How To Connect Your Speakers Properly

Written by Paul McGowan

These instructions will walk you through the process of connecting up your system correctly. It is specific to the PS Audio ELAC Sprout system, but will also apply to any other speaker, amplifier, integrated, receiver setup. Use these guidelines for every system.

Proper polarity

Connecting loudspeakers to a receiver, integrated, or power amplifier is easy, but there are a few things to keep in mind for best sound. Loudspeakers have a polarity to them, just like a battery does. You've seen the + and the - terminals on a battery before, and you know that getting these mixed up often means battery operated equipment won't function. Loudspeakers and amplifiers are no different. Unlike batteries, they will continue to work, just not at their best. It's important to make sure the polarity of your loudspeaker is correct between both left and right speakers, and between the speaker and amplifier (receiver or integrated). Polarity of a loudspeaker is typically denoted by a color on its connector: red for +, black for -.
ELAC-Bundle-Speaker-polarity A properly connected loudspeaker. Note that red goes to red and gray goes to black.

Why does polarity matter?

Polarity is important for two reasons, and both concern how the woofer and tweeter move. Sound is generated by the loudspeaker drivers (woofer and tweeter) moving back and forth, pressurizing the air in synch with the music. This moving air pressure is picked up by your eardrum and converted to sound in your brain. When a musical signal comes from the power amplifier, the recording studio intended it to either move forward or backwards on what is known as the leading edge (the point at which sound starts and stops). Forward motion happens first when the + (red) terminal of the amplifier and speaker are tied together properly. This honors the intent of the studio and the musician. Secondly, it is of critical importance left and right speakers move together. If they move out of step with each other, (one moves forward at the same time the other moves backwards) the sound will lack bass because the two speakers cancel each other's sound pressure. Make sure the left and right speakers are connected exactly the same with respect to polarity (red to red, black to black).

Red to red, black to black

Your setup should look similar to this. ELAC-Bundle-System-Connect Note the red connectors on both Sprout and the loudspeaker are matched properly to their respective colors.

Using connectors

Most loudspeaker and amplifier connectors accept multiple types of connections: spades, wires and bananas. To use spade connectors likeSpade Connector these pictured, simply unscrew the binding post on the back of the amplifier or loudspeaker and place the fork end of the connector against the binding post shaft. Then tighten the outer shell of the binding post down to hold it in place. Make sure one spade connector's gold area does not touch another. If you are using a wire, follow the same procedure to unscrew the outer shell of the binding post and note the small hole in the binding post shaft. Insert the end of the wire into the hole if you can, or, in the case of stranded wire, it may be necessary to carefully wrap the wire around the shaft before tightening it down. Be careful the wires never touch each other or this will cause a short circuit and may damage the amplifier. Banana plugs are by far the easiest and best choice for connection. New banana plugs often are expanded wider than the binding post hole they are intended to go in. It is often necessary to apply force to push them in. This may make some nervous, but never fear, it will work as designed. The cables we supply with the Sprout System are from Emotiva and are a perfect example of a well designed cable with good spring tension. Place the banana into the hole and push with force straight ahead until the receptacle accepts the male banana plug. This force will reshape the banana plug perfectly. ELAC-Bundle-Push-connector

Quality Cables Matter

If you purchased the PS Audio ELAC Sprout Bundle, you'll already have a step up on most people. The supplied speaker cables have been hand selected for best sound in this combination and are an excellent choice.
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