What Cables do I need to complete my Audio System?

Speaker Wire – Speaker cable has two parallel multi-strand conductors. It is designed to carry large amounts of energy. It should be used between the power section of your equipment and the speakers only. The size or gauge of the wire also has an effect on the performance of your equipment. The amount of power used and the length of the cable determines the gauge of wire that you need. Generally speaking the larger the wire the better. Note: Smaller AWG number = larger wire diameter.
IEC carries a wide variety of Speaker Wires.

Maximum Cable Length Based on Wire Gauge and Speaker Ohms at .5 dB Loss


24 AWG 22 AWG 20 AWG 18 AWG 16 AWG 14 AWG 12 AWG
4 Ohm 10 feet 15 feet 25 feet 40 feet 60 feet 90 feet 140 feet
8 Ohm 20 feet 35 feet 50 feet 85 feet 115 feet 185 feet 285 feet
16 Ohm 30 feet 35 feet 40 feet 50 feet 100 feet 200 feet 300 feet

Microphone Cable – There are two kinds of wire used for microphones. Professional microphones use balanced (3 conductor) cables and low cost microphones use cable that is the same as instrument cable (2 conductor). The advantage of the 3 conductor-cable is it has 2 wires that carry the signal and a shield that acts only to carry away the airborne interference. This design allows cable runs of over 1000 feet without noticeable signal loss. The 2-conductor wire should not exceed 20 feet or signal loss and increased noise may occur. If you have a balanced microphone and need to connect it to a 2-wire system (1/4″ jack) you should use a transformer at the 1/4″ end to convert the signal from balanced to unbalanced. Without the transformer, although it will “work”, you have the same effect as a 2-wire system but with some frequency loss. Also longer cable lengths should be avoided. Click here to see our Microphone cable.

Instrument Cable – Instrument cable is shielded which means that it has an inner wire that is completely surrounded by another wire. The outside wire is referred to as the shield. The shield serves the purpose of directing airborne interference, like radio waves or fluorescent light noise, away from the cable. The shield protects the inner wire from these waves. Use this cable in low level applications to connect between components such as guitar to amp, effects to amp, or any areas where “power” is not involved. Do not use Instrument cable for speakers, as amplifier damage or poor performance can occur.

Almost all cases of noise can be traced directly to ground loops, grounding or lack thereof. It is important to understand the mechanism that causes grounding noise in order too effectively eliminates it. Each component of a sound system produces its own ground internally. This ground is usually called the audio signal ground. Connecting devices together with the interconnecting cables can tie the signal grounds of the two units together in one place through the conductors in the cable. Ground loops occur when the grounds of the two units are also tied together in another place: via the third wire in the line cord, by tying the metal chassis together through the rack rails, etc. These situations create a circuit through which current may flow in a closed “loop” from one unit’s ground out to a second unit and back to the first. It is not simply the presence of this current that creates the hum-it is when this current flows through a unit’s audio signal ground that creates the hum. In fact, even without a ground loop, a little noise current always flows through every interconnecting cable (i.e., it is impossible to eliminate these currents entirely). The mere presence of this ground loop current is no cause for alarm if your system uses properly implemented and completely balanced interconnects, which are excellent at rejecting ground loop and other noise currents. Balanced interconnect was developed to be immune to these noise currents, which can never be entirely eliminated. What makes a ground loop current annoying is that the audio signal is affected. Unfortunately, many manufacturers of balanced audio equipment design the internal grounding system improperly; thus creating balanced equipment that is not immune to the noise currents in the cabling. This is one reason for the bad reputation sometimes given to balanced interconnects.
A second reason for the bad reputation of balanced interconnects comes from those who think connecting unbalanced equipment into “superior” balanced equipment should improve things. Sorry. Balanced interconnect is not compatible with unbalanced. The small physical nature and short cable runs of completely unbalanced systems (home audio) also contain these ground loop noise currents. However, the currents in unbalanced systems never get large enough to affect the audio to the point where it is a nuisance. Mixing balanced and unbalanced equipment, however, is an entirely different story, since balanced and unbalanced interconnect are truly not compatible.
The potential or voltage that pushes these noise currents through the circuit is developed between the independent grounds of the two or more units in the system. The impedance of this circuit is low, and even though the voltage is low, the current is high, thanks to Mr. Ohm, without whose help we wouldn’t have these problems. It would take a very high-resolution ohmmeter to measure the impedance of the steel chassis or the rack rails. We’re talking thousandths of an ohm. So trying to measure this stuff won’t necessarily help you. We just thought we’d warn you.