How to choose Direct Burial Outdoor Speaker Wire
After purchasing a set of outdoor speakers, the last thing you want to do is compromise their sound quality with the wrong speaker wire. The highest quality speaker wire for outdoor setups is cabling rated for direct burial. It provides the simplest solution and installation to get you up and running right away. However, there are many different types of direct burial cabling suited for different types of speakers and situations.
But first, what is direct burial outdoor speaker wire?
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Direct burial outdoor speaker wire means it can be buried directly into the ground due to the shielding the cabling comes equipped with. It is resistant to pressure, heat, and moisture ensuring your outdoor wire maintains its condition regardless of the weather conditions.
This also makes it easier to install the cabling because it can be buried directly as is instead of having to be pulled through an appropriate conduit. Depending on the location of your cabling, you may still want to run it through a PVC conduit to protect it from gardeners, lawn mowers, and any other potentially hazardous activities.
High-quality direct burial outdoor speaker cable will be insulated in a tough PVC outer shell with each conductor inside the outer shell painted red or black to display polarity. It may also have markers at 2-foot intervals, so you know the exact distance the cabling is run. The jacket will also be UV protected making it resistant to both water and severe weather events. Truly High-quality direct burial cabling requires installation only once, then you can forget about it forever.
Now that you understand what direct burial-rated cabling is, we can go through the various options you have for different types of direct burial cable.
Fire Safety Ratings
The most common Fire Safety Ratings for direct burial speaker wires are CL2 and CL3. These ratings are to show you the amount of voltage the wire can withstand in the event of an electrical surge. CL2 can withstand up to 150 volts and CL3 can withstand up to 300 volts. For any outdoor speaker set-up, CL2 should be the absolute minimum Fire Safety Ratings Rating due to the potential for lightning and higher risk of surges.
Outdoor cables may attract lightning strikes and even burying the cable may not help lessen the power surge. Install a Surge protector for any outdoor AV installation to save your equipment from lightning strikes.
Important: Nothing will protect against direct hit of lightning. Installing a Surge protector will help against induced current traveling to the house.
Both CL2 and CL3 rated cables will have specialized shielding to protect it from any outdoor and indoor elements. This makes the cabling safe to install within walls or ceilings to reach your outdoor speakers.
Running cable through a door or window is never recommended due to the additional wear that puts on the cabling. This can lead to potential shorts that could damage your speakers and harm anyone touching the cabling. These dangers are what makes the ability to safely run cabling through a wall or ceiling so important with outdoor speakers.
Important: Don’t run speakers through windows or door jambs
Wire Gauge For Outdoor Speakers
There are a lot of factors that impact what wire gauge is recommended for your situation. Wire gauge is the thickness of the wire measured based on the American Wire Gauge (AWG) standard. The larger the AWG number, the thinner the wire is. Thicker wire transmits electricity at a faster rate than a thinner wire does.
The rule of thumb for speaker gauge is: The thicker the wire the better performance of your speakers.
However, thicker wire is also more expensive and could be unnecessary. To determine what wire thickness is appropriate for you, you’ll need to consider the impedance of your speakers and the length of your cable.
Speakers with lower ohms call for thicker wire. 4-ohm and 6-ohm speakers generally require 12AWG or 14AWG cabling. 8-ohm and 16-ohm speakers are usually fine with 16AWG or 18AWG cabling.
Purchasing cable that is on the thicker side is always a safe bet. You’ll never lose audio quality if you purchase a cable that is too thick, but you will lose audio quality if your cabling is too thin.
When it comes to the length of the cable, generally any runs over 100 feet will require at least 12AWG cabling. This is a long distance for electricity to travel and may even require thicker cabling depending on the impedance of the speakers.
Distances under 80 feet do not have a huge impact on the electricity traveling through the cable, so the gauge that is recommended for your speakers will typically work just fine. Anything between 80 feet and 100 feet will typically require at least 14AWG cabling. As we mentioned earlier if you are unsure purchasing thicker cable is always safe.
Summing It All Up
Direct burial outdoor speaker wire is an easy to install and durable solution for connecting your amplification system to your speakers. It can be buried directly underground or run through the conduit to provide additional protection. The cabling will have shielding that will protect it from any pressure, heat, or moisture to provide a long-lasting solution.
High quality direct burial cabling will also have a durable yet flexible jacket that is UV protected and marked at 2-foot intervals, each conductor inside the outer shell painted red and black to show polarity. UV protection provides additional durability and resistance to water and severe weather events. This makes for a long-lasting cable that you can install once and then forget about forever.
There are many options when purchasing direct burial cables, such as the Fire Safety Ratings, and the thickness of the wire. Outdoor cabling is typically rated CL2 or CL3. These ratings signify how much voltage they can take in the event of a surge. CL2 can take up to 150 volts and CL3 can take up to 300 volts.
Important: For outdoor wires, CL2 should be the bare minimum Fire Safety Rating of your cables.
CL2 and CL3 cabling are also typically rated for installation in walls or ceilings so you can have a concealed installation throughout your house. When choosing wire thickness, the thicker the cabling the better. While thicker cabling is more expensive, you will guarantee a pure signal between the source of your audio and your speakers.