Connecting your speakers to an amp
Tip: You can use your vehicle's factory wiring
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.
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.