How to identify the negative & positive wire for a stereo speaker

Written by dustin thornton
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How to identify the negative & positive wire for a stereo speaker
(Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

When working with stereo speakers, you may find that the positive and negative speaker wires are not marked. This is confusing and can lead to accidentally reversing the polarity of the speakers, meaning that you connect the positive and negative speaker wires to the opposite connection points on the stereo system. Although this does not harm the speakers or the stereo, you may loose sound quality. You can use one of two methods to help you identify the negative and positive wires on a stereo speaker.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Marker or masking tape
  • 1.5-volt battery

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Instructions

    Method One

  1. 1

    Follow the speaker wires to the connection points (terminals) on the back of the speaker, if possible. Identifying the positive and negative speaker terminals on the back of the speaker allows you to identify the corresponding positive and negative speaker wires. The terminals resemble metal loops secured to the speaker with screws.

  2. 2

    Compare the sizes of the terminals. The smaller terminal is the negative terminal; therefore, the speaker wire connected to the smaller terminal is the negative speaker wire.

  3. 3

    Mark the negative or positive speaker wire for future reference. You can make a small mark on the wire with a marker or wrap a short piece of masking tape (approximately a half-inch long) around the wire, near the end.

    Method Two

  1. 1

    Grip a speaker wire in each hand.

  2. 2

    Touch one of the speaker wires to the positive terminal of a 1.5-volt battery and the other speaker wire to the negative terminal of the same battery simultaneously. Release them after approximately one second.

  3. 3

    Watch the speaker as you touch the wires to the battery. If the speaker moves outward, make a note of which speaker wire connects to the positive and negative terminals of the battery; that is the corresponding positive or negative speaker terminal. If the speaker moves inward, you have the wires reversed.

  4. 4

    Mark the negative or positive speaker wire for future reference. You can make a small mark on the wire with a marker or wrap a short piece of masking tape (approximately a half-inch long) around the wire, near the end.

Tips and warnings

  • Do not hold the wires on the 1.5-volt battery for an extended period, or you could ruin your speakers.

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