How to Hook Up Speakers to an Amp

You've just purchased 440-watt speakers capable of a gust-busting 91 decibels, backed by a 440-watt four-channel amplifier. The only problem here is that you're a bit lacking in the wiring department and want to make sure you've correctly put together these monster noise machines---all for the sake of blowing your neighbors out of their lounge chairs. No worries. Hooking up speakers to an amp is simple.

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Speaker wire comes in various gauges, lengths, resistance and capacities.

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Measure the distance from the amplifier to the speakers. If the speakers are close to the amplifier, say within 80 feet, 16-gauge wire will do fine. If the speakers are further away, you need thicker wire---12 to 14 gauge---for better conductivity.

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Note the travel path of the speaker wire when measuring the distance from the amp to the speakers, say if you are running the wires down to the floor then back up to the speakers.

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Use a piece of string as a substitute for positioning the wire from amp to speakers, then measure the length of that string as an indicator of how much speaker wire you will need.

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Once you've got the correct length of wire, gently cut the wire straight across with your wire cutters.

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Wire cutters are your best friend when it comes to working with speaker wire.

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Note that the wire is divided into two separate strands; each of the strands is called a conductor. Within those conductors is a copper, silver or gold bundle of wires. The strands are bundled in heat-shrunk plastic tubing (insulation) and are often protected by other materials, depending on the quality of the speaker wire.

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Examine the markings on the insulation. Notice that one strand's insulation has either a + or a - symbol running the full length of the wire. Sometimes one of the strands will have a thin white line running the full length---or for easy identification, the insulation just might be two separate colors: red and black. These colors and symbols are for the polarity, the negative (-) and positive (+).

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Use your wire cutters to split the wires down the middle by cutting along the thin barrier of insulation that separates the strands. Cut down about 3 inches to separate the two strands.

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Gently cut into the insulation of the positive polarity strand about 3/8s of an inch from the tip around the bare wires using your wire cutters. Be careful not to cut into the wires. The insulation should slide out around the wires, leaving them exposed. Repeat this process with the negative polarity strand. Then repeat with the other speaker wire.

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Look at the back of your amplifier for the speaker wire terminals, which are usually small red and black plastic squares with holes in them. These squares are often held in place with screws and a spring mechanism.

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Twist the bare wires into a single, more manageable wire.

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Push back on the spring connector to open the little hole and insert the exposed wire into the hole, all the way up to where the insulation begins, and release the spring connector. Remember to insert the positive polarity wire into the red spring connector. Insert the negative polarity wire into the black spring connector.

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Gently tug on the speaker wires to make sure the connections are snug.

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Repeat the process to hook the wires up to the back of your amplifier.

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Put your favorite chair in front of your new-found power blasters, crank them up to 11 and blow yourself away.