What Is the Best Speaker Wire for Car Audio?


Speaker wires are used to connect speakers with amplifiers or radios. They are responsible for transferring electricity to the speakers, and although they don’t produce sound, they contribute very significantly to speaker performance.

But, which speaker wires are the best for car audio? Let’s find out.

Generally, the best car speaker wires are 16AWG to 12 AWG, depending on the speakers’ power. Also, the best speaker wires should be made of oxygen-free copper (OFC).

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Tip: The car audio system can be only as strong as its weakest link, and you do not want speaker wires to be the bottleneck and compromise sound quality coming out of your high-end speakers.

For years I have been using KnuKonceptz wires for both power and speakers, and over this time, they never proved me wrong simply because they offer excellent parameters and functionality.

What Is the Best Speaker Wire for Car Audio?

Generally speaking, the best speaker wires for car audio are these specifically designed for car audio.

While speaker wire gauge is important, speaker wire resistance should be the main when choosing speakers for the best sound quality. Speaker wire resistance, however, will vary according to speaker wire length and speaker output power.

For example, a 16-gauge speaker wire can have up to 50% higher speaker wire resistance than an 18-gauge speaker wire at the same length due to the speaker wire’s higher speaker wire resistance in the same wire volume.

When speaker power is doubled, speaker wire resistance increases by 9% and speaker watts decrease about 6%.

So when choosing speaker wires for car audio, speaker wire length can become an important consideration to ensure that you meet the speaker output power requirements.

As a general rule, the total wire resistance should be not greater than 5% of the speaker’s impedance. 

For example, for the 2-ohm speakers, 16 gauge wire will be good for up to a 12-foot distance between the radio and a speaker, and 18 gauge wire cannot be longer than 8 feet for the same speakers.

The table below shows more combinations to clarify which speaker wires can be best for specific applications.

Wire gaugemax length for 2 ohm speakers max length for 4 ohm speakers
22AWG3 feet6 feet
20AWG5 feet10 feet
18AWG8 feet16 feet
16AWG12 feet24 feet
14AWG20 feet40 feet
12AWG30 feet60 feet
10AWG50 feet100 feet
Maximum length of the speaker wires depending on the wire gauge and speakers impedance

Does Speaker Wire Size Matter in Car Audio?

Size or the wire gauge used for car speakers is directly affected by the speakers’ power, which means if more powerful speakers, the thicker speaker wires should be.

This is the same principle as for the power wires for the amplifier. The higher amperage, the thicker wires you should use.

How Long Can Car Speaker Wires Get?

The shorter the speaker wire distance from the amplifier to speakers, the better the sound quality.

For most car audio systems, 12 feet or less is the most efficient length, but you can go up to 100 feet without a significant drop in quality if you choose solid copper speaker wires instead of the stranded copper speaker wires.

Although more costly, they provide flexibility while routing through complex installations.

The good thing is when it comes to car audio, the length of 100 feet is not often needed unless you do a long, complicated system in a large RV.

The important thing to remember is that the longer the speaker wire distance from the amplifier to speakers, the worse the sound quality you will get.

If you want to achieve some of your best sound possible, keep your speaker wire connection point no more than 20 feet away from the amplifier, and this is considered a reasonable limit for most car audio systems.

With the length of 35-50 Feet, you may notice a drop in the sound quality, especially when used poor quality non OFC wires.

When buying speaker wires for car audio, the most important thing is to make sure they are OFC wires. OFC stands for oxygen-free copper, and it will not degrade your sound quality.

Do not cut off the ends of your speaker wires and just twist them together. Instead, make sure they are correctly crimped before putting them in your car because this can lead to corrosion, faulty connections, and shorts.

Does Speaker Wire Affect Sound Quality?

Speaker wires are often treated as not important, but the truth is that they will affect the sound quality.

So to get the best acoustics or the proper sound stage in your car, it is essential to use high-quality wires, not only from the gauge side but also from the quality of materials used.

What’s Better, OFC or CCA Wire for Car Speakers?

Generally, OFC wires are more suitable for car speaker wires because they enable them to work even in a very high heat environment.

