Surround Sound Hook-Up Question
January 23, 2013 4:45 PM   Subscribe

The house the boyfriend and I bought was already wired for surround sound, however, we don't want the receiver in the spot where the previous owners had it. The wires coming out of wall are too short for where we want it, so we would like to use wire extenders to lengthen them. However, I'm not sure what gauge the wires coming out of the wall are, so I'm not positive they're compatible with our speakers. Is there a way to tell what gauge they are, or is that sort of thing pretty standard? This is our first experience with surround sound, so we're pretty clueless, but trying to educate ourselves.

We received these speakers for Christmas and they use 16 gauge speaker wire. Is that common enough that we can assume that's what's coming out of our wall?

Also, these extenders look like exactly what we need, but I can't find any info on what gauge they are, or whether they would be compatible with our system either.

Could anyone more knowledgeable than we are give us some idea of what we're dealing with?
posted by odayoday to Technology (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Most sorts of wire will have the gauge (and number of conductors, insulation type, etc.) printed or molded into the insulation. Look for something like "AWG24" ("American wire gauge 24").

I'd guess the wire gauge isn't critical anyway, but my background is in EE, not audiophily.
posted by hattifattener at 4:51 PM on January 23, 2013

Honestly wire gauge is basically irrelevant if there's not huge interference sources or if you're not running through wall. You could hook it up using coathangers instead of the right gauge wire and it'd probably sound fine.
posted by Jairus at 4:55 PM on January 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I checked the wire, and among lots of other letters/numbers, I saw 16 GA, so I'm guessing maybe we got lucky, and it is the correct gauge (it does run through the wall, so I guess that's a good thing!).

I'm guessing that considering the extender part doesn't go through the wall, the random samsung extenders will probably work?

Thanks to you both for your input!
posted by odayoday at 5:01 PM on January 23, 2013

You will be fine with whatever they put in the walls. You don't need wire extenders particularly, just some wire of similar gauge (you can eyeball this) and something to make connections (solder, crimps, or just simple wire nuts as are used in home electrical wiring).
posted by ssg at 5:03 PM on January 23, 2013

Yes. If you've got really good ears, you might be able to distinguish stranded from solid wire over a reasonable distance (stranded is better for audio), but for this purpose you could use 16ga lamp cord and it'd work fine. As ssg suggests, wire nuts will work for what you're doing.
posted by straw at 5:06 PM on January 23, 2013

Those Samsung cables would only make sense if they happen to have the correct connectors for your needs on both ends.
posted by ssg at 5:10 PM on January 23, 2013

From what I can see in the amazon photo, the Samsung ones seem like they would be the simplest to attach. I can't quite picture how wire nuts work, since we need to go from naked wire to naked wire.
posted by odayoday at 5:14 PM on January 23, 2013

For wire nuts, you strip a bit of insulation (a little bit less than the length of the wire) from each of the wires to be connected, lay those wires together, and twist the nut over the ends of the wires.

(There are religious wars over whether you twist the wires together first, the distinction is largely about worrying whether you can keep one of the ends from creeping down as you put on the wire nut, and with a sound system it isn't a safety issue, so it doesn't matter.)

And the staff at my local hardware store where I'd buy said wire nuts will happily give a primer on how to use them, if you've got a local independent hardware store go ahead and ask, they'll probably hook you right up!
posted by straw at 5:20 PM on January 23, 2013

You are all tremendously helpful! One more question...after closer inspection, two of the speakers look ready with "male" parts, but two have naked wires. I'm guessing I will need an adapter like this

Can I attach it the same way?
posted by odayoday at 5:28 PM on January 23, 2013

Yes. If those will plug in to your speakers (or the speaker jack on the back of your amplifier), you can attach those to existing wiring with a wire nut just fine.

(Clarification: Those adapters you linked to are "male", 'cause they have the pointy bit that goes in the "female" socket of the other side. It's a little confusing because they also have a wider sheath that fits over the outside of the female socket.)

(On my speakers and amp the speaker wire goes in little clips, press down the clip, stick the bare wire end in the hole, release the clip. No RCA jacks for the speakers, just for external inputs into the amp.)
posted by straw at 5:37 PM on January 23, 2013

Generally, speaker wires get their ends stripped (leaving a bit of bare wire) and those stripped ends go into connectors on the back of the speakers. I'm guessing you are referring to some bits of wire that are already attached to the speakers. You can either take those out if you have sufficient length on the wires in the wall or you can attach them with wire nuts if you need the length.
posted by ssg at 5:42 PM on January 23, 2013

Two of the speakers look ready with "male" parts, but two have naked wires

Can you take a picture of this?

