Having a good outdoor sound system is every music aficionado’s dream. However, it requires a lot of time and research to find one that works best for your specific needs.
We’re here to help remove the guesswork in speaker wires so you can build a great outdoor sound system.
What are outdoor speaker wires? Why are they so useful for my sound system? These are questions that we will explain further throughout this post.
We want to help you fully understand speaker wires so you can make a conscious decision when shopping.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Are Outdoor Speaker Wires?
- 2 What is the Purpose of Outdoor Speaker Wires?
- 3 How to Pick a Speaker Wire
- 4 How to Measure Your Speaker Wires
- 5 Single Wire vs. Bi-Wire
- 6 Solid vs. Stranded Wire
- 7 Connection Guide
- 8 Other Tips
- 9 Conclusion
What Are Outdoor Speaker Wires?
Outdoor speaker wires are cables used to establish a connection between audio amplifiers and loudspeakers. As its name suggests, the wires have an extended wire length to ensure all audio equipment is connected.
What makes a good speaker wire? Low resistance. That is why copper is a common choice when manufacturing wires. Also, copper is a low-resistance conductor for electricity, making it great for connecting to multiple devices at once.
A speaker wire should have low inductance and capacitance. Both are less important than resistance but are still crucial in delivering a professional audio sound.
In addition, a speaker wire should have durable and flexible insulation outside the core. Flexibility is also needed to fit the wires into tight spaces. The speakers should have insulation to protect the core from oxidation and electrical interference.
It should be durable enough to not contaminate over time and damage the speaker’s core.
What is the Purpose of Outdoor Speaker Wires?
Speaker wires serve two functions: to reject interference that adds noise to the sound signal and pass through the audio signal clearly. A high-quality cable remains faithful to the original sound material while letting the system perform correctly.
Speaker cables elevate your system’s performance by creating defined bass and improved imaging. In addition, it improves accuracy, transient response, and dynamic resolution through the frequency spectrum.
A good pair of outdoor speaker wires include the following:
- Dielectric shielding for signal purity, noise rejection, and insulation
- Ultra-low capacitance and ultra-high bandwidth
- High-quality materials for long life and secure connection
- Cable wiring or precision metal stranding to maximize ductility and strength
Speaker wires play an important role, so you need to get quality from a brand you trust. But you should avoid overpaying for possible nonexistent or minimal improvements to sound quality.
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How to Pick a Speaker Wire
Multiple factors come to mind when looking for a speaker wire. Here are the most common features to expect:
As a rule of thumb, get outdoor speaker wires that are 20-30% longer than your intended distance. This gives you enough margin of error to help with installation.
This works especially if you’re running the wire through underground piping or through a wall.
Cut some slack for the wiring to reposition the setup or move your speakers if necessary. Also, placing too much strain on the wire will lead to degradation, so it’s a good idea to go for longer wires when setting up an outdoor speaker system.
How to Measure Your Speaker Wires
To figure out how much speaker wire is needed, you should use a tape measurement system. Make sure to take bends and curves into consideration, but don’t worry about it too much.
Start by measuring the distance and add two extra feet for extra differences. Tape measure works, and so does the rope or string you are placing where you want the wire to go.
Mark the length and measure it. Add 1-foot length per wire section for home stereo use and 2-5 feet for outdoor speaker usage. Doing so gives you extra wire space in case the wire has to travel extended distances
Get a pair of outdoor speaker wires within a 12-14 American Wire Gauge rating. The AWG determines the thickness of the wire. The lower the AWG number, the thicker the wire.
That’s why we suggested 12-14 AWG because anything below this thickness will dampen the audio quality.
Think about the distance between your outdoor speakers and your audio amplifier. The longer the distance, the greater in sound quality reduction, and you’ll need a thicker speaker to cover for the higher impedance.
Check for a CL rating before buying speaker wires. The CL rating measures the speaker cable’s electric and fire resistance.
A CL2 rating indicates that the wire can on-wall placement and withstand up to 150 volts. A CL3 rating means that the cable can withstand 300 volts.
If you’re creating an outdoor speaker system, we suggest you go for CL2 or higher. Doing so allows you to use your electronic devices without posing a fire risk to your yard.
This is important for burial-style outdoor speaker cabling that goes from your house to outdoor environments.
Approximately 14 gauge wiring is good for lengths under 100 feet. This is true if you’re looking for burial speaker systems where the wire goes from underneath the ground to your speaker.
While a 16 gauge rating is good for 80 feet and below, it’s still better to use a 14 gauge because it has a higher resistance and less voltage capacitance. This will lead to a better performance from your speakers.
Use a 12 gauge wire for distances above 100 feet. This is because the 12 gauge wire is thicker and has better resistance over long distances, improving sound quality and transmission.
For distances under 50 feet, use a 16 gauge wire. 16 gauge wire is the most cost-effective solution that can handle the voltage with no hassles.
You need to determine where the wires will be placed in your outdoor sound system. Will the cables run along with the ceiling, walls, or through the yard? If you’re installing the speakers through the wall, basic speaker wires will work and can be painted to fit any outdoor decor.
