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Speaker Cable: Which Is Positive and Which Is Negative?

Do you often find yourself wondering which speaker cable wire is positive and which is negative? If so, you’re not alone. No matter how experienced you are with audio, it’s easy to get confused by all the different speaker cables on the market. But which speaker cable wire is positive or negative?

Unfortunately, not knowing the positive and negative speaker cable wires can lead to faulty connections and lower sound quality.

Image of a black and orange speaker cable wires connected in an audio equipment. Source: pixabay
Image of a black and orange speaker cable wires connected in an audio equipment. Source: Pixabay

This article covers the difference between positive and negative speaker cable wires and how to use them correctly. So if you’re always getting confused about cable wires, this post is for you!

Which speaker cable wire is positive and which is negative? Due to the convention that a two-conductor speaker wire has a black and a red conductor, with the black being negative (-) and the red being positive (+), the first two conductors are utilized for the first speaker. Most things are done from left to right, so it makes sense that the left would be called that.

What are speaker cable wires?

Before getting to the heart of the article, let’s look at the components of a speaker cable.

The voltage (in volts) of the signals carried by speaker cables varies a lot from one speaker to the next. This is because smaller speakers can only take a few volts of signal, whereas larger loudspeakers and subwoofers can handle hundreds.

There is a disconnect between the speakers due to the excessive signal levels (and low noise level). Meaning there are two individual wires (called conductors) within the cable. The signal travels via one wire, while the ground is given by the other. Because each speaker transducer only has one ear, the resulting sound is mono rather than stereo.

Both a speaker’s positive and negative terminals will take in the identical mono signal but in opposite polarity. The positive connector in this configuration is connected to the positive signal line (the mono-unbalanced signal has positive polarity). The negative end it’s connected to the signal ground wire (the mono-unbalanced signal has negative polarity).

How do you know which speaker cable wires are positive and negative?

Maybe you’re wondering: “How can you tell the difference between the positive and negative speaker wire stripes?” Polarity testers can simplify your life. This helpful device is sold at most computer and electronics retailers. This check is critical for identifying the polarity of a speaker wire. The speaker’s power line will likewise be labeled in this manner.

It would help if you attempted to identify an old AA battery’s positive and negative wires. Put the woofer close to the battery to test this theory. If the positive wire retracts and contacts the negative battery terminal, it is the latter. You need to establish the proper connection if it springs back at you. Before plugging it into your amplifier, ensure you know which wire goes where.

In most cases, the back or package will indicate which speaker cables are positive and which are negative. The positive terminal is located on the left, while the negative terminal is on the right. In most cases, the positive speaker wire will be a distinct color from the rest.

Refer to the owner’s handbook for your speakers if you need clarification about how to hook them up. It is common for speaker wire to be either red, black, or transparent. If you are unclear about which wire, use the color code to help you out.

What happens if you cross positive and negative speaker wires?

There is always a risk of confusing the positive and negative speaker cables since the wires might be hard to tell apart. But this situation is much less dangerous than when electrical lines are crossed. The speaker wires crossing won’t put you in immediate danger, so you may relax. The speaker and amplifier will be safe from harm even if the cables are accidentally switched.

A short is a cause for alarm if working with wires. However, this should not be a worry when working with speakers. Instead, you’ll hear diminished audio quality from the speakers. Also, if the cables are all tangled up, the power might not work right, or the speakers might not do what you expect.

If your speakers are acting up, one of the first things to check is the cables’ polarity to ensure the signals are being sent in the correct direction. If your speaker system isn’t working properly, this fast and easy repair may be needed to get it back up and running. Unfortunately, speaker polarity reversal is a frequent problem, but it doesn’t have to be a major concern if you know what to look for.

How do you know the wires are properly installed?

If you want to be sure your speaker wiring is set up properly, look for these telltale indicators.

Color-coding

Speaker cables are often color-coded, so you can easily identify the positive and negative connections. For example, red is often used to represent a positive value, whereas black represents a negative one.

Listen

How is the audio quality while playing music via your speakers? There is a strong probability that the cables are jumbled if you experience interruptions, interference, or level changes in your audio.

Manual

If you want to ensure your speakers’ wiring is hooked up properly, you can consult the instructions for your speakers.

Image of speaker cable wires connected in an audio mixer. Source: magstd, pexels
Image of speaker cable wires connected in an audio mixer. Source: Magstd, Pexels

Physical or visual differences

Attempt to distinguish the two wires visually or by their physical characteristics. This way, you can distinguish between the wires and ensure they are connected properly.

Tests

Speaker polarity may be checked using a multimeter or a 9-volt battery. Using either of these two methods, you can find out which wire is negative and which is positive. Also, if you read this list carefully, you can make sure that your speaker cables are set up correctly. If you want high-quality audio whenever you want it, this will provide you with the greatest possible listening experience.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch the video “POSITIVE VS NEGATIVE: Does Speaker Wiring Matter?” from the Audio University YouTube channel.

A video “POSITIVE VS NEGATIVE: Does Speaker Wiring Matter?” from the Audio University YouTube channel.
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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about speaker cable wires.

How do I know which cable is positive?

As a rule of thumb, the positive wire (sometimes known as the “hot” wire) will be colored black. This is because it’s where the power comes from. As the positive wire carries electricity away from the outlet or other power source, it must always be treated as though it were live and hazardous.

Which speaker prong is positive?

The positive terminal is often on the left when looking at the speaker head-on. On our neodymium models, the opposite is true. The positive terminal is highlighted in red on the right when the speaker is facing up.

What happens if you mix up positive and negative speakers?

The result is null when two identical signals with different polarities are added together. Then, one of the waves is positive, while the other is negative, and vice versa. As a consequence, there is utter quiet. Destructive interference describes this phenomenon.

What happens if you connect speaker wires backward?

A speaker’s electromagnet will lose strength if the wires are connected incorrectly. Therefore, the speaker will vibrate less, and the sound quality will suffer. In addition, when the current is too low, the gadget may not function.

Conclusion

To summarize, positive and negative speaker cable wires have different roles. Therefore, their application is also different. So, when you are about to connect your device with speakers, check the wire color of the speaker cab before connecting it.

However, just as you can’t become an expert cyclist by reading a book, you can’t become a great music producer by reading articles alone. It’s time to take action! Go and put what you have learned into practice.

This article covered what a speaker cable wire is, how to know which speaker cable wire is positive or negative, and what happens if you cross positive and negative speaker wires. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • There is a large disparity between speakers regarding the voltage (in volts) of the signals conveyed by speaker cables.
  • Polarity testers can simplify your life.
  • There is always a risk of confusing the positive and negative speaker cables since the wires might be hard to tell apart.
  • Extra tips:
    • The negative wire of an amp must be connected to the speaker’s negative input.

So, do you get confused between positive and negative cable wires? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.

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Audio Apartment Author
Written By Andrew Ash
Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I've been making music since I was a kid. I now run this blog all about home studios and music production. If you want to improve your home studio setup, this is the place for you!

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