Bigger is usually better, right? At least, that’s what our intuition usually tells us. But is it really true?
When it comes to wiring, it’s easy to assume that thicker wires will be better because they should be faster and more powerful and carry more of whatever they’re carrying, right?
Well, that certainly seems intuitive, but today we’re here to investigate whether that gut feeling really is accurate or not, so if you’re curious if thicker cables really are better, keep reading!
Here’s Whether Thicker Cables Are Always Better:
All wires, except fiber-optics, carry electrical current. Thicker wires mean more current can be carried, and thicker optical cables mean there is room for more fibers, and thus more information. However, in many cases, thicker signal wires create a bottleneck and are not needed.
Do Thicker Power Cables Supply More Power?
Before we can answer this question, we have to tackle the reason for a wire’s increased girth, as two main things can thicken a wire, and they each have different effects.
A wire can be thicker because its core—i.e. the actual metal wire that transmits electricity—is thicker. This means there is more metal in there and more “room” for electrons to move.
Conversely, a wire can be thicker because its insulation layer is thicker. In this case, there is no additional capacity, but the wire is better protected from interference, overheating, and so on.
With that information we can now properly answer the question: if a wire is thicker because it’s better insulated, it does not supply more power.
However, if it is thicker because the metal core is bigger, then yes, in theory, that wire can supply more power than one with a thinner core.
That all being said, remember that our short answer above mentioned a “bottleneck.”
This is a term used when a cable is capable of transmitting more power or information than the device at the receiving end actually needs.
When this happens, any extra capacity of the cable is effectively wasted, and a smaller cable would do just as well.
So, in short, thicker cables can supply more power, but there is no point in greater power transfer unless the device using the cable can actually benefit from that extra power.
Do Thicker Wires Always Equal Better Sound Quality?
Not always! But thicker audio wires can deliver better quality sound, they’re just subject to the same potential bottlenecks as power wires; that’s going to be a running theme for this article.
Metal signal wires, even if they don’t supply power, use electricity to transmit their information. It’s a bit more complicated than that of course, but that understanding will do for our needs.
The amounts of electricity needed to send information are far smaller than when electricity is used as a power source, which is why signal wires are usually much thinner than power cables.
In theory, if the audio processing hardware and software at either end of the cable can transmit, receive, and make use of the additional information, a thicker cable could result in better sound quality.
But for most everyday household use, you’re probably not going to notice the difference, and the equipment you’re working with may not even be able to use the extra capacity, effectively wasting it.
Are Thicker HDMI Cables Better?
Once again, they can be, in theory, but most of the time it’s not going to make any difference.
Generally, you’re going to notice the difference made by a bad HDMI cable more than that made by a premium one.
What we mean by this is that for 99% of consumer uses, a standard, middle-of-the-road HDMI cable will be more than sufficient to give you a high-quality viewing/listening experience.
There definitely are cheaply made HDMI cables on the market that will deliver inferior results, but most of the “premium” HDMI cables are just gimmicks and no better than standard ones.
As for the specific question of thickness, it doesn’t really enter the conversation for HDMI cables, at least not for the average household consumer.
You want to watch out for cheaply-made bargain cables, but it’s the quality of their construction that matters here, not their thickness.
Are Thicker Jumper Cables Better?
Yes, in the specific case of Jumper cables, thickness actually does matter a lot!
This is because unlike many of the other sections in this article where you’re likely to run into bottlenecks between the capacity of your cables and what they’re being used for, this is not the case when jump-starting a car battery.
Thicker cables will carry more current with less voltage drop along the way, and that extra voltage can be the difference between a successful jump-start and an unsuccessful one.
So go for the heavy-gauge pick when you’re choosing your jumper cables. After all, it’s a one-time purchase that could make all the difference when it counts!
Read this blog here about can cables & wires run close to radiators?
Are Thicker Optical Cables Better?
So far we’ve been talking entirely about metal wires in this article, but optical cables run on a different kind of signal transference technology altogether: fiber-optics.
Fiber-optical cables consist of bundles of thinly-spun glass or plastic fibers, which transmit information by carrying light rather than electricity.
That being said, while the method of transference is different, fiber cables can benefit similarly to metal ones when it comes to thicker cables.
This is because, just as a thicker cable means more metal for traditional wires, a thicker fiber cable means more room for a greater number of fibers and thus more information.
However, it’s time once again to mention our old friend, the bottleneck; Thicker fiber cables can transmit more information, but that only matters if there’s more information to transmit in the first place.
Are Thicker RCA Cables Better?
In the case of RCA cables, thicker cables and other factors (like gold-plated connectors, grounding, and general build quality) actually can make a difference in the sound you get from your audio equipment.
However, while your sound quality may increase with better RCA cables, you may not actually notice any difference unless you’re a trained sound technician, a musician, etc.
To the untrained ear, a less complex sound delivered by a standard RCA cable may be indistinguishable from the more complex sound delivered by a higher-quality one.
In short, it may not be worth the investment if you’re not even going to notice, but it can be worthwhile to use a thicker RCA cable if you have a trained ear.
Are Thicker Ethernet Cables Better?
This one’s an easy one: no, for the vast majority of household consumer applications, a thicker Ethernet cable will make absolutely no difference to your internet speed.
Yet again, it’s a case of bottlenecks; in theory, a thicker Ethernet cable could allow a greater transference of information at a faster rate, but most household electronics will not benefit from this increased capacity and it will just be wasted.
Can Electric Cables Be Too Thick?
This depends on what one means by “too thick”.
Cables can definitely be too thick in the sense that you’re wasting money and resources and the cables are bulkier, stiffer, and harder to work with without any benefit in return.
However, if by “too thick” we mean, “can a thick cable harm performance or be less efficient” then no, there’s no downside to using a thicker cable than necessary.
No downside, that is, except for the wasted resources. You won’t be getting any benefit out of the thicker cable, but it won’t be causing any harm either.
Read this blog here about can you bend cables?