Sound systems like home theaters come with speakers that connect to the sound system’s main unit (AV receiver) via speaker wire. If you are unlucky, the speaker wire could be too short to reach where you want to place the speaker.
This problem can be solved by extending the speaker wire, which might seem impossible if you do not know what to do.
Fortunately, I have faced a similar predicament and successfully extended my speaker wire. Read on for all the information that will help you extend your speaker wire without a hitch.
- Before extending a speaker wire, ensure the speaker is not connected to anything to reduce the risk of being electrocuted.
- If the speaker is still under warranty, extending the wires might nullify the warranty. Ensure you carefully read the warranty agreement before extending the speaker wire.
- The wire you will use to extend the current speaker wire should be the same gauge as the original.
- You will know the gauge of the wires by looking at the labeling on the wires, using a wire stripper, or you can carry a piece of the current speaker wire with you when you purchase the extension wire.
- Get a slightly longer wire than you require since mistakes can happen when extending the speaker wires, and you do not want the connection to be too tight.
- You can connect the extending wire to the speaker’s wire through soldering, crimp connectors, or wire nuts.
Basics of Speaker Wire
Before You Extend the Speaker Wire
Remember that most speaker manufacturers advise against extending speaker wires since, if done incorrectly, it can lead to audio dropouts or even short-circuit the speaker.
Also, cutting the speaker wire to extend it will likely nullify your warranty if the warranty period has yet to elapse. Therefore, carefully review your speaker’s warranty before extending the wire.
Before extending the speaker wire, ensure the speaker is disconnected from the receiver or amplifier to avoid being electrocuted. You can even use a multimeter to check for any residual power on the speaker.
You will need a good wire stripper and quality wire cutters to help you measure your speaker wire gauge and cut the speaker correctly. Using scissors to cut and strip the speaker wire can also do the job, but you risk damaging the wires.
Also, the extension wire should be the same gauge as the original speaker wire for the best audio output once the wire has been extended.
Gauge refers to the wire’s thickness, and the higher the number, the thinner the wire, and a lower gauge rating indicates that the wire is thick. For instance, an 18AWG wire is thinner than a 12AWG one. AWG stands for the American Wire Gauge (AWG).
You can check the gauge of your speaker wire by looking at the markings on the wire or using a wire stripper. The hole in which the speaker wire fits best on the wire stripper is the speaker’s gauge.
Alternatively, when purchasing the extension wire, you can carry a piece and ask the seller to help you determine the speaker wire’s gauge.
How Far Can I Extend the Speaker Wire?
Running the speaker wire for extended distances will negatively affect the audio quality, especially if the speaker wire has a high gauge and a low impedance. That is because a thinner wire is more likely to lose more power (has a higher resistance) in the form of heat than a thicker wire.
Impedance entails measuring the electrical resistance encountered by the audio signal, an alternating current, in the speaker coil. It determines how much power the speaker can handle and how the speaker will interact with the receiver/amplifier connected to it.
Impedance is measured in Ohms (Ω), and most speakers have an impedance of 2Ω, 4Ω, 6Ω or 8Ω. Therefore, the speaker’s impedance and the wire’s gauge are the factors that will determine how much further you can extend the speaker wire without any signal loss.
For instance, if the speaker wire has a gauge of 10AWG, you can comfortably extend it to a distance of 50ft (15 m), assuming the speaker has an impedance of 2Ω or 100ft (30 m) for a speaker with a 4Ω impedance.
Speaker Wire Gauge Explained
Essentially the speaker wire’s resistance should not exceed five percent of the speaker’s impedance. The table below shows the maximum lengths you can extend the speaker wire depending on the speaker’s impedance and the wire’s gauge.
It is important that the extension wire is the same gauge as the speaker’s original wire so that you can easily determine how far to extend the speaker wire without any signal interference.
Note that as much as a thicker speaker wire can extend over a longer distance, the recommended maximum length for household speakers is 50ft (15 m).
Extending the Speaker Wire
Once you have taken note of the above recommendations, the next step is to extend the speaker wire.
