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Speaker wire guide

How to choose the right gauge, length, and type

Back of speaker with speaker wire

In a Nutshell

Most speakers don't come with speaker wire. It’s up to you to select the right gauge (thickness) and type of wire for your system.

You can buy speaker wire with connectors or without.

For in-wall or ceiling speakers, you'll need UL-rated speaker wire labeled CL2 or CL3. Read our in-wall wiring guide for more information.

To run wire underground to a set of outdoor speakers,  buy wire rated for direct burial.

Full Story

What gauge do you need?

Wire thickness is identified by its American Wire Gauge (AWG) number. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the wire. Thicker wire presents less resistance to current flow.

Difference in wire diameter from 18 gauge through 12 gauge wire

Relative thickness of wire gauges, drawn to scale (not actual size).

Thick wire (12 or 14 gauge) is recommended for long wire runs, high power applications, and low-impedance speakers (4 or 6 ohms).

For relatively short runs (less than 50 feet) to 8 ohm speakers, 16 gauge wire will usually do just fine. It’s cost-effective and easy to work with.

Ask your advisor to recommend the proper gauge for your installation.

How much wire do you need?

To figure out how much speaker wire you need, run a string from your receiver or amplifier location to each of the speaker locations. Measure the string, and then add a few extra feet (to provide some slack for easier connection to your gear). Then add a few more feet, just to give yourself a margin of error.

What type of wire do you need?

You can buy speaker wire with connectors or without. If you buy wire that doesn’t come with connectors, we strongly urge you to buy banana connectors for at least one end of each wire. Attaching bare wire ends to a home theater receiver is a real pain.  

You'll need CL rated wire for in-wall use.

If you're going to run speaker wire inside your walls or ceiling, you'll need UL-rated speaker wire labeled CL2 or CL3. If you want to install your outdoor speaker wire underground, you'll need wire rated for direct burial. Take a look at our comprehensive in-wall wiring guide for more information.

In-wall wire is available with two conductors or four. With a 4-conductor cable, you pull a single cable over the long distance from your amplifier or receiver to an in-wall volume control in another room. You can then run 2-conductor cables from the volume control to each of the stereo speakers in that location. Four-conductor wire is also good for connecting stereo-input speakers.

Ask a Crutchfield A/V designer to recommend the right kind wire for your installation.

Use 4-conductor cable for wiring volume controls, or for stereo input speakers.

Pull 4-conductor wire to an in-wall volume control (left) or a stereo-input speaker (right).

Building a high-end system?

Look at our wide selection of Audioquest speaker cables. Not convinced that higher-priced cables like the Audioquest models are worth a try? Read the (mostly 5-star) customer reviews. People rave about the quality of the construction and the sonic improvements they hear.

Connection tips

Identify the positive and negative leads of your speaker wires, and make sure you connect them accordingly to your speakers and your amp or receiver. If you get one of the connections crossed, your music won’t sound right.

If you decide to hook up your wire without connectors, use a wire stripper to take about 3/8-inch of insulation off the ends of each lead, exposing the bare wire strands. Twist each lead's bare wire strands tightly, so no stray strands are sticking out. Loose strands could make contact with the cable's other lead and cause a short circuit, potentially damaging your components.

Types of speaker wire connectors

From left to right: bare wire, pin connectors, spade connectors, single banana connectors, dual banana connector.

Speaker wire terminals

Speakers have one of two different types of speaker wire terminals — spring clips and binding posts (see illustration below). Spring clips are very easy to work with. Simply press down on the clip, insert the speaker wire, and release. The spring-loaded mechanism holds the wire in place. Spring clip terminals can accept bare wire and pin connectors, but not spade connectors, banana plugs, or dual-banana plugs.

Spring clip connectors

Spring clip terminals accept bare wire or pin connectors.

Binding posts provide a very solid connection for your speaker wire. Unscrew the collar to reveal the hole used to connect bare wire and pin connectors. Banana and dual banana plugs connect directly into the hole in the center of a binding post. A spade connector slides around the collar and is secured once you screw the collar back down. See our complete selection of connectors

Binding post connectors

  • David

    Posted on 5/2/2018

    I have a pair of Klipsch Reference AW-650 speakers outside and am looking to buy the right speaker wire to run from my receiver inside to the speakers attached to side of house. The length will most likely be at least 50 feet for each speaker. Thanks

  • Eddycurrent

    Posted on 3/22/2018

    I'd like to respond to some earlier comments. One poster mentioned that the speaker wire doesn't need to be different than the amplifier power cable. This isn't correct. You know how some amplifiers are heavy on one side? That is the transformer that modifies the voltage. In a very basic sense, when voltage is "transformed", the current is also changed. Lower voltage results in higher current; see Ohm's Law. Resistance, or impedance, also affects current, or in this case, the audio signal being conducted through the speaker wires. Smaller wires present more resistance, which can affect the audio. #18 wire may well be sufficient for some installations, but not for others. It depends on the length of the wire. A longer wire means more resistance, so a bigger wire gauge would be needed. The smaller wire used by some speaker manufacturers inside the speaker is only a portion of the entire speaker circuit. You may still need larger external speaker wire to reduce the overall resistance. The article is fairly accurate in saying that each individual installation needs to be evaluated to determine what is needed. One size really does not fit all.

  • Chris from DC

    Posted on 2/21/2018

    i have a samsung hw-c770bs (very OLD) and its a all in 1 speaker setup. 2 of my speaker cables are chewed and dont work... would you know the proper gauge i should get? i have no idea what it is. thanks!

  • Dave from Summerville SC

    Posted on 12/8/2017

    I've been wondering if two-conductor wire creates inductive interference that affects the sound quality and that conductors should be separated. Doesn't look good, but who cares.

