Connecting your speakers to an amp

Tip: You can use your vehicle's factory wiring


Buck Pomerantz

Buck Pomerantz was born and raised in Philadelphia. His parents bought their first television set when he was born. He figured out how to run it by the time he was two. Besides athletics, his formative interests included electronics, amateur radio, music, and stage crew work. He got his BA in writing from Brown University. Then he joined a rock 'n roll band as their soundman and moved to Charlottesville, Virginia. After that venture failed, he spent time in Boston, New Orleans, and Berkeley. He worked in a music store in Austin manufacturing, installing, repairing, and operating sound systems for recording studios, clubs, and bands. He moved back to Charlottesville, ran a little recording studio and finally joined Crutchfield as a copywriter. He has 2 grown children and 3 grandchildren, but after a good nap he can still rock out.

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Sending a signal from a receiver to an amplifier's input via RCA-type cables or the speaker-level outputs is straight forward and simple enough, but getting the amplified signal back to the speakers—well that's another matter. The speakers are usually in four different corners of your vehicle, and running separate new speaker wires to each presents many challenges, including how to get the wire past the car door hinges to the front door speaker locations. A convenient way to send the powered signal from the amp to your speakers is to run the speaker wires to the harness that’s behind your receiver, where all your car’s speaker connections are accessible in one place.

Getting signal to the speakers

Normally, the speakers connect to the receiver through the receiver wiring harness behind the dash. You cut each speaker wire from the receiver's harness and reconnect it to a speaker wire coming from the amplifier. Then, the signal can flow from the amp to the speakers by way of the vehicle's original factory wiring. For 4-speaker systems, you'd need to make eight connections—a positive and negative wire for each speaker.

This means, you just need to run the eight speaker wires from the dash to the amplifier, just like you do the RCA cables. In fact, when you're installing the amp, it's smart to run them all at the same time.

StreetWires iCS920C multi-conductor cable

New speaker wires from the amp connect to the speaker wires in the stereo adapter harness

Some products to help you do it

Crutchfield offers a 12-foot and a 20-foot 9-conductor cable that helps simplify running 8 speaker wires plus a remote turn-on lead from your amplifier to the rear of your receiver. We also carry a small selection of highly conductive, pure copper speaker wire, available by the foot, that will also work well for sending the amp's output signal to the factory speaker wires.

A multi-pack of Posi-Products Car Stereo Connectors could come in handy here, so you can make all the speaker connections without having to solder anything.

High power amps need bigger wires

For amplifiers with over 75 watts RMS of output per channel, it may be better to go ahead and run new 14- or 16-gauge speaker wires directly from the amp to each speaker.

Factory speaker wires are very thin, with high electrical resistance, so they can cause noticeable power loss when higher wattages try to get through. But amplifiers of 75-watts or less aren't really affected by this, so running their outputs through factory wiring remains a practical and convenient solution.

  • Jason from California

    Posted on 5/24/2015 3:22:00 PM

    I don't understand. If you connect the speaker wires to the amp, then they are no longer connected to your can your speakers operate after you do that?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/24/2015 4:43:25 PM

    Jason, As we tried to show in the illustration, the signal comes from the amplifier's outputs. The other ends of these wires connect to the vehicle's harness. That plugs into the car, which has all the wiring that connects to the speakers. The illustration doesn't show the receiver's harness, where power connections to the aftermarket receiver are made, nor the RCA patch cables, which connect the receiver's outputs to the amplifier's inputs. Sorry if that's unclear.

  • gleidston from framingham

    Posted on 6/2/2015 6:36:45 PM

    what wires do l need to conected my pionner amp to my 2009 f 150 speakes l alredy have 1 amp to my subwoofer ,now i need to conecter another amp to my speakers

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/3/2015 9:59:23 AM

    Gleidston, This article spotlights a method of connecting an amplifier to speakers using a multi-connector cable like EFX's 9-conductor cable. You would use RCA cables for the amp's input. If you buy your wires from Crutchfield, you could call Tech Support for free help wiring your system. Their toll-free number will be on your invoice. If you purchase your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Click on this link for details.

  • Jorge ochoa from Santa Ana ca.

    Posted on 7/3/2015 6:23:31 PM

    Would like to see video on wiring speakers to amp.

