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Speaker wire guide

How to choose the right gauge, length, and type

In this article: We’ll explain the importance of good speaker wire and tell you what you need to know, including…

...and we'll offer some tips on how to connect speaker wire to your speakers and amplifier.


peaker wire is the lifeblood of your audio system. To put it in other terms, think of speaker wire as the arteries of your system, with your receiver being the heart and your speakers being the extremities. There are lots of different gauges, lengths, and connector types, and that can make choosing the right kind for your needs difficult. But it's not that bad once you learn the basics.

What gauge wire is needed for home speakers?

This is one of the most common questions I got from customers when I was a Crutchfield Sales Advisor. Getting the correct speaker wire gauge is one of the most overlooked but important things to get right.

When looking at speaker wire options, you'll notice they all have an "AWG" number. AWG refers to the American Wire Gauge standard. The way the numbers work is straightforward — the lower the number, the thicker the wire.

So, a 12-gauge wire is thicker than a 14-gauge wire, and so on. Thicker wire has less resistance to current flow, so it's best to use it with longer runs, high-power situations, and for lower-impedance speakers (think 6-ohm or 4-ohm).

For shorter runs (50 feet or less) that go to standard 8-ohm speakers, 16-gauge wire is all that's needed.

Difference in wire diameter from 18 gauge through 12 gauge wire

A scale diagram of wire gauge thickness. Smaller numbers correspond to thicker wire. (Not drawn to actual size.)

What gauge speaker wire do I need for home theater?

It all depends on your speakers and how far away they are from your receiver. For most home theater systems, 16-gauge wire is all you'll need. However, if your speakers are more than 50 feet away from the receiver, stepping up to 14-gauge isn't a bad idea. Also, if you're using a high-current amplifier or lower-impedance speakers, 14-gauge is best.

How much wire do you need?

Crutchfield offers speaker wire in 50- or 100-foot rolls that can be trimmed according to your needs.

Guesstimates are okay, but always over-estimate to be safe. If you want to know exactly how much wire you'll need, there's a simple way to figure it out. Run a string from your receiver or amplifier to each of the speaker locations, measuring the string once you're done. Then add a few extra feet to the total to give you some slack for easier connection to your gear.

Check out the video below for a few more helpful tips.

What type of wire do you need?

We offer speaker wire with connectors or without.

If you go the connector-less route, I recommend grabbing some banana plugs. Getting bare wire into speaker terminals can be a chore, and banana plugs help simplify the process and make connections a breeze once they're installed.

Get the right speaker wire to run inside your walls

It's important to pick up some UL-rated speaker wire labeled CL2 or CL3 if you need to run wire inside your walls. The in-wall cables we carry are available in 2-conductor or 4-conductor flavors.

You'll need CL rated wire for in-wall use.

CL-rated wire is required for in-wall speaker wire runs. The speaker wire gets ran through and between the studs in your wall.

4-conductor cables are versatile and great to have on hand. They're perfect for running a single cable between your amplifier or receiver to an in-wall volume control in another room. From there, you can run 2-conductor cables out from the volume control to both speakers in that location.

4-conductor wire is also good for connecting stereo-input speakers to amplifiers. Take a look at our comprehensive in-wall wiring guide for more information.

Use 4-conductor cable for wiring volume controls, or for stereo input speakers.

You can run 4-conductor speaker wire to an in-wall volume control (left) or a stereo-input speaker (right).

Need to run wire outside?

If you want to install your outdoor speaker wire underground, you'll need wire rated for direct burial.

Ask a Crutchfield A/V designer to recommend the right kind wire for your installation.

Are audiophile speaker cables worth it?

Audiophile speaker wire can definitely make a difference in your sound. Audiophile speaker cables often use higher quality materials inside the cable. It's also not uncommon to find high-conductivity materials like silver in their connectors. But what kind of sonic difference does all that make? Folks tend to notice that their music is more dynamic overall than it was with more budget-friendly cables.

Photo of AudioQuest Rocket 33 Bi-wire speaker cables with pre-attached banana plugs

Audioquest's Rocket 33 cables are exceptional, audiophile-grade speaker wires with banana plugs already attached

As a personal anecdote, I was using some run-of-the-mill wire to connect my Klipsch Reference Premiere home theater system to my Yamaha Aventage receiver and felt like the speakers weren't quite performing at their peak. After taking the plunge and purchasing the Rocket Series high-performance speaker cables from Audioquest, I was floored.

