Despite the fact that the TV industry is being constantly improved in terms of both audio and picture quality, we have to notice once again that they are still giving a significant advantage to picture over audio quality. In fact, they give an advantage to all their technologies and all TV components over audio quality. TVs are getting thinner and thinner, they have more input and output ports, the resolution is becoming much better, but it seems that their speakers simply aren’t on par with the image.
So, once again, we are forced to reach for stereo speakers, soundbars, or home theater speakers to enjoy all the finesse and nuances of audio (or audio/video) content that would otherwise remain unnoticed. This is the main reason why we have decided to write this article, and explain to you how to connect your speakers to your TV properly and be able to enjoy top-notch sound whether you’re listening to some music or watching a movie.
Note: Only active speakers can be directly connected to your TV. If you want to connect passive speakers to your TV, you can’t just connect the speaker wire to your TV and then connect the other end to the speakers. To connect passive speakers to your TV, you need an amplifier or AVR. You have to connect the TV to the AVR/amplifier, and then use a speaker wire to connect speakers to the AVR/amplifier.
What Does Speaker Wire Mean?
Speaker wire is a type of wire used, as the name implies, to establish an electrical connection between one or more speakers and an audio amplifier or AV receiver used to amplify the audio signal. Speaker wires mainly consist of two conductors insulated by plastic or, in some cases, rubber, but they can have even more conductors for those users who want to establish multiple connections using one cable. Speaker wire usually comes as a zip cord, and the wires come with marked polarity.
The most important speaker wire features crucial for determining its quality are electrical impedance (resistance) and gauge (wire diameter measure). These two features are mutually dependent. Since the electrical impedance is proportional to the wire length and inversely proportional to its thickness, thicker and shorter wires have lower impedance.
The gauge can be expressed in American wire gauge (AWG) or standard wire gauge (SWG). The two measuring systems aren’t compatible but, considering that AWG is more common, we’ll just say that a 12 AWG wire does a pretty great job in terms of connecting speakers to their amplifiers/receivers. You can find more detailed information in one of the following sections.
AWG describes the thickness of the speaker wire – the lower the number the thicker the wire
Passive vs Active Speakers
Both passive and active speakers look the same at first glance. They can contain multiple drivers (woofers, tweeters) but their purpose is the same – they reproduce sound by converting incoming electrical signals into sound waves. The main difference between passive and active speakers isn’t their quality and it’s definitely not true that active speakers are better than passive. They are simply more practical, and they require less effort because they come pre-amplified. Their actual quality depends on the proper matching of speaker features and room acoustics.
Speaking about amplification, this is the thing that makes these two types of speakers so different. They both need amplification, but active speakers have built-in amplification, while passive speakers require external amplification. This external amplification comes from a stereo amplifier or AV receiver, and to connect passive speakers to the amplifier/receiver, you have to use the speaker wire.
Amplifiers VS AV Receivers
Most people believe that amplifiers and receivers are completely different devices and can’t be used the same way. Well, this is only partially true. Yes, there are some differences between these two, but their working principles are very similar.
Amplifiers are devices used to amplify low-voltage signals coming from source devices (or from a preamp) and provide enough gain so that they can be used for powering speakers.
We can make a difference between stereo amps and integrated amps. Stereo amps can only amplify the signal, and you can’t connect audio sources directly to it. For that, you need another unit called preamp.
Integrated amps are a bit more complex. They are basically preamp and stereo amp in one box. Because they combine the functions of preamp and stereo amp, you can connect audio sources directly to them. Some integrated amps have only analog inputs, while some also have digital (optical and coaxial) audio inputs.
AV receivers do the same job as integrated amplifiers, but they are even more complex. They also have video inputs (HDMI, composite, component) and multiple speaker terminals (not just two like stereo and integrated amps).
How to Connect Speaker Wire to TV?
When speaking about establishing the connection between your AV receiver or amplifier and your new passive speaker system, there is practically no difference between the receiver and amp. In both cases, you need to use the right speaker wire, and connect the right speaker outputs on your amp/receiver to the right speaker terminals on the rear panel of your speaker. The only difference is in the number of speakers you have to connect – it’s only two when it comes to amplifiers, and it can be 5 or more when it comes to AV receivers. So, let’s see what you have to do to connect a passive speaker system to your TV.
