Speaker polarity: positive and negative speaker wires

When wiring your speakers for the first time, it’s important to know the correct way to connect the positive and negative wires. First, we need to understand that the wires themselves are not positive or negative, it’s the input and output from the wires that are. As long as the same wire is connected to the same color terminal at each end, the speaker polarity should be correct.

What does Speaker Polarity Mean?

Connecting positive amplifier terminal to positive speaker terminal and negative amplifier terminal to negative speaker terminal establishes correct speaker polarity.

if they are connected in reverse, the speaker polarity will also be reversed.

What happens when your speaker’s polarity is reversed?

When you connect the wires from the amplifier terminal to the speaker terminal in reverse, your speaker polarity will be reversed. In other words, your speaker will move inward when it should move outward, and outward when it should move inward. This will make the sound wave created by the speakers be the exact opposite of the signal recorded by the microphone. 

Will this make a difference in the sound? In certain situation’s you will barely notice, but in other situation’s it can affect the sound. For instance, if only one speaker it connected, it will not be noticeable. When you have multiple speakers connected and one is incorrectly wired, there will be a significant impact in the sound.

Will incorrect speaker polarity damage your speakers?

While incorrect speaker polarity can cause changes to sound quality, the good news is, it will not damage them. This is because the voltages received from a speaker with reverse polarity is no different than the speaker in correct polarity.  But remember, for the best sound, it’s important to maintain correct polarity.

Let’s Talk Connection… How do you tell if you are connecting your speaker wire the correct way.

If you purchased a new speaker system the first thing you should do is check the owner’s manual before you begin the process of setting it up. In most circumstances, the wires are color coded. But sometimes the wires are not, in which case you will need to do some testing especially if you have already connected the wires. If you haven’t connected the speaker wires yet, you should label the wires before connecting.

 Connecting Positive And Negative Wires According To Color-coding

When your speaker wire comes in red and black wiring, the red wire is typically positive and the black wire is typically negative making it easy to connect.

The same goes for silver and copper wiring, the silver wire is typically positive and the copper wire is typically negative.

Table below shows the color codes for the four-conductor speaker wire

SpeakerTerminalWire Color
Left Speaker
Negative (-)Black

Left Speaker
Positive (+)Red

Right Speaker
Negative (-)Green

Right Speaker
Positive (+)Yellow or White

Connecting Positive And Negative Wires That Are A Solid Color Or Translucent:

For black speaker wire, look for a single stripe or dashed lines along one side of the wire, this usually indicates that it is a negative wire. If the wire is a light-color, the stripe or dash may be dark. If the wire is a dark color, the stripe or dash will most likely be white.

For speaker wire that is clear or translucent, there should be a positive (+) or negative (-) symbol, and sometimes text, to indicate the polarity.

Methods To Identify Positive And Negative Speaker Wires:

If your speaker wires are not color-coded, translucent or there is no stripe or markings, no need to worry, here are a three simple tests you can do to tell the wires apart.

  • Nine-volt battery test.
  • A Multimeter.
  • Physical or visual identifications.

 Nine-Volt Battery Test:

You will need a nine-volt battery with a matching battery clip to begin. Take the speaker wire that you think is negative and connect it to the speaker. Then take the red wire from the batter clip to the other speaker. 

If the two speakers are the correct polarity, you will hear a scratching noise. If it is not correct, you will not hear any noise. Once you have identified the speaker wires, it’s a good idea to label the ends with tape at this point for a smoother installation process.

Using A Multimeter:

Before using a multimeter to test your speaker wires, it’s important to unplug your whole speaker system. Once everything is unplugged, it is safe to connect the wires. First you will connect the wires to the nine-volt battery.

Next, set your multimeter to the DC voltage and then connect the wires to the multimeter. You should see a reading for each wire that is connected, showing if it is positive or negative. Once again, be sure to label the wires so you can identify them when you’re ready for installation.

Physical or visual identifications:

When looking at your speaker wires, there are usually some physical or visual clues to look for to determine the positive and negative wires. For instance, some wires may have a stripe on them. 

Negativity is usually indicated by a Stripe. Additionally, examine the wires: one may be smooth and the other may have small ridges or bumps. This can help you match the wires to their respective connection points.

Summing It All Up

We hope you found this article helpful. If you follow these steps, this will ensure that your speaker wires will be properly installed and that your speaker connections deliver the quality sound you expect from your sound systems for years to come.