Can speaker cables be too thick?

Hi folks, I've tried several speaker cables in the past, like the MIT MH-750, Wireworld Gold Eclipse, Ridge Street Audio, Pure Note Paragon and Cardas Golden Eclipse. I've been using these expensive cables until I replace them with ordinary 2x6mm2 OFC copper cables consisting of multiple small gauge solid conductors. These cables have the best tonal balance and they match very well with the speakers (Dunlavy SC-V). I use them in biwire fashion (each cable is 5 ft in length). What would happen if I replace them with even larger gauge copper cables, like 2x8mm2 or 2x10mm2? Would the sound improve further with the larger gauge cables? What sonic characteristics can be heard when the speaker wire is "too thick"?


Honestly is doesn't really matter but yes thicker is in general is ever so slightly better to avoid power loss and enhance damping. However if you want to delve into complexities see this link Cable diameter and spacing

Before you panic, remember that the scales on these charts are so exagerated and effects are so very small that it really doesn't matter.

Some people will try to convince that group delay is a big issue in speaker cables (from self inductance) and some will talk about skin effect....and on and on the hype will run....litz wires you name it - all kinds of solutions. These people are correct about some of the physics and it does matter in RF applications....but they are wrong about the order of magnitude of these effects by up to 1000 at audio frequencies.

For power loss we are talking about tenths of a decibel (for 8 ohm load) and for group delay we are talking two or three hundred BILLIONTHS of a second. And those of you that worry about the group delay differences from low frequency to high frequencies....these are typically 50 billionths of a second. This is equivalent to moving your tweeter ONE THOUSANDTH of an INCH. (Do you imagine that the baffle and tweeter plate holding the tweeter are manufactured to these kind of tolerances? - Forget it)

The fact of the matter is that pretty much any cable should be ok provided you avoid the obvious pitfalls...4 ohm speakers with 50 foot speaker cables of 20 AWG.

This is an independent engineers view. I have no axe to grind as I don't sell cables.
Capacitance, impedance and resistance all affect a cable's sound. Thickness and length of the cable, as well as the construction and materials in the cable will alter capacitance, impedance and resistance.

So, the answer to your question is that thicker cabling will likely sound different, but without specific specs on what you presently have and what you'd like to try, a comparison is impossible.

Higher capacitance generally results in a roll-off of highs, and a more closed-in sound.

The manufacturer of my speakers (Silverline Audio) sells his own speaker cables which he has matched to the speakers. The cables are pretty small, and are comprised of small conductors. He insists that a length of 10-15 feet is optimal, and that anything shorter than 10 feet is not good. I don't know if his philosophy applies to all speaker cables or to just his.
The fact of the matter is that pretty much any cable should be ok provided you avoid the obvious pitfalls...4 ohm speakers with 50 foot speaker cables of 20 AWG.

This is an independent engineers view. I have no axe to grind as I don't sell cables.

Shadorne my friend, just when I thought we were making nice progress on the cable front you take a few steps back.

I understand your zeal for the technical side of cables and measurements, but your mistake is assuming that any of that translates into knowledge about how they actually sound. If you'd spend half as much time listening to cables made with different conductors, dielectrics, gauges, etc... as you spent learning all the techno-theory, you'd find that you are incorrect in your assertions.

You do have an axe to grind in that you seem interested in convincing yourself and others that cables all sound virtually the same- and that's perfectly ok- but you're wrong:)
Quote from Shadorne: " delay we are talking two or three hundred BILLIONTHS of a second." That is even shorter than the lifespan of a muon*!

* elementary particle

"He insists that a length of 10-15 feet is optimal, and that anything shorter than 10 feet is not good."

I've heard something similar (I think from Mapleshade) - that no run should be shorter than 8 feet. Can anybody shed light on this. I might be going from a stereo amp to mono blocks and assumed I would benefit from a shorter run than my current 3 meters.
Shadorne writes:
This is an independent engineers view. I have no axe to grind as I don't sell cables.
Do you perform listening comparisons?

You do have an axe to grind in that you seem interested in convincing yourself and others that cables all sound virtually the same- and that's perfectly ok- but you're wrong:)

No problem Dave, I respect that you and many others disagree on the magnitude of the audible effects of different cables. I know some believe the effects to be extraordinary (this is where I strongly disagree). We won't settle it in a thread anyway and everyone has to decide for themselves.

