The Speaker Wiring Diagram And Connection Guide – The Basics You Need To Know

We all enjoy music and speakers make that possible – but it’s confusing if you’re not sure how to connect them the right way.

In this post, you’ll find clear and detailed speaker wiring diagrams that to help (and that you can print out if you like, too!).

I’ll go into detail about the right and wrong way to wire speakers and connect them properly to your stereo or amplifier. It’s actually pretty simple once you learn the basics.

Printable speaker wiring diagram

Click on the image to enlarge it or click here for the Adobe .pdf version you can download and print.

Image of illustrated speaker wiring diagram

Speaker basics and speaker wiring explained

1.  What is speaker impedance? (the “Ohms” rating)

Speakers, much like other electromechanical devices, all have an electrical resistance to the flow of electrical current, much like a standard resistor, a light bulb, or many common items you’re familiar with.

The difference is how they behave when music is present when they’re connected to a musical amplifier of some sort.

The resistance value comes from a long coil of wire inside each speaker called a voice coil. A voice coil is a coil of wire that, when placed inside a magnetic field, makes the speaker move and produce sound when driven by an amplifier.

Example of a speaker voice coil close up

Speakers contain a long wound loop of wire called a voice coil. Loops of wire have a property called inductance which affects a speaker’s resistance value depending on the frequency (sound range) being played.

As they have electrical properties that include inductance and capacitance, their “total resistance” can actually change with the music slightly. Because of this, there’s some extra math needed to figure out the total resistance.

The word used to describe this is called impedance.

Speaker impedance is just a more advanced way of finding the total resistance, and by tradition is measured in units called “Ohms.”

The good news is that you don’t have to worry too much about the details – it doesn’t matter for basic speaker use, and long as you understand the basic rules you’ll be fine!

2. Stereo and amplifier minimum impedance ratings

All amplifiers of any type – where it’s a car stereo amplifier, home stereo receiver, home theater amplifier, and so on, have a minimum Ohms (impedance) rating. It’s important that you pay attention and don’t exceed the minimum speaker impedance rating.

This is because as the impedance is lowered, the electrical current increases and the stereo has to do more work. This increases the amount of stress and heat it has to handle.

If your stereo is labeled by the manufacturer as being “8 ohm speaker compatible” or similar, that means connecting lower impedance speakers can cause excessive heat and possible damage very quickly.

For example, connecting a 4 ohm speaker to an amplifier that is labeled as working with 8 ohm speakers would mean it would have to produce double the electrical current to the speaker!

Image of the rear of a stereo receiver and speaker impedance terminals

Image of the rear of a home stereo receiver/amplifier. The recommended speaker impedance ratings are usually listed above the speaker wire posts. A home stereo, for example, may often list 6-16 ohms as being ok for use.

Also, attempting to wire two 8 ohm speakers in parallel to an 8 ohm stereo would have the same effect. (Two 8 ohm speakers in parallel is equal to 4 ohms total that the amp will see)

I’ve seen many attempts by people who had friends who claimed they could “boost the power” or “get more power” by some claimed trick, but it doesn’t work. They ended up with a burned-out amplifier.

An amplifier can only handle so much heat and stress before it fails, so be sure to observe these rules. Be sure you wire speakers to meet the minimum Ohm rating you need.

Remember: don’t use a speaker impedance below the rating given by the manufacturer. Overheating or permanent damage can result. I’ve seen it happen!

3. What is speaker polarity?

Speakers are different than other devices in that they work using alternating current (AC) instead of direct current (DC). This is good news! It means you can’t harm your speakers in most cases by having the positive (“+”) and negative (“-“) wiring reversed.

Unfortunately, it gets just a little bit more complicated when we use more than 1 speaker.

Speak polarity and why you should match speaker connections

As I mentioned, speakers work by moving a cone back and forth in order to produce sound. If you wire 2 speakers in a stereo with different polarities (for example, one has positive and negative wired as labeled, and the 2nd speaker has the opposite) an interesting thing occurs: they’re out of phase and some sound cancels out.

