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

Summary

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. I have a pair of AAL 154 4 way home speakers with 15” woofer 1” tweeter & 2 mid range speakers For some reason the 2 mid range Speakers quit working & they aren’t blown as I hooked em up to another power source & they worked How do I check if the in line crossovers are bad or how can I fix this problem ? Thanks for any input

    Reply
    • I think the best thing to do would be to pull out the crossover(s) from the cabinet and check at each point in the crossover for sound with a test speaker or for a signal if you have access to an oscilloscope. For example, for the midrange crossover section, if it’s a 2-stage crossover you’ll check at each point before and after the inductor and capacitor used in it or whatever it may have.

      If a capacitor is bad that could be the issue, but it could be something else. Ideally you can replace the crossover components yourself if they’re bad or fix a poor connection issue etc.

      Reply
  2. Hi, this is a very well written article explain the speaker connections. I have searched the internet and I think this is the best place to explain the situation I am facing.
    I’m having difficulty with my setup where one of the speakers blew. I’m having it repaired but need help to rewire it once repairs are complete.

    My setup:
    Amplifier: SANSUI AU-117 (15 Watts per channel into 8 ohms)
    Speakers: 4x 4inch Phillips 20 watts at 8 ohms each (High and Mid)
    And
    Subwoofer: 2x 12 inch Phillips @ 15 watts at 8 ohms
    Above mentioned speakers are in pairs for (Left and Right)

    Firstly, Is my speakers matching my amp or do I run the risk of blowing it up again. And secondly how should I rewire it in series or parallel.?.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Hi Leo. To power your non-powered subwoofer in this case, you’ll need to add an amp to do that.

      For your speakers, since the Sansui only has one pair of speaker outputs, honestly the best way is to wire them in parallel and add a series 8Ω resistor with each speaker. I cover a similar example here (System #3 in the diagram).

      Wiring 2 or 3-way speakers in series causes issues with the sound. Using resistors will work fine, but you’ll lose 1/2 power across them; but that’s a compromise made when wiring speakers up where that’s not normally possible.

      Reply
      • Hi Marty, thankyou for the quick reply,

        As you said in your other article, I was not able to locate the resistor in any local shops in my area. Is there an alternate option?

        Just to add to my previous comment – I am also using a “Marantz graphic Equalizer 20D” on the system.

        I used the online Ohm calculator [ https://www.speakerimpedance.co.uk/?act=three_series&page=calculator ]

        And if connected in a series without the resistor it is 24 Ohm, but if I run it in 2 series (Tweeter and Mid) and 1 (low) in parallel the Ohm Load is 5.33333 (Is this a good/safe?)

        If the ohms is higher that the amplifier is that ok? Or again do I again run the risk of blowing up the amplifier?

        Reply
        • Hi, sorry but I’m confused and it’s not clear to me specifically how you’re wanting to connect your speakers. If you’re using crossovers, don’t connect speakers in series. They need to be in parallel else the sound will be affected due to the crossovers. It’s probably better to just email me as this is getting very technical (see my Contact page for my contact info).

          Regarding buying resistors you can usually find them online at Parts Express, Amazon, or eBay. Also at some other electronics retailers depending on what country you live in.

          Reply
  3. Hi Marty,

    I find these articles extremely helpful as I am learning to set up my home audio systems and have recently tinkered with creating bluetooth speakers from components fitted into glass bottles. I knew very little about this previously so forgive my ignorance here. I have a bluetooth module with inputs of Left Right and Ground. I have two 4 ohm speakers which I have soldered as you highlighted and I got everything to work but I am unsure if I have attached the speaker wires correctly. I attached the positive from the left to the L on the module, the Negative from the right speaker to the R on the module and the 2 other wires to the Ground. I soldered all in place after testing and hearing sound from both speakers but I am wondering should I have done it differently as I will try to do another one shortly. Any advice would be very appreciated. Thomas.

    Reply
    • Hi, I assume by “Bluetooth module” you mean an amplifier with speaker outputs and Bluetooth receiver built-in, right? It’s hard to say without knowing the specifics but it sounds right from what you described.

      Reply
  4. Hi Marty :-) I could use some assistance. I can’t find my exact situation online, cause it’s a lil out of the ordinary., lol.12 years ago I wound up buying a Yamaha RX-V465 AV receiver – capable of a 7.1 system with 6 & 8 Ohms for speakers. But I don’t do movies/home theater – I do music!! I have 2 pairs of Klipsch floor standing speakers & 1 pair of Optimus bookshelf speakers.