  • Chad from Illinois

    Posted on 7/13/2015 1:29:07 PM

    Do I splice the receivers harness in with the amplified speaker wires and vehicle harness?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/14/2015 12:16:38 PM

    Chad, Not quite. The speaker wires coming from the amplifier's outputs hook up to your vehicle's harness connected to the car speakers. The only connections used in the receiver harness are the power connections for the receiver and the remote turn-on lead for the amplifier.

  • paul from philadelphia

    Posted on 7/18/2015 6:57:21 PM

    Yeah but if you don't splice it with the wires from the receiver to then the fade wouldn't work or balance either on the receiver

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/19/2015 12:00:07 PM

    Paul, The outputs of the receiver connect to the amplifier's inputs via RCA cables. The balance and fade controls on the receiver work just fine. This article merely spotlights one way of connecting the amp's outputs to speakers using a multi-conductor cable.

  • Galo Chaquinga from Ecuador

    Posted on 7/26/2015 8:31:42 PM

    Greeting I'm from Ecuador make a purchase in one harness OESWC- LAN amazon 29 H and desire to be able to help me a graphic indicating to serve some cables that have nothing printed thanks for your help

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/27/2015 2:52:19 PM

    Galo, That steering wheel control harness will be specific to your vehicle and aftermarket receiver, and I don't have the technical knowledge on how to hook it up. Why don't you visit Axxess International, the makers of that harness, and see if you can get wiring diagrams and tech support from them.

  • adam from mesa

    Posted on 7/27/2015 3:15:55 PM

    I need the wiring diagram for my factory speaker wire colors for a 2012 chevy traverse ls model non bose

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/27/2015 3:51:13 PM

    Adam, Sorry I don't have access to that information for that vehicle. Try contacting your local Chevy dealership, they may help.

  • Matt

    Posted on 8/1/2015 9:10:04 AM

    Hi, My rear speakers are currently a couple kickers that are connected to an amp. I had it all installed by car toys. Now I want to upgrade my two rear speakers to the infinity kappa 693.11i . To do that is it something as simple as just unplugging the wire from the old speakers and plugging them into the new ones? I would love to just do it myself and save all that money on install. Thanks for the help!

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/2/2015 11:55:45 AM

    Matt, If I understand you correctly, and everything fits your vehicle, then yes you can replace older aftermarket speakers with new ones and use the older wiring. If you purchase your new speakers from Crutchfield, we'll include our vehicle-specific instructions free with the order, that illustrate in detail how to do the installation yourself. You can also purchase a MasterSheet separately for just $10.

  • Patrick from Mesa

    Posted on 8/18/2015 8:11:35 AM

    So if we do decide to run new speaker wire directly to the speakers, what do we do with the now unused wire that's connected to everything else? I'd imagine it wouldn't be easy to completely remove it.

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/18/2015 11:30:05 AM

    Patrick, Normally you'd leave the factory wiring in place, making sure conductors cannot touch together or metal by covering the ends with electrical tape.

  • Thomas from Grand rapids MI

    Posted on 9/9/2015 5:25:31 AM

    So instead of re connecting the stock speaker wire harness to my new deck I splice them into the amp with the two RC cables from the amp to the deck? Or do u splice it like a 3 way?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/9/2015 2:20:13 PM

    Thomas, Let's see if I can explain the signal flow this article describes a little better. The preamp outputs of your receiver connect to the amplifier's inputs via RCA cables. Then, using a multi-core conductor, the outputs of the amp connect to the factory speaker wires accessible behind the receiver. The receiver's speaker outputs should remain unconnected to any wiring.

  • Matt from Waterloo

    Posted on 9/15/2015 11:25:13 PM

    I want to hook my back speakers up to my 900 watt Kenwood amp..but I don't want to blow my speakers...can you give me tips on what Ishould set the gain and volume on the amp to.

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/16/2015 10:20:37 AM

    Matt, I think that most speakers would blow up if subjected to that much power no matter how the amp's gain was set. But not knowing exactly what amplifier or speakers you have make it impossible to give advice on how to wire them together.

  • Jacob Rogers from Nacogdoches

    Posted on 9/20/2015 12:34:37 PM

    What gauge speaker wire do I need for a pair of 12s that are 1400 rms each?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/20/2015 3:45:00 PM

    Jacob, Either 14-gauge or 12-gauge speaker wire will work well for your subs.

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