Which Speaker Wire to Choose? Part 1: wire for connecting an audio source with an amplifier

The audiovisual perception of any video content certainly depends on the quality of both the image and the sound that your audience hear. AV professionals note that often it is the sound that plays a decisive role in the overall cinema experience making speaker wires a big topic that is difficult to fit into a single digestible blog post. Below, we will talk about choosing a wire for connecting an audio source with an amplifier.

Audio Cables

The quality of your sound system is determined by the quality of its weakest component, including audio cables that are connected to your audio source. We will discuss sound sources in a separate Big Screen Pro post, whereas now let's talk about cables that connect a sound source to a preamplifier or amplifier.
There are many types of cables on the market: different lengths, thicknesses, they are madeof different materials and offer a variety of contact coatings.

Length
When choosing a cable, you need to understand how far your sound source will be from the amplifier -- the shorter this distance, the less loss in quality you will experience and the smaller the likelihood of any kind of radio interference. We recommend that you use a rather shorter cable. Just make sure you also have a longer cable somewhere not far from you as well. Don't forget that the longer the cable the greater its electrical resistance is, and that by choosing too long a cable, you even run a risk of signal loss.



Cable thickness
Many manufacturers make their speaker wires very thin for the sake of overall economy and style. Note that for the cables discussed in today's post this is of lesser importance since the electrical currents passing through a speaker wire are very small and so the wire you decide to go for does not have to be very thick.

The material and quality of the shielding are of greater importance.

Also note that some manufacturers make their speaker wires visually thick simply to make that product stand out from the crowd. It is done with the hope of creating an impression of robustness, but -- in reality -- such cables often have inside them thin, cheap wires that are simply covered with a thick layer of rubber coating. Unfortunately, you can only check this by cutting the actual speaker wire to check what it has under the hood. Luckily, more established speaker wire brands do not allow themselves such a profanity.

Material
Undoubtedly, copper cables are the leader in the cable market. Copper wires have greater conductivity, corrosion resistance and durability. But many manufacturers save on materials and either use copper with impurities -- or a whole other material whose characteristics are far inferior to those of copper.



Shielding

The audio cable consists of right- and left-channel wires and a ground, meaning there are three cables between the sound source and the amplifier: the left channel, the right channel and a ground, which is an interference shield. The quality of this ground wire, combined with the quality of the insulating material around the wires of the left and right channels, directly affects the noise sealing of your entire audio cable. Also, it is advisable that the left and right channels in your wire have their individual ground, for a better noise sealing of each channel. Quality audio cable brands make sure that their product offers exactly that.



Strengthening additional ground
Cables that are moved around every once in a while are subject to constant stress: they are bent, pulled out, they are twisted, which means that they need to be resistant to mechanical stress, in addition to other things. Some manufacturers use a shielding core to ensure the overall durability of audio cables, while pricier brands sometimes supplement the inside of the cable with separate stiffening threads, as well as reinforced material of the outer ground
of the cable.

Audio connector coating
Some manufacturers indicate in the marketing materials that the contact parts of their speaker wires are covered with gold. This info is usually featured prominently on the packaging. No doubt about it -- such a coating conducts current better and it does not corrode. However, very often this is nothing more than a marketing technique. The proportion of gold we talk about here is incredibly small, and the golden color is simply achieved by a chemical reaction during the manufacturing process. Sometimes there is no gold in such wires at all -- and there is no way the consumer gets to know about that.
Renowned speaker wire brands cover audio connectors with an ultra-fine gold plating, which improves the characteristics of the cable and its durability. Yet it also affects the cost significantly.

Noise sealing
A number of manufacturers attach a special ferrite bead on their cables. A passive electrical component made of ferrite in the form of a ring, the bead is used as a filter to suppress high-frequency noise in electrical circuits. The ferrite bead increases the inductance of the section of the wire passing through it by several hundred (up to thousands) times, which provides a desired noise-filtering effect.

So which wire do you go for?

Say, in your car -- if you do not have a premium audio system installed -- you can use a cable with better insulation since the car's generator can produce radio interference affecting cables with poor insulation. Such a cable can be relatively cheap. Just make sure that you purchase a well-shielded one.
If you are professionally involved in outdoor movie events, we recommend using branded cables from trusted speaker wire manufacturers. Find here a list of the ones we recommend:

Basic:

Monoprice Audio Cable 

Belkin Mini-Stereo Audio Cable

Advanced:

Rode SC9

Zeskit Premium 3.5mm Jack Male to Male

Pro:

AudioQuest Big Sur 3.5mm Male to 3.5mm Male

MPS X-9Eagle



To sum up, we always recommend that you have spare cables at hand, even of a lower price segment. They can help you out in all kinds of unforeseen situations, and they can also help you find a root problem while you trouble-shoot by using various cables.

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