The result is a strange and poor sounding stereo. In most cases, you’ll notice a lack of bass sound and it won’t sound pleasing to the ear as expected.

Diagram showing speakers in and out of phase

When speakers are wired the opposite of each other sound waves cancel out. When wired the same, sound waves add together for more sound.

Speakers that are wired differently sound poor because much of the sound is canceled out. Basically, it’s simply because sound waves from one speaker are moving in the opposite direction of the other speaker – and if they’re close to the same time and frequency range, often they cancel out.

This is why when 2 woofers are placed in a box and are wired in parallel but with opposite connections to each other, they are “out of phase” and have almost no bass! It’s because they are doing the opposite work rather than working together to produce more sound.

While one is moving up, the other is moving the opposite direction, and so on.

So the most important thing here to remember is to wire speakers consistently the same way as each other.

4. Wiring 2-way and 3-way speakers

2-way speakers, such as home stereo or car audio component speakers, are those which come as a pre-designed speaker set and use a crossover. The job of a crossover (also called a passive crossover, because it use basic capacitors and inductors rather than electronics) is to restrict the music production each speaker tries to produce.

For example, tweeters can’t reproduce bass frequencies (and can in fact be damaged by them) so a 2-way speaker crossover is used to prevent this. Similarly, a woofer can’t produce high pitch sounds well and is prevented from doing so.

Unlike standard separate speakers, 2-way and 3-way speakers that have a crossover can only be used in parallel and not in series.

This is because unlike separate speakers with no crossovers, in this case, many sounds will be filtered out. What this means is that little to no sound would be produced if another 2-way speaker is connected in series.

Image for 2-way speaker diagram examples

Therefore if you have a home stereo or car stereo in which 2-way speakers are used, you’ll have to add more 2-way speakers (if the total impedance can be supported by the amplifier) or add more amplifier channels for more sound.

5. Doubling the number of speakers or amount of power does not double the volume

In some cases, more speakers can be added to increase the amount of volume you can get or to place speakers in more rooms, more locations in your vehicle, and so on. You also may have wondered what would happen if you bought an amplifier with twice the power of your present one.

There’s one important thing to understand, however: having 2 or 3 speakers instead of one does not double or triple the sound. It increases a few decibels (dB) for each speaker added.

Doubling the power does not double the volume either.

This is because of how the human ear works and the physics of sound, along with how speakers work and how much volume they can produce for a given amount of power.

Generally speaking, the human ear will hear a very small amount of volume increase for each doubling of acoustic power: about 3 decibels (dB). For most people, the small amount of volume increase you notice when turning up a volume knob 1 notch is somewhere around 3dB.

Example volume produced by a typical speaker at different power levels:

  • 1W = 89 dB
  • 2W = 92 dB
  • 4W = 95 dB
  • 8W = 98 dB
  • 16W = 101 dB
  • 32W = 104 dB
  • 64W = 107 dB
  • 128W = 110 dB

So as you can see, doubling the amount of power you can drive a speaker at does not mean you’ll double the volume. It increases it a very small amount (as far as your ears are concerned).

You can also see from above that really cranking the volume takes a lot of power!

How to get more volume from speakers

The best ways to get more volume  in most cases are:

  • Use more efficient speakers (speakers that produce a higher dB volume at 1W of power – higher is better)
  • Add more speakers if you have an amplifier that can support it
  • Use higher-power rated speakers and a larger power amplifier if a lot more volume is your goal

Most people need an amplifier that can produce enough volume to fill a room or vehicle and turn up the volume from time to time. I like to use 50W or higher per channel as a good rule of thumb when buying an amplifier.

How to read speaker positive and negative labels (+ and -)

Home stereo and car speakers normally often use a red or plus sign “+” to indicate the polarity for the speaker wiring terminals which you connect your wiring to.

