Q I'm confused about what gauge of speaker wire to use. Do the different gauges have to do with the distance and size of speaker? I'm planning to buy the Insignia NS-B2111 speakers for my surround-sound system and want to make sure I wire it properly.

M. YOUNG, Atlantic City, N.J.

A Different speakers and lengths of wire require different gauges. The size of the speaker does not matter. What matters is the resistance, or impedance, given in ohms.

The rule is the total resistance of the wire should be less than 5 percent of the rated impedance of the speaker. Your Insignias are 8-ohm speakers, which means 16 gauge is good for up to a 48-foot run (per speaker). Speaker wire of 14 gauge is good for an 80-foot run, and 12 gauge is good for 120 feet.

A useful wiring chart can be found at audio engineer Roger Russell's site (www.roger-russell.com/wire/wire.htm). He also goes into great detail discussing speaker wire and the scams associated with it. It's a must read if you are putting together a sound system.

Would you believe that there is speaker wire selling for more than $1,000 per meter? Using hyper-expensive speaker wire is like filling up your toilet tank with bottled water at $1.29 per pint, in the hopes it will flush better. Copper is copper and electrons are electrons, and no amount of made-up pseudoscience by the wire companies can change that.

If you are putting together a sound system, buy inexpensive wire and use the money you save for something that makes an audible difference, such as a better pair of speakers or nice stands to place them on. You'll not only get better sound, but true value for your hard-earned money.

Olympus a good choice Q My sister and I are thinking of getting macro lenses (spring flowers and all) and aren't quite sure where to look. Everything we find seems to be for Nikon cameras, and we are not sure what's compatible with our Olympus E-510 cameras. We're wondering if we made a mistake getting Olympus, even though we love our cameras. Do you have any suggestions?


A You definitely did not make a mistake getting the Olympus. It is one of the best systems for macro photography. Olympus microscopes are some of the finest in the world -- the company knows about making optics for close-up imaging.

Fixed focal-length lenses are definitely the way to go for macro photography. I strongly recommend that you buy the 35mm/3.5 Olympus Macro Lens. You can get it for $200 from One Call (www.onecall.com) or B&H (www.bhphotovideo.com).

All digital SLRs these days take fantastic images, and you will hardly go wrong no matter which you choose. You see more products offered for Nikon and Canon SLRs because they are the two top-selling brands. Both make great products, and if you are a professional, they offer cameras and lenses you can't get anywhere else. For everyone else, Pentax and Olympus offer more for the money, with image stabilizers built into the camera body, noticeably better kit lenses and higher quality construction throughout.

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