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The following information is used by permission from the Wikipedia under the GNU Free Documentation License and other public sources.
A modern speaker wire consists of both a positive and a negative wire. Certain older designs also featured another pair of wires for a powered line to power an electromagnet before permanent magnets became economical to produce and use. A speaker wire acts like any other electrical connection and has three parameters that determine its performance: resistance, capacitance, and inductance. A perfect wire would have no resistance, no capacitance, and no inductance. The shorter a wire is, the closer it comes to being perfect. These three measurements are independent of the frequency of a signal being passed through the wire.
The lower the impedance of the speaker, the greater the significance of the resistance of the speaker wire will be. Few speakers have the same impedance throughout the frequency spectrum; the rated impedance is generally either the maximum or the average impedance, depending upon the source. In speakers with variable impedance, the resistance of the wire will have the most effect at the frequencies where the speaker is a lower impedance, potentially leading to audible variation in the output if the resistance of the wire is high enough. Assuming a constant speaker impedance, a higher resistance will only lead to a loss in power. To achieve a low resistance in the wire, use shorter lengths, a larger gauge of wire, and better conducting materials.
A larger gauge of wire is achieved by increasing its size or diameter. The American wire gauge (AWG) system uses lower size numbers to represent higher gauge. A size in millimeters is also common.
General Maximum Length Recommendations:
(Based on maximum frequency response deviation of +/-0.5dB)
Individual equipment variables may alter these recommendations. Be sure to consult your equipment documentation.
|18 (0.82 mm2)||20 ft (6m) maximum|
|16 (1.3 mm2)||30 ft (9m) maximum|
|14 (2.1 mm2)||50 ft (15m) maximum|
|12 (3.3 mm2)||80 ft (24m) maximum|
The generally advised material for speaker wire is copper, which has a very low resistance and is affordable which has made it the dominant conductor material. Copper can oxidize meaning uncovered or poorly purified copper will react with oxygen resulting in degraded conductive performance.
Silver has a slightly lower resistivity than copper, which allows a wire with a lower gauge but equal length to have a lower resistance. However, due to the increased cost in silver a higher gauge copper wire is more economical and can result in the same resistance or lower much more cheaply. Like copper, silver also suffers from oxidation.
Gold has a higher resistivity than either copper or silver. The value of gold is also much higher than both copper and silver. However, gold does not oxidize.
To achieve the best of all worlds, a copper wire with some sort of gold or gold-plated (often plated onto brass) termination can be used.
Speaker wire terminations are optional and largely for convenience, bare wire works just as well or better electrically. The most common termination types are pins, banana plugs, and spade lugs. Which type to use is determined by the receptacle the speaker wire is being plugged into. Most terminations are plated in gold or made out of non-oxidizing materials to prevent any change in conductivity.
Many speakers and electronics feature five way binding posts that can be screwed down or held down by a spring to accept bare wire and pins (through a hole in the post) or spades (around the post) or banana plugs (through a hole in the outward facing side of the post or the hole inside the post).
Certain secondary connectors and entry-level electronics feature spring clips which are meant to work with only bare wire. However, many pins and banana plugs can be inserted as well, depending upon the spring clip. Proprietary connectors also exist, though largely on all-in-one entertainment centers and bookshelf stereo systems.
In recent years, the Neutrik Speakon connector is appearing more and more on European audio equipment. The reason for such is simple: in many European Countries, especially Germany, the banana plug is coincidentally the same size as the live pins of an electrical outlet, delivering a lethal 230 volts to the user and to the speaker or other attached equipment. Recent EU regulations prohibit banana plugs, unless they have a safety pin mechanism preventing insertion into a wall outlet. WBT Connectors makes a model of such a plug that is commercially available.
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