The main difference between 10 and 12-gauge speaker wire is that the former can handle more amperage than the latter type of wire.
According to the American Wire Gauge chart, 10 AWG or a wire with 10-gauge has a bigger diameter than a 12 or 14-gauge speaker wire. The diameter of the wire decreases as the gauge increases.
Speaker wires with smaller gauges and bigger diameters are capable of carrying more wattage and amperage. Therefore, a 10-gauge wire can handle the amperage of 30 amps, while a 12-gauge speaker wire has a recommended amperage of 20 amps.
However, 10 and 12-gauge wires have more differences in their sizes.
10 vs. 12 Gauge Speaker Wire – Main Differences
Distance versus impedance
A 10-gauge wire is recommended for wiring speakers over long distances.
This is because this thick gauge wire can carry the required amperage from the power source to the speaker without losing it on the way.
The relative distance in relation to the speaker impedance for a 10 gauge copper wire looks like this:
- 2Ω – 48 feet
- 4Ω – 96 feet
- 6Ω – 144 feet
- 8Ω – 191 feet
- 16Ω – 383 feet
A 12-gauge speaker wire, on the other hand, can carry the right amperage only over a short distance.
This is because this wire has a low amperage capacity, so when used over long distances, the power loss becomes more than the desired 5%.
The recommended length of 12 AWG copper wire used in relation to the speaker impedance is:
- 2Ω – 31 feet
- 4Ω – 62 feet
- 6Ω – 93 feet
- 8Ω – 124 feet
- 16Ω – 248 feet
The resistance of the speaker wires will primarily depend on the length of the wire and how thick the wire is. If you wish to have clear and crisp audio from your speakers, it is important to keep the resistance in the wires as low as possible.
A 10-gauge wire is great at maintaining low resistance when used over long distances. However, a 12-gauge wire may not perform the same at keeping the resistance low at longer distances.
Another major difference between 10 and 12-gauge speaker wires is the price.
A 10-gauge wire carries a premium price than a 12 gauge or other smaller diameter wires. It is because thicker wires naturally have more copper and other components in their construction. For speaker wire, copper is the standard conductor, and using the right amount of copper for the thick wires can add up the final cost.
By comparison, a 12-gauge wire is more affordable since it is not as thick as its counterpart. For similar reasons above, a speaker wire with a smaller diameter means less copper wire in the construction and, therefore, a lower price tag.
In addition to the quality of the sound, AWG or American Wire Gauge system exists because safety is a critical feature in wiring.
A speaker wire with a larger diameter or cross-section can handle a greater amount of amperage or current in a safe manner before it starts to overheat. This means that a 10-gauge speaker wire can carry more power without the risk of overheating or malfunctioning.
A 12-gauge wire, on the other hand, carries a smaller current. So if this wire is used for longer distances where more amperage is required, the wires can overheat, melt and even catch fire which can be dangerous.
The diameter of the speaker wires increases as the gauge number goes down, and this makes a 10-gauge wire capable of carrying more power and performing better over long distances. This bigger diameter speaker wire is also safer and performs better if you plan to wire your speakers at a considerable distance from the power source.
Because a 10-gauge speaker wire is thick, it also has better physical strength and can withstand more rough handling.
However, this does not mean that 12 gauge is a failure. A 12 gauge has a better advantage over a 10 gauge when you need a low impedance speaker over shorter distances. These two speaker wires have their own advantages and drawbacks, but it comes down to your audio needs and where and how far your speaker is positioned from the power source.