How To Connect Speaker Wire – A Detailed Guide For Everyone!

Welcome! In this detailed guide, I’ll show you all about connecting speaker wire with great results. You don’t have to be a tech person to do it right – it’s easy to do it yourself once you know the basics!

In this guide I’ll show you:

  • How to connect wire to speakers for your car or home stereo, amplifier, or AV receiver
  • How to extend speaker wire (splicing and connecting to other wire)
  • Steps for using banana connector terminals, spade connectors, and more
  • Clear and detailed speaker wire diagrams to help you

Which speaker wire is positive? Which is negative?

Which speaker wire is positive diagram with examples

The most common kinds of markings are shown here as examples. For regular speaker wire, 99% of the time it’s clearly marked.

How do I check if a speaker wire is positive or negative?

Here’s a list of the most common ways to tell:

  1. A printed line or series of dashes/lines is on the positive
  2. One side is a red wire or a different color than the negative wire (most often red and black are used)
  3. One wire has a copper color and one has a silver finish
  4. The positive wire may have small positive (“+”) symbols and/or size info printed on it
  5. An imprint or molded stripe is made in the positive side’s insulation

Of the 5 kinds, imprints can occasionally be a little bit harder to notice so sometimes you need to look very closely under good lighting. Also, positive wires that use a “+” print can be a little hard to read sometimes, too.

How to connect speaker wire together (extending speaker wire)

How to splice & extend speaker wire (diagram)

How to connect speaker wire together diagram

You’ll only need a few tools to do it. Between the two options, soldering is extremely reliable but takes more time. Using crimp terminals, however, gives long-lasting, professional results in minutes.

1. Connecting speaker wire together with crimp terminals

How to splice and extend speaker wire with crimp connectors section image

Here are a few reasons why:

  • When done properly, it’s very reliable and the wire won’t come apart
  • Easy to do – only takes a few minutes
  • Not affected by temperature changes & time both at home, on a boat, or for car audio
  • Crimp tools & connectors are widely available and are affordable

There are only a few steps needed: cutting the wire (if needed), stripping the wire, and attaching & crimping the connectors.

A. How to cut speaker wire

Image showing examples of how to cut wire

Cutting speaker wire (or power wire) normally isn’t hard but you definitely need the right tool. The reason why is that common tools like regular scissors can’t cut wire properly and can even become damaged.

There are some great tools that are very affordable that will cut wire very well and make extending speaker wire much easier:

  • Cutting pliers
  • Automatic wire strippers with a cutter section
  • Needle nose pliers with cutting section
  • Crimper/stripper tool with cutting feature
  • Utility scissors – works ok for smaller gauges, not larger

I recommend and use wire cutting pliers as they’re capable of cutting a wide range of wire sizes. For typical speaker cable or wire such as 18 gauge, the wire cutting feature on many hand tools works fine.

Speaker wire cutting tips

To cut wire, just insert the wire and slightly close the tool until the wire is securely held in place & can’t move. Then squeeze very firmly. The wire should “snap” lightly and will be cut.

While you can get by with utility scissors (don’t use standard scissors used for paper or fabrics!) you’ll have to insert the wire right at the inside of the blades and cut very carefully.

Scissors aren’t a good choice and the wire can even get jammed inside.

B. How to strip speaker wire

How to strip wire example

Stripping speaker wire can be a little bit tricky but it’s a skill you’ll pick up quickly after a few tries. The main trick is to pinch only the wire’s insulation and not the wire strands themselves.

If you catch the wire inside by squeezing a stripper too hard you’ll likely break off of the wire strands.

To strip wire:

  1. Insert the wire in the stripper and close it carefully on the insulation. Use enough force to hold the wire in place and slightly pinch the insulation, but not enough to put force on the wire inside.
  2. Hold the tool & pressure in place firmly so it cannot move.
  3. Pull the wire. The insulation could break off and the exposed wire should remain.
What to know before stripping speaker wire the first time

Certain types of wire (especially smaller gauges like 20AWG, 24AWG, etc can be harder to strip without breaking. For your first few times, practice on some surplus wire that won’t hurt your speaker wire length needs.

Once the wire is stripped you’re ready to connect it together using crimping connectors.

