How-to guide

How To Connect Speaker Wire – A Detailed Guide For Everyone

Welcome! In my very detailed speaker wire guide I’ll show you how to connect speaker wire with great results. You don’t have to be a tech person to do it – it’s easy to do it yourself (and save money too) once you know how.

I’d love to share what I’ve learned from years of audio installation experience to help you get your system up and going!

In this guide I’ll show you:

  • How to connect speaker wire to car or home speakers and car/home amplifiers & stereos
  • Extending speaker wire (splicing and connecting to other wire)
  • Using banana plugs for speaker wire
  • Clear and detailed speaker wire diagrams

Which speaker wire is positive? Which is negative?

Which speaker wire is positive diagram with examples

The most common kinds of positive wire markings are shown here as examples. 99% of the time, figuring out which wire is positive is really easy once you know what to look for.

The good news is that once you know what to look for, 99% of the time it’s very easy to tell which speaker wire is positive and which is negative.

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

Here’s a list of the most common ways to tell which is the positive wire:

  1. A printed line or series of dashes/lines is on the positive wire
  2. One wire’s insulation is red or a different color than the negative wire (most often red is 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 wire gauge info printed on it
  5. An imprint or molded stripe is made in the positive wire’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)

Let’s start off by covering one of the most important topics: how to connect speaker wire together to extend for more length.

Below you’ll find a simple diagram showing you how to splice & extend speaker wire using two of the best ways available.

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 ways, using solder is extremely reliable but takes more hassle time. Crimp connectors, however, give great results in only minutes and this is what I use for most of my professional car & home audio jobs.

1. How to connect speaker wire together with crimp connectors

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

Using crimp connectors is one of my favorite ways to connect speaker wire (or power wire, too) as a professional installer. It’s fairly fast and gives professional results with very little hassle or work.

I recommend this way of connecting wire to nearly everyone.

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

Examples of some of the best ways to cut speaker wire using tools or a pair of utility scissors. Cutting wire is easy with the correct tools. Many tools like wire strippers or crimpers also have a cutting feature built-in.

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

Of the 5 listed here, I recommend and use wire cutting pliers as they’re capable of cutting a wide range of wire sizes. For typical speaker wire like 18 gauge, the wire cutting feature on many other tools works fine.

Ultimately, though, it’s a lot more convenient to have an “all-in-one” tool like a crimp tool if you’re only doing light work occasionally.

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

To strip speaker wire you can use a number of tools. I recommend standard wire a standard low-priced wire stripper/crimper (shown above) or similar.

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 & splice using crimp connectors.

Image showing ruler next to 1/2 inch stripped wire

I recommend stripping enough wire to leave about 3/8″ to 1/2″ wire exposed.  For soldering, you’ll need a minimum of 1/2″ to be able to twist the wire together.

For crimp connectors, 3/8″ or more should be fine.

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 connector on each wire and a tool to crimp them for a reliable connection.

Using crimp connectors with speaker wire isn’t very 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 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.
Tip: 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 it look like when you correctly connect speaker wire together?

Closeup example of properly crimped speaker wire

Crimp connectors, also sometimes called butt connectors, are sold in standard colors for the wire gauge sizes they can be used with. Although red is listed as fitting 18 AWG wire, I’ve been using blue butt connectors with 18 AWG speaker wire for years without problems.

Wire crimp connector examples with wire gauges labeled

Examples of “butt” (crimp) connectors are shown here. They’re sold based on the wire gauge they can be used with.

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 different internal wire conductor sizes.

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 speaker as when done properly soldered wire is extremely strong and is permanent.

How to solder speaker wire

To begin, follow the wire cutting & stripping steps from the first section (using crimp 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 soldering iron is hot, apply heat to the wire with the tip. Once heated (after a few seconds usually), apply solder enough it has flowed fully through the wire.
  5. Rotate the wire to the other side and apply the solder until all of the wire is fully saturated with solder.
  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.