    All 3 pairs are 3 way speakers, 100 watt EA, & all 8 Ohm’s. My Sony 5 disc player will be connected, & that’s it. I have a brand new EQ from years ago if you can manage that on. I have a Pyle 2 X 120 max power amp if needed. I do have the “Pre Out” option on the rear for “surround back”- extra 2 channels. I know you’re laughing about now :-)

    Please tell me how to set this up. I have everything hooked up, yet there’s something wrong with sound quality. Through research, I see I might have to wire both pairs of Klipsch to the main front 4 channels in Parallel, series, or combo series/parallel? I’m most deff not an audiophile, but I sure love my music!! Please help so I can get back to my tunes!! Thank you so much in advance. Any questions for me, ask away :-)

    Reply
    • Hi Lucille. Just 2 quick things first: The RX-V465 a 5.1 receiver, not 7.1 (you don’t have 7 main speaker channels available). Also, there are only 2 front speaker channel outputs, not 4. Any audio that’s 7.1 format will be down-converted to play as 5.1 surround sound (surround sound formats are usually backward compatible for this reason).

      It is technically possible to wire the Klipsch to the 2 front channels, using a 25W or higher rated 8Ω resistor in series with each one. Ultimately you’ll have about 26W per speaker in that case as 1/2 will be lost across each resistor. Otherwise, you’ll need to use a second amp via the RCA outputs on the receiver.

      I can’t really say regarding sound quality, as that’s too vague for me to know what you mean. However, surround speaker channels are not always full range so you’ll have to change the audio mode to play full range from them. There are usually some options in most receivers to do that. Otherwise, you can use the Pro Logic II mode to use the rear channels as “rear fill” with music.

      Reply
  5. Marty, came across the article trying to wire two bookshelf speakers in series. In short, I have an existing amplifier that wants 8ohm speakers. The speakers in my system are all connected through a 6 set speaker selector. Most of the time I only run 3 at a time.

    My issue is the bookshelf speakers I bought are 4ohm, mistake on my part. I want to wire them in series so the amp will see them as 8ohms but I’m worried about the resultant sound. Right now they’re designated “left” and right”, and as such, on some songs only certain sounds come out of either the right or left speakers.

    If I wire them in series, they will not longer be left and right, will this cause a different sound than if they were wired normally in parallel to separate L and R channels?

    Reply
    • Yeah Ryan, the sound will be an issue if they’re 2 or 3-way speakers and are wired in series. Personally I wouldn’t do that unless you don’t care about the sound and just want something that functions. You can however wire a 12 ohm resistor with say 25W+ power rating (not expensive or hard to find) in series with each 4 ohm speaker. In parallel, that would mean the amp sees (12Ω + 4Ω) parallel (12Ω + 4Ω) = 8Ω.

      The drawback is each 4 ohm speaker would get 1/4th the power because the rest is wasted across the resistor. There’s not really a fantastic way to solve this problem, unfortunately, aside from using 8 ohms speakers.

      Alternatively, you could consider getting an inexpensive amp with decent power that can drive 4 ohm speakers and use that instead. You can even use a cheap 4 channel car amp and an AC/DC supply to do it. I have an article here on how to do that.

      Reply
  6. How can i connect 2woovers to one plug head, one woover has 4wires (2pairs) and the other has 2wires (1pair) from the woover, how can i connect them to the same plug of 4 wires, both having impedance of 4 ohms each

    Reply
    • Hello Emma it depends on what you’re connecting them to. I’ll need some more specific information to help you, both about your stereo or amplifier as well as the woofers.

      Reply
  7. Hi Marty,
    Thanks for the well written article.
    I am adding a subwoofer to my 2 channel stereo and I can’t find any straight up advice only either/or type articles.
    I have an integrated amp as my pre-amp and as I see it, I can either add splitters on the pre-amp outputs and run cables to the subwoofer low-level inputs or I could connect the high-level subwoofer inputs to the speaker outputs on the integrated amp/pre-amp.
    The speakers are Zu Omen Defs, Paradigm V12 subwoofer and the integrated is a Moon 250i so which would have the best sound, high-level or low?
    Thanks for your time.

    Reply
    • Hi Aaron. Generally speaking line-level connections have the best sound quality, but when it comes to subwoofer bass you’d be hard pressed to notice any difference (unless the signal or frequency response is being affected somehow by other things). I generally use line-level connections but if it’s more practical to do so, speaker level inputs are fine too.

      Speaker level inputs don’t really draw any power at all so that’s not a concern either.