Image showing ruler next to 1/2 inch stripped wire

I recommend stripping enough wire to leave about 3/8″ for crimp connectors and about 1/2″ wire exposed when soldering. This is so you’re able to twist the wires together.

C. How to use crimp connectors with speaker wire

How to use crimp connectors with wire instruction steps image

Once you’ve prepared your speaker wire by stripping it, it’s time to use a crimp connect on each wire and a tool to crimp them for a reliable connection.

Using crimp terminals with speaker wire isn’t hard – I promise! You’ll get the hang of it after a few tries.

How to crimp speaker wire properly:

  1. Strip the wire leaving 3/8″ to 1/2″ bare speaker wire exposed.
  2. Tightly twist the wire so it can be pushed into the connector properly.
  3. Insert the wire into one end firmly, pushing it into the metal contact inside. Be sure to insert it fully.
  4. Place the connector into the crimp tool in the appropriate position in the tool, near the end of the connector.
  5. Crimp very hard with the tool to make press the connector down hard, holding the wire inside permanently.
  6. Repeat the same for the other side & speaker wire.

For best results, once you’re done pull gently on the wire while holding the connector. The wire shouldn’t come out. If it does, you’ve crimped it poorly and will need to do it over again.

What should correctly connected speaker wire look like?

Closeup example of properly crimped speaker wire

Crimp-type connectors, also sometimes called butt connectors, are sold in standard colors for the speaker wire gauge they fit. They also include the recommended size range on the package. I’ve been using blue butt connectors with 18 AWG speaker wire for years without problems.

Wire crimp connector examples with wire gauges labeled

I recommend trying that as since the internal opening is a bit bigger you can be sure they’ll fit with various types of speaker wire. That’s because speaker wire manufacturers sometimes have slightly different conductor sizes.

Note: I do not recommend using wire nut connectors to join wire together as they aren’t nearly as reliable. They’re best suited for home electrical wiring.

2. Connecting speaker wire together by soldering

Image showing steps for how to solder speaker wire

This is hands-down the most reliable way to extend & splice wire as when done properly the connection is extremely strong, permanent, and has an excellent electrical path.

How to solder speaker wire

To begin, follow the wire cutting & stripping steps from the first section (using crimp style connectors).

Follow these steps:

  1. Cut & strip the speaker wire (at least 1/2″ length of bare wire is needed).
  2. Hold up both ends to form an “X” shape with the wire facing opposite directions.
  3. Hold both ends and tightly twist each end around the other until they’re completely wrapped over each other.
  4. After the iron is hot, apply heat to the wire with the tip. Once heated (after a few seconds usually), apply solder enough so that it has flowed fully through the wire.
  5. Rotate the wire to the other side and repeat until all of the wire is fully saturated.
  6. Allow the wire to cool for a few moments.
  7. Tear 2 short pieces of electrical tape. Starting at the insulation and at an angle, tightly wrap the tape until it is fully covered. You can also use heat shrink tubing for an even cleaner result.

It’s important to fully cover the wire once you’re done. That’s to prevent the wire from touching each other and causing a short circuit that can permanently damage the output components in

How long does soldering speaker wire take?

All in all, you’ll need about 10-15 minutes to do this work with a soldering iron vs about 1-3 minutes with crimp terminals.

Example of soldering iron and accessories needed to solder wire

How to connect speaker wire to a home stereo receiver or amplifier

Image showing examples of home stereo receiver speaker terminals

In most cases, a home stereo receiver or amplifier allows connecting speaker wire using the binding posts and/or banana plug jacks.

Connecting speaker wire to a receiver or amplifier with binding posts

How to connect speaker wire to receiver or home amp with binding posts diagram

You can usually connect speaker wire to an amplifier or receiver pretty easily. Here’s how:

  1. Loosen the binding post twist tops enough to expose the wire hole.
  2. Strip the speaker wire to about 3/8″ to 1/2″ length bare wire. Twist the wire tightly by hand to keep the wire strands together.
  3. Insert the wires into each speaker terminal one at a time up to (but not including) the insulation. While holding to keep it from moving, twist the tops down firmly on it to hold it in place.

Note that the positive terminal is usually labeled with a plus sign “+”, a red-colored band, and/or red plastic. Likewise, the negative terminal uses black and the minus “-” sign.

