Learning, Wiring,

What Gauge Speaker Wire for Subwoofer (Guide)

Choosing the right wire for your subwoofer is extremely important as it is the most power-consuming part of your sound system. When playing with such high wattage, a small mistake can turn into a big problem if you are not careful.

For anything that crosses a thousand watts, the recommended size is usually at least 12 AWG. However, you should still do all your research and cover all your bases along with whatever it is that the manufacturer is recommending, both in terms of quality and thickness.

In this guide, we will share a lot of useful information regarding subwoofer wiring, so make sure you go through it all.

A lot of different factors come into play when it comes to deciding the speaker wire gauge for your subwoofers. The general rule is to opt for a thick wire so you have the least possible resistance. Using the American Wire Gauge (AWG) is the easiest way to decide which wire size would meet your needs.

man connecting the red wire of the speaker

Is 12 Gauge Speaker Wire Good for Subwoofers?

This is a simple question that many people installing large subwoofers ask. While installing your audio system, you are not just thinking about the individual component but also the entire system working in unison. The perfect combination would make sure that you are not losing any power when the system is running while avoiding creating an overkill wiring setup.

For most amps that use up to 600 watts of power, the recommended wire size to use is 12 gauge. This should power up your amplifier nicely while providing it with plenty of headroom to avoid any overheating problems.

As for the speakers, they can be surprisingly powered efficient, or simply produce smaller loads like 50 or 60 watts. While some people may go beyond that, for most typical users, this can be enough. In this case, a speaker wire gauge of 14 or 16 should be sufficient to run them without any issues.

black and red wire on the gauge speaker

Is 14 Gauge Speaker Wire Good for Subs?

You can choose from a range of different wire gauges for your subs, depending on the power they require. 12 AWG, 14 AWG, and even 16 AWG can do the job depending on the wattage of the subwoofer. However, you might want to go with a bit thicker subwoofer wire for systems that require more power. For the subwoofer wire for units that have an impedance of 2-4 ohms, you can easily use the wire gauges mentioned above.

The subs that go beyond the 1000w mark tend to require thicker wires, though and a cable of 8 gauge wire thickness should do the job for most high-powered subs. Say you have a system of 5000 watts that carries a subwoofer with an impedance rating that is lower than 2-4 ohms, you could make do with a 4-gauge wire as well. Ultimately, the final decision is based entirely on the system’s overall requirements and the subwoofer being used together.

DYNAUDIO brand of speaker with subwoofer

Is 22 Gauge Speaker Wire Good Enough?

Making a strong connection between the amplifier and the speaker is essential if you want to ensure you are getting full power. If you were to do a 40-foot run, a 22 gauge wire would be too weak for the job.

It would have very high resistance and the power being delivered from the amplifier would be consumed by the wire itself instead of getting delivered to the speaker. This can be damaging to the system and even create a fire hazard as the wires would get too hot when trying to deliver a large current pull.

The target is to get at least 90% of the power being sent by the amplifier to the speaker, so you need to use a thicker wire. For most speakers, a wire of at least 14 AWG should be used if you want to achieve that percentage while ensuring that the wires do not overheat or deliver reduced power to the speakers.

4 dismantled subwoofers

Is Thicker Gauge Speaker Wire Better?

The fact is that speaker manufacturers do not provide any matching wires with the speakers and the user needs to arrange it themselves. However, if you are using a good speaker that is not a knock-off, you might even get some information on the recommended wire gauge. Even if you don’t, the speaker technician you use for the job should have the requisite knowledge to attach the right wire size for the speakers you are using.

If you are doing a DIY job and are not sure, do not forget to consult an expert to avoid any problems.

To answer the question, the general rule about wiring should be enough to get an idea. The thicker a wire is, the less resistance it is going to have, thereby sending more power to the speakers and the subwoofer. Of course, that also means that you should not overkill on the wires and opt for the wire that properly matches the wattage of your system and individual components.

CTSOUND brand of speaker

What Gauge Do You Need?

Choosing the right wire is all based on the amount of power they need to deliver. Find out what the power consumption is for your individual components and the overall system. Once you know these details, you can look up the recommendations given by the American Wire Gauge (AWG) system which provides wire thicknesses based on the wattage they can handle.

Whether you are using a high-powered system or doing a long wiring run, you need to use wires that have low resistance and that is something directly proportional to the thickness of the wire. The thicker a wire is, the less resistance it will have.

For high-powered systems, speakers with lower impedance ratings, or longer wire runs, you need to use thick wires. For most common systems, 12-14 AWG wires should do the job. However, you may want to go even thicker if the wiring run is particularly long or the system requires unusually high power. Even for those, 8-10 AWG wires should be enough for almost all cases.