As for an agenda, axe to grind, or a vested interest in promoting untruths - I honestly don't have any motive other than sharing what I believe/understand to be true. Engineers work under a strict code of ethics and it would be unethical for me to promote or sell extremely expensive audio cables if engineering principles have taught me to believe that the benefits are almost negligible. I do respect everyone's right to disagree and to buy, manufacture and sell the very best high performance cables they can. I respect that other engineers may disagree - we all work and follow our training, experience and conscience. For the record I make no claims at being an expert on audio cables design but I simply understand the basic scientific principles.
I recently had an odd experience. I am not into the technical aspects of electrical phenomena, so no arguements from me.
I use tube monos and decided on short, 1.5m Cardas Ref cables for my Avalons and Audio Physics. After about 3 weeks, it seemed the music was compressed and muddied. No longer had the soulfulness. My audio group agreed.
I tried my old standbys- DIY monster cable with a Home Depot power cord taped together in biwire configuration. (Absolute Sound did a speaker cable shoot out with low, med, very high $ cables. The Home Depot the lowest $. A Sound concluded that it was tought to HEAR much of a difference between the H Dep. and the most expensive cables.)
My cheap DIY monster cable with a Home Depot cord at 15 feet immediatley put the soul, depth, soundstage, tonal balance back into the room for which the Avalons and Audio P are known for.
I don't know if the Cardas were too short. But they were HUNDREDS of dollars more expensive than the cables I am using and will DIFINITELY remain in my system.
You might want to give this approach a chance. if you agree with my take on the matter, you can use that good money for other things.
Good luck!

This should answe3r your thickness issue w/ regard to overkill. He takes a common sense approach, missing in much of what passes for cable "wisdom" today.
I presently own two sets of speaker cables. I could install each of them for comparison, and a listener would have to be tin-eared not to discern a clear difference between them.

There must be some difference in their capacitance and impedance specs related to differences in wire and shielding.

No comment on the performance of the cabling is intended. Each is excellent in its own right.
Can anyone tell me what the sonic characteristics are when you are using a very thick copper cable (> 4 AWG) compared with cables with higher gauge number? A certain Swiss amplifier manufacturer claims that the thicker the copper cable the better the sound. Sometimes 20-30A travels through the cables during very short periodes (kick drum, tympani) even when the speakers seem to be a benign load throughout because in real life with real music a speaker's impedance can vary a lot.

I should perhaps add that it is possible to construct audio equipment in such a way that small cable differences can be magnified.

The principle of audio reproduction is that the voltage coming out of the amplifier represents the amplified original voltage signal (from a recording) as faithfully as possible.

Audio equipment therefore should (in theory) have low output impedance compared to the load being driven (high input impedance) - and it is this "rule of thumb" which preserves the accuracy of the voltage signal between components. In this case, variations in the load become insignificant to the output device and there is negligible signal voltage loss across the output impedance of the driving amplifier: the load sees what it should.

Now ignoring cables for a moment, imagine a load with large varations in impedance with frequency, say from 20 ohms to 1 ohm. Now connect this to a 10 Ohm (high) output impedance amp. The voltage drop across the output of the amp at the lowest impedance point of the speaker will be 10/11 or roughly 91%....this means a mere 9% of the intended voltage actualy reaches the speaker. At 2 ohm load the calculation becomes 10/12 and 83 % of the voltage drop is across the amplifier and the speaker sees 17% of the intended voltage signal. In this case a 1 ohm variation in load causes a near doubling in voltage seen by the speaker. At the frequencies where the speaker load impedance is highest (20 ohms), the drop across the amplifier will be only 10/30 or 30% and 70% of the intended drive voltage will reach the speaker... this is nine times more voltage then at the lowest impedance point.

If you do the same calculation for a 0.01 output impedance amp you will conclude that 99% of the drive voltage reaches the speaker in all cases.

The above is mere "back of the envelope stuff" or gross approximations but it establishes that a high output impedance device will change significantly its driving voltage in reponse to small variations in a low impedance load. And that, unfortunately, includes slight inductance, impedance and capacitance from speaker cables this situation it can become a not entirely negligible factor.

I would suggest that there are ways to design audio equipment so that cables have only very minor effects: speakers that do not have nasty low impedance dips and power amplifiers with low output impedance under all frequency conditions; it is these two conditions are mainly required to minimize the effect of cables. This is also a well known rule of thumb.
I'm sorry, even the Roger-Russel article doesn't provide the answer to the question. Thx anyway for the article.

In long runs, all things being equal other than gauge, thicker cabling may provide better dynamics (see Roger Russell's article), although the benefits of thickness beyond a certain gauge (I believe Roger says 12?) diminish quickly.

