Speaker wire sounds complicated, especially for people that have never installed it. But in truth, speaker wire is no different from electrical wiring. You have the same concerns, including:
- Gauge – You can get speaker wires in different gauges. A higher gauge (lower number) translates into a thicker cable. The gauge shows you the amount of current the wire can handle.
- Resistance – The current encounters resistance in a speaker wire. Thicker wires have less resistance than their thinner counterparts.
- Length – Length and resistance go hand in hand. You need a higher gauge to run a long speaker wire. This allows the current to flow easily.
- Material – Many contractors must choose between aluminum and copper when hunting for speaker wire. Copper is more conductive, but aluminum is cheaper and lighter.
As you can see, speaker wires and electrical wires have many similarities. In fact, contractors use speaker wires in the place of electrical lines but only to operate low-voltage devices. They will melt if you pair them with conventional appliances.
Running Speaker Cables with Speaker Cables
What happens when you run audio cables next to other audio cables? Nothing will happen. While the practice is messy, it won’t affect the audio quality. Speaker lines don’t generate electromagnetic fields in one another when you run them side by side because the wires are shielded. Don’t hesitate to run them through the same conduit.
Running Speaker Wires Next To Electrical Lines
This is a problem because it causes interference. The power in the electrical wires will induce a current in the speaker lines. This interference manifests as a hum. A higher current will produce a louder hum.
Balanced cables are less likely to annoy you with this interference. But even if you have unbalanced cables, some contractors have argued that any interference generated by an electrical wire is not significant enough for most people to notice.
Interference is not your only concern. NEC 300.3(C)(1) prohibits consumers from placing speaker wires and higher-voltage wiring in the same enclosure unless the speaker wire’s insulation is rated for the higher-voltage circuit.
How Close Can Speaker Wire Be To Electrical Wire?
15 inches are adequate. I recommend you to aim for at least six inches.
How To Run Speaker Wire Safely Without Interference?
It depends on the type of interference you want to prevent. Pay attention to the symptoms. They will guide you:
- Crackling occurs when you have loose connections and damaged wires. Connection issues can also generate popping sounds.
- Hissing and humming originate from electromagnetic interference resulting from electronic wires and devices in the vicinity.
- Experts blame buzzing on grounding issues.
Once you know the source of the interference, you can apply the following solutions:
- Keep speaker wires and electrical lines separate. Maintain a distance of a few inches between them to minimize interference.
- Cross electrical and speaker lines at 90-degree angles.
- If speaker wires must run next to electrical conductors, place them in a shielded conduit.
- Use magnetic shielding foil. Aluminum foil is cheap. Cut the material into strips and wrap the speaker wires to protect them from interference. This procedure is time-consuming, especially for individuals with extensive speaker cabling, but it works.
- Many homeowners are quick to buy expensive speaker wires that prevent interference. However, you can also do the same for your electronic appliances. Buy shielded cables for everything that generates an electromagnetic field. That includes TVs and lights. This allows you to pair electrical and speaker wires in an enclosure without influencing the audio quality.
- Prioritize balanced cables. They are designed to prevent interference by rejecting non-signal noise. You don’t have to worry as much about crossing the wires at 90 degrees if you have balanced audio cables.
- You can improve sound quality despite the interference by elevating the cables off the floor. This lowers the capacitance.
- Pay attention to the cable type. Speaker cables can overheat if you run them through enclosed environments with poor ventilation. Cable Organizer encourages consumers to prioritize CL2 and CL3 cables. They can survive inside a wall without overheating. Make sure the speaker lines in question are UL-rated.
- Limit the length. A longer cable has higher resistance, which, in turn, degrades the audio signal. Lines shorter than 100 feet shouldn’t concern you. But if you’re tempted to exceed that limit, look for a higher gauge. Usually, 16AWG is more than sufficient.
- Where length isn’t an issue, the thickness isn’t as significant as people think. Enthusiastic audiophiles will tell you that thicker speaker wires improve audio quality. But in truth, the layperson won’t notice. A higher gauge can only improve audio quality when it compensates for the resistance in a longer cable.
- Pay attention to the health of the speaker wires. Replace torn and worn-out lines. Damaged speaker lines are not necessarily dangerous. However, that damage will make the interference more noticeable.
- Make sure each cable is secure in the speaker. Loose connections will make interference worse. Tug on the cord gently. This will tell you everything you need to know.
- Wind Up Radio has also suggested changing the position of the cables in the speaker. Moving the wires around may eliminate the interference or reduce it to a point where you can’t notice the hissing and humming.