Additionally, you can hide the speakers when running along the walls or baseboards for a clean look. If your speaker is exposed to sunlight, make sure the wire can handle the elements and temperatures of the outdoors.
Once installed, please make sure the speaker wires are secure so that it doesn’t cause an accidental fall. This will protect you from a lawsuit and avoid damaging the wire, which could potentially distort your sound.
It’s important to check the wire material before using any outdoor speaker wire. Copper is the most common because of its low resistance and cost. However, copper is prone to oxidization, so it needs to be adequately secured.
Pure copper creates copper oxide when it is exposed to air. The copper oxide creates a barrier between the speaker and the cable, which therefore weakens the connection.
As copper became more expensive, copper-clad aluminum materials increased in popularity. Each strand has a thin coating of copper with an aluminum core. This wire works, but you’ll need a thicker cable since it has a different resistance level.
Silver has a thinner gauge than copper, leading to less audio resistance. Since silver is expensive, getting a thicker copper wire is more cost-effective. Gold does not oxidize, and it’s used for open terminations. However, its low resistance makes it rarely used for outdoor speaker wires.
Since all materials are metal, the purer the wire, the higher the cost. There are multiple levels of purity available, and whether this brings a significant change to your audio boils down to personal preference. It’s up to you to decide which wire material will work best for your outdoor sound setup.
Terminations are used to add connections to the speakers and sources. Spade plugs and banana plugs are the most common form.
Their main advantages are the easier and quicker connections that can be made when plugged into the speaker terminal.
Also, when installed properly, they create a reliable electrical connection while reducing the possibility of a short circuit.
Speaker Resistance and Audio Quality
Generally, resistance affects the speaker’s performance when the resistance is 5% more than the impedance. The cross-sectional area of the wire and wire length determines the amount of resistance.
Cross-sectional areas are also the thickness of the wire. The lower the wire gauge, the higher the resistance. Therefore a combination of gauge, length, and speaker impedance affects your sound system’s resistance.
The longer the wire, the more resistance it will have. To do this, you want to make sure your speakers are positioned away from each other and minimize the wire lengths. Ensure that the wire lengths have the same distance from the speakers to maintain impedance value.
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Single Wire vs. Bi-Wire
You have to decide whether you want a single wire or bi-wire configuration in your speaker system. If your speakers have a single-wire connection, then single-wire it is! However, some speakers come bi-wired. One benefit of bi-wiring is that it increases the level of detail and a more open sound stage.
On the other hand, single wire speakers have more musical coherence. Again, this is a subject that audio purists can argue with, but bear in mind that bi-wire configurations are more expensive than their single wire counterparts.
Solid vs. Stranded Wire
Speaker wires are created out of stranded wire. This means it’s created out of 16-60 tiny copper strands. It’s easy to add connectors or stripping the wire by hand. Solid wires only use one conductor.
Since industrial & home electrical wires use it, you might think you should use a solid wire for speakers. On the other hand, solid wire is a bad choice for your audio speakers. But why?
Solid wires are good for homes since they remain stationary when installed. However, it’s difficult to bend in place and receives constant vibration like a truck or car. Also, solid wire is hard to strip, so it’s not a good idea for your outdoor speaker wire.
Connecting your outdoor speaker wires can be difficult at first. Here’s how to set them up properly.
- Identify the negative and positive leads in your wire. Make sure the wires are connected according to your amp and speaker. If the connections are crossed, the music sound quality will weaken.
- If you’re planning on hooking up without wire connectors, get a wire stripper to remove around ⅜ inch of insulation off each lead. Twist the lead’s bare wire so no extra strands accidentally fall out. Loose strands can lead to short-circuiting, resulting in further damage to your audio components.
Speaker wires can include audio connectors, and all connectors are compatible with speaker terminals. There are two types of speaker terminals: binding posts and spring clips.
Binding posts are used to make strong connections for your speaker wire. To use them, unscrew the binding post collar and install the pin and bare wire connectors. Banana plugs work by connecting them directly into a hole located in the center of a binding post.
Spring clips have more security (you can paste down a clip to place a hole in the wire behind it), making it better for your speaker system.
How to use spring clips? Simply press down the clip, place the speaker wire, and release. There is a spring-loaded mechanism that keeps the wire in place. Further, spring-clip speaker terminals can accept pin and bare wire connectors, but not banana plugs, spade connectors, and dual banana plugs.
You can get speaker wires with 2 or 4 conductors. Two conductor wiring is self-explanatory, but you can use four-conductor speaker wire for running cable to a wall-mounted control.
Either way, you’ll have a system that keeps your wires in the correct position.
Getting a pair of high-quality speaker wires is essential for your outdoor sound system. Once you know the wire length needed, go for a wire whose AWG rating is strong enough to support the electrical current.
By taking the time to find a speaker wire, you’ll be able to enjoy HD sound, deep bass, and a professional audio experience.