Have you been wanting to upgrade your system and but have trouble understanding some of the technical terms? Are all copper wires created equally? What is CCA and how is it made? How does it compare to using OFC? Well we here at DS18 want you to be well informed on what you buy so it works out for you and your specific application, so we are going to explain the Pro’s and Con’s of using OFC wire vs. CCA wire for your amps and speaker wires.
OFC stands for oxygen free copper. Oxygen free copper is a type of copper that has had virtually all its oxygen content removed to improve its conductivity. The name is a misnomer, because trace amounts of oxygen are still found in this metal. Many audiophiles prefer this type of wire for stereo systems, claiming that it improves sound and volume quality. There are others within this community, however, who claim that the wiring provides no better results than traditional copper.
Any copper that has its oxygen levels lowered to anything below 0.001% is considered oxygen free. There are two types: oxygen free electronic and oxygen free. Standard copper is called electrolytic-tough-pitch and has an oxygen content of 0.02 to 0.04%. Oxygen free electronic is classified as having 0.0005% oxygen content and was forged in an oxygen free environment. Oxygen free is classified as having 0.001% oxygen content, and its conductivity rating is slightly lower than oxygen free electronic.
The decreased oxygen levels within the copper greatly affects the conductivity of the wire strands and how current flows through them. Decreasing the oxygen in the metal gives an advantage to audiophiles because the current flows with less restrictions to your amplifiers, therefore creating more power with less voltage loss across the wires to your amps!
CCA stands for copper clad aluminum. Copper-clad aluminum wire is made of a solid aluminum core covered with a copper skin in order to improve its performance. So only the coating of the CCA is copper while the inner strands are all aluminum strands which still flow great amounts of current, just not as efficient as the OFC and retains more heat because of aluminums metal properties vs copper.
CCA is lighter than copper and less expensive. A lot of times you may not need the high amperage requirements of OFC and want to save some money. CCA is a great alternative to OFC if you are on a budget or have short runs of wire that don’t always require the utmost connectivity. Usually CCA is 50% the cost of audio grade OFC wire which is very appealing to the budget minded audiophile because you may not think that wire is going to be expensive, but the cost can definitely add up to a significant amount. Some SPL vehicles have over 500ft of wire to power all their amplifiers, so you can reach thousands of dollars in wire very fast.
Pros and cons of using CCA and OFC
A PRO to using OFC is that it carries current further with less resistance and less heat through a wire strand no more than 20ft. It has been shown that a 20 ft 1/0 ofc cable carried around 25% more current than the same length of CCA 1/0. Usually, every foot over 12 ft of CCA wire loses about 1v per foot, so it is imperative to use multiple runs of CCA to match the capability of OFC.
Another PRO of using OFC is that it carries much less heat than CCA. While testing a 20 ft strand of 1/0, using the same current we found that CCA holds 30% more heat than OFC. Just using 250a of current (which is way less than what 1/0 is rated at) we observed a temperature of over 100 degrees with the CCA over the 15-minute test while the OFC stayed at 75 degrees.
The last PRO of OFC is that copper has much better corrosion properties than CCA. Aluminum does not hold up well in exposed elements. Aluminum can even corrode if you use dissimilar metals on contact so OFC is a much better way to go if you are in a marine or off-road type of environment where corrosion could be a problem.
A pro of CCA is of course the price. You can get multiple rolls of CCA 1/0 for what 1 roll of OFC costs. This is very attractive to the newcomer trying to save a few dollars and it is just fine in that regard. CCA is a great way to budget in large wire for a low price! Just make sure to use more than required so the connectivity is closer to the OFC.
CCA has another pro and it is the weight. CCA weighs half of what OFC weighs so it’s easier to handle, maneuver, and bend because of the characteristics of the aluminum vs the copper.
Whether you decide to go with CCA or OFC wire is completely subjective. Each type of wire will have its own uses, pros, and cons. You just must be sure what your end goals are, research your wire, and pick accordingly. If you are on a budget, don’t require a lot of current, and don’t care about a little heat retention, then CCA is for you. If you are a seasoned hobbyist where every millivolt of amperage means the world to you, then your obvious buy is OFC. Both types of wire are very safe and will fit your specific needs as long as you are informed. We here at DS18 wanted to go over some of the good, bad, and ugly of the OFC vs CCA controversy so you can make a good decision in what is right for you.