Having good car speakers enhances your listening experience and doubles your enjoyment, but have you ever wondered which connectors should be used for the car speakers?
Generally, car speakers use three types of wire connectors with the speaker cables: Fork connectors, ring connectors, banana plugs, spade connectors, or pin connectors, depending on the speaker terminal design. Most commonly used in the aftermarket car speakers are the quick disconnect male / female connectors.
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Tip: When replacing the factory speakers in most modern cars, the wiring installation matches specification of the specific producer, which means that terminals are different than the standard ones and cannot be used with the aftermarket speakers.
If you have such an issue, you need to purchase special adaptor wires which will plug on one side with the original factory installation.
On the other side, they have standard female-type connectors to match the aftermarket speakers.
In this article, I will explain how to connect your car speakers with wires using different connector types.
What Are the Types of Speaker Wire Connectors?
Wire connectors are a great way to connect your speakers. Instead of attaching a bare wire to the speaker’s terminal, you first attach the connector to the speaker wire and then connect it with the speaker.
When connecting either car radio or amplifier with speakers, you have to search for connectors that are compatible with speaker terminals, provide a secure connection, and minimize signal loss.
There are many types of speaker wire connectors available in the market, and because of their different design, you may use them in slightly different applications:
These connectors have a color-coded cap and threaded metal rod with a hole.
They are used to connect with a single bare wire and can work together with other connectors like banana plugs, pin connectors, or spade connectors.
They are U-shaped connectors. Most spade connectors are crimped with wire, but those with a screw hold the wire in the pocket. Spade connectors are used for speakers with screw terminals or with binding posts.
The main advantage of these connectors over the bare wire is that they cover all the wire strands and ensure that the connection is strong, and they are most popular in the aftermarket speakers.
Banana connectors are widely used in car audio, but not all speakers can accept this type.
They come in two different designs, one uses screws to hold the wire, and others are binding posts style. They are the fastest ones for connection and disconnection.
They are a smaller version of banana connectors without spring contact and are only used with binding posts with holes in the center of the threaded rod.
They were invented by the RCA corporation in the 1940s and are used in-car audio to transfer signals between radios and amplifiers. They are also called phono connectors.
How to Connect Speaker Wire to Speakers?
There are many ways to connect speaker wires to speaker terminals, but it really depends on which terminals your speakers have.
You can connect speaker wire with speakers by simply soldering the wire with speaker terminals or by using pin connectors, banana plugs, or spade connectors.
While selecting speaker connectors, ensure they match your speaker wire’s gauge. Most connectors are designed to work with 12 – 18 gauge (AWG) wires.
Below few examples of wires with terminal connections:
Connecting Bare Wires
A bare wire is a wire of copper or any other conducting material which carries electrical signals.
You can use bare wire for temporary connections because these connections are prone to faults.
To make this connection, just strip the wire insulation with pliers and insert the bare wire end into the speaker terminal.
Bare wire works fine with any connectors. There are various types of wires available, like solid wire, stranded wire, flat strip wire, etc.
Connecting Speaker Wires to Spring Clip Terminals
Some speakers have spring clip terminals, which makes the wire connection straightforward.
Just strip the wire up to ½ inch and then twist it at the end using your forefinger and thumb. Next, push the spring clip down and insert the wire into it.
Release the clip, and the connection should be firm, but that depends on the spring’s force.
Connecting Speaker Wires by Soldering
The most solid connection is to solder the wire with the speaker terminal.
To make a soldering connection, you need to complete the following:
- soldering iron
- wire stripper
First, strip the speaker wire up to half an inch and heat the soldering iron to the appropriate temperature.
Apple flux onto the soldering iron, place the speaker wire on the speaker terminal and make a joint using soldering iron and solder.
Connecting Speaker Wires to Binding Posts Terminals
Connecting speaker wires to binding post terminals is straightforward. These caps are colored red and black, indicating positive and negative terminals.
- First, unscrew the caps of these terminals until you start seeing the hole in the post.
- Strip the speaker wire up to half inches and twist it at the end, then insert the positive speaker wire into the hole of the positive terminal of the binding post.
- Now tighten the caps until it fully covers the hole. Repeat the same process with the negative speaker wire.
Connecting Speaker Wires Using Banana Plugs
When making solid connections, there are many benefits of using banana plugs with your car speaker wire.
I like the banana plugs, especially when the speaker terminals are visible, like in upside-down connected subwoofers. It is crucial not only for the stable connection but also for its aesthetic.
You can find three design types of banana plugs:
- set screw plastic cover
- set screw metal cover
- binding post style
Banana plugs also come with color-coding:
- red for the positive speaker wire, and
- black for the negative speaker wire
Connection of the banana plugs with the wires is not complicated, and it requires a few steps to complete the task:
- Cut The Wire to the required length. Make sure that the wires are long enough to run in the tight corners through the car chassis. I leave an extra wire of approx a foot long to avoid any surprises.
