Week 2, 2019: Don’t waste money on expensive speaker wire

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 2, 2019

Q. I have high-end stereo components and want to move the speakers (4 ohms) away from the amp. It will require about 20 to 25 feet of cable, run through the wall. I have some expensive cables, but they are way too short. What do you recommend for these longer runs?

-J.G., Brookfield, WI

A. I have not had a question about high-end speaker wire/speaker cables or connecting cables come in for a long time. Hopefully this means the public has become better informed, and also that retailers are not pushing them as hard as they once did, as expensive wire is a shameless rip-off.

For several decades now, 100% of scientifically-controlled tests have conclusively demonstrated that people can’t tell the difference between expensive speaker cables and ordinary speaker wire. If a difference is there it should be easy to prove, especially given the insane prices. How insane can it get? Nordost Odin speaker cable sells for $56,699.99 for a 4-meter stereo pair. (Maybe it’s just me, but I think asking for that last 99 cents is pushing it a little bit. I think they should not be greedy and round it down to $56,699.)

What determines the wire needed is the impedance of the speakers (4 ohms in your case) and the length required. The longer the run and the lower the impedance of the speakers, the thicker the required wire. For your installation, in-wall rated 14-gauge wire is sufficient. Most people have 8-ohm speakers and 16-gauge is the typical go-to wire, since it is adequate for a 48-foot run. A 100-foot roll of 16-gauge speaker wire is only $11.98. I recommend visiting

http://www.roger-russell.com/wire/wire.htm to read an article thoroughly debunking the cable scam, complete with a chart explaining wire length, speaker impedance and wire gauge.

Many in the high-end audio community still cling to the cable myth, and that is fine. It is a hobby, after all, and if it makes them happy, it’s their money. It is those who are uninformed that I worry about. Some of the emails I received in the past would really get under my skin. For example, a reader would write and ask for my thoughts about a proposed system, and the dealer had 25% of their $1,000 budget allocated towards wire and cables. Better to spend $15 on speaker wire and $15 on interconnects and put the $220 saved into something that will have lasting value and truly make an audible difference, like better speakers or a more powerful amplifier.

Still, if you have a really good system you may want something nicer than ordinary wire from a spool to connect it all. I’ve heard fancy wire and cables referred to as “audio jewelry” and viewed in that context, it is fine as long as you don’t go crazy with it. It is also nice to work with solidly-built cables with soldered connectors, especially if you change components a lot as I do as part of my review process. The best value I know of is SoundPath Ultra cables from SVS. A 25-foot pair of beautiful, heavy-duty SoundPath cables with banana plug or spade connectors is only $139.98. At Nordost Odin prices that 25 foot pair would cost over $110,000. The saved $109,860 can be used to construct a building with an acoustically-optimized listening room. THAT will make a difference you can really hear!