What type of cable should I use for my in-wall speakers?
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HTD Multipurpose in-wall speakers can accept 14 gauge cable but 16 gauge should also work well for most installations where individual lengths are less than 100 feet. The High Defnition in-wall speakers can accept 10 gauge wire, but 14 gauge seems to be the point of diminishing returns for most listeners, i.e. you can spend more money for 10 or 12 gauge cable but you probably won't hear the difference. While clear jacket cable is suitable for most in-room speaker installations, if you are running cable behind a wall or ceiling, you need to use UL Class 3 rated cable to be in compliance with most building codes. Class 3 cable will not degrade in extreme temperatures because it uses an extra plenim sheath to protect the cable. The letters CL3 should be printed somewhere on the sheath.
Good cable will make a difference in the performance of your speakers but you shouldn't have to take out a second mortgage to get them. Most speaker cable is simple in design because it carries a hi-level or powered signal so it does not require much "shielding" to protect it from interference and hum. On the other hand, audio interconnect cables transmit a line level or non-powered signal from one component to another (such as from a DVD player to a receiver or from a receiver to a powered subwoofer) and are at high risk for interference and thus require a good amount of shielding.
Good speaker cable should adhere to the following three principles:
1. Oxygen Free Copper should be used. Copper of 99.9% or higher concentration is used in most speaker cable today, but to officially be considered "oxygen free", it should be 99.99% pure. Extra, and more costly, processes are used to get to this level which is one reason speaker cable is more expensive than typical copper cable. Look for the letters "OFC" printed on the cable or packaging. Poor quality copper will deteriorate fairly quickly and the conductivity can be reduced to the point that it is noticeable in the speaker's performance.
2. The thicker the cable, the better. A cable's overall thickness is measured by gauge. The lower the gauge, the thicker the cable. HTD recommends using 16 gauge or thicker cable. In general, the longer the cable run, the thicker it should be to minimize signal loss. While Level TWO and Level THREE cabinet speakers can handle down to 8 gauge cable, we have found that the point of diminishing returns seems to be around 14 gauge for most listeners. This means that it becomes difficult to justify spending significantly more on thicker cable for the tiny amount of improvement in speaker performance- an improvement most listeners won't detect.
3. The higher number of strands used to produce the gauge of the cable the better. Speaker cable typically consists of many small wires twisted together. Because electrons flow along the surface area of the copper wire, more surface area means less signal loss. And more strands means more surface area. Further, something called "gap flux" that occurs between strands needs to be minimized and the closer together the strands the smaller the gap flux.
HTD offers a complete line of quality speaker cable that excels in all three points discussed above.