OFC wires can be a bit more expensive, so they are the better option for people who are not on the budget, while CCA wires are more affordable, making them perfect choice if you want to get the best budget quality.

Still, there’s no significant difference between these two types of wire when running your car audio system and standard usage, but OFC wires are definitely upgrade over CCA.

CCA wires have only a thin layer of copper used, so from the size perspective, you have to install CCA wires of a smaller gauge (thicker) than OFC wires.

  • Copper Clad Aluminum (CCA) is an aluminum wire with a thin copper layer outside. CCA wires are the most popular and cheapest because aluminum is much less expensive than copper. The disadvantage of the CCA speaker wires is their lowest conductivity and the highest resistance from all wires types.
  • Higher performance speaker wires are made from pure copper and known as OFC (Oxygen-Free Copper). OFC wires have higher conductivity and around 40% lower resistance when comparing to the same thickness aluminum wire.

The only downside of the OFC wires is their corrosion susceptibility when exposed to air, which you can notice most often at the battery terminals by looking at the clamped ends of the thick power wires.

When you see the green coating on the OFC wire, it means that it has tarnished.

How to Choose the Correct Wire for Car Speakers?

If you want your car speaker wires to last long and sound good, make sure they carry enough power from the amplifier to the speakers. Different cables have different internal wire resistance, and if wires are too thin, they can overheat and burn out.

As a rule of thumb, do not use 16 gauge or thinner cables for an amp that delivers more than 150 watts RMS per channel. With that power, speaker wires should be at least 12 gauges thick. Otherwise, they won’t carry enough energy to your car speakers.

A larger size means lower resistance, and that means better performance. Also, keep in mind that longer cables often mean higher resistance, so shorter wires may be better for you.

But even the best car audio speakers will not show the full potential if connected to cheap speakers or other car audio elements. So, if you are on a budget, there is no point in spending extra money on the speaker wires when you have speakers from a bottom shelf.

Which Wire Is Best for Car Speakers?

Wires that I use, and I am delighted with their quality, and flexibility are the KnuKonceptz. They are not the cheapest ones, but I have found them well worth every dime spent.

They are very flexible and light, which makes it easy to work with them. Knukonceptz is a perfect match for amplified systems where the amplifier will be placed in the trunk of a car, and you want your system to have that nice finished look.

KnuKonceptz wires are thicker and heavier than most typical car speaker wires, but they are more durable because made from oxygen-free copper.

The additional OFC shielding helps to reduce noise from surrounding electrical sources such as the engine or battery.

I recommend this wire for speakers installed in doors or any location where the signal from the amplifier may be blocked by metal framing or some other obstacle.

Is Thicker Wire Better for Car Speakers?

Thicker wires may be advantageous in some car sound systems, especially when connected to powerful car audio speakers.

However, you should not only look at the thickness of a wire but also at its quality. That said, go for a cable with a smaller diameter but higher quality instead of a bigger one if the system you make is not too powerful.

In other words, don’t waste your money on unnecessarily thick speaker wires that will not make any changes to the sound quality.

You should also get the best speaker wire that matches your car’s audio system. It doesn’t matter how thick the cable is if it can’t deliver power from the amplifier to the speakers.

For example, you may need different cables for running front and rear speakers. Most front component systems may require lower gauge cables, while rear channels, often with coaxial, less powerful speakers, may work ok with thinner wires.

How Do You Know What Gauge Wire to Use for Car Speakers?

The gauge (AWG) you’re going to need depends primarily on speakers or subwoofer power rating (Wattage) and the length of the wires you’re about to install.

If you want only to install a direct replacement of the factory speakers in the car, then a 16-gauge (AWG) speaker wire is more than enough for this task.

When it comes to powerful subs, you might need something thicker like – 12 or 10 AWG, perfect for large amps that deliver high amounts of current. 

In other words, for speakers with power below 100W RMS, you can use 16 to 18 gauge wire. For 100W to 200W RMS speakers, 12 or 14 AWG is enough, and if you’re installing speakers with a power of 300 W RMS or more, then 12 or 10 AWG wires are more than enough for this task.

