Worth Replacing Speaker Wire on a HTIAB?
February 9, 2011 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Is it worth switching out the wires on my home theatre system?

I recently purchased a Denon 5.1 home theatre in a box system, at around the $400 price point, so definitely not high end. Is it worth replacing the speaker wires it came with with something "better"? If so, what would a reasonable price to pay on new wires be?
posted by modernnomad to Technology (15 answers total)
According to this reasonable-sounding guy, it depends on the gauge of the wire you have, and length of the run you require. The reasonable wire to buy is cheap stuff of appropriate gauge.
posted by fritley at 9:34 AM on February 9, 2011

No, it's not worth it.
posted by The World Famous at 9:41 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

No. It's not worth it. Even if your system cost ten times as much as it did, it wouldn't be worth it.
posted by Jairus at 9:44 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's sometimes worth it--i.e., if the wire that came with your kit is as light as headphone wire. But the "upgrade" is just to heavier gauge cheap wire. For longer runs, I've just used lamp wire bought in a big spool from Home Depot.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:49 AM on February 9, 2011

Maybe. It depends.

Do you already have the new wire lying around the garage, or would you go out and buy it? Is replacing the wire an activity that you'd enjoy (or, if it isn't, what's your time worth?)? Will you someday upgrade the components, and, if so, is running speaker wire the kind of thing you only want to do once (this may be the case if, for example, you wish to run it through walls or something)?

But really, like others say, it's probably not worth it.
posted by box at 10:01 AM on February 9, 2011

Yeah, gauge is the thing. If you're running your subwoofer off 30-ga headphone wire, it'd be worth investing (four, maybe five dollars) in a spool of heavier gauge lamp cord.

"Premium" cables like Monster are just a ripoff.
posted by xedrik at 10:04 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

If it's relevant, the current wires are an extremely thin gauge, comparable really to a typical headphone cable.
posted by modernnomad at 11:32 AM on February 9, 2011

I'd imagine there would be very little benefit in switching the wires. The manufacturer's goal is for you to not return the thing, so it's unlikely they're going to include wires that would make the sound bad. Similarly, if spending a few extra pennies [at their scale] to include lamp cord instead materially affected consumer satisfaction, I'm sure they'd be including larger wire already. My Sony home-theater-in-a-box [6 years old] came with pretty thin wires, which I used, and everything sounds just fine.

That said, larger wire certainly wouldn't hurt, but if you decide to change it buy plain old bulk lamp cord [18 ga?] at Bob's Pretty Good Hardware Store.
posted by chazlarson at 12:54 PM on February 9, 2011

No. Expensive wires are pure unadulterated scam. Heavy duty zip cord is all you need.

In a recent test, "golden eared 'experts'" couldn't tell the difference between $1,000-per-foot cables and a straightened out wire coat-hanger.
posted by KRS at 2:33 PM on February 9, 2011

Regular lamp cord is just fine. This page seems like a good read. Particularly interesting is the part about the president of McIntosh Labs calling B.S. on the boutique cable industry in the early 1980s. Any budget set aside for expensive cable is best spent on better speakers or a bunch of records instead.
posted by TrialByMedia at 3:18 PM on February 9, 2011

I came in to say lamp cord also.
Not from the cheap lamp your aunt Mildred used in her sitting room , but some good stuff from the hardware store.
The termination is also important. Solder connections instead of crimp, if possible.
You don't need the gold connectors, but they look nice.
posted by Drasher at 6:49 PM on February 9, 2011

Shielding is important too. Lowering the noise floor can often yield significant gains in dynamics, depending on the quality of the rest of your equipment.

And btw, cable performance can be measured. I doubt anyone here who says "it's a rip-off" has ever done any serious listening or testing to different cables of varying quality. You are getting opinions disguised as definitive facts disguised as answers to your questions.

Spend 10% of your home theater budget on cabling, I recommend.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:57 PM on February 9, 2011

I doubt anyone here who says "it's a rip-off" has ever done any serious listening or testing to different cables of varying quality.

I have. It's a ripoff.

If you're running reference-grade everything top to bottom, with XLR interconnects throughout and a fully isolated power supply, all in an acoustically clean room, then yes, with good ears and knowledge of what to listen for, you can perhaps hear a difference between hardware store lamp cord and high-quality, shielded cables.

If you're hooking up the home theater system you got at Best Buy, lamp cord is all you need.

If someone claims they can hear the difference between lamp cord and Monster Cable on a home theater set bought from Best Buy, I have some power balance bracelets they might be interested in as well. ;)
posted by xedrik at 9:44 PM on February 9, 2011

I doubt anyone here who says "it's a rip-off" has ever done any serious listening or testing to different cables of varying quality.

It's a rip-off. I'm a professional music producer and I have built multiple recording studios and done extensive serious listening and testing of different cables of different quality.
posted by The World Famous at 9:13 AM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

[few comments removed - please answer the question and don't just snark at other commenters. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:06 PM on February 12, 2011

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