How to connect speaker wire to a receiver or amplifier with banana plugs

How to connect speaker wire to receiver or home amp with banana plugs diagram

Even though they require a bit more work than just using bare wire, banana plugs offer extra convenience once they’re in place. For example, you can quickly add or remove your surround speakers any time since they simply plug or unplug.

Note that banana plugs come in 2 main types: those with a side-mounted set screw and those with a top “tension screw” and either a top-located hole and/or side hole.

Side hole types are basically a binding post style.

Here are the steps for connecting to a receiver with banana plugs:

  1. Loosen the set screw or tension screw as provided but don’t remove it fully. If you’re inserting wire through the center hole you can remove it if you like.
  2. Strip the speaker wire using a wire stripper tool or similar for the best results. Leave roughly 1/2″ of bare wire.
  3. [Side hole type] Fold the wire under the insulation. [Center hole type] Twist the wire tightly and thread the wire through the screw’s center hole.
  4. [Side hole type] Insert the wire into the opening carefully, making sure it fits under the screw. [Center hole type] Shape the wire into a half-circle, with the wire tilting horizontally away from the insulation.
  5. Tighten the tension screw carefully. [Center hole type] Push the wire into the bottom of the plug.
  6. [Center hole type] Tighten the tension screw down onto the wire.
  7. Holding the wire and the plug, pull gently to be sure the connection is good and the wire won’t slip out.
  8. Push the banana plugs into the jacks firmly. ( Note: It’s not unusual for banana plugs to stick out of the jack slightly – they’re not always flush with the top of the jack when inserted).

Using a spade connector set

examples of spade connectors for speaker wire

Spade lugs have a shape similar to a circle with an opening on one end and a fixed central hole with a standard size. Whenever buying them, you’ll need to make sure you get some large enough to fit your speaker terminal size.

how to connect speaker wire spade terminals diagram

To use them, insert a short length of bare wire and crimp tightly (for crimp models). You can also purchase twist-type spade lugs, although they’re larger in size and a bit bulky.

Loosen each speaker terminal, slide the lug underneath and against the center post, then tighten it firmly. The spade lug should stay in place.

Note: always use spade connectors that have insulated ends to avoid a short circuit situation.

How to connect speaker wire to banana plugs

Image showing examples of banana plug speaker wire connector types

Shown: Examples of some of the most common banana plug speaker wire connectors you’ll find for sale today. There are 2 main types: those that use a set screw or those that have a binding post style.

There are a few different styles of banana plug connectors that work for speaker wire. However, nearly all work about the same and fall under one of 2 categories:

  1. Set screw type: these have a set screw that is loosened to allow inserting the speaker wire and then tightened to hold it in place inside a metal barrel.
  2. Binding post style: These are very similar to a binding post type wire terminal. A large threaded screw is used to hold the wire in place and often wire is routed underneath the large screw through a central hole and/or a side hole.

Using smaller wire can be tricky as some of the most common sizes (like 18AWG) don’t fit correctly inside them if not done right and the wire could come out. I’ll show you what to do below.

1. How to use speaker wire with set screw banana plugs

Image with instructions for how to connect speaker wire to banana plugs with set screws

With this type, the internal wire barrel (connector) can be too big for commonly used wire sizes like 18AWG.

Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:

  1. Loosen the set screw, but don’t remove it fully. Just enough that the screw is mostly out of the way of the internal wire opening. For connectors with metal shells, you’ll need to remove them first in many cases. (Note: some connectors may have 2 screws)
  2. (Important) Twist the wire tightly then fold it under itself or under the insulation. This will help the wire to better fit inside for a good firm hold with the set screw.
  3. Insert the wire into the connector carefully, making sure it fits under the screw. Tighten the screw or screws firmly but do not over-tighten. For plugs with a metal shell, re-install it over the plug.
  4. Holding the wire and the plug, pull gently to be sure the connection is good and the wire won’t slip out.

That’s it, you’re done! Despite not fitting inside the plugs perfectly, you can use 18AWG and other sizes of speaker wire reliably and without pulling your hair out in frustration!

Note: banana plugs usually have very small screws so you’ll need to be sure you have a miniature screwdriver to use with them.