When it comes to the subwoofers, speaker wires must be thicker. Otherwise, the sub will not play well, and too thin wires can melt.

For subs with power over 500W RMS, use 8 to 4 AWG and for stronger than 1000W RMS, use 6 to 4 AWG wires.

How Long Should a Car Speaker Wire Be?

The length of the speaker wires is important not only for safety reasons but also because the proper wire length is needed for optimal performance.

You can always cut wires to a desired length, but leaving them too long may degrade sound quality. It’s best to make exact measurements of the car and buy speaker wires according to those measurements.

You do not want too long wires lying inside the car, but I tend to add around a foot extra to any measurement I make.

Remember that it is better to have a wire a foot too long than an inch too short. For your system to perform at its optimum potential, use as much wire as possible without having them hanging everywhere inside of the vehicle.

Speaker wires are available in different lengths that vary from 5 to 100 feet, but I always buy the bulk 100 feet packages. This way, I do not have to scrap so many unusable short ends that I paid for.

For example, both speaker power ratings (RMS and MAX) take into account speaker wire resistance. Longer speaker wire carries less electrical current than short speaker wire, causing lower efficiency in most speakers with higher impedance.

Generally speaking, longer speaker wires decrease the efficiency and increase the damping factor of a speaker system. This is an important factor when you plan to build a high-quality car audio system.

Which Wire Is Best for Car Speakers?

Wires that I use, and I am delighted with their quality, and flexibility are the KnuKonceptz. They are not the cheapest ones, but I have found them well worth every dime spent.

They are very flexible and light, which makes it easy to work with them. Knukonceptz is a perfect match for amplified systems where the amplifier will be placed in the trunk of a car, and you want your system to have that nice finished look.

KnuKonceptz wires are thicker and heavier than most typical car speaker wires, but they are more durable because made from oxygen-free copper.

The additional OFC shielding helps to reduce noise from surrounding electrical sources such as the engine or battery.

I recommend this wire for speakers installed in doors or any location where the signal from the amplifier may be blocked by metal framing or some other obstacle.

How Many Watts Can 16-Gauge Car Speaker Wire Handle?

16-gauge car speaker wires are not recommended for high power systems.

They can start to heat up when you have an amplifier that can output more than 100 watts RMS per channel into an average 4-ohm speaker. With more than 100W RMS per channel, it is recommended to go with 14AWG speaker wires.

How Many Watts Can a 12-Gauge Wire Handle?

12-gauge speakers wires are the most popular ones because they can handle hundreds of watts without heating up too much. You can safely use them in 4-ohm load car audio systems with up to 300 Watts RMS per channel.

So if you plan on upgrading your system further, this is the speaker wire gauge you should use, but you do not need to add them to every audio system you make.

These types of wires should only be used when upgrading factory car audio systems with strong speakers. In other cases, 14 or 16AWS will be enough.

The downside is that 12 gauge speaker wires are more expensive and sometimes difficult to install in all cars, especially when running them through tight corners in the car chassis.

Can You Use 14 Gauge Wire for Car Speakers?

14 gauge speaker wires are not needed for factory speakers powered by a radio. They can handle less power, but their size is used inefficiently. However, 14AWG cables are ideal for relatively high-powered car audio systems with over 100W per channel, and they can deliver top-notch sound quality when properly installed.

These wires are commonly used in OEM car audio system upgrades with additional amplifiers.

What Is the Best Length of Car Speaker Wire?

Distance between amp and speakers varies between car models, and it depends on where in the car amplifier is installed.

Typical speakers that are installed in car door and are powered from the radio need to be approx. 10 feet long. Wires for speakers in rear doors will have to be longer because of the distance from the radio to the speakers’ terminals.

Although a 10 or 20 feet length does not make any difference in the sound, long wires may create unnecessary interference and cost extra money that you could use on something more valuable than hidden oversized speaker wires.

Do Car Speaker Wires Have to Be the Same Length?

