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?
A: First of all, let me open with my standard warning about so-called high-end speaker wire. It is a shameless rip-off. A speaker wire either works or it doesn't work. Spending more on it — amounts that can reach thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars — makes no difference in the quality of the sound that comes out of the speakers. If it did, it would be easy to prove. But every scientifically controlled test has conclusively demonstrated that people can't tell the difference between expensive speaker cables and ordinary speaker wire.
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 for that; it's adequate for a 48-foot run. A 100-foot roll of 16-gauge speaker wire is only $11.98.
I heard from a reader who was working with a dealer who had allocated $250 of the reader's $1,000 budget for wire. I suggested that the reader spend $15 on speaker wire and $15 on interconnects and put the $220 saved into something that would have lasting value and truly make an audible difference, such as better speakers or a more powerful amplifier. I recommend visiting 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.
There are a couple of situations in which I can justify spending a little extra for speaker connections. One is when you are concerned about appearances and you want something nicer than ordinary wire strung along the base of the wall, so you might opt for cables. Also, if you change components a lot — which I do as part of my review process — it's worth investing in cables with solidly built soldered connectors. The best value I know of is SoundPath Ultra cables from SVS at svsound.com.
A 25-foot pair of beautiful, heavy-duty SoundPath cables with banana plug or spade connectors is only $139.98. I say "only" because Nordost Odin will sell you a 25-foot pair for $110,000. The $109,860 you save can be used to construct a building with an acoustically optimized listening room. That will make a difference you could really hear.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.