Does expensive Speaker Wire sound better?

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How much difference speaker wire makes in a stereo system is one of the more entertaining topics you can bring up in any online forum. Both sides of speaker wire quality issue drag up tons of data to prove their respective points.

We're not going to weigh in on the speaker wire fray on this blog but rather give you some "sound" speaker wire advice. (pun intended)

Some questions to ask yourself when choosing speaker wire.
  • Can you hear the difference between expensive speaker wire and zip cord or standard 16 gauge speaker wire?
  • Can you afford $4 a foot speaker wire?
  • If you choose really thick expensive wire can you run it where you need without the size being in the way. (btw... don't run normal speaker wire in ceilings or walls, it is usually against local codes)
On the first question you should know many people (most?) can't hear the difference between an uncompressed music file (a CD) and a variable rate 160 kb/s MP3 file. Don't believe me? Check out Do Higher MP3 Bit Rates Pay Off? There are other studies that also support this. So one has to ask, if it's unlikely you can hear the difference in MP3 vs CD's how can you hear the difference in speaker wire. But, as you'll see in the forum posts I point to later there are folks that claim to have lots of data to support that there is a difference.

The second question is an easier one. If both your kids need braces and you don't work on wall street, get over to Home Depot and buy some lamp cord.

The third issue is also not so easy. If you've never seen Monster Cable or other premium speaker cables it is hard to appreciate how BIG they are. Running this stuff to surrounds could present quite a problem.

We promised some basic speaker wire guidelines so here they are
  • 16 Gauge speaker wire should work just fine for most applications
  • Cut the speaker wire the same length for your Left Right speakers and the same for your surround speakers (this is so you save wire and it looks neat, nothing more)
  • Make sure you've got solid connections on the back of your amp and on your speakers
Now for the speaker wire forum discussion links I promised. If you're not religious about speaker wire, these can be funny!

Does speaker perform better with different wiring?

Speaker Wire for the MISINFORMED


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How a Port on a Speaker Works

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Everyone has seen "ports" on a speaker. Those holes either in the back or front of speakers known as "bass reflex" speakers. These speakers allow air to flow out of the speaker and are designed to increase the bass response. How does the port give a small 6.5" or 5.25" speaker more bass? When the woofer moves back and forth in the speaker cabinet it moves air. The only place that air has to go is out of the port. Great, but how does that increase the bass?

A "tuned port"
Think of an empty bottle and the noise it makes when you press your lips against the side and blow down into it. Depending on the amount of liquid in the bottle and its shape the "pitch" of the sound varies. Speaker designers will change the size and shape of a port in a bass reflex to create a certain pitch caused by the air blowing out of the port. They will "tune" the port to be complimentary to the "roll off" of the natural bass limit of the woofer.

View Ported Speakers

See the chart below. The gray line is shows the woofer would naturally roll off, or diminish in bass around 250Hz. The red line shows what happens when a designer designs a port to play a note at a lower pitch than the speaker can create. Instant deeper bass. The blue line shows what you're ear will hear. Instead of the speakers bass dropping off totally at 250Hz it drops slightly then rebounds from the sound coming out of the port and diminishes from there.



When done correctly a tuned port on a bass reflex speaker can create wonderful noise. The only way to tell is listen to a few bass reflex speakers and find one you like.


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