In normal car conditions, speaker wires do not have to be the same length. Car speaker wires are designed to be flexible enough to install the car audio system wherever you want, and their length should not limit connections.

For most cars, it is impossible to make speaker wires of the same length simply because each speaker has a different distance from the radio or amplifier.

Do Expensive Speaker Wires Make a Difference?

Well-made and top-of-the-line wires can be expensive, but you can expect them to serve your car sound system for a long time.

Overall, it’s worth investing in good car speaker wires, mainly because of the harsh and changing conditions they have to work with inside the car.

Do not forget about constantly changing temperature, humidity, or constant vibrations that torture the speaker wires. It is therefore recommended to have wires that can handle those conditions without failing.

As you can see, wires for car speakers are essential, and in the long run, high-quality cables will serve you better than cheap ones.

Years ago, about half of my speaker wire kit rotted out in just a few months. I was using cheap wires and ignored details. Fact is, good wires were out of my budget by then, but today wherever possible, I am replacing wires together with speakers.

Are Expensive Car Speaker Wires Worth It?

Having powerful speakers and amplifiers requires the rest of the car audio components to handle this power. Speaker wires are not different, and although their price can vary, their quality comes together with the cost.

I am not saying that you should spend thousands of dollars on the short speaker wires, but having a top brand like KnuKonceptz or Voltive in the car will put your sound system to the next level.

On the other hand, if you go for average quality car speaker cables, they will not last long. In addition to that, their performance is mediocre, and they may not provide speakers with the same signal quality you can expect.

Can I Use Electrical Wire for Car Speakers?

Electrical wires used at home are not recommended to be used as car speakers wires.

They can handle much less power, and they could even damage your car speakers if you try to use them as speaker wires. Also, typical electrical cables are usually not shielded, which can be dangerous for car audio systems.

Of course, if you have installed weak factory speakers and no amplifier, you can connect the speakers using an electrical wire, but this should be rare and never made for powerful car audio systems.

Can You Use Automotive Wire for Speaker Wire?

Automotive wires are nothing else than electrical wires, and although they can transfer electricity, they are not the best option for speaker wires.

Automotive wires work fine in warmer environments, and they are used in many factory car audio systems. They are, however, often too thin and do not transfer enough current needed by the powerful speakers.

If you need car speaker wires and at the same time don’t want to spend any extra money on new cables, then consider using an automotive cable but as the last option and for the factory speakers only.

The best car speaker wires are those with thicker gauge wiring, capable of transferring power to the speakers without any issues.

Can I Use 9 Conductor Speaker Wires for Car Audio?

Multicore wires are another option for car audio systems.

These wires have multiple copper conductors inside one insulated casing, which can be very helpful if you need to install several speakers and run only one wire, for example, between the radio and trunk.

Cores for these cables are usually color-coded so that the positive wires will be black or white and the negative cables will be green or yellow.

Their insulation material is PVC (Polyvinyl chloride). These multicore car speaker wires have a thinner shield, making them more flexible but easier to break than other cables used in car sound systems.

An excellent example of the multicore wire that you can use for car speakers is the Audiopipe, with a length of 40 feet that is flexible and well shielded.

Can I Run Speaker Wire and Power Wire Together?

Distance between the cables is especially critical in a car because it is a metal box with little to no insulation, and it can create a lot of noise coming out of speakers.

There are three main types of wires used in car audio systems:

  • speaker wires
  • power wires
  • signal wires

The best option is not to run power and speaker wires together. I prefer to separate all types of cables to reduce the risk of any buzzing noise coming out of the speakers.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are few types of wires that you can use for car speakers.

Choosing the correct wire for upgrading your car speakers depends on many factors like prices, availability, and how difficult it is to install the given wires in your particular system upgrade.

If you want to use 12 gauge speaker wires (which is usually more expensive) instead of 16 or 14, make sure they are flexible enough for your needs, read instructions before installing them, and not damage your car speakers.

Martin

Welcome to ImproveCarAudio! I am Martin, and I love to write about everything related to car sound systems. I strive to provide the most accurate and helpful information about car audio through extensive research, as well as my experience with car audio installations.

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