice more, obsess over gear details less, IMHO.
    Joedog, BadJazz and Moosehead1966 like this.
  6. pnchad


    Nov 3, 2005
    You should be careful taking 120vac cable advise from strangers

    Most lamp cords are min 14g and that is for a 100w bulb. I do believe most amp cables supplied are at least that if not 12g

    Amplifiers by definition are in the business of converting that 120vac power to audio energy - what would be the reason to skimp?
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Lamp cords are minimum 14g? I sure have a lot of lamps in my house that prove that wrong.
  8. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011

    I have a UL approved work light here: rated for 150 W and has an 18 AWG cord on it.

    The requirements for detachable cords (those that can be unplugged, like lamps) are very different than those for fixed wiring like building wire (house wiring). Requirements are a lot more strict for branch circuits, for example, where 14 AWG is a required minimum.

  9. 254 stringer

    254 stringer Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2010
    Waco Texas
    14 is fine. It's rated for more than one 100 watt bulb by the way.
  10. lowsideonacurve


    Feb 24, 2011
    But they might go with my platform shoes...
    Ewo likes this.
  11. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    I do believe that you would be wrong, absolutely wrong.

    "Lamp cords" are generally 18AWG for mechanical reasons, not for electrical reasons. That's why UL prohibits smaller than 18 gauge wire for the wiring of portable lamp fixtures. Now for hard wired, installed fixtures, the fixture may receive UL approval for a wire smaller than 18AWG, but this requires additional investigation and perhaps protection. By and large, almost ALL portable lamp fixture wires are 18AWG.

    Amplifiers fall under similar UL listing requirements for power cables, the wire gauge is based on several factors but is generally based upon the 1/8-power rating of the amp (or 18AWG), whichever is larger. The 1/8-power rating is not a hard rule, because if the amp is designed under normal operation to deliver higher than 1/8-rated power (higher duty cycle) than this rating must factored into the wire (and fuse) sizing as well. The power cord is generally considered protected by the amplifier's approved overcurrent protection. For class D amps that are 600 watts or less, 18AWG is always (from everything I have seen) acceptable, and as you move up in power, even 900 watt models may be acceptable with 18AWG depending on overcurrent protection and duty cycle the amp is rated at.

    You ask what would be the reason to skimp? The question I would ask back is why would you thing 18AWG or 16AWG is skimping when the safety agencies, and all engineering calculations say it's completely acceptable?
  12. pnchad


    Nov 3, 2005
    I always end up in the same place

  13. pnchad


    Nov 3, 2005

    Absolutely a typical wall outlet is wired 12g and lighting circuits 14g. If you don't think your power amp is a major appliance...
  14. Ummm... Some respect should be given. Agedhorse has earned it.
  15. spankdaplank


    Jan 19, 2003
    I'd be more concerned with the wire size of the extension cord(s) you are using for your backline.
  16. A properly load rated cord is all you need. (Chaining cords over hundreds of feet might get interesting)
  17. spankdaplank


    Jan 19, 2003
    What I was referring to is a situation where several amps are connected to one extension cord. I wouldn't trust an 18awg cord for that even if it was only 12 feet long. Without going overboard with the wire size, a 16awg or 14awg extension is good insurance that the amps connected to it will not see a voltage sag. This becomes more of an issue as the length of the cord increases. The typical power cord supplied with an amp is 6 feet long; 18awg is fine for that length to one amp.
    To put it simply: I always carry a decent extension cord in my gig bag, not one of those "lamp cord" $1.99 specials.
    One caveat - my suggestions on wire size are referring to 120 volt power. Of course in countries with 220v power the wire size is basically halved as the current load is approximately half. (I now live where the standard power is 220v.)
  18. wcriley


    Apr 5, 2010
    Western PA
    Near as I can tell:
    AHJ = Authority Having Jurisdiction.
    NEC = National Electrical Code.

    Totally agree with your " 'tude " comment.
  19. Relsom

    Relsom Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2013
    The Old Dominion
    I don't think that there's an amp that I've owned that came with anything larger than 18ga. That being said, I still use the 16ga one that I take on gigs. It makes no sense that I think that way considering ac looses little on longer runs and that last 6 feet of beefed up copper isn't going to matter. I do what I do.
  20. ThisBass


    Aug 29, 2012
    like some kids at school?

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