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 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
Your comments are welcome.
  1. Hi There
    A great site you have – thanks!
    I have made 4 speakers now and really enjoy this hobby – always learning more. (Also, I might be an example of how a little information can be dangerous thing!)
    I have a question about crossovers. Specifically, it relates to the crossover-tweeter connection for a 2nd order Linkwitz-Riley crossover with an L pad to attenuate the tweeter. Here is my confusion:

    • There are courses/notes/book which show two completely different polarities for this connection: one shows + crossover to – tweeter and others show + crossover to + tweeter. Can you tell me which applies?
    • I want to install an L pad but the directions for an L pad show the L pad between the + of the crossover and it attaches to the + of the tweeter.

    So, I am confused on how to combine these. Especially, if the LR crossover is + to – as I do not know how to add an L pad to this (I do understand how to add the L pad if the LR crossover is + to + as that is obvious).

    I hope this question makes sense..?!

    Thanks a lot.
    Steve

    Reply
    • Hello Steve. Those are good questions and I mention the one about tweeter polarity with even-order crossover here in this diagram.

      So to answer your questions:

      • For 2-way, even order crossovers, the tweeter and woofer will be out of phase by 180° so we reverse the tweeter normally so both are “in phase.” However, This is normally already done by the crossover designer when it’s manufactured – you don’t ordinarily have to worry about it. When building you’re own crossover that’s something you do have to remember and do yourself.

      In the information you read ideally they would spcific which case it is nor not, or perhaps that’s what they meant. Normally when a crossover is designed they just reverse the internal wiring connections at the tweeter speaker terminals so you don’t have to worry about it.

      • (Note: I assume we’re referring to an actual L-pad, not an L-pad resistor network) You connect the L-pad inline with the tweeter and to the ground terminal of the L-pad to that shared by the tweeter.

      So long story short you would just connect the L-pad to the positive connection with the tweeter and connect the tweeter as you normally wold. It will still work if the tweeter’s positive & negative connections are reversed at the crossover terminals. Just that we want the correct phasing to be lined up with the midrange or woofer for the correct sound.

      The audio signals are alternating current (AC) so they don’t have an actual polarity but that’s used so we’re able to consistently wire up speakers correctly and “in phase” with each other.

      Hopefully that helps!

      Reply
  2. I am running 2 full range speakers on a powered mixing board and I’m trying to find out how my tweeter and sub should be wired on the inside of the speaker box

    Reply
    • You’ll wire them in parallel as well as using crossover components as needed/desired. I have some additional info about there elsewhere on my site (crossover articles etc.).

      Reply
  3. Hello. I am installing 4 OHM auto speakers into a speaker cabinet that was originally an AR Acoustic Research from 1995. It has a crossover in the cabinet which was used to work with 4 OHM Speakers . I will only be using 2 speakers. One is a 6.5 coaxial and the other speaker is an 8 inch mid bass. Should I bypass the crossover and wire directly in Series ? 4 Ohm + 4 OHM = 8 OHM. My home amp is an Onkyo that works best with 8 OHM. I do not know if using only one part of the crossover for the low frequency is ok for the 8 inch but then wiring it from there in series to 6.5 coaxial which already has its own crossover might cause the speakers to not work correctly ? Does this even make sense as I am a total newb and all ears for advice. The speakers that will be used are Rockford Fosgate. Thanks in advance for your help.

    Reply
    • Hi, it’s not going to work well if you connect the speakers in series while using a crossover. When using a receiver that can’t handle 4 ohm speakers you’ll have to make a compromise. One way to do this would be to add a 4Ω power resistor in series with the positive input to the crossover, but be aware you’ll lose 1/2 the receiver power across the resistor.

      If you have plenty of power available that’s fine, but if not you may be better off getting an 8 ohm crossover. If you have 4 receiver output channels you could use the coaxial in full range on pair “A” (with a 4Ω resistor in series with each), and the 8″ with crossovers on pair “B” (with series resistors before the crossovers). Best regards.

      Reply
  4. Hi, Marty… I have passive speaker system which is consist of 1 tweeter and 1 full range unit in it. The information on the back of speaker system, the impedance of this speaker is 4 ohms. However, when I screwed out the speaker system, I found that the impedance of full range unit is 4 ohms. In this regard, I would like to know that the speaker system is already adjusted to 4 ohms by the manufacturer or some magic is involved…

    Reply
    • Hi, if the full range driver is 4Ω that’s as expected. Typically 2-way speakers use a crossover(s) which will maintain the total resistance seen at the amp or stereo, whatever that rating is. In this case, 4 ohms.

      In a 2-way crossover, for example, the tweeter only gets ~1/2 of the range of sound (upper frequencies) while similar is applied to the full range/woofer driver (lower frequencies). This means they’re (typically) never wired in parallel effectively and therefore the total Ohms ends up being the same as one speaker.

      Reply
  5. Boa noite Tenho um subwoofer pequeno da JBL com um único autofalante que está ligado a um amplificador que tem 4 saídas, mas com o uso indevido queimou e agora queria repará-lo porque só trabalha uma saída, vivo nos Açores ,9 ilhas que não tem ninguém que faça esse trabalho Para reparação do subwoofer Obrigado desde já fica o meu agradecimento.

    EDIT: Translation: “Good evening I have a small JBL subwoofer with a single speaker that is connected to an amplifier that has 4 outputs, but with improper use it burned and now I want to repair it because it only works with one output, I live in the Azores, 9 islands that don’t have no one to do this work For subwoofer repair Thank you in advance.

    Reply
    • Ola Jorge, boa tarde. (Hello Jorge, good afternoon.)

      Portuguese: Para ficar claro, o amplificador não tinha canais queimados, ou sim teve? Só o subwoofer é ruim? Não estou 100% claro sobre isso. Se o subwoofer estiver queimado em muitos casos, você pode substituí-lo por um alto-falante semelhante com a impedância correta (Ohms) sem muita dificuldade se o gabinete puder ser aberto.

      Se for o caso de o amplificador ter queimado os canais, geralmente são os transistores de saída e exigirão 1) boas habilidades e ferramentas de reparo e 2) encontrar as peças de reposição corretas. Pode ser difícil encontrar peças de reposição compatíveis.

      Ingles: To be clear, the amplifier did not have channels burned out, or yes it did? Only the subwoofer is bad? I am not clear 100% on this. If the subwoofer is burned out in many cases you can replace it with a similar speaker of the correct impedance (Ohms) without much difficulty if the enclosure can be opened up.

      If it is the case that the amplifier has burned out channels, it often is the output transistors and will require 1) good repair skills & tools, and 2) finding the correct replacement parts. It can be hard to find compatible replacement parts.

      Reply
  6. Hi, I have a JVC UX-D750 unit with 6 ohm speakers. I have obtained an extra pair of same speakers to match the original and mounted these in the next room. I then bought a speaker selector switch to switch from one room to the other. However when switching to the other room speaker’s are still playing at low level in the room that should be off.
    Thinking switch was faulty i purchased another one but still have the same problem.
    I previously used a DPDT switch to do the same thing but wanted a proper unit for the job.
    Have you any ideas as to what my problem is?

    Reply
    • Hello Derek it’s hard to say without knowing more about the particular speaker selector switch you’re using. But either it doesn’t fully switch off the other speaker outputs or passes some signal regardless.

      Reply
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