      Reply
  8. Hi, thanks for the simple explanation and diagrams. Two questions regarding parallel wiring: 1. When connecting two pairs of speakers to each channel of a stereo amplifier can the individual speaker connections be made at the amp speaker terminals as opposed to spliced in line as shown in the diagram? 2. The amp is a Emotiva stereo 125w/ch @ 8ohm. The speakers are Paradigm Monitor 7 ver. 6, 3-way 8 ohm, sensitivity 1w 92 dB. The terminal are marked red/positive and black/negative. The connections are bi-wired. The other speakers are Large Advents, 2-ways, 8 ohm, sensitivity 1w 88 dB. The terminals are marked 8 ohm and O. I planned to have one Paradigm and one Advent per channel. With regards to the Advents, for a normal single pair of speaker stereo set up, it doesn’t matter if the amp positive and negative wires are connected to the Advent 8 ohm or 0 terminals, as long as they are the same. However in what I’ve proposed what would the proper connection be to the Advents? Is the 8 ohm terminal positive or negative?
    Thank you in advance of your response.

    Reply
    • Hi there Will.

      1. Yes, you can do that if you like. Sometimes it can be tricky connecting two speaker wire pairs to the same terminals, however (depends on what you’re working with).
      2. You won’t be able to use both pairs of speakers in parallel on each channel unless the amp can handle a 4Ω load. If it can’t, the only way to make that work is by using an 8Ω power resistor in series with each speaker.
      3. I am not 100% sure, but I think the “8” marks the positive terminal. That’s an unusual way to mark it. I can probably tell with a pic, but I don’t have one so I can’t help much more.

      You’ll want to do your best to wire the speakers all the same way for their polarity. Speakers wired with opposing polarities produce sound waves with the opposite polarity w/ respect to the other speaker, meaning a portion of your sound could be canceled out and sound weird. It usually happens for bass frequencies when that does occur.

      Reply
  9. Does the voice coil in a large speaker require more power from a radio than a small speaker? Can I replace a small portable radio speaker with an ordinary 6″ X 9″ speaker? Thanks..Arnie

    Reply
    • Hi Arnold. Generally speaking it does, but not always. It depends on the speaker’s design (cone size & mass, the magnet used, and some other things). If you try using a 6×9″ in place of a tiny speaker the portable radio won’t likely be able to drive it very well, unfortunately. It’ll start distorting badly when you turn up the volume.

      The built-in amplifier in a portable radio is using only a few hundred milliwatts (hundredths of a watt) unlike other other electronics. You could, however, use an inexpensive battery-powered mini amp board in between them to do it. You can find some great (and cheap!) little class D amp boards at electronics hobbyist shops online and also on eBay.

      Reply
  10. Hi, thanks for the article. I have a quick question. Can wiring two speakers to left and right be done with 3 wires vs 4, ie running the negative to both speakers?

    Reply
    • Hi Kevin. Sometimes yes and sometimes no. It depends on the design of the stereo or amplifier. For example, you usually can’t do that for car amplifiers.

      It’s usually best not to try it for home or car audio unless you know for sure.

      Reply
  11. Marty,
    I’m about to redo the stereo on my boat and have some questions about my speakers and wiring to the amps I plan on installing. I’m planning on running the 4 tower speakers(4ohm) and the
    12” sub(4ohm) off of a 5 channel
    80w x 4w rms + 300w x1w rms amp, connecting them traditionally. For the interior speakers, I have 6 (4ohm) that max at 60w rms. So the question is, since it’s hard to find a 6 channel amp that puts out less than 100w rms each channel, should I get an amp with less channels and wire the speakers differently? Would it make sense to get a 2 channel and wire 3 positives together and 3 negatives on each channel or does that totally mess with the ohms? Not really wanting to bridge/series, to try to extend the life of the amps and wasn’t sure if wiring it like I said automatically divides the power or of it won’t work that way.

    Sorry,
    *80w x 4 + 300w x 1
    Got w happy apparently.. haha

    Reply
    • Hi Weston. I’m not clear on how many speakers you have exactly (4? 6? 10? not 100% sure) so I’ll speak generally. Basically, it’s best to run no more than two 4Ω speakers in parallel off of each amp channel. You can find 6 and even 8 channel marine amps from Rockville that should help make the installation easier, and they’re pretty reasonably priced.

      You will want decent power per channel because if you use more than one speaker it’ll have to share the available power with the 2nd speaker it’s wired with. So if you can get close to 100W RMS/channel that’s better. Or something like 80W is probably ok for the full-range speakers. Not a “must have” but it helps with available volume especially when you need to crank it up.

      Reply

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