How to tell which speaker wire is negative or positive

Written by solomon poretsky
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How to tell which speaker wire is negative or positive
Speaker wire is frequently colour coded for negative and positive. (speaker wire image by Paolo from

Although the myriad of connections at the back of a home-entertainment system can be complicated, speaker wires are easy to identify. Because they carry a different type of signal from all other home-stereo connections, both the wires and their terminals have a unique appearance. Basic stereos will use a simple cable with two wires with bare ends that connect to spring-loaded terminals. More elaborate setups might use wires that are terminated with small banana plugs that go into around terminals that can be partially unscrewed. Identifying their polarity is a matter of checking either the label or colour code.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Find where the speaker wire is connected to your speaker, typically on its back panel. Typically, the positive terminal will be marked with a "+," the word "positive" or will simply be coloured red. The negative terminal will be market with a "-," the word "negative" or will simply be coloured black.

  2. 2

    Note which wire is connected to the positive terminal. If the wire is colour-coded in silver and copper colours, you should connect the copper-coloured wire to the positive terminal and the silver-coloured wire to the negative terminal.

  3. 3

    Follow the wire back to the amplifier and see how it is connected. Your amplifier will have similar terminals to your speakers with similar markings or colour codes. The side of the wire that is connected to the amplifier's red terminal is the positive wire and the other is the negative wire.

  4. 4

    Switch the wires around if the positive terminal of the amplifier is connected to the speaker's negative terminal, and vice-versa.

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