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

How long does soldering speaker wire properly 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 connectors.

Example of soldering iron and accessories needed to solder wire

Parts cost for soldering speaker wire

A soldering iron can be bought for about $7-$10. You’ll also need some electrical wire and solder, too. For best results, I recommend at least a 25W soldering iron to get the wire hot enough for the solder to flow well.

I would say you can expect to spend about $10 total if you shop carefully if you don’t already own a soldering iron.

How to connect speaker wire to a receiver or home 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.

How to connect speaker wire to receivers or amplifier with binding posts

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

You can easily connect speaker wire to most amplifiers or receivers 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 one at a time up to (but not including) the insulation. Twist the tops down and onto the wire firmly to hold it in place.

How to connect speaker wire to receivers 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. You can quickly disconnect or reconnect you speakers any time since they simply plug into the jacks.

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).

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. Most fall into one of 2 basic categories: those that use a set screw or those that have a binding post style. I’ll explain the differences as we go.

When shopping (and especially depending on where you shop) you’ll find several different styles of banana plug connectors that work for speaker wire. However, nearly all work basically 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.

The most important thing to know is how to use them with smaller wire as some of the most common wire gauges (like 18AWG wire) don’t fit correctly inside them if not done right. The wire could come out if not connected properly.

Despite some of these banana plugs being more expensive than others, nearly all work very well so there’s no reason to pay too much. You can find a good deal from online retailers, while local stores can be a bit expensive.

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

Adding banana plugs to speaker wire isn’t hard, but there’s a thing or two that can cause problems if you’re not aware of them ahead of time. Specifically, the internal wire barrel (connector) is too big for most commonly used speaker wire gauges.

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

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. Strip the speaker wire using a wire stripper tool or similar for the best results. Leave roughly 1/2″ of bare wire.
  3. (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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

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 aren’t hard to use, but you’ll need to carefully use the wire in a way that it’s held in place 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 I have very large gauge speaker wire.

Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:

  1. Loosen the set screw or set screw 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.
  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.

You’re done! Binding posts banana plugs should only take a handful of seconds to add to the speaker wire.

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, amplifiers, 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 spring clip one at a time and insert the wire into the hole (insert enough to fit well into the opening).
  3. Release the spring 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.

How to connect speaker wire to car or home speakers

There’s normally 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 to use a soldering iron 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. Strip the speaker wire (about 3/8″ to 1/2″ is fine) and twist the ends tightly to keep the strands in place.
  2. Shape the wire ends into a curved hook style.
  3. Insert the wire into the small holes in the speaker wire tabs.
  4. Apply heat with a hot soldering iron to both the wire and the speaker wire tab. After a few moments, begin applying solder until it flows and covers the hole, wire, and tab near the speaker wire.
  5. 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 a poor connection to become free and then 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 one of two types of speaker wire terminals: spring-loaded binding posts or quick disconnect (slide connector) tabs.

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

For subwoofers, the tabs are most often two .250″ slide tabs or one .250″ and one .187″ or one .110″ like are used with smaller speakers.

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 small speakers. .250″ is very common for subwoofers.

How to connect speaker wire to subwoofers (how-to image)

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

There are only a few steps you’ll need to do for connecting speaker wire to subwoofers.

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 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. 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 subwoofer and carefully slide the crimp terminals onto each tab. Be sure not to use too much force as the tabs can get bent 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)

You’re done! 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.

Note: While you can use solder & a soldering iron to attach the speaker wire to the wire tabs, generally I recommend you use crimp terminals instead as it makes it much easier should you need to remove or replace subwoofers later.

Additional reading + if you have questions

I’ve got some other great information related to speakers, wiring, and more!

Have questions, ideas, or feedback? Feel free to leave a comment below or contact me directly.

I look forward to your suggestions for how I can make my article more helpful to everyone.

Your comments are welcome!

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