Car Audio And Speakers: Choosing The Best Wiring For A Connection

This guide covers choosing the three types of wires you will need in your car stereo system: speaker wire, patch cords, and power wire.

So you're thinking about re-wiring your stereo. This can be confusing, and if you don't know what to expect, you could end up spending hundreds of dollars on cable that will not improve upon the sound you already have. Armed with a bit of knowledge, though, you can choose wire that will efficiently carry power where you need it for a relatively low price.

The first thing to know about wiring is that all wire carries some resistance. Since in this case resistance is a bad thing, it is important to choose a wire with low resistance to make your connection. In most cases, lower gauge, more expensive wires will give the least resistance. However, it is completely unnecessary to go out and spend a fortune on $2.50 a foot twisted pair speaker wire if you are only going to have 50 w per channel running through it. If you are going to have 50 or less watts running through a particular wire you can probably get away with some 16 or 18 gauge basic speaker wire. However, for subwoofers or speakers that will handle anything approaching 100 watts, 12 or 14 gauge wire may be necessary. As far as wire quality goes, you probably won't notice a difference if you use lower quality wire to connect speakers directly to your factory head unit. However, if your system has one or more amplifiers, you may wish to invest in some oxygen-free copper wires. One more thing: if you are truly concerned about your wires being a weak point in your system, it is always best to use the shortest amount of wire possible.

Now, if you have ever purchased an amplifier, you have probably seen those fancy silver plated, gold tipped RCA patch cables at the store. Unless you have a problem with interference in your pre-amp signal, forget all about these. You can probably get by with a pair of oxygen-free twisted pair patch cables. In fact, unless you are running a lot of power to a speaker (200 or more watts) you will most likely never hear a difference. If you happen to have a problem with interference in your car, make absolutely sure it is entering the system through your RCA patch cables. In addition, try moving the cables away from any 12 volt power lines or accessories. If this doesn't solve the problem, then consider investing in better cables, but be aware that even with the best cables, interference might still be a problem. Again, you are best off using the shortest cable that will fit your car. Any extra cable acts like an antenna for electronic interference.

As far as power lines for your amplifier go, it is best not to be cheap here. You need to be sure that your amp is receiving good, clean power if you want it to perform at its best. Follow the salesperson's recommendation, and be sure to get cords of the correct gauge to power your amp. 14 gauge cords will power a 100 watt amp, 12 gauge will power about 150 watts, 10 gauge will be good for around 250 watts, and so on. When in doubt, get a cable too big. The most important piece of the power cable is the fuse. The cable will probably come with a fuse, but if it doesn't, make sure you get one, and fuse it before the cable leaves the engine compartment, and again every time the cable splits. Also, the fuse that comes with the cables is a generic size, so be sure to look at the specifications for your amplifier to see what the correct power cable fuse size is. If you are going to be powering multiple amps, you may want to consider running a single, large gauge cable to the location of the amps, and splitting it there. Again, make sure you fuse the line every time it splits.

There are a lot of options out there for wiring your car stereo. Be sure not to get drawn in to high-priced cable that will not make your system sound any better. If you continue to upgrade your system, there will likely be a point where you will need this cable to transmit a high quality system, but until you reach this point be skeptical of the claims many wire manufacturers make.

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