The world of home audio can be thrilling and exciting, with a part of that coming from learning new ways to improve your sound quality. Not every option involves spending piles of cash, and some can be rather simple.
One such way many enthusiasts improve on their sound quality is through what’s known as bi-wiring, and bi-amping. As long as your equipment supports this method, then it’s possible to make an affordable and easy upgrade.
In this article, I have included everything you need to know about bi-wiring and bi-amping so you, too, can take advantage of this method. So, get ready to have Bi-Wiring and Bi-Amping Explained…
Having the Correct Equipment
Before anything else can progress, you need to check if your speakers are compatible. To make both bi-wiring and bi-amping possible, your speakers need to be configured in a particular way. Here’s an easy way how to check if speakers are bi-wiring compatible.
Take a look at where your speaker terminals, which are the red and black inputs the cables connect to. If there are only two on each speaker (one red and one black), then, unfortunately, your speakers aren’t compatible.
If you take a look at your speaker terminals and you notice there are four terminals on each (two red and two black), then you’re good to go. These speakers include jumpers or bridges.
These jumpers, or bridges, are usually a metal object that joins the two sets of terminals together. This allows you to operate the speakers with a single set of speaker cables. It also allows for bi-wiring or using two sets of speaker cables.
What is Bi-Wiring?
Your speaker enclosure is usually made up of multiple types of speakers, often consisting of two or more. At a minimum, you will most likely find a driver, which is a larger subwoofer style used for low frequencies providing bass.
You are also probably going to find at least one smaller tweeter-style speaker, which is designed to produce high frequencies. Examples of high-frequency sounds include a bird chirping, whistling, and the “s” sound in “sun.”
High and Low Frequencies…
Essentially, having two pairs of terminals on your speakers makes it possible to separate these frequencies. Having one set of cables connected to the high terminals directs the signal to the tweeter-style speakers in the enclosure.
Using a second set of cables connected to the low-frequency terminals allows another signal to travel directly to the subwoofer. You can think of it almost like wiring directly into each speaker component of the enclosure.
Allowing a clearer path…
Why would you want to separate the wiring for each different set of frequencies? I think this would best be explained using an analogy. For this purpose, imagine you are in a car on the road, and there’s only a single lane.
The road travels up and down some mountains with both cars and trucks. Although the road allows all the traffic to pass, the trucks are much slower, so the cars build up behind them. If you consider the cars and trucks as low and high frequencies, this is the same type of theory used for bi-wiring.
How to Bi-Wire Your Speakers
You will require two sets of speaker cables for each speaker, making four sets in total for a left and right two-channel system. Starting at the amplifier, twist the positive wires (red) together on two sets of cables at one end, then do the same for the negative (black).
After inserting the twisted pairs into each terminal on the amplifier, it’s time to move to the speakers. You should now have two positive wires for one channel (left) and two negative wires for the other channel (right).
Be sure to remove the jumper or bridge from the speakers before inserting each of the wires. Place one negative wire into each negative or black terminal and one positive wire into each positive or red terminal.
Using the right cables…
It is very important that every cable you use is the same type of cable, from the same manufacturer, and is the same length. Using different cables changes the electrical properties, which will also affect the sound.
If you don’t have any spare cables or ones that match, I would recommend buying quality cable and cutting your own. Here are some that I highly recommend…
For an affordable, high-quality speaker cable made in Germany using state-of-the-art manufacturing, look no further than KableDirekt. It features 0.2 mm strands of pure copper coated in a durable yet flexible PVC sheath.
This 10 gauge speaker cable uses thicker wire, which results in less resistance to current flow. It is also constructed using oxygen-free copper, providing superior conductivity because it doesn’t expand or contract under load.
If you have an outdoor setup, then you will require an outdoor cable. It is a 10 gauge wire and also is constructed using oxygen-free copper. The sequential markings help to know precisely where to cut, so your cables are all the same length.
What is Bi-Amping?
Now that you have a better understanding of what bi-wiring is, the next step is bi-amping. To perform bi-amping, you need to have a bi-wire setup to begin with. Some of you might have already guessed where this is going.
Instead of using a single amplifier to send both the high and low frequencies along two separate cable channels, each has its own amplifier. That’s right, one amplifier for high frequencies and another separate amplifier for low frequencies.
There are two different types of bi-amp configurations, with one being passive and the other active. I will cover the details of each type and explain the major differences between them.
This is the most common style of bi-amping used, as it relies on the crossover connection built into the speakers. The speaker crossovers ensure that the correct frequencies are delivered to the correct speaker.
Just like with bi-wiring, keeping symmetry is incredibly important. You need to ensure that not only the cables are identical, but the amplifiers must be too. This might seem strange considering they are sending different frequencies, but there’s a good reason for this.
Why symmetry is important…
Every amplifier has a specification known as input sensitivity. This is a measurement of how much power is output from the incoming signal. If you use two different amplifiers, then either your highs or lows could be higher volume than the other.
The other issue you could face with two different amplifiers is a variance in impedance. This affects how your speakers and amplifier interact with each other. If there are two different signals, this will result in poor audio quality and possibly even damage to your equipment.
This is a less common style of bi-amping, as it does allow the use of two different amplifiers. Instead of relying on the speaker’s crossover, an external unit can be connected between the amplifiers themselves.
Using a crossover will balance out any variances in both input sensitivity and impedance. This also allows the user to set their own frequencies and tune in their preferred sound. If you want to give this a try, here is a crossover I recommend to get you started…
Take complete control of your sound equalization using the Rockville PPA20. Featuring a master output, three-band EQ, master volume, and a low cut switch allowing you to cut off certain frequencies using a treble/bass control.
Now that we have Bi-Wiring and Bi-Amping Explained, you probably can’t wait to test it out. But which option do you choose? Easily the easiest option is to test out bi-wiring first. Your biggest investment will be a new set of identical cables.
If you would prefer taking the bi-amping direction, or already have a bi-wire setup and are looking for something extra, there are a few things to consider.
Which direction to take…
Are you willing to purchase another amplifier the same as the one you own currently? If you are purchasing all new equipment, is it better to buy a single high-quality amplifier or two of lesser quality?
I would always recommend the higher quality product and bi-wiring as a priority over bi-amping. Of course, you could always purchase a crossover and see if bi-amping is something you would like to pursue further.
Need Some Great Speakers?
We’ve reviewed a wide selection of home audio equipment over the years. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $1000, the Best Computer Speakers Under $100, the Best Smart Speakers, the Best Speakers For Vinyl, and the Best Bookshelf Speakers you can buy in 2021.
Also, take a look at our comprehensive reviews of the Best Powered Speakers, the Best Floor Standing Speakers, the Best High End Home Theater Speakers, the Best 7.1 Home Theater System, the Best In-Ceiling Speakers, the Best In-Wall Speakers, and the Best PA Subwoofers currently available.
Bi-Wiring and Bi-Amping Explained – Final Thoughts
No matter which option you choose, both are sure to offer better performance from your stereo system. Bi-wiring is an easy and affordable way to increase the audio quality your current system is capable of.
The progression to bi-amping is also always still available, depending on how deep you wish to dive into the world of home audio. It is a deep hole and one that is being explored constantly with no end in sight.
The beauty of people is that everyone enjoys something different, and the journey is one filled with exciting and endless possibilities.