What is a speaker connector?
Speaker connectors are for Hi-Fi systems, loudspeakers, and other audio appliances.
They are used to offer a connection between speakers and amplifiers.
Their design creates a robust electrical contact between your gear and the speaker wire.
How to Choose the Best Speaker Connectors
Each speaker connector is easy to install, needing only a few simple tools.
To select the best kind, you must first look at the terminals available on your equipment.
Moreover, it is possible to have a variety of connections on the rear end of your stereo equipment. Sometimes, there is more than one type on each, for example, amplifiers and receivers. Therefore, if your speaker has spring clips, you will require a pair of pin connectors. In addition, if your amplifier or receiver has binding posts, I recommend you choose either spade connectors or banana plugs.
Furthermore, it would be best to consider knowing the gauge of your speaker wires before purchasing any connectors. Even though they made many connectors to work with the most popular wire sizes (12 – 18 AWG), some designs for larger or smaller wires, so be keen on the dimensions to ensure compatibility.
Types of speaker connectors
1. Binding posts
Binding posts are chassis-mounted connectors that enhance the connection of bare wires, spade plugs, pin connectors, or banana connectors.
Binding posts are the most popular type of connector you will find.
They are on all types of amplifiers and speakers- from low-budget ones to expensive ones.
When using binding post connectors, you can use bare wire or connect banana plugs or spades to the end of the speaker wire.
How to connect:
- Unscrew the black (-) or red(+) cap.
- Insert the bare speaker cable into the hole in the post or insert a spade connector around the base and tighten the cap.
- Insert the cable into the opening at each side of each post. Here, you will be required to attach banana plugs. Some receivers might have a plastic cap over the end, which you must remove first.
Speakers that use binding posts might not have an opening at the end to insert a banana plug. Some have, but it’s more prevalent in amplifiers.
With binding post connectors, you could both insert a bare wire into the hole and then tighten the screw, or you can use a spade connector by placing it around the post before tightening it up with a screw.
Binding posts are an advancement from a simple screw terminal because they offer improved contact and use these connectors.
I would recommend Monoprice High-Quality Banana Binding Post Two-Piece Inset Wall Plate for 2 Speakers
2. Banana Plugs
Banana plugs are single circuit connectors popularly used in testing lab equipment.
Banana plug connectors are a standard 4mm in diameter, perfect for fitting into the end of a binding post.
They have a spring-sided design that ensures good contact, even after repeated connections.
They usually connect to binding posts.
When used in speaker connections, they offer a firm electrical contact that transmits much current.
When using banana plug connectors, you will be required to buy them as a separate accessory to your wire. You will need four banana plugs per wire: two for every end of the cable.
How to connect:
- Ensure that the power of your receiver is off first.
- Twist each end of the exposed copper wire so that the strands stay as one.
- Unscrew the underside of the banana plug to ensure the hole is open. There is a varied range of banana plugs, but most usually have a spot to insert the wire and a screw to tighten the wire in place.
- Insert the twisted wire into the hole.
- Screw the bottom of the banana plug to ensure the wires are tight.
- Plugin the positive (red)banana connector into the correct red jack of the receiver.
- Repeat the process for the negative (black) speaker wire, plugging it into the blackjack of the receiver.
- Finally, to connect the speaker wire to your speakers, insert the red plug into the red binding post of your speaker and the black plug into the black critical post. Now you can switch on the receiver and adjust the settings without worry.
In addition, banana plugs may attach to the cable in various ways. The majority come with screw-in connections requiring a small screwdriver to secure the wire. This is one of the simplest ways.
Also, some are self-crimping which means that they will clamp the cable when you tighten the plug’s cap.
Others may require soldering. Therefore, only select these connectors if you are ready to break out a soldering iron.
However, there are banana plugs that come with screw-in connections, and they work perfectly without soldering so long as you are cautious when joining them together. The downside of this is that they might loosen over time. Therefore you are required to check the connection if you reconnect them regularly.
Most banana plugs will have a female connection on the bottom end. This enables you to plug another banana plug into it. This is beneficial if you require to connect many speakers to a similar terminal.
You might not need to do this regularly, but at times it is essential. For instance, if you require to connect high-level subwoofer input from the front left and right speaker terminals.
I would recommend Monoprice High-Quality Gold Plated Speaker Banana Plugs- 5 Pairs
3. Spade Connectors
These connectors come in different styles, with crimp-on connectors being the most popular type.
These connectors appear like forked metal that can use screw terminals and binding posts.
In many scenarios, they come as a set.
Spade connectors ensure that you capture all the wire strands in the connection and aid in guarding the wire ends against getting unraveled.
