If you have a pair of speakers lying around the house and a roll of speaker wire, you may want to connect them to your TV for better sound so you can enjoy your TV experience while streaming or listening to music.
You may think that you can just strip the speaker wire, connect it to your speakers, and do the same with your TV; however, it is a little more involved than that.
It is not possible to connect speakers to a TV directly only using speaker wire as TVs do not have the required built-in amplifiers or terminals. You will first need to connect the speakers to a stereo powered amplifier or AV receiver using standard speaker wires.
In this article, we will look at speaker wire in detail, determine how it works, the material it is made from, and what type you should have depending on your speakers’ impedance and length of the cable you need.
By knowing that, we can then understand that speaker wire needs to connect to an amplifier of sorts (a stereo powered amplifier or AV receiver), and we will go over those.
Then we will also take a look at what connections a stereo powered amplifier, AV receiver has, and your TV. Finally, we will look at how to connect them all together via various cables or adapters.
What is speaker wire?
Speaker wire is a type of wire which is used to make an electrical connection between your audio amplifier and your loudspeakers.
Today speaker wire consists of usually two and sometimes more wires (electrical conductors), which are individually insulated by rubber or plastic. The plastic material is usually PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), PE (Polyethylene), or Teflon.
With regards to the two wires that make up speaker wire, both are identical in every way. However, they are usually marked to identify correct signal polarity (positive and negative) and avoid confusion.
Speaker wire will usually come in the form of a zip cord (figure-8 cable). A zip cord is exactly what we deemed speaker wire to be. That is, it is a type of electrical cord with two or more conductors that are insulated, and the insulation can be easily removed.
How does speaker wire work?
A loudspeaker aims to convert electrical energy into acoustic energy, and speaker wire helps us achieve this. The amplifier of your home theatre system pushes a current (an audio signal) through the speaker wire into the loudspeakers.
When a current passes through the voice coil of a loudspeaker and the speaker’s magnetic field, it causes the voice coil to move and thus the speaker’s cone—in turn, creating the cone to move air in a specific way generating sound waves.
One thing to note is that you should always hook up the polarities of your speaker wire correctly. If the speaker wire’s polarities are reversed, that is to say; the negative end is connected to the positive end and vice versa.
That would then cause the speaker cone to pull “in” rather than to “push out.” This, in turn, could create reverse polarity canceling the two speakers out (that is, if one was wired correctly and the other was wired incorrectly).
However, as long as all speakers are wired the same way (even if the polarities are reversed), then it will not affect the sound coming from your loudspeaker.
What different types of speaker wire do you get
It would help if you considered a few factors when purchasing and using speaker wire for your sound system or home entertainment system.
When it comes to material, copper, and copper-clad aluminum (CCA) is used as a universal standard. Cooper is perfect for this because it has a low resistance when compared to other materials. On the other hand, CCA is higher in resistance but is somewhat inexpensive and lighter, making it a good option.
Lower resistance when it comes to speaker wire is preferred over speaker wire with higher resistance. Moreover, resistance is probably a speaker wire’s most important specification. Due to this, the speaker wire will be optimized by limiting its length and using the correct gauge of wire.
We also need to take into account the impedance of the speakers. Impedance is measured in ohms and is similar to resistance but also takes into account the effects of inductance and capacitance.
We need to take impedance into account because when the speaker wire’s resistance exceeds 5 percent of the speaker’s impedance, it begins to have an audible effect on the audio signal.
A thicker wire means less resistance; hence it is easier for the current to flow through the speaker wire. Speaker wire gauge is critical when considering the length and speaker impedance. When the speaker impedance drops, a lower gauge wire (thicker wire) will help prevent the audio signal’s degradation.
Below is a chart of what wire gauge you should be using and what length it should be when considering a speakers impedance load
Speaker wire gauge, impedance load, and length comparison table
|22 gauge||20 gauge||18 gauge||16 gauge||14 gauge||12 gauge||10 gauge|
Does speaker wire quality affect sound quality?
For the most part, most of the speaker wire you would purchase today would be of good sound quality. Insulation thickness or the type of insulation with regards to speaker wire would not make an audible difference as long as the insulation is of high quality.
Furthermore, as long as the insulation does not react with the copper wire itself (the oxidization of copper has been found to happen faster if poor insulation is used).
One thing to note about the wire quality is that copper is slightly different from aluminum. They will both oxidize; however, copper oxides are conductive while aluminum oxides are insulating.
This means that copper will offer less resistance along the wire if it does oxidize, still making the quality perfectly fine, while aluminum (CCA wire) will cause higher resistance. This could technically affect the wire depending on its length and then the impedance of your speakers.
But generally speaking, with the standards and materials that are used today for speaker wire, even if you purchase CCA wire, there will be no audible difference.
What type of connection does speaker wire need?
Speaker wire utilizes various terminals and posts, including spring clip posts, binding posts, and bi-wiring posts (4 binding posts). You also get accessories (fittings) that connect the wire to these types of posts easier. These fittings are called banana plugs.
One thing to consider is that TVs do not have these posts or fittings but rather specific connection types, so what you will need to do is figure out what kind of connection your TV has, then appropriately try to integrate speaker wire via various methods. Let’s take a look.
What do your speakers and speaker wire connect to?
For all intents and purposes, speakers (loudspeakers) will always connect to an amplifier, even when connecting speakers to a TV.
