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Speaker Wire Guage

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Jammin'John, Feb 4, 2005.

  1. My 200w tube bass amp says use 12 guage wire.
    I see that most people only use 16 guage wire for 50 foot speaker runs for PA.
    They lose a lot of signal & dynamics that way & make the amp work harder.
    I told my bass player that he should use 12 guage with his 400w @ 4 ohm.
    I wonder how much power he loses using 16 guage.

  2. bigbeefdog

    bigbeefdog Who let the dogs in?

    Jul 7, 2003
    Mandeville, LA
  3. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    The gauge of your speaker wire is important, but it really depends on the wire used from the output transformer to the speaker output jacks on the amp and the wire from the speaker input jacks to the speakers on the cab.

    Anything from 12 to 16 will be fine. I prefer 12 gauge because it is stronger and there is simply more wire, so if a few break from wear and tear the cable is still good.
  4. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    While 12 guage is ideal (I personally use 12 guage), most people here would be hard pressed to notice any difference using 16 guage.

    Personally, I think spending tons of $$$ on gear justifies a few extra dollars for a quality, thick guage cable, but it really isn't that big of deal unless you're bridging and/or pumping thousands of watts through a cable.
  5. How long is the cable? Losses are directly dependent on the length and cross-section of the wire.

    If it's a short run, the losses are negligible between 12 and 16 AWG.
  6. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    You said it yourself in your first post: for a run of 30 feet or more, then sure, 12 gauge would be better. But for the average bass rig (speaker cable of 10' or less), 16 gauge is just as good as 12. So, bigbeefdog is correct.

    heh, Mark beat me to it!
  7. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    It all depends on what kind of wattage you are shooting through them. 14g is the perfect guage for just about everything. Unless you are running 4000+ watts than you should go with the 12g. 16g are pretty common for the Store bought cables. A reall good and cheap way to save money on cables is to make them yourself. They are easy to do and if you know where to get the right cable it is really cool. You can buy 14g extension cords from any home improvement store. These are :hyper: EXACTLY :hyper: the same as all of the cables in the music store. Put Switch Craft ends on it and you are golden. You can buy 100 foot cables for about $10. You can use different colors for FOH and Monitors. These are speaker cables only though... You cannot use them for anything else.
  8. This is a plug for someone I have been dealing with for years. He is excellent! 12G at 16G prices!


    I am in no way affiliated with them, just passing on one of my secrets. Todd is great to deal with, and fast.
  9. Jerrold Tiers

    Jerrold Tiers

    Nov 14, 2003
    St Louis
    Losses are not much.

    16 ga cable has 4 ohms resistance per 1000 feet. That is a 500 foot speaker run. So it is 0.004 ohms per foot

    12 ga has 1.5 ohms in the same 500 foot speaker run, or 0.0015 ohms per foot.

    For an amplifier of 1000W at 4 ohms, you will lose about 1 watt per foot in 14 ga cable AT FULL POWER. You would lose about 0.4 watt per foot in 12 ga cable.

    If you have a 10 foot speaker cable, that is a loss of about 20 watts versus 8 watts AT FULL POWER.

    Of course you do NOT use full power continuously, but you MAY use peak power, which would likely be about 2500W in our example, taking power supply "sag" into account. (1 dB of "dynamic headroom")

    In that case, you can approximately double the losses for peak.

    As a result, your 1000W amplifier with 2500W peak would be reduced to about 2450W peak. Not exactly earth shattering losses.

    With 12 ga cable, you could lessen your losses and get a whopping 2480W.....not much difference with the 10 foot cable.

    No lectures, please.......Peak power is a perfectly valid and useful quantity when you consider that peak power is what you use for a string pop, for instance.

    I agree, though, heavy cable is usually tougher. But it is harder to use with anything but a Speakon, due to the thick insulation.
  10. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    Don't forget that you should try to match your left/right cables as well. Far to often I go into places and see people using 50' cables on one side and 10' cable on the other. Also, use the same guage cable on your sides. One of the DUH facts that alot of people seem to ignore. :eek:
  11. Thunderfunk


    Mar 27, 2004
    McHenry, IL
    Agreed. Buy a two conductor (no ground) in orange, or black. You might even find green. Cut it up and you can make a bunch of cables for cheap.

