Extending your home theater wires is a relatively simple task that you probably won't do often. It sounds more complicated than it actually is as you can get it done within 10 minutes if you know the right methods. However, if done improperly, not only will you have to redo your wires, you run the risk of ruining your home theater speakers completely.
Check out the rest of this article to get detailed step-by-step instructions on how to extend your home theater wires and prevent any mishaps.
Why Would You Extend Home Theater Speaker Wires?
There’s nothing worse than getting your entire home entertainment center set up only to realize your wires are too short to reach the amp. You can't exactly pack everything up and start all over unless you want to waste a bunch of time.
Extend home theater wires if they are too short to reach the speakers, giving enough slack to reconfigure placements if necessary. Giving your wires extra room will prevent any accidents where the wires are forcefully unplugged or created unnecessary pressure on ports.
There are several methods you can employ to extend your home theater speaker wires and which one you choose will depend on your available time and your skill level.
You don't need to be an electrician or have any certifications to extend your wires, but you will need some guidance on how to complete the task without causing any harm to yourself or your home.
Implementing extended wires incorrectly can cause significant damage to your home or your home speaker system. For example, faulty wiring could cause burn marks or even start a fire.
Setting up the wrong connection could also cause your entire theater system to short out. If the damage is bad enough, you won't be able to fix the damage, and you'll need to invest in a brand new system.
Steps Before Extending Your Wires
Before making any cuts to your wires you need to complete some prep work. You want to make sure you have measured the exact lengths of wire you need and how you should cut this wire to avoid future problems.
Measure Your Wire Before Starting
Before you do any adjustments to wires, you want to make sure you have measured everything properly. See how far your current home theater wires stretch, especially when the wires are already routed and cable managed, and measure the distance away from the speaker they are.
This will tell you exactly how long your new wire should be cut. You want to remember to leave a bit of extra room on your wire in case you make a mistake while connecting. Leaving extra room will also make it convenient if you move at any point in the future and need some extra space in a larger home.
I like to shoot for up to 3 feet extra depending on nearby objects. If you are worried about the extra slack getting in the way, you can use velcro cable ties.
Offset Your Cutting
It can be helpful to offset the cuts of your positive and negative wires instead of cutting them at the exact same lengths.
For example, you could cut your existing positive wire two inches longer than your existing negative wire. Then, with your new wire, you could cut the negative wire two inches longer than the positive wire.
This will allow your wires to have attachments at different points in their length. The end result will be a much cleaner cut, and you won't have two wires with bulky taping right next to each other.
It will also avoid any possibility of your negative and positive wires touching together. If they happen to touch while your entertainment system is on, there is a possibility your equipment may short and damage all functionality.
What Are the Different Methods to Extend Home Theater Wires?
Wires are protected by a thin casing that runs along the entire length of the wires. The casing protects them from any external factors that could cause damage. When you power on your theater system, the electricity will flow through the wires, and without the casing, they would be vulnerable to shorting out.
The four different methods for extending your home theater wires are:
- Stripping and Taping
- Crimp Connecting
- Twist Connectors
When you attempt to extend your wires, you will cut parts of the casing and expose the fragile wires. If the electricity is turned off, you don't need to worry about electrocution or damaging any other devices.
Not all of these methods are going to be the best for your equipment, and you will need to use your best judgment on what will work for your situation.
Crimp connecting and soldering are the more permanent solutions when looking to extend your home theater wires.
Extend Home Theater Speaker Wires With Stripping and Taping
Stripping and taping your wires is one of the quickest ways to fix your shorter wires but it isn't the most permanent. It involves twisting two wires together and then taping the casing around the twist to keep it in place.
Extend your theater wires by stripping the casing off the old wires, twisting new wires to the ends of the old ones, and then putting electrical tape to secure the wires together.
Over time the tape will weaken and might even separate, causing your wires to become undone. If this happens while your electricity is on it could cause a shortage in your equipment.
Not only does the tape weaken over time, but if anyone accidentally trips over the wire or pulls on it for any reason it could be easily undone. This method should only be used if you know your wires will be away from any human contact and have no chance to become damaged, or you are running (hiding) the cables in a case or tube and don't have enough room for crimps and plugs.
To prevent your tape from becoming undone, you should add several more layers to the wires while attaching them. So instead of the wires being separate and taking up more space, you can attach them.
This will help you keep them more secure and away from any potential danger.
What's the Best Way to Strip Your Home Theater Wires?
Before you are able to connect your new and old wires together you will want to strip the ends of the casing off so that you can twist them together. If you try and twist the wires together without taking off the casing, the electricity will not be able to run through the two wires.
