How to Connect Speakers to an AV Receiver

by Adam Hilton

Although most people familiar with the world of consumer audio are comfortable plugging in a pair of headphones, setting up computer speakers or hooking up a DVD player, the task of connecting speakers to an AV receiver can still mystify many. Don't feel intimidated by an unfamiliar connector, wire or terminal though. Connect your speakers to your receiver in minutes and enjoy years of hi-fi home audio.

Determine the speaker wire gauge you need based on the distance between your receiver and your speakers. For runs of 80 feet or less, use 16 gauge; for runs between 80 and 200 feet, use 14 gauge; for runs greater than 200 feet--unlikely but possible in a home theatre setting--use 12 gauge.

Cut appropriate lengths of wire to run from the receiver to each speaker. Make sure to leave enough slack if you want to neatly dress the cables after they're connected.

Strip about a half-inch of insulation from the end of each individual wire (the speaker wire has two insulated wires fused together). Twist the exposed wire to keep the strands from fraying in their connections.

Push down the tab of the spring clip connector or unscrew the binding post connector of the terminal is on the back of your receiver. Insert the exposed speaker wires into the correct terminal (positive/striped/lighter shade goes to red, negative/plain/darker shade or plain to black).

Secure the exposed ends on the speaker end of the wire to the terminals on the back of the speakers as necessary. Make sure to match positive to positive to positive and negative to negative to avoid sound reproduction issues and damage to your speakers.

Tip

  • You can reinforce your speaker wire connections by using connectors instead of just the bare wires. Pin, spade, and banana plug connectors are all available from audio electronics retailers and can be easily added to the ends of your speaker cables.

Warnings

  • If your receiver has outputs for line-level signal, such as for a subwoofer or additional surround channels, you will need an external amplifier to boost the line signal. Connect the receiver to the amplifier using the appropriate cables (usually RCA), then connect the amplifier to the speakers using the steps above.
  • Make sure the ohm rating for each speaker matches or exceeds the ohm rating for each output channel of your receiver. If the impedance (ohms) of the speaker is lower than the rating on the receiver, you risk sending too much current to the speaker and permanently damaging it.

Items you will need

About the Author

Adam Hilton is an Austin-based sound designer and engineer who has been writing professionally since 2008. He has won and been nominated for multiple awards for his theatrical sound design and compositions, including the B. Iden Payne Award for Outstanding Original Score. He received his Bachelor of Arts in English from Texas State University.

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