How to connect:
- You can connect these through soldering, crimping, or screwing them in a place like the banana plugs.Crimping is the process where you use a tool to bend the connector’s end so that it is secured tightly to the wire. This could be a great solution if you don’t want to solder the wire. Also, ensure you use a proper crimping tool.
- Once your spades are attached to the wire, unscrew each binding post and push them into place. Tighten the cap again to secure them.
Using spade connectors is better than using a bare wire because they enhance a reliable connection.
Spade connectors are best on speaker wires installed very close to the wall.
I would recommend TICONN 100 Pcs Nylon Spade Quick Disconnect Connectors Kit
4. Pin Connectors
Pin plugs are smaller banana plugs having a similar origin. You might find them as banana plugs in some instances. However, they don’t have the spring contact that the banana plugs do.
Pin plugs come with pins that are generally almost 2mm in diameter. The pin is usually straight, or you can find them with angled pins.
They work only with binding posts which have a hole through the center for the pin to go through. Because of this, they did not use them for speakers, but they used them.
Like banana plugs and spades, strip some insulation from the wire and attach the pins to the bare wire.
Moreover, they use crimping or soldering to connect them. However, they may also have a screw-in connection.
How to connect them:
- Undo the screw a bit.
- Insert the bare wire
- Tighten the screw again.
- Gently pull the speaker wire to ensure you have a solid connection.
- Generally, this speaker wire termination is ide for spring clip connections. Hence push the clip down and insert the pin into the hole.
- You can also use pin connectors with binding posts by inserting them via the central hole in the center and tightening the cap, even though this is not the usual way of using them.
The use of pin connectors is a safer method than bare wires, and they enhance more chances of a solid connection.
I would advise you to look for Monoprice 109438 High
5. RCA Connectors
RCA connectors are RCA plugs, Phono plugs, and Cinch plugs, often incorrectly known as an ‘Aux cable.’
RCA is for Radio Corporation of America, and their work was developing this connector in the early 1940s for use in home audio equipment.
They later took over the market from the “1/4” phone connectors because of their affordability.
They are still the most popular connector for home audio because they are cheap and easy to use. Nevertheless, they need to work with the corresponding jack.
How to connect:
- Strip off the insulation on each end of the wire to expose 3/8 to 1/2 inch of bare wire. Be keen on which the positive lead is and which is negative using the color codes.
- Unscrew the shells of your RCA connectors from the plugs and slide the covers over the wire.
- Solder the positive terminal of the speaker wire to the middle pin of your RCA and the negative to the outer lead.
- Let the solder cool, then slide the shell over the solder joints and tighten them onto the RCA jack with screws.
- Do the above step on the other end of the length of the speaker wire to complete the connection.
Their most significant downside for professional audio is easily disconnected if the cable is stepped on or kicked.
I would recommend KabelDirekt- 15ft Long- RCA/ Phono Cable 2 to 2 RCA
6. “1/4” Phone Connectors
Their design is for use on manual telephone switchboards. However, they no longer serve that purpose. They now can be used extensively for professional audio connections for years.
You can also call them TRS connectors, which indicate the three contacts (on a stereo version of the connector), tip, ring, and sleeve. The tip is the pointy section, the ring is the part after the first black hoop, and the sleeve is after the second. The tip and the ring ca the left and right channel signals, while the sleeve works as the common earth.
People initially used two-conductor phone connectors for professional audio speakers before the invention of the Speakon connector.
The most popular application of a stereo jack connection is a headphone output on keyboards, pianos, recording equipment, guitar amplifiers, mixing tables, and hi-fi systems.
This plug is occasionally known as a balanced “1/4″ jack. Balanced audio connectors use TRS plugs ( you require a balanced connection at each end) to form a mono/ single-channel connection that is way less vulnerable to external noise, specifically when running long cables.
It would help if you used them with the corresponding jack.
I recommend LinkinPerk 3.5mm 1/8″ TRS Male to 2X 6.35mm 1/4” TS Male Mono Stereo Y
7. Speakon Connectors
The Speakon connectors are the latest audio connectors sounding like an alien race set to take over the earth.
Neutrik created them as the first connector explicitly built for professional audio speakers.
Speakon connectors are prevalent in everyday audio applications.
They are available in either a two, four, or eight pole design.
The two and four-pole designs are physically interchangeable, enabling a two-pole plug to be connected into a four-pole jack, using one of the two circuits only.
On the other hand, the eight-pole design is physically more significant than the two and four-pole.
How to connect:
- Unscrew the casing from the Speakon connector by rotating it counterclockwise, pulling the chuck, and plugging it from the case.
- Strip around 3/4 inch of the exterior insulation from the cable to expose the two interior wires. The black one is the negative (-), and red is the positive (+).
