Check Does Splicing Speaker Wire Reduce Overall Sound Quality
When wiring up your home theater or stereo system, you may need to splice two speaker wire runs together to reach your speakers from the amplifier. This has many home audio enthusiasts concerned that splicing will degrade sound quality compared to a single continuous wire.
In this article, we’ll examine whether splicing speaker wire truly impacts the audio performance. We’ll also look at best practices for splicing to get the most transparent signal transfer.
Understanding Speaker Wire Splices
Splicing refers to cutting a speaker wire and joining the cut ends to another wire or extension using some method. This allows extending the total length or repairing damaged wires. Common splicing techniques include:
- Twist-and-tape – Twisting ends together and covering with electrical tape
- Wire nuts – Enclosing ends in a twisted wire connector
- Crimp connectors – Crimping metal sleeves over the wires
- Soldering – Heating and melting solder to fuse wires
When done properly, these methods all produce a secure physical join between wires. But what about the electrical join?
Resistance and Impedance Effects
Being broken and reconnected, splices represent a small increase in the resistance and impedance of the overall speaker wire run. However, for typical home audio lengths this is insignificant. A few extra ohms makes no audible difference in sound quality or volume.
Heavy-gauge oxygen-free speaker cables already have very low impedance of just a fraction of an ohm per foot. A small splice only adds a tiny amount to the total wire impedance – far below any threshold that would alter sound.
The Impact of Wire Length
Long speaker wire runs can begin to impact audio at extremes. Once you get beyond 50 feet, especially with thinner wire gauges, the natural resistance lowers damping factor and high frequency response.
However, a typical 10-20 foot home theater wiring distance is nowhere near long enough for length alone to affect sound, let alone a couple inches added by a splice.
There is some belief that a spliced joint degrades the conductivity compared to pure copper. This depends on the quality of the splice method used. Properly soldered copper wires flowing metal to metal can transfer signal as well as one continuous strand.
Twisting bare wire ends reduces surface area contact but is adequate for most applications. Even lower quality joins still provide sufficient conductivity for the low currents and resistance in speaker wire at home audio lengths.
Oxygen-Free Copper Matters
Using high-purity oxygen-free speaker wire does help minimize any potential impact from splicing. OFC coppers transmits signals freely with less resistance and distortion compared to copper clad steel wire.
Quality OFC speaker wire sustains signal transfer even across small impedance bumps like splices. Avoid extremely cheap copper clad wires more prone to audio artifacts from splices and connections.
Proper Splicing Technique
Following the proper technique for your chosen splice method ensures a transparent, noise-free join in the speaker wire.
For soldering, heat the wire junction thoroughly until solder fully penetrates both wires. Allow cooling completely to finish the strong conductive joint.
With twist-on connectors, ensure the bare wire insert fully into the connector end and twist until firmly fastened. Tug gently to confirm it won’t pull apart.
When taping twisted wires, stagger alternating strands to maximize surface contact before tightly binding with electrical tape.
Testing Speaker Wire Splices
You can actually measure the resistance using a multimeter to test spliced wire yourself. Compare the resistance of a single length to one with a splice.
Attach the probe leads to the far opposite ends, placing red at the positive terminal and black on the negative side. The meter reveals overall resistance which should only change by a tiny fraction of an ohm.
You can also do a listening test, splicing different wire runs and lengths for each speaker. Listen critically for audible differences. Any variance in sound will be negligible.
Impact on Bi-Wiring and Bi-Amping
When bi-wiring or bi-amping speakers using multiple speaker wire runs, splices should be avoided. The idea is each channel flows uninterrupted end-to-end for their dedicated driver.
Since bass and treble outputs remain isolated in bi-amping, a splice could slightly alter the separated frequency response. Stick to unspliced wire pairs for bi-amp connections.
Splice Sparingly and Only When Necessary
To minimize connections in general, only splice speaker wire when you absolutely need the extended length or have no other way to service hard to reach locations.
When required, use high-quality twist-on connectors or make strong soldered joints to keep resistance negligible. But otherwise splice sparingly and rely on continuous wire lengths for the purest unbroken signal path.
Maintain Proper Polarity
One final key consideration – properly match positive and negative wires when splicing. This maintains correct polarity through the wire run for in-phase stereo imaging.
Mixing up polarity by splicing positive and negative together can lead to inverted sound, weak central soundstage, and other phase-related audio artifacts.
In most home audio scenarios, splicing speaker wire together will have negligible impact on delivered sound quality – especially following proper technique. Maximizing wire length while minimizing splices is ideal, but don’t sweat a splice or two done right.