Because I would be surprised to see any wires built into the speakers at all, except for the subwoofer's power cord.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:45 PM on January 23, 2013

Looking at the manual, you don't want RCA jacks (the linked adapter). You just want bare wire ends, though there is an option to use a RCA cables or bare wires for the subwoofer (but the manual says to use bare wire for music).

RCA jacks have both wires in the pair connected to different parts of the same plug. If you look at your speakers, they will have two connections on the back, one for each wire in the pair.
posted by ssg at 5:47 PM on January 23, 2013

The backs of all the speakers take RCA jacks. Can't link a photo, but you can see it in the above amazon listing in the customer photos section.

The wires aren't built into the speakers, I actually meant the wires coming out of the wall (sorry about that). The previous owners left two speakers that are currently attached, and they are attached using RCA jacks plugged into the speakers. They took the other two speakers, and the cords coming out of the wall just have wires, no RCA jacks. But our speakers all connect using RCA jacks, except for the part that connects from the speakers to the subwoofer.

Does that make sense?
posted by odayoday at 5:54 PM on January 23, 2013

don't forget to get the speakers 'in phase'....
posted by raildr at 5:59 PM on January 23, 2013

Still confused here.

Looking at the manual ssg linked to, there shouldn't be anything connecting the speakers to the subwoofer. The speakers should hook into the receiver directly; the satellites and center into speaker ports and the sub into an rca port.

And the connectors on the speakers shouldn't be RCA jacks; they should be some sort of unscrewing binding post -- you undo them a little bit to reveal a post with a hole in it, or maybe just a post, where you put bare wire and then screw the thingie back down onto it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:02 PM on January 23, 2013

Oh, lord, what would I do without you?

I think I was probably confusing the receiver with the subwoofer, and I think I was also confused by the post with the hole in it. I assumed that required a different connector because I'm used to seeing bare wire plugged into clamps, and have never used that before.

Seriously, thank you so much for all of this!

But what does "in phase" mean?
posted by odayoday at 6:08 PM on January 23, 2013

Practically speaking, in phase just means being consistent about how you connect the speakers to the receiver. If you don't do this, the sound waves coming out of the speakers will partially cancel each other out instead of reinforcing each other.

Most speaker wire has a silvery conductor and a reddish/coppery conductor. Whatcha wanna do is decide which color wire you're going to connect to which color speaker connector; the most obvious is to connect reddish to red. Just keep doing that -- if you connect the reddish wire to the red port on the receiver, do the same on the speaker, and keep doing that for all the speakers.

If your speaker wire doesn't have a reddish and silvery conductor, it should have some other way to distinguish the conductors in a single cable from each other. Even if it doesn't, don't sweat it too much. If your receiver is new, it likely has some sort of self-setup system where you plug a microphone into it and it makes horrible PHHSSSHHHHT noises for a while and then says O HAI I AM ALL SET UP NOW; IIRC these usually detect speaker phase. If worse comes to worse, you can just fix it with trial and error.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:25 PM on January 23, 2013

Most of the time speaker wire will have some sort of difference between the two strands even if they are the same color, little ridges on one side, or a stripe. Just make sure you connect the positive on the amp to the positive on the speaker (red to red, black to black).

You’re not going to blow anything up if you do it wrong, it’s just going to sound bad. Bad in a way you may or may not notice if you don’t know what you’re listening for. It’s like the sound being out of focus. It might make you feel weird, or dizzy.
posted by bongo_x at 10:27 PM on January 23, 2013

Sometimes nicer speakers have plugs for banana jacks on the binding post nuts. Like this. It can make them resemble RCA jacks, especially if the posts are red and white.

Banana jacks have always seemed like a good idea, but I never have them on hand when I'm hooking up a new receiver, and after that....well, it's already hooked up.

Your sub, if it's powered (it plugs into the wall and turns on and off) probably does have a RCA to accept the receivers line-level subwoofer output. An unpowered sub would use speaker cables like your other speakers.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:15 PM on January 30, 2013

« Older Giant pieces of beautiful uselessness   |   Best lounges in Boston? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.