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Is aluminum wire any good as speaker wire?

Posted on 2006-07-06
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Last Modified: 2010-04-29
Can't find answer to this on net, so why not ask here?

Can I run aluminum speaker wire (16-18 ga.) and get good speaker output at the other end?  About 30 foot run. How much loss over copper?  Its too expensive right now. Thanks
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Question by:scrathcyboy
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by:tmj883
ID: 17054995
Aluminum wire is just that...cheap. It is inferior to copper in most aspects of concern, especially having higher resistance that get worse over time as more aluminum oxide forms on the exterior of the wire where most electrons travel. A run of 30ft will have a much higher resistance, a heavy guage will help to compensate.
Unless you are an audiophyle, you most likely will not be able to tell the difference except for an increased work load on the audio amplifier.
T
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by:scrathcyboy
ID: 17055004
"increased work load on the audio amplifier"

How much?  dont want to burn it out.
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jhance earned 250 total points
ID: 17055479
Aluminum wire is actually an excellent conductor albeit not as good as copper.  The only consideration you need to make, for speaker wire at least, is to use heavier gauge wire than you would with copper.  Usually one gauge heavier.  So if you might use 18 ga. copper, use 16 ga. AL wire and so on.

The biggest hangup with AL wire is in the home wiring for electric power.  A number of years ago, before the way AL wire worked was well understood, there were a number of fires caused by what turned out to be improper installation of AL wire.  Today, the effects of oxidation as well undertood and outlets, switches, and other components are designed to work with AL and there are anti-oxidation products that are used to prevent problems.

But none of these are going to be issues with speaker wire.
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by:scrathcyboy
ID: 17055789
Thank you jhance, that jibes well with my experience.  AL wire is only a danger when overloaded with current for the gauge of the wire.  I had heard that there is not a huge signal loss, tho more than copper, and I was hoping it would not be that much loss.  After all, the utility companies now all bury aluminum wire in the ground to run their main power feeds to subdivisions, the thing is, they have learned to make it thick enough not to be in danger of burning up.  I will proceed with the AL install and let you know how it goes.  Stay on the thread until tomorrow, then you can leave - and thanks again.
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Expert Comment

by:Alan Henderson
ID: 17055914
18g wire is 56% of the cross sectional area of 16g.
Copper resistivity is 63% of aluminium resistivity.
Therefore the resistance of a given length of 16g Al wire is significantly less than that of 18g Cu.
Go for it.
The only other caveat is that aluminium is less ductile than copper. It's not an issue if you treat the conductors with reasonable care. i.e. don't bend it into sharp curves more than once - but you shouldn't do that with Cu speaker wire either. You get away with it with normal electrical power cords because they're not single solid conductors, they're composed of many small strands.
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by:scrathcyboy
ID: 17055950
thank you vallis, I would have split points with you, I will catch you next time, that is very useful info.
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by:Alan Henderson
ID: 17056159
You're welcome :0)
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by:scrathcyboy
ID: 17056174
BTW, I would like to let you both know I got the aluminum wires hooked up and the speakers sound great, full impedance range  I think you are right vallis, as long as the wire is one step thicker, it should work just as good.  Many thanks again.
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