The best way to strip your wires is by using a crimping tool and placing the wires inside the cutting area. Press firmly to cut the wire and then put the wire back into the flat area of the tool. Press firmly again on the wire to penetrate the casing but slowly pull the wire away from the tool to expose some of the wire.
You want to invest in some utility scissors to do the job properly, and ideally, you should be using an actual stripper. I use a crimper/stripper combo.
First, place the wire directly into the utility scissors and hold it firmly to where it can't move. Then, squeeze the cutters firmly so that your wire snaps into two pieces.
From here, you can place your wire back into the crimpers and again hold the wire firmly, but this time do not squeeze down. Instead, just pull the wire away from the crimper and you should have an exposed wire coming out of the end.
If you push down too firmly on your crimpers, you might be holding the wires and they won't come out of the insulation.
What to Keep in Mind When Stripping Wires
Not all wire gauges will strip in the same way. Smaller gauges like the 20AWG or the 24AWG are a lot harder to strip without breaking because they are more fragile. You may find that extra copper strands come off with your casing. It just takes a little getting used to.
Try by practicing the stripping method on any extra wire you have laying around the garage before starting on your home theater wires. You don't want to cause irreparable damage that forces you to buy more wires or equipment at a later date.
When twisting two wires together, the more wire you connect, the more stable the connection will be over time. Leave yourself about ½ inch of slack when connecting your wires by taping. This length is also good enough for soldering.
If you plan on using a crimp connector, you will want to leave about 3/8″ of exposed wire.
Extend Home Theater Speaker Wires With a Crimp Connector
Crimp connectors are the easiest way to join wires together. They are either aluminum or copper and can be found at any hardware store. They are very small in size and take up no room so it will be easy to get a bunch for future use.
The crimp connector will come with two pieces that you put together, insert the wire through, and then use a crimping tool to finish up the connection. The connector is more durable than if you were stripping and taping the connection together.
It's also more secure because the crimp connector helps clamp the two wires together instead of just twisting them together as you would have in the last step.
They are easier to install than solder because you don’t need to worry about touching a hot piece of metal or getting burnt by an open flame.
Plus, there's no need for any safety precautions like:
- Protective Eyewear
To make your wires crimp together more easily, you will want first to twist the exposed wire so there are no loose strands. Then, enter the wire firmly inside the crimp connector. They should already be stripped and have exposed ends before this point.
You will know if your wires are firmly inside the crimp connector because they will hit a metal contact that rests inside the connector. If any of the wire is showing once it is inside the connector, you could have potential issues in the future.
Simply take the wire out of the connector and cut some of the wire down so that it fits completely inside the connector.
Then, place the crimp connector inside the utility tool and press firmly down on the side closest to your wire. This should clamp down the crimp connector in place and hold your wire securely.
This type of method is also called wire splicing. You can secure your connectors even further by adding some electrical tape to the outside of both your positive and negative wires.
To take it even one step further, you could then wrap even more electrical tape around the two separate wires bringing them together. This ensures your wires won't be mishandled and creates more security around your exposed wires.
It's important to note that electrical tape is not a substitution for bad connectors. If your wire is not properly sealed in your connector and you are using electrical tape to secure it further, you risk causing a short in your equipment.
Take out the wire from the connector and start again if you are having any issues.
Testing Your Crimp Connectors
You can test to see if you've done it properly by gently pulling on the wire while holding on to the crimp connector to see if the two dislodge. If everything stays together, you've done a great job.
Now, you can repeat the process with the new wire on the other end of the crimp connector. Once the two are in place you can hook up your theater system to your speakers without any issue.
Crimp connectors come in a range of sizes so that they can fit almost any wire gauge size. This method is much more secure than the twist and tape method and should fare a lot better if touched or accidentally pulled on.
Even though crimp connectors are more secure, they still aren't a permanent long-term solution when you're trying to extend your home theater wires to your speaker.
Extending Home Theater Wires Using Twist Connectors
Twist connectors work in a very similar way to crimp connectors except they have a different method for holding your wires in place.
With crimp connectors, you stick the wires into both sides of the connector and clamp down, securing your wires. With twist connectors, you still put your wires inside except they will go into the same spot.
Twist connectors, or wire nuts, look like a small thimble. They contain a small metal screw on the inside that puts pressure on the wires once it screws down.
Basically, you strip the wires as you would with any of these methods and then twist the old and new wires together. Instead of doing this in a horizontal line as you would have with crimp connectors, you need to twist them together vertically.
Both the new and old wires should be facing straight up, and they should be twisted right next to each other.