How Much Wire Do You Need?

This is a simple measurement that you can figure by using a measuring tape and taking measurements for each component. One thing that you must do before you start measuring lengths is figured out the places where each component will be installed. Doing this beforehand instead of guessing or estimating can save you a lot of time and unnecessary wastage. An even worse scenario would be not having enough cable.

The ideal thing to do is to place each component in the location where you intend to install it and then measure the length of wire you will need to reach each of them. Be sure to remember that each wire must go under the upholstery and inside the channels of the car to reach the connections. Also, be mindful about choosing routes where the cables can fit. This is especially important when measuring for your main power cable as it would be thicker than other cables. For a longer-than-expected wire run, you might also want to consider choosing a wire that is at least 1 level thicker than the recommended option.

stack of rolled wires in different sizes

What Wire Type Do You Need?

The quality of the wire is also a factor here and for speakers being installed in structures, you need wiring specifically made for the job.

For example, CL3 and CL2 wires are the most recommended wires when it comes to installing speakers on the ceiling or walls.

There might also be the case where you need to put wires underground and for that, you should go for wires that are specifically rated for underground burial. These are better-shielded wires and are usually used for outdoor speaker systems.

The type of wires will also depend on the type of audio setup you have. For example, if you are using an indoor system that has four speakers and an audio control device, a 4-conductor wire can be used which will have one line going from the amplifier to the controller, and then the speakers would each be connected to the panel using a 2-conductor cable. You can also use a 4-conductor wire here for good performance but that is not necessary.

Connection Tips

You can never be too careful when dealing with electrical wires and components. Knowing what you should do and how to do it properly can save you from wasting money and losing working parts through mistakes. The margin of error is almost non-existent with electronics, so here are a few tips that might be useful when installing your audio system.

  • Identify the positive and negative wires correctly and even mark them so you do not mix them up. In addition, you should also ensure that the connection is strong and tight with your speakers and amplifiers. Loose and improperly connected wires can lead to power loss and even cause your audio to sound bad which you do not want.
  • The best thing to do to create a strong connection between your components is to use designated connectors at the end of each wire, so they fit their slots perfectly and do not cause any sound issues or interference.
  • When creating connections, especially if you are going with loose wires, be sure to tuck in all the strands from each wire. You do not want strands exposed or bent sideways, as that could easily short your entire circuit. The best-case scenario would be a fuse blow or a spark but in bad cases, you can even lose your system or cause a fire in heavier systems.

Should You Invest in Expensive Speaker Cables?

This is a controversial topic and tends to cause quite a lot of debate. Many people say that using expensive wiring is pointless as you are only transferring an electrical signal which a normal wire with a suitable thickness can do easily. (1)

However, those who do have expensive cables installed swear by their value and often say that they have noticed a big difference in sound quality. Some even claim that they have also experienced sonic improvements from the expensive cabling.

In our opinion and experience, there is certainly a difference in quality between cheaper cables and expensive cables. However, this difference may not be too noticeable for the average listener. Our advice would be not to skimp out on quality and get the wire that comes with the best build quality and material rating. Beyond that, if you have the budget to get expensive wires then go for it. Otherwise, you can skip on it and go for normal wires to satisfy your needs. (2)

speaker at the back of the car

How Much Space Do Subwoofers Take?

The general rule for subwoofers is that the more power they have, the larger their size would be. While smaller subwoofers may easily fit in your lap, larger subs with a high power rating can take up a much larger space. While the unit itself is certainly big, it also needs a lot of free space behind it to perform optimally. The size also increases at an exponential rate, so you might want to consider that as well.

For example, the enclosure for a 12-inch sub would be bigger than two times the space taken by a 6-inch subwoofer. In fact, if you had two 6-inch subs working simultaneously, they would still not be able to match the sound produced by a single 12-inch sub. These things would matter more to car owners because they have a limited workspace. However, in-home setups, you can certainly accommodate the extra space consumption for a better audio experience.

Wrapping Up

Now that you have all the information you need on speaker wire audio cables, you should be able to find the right cables and do a good build yourself. However, if you are still unsure, then we strongly recommend that you get a professional to do the job for you.

Take a look at some of our related articles below.

(1) controversial topic – https://www.eeducation.psu.edu/
(2) average listener – https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/how-to-go-from-an-average-listener-to-an-awesome-one.html

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About Sam Orlovsky

AvatarCertifications: B.E.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Electric Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Electrical engineering is my passion, and I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. This gives me a unique ability to give you expert home improvement and DIY recommendations. I’m not only an electrician, but I also like machinery and anything to do with carpentry. One of my career paths started as a general handyman, so I also have a lot of experience with home improvement I love to share.

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