How to Wire a Stereo System

by David Lipscomb Google

    From basic left and right stereo speakers all the way to adding surrounds and a center in a surround package, your audio system enhances your lifestyle through quality music and movie playback. Stereo systems need a CD player, media player and maybe a turntable, while surround systems need these things plus a Blu-ray or DVD player and perhaps a gaming system. In addition to stereo speakers, surround and center speakers add environmental sounds while enhancing dialogue in a home-theater environment. Regardless of where you stereo ends up, taking the time to wire the system properly are keys to ensuring excellent audio performance.

    Basic Stereo

    Step 1

    Place the stereo speakers as far from one another as the main seating location is from them. This equilateral triangle is known as the "golden triangle" in audio circles, and helps create a realistic sound stage.

    Step 2

    Measure the distance from the back of the stereo to each speaker. Use the wire strippers to cut two equal lengths of speaker wire long enough to comfortably reach from the stereo to the back of each speaker. If the distance to each speaker is less than 50 feet, 16-gauge wire works well. If it is greater than 50 feet, 14 or 12 gauge is needed.

    Step 3

    Separate the two conductors of each wire with your fingers roughly 2 inches down the wire. Strip 1 inch of insulation from the ends of both speaker wires.

    Step 4

    Rotate the binding posts on the backs of both speakers and the speaker wire terminals on the rear of the stereo counterclockwise. Slide one speaker wire conductor featuring writing or a raised ridge under the red or positive binding post terminals for the left amplifier channel and speaker. Repeat for the black or negative terminal. Rotate the binding posts back down to secure the wire. Repeat the process for the right amplifier channel and speaker.

    Step 5

    Connect a red-and-white-ended RCA cable to the matching jacks on each stereo source component -- CD, media player or turntable. Connect the other end to the matching input on the rear of the stereo.

    Step 6

    Turn on the stereo and each source component. Play back a CD, record or audio file to test output for each source.

    Surround Sound

    Step 1

    Position the front speakers in an equilateral triangle pattern. Locate the center channel immediately above or below the television or projection screen. Surrounds are placed to the sides and slightly above the main seating area, with surround back speakers immediately behind the listeners.

    Step 2

    Locate the subwoofer along the wall shared by the television or screen. Corner placement boosts bass output, so set the speaker there if possible. Plug a single RCA cable from the subwoofer output on the receiver to the "LFE" input on the back of the subwoofer. Plug the sub into a nearby AC output.

    Step 3

    Plug an HDMI cable from your Blu-ray, game system, media player or other source to the matching HDMI input on the back of the surround receiver. Plug an additional HDMI cable from the HDMI output to a free HDMI input on the back of the display.

    Step 4

    Measure the distance from the back of the surround receiver to each speaker. Use the wire strippers to cut three equal lengths of speaker wire long enough to comfortably reach from the receiver to the back of the front main and center speakers. Cut another pair of wires for the surrounds. If the distance to each speaker is less than 50 feet, 16-gauge wire works well. If it is greater than 50 feet, 14 or 12 gauge is needed.

    Step 5

    Separate the two conductors of each wire with your fingers roughly 2 inches down the wire. Strip 1 inch of insulation from the ends of each speaker wire.

    Step 6

    Rotate the binding posts on the backs of each speaker and the speaker wire terminals on the rear of the stereo counterclockwise. Slide one speaker wire conductor featuring writing or a raised ridge under the red or positive binding post terminals for the left amplifier channel and speaker. Repeat for the black or negative terminal. Rotate the binding posts back down to secure the wire. Repeat the process for the right amplifier channel and speaker, surrounds and center channels.

    Step 7

    Screw the surround receiver's calibration microphone to the threaded post on the top of the camera tripod. Extend the legs of the tripod so the top of the mic is at ear level when you're seated.

    Step 8

    Place the tripod and mic at the primary seating position. Access the auto calibration test tones in the receiver's menu with the supplied remote.

    Step 9

    Allow the receiver to cycle through each speaker, keeping the room relatively quiet during the process. Move the tripod after the first sequence to a location 2 feet to the left, right, forward, then forward left and right of the first, repeating the test-tone process after each move.

    Step 10

    Save the settings and exit the menu setup to finish the calibration.

    Tips

    • A trick for good bass in any room is to place the subwoofer where you'll normally be seated. Play bass heavy music, crawling around the perimeter of the room. Relocate the subwoofer in the part of the room where the best bass was heard and felt.

    Warnings

    • Always keep all components turned off when making any connections. Short circuits may result from intermittent connections, damaging speakers and audio gear.

    Required Items

    • Home theater or stereo receiver
    • Measuring tape
    • Speaker wire
    • Wire strippers
    • Stereo RCA cables
    • Main, center, surround and subwoofer speakers
    • Subwoofer RCA cable
    • CD, Blu-ray, gaming system, media player
    • HDMI cables
    • Television
    • Camera tripod

    About the Author

    David Lipscomb is a professional writer and public relations practitioner. Lipscomb brings more than a decade of experience in the consumer electronics and advertising industries. Lipscomb holds a degree in public relations from Webster University.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images