Best speaker cables 2020 Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best speaker wire you can buy in 2020.
A good speaker cable (speaker wire to our American friends) can't make your system sound better than it really is, but it can and should ensure that every last drop of performance makes its way from your amplifier to your speakers.
Conversely, a poor speaker cable can definitely make your system sound a lot worse than it really is, so it's absolutely worth budgeting for decent cabling when buying or upgrading your system. Fail to do so and you'll end up with cheap, poorly made cables that will waste the talents of the expensive kit on which you've just forked out.
Do remember to budget for the lengths that you need (and the number of speakers you're wiring-up if it's a surround system) and bear in mind that the cable prices we quote usually don't include the banana plugs that you'll see in the pictures, largely because you don't necessarily have to buy them.
They make connecting, unplugging and reconnecting easier, but they don't make the sound any better. In fact, many people believe a bare wire connection to be sonically superior.
Whatever your opinion on that matter, it is undeniable that cables make a difference, and these are the best we've tested.
The best thing this AudioQuest cable does is get out of the way and simply let you enjoy the music. There’s a perceptible improvement in the way systems perform when the Rocket 11 is plugged in, compared with rival speaker cables from Atlas and Chord Company. On top of that, the cables are physically flexible and labelled for ease of use.
It might seem expensive when you add up how many cables and the length you’ll need, but if you’ve put a lot of care into your hi-fi system, it’s well worth investing in good quality speaker cables that will optimise its performance.
Read the full review: AudioQuest Rocket 11
Proof that you needn't spend a fortune to get excellent performance, the Chord Company C-Screen is a brilliant choice for budget systems thanks to its warm, cohesive delivery.
Read the full review: Chord Company C-Screen
QED has always been about clarity, detail and insight, with the Reference XT40i being no exception. It will allow any budget into midrange system to show off all the information at its disposal, providing it with accuracy and precision. Rivals such as the Award winner at the top of this page aid better with organisation and dynamic expression, but you won't find a cleaner presentation than this for the price.
Read the full review: QED Reference XT40i
The increase in clarity and punch when using the Atlas Equator 2.0 over budget alternatives should be lauded, especially at this relatively affordable price. If you think your budget/midrange hi-fi system could do with a sonic spring clean, but not sure what needs upgrading (and don’t want to spend too much), plug this Atlas speaker cable in. You might find it’s just what your system needs.
Read the full review: Atlas Equator 2.0 (2018)
The Chord Company Rumour X certainly isn't cheap (although it is possible to spend a good deal more on a speaker cable), but it more than justifies its price thanks to its crisp, clean and dynamic delivery. The Audioquest Rocket 22, below, delivers more in the way of sonic refinement and body to sound, but the Chord does enough in both regards to avoid complaint, while adding more in the way of punch and rhythmic drive. Both are excellent cables in their own way but it was the Rumour X that won our 2019 Award.
Read the full review: Chord Company Rumour X
The Rocket 22 continues the fine work of its Award-winning sibling and, in a suitably talented set-up, the difference in price between the two can be justified by the improvement in scale, detail and authority. But do also consider the Chord Company RumourX, above, particularly if your system could do with releasing a little more punch and rhythmic drive.
Read the full review: AudioQuest Rocket 22
For the money, there isn't much to grumble about as far as the XT25 is concerned. It allows for an extremely insightful and detailed sound, which is up there with the very best at this level. Music is encouraged to display an airy sense of openness with plenty of subtlety and sophistication. It's the kind of cable that would be a good option for warm-sounding, less spacious set-ups.
Read the full review: QED XT25
If you're looking for a speaker cable that can fit into tight spaces, then the Clearwater is definitely an option. It's terminated in attractive dinky plugs and is covered in an almost jelly-like jacket which helps with flexibility.
We were impressed with its ability to keep music sounding balanced, involving and cohesive while it also helps deliver plenty of power and depth from low frequencies. Add natural-sounding vocals and lashings of detail into the mix and you've got yourself quite the speaker cable.
Read the full review: Van den Hul The Clearwater