If you are wiring up your speakers for the first time, there is a right and a wrong way of doing it. Therefore, you may be asking yourself which speaker cable wire is positive, and which is negative? Don’t worry; there are different methods you can use to make sure you know which is which, as I will explain in detail.
We use the expression electronic circuits, and it is an apt description. Because circuits are what they are. In other words, you could describe them as a completed loop. Electronic circuits have both negative and positive charges, and so we need to identify the polarity. In other words, which is which?
As an example, there is a positive and a negative terminal on a battery. The current flows when you complete the circuit by connecting both. But, which is which?
Which speaker wire is positive and which is negative?
In many cases, the wires will be color-coded. The manual that comes with your speakers will tell you the connection of positive and negative according to the color-coding.
In some cases, and this will often apply to upmarket speakers, the wiring may be see-through. In that case, the silver wire is positive and the copper wire negative.
The resistivity of silver is lower than copper. That allows the wire to be thinner but still have the same resistance. However, silver is more expensive than copper, so the same resistance in a copper wire is much cheaper to produce than silver.
Other Ways To Find Out
Both of these options will usually give you the information you need to decide which wire is negative and which is positive. However, there are some other methods. Let’s take a look at three different ways to determine the polarity of speaker wires.
- Nine-volt battery test.
- A Multimeter.
- Physical or visual identifications.
Checking The Polarity with a Nine Volt Battery
You will need a nine-volt battery with red and black wires for positive and negative. If you use the wire you think is negative, take one end and connect it to the speaker. Briefly connect the red or positive wire to the second speaker.
If the negative speaker wire you chose is correct and is indeed negative, you will hear a scratching sound. Good choice, but mark that negative wire because you will know which is which in the future. A simple and easy way to identify the polarity of your speaker wires.
This is a piece of kit that has been designed to identify electrical values like amps, resistance, and voltage. To use one, just simply follow these steps.
Start by making sure everything else is unplugged. Connect the speaker wires to a nine-volt battery. Set the multimeter to DC voltage. Make sure you set the multimeter before connecting the wires.
Then connect the wires to the multimeter. There will be a reading for each wire that is connected, showing if it is positive or negative. Once again, you can mark both wires to identify them.
There are sometimes some clues to help you learn how to tell negative and positive speaker cables apart. On some speaker wires, you will find a stripe on one wire. That is usually an indication that the wire is negative.
Have a quick look at the connection points on the back of your speakers. There may be some different connections for each wire that will help you separate the positive from the negative.
There may be a difference in the wire itself. We have already mentioned the difference between copper and silver. There may also be a difference in other visual aspects. One wire may have small ridges, and the other smooth. That won’t tell you which is which, but once you have established the polarity, it does help to identify them in the future.
A Quick Look At The Speaker Wire
The wire is designed to carry speaker-level signals. The strength of these signals can vary depending on the speaker it is connecting. Small speakers only take a few volts, but they can go as high as 100 volts for subwoofers and larger speakers with higher output.
The wires are unbalanced, and therefore, have two wires or conductors. One wire acts as the ground, and the other carries the signal.
The two terminals on the rear of your speaker, one negative and one positive, will accept the same mono signal. But they receive it in opposite polarities, one positive and one negative.
Polarity Is Determined By The Amplifier
A wire that doesn’t have a signal that is passing through it is just a conductor. It is the signal that runs through the wire that has polarity. The polarity of that signal is determined largely by the amplifier to which the speaker is connected.
The positive output on the amp is connected to the positive input on the speaker. The negative wire on the amp connects to the negative input on the speaker.
Is Getting The Correct Polarity Important?
Getting the negative and positive the wrong way round is not going to damage your amplifier or speakers. However, it will change the speaker’s polarity in the system. With just a single speaker in your system, getting them the wrong will hardly be noticeable.
But, while it can have a minimal effect on a single speaker, if there are multiple speakers, there will be issues. If they are wired wrongly, they will be out of phase.
There is a canceling out of the effect of sound waves, which is most noticeable in the lower frequencies. Here the length of the sound waves is longer, where the effect and loss are seen to be greater and more pronounced. Getting the connections wrong will have a detrimental effect on the sound.
How Can You Tell If The Wires Are Correctly Connected?
There are several ways to answer the question, “Which speaker cable wire is positive, and which is negative?” But to summarize, you can check the following:
- The manual is the first place to start; there could well be a diagram or two showing connections and outlining what is connected where.
- Check to see if there is color-coding; speaker wires are often color-coded to ensure you connect them properly.
- If there is no reference made, but you see a red and a black wire, the red is usually positive.
- Listen to the sound. Does it sound right, or are there disruptions and a random change in volume? If so, the wires are probably the wrong way round.
- Check for any visual differences between the wires, silver or copper, or the texture of the wire itself, as we have already mentioned.
- Use a Multimeter.
- Try the 9V battery test.
If you need some help in figuring out positive and negative speaker cables, these items might appeal to you.
- KAIWEETS Digital Multimeter with Case
- Philips Accessories Speaker Wire, 50 ft. (15.2m) Cable, Clear Coat
- VCELINK 4mm Speaker Banana Plugs
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You may also want to check out our handy articles on Why Do Some Subwoofers Have Left and Right Inputs, Can you Use Coax as Speaker Cable, How to Connect Speakers to your TV, and How to Connect a Subwoofer to an Amplifier for more useful information.
Which Speaker Cable Wire Is Positive, And Which Is Negative? – Final Thoughts
Somewhere in all of those options, you will find the answer for your system and speaker cables. You can then connect your speakers properly and get the best listening experience possible. Also, by ensuring the connections are correctly and securely fitted to your speakers, you will get the best sound your system is capable of.