In short runs, thicker cabling may result in lack of focus.

Why not buy some copper Home Depot wire and experiment? Double or triple up the gauge as thick as you like, and let your ears decide.
Maybe that's why I don't hear any differences in cables. Because I use good equipment.

Maybe that's why I don't hear any differences in cables. Because I use good equipment.
Rwwear (Threads | Answers)
I suppose the obverse is that I hear differences in cable because I use poor equipment. I can say with certainty that I heard less difference in cabling when I owned a Bryston preamp and amplifier. Good stuff, and many would argue that Bryson equipment is well made with excellent specs, but I prefer the sound of what I now own even if the specs are poorer, as I suspect they are.

Or, perhaps I hear differences in cabling because my system is more resolving, or because my hearing is more acute.

Who can be certain?
Look inside some expensive speakers. The wiring from the terminals through the drivers are as thin as hair compared to the garden hoses some use on the other side. Why, then, after countless hours and dollars on R&D with respect to cabinet construction, custom driver specs, crossover layout and testing ad infinitum would a manufacturer decide to play it lazy when it comes to the guage of the internal wiring? It certainly seems easy to lay a fat cable in there if it made a difference; but maybe knowing the audiophile and his obsessions, they figure what is out of sight is out of mind. Just a thought.
I think everyone here has heard the argument that if something is not heard it's because either we can't hear as well or our equipment isn't resolving enough. That's just too easy and only someone with little confidence in their own judgement will fall for it.

I certainly will not argue that one should not waste one's money. That is up to the individual. Even cable makers need to eat but should they eat better than everyone else?
A lot of the cables out there are the same with different names and prices.
Thick speaker cables are horrible on my system. I don;t care what shape they come in. I have tried the MIT and Cardas you mention. Pick your poison. I cannot believe the trash heavy insulation randomly inserts into the signal path does not deteriorate all systems. I think in most you can't hear it particularly.

10-13-07: Rwwear
I think everyone here has heard the argument that if something is not heard it's because either we can't hear as well or our equipment isn't resolving enough.
Each individual has different hearing abilities, and each system differs in resolution. Therefore, one cannot discount the possibility that these factors contribute to someone discerning differences in cabling...or any other link in a system chain.
I would like to add my two cents, for anyone that's interested.
First, the impedance of the cable and amplifier combination (resistance plus inductance and capacitance) needs to be low relative to the speaker to maintain control - this establishes damping factor.
The resistance of the cable, which is a factor of the wire gauge, will affect the voltage/power of the signal to the speaker. The effect however, is constant for all frequencies, so it affects overall loudness but does not roll off the sound at either frequency extreme.
Next is the capacitance and inductance of the cable. In my experience, cable capacitance is not really a factor at audio frequencies, but inductance is. The inductance of a cable resists the flow of current through it, thus affecting the ability of the cable to pass high frequency transients and affecting the sound. Therefore, cables with lower series inductance will pass the musical signal more faithfully. If you look at Shadorne's link you'll see that it supports this.
I do listen to cables, and my experience has supported my conclusions.
It's unfortunate, but I think if more cable manufacturers published the electrical parameters of their products, more people would be able to associate the differences they hear with the electrical properties and much of what appears to be cable snakeoil would disappear.
This is just my opinion, based on my knowledge and experience, but it does drive the decisions I make when I select audio parts and components, and I am very satisfied with the results I've achieved. :o)
The question is not whether one can hear differences between cables: this subject has been discussed so many times. The question is: do we need very thick copper cables (that is the conductor, not the insulation) for proper transmission of signal, because according to a well respected Swiss manufacturer..., etc. And if one is using "too" thick speaker cables, let's say 4 AWG or thicker, would that give negative impact to the sound? According to Muralman thick speaker cables do have negative impact on his system, but he didn't specify what is getting worse. What is relevant here is not the total speaker cable size due to insulation (it might be as thick as a wrist) but the cross sectional area of the (copper) conductors. Have any of you used 4 AWG or thicker speaker cables btw?

Just to confuse things further, I've found that changing power cords and related power-related "components" -- outlet/receptacles, conditioners, IEC/AC connectors, even fuses -- makes more difference in my system than speaker cables do. More than interconnects and substantially more than speaker cables. Two years ago I would have thought this to be COMPLETELY crazy. FWIW. Dave

Yes inductance appears to be one of the factors that can begin to affect roll-off in highs. Skin effect can do this to (ever so slightly). However, the effects of inductance are still pretty small unless you go to large wire spacings (ribbon cables) and long lengths.

