When working with audio systems, you’ll quickly realize that you probably have plenty of entangled wires working with. In many cases, you’ll need to strop and solder wires as necessary.
In this simple how-to guide, we will show you how to properly solder speaker wires for a longer length or connect audio devices and components.
If you do not wish to read through the steps, you can just watch this video:
Step 1: Identify & Get The Required Tools
Before you settle down to start connecting speaker wires, you should have all the needed tools and materials. The most important ones are:
- Soldering iron
- Heat gun
- Heat shrink tubing
- A soldering iron
- The appropriate gauge speaker wire
- Wire strippers
However, if you are doing something simple, like soldering headphone wires to the base of the headphone, then you don’t need additional wires.
Step 2: Power Down Your Audio System
If you are soldering wires within an active audio system, ensure you power down the system first. This ensures no electricity is running through the circuit.
Step 3: Cut the Wire at the Desired Length
Since you want to increase your wire length, you should measure the distance you want the wire to reach. It is best to make it a little longer to cater to unforeseen needs for an additional wire.
Be sure to use the right steps and tools to mitigate costly mistakes. This work isn’t difficult, but there is no doubt that you must use the best tools, such as use automatic wire strippers with built-in wire-cutting tools, utility scissors, or wire-cutting pliers.
Out of the many wire-cutting tools that people use out there, we recommend wire-cutting pliers.
It is designed to cut a wide range of wire sizes. But for the typical speaker wire, such as 18 gauge wires, the wire-cutting feature in almost all the other tools works just fine.
How should I cut the speaker wire? To cut a speaker wire before soldering, you should do the following:
1. Insert it and slightly close the wire-cutting tool.
2. Wait for a while for the device to hold the wire securely in place.
3. Squeeze the wire firmly until it cuts
Step 4: Strip the Plastic Casing Off
If your speaker wires are not bare already, you should strip part of the wire insulation off. Ensure you leave approximately ½” bare wire on each end.
Stripping speaker wire can be tricky, but you will master the skill quickly after a few attempts. To do it successfully in minutes, insert the speaker wire into the stripper and squeeze enough to hold the insulation tightly. As you hold firmly, pull the speaker wire out, and that should be enough to remove the insulation.
Please note that the key trick here is to pinch the insulation and not the wire strands. If you catch the wire, you are highly likely to break off the wire strands and destroy your wire.
So to strip your wire with incredible ease, you should do the following:
1. Insert the wire on the stripper and carefully close it on the insulation. Be sure you use enough force to pinch the insulation and hold the wire in place slightly. But it should not put force on the inside wire.
2. Hold the stripper firmly so it cannot move.
3. Gently pull the wire and watch as the insulation breaks off and exposes the wire.
To be successful, you also need to note that before stripping a speaker wire for the first time, you know that certain types of wires can be hard to strip. An example of these is 20AWG and 24AWG. As a beginner, you can practice using some surplus wires that won’t hurt your wire requirement.
Step 5: Twist or Mesh the Wires Together
Make the ends of the wire face 180 degrees away from each other. After that, twist the wires together until they look like candy cane stripes. If the wires are flexible, you could also mesh them by simply pushing them onto themselves.
This process is simple. All you need to do is ensure you don’t treat the end of different wires like a twist tie.
Step 6: Apply the Solder to the Wire
Plug in the soldering iron and give it some time to heat up. After warming up the heat gun, apply the solder to the wires. If you want the solder to melt quickly, consider briefly applying the solder to the iron.
Ensure you rotate the wire to be able to apply the solder on both sides. The entire wire should be fully saturated with solder.
Step 7: Apply Heat Shrink Tubing or Electric Tape
Allow the soldered wire a few minutes to cool and then electrically isolate it by applying heat shrink tubing or electric tape. The better and more durable option is using heat shrink tubing. You can also use insulated butt connectors. Learn more about insulated butt connectors here.
The most important thing here is to ensure that the speaker wires do not touch because this will cause shorting.
Heat shrink tubing is a polymer plastic film that will shrink tightly over the soldered wires when heat is applied. Use the electrical heat gun to apply heat over the shrink wrap. You can use any mild heat source such as a lighter or even a powerful blow dryer.
If you want to do the same, apply the wrap before making the connection between the two wires.
How to Prevent Short Circuits When Soldering Speaker Wires
When soldering speaker wires, you should be careful not to make any mistakes that cause wires to cross and reverse audio signals polarity in speakers. When this happens, you can easily experience a short circuit and lose your sound system.
But you can avoid this common problem by observing the following:
- Ensure the system is off before you start.
- Solder the wires together in a way that ensures the positive wire is attached to the appropriate positive terminals. Do the same with the negative wires and terminals too. Speaker wires are typically color-coded, so it is easy to protect your sound system by color-matching the wires during soldering.
- Apply electric tape or use heat shrink tubing. We mentioned this critical practice earlier. This simple act is designed to prevent you from damaging your speaker or amp due to a short circuit. In fact, it gives you the reason should not just opt for the just-twist-and-tape method, which is easier and less costly in the short term.
At What Temperature Should I Soldier Speaker Wires?
The temperature of the iron should be approximately 3000C, which is about 5500F. However, this range may vary depending on what you are soldering.
What Kind Of Solder Wire Do I Use For Speaker Wire?
It is recommended that the MAIYUM 63-37 solder, an alloy of two high-quality metals; Tin; sn (63%) and Lead; PB (37%), is the best solder for speaker wire on the market. It has rosin with 1.8% flux content in its core that is sought after for electrical or audio cable speaker soldering. It has a melting of 1830C.
Soldering speaker wires is relatively easy, but you need to be careful when doing it as you will be working with hot tools. All you need to do is choose the needed materials and tools, cut the wires, strip the plastic casing of the last ½” of the wire, follow all the simple instructions, and apply electric tape or use shrink. If you find that soldering and so on is too much of a task, you can always pawn your speaker and have someone else deal with that. However, be sure to let the shop know of the issue.
Norvan Martin is the founder of BoomSpeaker.com. He is a professional Electronics Engineer and is passionate about home theater systems and AV electronics. BoomSpeaker was created as an online hub to share his knowledge and experiences as it relates to home theaters and home audio electronics.