All speaker wires are mostly made with copper conductors, whether stranded, wound or braided. Regardless of price or configuration, all of them are subject to corrosion and, every time a speaker is connected to them, strand breakage. Corrosion does not conduct electricity, so over time it will become an insulator or a semiconductor, which changes the way the speakers sound. Strand breakage reduces the amount of current the wire can carry, so the wire heats up and resistance increases, which hurts power transfer from the amplifier. Crimping or screwing on spade terminals ameliorates both problems.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Crimp-on or screw-on spade lugs, plugs or terminals
- Cutting pliers
- Terminal crimper
- Wire stripper
- Black and red shrink tubing
- Heat gun
Cut speaker wire to length, leaving about six inches extra for stripping and corrosion.
Inspect wire ends for dark discolouration or fine green powder stuck to the wire. Both conditions indicate corrosion. Cut wire several inches up the wire from the corrosion, where bright copper colour begins.
Using cutting pliers to start and later pulling apart to tear, split wire pair three inches down the centre, taking care the pliers do not cut down to the wire.
Strip one-quarter inch of insulation off all wire ends and twist wire tightly. Slide about two inches of 1/8-inch shrink tubing over each leg of wire, red for positive and black for negative. Observe wire polarity, or your speakers will be wired incorrectly.
Slide spade lug tubes over each exposed wire and crimp on tightly. If using premium twist-lock spade terminals, slide wire into spade barrel and twist knurled plastic ring until wire is secure.
If using non-twist spade lugs, slide shrink tubing over all connections, all the way up to the spade. Use a heat gun to shrink and seal over each connection and wire.
Tips and warnings
- Choosing wire with a clear insulating sleeve allows visual inspection for corrosion.
- Spade lugs often come with plastic colour-coding sleeves: red for positive, black for negative.
- Shrink tubing helps protect connections from corrosive elements and provides strain relief.
- Speaker wire's positive side is identified with a raised bead, a stripe, or printed text down the length of the insulation.
- Gold-plated spade terminals are always better because they are not subject to corrosion.
- Premium spade terminals often come with a two-piece twist-lock or slide-lock mechanism. Use a larger diameter shrink tubing to slide over the barrel of the connector.
- Try to buy lugs with two crimp sections: one for wire, one for insulation: they're stronger.
- When using the heat gun, use a back-and-forth motion along the length of the shrink tubing to prevent melting it and the wire insulation.
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