Speaker wires may improve the sound of your home audio system, home theater system, or car audio system. We use the term “may” because there’s a lot of debate in the audiophile community as to how much your speaker cable actually impacts the sound of your system. Some folks say they can’t hear any difference, while others say there’s a profound change. 

Speaker cables have made a subtle difference based on our experience testing a few sets, but we’d recommend spending a majority of your effort upgrading your source components (CD players, turntables, etc.) DAC (digital analog converter), and speakers or headphones first. Once you’re pleased with your audio system — for the moment, at least — you can worry about upgrading your cables. 

Speaker cables are an essential part of an audio setup whether you can hear a difference between a premium and budget-priced set or not, so here's how to get the best speaker wires to suit your needs. 

Best Overall: Austere III Series Speaker Cable
Best Budget: Amazon Basics 16-Gauge Speaker Wire Cable
Best for Outdoor Speakers: GearIT 14/2 Speaker Wire
Best for Cars: InstallGear 14-Gauge AWG 100ft Speaker Wire

How We Picked the Best Speaker Wires

Our speaker cable recommendations are based on in-depth research. Here are the factors we considered: 

Materials: The speaker wires we’re recommending are made out of either 100 percent copper and copper-clad aluminum, which is typically abbreviated to CCA. Copper is heavier and more expensive, but can transmit data (in this case music) more effectively between your amplifier and speakers.

Gauge: A speaker wire’s gauge refers to how thick it is. Lower-gauge speaker wire is thicker, which makes it more noticeable and cumbersome to work with, but can carry more information from your amp to your speakers.

Length: The speaker wires we’re recommending come in spools of varying lengths, and you should measure how much you’ll need for your audio setup before making a purchase. You’ll be able to cut the speaker wire to the appropriate length for your project.

Shielding: Speaker wire is protected by an outer layer that prevents it from getting damaged when it’s moved around. In most cases, this outer shielding is made from plastic, which is both durable and flexible. 

Best Speaker Wires: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Austere III Series Speaker Cable

Uncompromised Quality. Austere

Why It Made The Cut: Austere’s III Series Speaker Cables are made from pure copper and designed to last a lifetime.

Specs:
Materials: Copper
Gauge: 14
— Length: 50 feet

Pros:
— Pure copper wire
— Shielding made from custom material
— Lifetime guarantee

Cons:
— Price

If you’re going to invest in a nice speaker wire for your home audio system, you owe it to yourself to get Austere III Series Speaker Cable. Yes, it’s nearly three times more expensive than our second costliest recommendation, but you absolutely get what you pay for. Austere’s speaker wire is made from 100 percent oxygen-free copper, and sheathed in a custom-designed material called SoftTouch that’s flexible, durable, and easy to handle. Austere says the copper it uses has been refined to resist corrosion, which is great because you shouldn’t have to replace your speaker wire on a regular basis — if ever. 

Austere offers its III Series Speaker Cable in 14- and 12-gauge sizes, but we’re recommending the smaller one as it’s designed for projects that require cables up to 20 feet. Speaker wire runs of that length are perfect for use in most music listening rooms, home theaters, or cars. The Austere III Series Speaker Cable comes in a 50-foot spool, which should be plenty for a 2.0 stereo system. If you’re hooking up a surround-sound system, you may need two spools to get the job done. This is especially true if you’re working on a 7.1 or Dolby Atmos setup, which both feature seven speakers. 

Audiophiles know there’s no such thing as a “final system,” but Austere’s III Series Speaker Cables should remain a part of your audio chain for several years. The company is so confident in this speaker wire that it’s backed it with a lifetime guarantee, and will replace your wire if it breaks under normal use.

Best Budget: Amazon Basics 16-Gauge Speaker Wire Cable

Entry Level. Amazon Basics

Why It Made The Cut: Amazon Basics’ speaker wire offers an unparalleled ratio of features to price, and deserves a place in any entry-level audio system. 

Specs:
Materials: Copper-clad aluminum
Gauge: 16
— Length: 50 feet

Pros:
— Available in very long sizes
— Thin
— Price

Cons:
— Designed for indoor use only
— Not made from pure copper

Amazon Basics’ 16-Gauge Speaker Wire Cable lives up to its name, and this frill-free option is perfect for anyone setting up their first audio system. This is 16-gauge wire, which means it’s thinner than any of our other recommendations, which is great if you want to snake it around furniture without drawing attention to your cables. 

This speaker wire is made from copper-clad aluminum, but Amazon says its clear plastic shielding prevents signals from getting distorted between your audio components. This speaker wire’s outer coating is thick enough to prevent damage caused by nicks and scratches, but it’s not designed to be used outdoors. If you have an outdoor speaker project, we have a specific recommendation for that purpose. 