- Strip about 3/8 inch of insulation from the inner wires to expose the bare wire.
- Insert the housing onto the wire with the threaded side looking at the bare wire ends. Then plug in the chuck into the wire with the rounded side looking at the interior of the bushing.
- Slightly twist the end of the positive wire and plug into the Speakon terminal on the insert labeled “1+”. Screw it to tighten it.
- Repeat the above process on the end of the negative wire and plug it into the Speakon terminal labeled “1-“. Also, tighten it with a screwdriver.
- Put the housing over the insert, slide the chuck into the housing, and hand tighten the casing.
It would be best not to use pliers or other hand tools to tighten the casing because the plastic might crack.
The Speakon connectors have three main advantages over the “1/4” phone connectors:
- They can carry more current.
- They are locking connectors.
- The contacts are non-shorting when connecting and disconnecting the connector.
They designed them to take high current signals.
They comprise male panel sockets and female plugs.Typically, the female pins connect to male panel sockets and consist of a twist-lock mechanism that secures them into the socket.
This makes them the best for live sound applications, most popularly connecting power amplifiers to loudspeakers. Thus, making them very common.
I recommend Dekomusic 2Pack 50 ft Speakon to 1/4″
8. XLR Connectors
These connectors worked for different audio and video applications like professional speakers.
Their design is approximately a diameter of 2cm, with a range of 3 to 7 pins (male) or holes (female).
XLR connectors are used in a wide range of musical and audio applications because they are balanced and secure.
Generally, the thumb rule is female plugs usually receive output signals from devices (e.g., a microphone), and we use male XLR plugs to plug into inputs (e.g., An active studio monitor or a microphone pre-amp on a mixing desk), with male ones plugging into the female ones or vice versa.
Due to this, the most popular XLR connector is the trusty mic lead consisting of a male XLR pin on one end and a female XLR plug on the other.
They work in mic cables, audio interfaces, PA applications, monitor speakers, etc.
Their benefit is also their downside, that of popularity. Also, it is easy to replace a cable when needed because they are also typically used in microphone cables, but it also becomes easy to confuse wires.
The current carrying capacity of cables used with XLR connectors is not high enough for professional use in large theatres and outdoor venues.
I would recommend TICINO XLR Female to 1/4 Inch (6.35mm)
Do speaker wire connectors make a difference?
Terminals on speakers and home audio systems are almost always color-coded to show polarity. A positive terminal (+) is red, and a negative (-) is black. However, this is not the same case for speaker wires.
Not all speaker wires have two-tone insulation or evident labels for easier identification. For example, text, stripes, or dashed lines show the positive terminal.
Assuming that you are always unsure, you can test the speaker wires quickly. However, using colored connectors will take away the doubt.
Using speaker wire connectors can prevent headaches or confusion in many people, particularly those with multi-channel home stereo systems.
The main benefit of having speaker connectors is making faster and more accessible connections because they plug into the speaker terminals. When fixed properly, they ensure a solid and reliable electrical connection while reducing the risk of shorting due to stray filaments of wire touching adjacent binding posts.
Moreover, quality connectors are an obvious way of minimizing high-frequency noise.
Speaker connectors make it significantly easier to plug in and unplug your sound equipment.
How to prepare speaker wires for connectors
- Cable/ wire strippers. Even though you could also use a knife or scissors, I highly recommend strippers because they enhance safety.
It is crucial to ensure that you start and finish each end of the wire, installing the connectors before going to the next.
Steps of preparing:
- Cut the end of the speaker cable to avoid having any exposed copper wire from sticking out.
- Keenly separate the individual wires (positive and negative terminals) from each other by around two inches. This creates enough room to work.
- Select one individual wire and set the cutting edge of the wire stripper around half an inch up from the end. If your wire stripper has tags of different cutting sizes, choose one compatible with the wire measurements.
- Clampdown on the wire stripper to cut t the insulation and rotate the tool around the wire to ensure a neat cut.
- Peel off the cut section of the insulation using the wire stripper but be watchful not to accidentally cut the copper below as it will expose the bare wire.
- Using your thumb and forefinger, put a slight, gentle twist on the copper wire to ensure the individual strands all stay together.
- Redo the process all over again with the other individual wire.
You can now fix the connectors after forking the speaker wires with exposed ends.
Also, ensure you notice and match the correct polarities (positive and negative) of the wires and connectors so that you correct your audio equipment in phase.
The benefit of using speaker wire connectors is they make it easy to plug and unplug the speakers from the stereo or amplifiers.
You must also note that the bare wire is unreliable if the space between the terminals is enclosed because the strands can short circuit with other cables. Therefore, plugging a connector in terminals is more straightforward than a bare wire.