Here are a few things to know there as well:

  • In some cases, a black dot or a red or black stripe is used to mark the positive terminal
  • If a speaker has terminals of 2 different sizes, the larger of the 2 is normally the positive one
  • For speakers with wire already attached, typically the brass or golden-colored wire is the positive one
  • For speakers with wire attached but the same colored wires, most have some small printing on the positive wire – be sure to check closely


Here I’ve provided you with a speaker diagram showing basic connections, I explained several important things you need to know about speakers and speaker wiring. Hopefully I’ve given you more understanding about how to connect speakers and get the most enjoyment out of your system.

Have questions, comments, or suggestions? Be sure to leave a comment below or send me a message.

Confused about tweeters? Here’s a helpful guide explaining what tweeters are and what they’re used for.

Interested in bridging your car amp?  Find out how to bridge a car amp in this post.

Your comments are welcome!

  1. Hi Marty I have 2 ds18 exl-x10.4d and a power acoustic 3500w odi-3500d amp what’s the best way to wire these for max performance

    • You’d wire each in parallel for 2Ω then both in parallel for 1Ω seen by the amp to get the max. power available to them.

  2. Well thank you so much. This is the first article I’ve come across that explains you should NOT wire 2-ways/coaxials in series. My 94 civic hatchback has a very unusual rear speaker setup. Each rear channel has x2 dual-cone 8ohm 5.25″s wired in parallel (down to 4ohms). I tried replacing these speakers with 2.3 ohm jbl GXs wired in series up to 4.6ohms. As you can imagine the results were a major disappointment. Seems my only remaining option for full-range speakers is to try some 8ohm in-ceiling home theater coaxials. I’m just not sure they will be able to withstand the abuse of being mounted in a hot car with stiff suspension.

    • Hello, Sean. Well there’s another way to do this, although it’s not great trying to drive two speakers from a single radio channel because of how little power is available, which they’ll share.

      I would recommend buying standard 4 ohm car speakers and using a 4Ω power resistor (say 10-15W) in series with each to give a total of 4Ω.

      Ultimately, however, they best solution is to use only one speaker per channel as there’s no real reason to do so. It sounds like someone installed a 2nd pair of speakers in the car which they shouldn’t have done (I know they definitely didn’t have 2 pair from the factory). Best regards.

  3. Thanks for the input. This rear setup was a Japan-market OEM option for hatchbacks. If you search for “EG6 curved Gathers” you can see examples.

    Has a special double speaker bracket, baffle, grill panel and features dual 8ohm 5.25″ with parallel wire harness. For being 27 years old they still sound good and put out a lot of bass (way more than a single JBL GX 2.3ohm). Of course with no tweeter the highs are missing, and as marked 20watts max (each) they start to break up long before my 6.5″ 4ohm fronts. Though it could just be the head unit clipping instead (17wrms x 4 eclipse).

    • Wow those are certainly interesting, although not much without tweeters like you said. If you’re wanting to keep the same setup, then using series resistors will allow you to do that.

      If you’re lacking on power a decent small 2-channel amplifier would be a good idea. If it’s 2Ω capable then you could forgo the need for series resistors altogether. These days a compact class D amp is affordable and you may be able to find a +12V battery power source in the trunk, avoiding the need to run power wire to the amp from the front. (Class D amps draw less current than older A/B amps).

    • That’s right, but it’s a compromise you live with if you want to drive mismatched speakers. Similarly, using 8Ω speakers means they develop only 1/2 as much as 4Ω would. But the difference is you’ll be able to choose from a lot of options when shopping when using 4Ω speakers.

      In either case the end result is about the same acoustically and power-wise. That’s the price of using a speaker load not matching the impedance requirement of a head unit or amplifier (hence why I suggested using a small amp to deal with this problem).

  4. Hi Marty. I have an older pair of Pioneer PAX 30c speakers that look like they are in a custom or Heathkit cabinet. The connector looks plug and play, but not anything that I can find- it looks more like a power cord connection. The positive terminal is marked inside, should I just rewire? I will try to attach a picture of the plug on the back… thanks, Chris

    • Hi, if you need to you can send a photo to me by email (see my Contact page). You may be able to replace the old connector with a standard speaker wire terminal with spring clip terminals or binding post type terminals. That’s what I would do.

      You can find those on eBay, at Parts Express, and other places for just a few dollars.

