Whether you have new speaker wires or want to remodel an existing setup, you must cut and prep them for snug connections at the terminals.
There are different ways to cut speaker wires, depending on the available tools, connectors, and terminals. So, how do you cut speaker wires? Let’s find out.
#1. To cut speaker wires, unplug and turn off the device to which the cables are connected.
#2. Measure the distance between the electronic device and the speaker, and mark the wire.
#3. Cut the wire with wire cutters or sharp scissors, leaving extra room for adjustments.
#4. Measure the wire again and cut it to size, ensuring it’s taut when stretched between the two connecting points. Cut perpendicular to the wire to avoid damaging the effectiveness of the cables.
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Tip: Stripping speaker wires is simpler than cutting them, regardless of a splitter or cutter.
You can use a few known household and kitchen tools to strip and cut the thinner speaker wires, but typical household tools can be a problem for the thicker ones.
For the thicker, especially the amp power wires, I use a cable cutter from Klein Tools (link to Amazon).
In the article below, I will detail everything you need to know about cutting the speaker wires.
Different Ways to Cut Speaker Wires
All speaker wires have plastic shielding as an insulating cover, irrespective of the gauge. You must strip this plastic cover or sheathing to expose the copper wires before connecting them to the terminals of a speaker, amplifier, and other devices.
If you don’t need to reduce the length of any speaker wires, you have to only strip the insulation.
There’s no requirement to cut the copper wires unless a few strands are damaged, frayed, or stripped inadvertently when you remove the plastic casing.
However, if you are realigning your sound system or setting up additional speakers or woofers, you may have to cut the wires so that they are of the right length.
No one wants to have excess wiring dangling around in the car unless it is neatly hidden.
Let me explain how to strip and cut speaker wires considering all the possibilities.
Use a Wire Cutter
A wire cutter is a simple and most effective tool to cut speaker wires. But not all wire cutters can strip the sheathing effortlessly.
Likewise, not every wire stripper is a cutter. So, you can use a stripper to remove the sheathing and a cutter to slice off the copper wires.
Alternatively, you can get the Southwire Wire Stripper and Cutter (link to Amazon). This combo tool can strip and cut the typical stranded copper wires used for speakers in the 12 to 20 AWG range.
While most speaker wires aren’t the solid copper variant, you can strip and cut those in the 10 to 18 AWG range using this tool.
The wire stripper & cutter has holes with the gauge markings. This allows you to insert a speaker wire into the right AWG hole and strip it, then use the blades to cut the wire.
Remember to always cut speaker wires perpendicularly, not diagonally or in any other orientation.
Try Using Pliers
If you don’t have a wire cutter and stripper, you can use pliers to remove the plastic cover. Here are the steps:
#1. Some pliers have blades that you can use to dent the sheathing.
#2. Determine how much of the sheathing you want to remove from the wires.
#3. Place that portion of your speaker wire between the two sharp edges of the pliers.
#4. Apply just enough force to crack the plastic cover without contacting the wires.
#5. Keep the force applied and pull away the longer part of the wire to strip the casing.
#6. You may also remove the pliers away from you simultaneously without relaxing your grip.
#7. Cut the speaker wires after stripping if your pliers have sharp enough blades.
Scissors Can Work Just as Well
Scissors can work like wire cutters or pliers with sharp blades. But you need a sharp pair.
Otherwise, you will need to use a lot of force. Even if the thrust is not a concern, squeezing or crushing the wires or the insulation may damage the copper strands.
Here’s how you can safely strip and cut speaker wires with scissors:
#1. Check if the scissors have sharp blades or use them only to strip the insulation.
#2. Mark the point where you want to strip and use the scissors to cut the plastic cover.
#3. You can try to pull the sheathing away after making a sufficiently deep cut.
#4. Alternatively, use your fingernails to peel off the plastic casing from the speaker wires.
#5. If you have thin speaker wires, your scissors may be able to cut the copper strands.
#6. But, 12 AWG or even 14AWG may not be easy to cut with a pair of regular scissors.
A Knife Can Strip and Cut Wires
If nothing else is available, you can use a knife to both strip and cut speaker wires. Here’s how:
#1. Use a kitchen knife to slice the plastic casing in a circular motion.
#2. Rotate the speaker wire to make a neat round cut for the cross-section.
#3. Don’t cut too deep to the extent the knife contacts the copper wires.
#4. Manually strip or peel off the plastic cover from the speaker wires.
#5. A knife isn’t an ideal tool to cut speaker wires, but there’s a solution.
#6. Get a hammer and select a sturdy surface as a base, like a cutting board.
#7. If you have to cut the copper strands, place the exposed wires on the base.
#8. Position the knife at the exact point where you want to cut the speaker wires.
#9. Hold the knife’s sharp edge on the wire firmly and take the hammer.
#10. Strike the hammer on the blunt edge of the knife to cut the speaker wires.
#11. You may need a few quick strikes to cut through all the copper strands.
#12. Don’t let the knife cut diagonally or damage the part of the wires you’ll use.
Use a Nail Clipper if You’re in a Bind
You can also use a nail clipper to strip the sheathing of your speaker wires. But regular nail clippers may not cut speaker wires as neatly as needed.
It is pointless to try too many strikes due to the likelihood of bending, fraying, and damaging the exposed copper strands of your speaker wires.
Use Razor Blades
You can use old-school blades or a utility knife to strip the sheathing of speaker wires.
However, small blades aren’t a practical way to cut stranded copper wire like nail clippers. So, if you only need to remove the plastic casing, use a blade like a knife or a pair of scissors, as I’ve explained.
How to Cut Speaker Wires Perfectly
Here are a few tips and steps to help you strip and cut speaker wires perfectly:
#1. Separate the positive and negative wires’ sheathings before stripping either. For example, some speaker wires have one overall sheathing and two plastic casings.
#2. Strip the outer sheathing and then separate the two plastic covers and wires.
#3. Then strip the two plastic casings and cut the wires if you need them to be a shorter length.
#4. After you strip speaker wires, check to see if you have removed a few copper strands.
#5. If a few strands are missing or damaged, strip a bit more to have impeccable wires.
#6. Frayed, damaged, or missing strands of copper wire will affect audio output and quality.
#7. Always strip just enough sheathing to have a sufficient wire length for the connectors.
#8. Bare wire connections at speaker terminals shouldn’t have loose strands or whiskers.
#9. Using other connectors, measure the length you need before stripping and cutting. For instance, a banana plug requires less exposed copper wire than spade connectors.
Likewise, pin connectors and alligator clips don’t require the same length of copper wire.
#10. Twist the copper strands to form a neat tip.
#11. Only pin connectors need you to fan the copper strands before tightening the screw.
#12. All other connectors work with neatly twisted speaker wire strands that are snugly fitted.
Not everyone has a wire cutter and splitter, so I hope the alternatives shared in this post are of some help.
I had once used a lighter to melt the plastic sheathing of speaker wires so that I could strip it off, but I don’t recommend it, of course.
What tools do I need to cut speaker wires?
You will need wire cutters or sharp scissors to cut the wires. A ruler or measuring tape is also helpful for measuring the distance between the electronic device and the speaker.
How do I know where to cut the wire?
Measure the distance between the electronic device and the speaker, and mark the wire. Make sure to leave some extra room for adjustments.
Can I use a knife instead of wire cutters to cut the wires?
You can use a sharp knife to cut the wire to size, but it may take a few swings and can be more complicated than using wire cutters.
What should I do if I cut the wire too short?
If you accidentally cut the wire too short, you can try splicing additional wire onto the existing wire, but this may not be easy and may affect the quality of the connection.