A lot of my friends have often felt a bit lost when they have just acquired some new speakers and an amp to improve their home audio systems. So I made a run through guide to go over the basics of how to wire speakers to an amp to get you up and running as quickly as possible.
Getting a new speaker system to improve your home audio is never a bad decision; you can finally listen to all the nuances in the music that smaller speakers, and a lot of headphones, just can’t deliver.
But the process can quickly make you go from excited to frustrated if you’re not confident with how to set them up when you’ve got them back home.
Table of Contents:
- Pieces of the Puzzle
- Wiring Speakers to Amplifiers
Check out our quick guide of how to wire speakers to an amp to get you turning it up to 11 as quickly as possible!
Pieces of the Puzzle
The majority of receivers, amps and speakers will have terminals on the back of them for connecting speaker wires. These connections will, generally speaking, usually be of a spring clip or binding post type.
Images courtesy of Teknistore
These terminals will come in a pair too – one for the positive connection; and the other for the negative. These are often colour coded:
- Red = Positive (+)
- Black or White = Negative (-)
Excluding RCA and Optical/TOSLINK wires, speaker wire is split into 2 parts at each end. Some speaker wire is split into positive and negative at each end (if this is the case you should be able to see either a positive or negative sign to indicate the wiring on each side.
In my experience, speaker wire is usually split and one of the wires at each end will be denoted with a dash or line on one of the sides, or they will be colour coded) – this can be used to help you identify which part of the wire you are using at each end.
If you have connected the wire with the dash at the speaker end, then you must connect this to the positive terminal on the amplifier, and vice versa.
If you have connected both ends to the speaker already and are unsure which is which, test the wires with the positive and negative end of a battery. Connect what you think is the positive wire to the positive end of the battery, and vice versa – if the speaker cone moves out, you have got the polarities correct; otherwise if the speaker cone moves inward you have got the polarities incorrect.
Here is a great video from Erin’s Audio Corner explaining this test
Most speaker wires come bare, and you normally need to strip the end of the wire to expose the wire strands at the end. Whether you choose to add a connector or not, it is always good practice to twist the bare wire strandy so that they stay together.
You can find speaker wire with their own connectors already attached, which can be useful. If you choose to add your own, these are the 3 common connectors that are used:
- Pin Connectors: these are firm and easy to insert and can only be used with spring clip terminals.
- Banana Plug Connectors: these can be inserted into a connector hole and are used with binding posts.
- Spade connectors: similar to Banana plug connectors, these are used with binding posts and are secured in place once you tighten down the post.
Wiring Speakers to Amplifiers
When connecting the speaker wire to the terminals on speakers and amplifiers they MUST line up – aka the positive terminal on the speaker must be connected to the positive terminal on the Amplifier.
When the wiring is done in this way, the equipment is “in phase” and if not, they are “out of phase”.
If the speaker and amplifier are “out of phase” then this can lead not only to sound quality issues, but also damage the equipment.
Series or Parallel?
There are two main ways to wire your speakers to your amp, in series or in parallel. On a very simple level, the way this is done is either you wire all the speaker cables directly to the amplifier (parallel); or you join two of the speaker wires (a positive and negative) together separate to the amp to wire them in series.
The primary reason for choosing which is right for you is around the ohm capacity of the speakers and what the amplifier can handle. In my experience, most amplifiers cannot handle more than 16 ohms and most speakers have an impedance of up to 8 ohms, meaning for a set of 2 speakers it is generally okay to wire in series (which would bring the impedance to 16 ohms), or in parallel (which would bring the impedance to 4 ohms). It is possible to wire your speakers in a series-parallel combination if you have more than 2 speakers that you’re wiring to your amp.
Generally, wiring in parallel means that the sound output is increased because the power output rises due to the decreases load impedance, and vice versa for speakers connected in series.
And there you have it – an overview of how to successfully wire your speakers to your amplifier without any issues.
“Get rid of the shitty sound. Life’s too short.” – Hans Zimmer