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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Does speaker wire gauge matter when wiring a cabinet?

Discussion in 'Glowing Bottle Tube Amp Forum' started by sbpark, Dec 25, 2013.

  1. sbpark

    sbpark Friend of Leo's

    Feb 10, 2009
    The West
    I rewired a Marshall 1960A slant cab years ago with heavier 16 gauge speaker wire and could swear I heard a difference, but it could all be in my head!

    I ask because I recently picked up an unloaded mid 1960's Band Master cab that I will be loading a vintage C12NA and C12RI. The cab came with a wiring harness that looks like lamp cord. Should I just use this harness or use something 'better'?

  2. paratus

    paratus Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Dec 2, 2010
    If it is good shape use it!

  3. gitlvr

    gitlvr Friend of Leo's

    Aug 18, 2008
    Northern Va.
    Most lamp cord to my knowledge is 18 ga. I doubt you'll see significant difference between that and 16. I'd use it.

  4. Revv23

    Revv23 Friend of Leo's

    Oct 9, 2009
    IMO not a big deal, but I might get some real speaker wire over lamp cord. It's not like a guitar cord where small things affect your signal. Big power is going thru your speaker wire, is just make sure you are 16 - 18 gauge or lower. I used 12 gauge in my Marshall cab which is probably overkill but I'm anal like that.

  5. 6942

    6942 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 15, 2006
    Santa Fe, NM

    I've wired up all my DIY guitar speaker cabinets, using 16 gauge zip cord.
    NO problems whatsoever.

  6. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    Zip cord is fine, for the few feet of wire in a cabinet you could probably get away with 22 gauge although 18-16 are nice sizes to work with. 14 or 12 are unnecessary and will gain you nothing.

  7. orangedrop

    orangedrop Friend of Leo's

    Aug 20, 2010
    New York
    But they always go on and on at Gearslutz about "that air" from the Van Den Hull cable.

    It is good stuff, but I wonder what "toneshaping" is taking place from each cable tested due to their capacitive loads.

    What gauge is the wire in most output transformers, or in some amps, the circuit board trace from the transformer to the PC mounted jack?

    22-24 GA?

    The bandwidth of a bass or guitar cabinet doesn't exactly make use of any subtle differences in specialty conductors like silver tinned wire or teflon insulation.

    At least that I know of.

    Any good high purity copper will make for nice long lasting connections and shun surface oxidation.

    That is the one difference between zip cord and a higher purity copper.

    However I find the oxygen free cable sounds less airy!:lol: get it?

  8. SamClemons

    SamClemons Poster Extraordinaire

    Jan 23, 2011
    Jasper, TN
    Signal loss is more a function of length rather than width. In short runs, virtually any gauge will work. It is when you are making 50-100 foot speaker runs you need the heavy stuff.

  9. steveneddy

    steveneddy Tele-Meister

    Jan 16, 2012
    OK - here's another take on this subject.

    Say you have a great sounding amp - an amp head let's say for illustration purposes.

    You run a high quality speaker - thick guage 14-16 or so - good high quality connectors.

    Then -

    You have the cab wired with medium or low quality wire - thinner than the cable going from the head to the cab.

    Will you hear a difference? Are you looking for the best tone - or just want to get the amp running?

    If it just doesn't matter to you then use whatever you got in my opinion - but - I use a good quality speaker cable - the same stuff I would use on my PA - in my speaker cabs and combo amps.

    If you are really pushing that amp and you have utilized good quality cable inside of the cab then you can rest assured that you aren't losing any tone there.

    But - tone is subjective.

    Wire it with as many different types of wire that you have - record each one - and decide which one you like the best.

    Take each wiring job out to the gig - in a real life situation - and see what you think.

    I usually trust the company I buy the speaker wire from to be using a type of wire in their cable that sounds good. So I purchase PA speaker cable already made up with ends in 100 foot lengths - it's cheaper that way most of the time - and cut what I need from that. I reuse the ends for something else.

    As long as it's a good pure copper wire and not aluminum wire coated in copper - than I'm OK with it.

    There - my two cents.


    Regarding tone - tone is the culmination of many different high quality components - with a few low-fi bits added in - because it results in a tone of a specific rig that sounds good to the individual at the time.

    I can tell the difference between the fact that I am using my Evidence "The Forte" cable or my Mogami 2524 cable. One sounds brighter than the other.

    It depends on which amp I take that night - what effect board I am using that night - or am I just going guitar-cable-amp?

    I don't go nuts on speaker cable - just buy good quality cable - and keep everything else in good shape - your tone will come along just fine.

  10. sbpark

    sbpark Friend of Leo's

    Feb 10, 2009
    The West
    Ha. Well, I just ended up re-using the original wiring harness that was in the cabinet. It's from 1967. I'm cheap.

  11. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    And what is the impedance of six feet of 18 gauge? How much loss does it cause?

  12. steveneddy

    steveneddy Tele-Meister

    Jan 16, 2012
    I never worry about any "loss" or impedance.

    The point of my long rambling post was to simply say that if you don't have speaker wire and you are rewiring a cabinet - or building a new cabinet with no speaker wire available to reuse - then use good quality wire.

    Why guess at if this or that is going to work or sound good?

    I don't.

    I just purchase and have on hand good quality speaker cable for wiring cabinets. I know that it is good pure copper wire. I know the quality is good and that it should outlast the cabinet AND speakers.

    So - instead of measuring things that probably don't matter - just get a known good product made for the application - and go for it.