- Separate Wires. Before removing isolation, you have to work with each individual wire to make the job easier, so pull ends of the cables away from each other for a length of around 5 inches.
- Strip Away the jacket at a length of approx 0.5 inches from the end of the wire. Use the wire stripper, but do not apply too much pressure on it, otherwise, you will cut the wire.
- Repeat the same process on the other wire
- If you do not use solid speaker wires, twist the copper strands to be able to easily feed the wire into the banana plugs. Hold one of the wire ends between your finger and thumb, then turn the hand and twist the wires around each other.
- Once you’ve twisted the wire strands together, next attach the Banana Plugs to the wire. Each pair of cables will use one red striped banana plug on the positive wire and one black on the negative wire.
- When wires are in place, screw the back of the banana plug to lock and secure the wire. This will twist the wire deeper into the connector, giving a better connection.
- Repeat the same with other wire ends, ensuring a solid connection.
- The last step is to connect the banana plugs to the speakers or the amplifier.
What Is the Best Connector for Speaker Wire?
The purpose of a connector, as the name suggests, is to connect two things. However, because many types of connectors are available in the marketplace, it may not be easy to decide which connector to choose for speaker wire.
In my opinion, banana connectors are better than other connectors because they are easy to connect to a wire, can be used with binding posts, and have a lower signal-to-noise ratio.
From all banana plugs, I particularly like Xaugiry 8 pcs banana connectors with gold-plated copper.
This pack includes 4 binding posts style design banana connectors and four screw-type banana connectors. The gold plating protects the pin from rusting and makes good contact.
Other popular connectors are binding posts and spade lugs. However, the pin and RCA connectors are not so popular because of the specific design speaker’s terminals.
Your car stereo may have used more than one type of connector. For example, if your speaker has spring clips, you can use bare wire or pin connectors.
If other parts of the system have binding posts, you should consider banana connectors or spade connectors.
How Do You Connect Speaker Wire to Pin Connectors?
Pin connectors come with a threaded end cap, bushings, and a pin connector. An important thing to remember is to select the correct size of the pin connector to match the wire gauge.
To connect pin connectors with speaker wire, follow the few steps below:
- Take the positive speaker wire and remove insulation from it.
- Twist the strands properly using your thumb and forefinger so that all the wire hairs get together.
- Now take the threaded end cap of the pin connector and put it into the wire with threads facing your side.
- To make the connection tight, insert bushing into the threaded end cap. Now take the pin connector and insert it onto the wire.
- Tighten the threaded end cap to the connector and make sure your connection is secure. Don’t apply too much force while tightening the connector because it may break.
- Repeat the same steps with the negative speaker wire.
Are Spade Connectors Better Than Banana Plugs?
All types of connectors have their pros and cons.
The type of connector you need for the speaker terminal depends mainly on the application type and whether you want to make a strong joint or temporarily connect them.
If you want to make the strongest but quickly removable connections, copper alloy gold electro-plated spade connectors are better than banana plug connectors.
To hold the speaker wire firmly in spade connectors, you either need to crimp the speaker wire into it with a crimping tool, or there are also available spade connectors with the screw adjustments to make connections solid and reliable.
On the other hand, Banana plugs are not bolted with the terminals. Therefore they may seem less reliable, especially for the installation with lots of vibrations because of the spring-loaded pins, but they are solid when sitting in the matching terminals and can be disconnected easily.
Banana plugs speaker wires are easy to replace in case of a fault in the wire. However, some banana connectors come with a screw, thus making the connections as secure as spade connectors, but they are a bit more expensive than spade connectors.
Are Banana Plugs Better Than Bare Wire?
Banana plug connectors and bare wires are the connections you will see most often in the car audio installation with speakers, amplifiers, and stereos.
You can simply insert both banana plug and bare wire into the binding posts.
I will always choose banana plug connectors over bare wire connections to get a neat, safe, and secure connection.
There are various advantages of using banana connectors over the bare wire. With banana connectors, you will get a clean installation, and these connectors also boost the signal transfer speed.
You can easily pull off a bare wire, and if the hairs of these wires are not appropriately twisted, they can degrade the sound system’s performance.
If you don’t want a messy system, then use banana connectors. Banana connectors are gold plated, and they didn’t get attacked by rust as bare wires are more prone to rusting. So using banana connectors increases the quality of your joints.
You can use bare wire if you want to make a temporary connection, but to make a permanent, durable and reliable connection, you should choose banana connectors over the bare wire.
Speaker wire connectors make it easy to plug and unplug the speakers from amplifiers or the head unit.
If the space between terminals is confined, bare wire is unreliable because the strands can short circuit with other cables. So, it is easier to insert a connector in terminals than a bare wire.
Apart from this, the speaker wire connectors ensure a solid connection if you follow all the steps correctly. In addition, connectors increase the stereo’s sound quality and minimize signal loss.
I think these reasons are enough to convince you to use speaker wire connectors.