Movies and music sounded much more alive, with more depth in their soundstages. The whole soundscape sounded more vibrant than ever. Your mileage may vary depending on what speakers you're using and what receiver you've got pushing them, but I was forever sold on audiophile cables after my experience.

If you're looking for some speaker wire with connectors, check out our offerings from Audioquest, McIntosh, and Tributaries and read the reviews. If you're looking for bare wire without connectors, we have some solid options from Audioquest and Austere.

How to connect speaker wire

The first step is to determine which ends of your speaker wire are positive and negative. For speaker wire with connectors, the positive is often red and the negative is black. Once that's done, connect one positive end to the positive terminal on your speaker and the other positive end to your amp or receiver. Do the same for the negative (black) end, and repeat for however many speakers you're hooking up.

If you decide to hook up your wire without connectors, use a wire stripper to take about 3/8-inch of insulation off the ends of each lead, exposing the bare wire strands. Twist each lead's bare wire strands tightly, so no stray strands are sticking out. Loose strands could make contact with the cable's other lead and cause a short circuit, potentially damaging your components.

Types of speaker wire connectors

From left to right: bare wire, pin connectors, spade connectors, single banana connectors, dual banana connector.

Speakers have one of two different types of speaker wire terminals — spring clips and binding posts (see illustrations below).

Spring clips are very easy to work with. Simply press down on the clip, insert the speaker wire, and release. The spring-loaded mechanism holds the wire in place. Spring clip terminals can accept bare wire and pin connectors, but not spade connectors, banana plugs, or dual banana plugs.

Spring clip connectors

Spring clip terminals accept bare wire or pin connectors.

Binding posts provide a very solid connection for your speaker wire. All you have to do is unscrew the collar to reveal the hole and feed the bare speaker wire or pin connector in, then screw the collar back down.

You can also use banana and dual banana plugs to connect the speaker wire directly into the hole in the center of a binding post. A tip from me: If your banana plugs and speakers are brand new, it's going to take a little pressure to get the banana plugs inserted. Nothing is wrong with your speakers or the cable, the connectors are just tight. Applying some force is often necessary the first time you're connecting banana plugs to your speakers and receiver.

A spade connector slides around the binding post's collar and is secured once you screw the collar back down.

Binding post connectors

There are all sorts of ways to connect speaker wire to your speakers and receiver. From left to right: bare wire, spade connectors, single banana plugs, and double banana plugs.

We carry quite a few connectors that you can attach to bare speaker wire. Our own Crutchfield-branded banana plugs are an excellent value and make connecting your speakers a breeze.

We also have some cool right angle banana plugs from Ethereal that are grea for saving space. Speaker Snap makes some nifty quick-connect banana plugs that are easy to install. And if you're looking for a more high-end option, Audioquest has you covered with their silver-plated banana plugs.

Need further help?

If you're still stuck on which speaker wire to get, feel free to reach out to one of our Advisors for personalized one-on-one advice. Also, all Crutchfield purchases come with a generous 60-day return period and free lifetime technical support.

  • Curtis from Kerrville

    Posted on 11/25/2023

    I am building a new system that has to have components in bookshelves. It's a 4' run to one speaker and 16' (in and out of a wall) to the other. M-L B10s y'all just delivered driven by 110w. Biggest debate in audio - do I buy one of your 14-g 6' wires and one 20', or buy a longer wire for the one side and coil? The catch is the only hidden place to coil is on top of the amp.

  • Joseph Karwisch

    Posted on 11/15/2023

    Our new house was prewired for ceiling speakers with all wires ending at a wall plate. The wires are too short to connect to my receiver, so I've had to use standard electrical butt splice connectors with 5ft of speaker wire to extend the wires. Question I have is there a better solution to join the wires together to prevent audio loss?

  • Anthony

    Posted on 11/1/2023

    It's there a way to safely wire one speaker in mono using the speaker wire, either at the speaker or the amp? Reason I'm asking is I have one extra in-wall speaker I'd like to install in my garage in mono as I don't have a stereo pair. Just for non critical listening. And no I don't have a mono amp or something with a mono switch. Thanks!

  • David from St Louis

    Posted on 10/26/2023

    Ribbon, planar and stat panels have a different load than cone speakers. I know the great majority are cone drivers but should you look at specialty speakers, talk to the resident tech about the best cable design for the speaker.

  • John G. Toupin from San Francisco

    Posted on 10/22/2023

    Great article. Good idea to give a bit of instruction on attaching the speaker connectors to the bare wire. Very easy to accidentally crush the connectors if two much pressure is applied when attaching . Are more expensive connectors easier to attach?