2. How to use speaker wire with binding post type banana plugs

Image with instructions for how to connect speaker wire to banana plugs with binding post style

Binding post style banana plugs require you to correctly place wire under the tension screw (large central threaded screw). Otherwise, it’s possible for the wire to slip out when pulled.

Some banana plugs (like the one shown above) may have a side hole in addition to a center hole through the main screw. You can use either one, but I prefer not to use the side hole unless my wire is very large.

Loosen the set screw or threaded body as provided. For side opening use, don’t remove it fully. If you’re inserting wire through the center hole you can remove it if you like. Tighten firmly and tug the wire slightly to be sure it’s secure.

How to make RCA cable speaker wiring connections

RCA speaker wire examples

Some older stereo receivers use a phono style RCA jack just like those used to connect low-level signals. However, these are different in that they only use the same type of jack by coincidence – the signal is very different.

RCA speaker cables do not carry a weak audio signal as RCA audio cable interconnects do, so they need thicker wire.

You can connect your external speakers one of 3 ways in this case:

  1. Buying ready-made RCAspeaker cables.
  2. Using RCA breakout style connectors to connect regular speaker wire.
  3. Making your own using RCA plug connectors.

Make your own RCA speaker cable (RCA plug to speaker wire diagram)

RCA plug to speaker wire diagram

  • Doing option #3, making your own speaker cables with RCA plugs, isn’t hard. To do so:
  • Strip the wire with about 1/4″ length exposed. Twist tightly so it’s held together.
  • Insert each end into the tab holes as shown in the diagram. To make soldering easiers, bend the wire ends tightly underneath.
  • Heat the wire-tab junction until solder flows freely and covers most of the wire end at the metal tab.
  • After cooling, add heat shrink tubing or tape (etc.) to make sure they can’t touch when assembled.
  • Slip the plug shell back over the plug, twist snugly, and press the tabs together as needed for clearance inside the shell.

How to connect speaker wire to spring clip terminals

Image showing how to connect speaker wire to spring clip terminals

Spring clip terminals are one of the simplest and most common types of speaker wire terminals and they’re found nearly everywhere: speaker boxes, amps, stereos, and more.

To them, use the following steps:

  1. Strip the wire and leave about 1/2″ of bare wire on each end. Twist the wire tightly.
  2. With a finger or thumb, push each clip one at a time and insert the wire into the hole (insert enough to fit well into the opening).
  3. Release the clip to hold the wire in place. Repeat for each wire needed.
  4. When done, pull gently on each wire to make sure they’re in place and held properly.

examples of speaker wire pin terminals

Alternatively, to avoid any hassle with bare wire ends you can use a pin connector set instead. These are affordable and attach to the bare ends, providing a solid pin to insert easily. They also are less prone to slip out.

How to connect speaker wire to car or home speakers

There’s often little to no difference in how you connect speaker wire to home and car speakers. In fact, they’re exactly the same aside from being 4 or 8 ohms for their impedance (resistance) ratings.

As you can see from the instructional steps image below, there are 2 ways to get great results and only a few steps for each: using quick disconnect crimp terminals & a crimp tool or using a soldering iron and solder.

Solder vs crimp terminals for connecting speaker wire

While soldering gives a high quality and permanent connection, it takes more time & effort. It’s also more hassle as it needs a power source & extension cord – especially if you’re working in your car.

I recommend using quick-disconnect terminals as they can give an excellent & reliable connection while still being easy to use and removable later. One thing you should know is that speaker wire connection tabs on car or home speakers aren’t standardized in their sizes. It’s extremely important to check before you get started.

One speaker brand & model may use two .187″ or .250″ tabs for example while others may use both a .250″ and a .110″. For car speakers, the tabs are most often a .250″ or .187″ slide tabs and one .110″.

Tip: The larger tab is used for the positive wire in cases where they’re different sizes.

Image showing common speaker wire quick disconnect terminal sizes

Shown here are the most common speaker & speaker wire quick disconnect crimp terminal sizes. Of the 4 shown, .110″ & .250″ are some of the most common for car and home speakers.