    The other point I was making is that if you have several types of wire to try and you want the best "tone" out of your rig and you believe the speaker wire will make a difference - then wire the cabinet with each type of speaker wire you have - then go out and play a gig or record it and listen back. And finally use the wire that you think sounds the best.

    And ultimately use what sounds best to you.

    I buy Rapco cables because they use Belden speaker cable - which is a good quality speaker cable. I use the same stuff for my PA - I just order 100 foot lengths and put my 1/4" and Speakon ends on myself.

    And this is the same cable I use for wiring the speaker cabinets we build. I just know it is good stuff - it is a 14 guage wire - it is pure copper - and it sounds good.

    What does it measure? Who cares. The point was just use a good quality cable and be happy. Spend your time chasing tone elsewhere - like:

    * shield your guitar well
    * try different tubes
    * try different speakers
    * try different cables from your guitar to the amp
    * try a differnt power supply on your pedal board
    * closed back or open back cabs - or both
    * tilt back or not

    So many things affect your tone - as long as everything in the chain is a good quality component and all of the components are in good working order - then your "tone" will always be good.

  13. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    But how do you know what is a good product for the application if you do not know what makes a difference or not? And how much is 'pure' copper? Pure of what? Is 99.9% considered pure? Or is 99.99%? And how does that change the signal to our speakers? Can I go to my local hardware store and buy 'good' wire? Or can I pull out the wire from the harness of my broken down dishwasher and use that? How do you know how much is good enough?

  14. paratus

    paratus Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Dec 2, 2010
    Hi Printer,

    I have read enough of your posts to know you know your stuff.

    For others, low dc resistance is where it's at, made of copper, stranded not solid.

    If zip cord has a problem, it is that after a LONG LONG time the insulation MAY crack.

    16 AWG will get it done for most speaker cabinet wiring situations. If you are looking at a 4 ohm load with more than 100 watts of power, you can splurge and use AWG 14. For lower power heads and higher impedance loads, 18 AWG is just fine.

    I don't care if someone wants to be a cable cork sniffer, but there is no need when you are wiring guitar cabs.

    Of course, YMMV!

  15. orangedrop

    orangedrop Friend of Leo's

    Aug 20, 2010
    New York
    you know as well as I that it depends on the alloy of the wire or what it is plated with :p

  16. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    Yeah that is about the only fault I have with the stuff, but it probably will last even longer in a nice protected environment like a cabinet. My point is more about the copper anyway, and how much of it. Audio is not the most demanding of application, if it needs special treatment heaven help us with high frequency or digital. When we were running our PA's we were using 16 or 14 gauge extension cord wire (not zip cord but cabtyre), we just cut the ends of a 100 ft cord and put some jacks on them.

  17. BartS

    BartS Friend of Leo's

    Feb 18, 2013
    St. louis MO
    I know a bit about cabling. Studio wiring, stereo wiring, guitar wiring, house hold wiring, ect. Speaker wiring in an amp is going to be a bit different than something like xlr. xlr cables your going to want to use a good shielded quad cables. The signal and power to mic wires are actually two wires twisted running through a braided sheild. no rf interfierance ect ect.

    Your not wiring a studio. Getting fancy with it will make it sound worse. if you know what your doing use a couple of coat hangers, 18 guage, 16 guage, lamp cord, romex, Whatever. If you want to go or need to go sheilded wire that's fine. The perecent copper isn't going to make a difference. I can't really explain how fancy wiring would sound. I just know it with my ears. You probably wouldn't be able to hear it but it would make it sound more like a toy instead of a guitar amp.

  18. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 20, 2007
    Newbury, England
    Over here we would use lamp cord too. The name here is mains twin flex cable. Note not "bell cord" because that is a single solid wire that snaps after it has been bent a few times. Several forms of insulation depending on purpose, none of which matter because speakers are low voltage.
    Often sold by current carrying capacity because that is directly related to its cross section area (CSA), irrespective of voltage. We don't use wire gauge for this now.
    10A is 1.0mm^2 for power up to 2.40kW
    16A is 1.5mm^2 for power up to 3.84kW

    Both the above are thin wires but will carry far in excess of any Marshall cab system I've ever come across. Use the thicker one but only because it is mechanically stronger, often used for outdoor power tools, bright orange doesn't get mixed up with co-ax stage leads either.
    Mains cable is good quality copper. "Profession low noise speaker cable" is added BS. Simply put, mains cable is better for this job.


  19. cleanman

    cleanman Tele-Holic

    Dec 16, 2010
    Detroit, Michigan
    The sound that comes to your ear from your guitar amp is the result of EVERYTHING that came before it. Some things have a more obvious impact than others, but I don't think any reasonable person would design a high performance car and throw crap tires on it. Putting better quality cable on is unlikely to make things sound worse. Bigger differences may be noticed by improving the mechanical aspects of your cabinet. Making sure your speaker is really tight to the cabinet. Tightening all cabinet screws. Running a small bead of silicon between the cabinet and and speaker. Superglue the screw holes to harden particle board. Things need to be really tight.

  20. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 20, 2007
    Newbury, England
    I don't make hamburgers and fries :D

    My point? - good heavy gauge mains cable is more than good enough for the the most extreme application, it's the same copper for wires they use in aeroplanes, zero defect essential. It is made in bulk so the price is low, it is even made by Belden if you must, other companies make good wire too. You can get it from Farnell. If you want to know how good a wire is, measure it and test it. That's what I would do. I'm a professional scientist.

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