    Commenter image

    Archer A. from Crutchfield

    on 10/23/2023

    I appreciate your comment, John! Glad you enjoyed the article. It is easy to accidentally snap or break connectors, especially if it's your first time using them and you're struggling to insert them. More expensive connectors aren't necessarily easier to attach. We have some cost-effective banana plug options that snap or twist onto speaker wire, rather than the old school way of taking the connector jacket off and screwing the wire in. The real benefit to going with expensive connectors, like these from AudioQuest, is that most of them are made with silver and are therefore more conductive than their pure copper counterparts. Hope this helps!
  • jack

    Posted on 9/30/2023

    You didnt discuss bi-wiring?

    Commenter image

    Archer A. from Crutchfield

    on 10/10/2023

    Thank you for your comment, Jack! Bi-wiring and bi-amping go a bit beyond the scope of this article, but that's a really good suggestion! This article was intended to give our customers an overview of the basics of speaker wire, how to choose the right gauge, and to provide a breakdown of connector types. We'll keep the idea in mind.
  • Dennis

    Posted on 9/29/2023

    As a total novice when it comes to higher-end speakers.I've noticed speakers that have options for bi-amping or bi-wiring. And some of these have metal bridge plates that seem to couple the terminals together. My question is, can these speaker types be configured to accept the more common or standard + and - pole wiring? Thank you for accommodating this beginner's question.

    Commenter image

    Archer A. from Crutchfield

    on 10/10/2023

    Thank you for your comment, Dennis! If I'm understanding your question correctly, you're wondering how you'd connect normal 2-conductor speaker wire to speakers with bi-ampable/bi-wireable terminals. That's a solid question, and thankfully, it has an easy answer. The metal bridge plates are called jumpers, and you're entirely correct that they do couple the terminals together. With that being said, with the jumpers in place, you can connect 2-conductor wire to either pair of terminals and the speaker in question will work just fine. It's only if those jumpers are removed that you'd need speaker wire going to both sets of terminals, otherwise only one set of drivers will receive power. I hope this helps!
  • William Danton from Reno

    Posted on 9/21/2023

    For Chris Ames: Actually, there is a repair shop in Reno. Call John Sien @ 775 229-3024. His shop, Channels, has an affiliated repair shop.

  • Prakash from Ajmer

    Posted on 9/21/2023

    also explain wire lenght for AVR for 4, 6, 8, 12 oms speakers

    Commenter image

    Archer A. from Crutchfield

    on 10/10/2023

    Thank you for your comment, Prakash! Without getting too into the weeds of impedance, that's a very good thing to mention. The best thing to do is to have as short a run as possible to your speakers, since extra length and too thin of a gauge adds unnecessary resistance. While there's not an "do A if you have X ohm speakers" type answer, there are some guidelines. You'll want thicker cable for longer runs, and even thicker than that if it's a longer run at to a low impedance speaker. For 4 ohm loads, 14-gauge wire will cover you up to nearly 40 feet. Of course, if the run is shorter than that, then you can step down a gauge to 16-gauge. 6 ohm speakers are in the same box. 14-gauge will get you clear signal up to almost 60 feet. If you don't need the full 60 foot run, step down to 16 gauge. 8 ohm speakers are the most common and falls within those same parameters. I don't know of any 12 ohm speakers off the top of my head, but the same principles apply. In summary: Keep speaker wire runs as short as possible and get the appropriate gauge for the run. Keep speaker wire runs as even as possible. I hope this helps!
  • Louis from Fairfield Glade

    Posted on 9/11/2023

    Is it worth mentioning phase inverting within this article?

    Commenter image

    Archer A. from Crutchfield

    on 10/10/2023

    Great question, Louis! Thank you for your comment. While phase inversion goes a bit beyond the scope of this article, I'll briefly address it here. The only time you should invert the phase of a speaker is if your speakers are out of phase with one another. Your speakers should give you a solid, cohesive soundstage. Out of phase speakers will produce two soundstages, and that creates a sort of mental disconnect between your music and what you're hearing. It doesn't sound all-encompassing like it should. If you're having that trouble, just switch the + and - cables on one of your speakers (so, the + cable to the - terminal, the - cable to the + terminal). This is a very rare occurrence, however, and inverting the phase of your speakers isn't recommended if everything sounds good. If we're dealing with passive subwoofers, then the only time you'd invert the phase is if you're running multiple subs and their bass waves are canceling each other out. Inverting the phase fixes that issue nicely. But, if your subs are playing well with each other, leave the phase alone.
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