How To Splice Wires for Speakers and Home Theater Systems

Why hire someone to wire your home theater when you can do it yourself?

Three multi-colored, insulated speaker wires showing bare copper ends
Of the few ways to splice stereo speaker wires, only one is both easy and elegant. Savushkin / Getty Images

Rearranging living areas is a great way to open up more space and/or make room for new furniture. However, it probably means relocating all your speakers and home theater equipment. You could install brand new speaker wire cut to exact lengths and reconnect everything – you won’t go broke for it. But why toss out functional wire when splicing lets you gain the extra feet without all the waste?

Now, there’s a way to splice speaker wires, and then there’s a better way. You could twist speaker wires together and use electrical tape. But tape wears out over time, and the smallest tug on the wires can easily separate that type (usually a Y) of connection. And while twist-on wire nuts may be satisfactory for splicing electrical wire, which is generally hidden behind boxes or panels, they tend to be an ugly eyesore when used with home audio equipment.

The best option for looks and reliability is an in-line electrical crimp connector (also known as ‘butt’ connector). Crimp connectors are durable, easy to use, effective (thanks to the electrically-conductive metal tube on the inside), and won’t cost you much. Plus, most are designed to provide a weatherproof seal, which is desirable when installing outdoor speakers. Just remember that crimp connectors are meant for stranded speaker wire (most common) and not solid core wire. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Spool of speaker wire (matching gauge of existing wire)

  • Electrical crimp connectors (also matching gauge of existing wire)

  • Measuring Tape

  • Wire stripper

  • Notepad (physical or digital/smartphone)

  • Heat source (e.g. blow dryer)

01
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Properly Place Speakers and Equipment

A complete cinema room with a 5.1 surround sound system, including LCD TV and DVD player in front of a couch
Correct speaker placement is key for best audio, but moving equipment can leave you short on wire length. adventtr / Getty Images

Before you start splicing, you’ll want to properly set up the speakers and equipment. Turn the power off to the home stereo receiver/amplifier and disconnect power cords. It’s good to make sure everything is off before making any kind of wire connections. Unplug and examine all speaker wires – any that appear damaged or in poor condition should be thrown out – before setting aside for later use.

Now you’re free to move speakers to their new locations. Time permitting, this can be a great opportunity to consider how you might hide or disguise speaker wire in living areas. With the right techniques, wires can be made less prominent visually and physically (i.e. not as much of a tripping hazard).

02
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Measure Distance and Cut

A closeup of a man stripping speaker wire
Wire strippers are labeled with gauge numbers so you know which section to use. Jetta Productions / Getty Images

Once the speakers have been placed, the next step is to determine the length of wire required to connect each speaker to the stereo system. Use the measuring tape and tally the distances. It’s better to slightly overestimate than underestimate – slack is easy to manage, and splicing involves a bit of trimming anyway.

Write down the numbers along with the speaker location (e.g. front left/right, center, surround left/right, etc.) in a notepad. When finished, measure all the speaker wire you had previously set aside and compare it to your notes. There’s a chance that some of those wires might be the right length for some speakers, where no splicing will need to be done. Just double check that the wires are of the proper gauge per speaker (if there are varying gauges).

If you have wires that don’t need splicing, label them (sticky tabs, or a pen and piece of tape works) with the assigned speaker and set them aside. Cross those speakers off of your notes so you know they’ve been accounted for.

Choose any remaining wire and label/assign it to a speaker. Calculate the difference between the length of wire you have versus what the speaker needs – this is how much you’ll have to cut from the spool of speaker wire. Give yourself an extra inch or so and make the cut using the wire strippers. Label the pairs of wires, set them aside, and cross the speaker off your notes. Repeat this process with any remaining speakers on the list.

03
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Strip Wire and Attach Crimp Connectors

A wire stripper clamping down on an electrical crimp connector and speaker wire
Electrical crimp connectors are easy to use, durable, and maintain a clean aesthetic for speaker wires. Courtesy of Amazon

Take one set of wires that you intend to splice and place the ends/terminals next to each other – negative to negative (-), positive to positive (+). You want the wires to be in-phase like that – if you’re unsure, you can test speaker wires with a battery. Using the wire cutters, strip off exterior jacket/insulation so that all four ends have a quarter inch of exposed copper wire (if the package instructions lists a different length, go with that). You can separate the individual wires (positive and negative terminals) by an inch so that you have room to work with.

Take both negative ends of bare wire and insert them into opposite sides of a crimp connector (double-check that it matches the gauge). Using the crimping section of the wire cutters (it should be marked so that you correctly match the gauge), firmly squeeze the connector (slightly off-center) so that the connector’s metal tubing shuts closed around one of the bare wires; do this once more for the other bare wire.

Gently tug on the speaker wires to ensure that they hold fast. If you want to double check the electrical connection, use a battery for a quick test. Repeat this process with the positive ends of bare wire with another crimp connector.

04
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Apply Heat to Shrink Connectors

Two sets of speaker wires attached by crimp connectors, showing a before and after a heat source has been applied
Once heated, electrical crimp connectors create a protective waterproof seal. Courtesy of Amazon

Once you have crimp connectors attached to both positive and negative wire ends, gently apply a heat source to shrink the connectors. A hot air gun or blow dryer set to high heat is best (held a few inches away), but you can use a lighter (held about an inch away) if you’re extremely careful.

Hold the wires with your offhand – a few inches below the crimp connections – as you apply the heat. Slowly rotate the wires/connectors so that you get around all sides. The crimp casings will shrink snug against the speaker wire, which creates a protective and waterproof seal. Some electrical crimp connectors are designed with a bit of solder on the inside, which melts from the heat and fuses the wires together for a stronger connection.

Continue stripping speaker wires and attaching/shrinking crimp connectors until all lengths have been spliced and extended accordingly.

05
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Reconnect the Speakers

Stereo speaker wires connected to binding posts
Basic wires are the most common way of connecting speakers to receivers or amplifiers.

Now that you’ve successfully spliced all the wire, the last thing to do is connect speakers to the stereo receiver/amplifier or home theater system. But before you start, you might want to consider installing speaker wire connectors (e.g. pin, spade, banana plug). This would be the best time to do it, since you already have the tools and wires right there. Speaker wire connectors make plugging into spring clips or binding posts a breeze.

Once you’re done, test the stereo system to make sure that all of the speakers are working properly. Double check the speaker/receiver connections on any that are not.