Home Theater Forum and Systems banner

Wire Marketing - AWG vs. "Gauge"

36969 Views 7 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  chashint
There is a marketing technique that apparently is designed to confuse purchasers of wire. It is concerns cable size listed as "AWG" vs. "Gauge."

AWG stands for American Wire Gauge overseen by the American Wire Group. AWG cable sizes are standardized based on current carrying capacity (and diameter of the conductor). For instance, a #14 AWG wire from one manufacturer will (or should!) have the same current carrying capacity as a #14 AWG wire from another manufacturer.

Another term "Gauge" without the "AW" is being used to market cable. I assume that "Gauge" is not standardized (someone correct me if I am wrong) and appears to have no correlation to AWG or even from one manufacturer to another.

The result: a #14 "Gauge" wire is almost certainly to have less current carrying capability as a #14 AWG cable. I have seen both terms used recently in speaker wire as well as car stereo power wiring. I hope and pray that this is not going on in electrical cable for house wiring, for if it is someone is bound to have a bad day sometime. (This is almost certainly governed by building codes.)

Also, pay attention to the way the cable is constructed. I don't know if "oxygen free" makes that much difference or not, but copper coated aluminum conductors will almost certainly have less current carrying capability as all copper for the same diameter. This translates into higher resistance with resultant higher voltage drop from one end to the other.

When shopping for cable, don't pay attention to the overall diameter of the cable that includes the cable jacket. It just could be that the cable appears to be larger (or as large) due to a thicker jacket. Instead, peel the jacket back and look at the diameter of the conductor(s).

So, all advertised #12 cables are not the same. If there is a large price difference between Brand A and Brand B, go with the true "AWG" rated cable so that you will better know what you are buying. Also, all copper conductor construction will yield better overall performance than copper coated steel or aluminum.
See less See more
1 - 8 of 8 Posts
Ultimately, it probably does not matter greatly if the wire is even close to 12 awg, as that is overkill for most distances used for speaker wire. But if you want to know what you are buying, it is good advice to ask for the awg. If they don't publish it, assume it is lower than the published number.
AFAIK, "Gauge" was used as an abbreviation of SWG..Standard Wire Gauge and is a term that's used for wire thickness in England and Australia..and possibly Europe..at least it used to be..I haven't seen the term used for a long time..
Ultimately, it probably does not matter greatly if the wire is even close to 12 awg, as that is overkill for most distances used for speaker wire.
Agreed. But 12 "Gauge" might not be. I purchased 100' of 12 "Gauge" speaker wire several months ago. What I got was about the same conductor size as #16 AWG.

I ran into all this again last week when I was replacing the battery cable in my car to the stereo amplifier in the trunk. AWG 8 was about twice the price as 8 Gauge. I paid the extra money to get the all copper AWG rated wire so that I would know what I was getting.
It is unlikely but with the world wide mail order market it is possible that you can purchase wire that is not sized per the AWG standard. However under no circumstances should a wire with a stated gauge size of 12 be anywhere close to the diameter of AWG 16.
Here are a couple of links that describes the the most common wire gauge standards (worldwide) and how AWG got started.
It is a lot harder to buy copper wire with oxygen than it is to buy oxygen free copper wire, for all practical purposes oxygen free is much more of a marketing technique than gauge vs AWG.
You're right on gauge not being a standard. If they are adhering to a standard they will usually specify, as in AWG or SWG. Many different standards use the term gauge for very different sizes. A 12 gauge shotgun shell is .729" diameter while a 12 gauge AWG is .0808" in diameter. I'd stick to suppliers that list the standard.
Yes, AWG refers to the gauge of the conductor without the insulation, whereas the manufacturers using Gauge are referring to just the typical thickness of the wire with the insulation, so they make the insulation thicker.

I've examined a few examples of the differences between them and there are 2 methods used (1 even more deceptive than the other). The most common is as mentioned, simply using thicker insulation over the thinner conductor. Even if the wire is foil-sealed, if you can see the ends of the wire, you can take a look at the thickness of the conductor vs the thickness of the insulation.

The 2nd, more deceptive method (used on at least a few Monster cable products) is to have a plastic center in the middle of the conductor. On cursory examination, it 'appears' like the conductor is the appropriate thickness for the specified gauge, until and unless you notice that plastic center core that the conductor surrounds.

My wire of choice:

True 10 AWG, rope lay makes it very flexible, good price, and I don't ever have to worry about the current carrying capacities for my Focus SE fronts powered by Emotiva XPA-1's and the 25-30' runs to my Boston Acoustics E100 surrounds powered by an XLS2500.


P.S. for anyone wondering, the cable is manufactured by JSC wire & cable and is part # 2225. I found it when looking for the Sound King/Cobalt 10AWG from the old audioholics speaker cable tests (since SK is no longer available).
1 - 8 of 8 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.