    Now, I do use oxygen-free linear crystal wire for signal cords, and what surprised me in my experiments was that I used some of this wire (special 10-gauge unshielded) for the sub-woofer speaker run in my home stereo system (1,000 watt tri-amp 4-way) and it made a difference. A smoother low end. Is it worth the money for stage? No way. Does it work. Yes. On the instrument's signal cable it makes a noticeable difference, BUT the wire is weird. Run over it with a caster and it goes dull. It doesn't "break" it just starts to sound bad. So, it's only for the studio and treat it like it's a microphone. It was $10 a foot. It sounds bright but that's because it's fast.
  12. For anybody who is thinking about spending big bucks for speaker cables....don't!!!

    Get plain ordinary zip wire, 12 gauge, or the aforementioned extension cord in 12 gauge or thereabouts.

    Then read all the articles on this site:


    where they will explain that from a scientific theoretical standpoint, as well as objective double blind testing, it's hard to beat plain ordinary zip wire.

    The last cables I made: I used 12 gauge, 2 conductor SJO power cable. Tough skin, cheap.
  13. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    Zip cord is fine except that it is usually flat and can split between the 2 cables. That can, CAN, turn into a mess. Plus zip cord is not usually recommended for cold or wet conditions. I do not know how many drinks have been spilled over my stuff and how may outdoor gigs I have done. Also, 14g extension cords come in Red, blue (Light and dark) Neon Green, yellow, black, orange and a whole ton of other colors. You just need to keep in mind that the colors are more expensive. KEEP THEM ALL MATCHED with guage and length too.
  14. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    Why get that extreme? My speakers aren't consistent in impedance to the thousandth of an ohm, not even close. I use 4 ohms on one side and 8 on the other fairly often, even. I'm not convinced that using a 50 footer for a 5 foot run makes sense, especially since that'll typically mean coiling the cord. What's your rationale? Can you actually hear the difference in a fair test? Keeping cables as short as is practical makes perfect sense, OTOH.
  15. Jerrold Tiers

    Jerrold Tiers

    Nov 14, 2003
    St Louis
    No reason to match the cable lengths etc. The differences are too tiny to worry about.

    Of course it's silly to use a really long cable if you don't have to, but whatever works. It's about getting thru the gig, and if a long cable is what you have, use it.

    There is a whole different reality for the amplifier nutcases in the audiophile world........some things that are hearable in a quiet room and ideal conditions just don't relate to the typical band job. Most of the time that stuff can be safely ignored because you flat can't hear it, even in church.

    if you CAN hear it, fine....
  16. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    If you want consistancy and longevity of your equipment and not just your cables, match the lengths of your cables. A quick way to blow up your amps is to run loads that are inconsistant. 8 Ohms on one side and 4 on the other. They are not made to run like that. Sure you can "Get away with it", but I think that the better you take care of your equipment the longer it will last. It take 1 minute to wrap a 50' cable. Big deal. :eyebrow:
  17. :scowl: :scowl:
    Totally FALSE.

    The output transistors of a stereo amp don't care what the other side is running. It's a completely different circuit.
  18. uglybassplayer


    Aug 24, 2001
    New Jersey
    Can we get a ruling by someone like Bob Lee on this one. It's always been my understanding that a stereo power amp acts as two separate power amps, so that running a 4ohm into one side vs. an 8ohm load into the other side would not cause any impedance matching problems.

    - Frank.
  19. A stereo power amp is, for all intent and purposes, two separate amps. The only thing the two sides share is a case and a power supply. (And some power amps don't even share the power supply--my Adcom has two separate power supply sections.)

    This is a very basic fundamental of power amp design. Get any amplifier design cookbook, or take an amp apart. Anybody that knows an inkling of basic electronics can go through a traditional power amp and immediately discern that there are two separate amp sections.
  20. I haven't heard anyone mention something about "damping factor", which is a term used by the stereophile guys. Basically, the amplifier output impedance is very low (could be well below .1 ohm). If you add any series resistance (the wire) it increases the amplifier output impedance. What this does is it makes it harder for the amplifier to "control" the speaker. For instance, when the amplifier output goes to zero, if it has a low output impedance, it effectively "brakes" (like a car brake) the speaker and makes it stop moving. An analogy is like swinging a lead weight at the end of a pvc pipe. When you want to stop the weight, it's harder when the pipe is thinner (more flex). I would imagine this would have an effect on the sound you get from the speaker (like 10" drivers being more responsive due to lower mass).