TVs are not built with amplifiers but what they are able to do is provide outputs that will allow you to connect active speakers (speakers with built-in amplifiers), an external amplifier, or a home stereo receiver.
Speakers that are fitted to be connected with speaker wire will not usually have a built-in amplifier. If the speakers were active (had a built-in amplifier), then the connection type would be either RCA, jack, or XLR.
Hence, we can safely say that in trying to connect speakers with speaker wire to a TV, you will need an amplifier that connects to the speakers (or a home stereo receiver), and then you would connect the amplifier or AV receiver to your TV. This would allow you to play sound through your speakers from your TV.
What type of amplifier do I need to connect my speakers to?
There are two types of amplifiers that you can connect your speakers to when it comes to home audio and entertainment systems. One is the traditional stereo powered amplifier, and the other is a Home stereo receiver (AV receiver for short).
It is important to note that both of these audio equipment pieces are amplifiers, except that a home stereo receiver also allows for the pass-through of video and may have many more channels than your traditional powered amplifier. Both of these pieces of audio equipment’s primary function is amplification, however.
If you do not have an amplifier or receiver, then you will have to decide which type you need. The traditional amplifier is used just for pure audio and usually comes with two channels for a stereo mix. This is perfect if you are an audiophile just wanting to listen to music.
Suppose you have additional AV devices like an Xbox, Play Station, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, etc. In that case, you may want to consider a Home Stereo Reciever, which allows for many audio channels implementing surround sound features and the pass-through of HD video.
Either way, you need one of these devices to connect your speakers too, and these types of amplifiers will allow you to connect speaker wire to them via posts and terminals.
What connection types do amplifiers or AV receivers use?
Depending on what amplifier or receiver you have and depending on the model and age of it, they may support various connection types.
Although you may be able to connect your speakers to these amplifiers with speaker wire via terminals or posts, you will not have the same option when trying to connect an amplifier to a TV.
The connection types on these amplifiers that allow you to connect them to your TV include Analog audio (RCA), Digital Audio (S/PDIF), HDMI, and USB. You will also get additional connection types for video if you have an AV receiver, but those connection types are beyond this article’s scope.
If you would like to know more about AV receivers, check out my article where I detail AV receivers, their connection types, and how to connect them to an old TV here.
What type of audio connections does a TV have?
Depending on the type of TV you have, these connection types will be the same as your powered stereo amplifier or AV receiver. You will need to match your amplifier and TV’s corresponding connection types and then purchase the correct cables for it.
Then you send the audio output from your TV to the input audio connection of your amplifier. It’s as easy as that.
Suppose you do not have similar connection types when comparing your TV and amplifier. In that case, you will most likely need a converter that will allow you to convert the TV’s audio signal into the desired signal that your amplifier is able to read.
Figuring out what connection is best
Suppose your TV supports digital audio and analog audio, and so does your amplifier, whether it is a powered stereo amplifier or an AV receiver. In that case, you may wonder which one is best to use?
Digital vs. analog audio
Both digital and analog audio work on the principle of bandwidth. The more bandwidth you have to record or listen to music then the better. Analog recordings are considered unlimited, while digital recordings have a precisely allocated bandwidth. Therefore in principle, it would be better to use analog signals when listening to and recording audio.
How to connect speakers to a TV with Speaker Wire
We now know that speakers that use speaker wire are passive, need external amplification, and active speakers (speakers with built-in amplifiers) do not need external powered amplifiers to run them.
Furthermore, we now understand TVs do not have amplifiers built into them; however, they are able to send their audio signal out via specific connection types.
The two main types of amplifiers are traditional stereo powered amplifiers and then AV receivers. With this knowledge, we can finally figure out how to connect speakers with speaker wire to a TV
Below is a step by step explanation of how to connect your Speakers with speaker wire to your TV. For this example, it is essential to bear in mind that you have an amplifier or AV receiver, and you have the correct cables and adapters, allowing you to connect everything together.
- Connect your speaker wire to your speakers via the terminals or posts (some speakers may have two or four post terminals). Refer to my article on How To Wire Speakers With 4 Terminals if you do not know how to do that here.
- Connect the speaker wire to your amplifier or AV receiver (again, it may have two or four terminals).
- Connect your stereo amplifier or AV receiver to your TV using the correct cables and, if need be, the correct adapters.
How do I connect a set of active speakers to my TV?
If you have a set of active speakers, then they will have a Line-In connection type of either RCA, ¼ inch Jack, or XLR. For the most part, your TV will probably only support RCA and not jack and XLR connection types.
If your speakers support RCA, then you’re in luck and only need RCA cables to connect your TV to your active speaker system.
If your active speaker system does not have RCA but rather Jack or XLR inputs, you will need converters or converted cables and any additional cables. The same principle of just connecting everything together applies, however.
We discovered That speaker wire is specific in terms of its quality, gauge, materials, and how it carries current. We learned about how length, gauge, and speaker impedance can affect the audio quality and what gauge and is required when trying to determine what length of speaker wire we need regarding the impedance of our speakers.
Once we understood this, we concluded that speaker wire is connected to speakers via posts or terminals, and there are a few types. However, it is not enough to just have speakers and speaker wire if you want to connect them to your TV.
We learned that all passive speakers need to be connected to an amplifier of sorts, and only then can you connect that amplifier to your TV, allowing you to listen to the TV’s audio through your speakers.
Lastly, we learned that even if you have all the correct equipment, you might need different cables or adapters, which will allow you to connect and utilize everything correctly.