  5. I have 17 speakers across three floors in a two storey building, with each floor having an elv room. How do I connect the speakers?

    • Hi Francis. You’ll want to look into distributed speaker systems (70 volt type systems). They allow using multiple speakers and are common in buildings & businesses.

  6. Marty,

    Please excuse my ignorance. I am hooking up my new Kef meta speakers to my classic Mac 1500
    receiver. The Mac has a “C” common and 8 ohm terminal for both the left and right speakers. In order to ensure the speakers are in phase – I’m wondering which wire ( “c” or 8) is connected to the positive and negative terminals of the speakers?

    Thanks! Scott

    • Good morning, Scott. “C” should normally be the ground (negative) connection so the others would be the positive wiring terminals.

  7. I’ve got a Harmon kardon hk395 subwoofer but I’m missing the satellite speakers so I cannot power it on is there anyway I could wire it to my home streo if it didn’t have to have the satellite speakers I could wire it no problem

    • Hello there. Since the power switch is located in one of the speakers I don’t think that’s going to be doable. Unless you can find a matching connector figure out the pinout for the connector “Satellite Output” that would go to the speaker with the power switch. Sorry!

  8. So I may be crazy but I’m trying to wire 12 speakers total on my pontoon boat. 3 per channel 3 on left front (2-8” and 1 6.5”) 3 on right front (same set up) 3 on rear left (1-8” 2-6.5”), 3 on rear right (same as left) . They are all 4ohm Svc speakers. Is there an effective way to wire these up and keep the load 4 ohms? I know I may not need 12 speakers but they’re all laid out and already installed. I have two 4 channel amps I can use too. Just not sure how to wire it all up to get the most bang for the buck. I could effectively use both amps wire 8 speakers up and then use a 4 channel speaker switch to divert power to the rear speakers when we’re in the back in the water. 🤷🏼‍♂️ Please help 🤣

    • Hello Jeremy. If you have two 4 channel amps then you can just wire 2 speakers per channel in order to have decent power to them. That assumes the amps are 2Ω stable for each channel which most amps are these days. This is the simplest and most efficient way for speaker power also.

      If the amps are not 2Ω stable then that’s different and would need a different approach. Best regards.

  9. Hi, I picked up a “Portogram Combi” (CD,MD,amp) cheap at auction, the speaker connections on the amplifier are a single left and a single right port, with fuses below. What sort of connection on the speaker cable is required ? Thanks.

  10. Hi Marty,

    I have a very simple speaker to receiver wiring question. I have a vintage 1970’s era Harmon Kardon 630 receiver. The speaker wire connections are labelled “ground” and “left” and “ground” and “right”. I have two AR-4 bookshelf speakers (also vintage 1970’s.) The speaker’s wire connections are labelled “0 ohm” and “8 ohm”. I have two separate wires for each speaker, one with a black spade type connector and one with a red spade type connector (to be connected to the receiver). The opposite ends (to be connected to the speakers) are just bare wires right now. Which color connects to the “ground” on the receiver, and then which connector of the speaker does the opposite end of the “ground” wire connect to?

    • Hello James connect the red to the “8 ohm” connection and the black to “0 ohm” as I believe those are positive and negative, respectively.

  11. I have a 5 channel MB Quartz amp in my boat, I currently have 4 polk DB 451 4 ohm speakers hooked up to the 4 channels with a subwoofer hooked up to the 5th channel.
    I would like to hook up a 5th DB 451 speaker to one of the 4 channels that currently has an existing db451 hooked up. The channels on the amp are either 4 ohm or 2 ohm. How would I hook up the 5th speaker?

    • Hi, if the amp is rated for 2Ω per channel you can just connect the second 4Ω speaker in parallel with another one on the same channel.

  12. I have an old 6″ speaker with 3 terminals. All 3 terminals have a braided wire going to the cone. As near as I can tell, it is 5W at 4 ohm. The left terminal points “down” and the middle one points down as well, but the far right one is turned 90° to point to the right. Can you help me figure out which ones are the + and -?


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