Mixing Speaker Wire Gauges
When setting up your home theater, you want to do everything as correct as possible. You certainly don’t want to run a bunch of speaker wire just to find out that you did something wrong and have to redo all that work. That is especially true if you are running that wire in your walls or trying to hide it throughout your room. One problem we often run into is differing wire gauges. If you have existing speaker wire, can you mix and match the speaker wire gauges or will that affect your sound? Let’s discuss.
How This Can Happen
We often see this question come up when speaker wire has been run in the walls and then terminated at a wall plate (see below). That wire may have been thinner in order to facilitate running in the walls or because it was the only size readily available at the time. This is also often asked when people run one sized wire to one speaker and a different size to another.
If you think about speaker wire as analogous to a water hose, the concern is clear. Connecting a smaller (diameter) hose to a larger one, the smaller hose will restrict the amount of water that can flow. If you are sending a small amount of water, the change in diameter won’t matter (or be noticeable). But with a large amount of water, the change will not only be noticeable but possibly catastrophic.
It is not untrue that a smaller gauge wire (thinner) will add resistance. This can be measured. That said, it isn’t enough to affect the sound of your system in any way. If anything, it will mean that your amp will have to provide a small fraction of a watt more power for your speaker to reach the same volume as it would with a larger speaker wire. Mixing and matching the speaker wire gauges will make no audible difference.
Similarly, connecting similar speakers (front left and right for example) with different gauge wires won’t make an audible difference. Even if you could set up a blind test, you wouldn’t be able to hear any difference. Plus, if you are running any sort of auto-setup program, it will cancel out any small differences. So mix and match away!