You won’t find a better value in the speaker wire world than this spool from Amazon Basics, and that’s true even if you need more cabling. A 100-foot spool of this speaker wire costs under $100, and should be more than enough for any home audio project. If you’re setting up an audio system on a strict budget, Amazon Basic’s 16-Gauge Speaker Wire should be the first spool you reach for. 

Best for Outdoor Speakers: GearIT 14/2 Speaker Wire

Double-Layer Protection. GearIT

Why It Made The Cut: GearIT’s 14/2 Speaker Wire was built to withstand the hazards of the outside world while also being appropriate for indoor jobs.

Specs:
Materials: Copper-Clad Aluminum
Gauge: 14
— Length: 100 feet

Pros:
— Thick shielding
— Long spool
— Can also be used indoors

Cons:
— Eyesore if used indoors
— Not made from pure copper

If you’re setting up an outdoor audio system, you’d be wise to pick up a spool of GearIT’s 14/2 Speaker Wire. Both the positive and negative wires are shielded in a single PVC shell, which will keep them protected as you snake them underground, or inside your walls if you choose to use this wire indoors. Once you’ve gotten the speaker wire to the appropriate place, you must cut the PVC layer to reveal the pair of wires inside. Both wires are covered in an additional layer of shielding material for additional protection. 

This speaker wire was designed to be used outdoors, but you can use it inside as well. The thick, dark PVC shell is going to stick out like a sore thumb, though, so we recommend using it for wall-mounted speakers, where it won’t be seen as much. Outdoor audio systems vary a little more than indoor ones, and we like that GearIT offers this same wire in four different gauges and has a 200-foot spool. You’re likely to need a lot more speaker wire outside than inside, so you might want to get the larger spool if you’re installing more than two speakers. 

Best for Cars: InstallGear 14-Gauge Speaker Wire

Going Mobile. InstallGear

Why It Made The Cut: InstallGear’s 14-Gauge Speaker Wire was designed to be easily snaked through tight spots, making it the ideal choice if you’re upgrading a car audio system. 

Specs:
Materials: Copper-Clad Aluminum
Gauge: 14
— Length: 100 feet

Pros:
— Thin and flexible
— Soft Touch PVC Jacket
— Fits into car speakers easily

Cons:
— Not made from pure copper

If you’ve decided to upgrade your car’s stereo system, you’ll want to use speaker wire designed with that style of speaker in mind. InstallGear’s 14-Gauge Speaker Wire is our pick because of its durability and flexibility. InstallGear says this wire can be easily routed through nooks and crannies due to its soft touch jacket, which has a “low memory.” This means the wire bounces back if it’s bent, rather than keeping its contorted shape. The PVC jacket used by InstallGear is tough enough not to get damaged while you’re getting it from your car’s amplifier to the speakers, but the company says it’s easy to get the sleeve off when it’s time to strip the wire. 

All of the features that make InstallGear’s 14-Gauge Speaker Wire great for an automotive audio system can also be applied if you use it in an indoor sound system. This speaker wire isn’t designed to survive the outdoor elements, though, so keep that in mind. If you want to buy one spool of speaker wire and be done with it, InstallGear offers a 500-foot option for under $75. Installing a good car audio system can help extend the life of your vehicle while also increasing its resale value, so it’s something you should consider doing if you’re technically included. Just don’t forget to pick up a spool of this speaker wire before you pop the hood.

Things to Consider Before Buying Speaker Wires

Speaker wire vs. speaker cables: When searching for speaker wires, you may also come across results for speaker cables. A speaker cable is a speaker wire that’s been cut to a specific length, and terminates into connectors rather than bare wire. Using a speaker cable allows you to plug the wire directly into your stereo receiver and speakers without doing the work of cutting and stripping a speaker wire. 

FAQs

Q: What does speaker wire look like?

Speaker wire looks like dozens of ultra-thin orange strands once you cut open its outer shielding.

Q: Which is positive and negative on speaker wire?

Speaker wire is typically divided into two strands with a different-colored cover denoting whether it’s positive or negative, so you don’t mess up your speaker’s polarity. The speaker wire’s spool may also tell you which stand is positive and which one is negative. 

Q: Should you solder connectors?

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can certainly solder connectors onto the sides of your speaker wire, turning it into a cable. 

Final Thoughts on Speaker Wires

The speaker wire you use won’t make or break your home audio system, but you’ll need to keep a spool around nonetheless. As you upgrade your system, you may find better cables make a difference in audio quality, but the jump in fidelity will typically be subjective. Yes, there are plenty of places to find histograms that show definitive proof that certain speaker wires offer better response in different frequencies, but at the end of the day what matters is the sound you hear.

This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post. 


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