What to Consider When Buying Audio Speaker Cables

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What to Consider When Buying Audio Speaker Cables
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What to Consider When Buying Audio Speaker Cables

The variety and complexity of audio cables or audio speaker cables available can be daunting to the uninitiated. Put that together with the hot debate on speaker cable quality between those who state expensive ones are not necessarily better and audiophiles who insist they are, and the result is baffled consumers who just want their speakers working so they can listen to music or watch films on their home theatres and cinemas. It is true that even with the most advanced speaker system, a listener cannot get optimal sound experience without decent audio speaker cables. However, good audio speaker cables are simply those that are flexible, tough as old boots, and of quality hardware with well-soldered connections that meet the minimum standards for proper transmission while minimising signal loss. Many of these are found in local hardware shops, electrical wholesalers, and online stores. Online sites such as eBay offer faster shopping and lower prices than do many brick and mortar stores, along with varieties to suit every budget, speaker, and taste, from the discerning purist to the buyer looking for only a decent speaker cable.

A breakdown of audio speaker cables, together with what affects signal loss and what is done to prevent it, helps the consumer make a wise purchase. Add a few more helpful tips, including how to buy audio speaker cables on eBay,, and buyers can easily find and purchase the item they need.

Important Features of Audio Speaker Cables

An audio speaker cable is simply two stranded copper conductors covered with insulation that connect the output of the audio amplifier to the loudspeaker terminal. The audio speaker cable is available for both analogue and digital speaker systems, and its purpose is to move an electrical signal from one component to another while minimising signal loss. Signal strength is lost through electromagnetic interference and radio frequency interference which results in popping sounds and buzzing. The lower the quality of the speaker cable, the less the protection it offers from outside interference. Cable performance is determined by resistance, capacitance, and inductance, amongst which resistance outweighs the other two factors. Further considerations include cable length and cable termination.

The Conductor

The conductor is the wire that carries electrical signals from one end to the other. Audio speaker cables need bigger wires because of the large voltage signal they carry. Copper is the go-to conductor the world over for audio speaker cables because of its low resistance and reasonable cost when compared to other elements, while metals like silver and gold have their uses but are not cost-effective.

Gauge

Gauge is the size or width of the wire conductor: the lower the gauge number, the higher the wire’s current capacity. Sometimes gauge refers to the number of strands inside the cable. The thicker the wire conductor, the greater the current it can handle when compared to thinner conductors, thus consumers should go for the thickest wire they can afford. The British or Imperial Standard Wire Gauge, or SWG, is still used as a measure of electric wires in metric standard. Though not as popular as it once was, the SWG’s standard dimensions, as shown below, are still useful:

Standard Wire Gauge

Inches

Mm

7/0

0.500

12.700

6/0

0.464

11.786

5/0

0.432

10.973

4/0

0.400

10.160

3/0

0.372

9.449

2/0

0.348

8.839

1/0

0.324

8.236

1

0.300

7.620

2

0.276

7.010

3

0.252

6.401

4

0.232

5.893

5

0.212

5.385

6

0.192

4.877

7

0.176

4.470

8

0.160

4.064

9

0.144

3.658

10

0.128

3.251

11

0.116

2.946

12

0.104

2.642

Electrical Resistance

The most important characteristic of a good audio speaker cable is minimal electrical resistance, as about 75 per cent of the speaker cable’s performance is affected by resistance, and resistance wastes power. Resistance is also easy to eliminate, however: users can minimise resistance by avoiding unnecessary terminations, ensuring all connections are clean and tight, and being sure that any solder joints are smooth. Since resistance is proportional to the cable length, minimising the length also reduces resistance. Only after resistance has been dealt with can other wire issues, such as capacitance and inductance, be addressed.

Capacitance and Inductance

Capacitance is the ability to store an electric charge. It occurs between any two conductors separated by an insulator, as in the case of audio speaker cables, but is a very minor factor in the cable’s performance. Inductance is a conductor’s resistance to changes in the current and is the hardest to minimise.

Cable Type and Length

Cable length also affects performance: increasing the length of the audio speaker cable causes degraded performance and efficiency through signal loss. Thus, a knowledgeable consumer measures out the lengths of audio speaker cable they need including the lengths for running over furniture or doorways before shopping in order to have only the minimum cable length they require, with some allowance for any margins of error.

Speaker Cable Termination Type

Audio speaker cable terminations are mostly for the user’s convenience, but they give a slight resistance to corrosion and a solid connection for the speaker cable. It is important that the audio speaker cable wires are terminated properly to avoid electric shorts. Before buying terminations, one should look at the type of terminal on the speaker and receiver, and buy terminations that match the terminal. The two types of terminals are 5-way binding posts and spring clips. Five-way binding posts are screwed down and accept banana plugs, spade lugs, pin terminations, and bare wire, while spring clips have a clamping mechanism that makes them suitable for pin connectors and bare wire terminations.

Banana Plugs

Banana plugs are a popular choice because they are easy to plug and unplug for those who prefer to disconnect from time to time, yet they offer a solid connection with a binding post. Dual banana plugs have both positive and negative leads and are spaced to fit correctly into 5-way binding posts.

Spade Lugs

Spade type of termination offer a tight, air-free conducive surface when screwed down to the 5-way binding post. If the joints are airtight, they prevent oxidation.

Stripped Bare Wire

The advantage of using stripped bare wire is that it has no extra hardware and thus no solder joints that might rust or go bad. It also has the most surface area contact with the terminals and thus, a better signal if installed correctly. On the down side, bare wire comes loose more often than do other termination types and also runs the risk of oxidation.

How to Buy Audio Speaker Cables on eBay

Buying on eBay is simplicity itself with all items sorted and tagged such that a simple keywords search on the homepage results in myriad choices, which you can then filter down to specific requirements. For example, the results for searching for ‘audio cables&’ can be filtered through type like ‘single-wire&’ or ‘bi-wire&’ speaker cables, ‘connectors’, or even ‘cable length’. Read the description carefully, noting the item’s specifications such as gauge, conductor type, and cable length. Also look out for any stylish features that you fancy, for example, white audio speaker cables are said to blend into modern decors with ease. Look for audio speaker cables with terminations attached unless you prefer to cut the cable yourself and attach them, which would require buying the terminations separately.

When you have decided on some items, go through the feedback other buyers have left for the seller. This gives buyers an idea of how quickly the seller posts the items as well as how they respond to questions from buyers. Some local sellers offer same-day shipping which means you might have your cables in hand before the day is out.

Conclusion

Before anyone puts a dent in the budget for a high-end audio speaker cable, it is a good idea for to know what it is that they are paying for. This can only be achieved by deliberating on what constitutes quality when it comes to the different components of audio speaker cables. Perceptive buyers consider features such as electric resistance, capacitance, gauge, cable length, and terminations offered by the cables in the different brands available and within their budget to come up with what they need. There is no perfect audio speaker cable with zero interference: this is why the job of the conductor is to reduce signal loss, thus beyond a certain point, one cannot improve the performance quality of a good speaker cable, and what a buyer is paying for is the difference in material cost used in its construction. Stores such as eBay offer products in a range of quality and price in order to match the needs of all shoppers, and the prompt shipping of items results in a speedy, pleasant, and virtually stress-free shopping experience.

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