  • Don from San Clemente

    Posted on 11/3/2017

    On transparent speaker wire with writing on one side, it does not matter which one you choose so long as you are consistent. Personally with my monster cable I use the writing to denote the positive (red) connection, the writing to me indicates a fuller side or positive. As far as direction of travel. That is a silly concept, challenge anybody to test shock themselves with a wire then reverse the wire and tell you if there is a difference.

  • Doan from Budapest

    Posted on 10/28/2017

    Great guide, thank you!

  • Lamont Simpson from Brooklyn

    Posted on 8/24/2017

    On speaker wire with a clear sheathing and both wires the same (copper), is the side with the print or text on it positive or negative and in wiring with a solid line or stripe on one side and printed text on the other, which is positive and negative?

  • Jeffrey Grace from Kearney

    Posted on 8/23/2017

    Blue jeans cable , they sell speaker wire as well as HDMI etc or Morrow Audio they would be the most cost effective and aren't a rip off at all.

  • Rick Hoover Sr. from Mishawaka,In.

    Posted on 8/19/2017

    Well now I'm really confused about speaker wire lol. I currently have a Pioneer SX 2900 receiver from 1990. and a set of Pioneer CS 1725 speakers from 1990 as well. I've always used just the monster cable direct bare wire connection. If I purchase the Polk TSI's 400's what will be the best speaker wire to use and what type of connection would I use?

  • dacapo from Hong Kong

    Posted on 7/8/2017

    scott, ad and chris: I highly appreciate and endorse your correct, logical and scientific answers

  • Rodgen from Drexel Hill

    Posted on 6/19/2017

    Hi, This article helped me a lot, now... I have a question. I am remodeling my kitchen now and i am thinking to put 2 in ceiling speakers that I can control with a volume control, planning to buy also a AVR (Audio-Video-Receiver) , and my budget is $700 for all this...What do you recommend? (Brand, Cable, Audio control etc)

  • Martin Corral from Los Angeles

    Posted on 6/10/2017

    I have a pair of Polk Audio OS70 outdoor speakers and what is the correct speaker wire gauge for these speakers? Oh, i need 140' feet speaker wire to run from the receiver to the speakers and i have a Yamaha R-N602 receiver.

  • Xavier from Le Mars

    Posted on 12/19/2016

    What wire to get if I have a 1000 watt receiver and all the speakers added up are about 900 watts. i plan on wiring it through my ceiling. and also just under the couch. All speakers are no more than 15 feet away. Its 6 ohms.

  • cory from waukon iowa

    Posted on 10/29/2016

    How do I hook up two 4ohm dvc sub's to a box that has one terminal and it says 2 ohm

  • Wayne from Summit Hill

    Posted on 10/29/2016

    Good point, Chris. I just buy 14 gauge lamp cord and it sounds fine.

  • Chris

    Posted on 10/24/2016

    If you ever open a speaker from Klipsch to Paradigm they have basic copper wire inside of them. How would one benefit from running a more expensive speaker cable from the AVR/amp to the speaker, when it ultimately goes to a basic (cheap) wire inside?

  • ad

    Posted on 10/20/2016

    These answer are wrong 18awg is perfect more than enough. 20awg is also ok do not go below 20awg you should be fine for high power audio. Try to get attached wire with red and black indicator than separate wire like electricity cables.

  • emtor from Kapaatown

    Posted on 9/17/2016

    Why would you need speaker cable of a lower gauge than the power cable on your amp?

  • Scott from Chicago

    Posted on 7/14/2016

    I expected better from you Crutchfield. Suggesting that a more expensive product is better simply because of the reviews is just false. For example, the Stereo Review Magazine test that found no sonic benefit between expensive speaker cable and "zip cord" of the same gauge. Or the research by Robert Russell (the former Director of Acoustic Research at McIntosh Laboratory, Inc. and the originator of McIntosh Loudspeakers) that concluded through testing that there is no sound quality difference provided it is of sufficient gauge. I liken your reasoning to what I call Dyso*n syndrome. People who buy Dys*n vacuums rave about them despite their comparatively average independent testing results. If you spend too much on something, you feel compelled to defend/rave about it thus the high reviews on the overprices speaker wire you're peddling.


    Posted on 4/12/2016


  • Rene Sola from New York

    Posted on 11/29/2015

    Just purchased the Onkyo TX 8050 from you guys. I have a question regarding speaker wires? I have the PolkAudio M20. They are going to be placed side by side. What gauge and length should I use? Your advice would be greatly appreciated, thanks.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/16/2015

    Bearto, you'll have to be more specific. What are you installing and where? Keep in mind that if you're just installing new speakers, you can use the existing factory speaker wire that has already been run. So, you may not need any additional wire at all. If you have any questions, give us a call.

  • Bearto from Houston

    Posted on 10/15/2015

    How much feet of wire do i need for a 99 toyota solara? I'm going with knukonceptz 8 gauge. Thanks in advance for the answer

  • ????????? from ?????

    Posted on 8/27/2015

    nice & easy explanation. good job.

  • sheela from Noida

    Posted on 8/11/2015

    beautifully described....

  • Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/1/2015

    Rodell- silver is the better conductor.

  • Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/1/2015

    Larry - the longer the wire, the greater its internal resistance. So if you have wires of different length, less power will reach the speaker through the longer wire. It can create an audible difference.

  • Larry j from Virginia

    Posted on 6/22/2015

    I've been told that wire length between matching speakers ,such as L and R on the same channel should be the same length , it's a given for diameter but length? 'Don't KNOW.

  • Rodell from Home

    Posted on 5/30/2015

    What type of speaker wire is a better conductor copper or silver for good signal

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