A Guide to Speaker Cables

Audio cables, sometimes called speaker cables, have become a common part of the digital world. For home stereo systems, in particular, speaker cables are a necessity. While they might seem simple to connect, there is more at work than meets the eye.

Connecting amplifiers, receivers, and speaker terminals can be complex but a guide to speaker cables can go a long way. Check out the guide below to get a much better understanding of how these integral cables work.

Speaker Wire

The first step when talking about speaker cables is knowing what this connector does. Used for both home stereo and business purposes, basic speaker wires have two parts to them: the positive and negative. Even with two connectors, it can be quite easy to get your choice wrong. Swapping those signals can have a serious impact on the performance of your audio system, which is why it’s so important to double-check everything.

Thankfully, most audio equipment these days has easily identified terminals. Speaker wires typically operate on a solid/dashed line system. The dashed lines typically indicate the positive side, though there are light and dark colors as well. It can feel a bit overwhelming to determine each of the speaker cable types.

Connector Types

For the most part, speaker wire comes bare. Because of this, a wire stripper is generally required to expose the strands at the end of the wire. The wire gets twisted and inserted into a connector – spade connector, pin connector, banana plug, etc. – in order to connect to these devices.

Speaker wire can also come with its own connectors. This helps to facilitate the connection between cable and device. If they’re color-coded, it can expedite the installation process. Pin connectors are both easy to insert and firm, making them a popular choice for those who like to install their own connectors. Check out the differences between each connector type to ensure that you have the right one for your needs.

Connecting to Amplifiers or Receivers

It is very important that, when connecting speaker cables, positive is matched to positive and negative is matched to negative. Mixing them is a common mistake and it will have a noticeable impact on the overall performance and quality of the device in question. Most cables these days are labeled for the sake of simplicity.

When speaker wires are connected properly, this is known as “in phase.” Get them backward, and it is “out of phase.” Though there is a noticeable impact on performance, it likely won’t do any damage to any of the components. These quality differences can be poor subwoofer performance, lean-sounding bass, or even both. For the most part, you can generally tell when the connectors have been swapped because the audio doesn’t sound quite right.

Misc. Tips and Facts

A common use for speaker cables involves connecting a car’s audio system to an amplifier. There are car wiring kits that are available to make this kind of installation a lot easier. You can wire an amp in a few different ways but it comes down to making five connections: audio output, audio input, ground, remote turn-on, and battery power.

Choosing the right speaker wire is also important. The key is to check out the terminals on whatever piece of equipment you are using. Some are interchangeable, and copper or copper-plated aluminum tend to be the best options. They produce a superior sound quality, which can be important when it comes to musical equipment.  Splicing is another option, but it can be a bit tougher because it involves stripping the wires, crimping the connectors, and applying heat in order to shrink it.

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