You will require the extension wire, wire cutters, a tape measure, and a wire stripper as the primary tools for this procedure. Other necessary tools will depend on your chosen method when connecting the extension wire to the existing wire.
Below are directions on how to extend the speaker wire:
Disconnect the Speaker from the Amplifier/Receiver
The first step is to ensure the speaker is not connected to any device to avoid being electrocuted or damaging your speaker.
You can use a multimeter to ensure no residual current on the speaker can harm you.
Cut the Speaker Wire
Next, cut the speaker wire using the wire cutters or the wire stripper if you have one that can cut wires.
You can cut the speaker wire a few inches (approximately six inches or fifteen centimeters) from the speaker’s connector that normally goes into the receiver/amplifier.
Measure the Extension Wire You Need
Measure the required length of the extension wire and cut it using the wire cutters. Ensure you include a few extra inches to prevent stretching the wires. This will also leave enough space on the wire since you will strip both ends and remove the coating that protects the copper wires.
Strip the Wires
Before stripping the wires, you will notice that two separately insulated wires are attached, i.e., the positive and negative wires. Carefully separate them to get Y-shaped ends on all the wires you intend to connect.
Then strip off the insulation on each end of the wires you intend to connect. You can use a wire stripper or wire cutter but be careful not to damage the copper wires inside the insulation.
In this setup, you have to strip at least 0.5 inches or 1.5 centimeters on all ends of the wires you want to connect.
How to Strip Speaker Wire Properly
Once you have stripped all the wires to remove the insulators, the next step is to splice the wires using a method of your choice.
Connect the Extension Wire to the Speaker Wire
At this point, all the wires’ free ends are Y shaped, with 0.5 inches of the insulation coating removed.
Firmly twist the positive ends of the wire running from the speaker to the extension wire. Then twist the negative ends.
The positive and negative wires from the speaker are color coded for easy identification and should be connected to separate wires on one end of the Y-shaped extension wire.
Remember to match the positive and negative wires.
Splicing Speaker Wire
If you intend to use wire nuts, skip this step.
From here, you can complete the splicing using a method of your choice. The possible ways of completing the splicing include:
Using a Soldering Gun
This process might take longer than the others, but it is the best option. You will need a soldering gun and a solder.
Start heating the soldering gun, and once it’s heated, start heating the twisted wires. As they start melting, apply the solder appropriately to prevent the wires from disconnecting.
Once satisfied with the soldering, let it cool and cover the soldered parts separately using electric tape.
Using Crimp Connectors
This is an easier and faster process. To use the connectors, slide the crimp connectors onto the naked wire part and use a crimping tool to tighten the connection.
Using Wire Nuts
A wire nut is the easiest way to splice the connected wires, but it’s unreliable compared to the above methods. Ensure you get wire nuts compatible with the wire gauge.
To use a wire nut, hold the exposed positive ends of the new and old speaker wires side by side, then insert them into the wire nut. Ensure the exposed parts fill up the space inside the nut.
Then start twisting the nut clockwise until it tightens, and the wires start twisting while the nut remains firm. Repeat this process for all the remaining unconnected parts.
The video below doesn’t apply to speaker wire specifically, but the splicing procedure is pretty much the same for any type of wire.
Three Ways to Splice Wires
Frequently Asked Questions
- Question: Can I cut the speaker wire to extend it?
- Answer: Yes, you can cut and extend a speaker wire using an additional wire. However, you should only do this if it’s extremely necessary and there are no other options.
- Question: Does a longer speaker wire affect the sound?
- Answer: Audiophiles have different opinions about whether longer speaker wires affect your speaker’s sound quality. A longer speaker wire might affect the sound quality, but wire length is not the only factor you should focus on.
- Factors like the wire’s gauge and the speaker’s impedance also play a role. The bottom line is although the speaker wire length could affect audio quality, it is not significant enough to worry you.
- However, it is recommended that the speaker wire in a home setup should not exceed a length of 50 feet or 15 meters.
The above steps will help you extend your speaker wire successfully, but remember – only do it if you have to. Extending the wire comes with disadvantages, especially if not done correctly. You also risk losing your warranty if the speaker is still covered.