Insert the wires into your twist connector until they are as far in as they will go without bending the wires. Then, twist the connector down onto the wires. As the connector twists, it will begin to clamp down on the wires and secure them in place.
You can gently pull on the wires while holding the twist connector to see how secure they are in place but don't pull too hard. The crimp connectors actually work better to secure your wires so the twist connector has the potential to let them fall out.
Although this method is one of the fastest to extend your home theater wires, if you have the time, you can go with one of the other options on this list.
How Do I Extend Home Theater Speaker Wires With Soldering?
Soldering is going to be your best and most durable option when extending your home theater wires.
Extend your home theater wires by twisting a new and old wire together, soldering them together, and then use electrical tape to secure the solder.
Soldering is a process in which two metal objects are permanently joined by melting and putting a filler metal into the joint so that it cools. It, therefore, makes a permanent, heat-resistant connection between two pieces of metal.
It's basically like coating the wires with liquid metal so they can not only be joined together but can also still run an electrical current without any issues.
Soldering is a good skill to learn if you don't already know it. It doesn't take long to get the hang of it. Before you get started, make sure you ALWAYS USE EYE PROTECTION. Getting molten solder in your eye, especially as you clean the precision tip of the soldering iron, is no fun.
When you solder your wires together, you want to start by stripping the old and new wires so that some of them are exposed. Next, twist the new and old wires together, so they stay attached to each other.
Keep your wires exposed, so they are ready for soldering to commence. Take a piece of metal wire (solder), and with the hot soldering iron, melt some of the metal wire onto the exposed theater wires.
After you are finished, you will see clumping on the metal wire as the solder is heated into a liquid and then cooled over the exposed wires. It's important that both sides of the wire are covered with solder material. If you only get the top of the wires they will be more likely to come apart over time.
The trick here is to use enough to cover the twisted connection, but not so much that you create a sloppy, bulky bond.
Let the soldering cool for several minutes before you move on to the next step. You want to make sure the soldering material is completely dry before adding anything on top.
Once you are done you don't need to add any more casing because you will use electrical tape instead. Wrap the electrical tape around the exposed wires until they are fully covered. You want to give them a couple of layers of electrical tape for full protection.
Make sure that you have twisted your wires completely and they are fully covered by the solder. Any loose wires strands that are sticking up could pierce the electrical tape and cause damage to your equipment.
Soldering Is the Best Method
Soldered wire is extremely strong and is the best method for extending your speaker wires. It's also the method that takes the longest to complete. All-in-all you will spend about 10-15 minutes soldering your wires together with a little experience.
This is much longer than the 3-4 minutes it would take to crimp your wires and even longer than the 1-2 minutes it would take to twist and tape your wires together.
Just keep in mind that the shorter amount of time you give to extending your home theater wires the less durable they will be over time.
The only downside to soldering is that unless you have the equipment ready to go, you will need to invest some money before you can start.
You will need to purchase a soldering iron which starts around $10 but you will also need some solder and electrical wire. It's recommended to go with a 25W soldering iron because it can heat up well enough to create a good flow while soldering.
How to Tell Positive and Negative Wires Apart
Some companies use the different color casing for each wire to distinguish between positive and negative wires while others use writing on the wires themselves.
If your wires come in red and black colors, this is the easiest way to tell the difference because red is the universal color for positive charge. Other ways to test are with written symbols or letters that distinguish your positive and negative wires.
Other companies may use gold or copper and silver to make the charge distinction. Gold is almost exclusively used for the positive wire charges. Sometimes the gold can look more like copper but as long as your wires aren't silver, it is a positive charge.
It may not be as easy to find the positive and negative wires if your wire company hasn't used any colors in their casing. If this is the case you need to look for written clues that will help you understand which is which.
Positive wires can have a series of lines or dashes that don't look like any letters but more like symbols. This will signify the wire is positive, especially if the other wire doesn't have any writing on it at all.
Another way to tell positive wires from negatives is if there is printed information about the wire gauge or if the printed material contains an additional symbol. Both of these markings tell you that the wire is positive.
And finally, some wire casing will have a black line on the negative side. If your wires don't contain any color, it will be slightly harder to tell the two apart. Usually, it is about finding the right clues.
As long as you use the information above, you should be able to avoid any electrical issues when extending your home theater wires.
Extending Your Home Theater Wires
There are several methods you can employ to extend your home theater wires. Soldering is the most long-term solution and provides a secure attachment between your old and new wires. Twisting and taping your wires is the quickest solution but also has the most potential for damage.
Find the right method for your use case and keep some spare wire handy just in case.