Instructions for connecting speaker wire to car and home speakers

Image showing how to connect speaker wire to car and home speakers instructions

How to connect speaker wire to car or home speakers using crimp terminals (quick disconnects):

  1. Strip the speaker wire (about 3/8″ to 1/2″ is fine) and twist the ends tightly to keep the strands in place.
  2. Get the correct sized quick disconnect crimp terminals needed. If unsure what size, measure the speaker wire tabs with a ruler. You’ll also need a crimp tool as well.
  3. Insert the wire into each terminal and crimp firmly until the crimp connector locks onto the wire and holds it firmly. You can crimp 2 times if you like.
  4. Hold the speaker and carefully slide the crimp terminals onto each tab. Be sure not to use too much force as the tabs can get bent if they’re pushed too hard. (If the connectors are too tight, try carefully prying them open a bit with a miniature flathead screwdriver or other thin, flat tool)
  5. When done, make sure the terminals are nice and tight to be sure they can’t come off over time due to vibration.

How to connect speaker wire to car or home speakers by soldering:

  1. Shape the wire ends into a curved hook style.
  2. Insert the wire into the small holes in the speaker wire tabs.
  3. Apply heat with a hot soldering tip to both the wire and the speaker wire tab. After a few moments, apply solder until it flows and covers the hole, wire, and tab near the speaker wire.
  4. Allow to cool briefly and repeat for the other wire.

Never use a “twist and tape” approach to connecting speaker wire. That’s a poor connection that causes oxidation, power loss, and can even come off over time.

It’s possible for poorly connected wire strands to become free and short-circuit to the other speaker wire, causing permanent damage to the amplifier or stereo.

How to connect a subwoofer with speaker wire

Subwoofer speaker wire terminal examples

Subwoofers usually have two types of speaker wire terminals: spring-loaded binding posts or quick disconnect (slide connector) tabs.

Spring-loaded terminals are easy to use, while quick-disconnect tabs can be a bit trickier. Additionally, the tabs don’t always come in the same sizes for both.

The terminals are basically rectangular and are often two .250″ wide tabs or one .250″ and one .187″. For smaller speakers, one may have .110″ width. (These connectors are harder to find but a .187″ can sometimes be crimped more to make it fit.)

Note that binding posts allow connecting a thicker wire to your amplifier for better power handling.

How-to steps and images

Image showing how to connect speaker wire to subwoofers step by step

Steps for connecting speaker wire to binding post terminals on subwoofers:

  1. Strip the speaker wire to about 3/8″ to 1/2″ length bare wire. Twist the wire tightly by hand to keep the wire strands together.
  2. Push one of the terminals to open the hole. Insert the bare wire up to the insulation.
  3. Release the terminal and the wire will be held in place.
  4. Repeat for the 2nd or additional terminals.

Steps for connecting speaker wire to quick-disconnect terminals on subwoofers:

  1. Get the correct sized quick disconnect crimp terminals needed. If unsure what size, measure the subwoofer’s wire tabs with a ruler. You’ll also need a crimp tool as well.
  2. Strip the speaker wire (about 3/8″ to 1/2″ is fine) and twist the ends tightly to keep the strands in place
  3. Hold the speaker firmly and carefully slide the crimp terminals onto each tab. Be sure not to use too much force as the tabs can get bent or break off if you’re forcing them. (If the connectors are too tight, try carefully prying them with a miniature flathead screwdriver or other thin, flat tool)

When done properly, crimp terminals should not be able to move and the wire should be nice and tight with no looseness to come apart over time.

More helpful articles

Your comments are welcome!

  1. I have a pair of Canadian made audiosphere research speakers. The wires that go to the speaker connections from the box, one is red and one is just a unshielded red coloured copper wire. Which one is the positive and does it matter on the subwoofer which terminal it connects to if the connections on the speaker are not distinctly marked?

    Reply
    • Hi Dave. By convention, the red is normally the positive one. Copper/gold color/etc is often the negative one when they’re paired like that. It doesn’t really matter on the subwoofer except it’s relative to the other speakers.

      For example, if the subwoofer is wire in reverse with respect to your main speakers, that’ll be 180 degrees “out of phase” and may sound off a bit. If you suspect it’s wired in revers you can try reversing it to see if it then sounds correct.

      Reply

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