If you are into high-end home theatre, check out our Display and Audio Calibration Guides to maximise your experience.
In a previous post, I explained how to position your speakers for surround sound. Next I would like to show you how to wire them up. It is really simple to do with the basic principles below.
All speakers will have two terminals: one for the positive and one for the negative side of the signal. Your AV Receiver will have a pair of terminals for every channel it can amplify. They are usually coloured red for positive and black for negative.
Wiring your speakers consists of two major steps:
- Connecting the speaker wire to the speaker. This will consist of connecting the two conductors of the wire to the red/black terminals on the speakers.
- Connecting the speaker wire to the AVR. This will consist of connecting the wires coming from the speakers to the corresponding terminals on the AV Receiver.
To aid in the above process, most speaker cables will have one side of the wire labelled with a positive sign, while the other one will be labelled with a negative sign. Sometimes, only one or the other is labelled, but in all instances it should make it easy to connect them up to the correct post. If the label is not present, label one conductor positive and the other negative and be sure to be consistent from one end to the other end of the wire.
Connecting Speaker Wire to Speakers And AV Receiver
Below I have outlined the different connection and installation methods that you might come across wiring your speakers.
Binding posts are terminals that allow you to connect speaker wires to a receiver, amplifier, or speaker. They are usually colour-coded as red for positive and black for negative. Binding posts are the most versatile type of speaker connection as they allow for all different types of connectors to be used, such as using bare wire, banana plugs, spade connectors, or pin connectors.
To use binding posts with bare wire, you need to strip the ends of the speaker wires about 12mm (1/2in) and twist them tightly. Then, unscrew the post to expose the hole that goes through it. Next, insert the bare wire into the hole on the center post, making sure that red goes to the positive and black goes to the negative side of the wires. Lastly, tighten and you are all done.
If you are using banana plugs on your speaker wire, make sure the binding post is tight then insert the banana plug into the hole on the back of the post. Note that some binding posts have caps on them that protects the hole. These caps – if present – need to be removed before you insert the banana plugs.
Spring clips are another type of connector that you may come across. They are usually found on the back of the speaker and consist of two metal plates that are pushed together by a spring. The spring will hold the wires in place and create a secure connection, but not as secure as binding posts. Spring clips are easy to use and do not require any tools, but they may not be compatible with thicker wires or banana plugs.
To use spring clips, strip the ends of your speaker wires, exposing about 12mm (1/2in) of bare copper. Then, while pressing down on the tabs insert the wire into the slot of the spring clip, making sure that the positive wire goes to the positive (red) terminal and the negative wire goes to the negative (black) terminal. Release the tab to secure the wire in place.
Banana plugs are connectors that attach to the ends of speaker wires, making it easy to plug and unplug your speakers and receiver. They are called banana plugs because they have a shape that is wider in the middle and narrower at the top and bottom, like a banana. Banana plugs work with binding posts, but not spring clips.
To use banana plugs, you need to strip the speaker wires, insert them into the plugs, and tighten the screws. Then you can insert the plugs into the binding posts on your speakers and receiver.
To learn more about banana plugs and see our recommendations, check out our article, “How to Use Banana Plugs.”
Choosing the Right AV Receiver Terminals
Your AV Receiver will have the red and black speaker terminal pairs labelled with the speaker positions: Front Left, Front Right, Centre, Surround Left, Surround Right, Surround Back Left, Surround Back Right and so on. To understand what these positions mean, refer to my previous post or your AV Receiver’s user manual. You will simply need to connect the red and black terminals up to the matching speakers, ensuring that positive and negative terminal pairs on your speakers are connected to the corresponding terminals on your AV Receiver.
To attach the cables, unscrew the binding post and insert the stripped wires from the side of the posts ensuring none of the unpeeled wire is hanging out on either side. Screw the jumper back on while holding the speaker cable in place. Ensure it is screwed back on tight so the cable cannot become loose.
If you are using banana plugs, the process is the same as installing them into the speakers. Make sure the post is tight, then insert the banana plug into the back of the AVR post. Again, make sure the caps are removed first if they are present.
Don’t Let Wires Touch!
What you absolutely need to ensure is that the wires don’t touch – at either your speakers or at the AV Receiver. Touching wires will cause a short circuit and could damage your AV Receiver and your speakers.
To further increase safety, make sure that your AV Receiver or whichever equipment you are working with is not plugged into the wall and let it sit for at least 10 mins to discharge any capacitors. Electronics can still cause electrical harm if off and plugged in.
Some speakers have two sets of terminals connected by something called the jumper.
The double terminals can be used to bi-wire the speaker. Bi-wiring means connecting the same amplified signal to both the midrange and high-frequency drivers (or sets of drivers) to achieve double the power and get a cleaner sound.
Bi-wiring requires an AV Receiver that has this feature or an additional external amplifier. Additionally, it requires advanced set-up of said equipment. Refer to your AV Receiver’s manual for more on whether this is supported and on how to set this up.
Connecting Your Subwoofer
A subwoofer 99% of the time will have its own amplification, therefore it is not connected using a speaker cable and speaker terminals. It is connected to a pre-amplified signal output by your AV Receiver called a pre-out jack. You will find the subwoofer pre-out jack on the back of your amplifier under the area called “Pre-Out.”
The cable you will need to connect your subwoofer with is called a single mono RCA to RCA cable or subwoofer cable. If your subwoofer has an LFE input, connect it to that input. If your subwoofer only has a line level input, connect it to that. These will usually be labelled accordingly on the back of your subwoofer. If there is only one RCA input, don’t try to figure out what it is, simply connect the cable.
To ensure the subwoofer is functioning correctly, set the crossover and the high-pass filter to their maximum setting. This is usually a knob labelled ‘crossover frequency’ on the back of your subwoofer. This is needed because for home cinema, you need to let your AV Receiver handle bass management for this speaker. Lastly, don’t forget to plug the subwoofer in and power it on.
On higher-end AV Receivers, you may notice that all other speakers will have a corresponding pre-out jack. In an advanced post, I will show you how to use these for adding another amplifier as either an upgrade or for bi-wiring (coming soon).
Thank you for reading. If you are into high-end home theatre, don’t forget to check out our Display and Audio Calibration Guides to maximise your experience.
If you have any questions about how to wire up your home theatre, feel free to leave a comment or book some time with us. See more about our consulting products here or by clicking below.