Differences Between 12awg And 16awg Speaker Wires

Norvan Martin
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Wires play a significant role in delivering electrical signals from source units to receiver units. They are generally classified based on the size or diameter of the wire, also referred to as “gauge.” Here, we look at the 12 AWG and 16 AWG wires. 

12 AWG vs 16 AWG Speaker Wires Comparison Table

Criteria12AWG Speaker Wire16AWG Speaker Wire
Conductor SizeThicker conductors (larger gauge)Thinner conductors (smaller gauge)
ResistanceLower resistance due to larger gaugeHigher resistance compared to 12AWG
Power HandlingHigher power handling capacityLower power handling compared to 12AWG
DistanceSuitable for longer speaker cable runsIdeal for shorter speaker cable runs
FlexibilityLess flexible due to thicker conductorsMore flexible and easier to route
CostTypically more expensiveGenerally more cost-effective
Use CasesIdeal for high-power audio systems and long cable runsSuitable for average to moderate-power systems with shorter cable runs
TerminationMay require larger connectors due to thicker conductorsCompatible with a variety of connectors, including standard sizes
InstallationMay be more challenging to install in tight spacesEasier to install, especially in confined areas
AestheticsMay be more visible due to larger sizeLess conspicuous due to smaller size


Which Is The Difference Between 12AWG And 16AWG Speaker Wires?

Generally, the thickness of wires is identified using AWG (American Wire Gauge) number. Thicker wires are marked with lower AWG numbers, while bigger AWG values are used with cables that have much lower diameters. Let’s look at the difference between 12AWG and 16AWG cables in terms of the factors below.

1.      Thickness

From the definition, it is crystal clear that 12AWG wires are thicker than 16 AWG wires. The thickness of a wire is a crucial factor in the choice of cables for particular purposes as it affects performance, among other things. 

2.      Resistance of the wire

Generally, the resistance of a wire reduces with the increase in diameter. This is because thicker wires have more electrons and more space for electron flow. 12AWG copper wires have a resistance of 1.588 ohms per 1000 feet, while the resistance of 16AWG copper wires is 4.016 ohms per 1000 feet, which is much higher. 

The 12AWG speaker wire, therefore, experiences reduced electron resistance and is therefore not likely to be affected by heating caused by the opposition to electron flow compared to 16AWG ones. 

Therefore, the speaker wire impedance is a significant factor in determining the sound quality, and understanding the difference between 12AWG and 16AWG is crucial if you want to improve the performance of your speaker systems. 

3.      Length Of Wire

12AWG and 16AWG speaker wires can be used when connecting speakers at different distances. If your speakers are placed far away from the amplifier or other equipment, you will need to run wires for longer distances.

In this case, thick cables such as the 12 AWG are the best as you can safely run them well up to 30 feet. 16AWG wires, on the other hand, will heat when run over long distances, and signal strength is significantly lost. 

4.      Power

The 12AWG speaker wires are rated for 20 amps, while 16AWG cables are rated for 10 amps. This, however, depends on both the temperature rating and driving voltage. 

5.      Ohms of speakers

Depending on your speakers’ number and power ratings, you can use 12AWG and 16AWG speaker wires in different cases. 12AWG speaker wires are considered more versatile and can handle huge power supply and transmission compared to 16AWGs. 

Using low-impedance speakers (4 or 6 ohms) 12AWG speaker wires will give you clearer and smoother sound signals. This is because it experiences lower signal loss than 16AWG speaker wires. 

Advantages Of 12AWG

  • 12AWG wires offer lesser resistance for long-distance wiring. You can comfortably use them to connect speakers over longer distances without losing a significant amount of power. This is because thicker cables have lower resistance and do not build up heat over long runs. There are, therefore, no significant drops in voltage or signals during long-distance transmissions of power or audio signal.
  • Also, using a 12AWG wire gives you the freedom to expand your circuit load whenever you need to. Besides, you can easily change an outlet over 220 volts with 12AWG wiring. 
  • In addition, the thicker wire provides more room for electricity to flow, offering increased safety in all circuitry systems where it is used. Also, the wire can support loads of up to 20 amps without overheating due to the much lower resistance in the wire. 
  • 12AWG wires can support several outlets up to a maximum of 10 along the same branch. 

