Should I Worry About Aging Speaker Wire?

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Q I assembled my surround sound setup back in 2002. It still sounds awesome, but I'm wondering about the speaker wires. I spent good money for nice 12-gauge speaker wire, the ends of which are bare. Every time I break the system down to move, I see the bare wire and worry that corrosion or some other devious detractor is attacking it. Is that something I should worry about? Should I consider clipping and re-stripping at some point? —Scott M.

A Yes, now that your system is almost 15 years old you should be concerned with corrosion affecting the bare wire in your speaker connections. Also, since you’ve moved repeatedly and had to break your system down and reconnect it each time, chances are that the ends of those wires have become frayed. At best, this can mean a less-than-optimal connection between the wires and the terminals on your amp and speakers. At worst, it can mean loose wire strands straying from the connection creating a short that might damage your equipment.

The quickest and easiest solution here would be to do as you suggest: clip off the exposed ends of the speaker wire and strip it about one half-inch. If you own a soldering iron, you could also tin each end with solder to prevent the strands from fraying.

The other option, one I’d recommend since you move frequently, is to attach banana plugs to the wire-ends. Good-quality banana plugs have a brass or copper base coated with gold plating to prevent oxidation. They provide a secure, high-contact connection, and the jacks are compatible with most receivers, amps, and speakers. You’ll find a range of banana plugs at sites like Parts Express . No need to buy the most expensive “audiophile quality” offering. Just select a model that’s gold-plated, and consider one with dual set screws since that option can provide a more durable grip on the wire.