A good cable is an important element of a sound system. Because it has to handle and deliver the power. Therefore, you must learn how many watts a speaker wire can handle.
Speaker wires come in different gauges such as 8, 12, 14, 16, and 18. A beginner faces difficulty in deciding the right gauge for his system.
The lower the gauge is, the stronger the wire. Hence, an 8 gauge wire is much more powerful and can handle higher wattage as compared to an 18 gauge wire.
What is Gauge?
Gauge refers to the thickness of the wire. The thickness is called the diameter. The smaller number represents the thicker wire gauge.
It also determines the current carrying capacity of the cable. A higher amount of current can safely flow through a thick wire.
can A 12 gauge cable can support 200 W RMS and a 14 gauge can support 150 watts.
Factors Affecting the Capacity of Speaker Wire
You have to consider a few important factors while buying the best speaker wire. These factors determine the capacity and wattage a wire can support. But, certain conditions determine the capacity.
High-quality material provides the best signal strength and output. The best material for electric wires is copper.
Speaker wires are made of copper as well as other metals such as silver or aluminum.
However, copper can carry more current and is durable. But, it is expensive. In contrast, other metals are cheap but less reliable.
2. Length of the Wire
The length of the cord also affects its efficiency and wattage rating. A longer wire faces higher resistance. Thus, it carries less current. So, you should choose only the required length.
For example, a shorter 16 gauge wire can handle more watts as compared to a longer 16 gauge wire. Likewise, temperature and heat also affect the capacity.
As you know, the gauge is the diameter or thickness of the cable. The thicker the wire, the more powerful it is. So, a smaller gauge number means a stronger cable.
You should choose one number ahead of your estimate. For example, if you estimated that your system can run well on 18, you should buy 16 gauge instead. In this way, you can avoid potential risks.
How Many Watts 16 and 18 Gauge Wire Handle?
A 16 and 18-gauge speaker wire can handle almost 100 watts. Ideally, they can handle up to 15 amps. More precisely, 18 gauge is suitable for 15 amps and 16 gauge is suitable for 13 amps.
However, they can support continuous 10 amps. 18 gauge cords are recommended for home and car speaker systems.
While 16 gauge is ideal for longer speaker runs and moderate power subwoofers up to 225 watts.
If you use a higher gauge, the sound will blow out. Do not exceed 32 feet if you connect an 18 gauge wire to an 8 ohms speaker.
How Many Watts 14 Gauge Wire Handle?
14 gauge wire can ideally handle continuous 15 amps. Hence, on a 120-volt circuit, it can support 1800 watts. While on a 240 volts circuit, it can support 3600 watts.
Wires can carry higher watts in a high-voltage circuit. 14 gauge can be used to carry 3520 watts at 220 volts. The current carrying capacity decreases with the lower voltage circuit.
Hence, it can carry only 192 watts at a 12V circuit. It is used in longer speaker runs. Moreover, it can be used for high-power subwoofers featuring 2-4 ohms at shorter lengths.
How Many Watts 12 Gauge Wire Handle?
A 12 gauge wire is very thick. It is used in heavy circuits to carry an immense load. Generally, 12 gauge is required for low-impedance speaker systems.
Moreover, it is ideal to use in longer runs. If you have to establish the connection at a longer distance, choose 12 G. A 20 feet 12 gauge wire can carry up to 1960 watts on a 12 V circuit.
The same wire can flow 38400 watts on a 240 volts circuit. It is ideal for high-power subwoofers and longer cable runs. This cable is so powerful that it is used to run air conditioners.
How Many Watts 8 Gauge Wire Handle?
8 gauge is much more powerful and can handle 40 amps. It is best for 300 RMS speaker systems.
This powerful cable is also used with very longer speaker runs and high-power subwoofers. The sub should be short in length with 2-4 ohms.
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Major Types of Speaker Wires
On the basis of quality and material, speaker wires come in the following types;
Stranded vs Solid Core Speaker Wire
Stranded and solid core cables differ in terms of flexibility. The former wire is more flexible. Because it is composed of many twisted strands. Thus, it passes easily through small spaces.
This type is widely used in the audio systems of cars and other vehicles. Another feature is its higher resistance value as compared to the solid type.
Solid core wire is less flexible because it is a single piece. It features less “Skin Effect”. Thus, high frequencies can pass well through this type. Resultantly, the user gets a boosted frequency response.
OFC vs CCA Wire
These terms refer to the material and quality of the cables. OFC cable is composed of 100% oxygen-free and pure copper. In contrast, CCA is copper-clad aluminum.
The core cable is made of aluminum with a thin layer of copper coating. OFC is more expensive than CCA. However, CCA is not a good conductor because of mixing.
Hence, it causes voltage loss and compression of audio quality. Therefore, experts recommend purchasing OFC if you can afford it.
Because OFC performs best and does not affect output negatively. Because of the low resistance, copper is best for manufacturing speaker cables.
Bonus: A Few Tips to Maintain Speaker Wires
Now, you have chosen the compatible cable. Next, your job is to maintain it properly so that you can get the best sound output.
Poor maintenance will result in damaging the cable and you will have to change it frequently. To avoid such a mess, remember the following tips;
- Clean your wires regularly and do not let any dirt build up. Because it can lead to signal degradation. You can wipe the cables with a soft and damp cloth.
- Do not knot or kink the cords. It affects the quality of signal transmission. A zip tie should be used to secure the cords in tight spaces.
- Avoid running the cables near a power source. Because the electrical signals can interfere with sound transmission.
- If you notice a drop in audio quality, check the wires and replace them.
- It is necessary to check and replace the wires if you add more powerful speakers to the system.
- Do not rely on the older wires. Instead, calculate the wattage and use compatible and strong cables.
FAQs About Speaker Wires and Gauge
Read the following frequently asked questions for further help and information.
What is the recommended length for the speaker wire?
Ideally, you should use shorter cables. Because longer cables lose data during transmission. Thus, you do not get high-quality audio output. Do not use a speaker cable more than 50 feet long.
How much does the gauge matter in a sound system?
The smaller gauge makes thicker wires. So, the current can flow easily and safely. Thus, you get a clean and clear audio output. Moreover, it is also useful if the cables run a long distance such as to another room. However, an average system can work well with 16 or 18-gauge. Ideally, you should buy more than your estimate.
What happens if I use thin wires for my speakers?
Using thin wires is a risk. Because all the current cannot pass through the thin cable. Consequently, it overloads and overheats. This leads to sound degradation and poor quality. In extreme cases, the cable can melt or be set on a fire. Therefore, use smaller gauge and thicker cables for powerful speakers with more than 100W RMS.
Can a 22 gauge wire be used for speakers?
A 22 AWG wire is very thin. It is not ideal for use with your speakers. However, it can support an 8-ohm speaker. It should be no more than 12 feet. So, a 22 gauge wire can work if you follow the recommendations.
What happens if I use too thick or oversize speaker wire?
It is not recommended to use extra thick or oversized wire. If the cable runs too long then a smaller gauge number can be used. Because a thick wire will draw more power. As a result, the voice coil or the speaker gets overheated and damaged in the worst cases.
Hence, the whole discussion reveals that normally 16 or 18-gauge wires are used for speakers. The gauge ranges from 8-22 AWG.
Likewise, a speaker wire can handle power between 50W to 3000 Watts. After reading this guide, you can choose the right wire for your speaker system.