Advantages Of 16AWG

  • Thin wires, more flexible and easier to wire even around the corners 
  • Cheaper than 12AWG wires

Disadvantages Of 12AWG

  • Thicker and stiffer make it more difficult to bend and install them across bends.
  • This gauge of wire is very expensive.

Disadvantages Of 16AWG

  • It cannot be used to support heavy electrical equipment with higher wattage.
  • Wires should not be run more than 10 feet.
  • It does not last long.

12 AWG To mm2

When converting AWG to mm2, the AWG value is first converted to millimeters (mm). Generally, the diameter of a wire equals 0.127mm times 92 raised to the power of 36 minus the gauge number n and divided by 39 as illustrated in the equation below.

              dn = 0.127×92(36-n)/39.

                   = 2.0525mm

To get the cross-sectional area of the wire, divide pi by 4 times the square wire diameter d in millimeters (mm).

              An = (π/4) x (2.0525)2

                   = 3.3088mm2

16 AWG To mm2

Similarly, to convert 16AWG to mm2, the AWG value, which is 16AWG, is first converted to millimeters (mm) using the formula;

                  dn = 0.127×92(36-n)/39.

                       = 1.2908

To get the cross-sectional area of the wire, divide pi by 4 times the square wire diameter d in millimeters (mm).

                    An = (π/4) x (1.2908)2

                         = 1.3087mm2

12 Gauge Speaker Wire In mm

To convert 12AWG to mm, multiply 0.127mm by 92 raised to the power of 36 minus the gauge number n, divided by 39. See the equation below: 

                       dn= 0.127×92 (36-n)/39.

                           = 2.0525 mm

16 Gauge Speaker Wire In mm

To convert 16AWG to mm, multiply 0.127mm by 92 raised to the power of 36 minus the gauge number n, divided by 39. See the equation below: 

                      dn = 0.127×92(36-n)/39.

                           = 1.2908 mm

12 AWG vs. 16 AWG Extension Cord

Extension cords are mainly used with reference to household AC extensions. Also called a power extender or drop cord, an extension cord is a length of flexible electrical power cable fitted with a plug on one end and a socket or more on the other end. 

When dealing with extension cords, bigger is not always better. As mentioned above, the 16AWG cord is a cheaper cable, much more flexible, light, and easier even to roll up. Besides, it can power most of your lighting needs. However, these extension cords do not include equipment ground to secure your appliances.

On the other hand, 12AWG is a more versatile alternative. It gives you more options to power a wider range of devices and can be used over longer distances.

However, this cable is much heavier, expensive, and will take up more closet space if used as an extension cord. It, however, comes with equipment ground and will last much longer. 

Therefore, before you decide which gauge of the cord to go for, consider the following factors:

  • Distance between the mains socket and the appliances 
  • Power consumption or ratings of the appliances to be powered
  • The number of devices to be connected to the extension 
  • Budget and the need to include more equipment in the future

If you intend to use the extension cord to power lamps to light your house, for instance, the 16AWG extension cord is the best. However, if you have more power-hungry equipment, such as a circular saw, go with the 12AWG cable. 


It is now apparent that 12AWG is the most preferred wiring option for cable size. However, it is also imperative to ensure the wire you choose is made from pure copper as it offers much lower electrical resistivity.

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Norvan Martin is the founder of BoomSpeaker.com. He is a professional Electronics Engineer and is passionate about home theater systems and AV electronics. BoomSpeaker was created as an online hub to share his knowledge and experiences as it relates to home theaters and home audio electronics. My email: [email protected]  Connect on Pinterest and Linkedin