Note: You can’t connect speaker wire directly to your TV. That’s simply impossible. If you have a pair of passive speakers (or an entire surround sound speaker system, and you want to connect them to your TV, you need an amplifier (or AV receiver). The TV connects to the amplifier/receiver via HDMI (or some other available audio connection), and the amplifier/receiver connects to the speakers via speaker wire. That’s the only way to connect passive speakers to your TV.
Step 1 – Choosing Proper Wire
When wiring speakers and amplifiers/receivers, you’re creating a new electrical circuit. To get great performance and make the entire system work properly, you have to use the wires that match the circuit amperage to prevent wire melting and other damages. The point is – the higher the circuit amperage, the lower the wire gauge value.
Considering that most household circuits are rated at 15 or 20 amps and that the most common speaker wire material is copper, we believe that a 12-gauge wire shall do the job in most cases. However, you should know that there are other wire gauges (8, 10, 14, 16) that are used for wiring different appliances and devices. Also, there are other materials that are used to make speaker wires, such as silver, but they can be pricier than copper. Gauge-amperage relations in such cases would be different.
After you’ve bought the proper wire and determined the amount of wire you’re going to need, you’re ready for the next step – the actual wiring.
Before you start cutting anything, place both speakers and amplifier/receiver exactly where you’re planning to keep them. Once you do that, measure the distance between the amplifier and each speaker and cut the wire into pieces in accordance with your measuring. Naturally, the length of the wire pieces should be somewhat longer than the actual distance you measured. Now, you have to take each piece and remove approximately half of an inch of the plastic insulation protecting the wire on both sides of the wire. Now, there are two options – to establish the connection using bare wires or with the help of different clips and connectors (for example, banana plugs, pin connectors, spade connectors).
On the back of the speakers, you will find speaker terminals used to establish a connection with amplifiers and receivers. The two most commonly used types of terminals are 5-way binding posts and spring-clip terminals.
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If you’re using a bare wire connection, you will have to unscrew the circular connections or press the plastic part on the spring-clip terminals to unhide small holes that you are supposed to push the wire into.
In case you opt for some of the above-mentioned clips or connectors, the process lasts longer, but the connection quality will be much better, safer, and, truth be told, it’ll look much cleaner.
So, once you connect the speaker wire to the speakers, you have to do the same thing with the amplifier/receiver. The only thing you should pay attention to is to connect the wires to the appropriate black and red terminals (positive and negative terminals) on the back of the amplifier/receiver.
If you still have some doubts regarding the wiring process, we suggest you watch the video below and we guarantee things will get much clearer.
Video Tutorial – Connecting Speakers to Amplifiers
Step 3 – Connecting an Amplifier/Receiver to TV
When it comes to connecting amplifiers and receivers to TVs, there are many options and many combinations that can be used to achieve the performance you are aiming at. Your choice is limited only by the type and number of available ports on the back of your TV (and on the rear panel of your receiver/amp). You just need to find a pair of matching ports.
If you have a receiver and a TV with HDMI ARC ports, you can consider yourself a winner. This is the best possible option because it allows you to not only play TV audio through your speakers but also to watch video content coming from some other source on your TV while enjoying the audio content from the same source (gaming console, BluRay player, etc.) playing through your speakers.
If your TV doesn’t support HDMI ARC, or if you have an amplifier and not an AV receiver (this means no HDMI ports), you can use other available options such as RCA cables, AUX cables, digital optical cables, etc. However, there is no return channel in this case, so if you want to play a movie from a BluRay player, you’ll have to connect it directly to your TV and not to the amplifier/receiver.
Step 4 – Final Adjustments
If you did everything as instructed, and the sound still doesn’t come out from your speakers, you may have forgotten the final step – adjusting the audio settings on your TV. Don’t worry, it’s not a big deal. You just have to enter the audio settings on your TV and make sure that your TV speakers are muted or that external speakers are selected in the speaker menu.
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