A difficult load (much lower than 8 Ohms) will lower the point at which inductance begins to affect high frequencies.
Oh, I didn't know the copper conductor was the issue. When Dazdax mentions Cardas and MIT in the same line, I naturally thought he was talking about the visual size.

I do not have an opinion on thick cables. I will try that on my bass panels. I found very thin works wonders on the mids and highs.
Thanks for explaining things in such a way that even I could make some sense of it. Given the reluctance of cable manufactures to publish electrical parameters, would it be difficult for someone else (retailers, reviewers, etc.) to independently measure and publish results? Also, why don't amplifier and speaker manufacturers more vigorously address the need for specific properties in connecting cables?
Flat - very thin- should be kept very short. That gives you the best worlds in mids and highs. Even 1 ohm benefits.
I have found when making my own cables that too thick a conductor sounds bad (oddly enough too thick sounding) as does too thin. The range that I have found sounds best is between 18awg and 20awg per solid core conductor with the particular metals that I like. Why is this so? I don't honestly have a clue, I can only describe what I have experienced sonically.

What makes nearly as big a difference is the dielectric (insulation) material or lack thereof. Surrounding the conductor with as much air as possible yeilds the best sound.
Can anyone explain Dave's findings regarding the thick speaker cable? Dave, what was the thickest cable (I mean the largest conductor cross section) you have been working with?

Dave is echoing what I said about dielectrics. There are a number of cable makers that have addressed that concern. The Anti-Cable, a cable I championed, is very good in regards to noise suppression.

The mids of round solid wire are fine, but the highs are rolled off. That affects the mids as well making them overly warm. A very thin flat cable, if kept short, opens the highs significantly, significantly changing the overall character of some music.
Dazz, using a selection of solid core silver conductors that I experimented with, when I got to 18awg I could already hear the sound getting too thick. Beyond that it just kept getting worse.

Remember though, you can't draw any global conclusions from that experiemnt because it is possible that I would have gotten slightly different results using some other metal conductor. I would bet that with any conductor you wouldn't want to go to much heavier than a 17 or 18awg individual conductor.

The way to make a heavier gauge cable then is too use multiple conductors, each individually insulated. But you should take care to minimze the insulation's contribution too.
Muralman, while it seems we agree on the importance of the dielectric contribution, we disagree about the shape of the conductor.

I have experimented quite a bit with round vs. flat or rectangular conductors and my experience is exactly the opposite of what you say regarding high frequency performance. In my own experiments, a round conductor in the ~20awg range resulted in the most extended and open high frequencies.

What actually seems to be most improved by air dielectric is the high frequency range and sense of openness.
Yes, Dave, dielectrics in fine source open systems benefit with air dielectric for just the reason you are describing.

As for round vs, flat I am talking solid wire vs. flat ribbon at 12 gauge. For small wires, I like solid just fine. I use such an interconnect. The highs are everything you want them to be.
Thin-wide (flat) conductors are best for radio frequency signals. The misapplication of this true fact to audio frequency signals is typical audiophile science.

That said, my speaker wires are flat. However, the reason is that they are Goertz, and the two thin conductors are one on top of the other so as to create a relatively high capacitance. The shape of the wire is not a factor.
The proof is in the listening, musical instruments and voices gained a normalcy with decidedly more detail over the round wire. If there are radio signals getting through then I do not hear as well as I thought. The painter that is working in my room now, somewhat younger, says the same.
A frined of mine who is a electrical engineer put togeather a pair of 10" speaker wires made from 6-awg wire. They sounded more detailed but somehow not in a good way? I took them off and went back to my 12AWG wire.. Biggest difference I have heard so far is the change in the power cord.

Happy Tunes
I have made 10 awg cables in a bi-wire setup for my speakers. I did this as an experiment...It turns out that they sounded more detailed and had a much cleaner soundstage than my Nordost Blue Heavens that I was using before. See the cables in my system home. I found these cables to be great, and they didn't take too much work and cost a fortune.

Hi Ben, have you ever done any experimentation with thicker cables (less than 10AWG)? If yes, what are your findings? I'm curious if there is some maximum cable (conductor) thickness that could result in sonic improvement. Surpassing this thickness would not give any further improvement but probably deterioration of sound.

Unfortunately, no. These were the largest cables I could find at the Home Depot that I thought might work...they are typically used for running 220 for stoves and dryers, but seem to make pretty good speaker cables. I could not imagine really needing anything much larger than this. I did think about getting some larger solid core from the HD, but in order to terminate them for audio purposes would have taken a lot of work.