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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Consumer Hardware & Components > surround sound speaker wire question

surround sound speaker wire question
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torsoboy
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Apr 27, 2009, 02:30 PM
 
I just moved into a home that has surround sound speaker wiring already installed in one of the rooms, and I would like to buy a system that will work with the installed wiring. The problem is, I don't know anything about hooking up a surround sound system, and I don't know if the wiring is specific to one system, or if it is pretty universal.

Here's what I have...
5 sets of speaker wires coming out of the ceiling/wall. 2 sets in the front corners of the ceiling, 2 sets in the back corners of the ceiling, and one set in the front-center by the ceiling.

In addition to the 5 sets of speaker wires coming from the ceilings, I have 5 wires with adapters (like RCA adapters) that come out of the wall close to the floor. I am assuming that those are the connections that go to the speakers from the surround sound receiver unit. The adapters ends are blue, purple, green, white, and brown.

So with only that information on hand, does anyone know what specific type of surround sound system can/should be installed? Does every surround sound receiver accept those 5 RCA-like connections? Or do I need to buy something specific?

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks!
     
tooki
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Apr 27, 2009, 03:32 PM
 
It's pretty standard. But are they speaker wires, or audio cables? I ask because you say RCA, but those plugs aren't normally used for speakers.
     
hookem2oo7
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Apr 27, 2009, 03:53 PM
 
Are they RCA connectors or banana plugs?

banana plugs are pretty common for home theater systems
     
torsoboy  (op)
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Apr 27, 2009, 07:13 PM
 
They don't look like those banana plugs. Here is a picture of them.
     
ghporter
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Apr 27, 2009, 07:59 PM
 
Those are DEFINITELY RCA plugs. Which means that each one goes to a separate speaker-and you may have a bit of a mystery on your hands until you figure out which is which (unless the wires coming out of the walls for the speakers are also color coded, that is).

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
torsoboy  (op)
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Apr 27, 2009, 08:06 PM
 
So all surround sound systems will have a place for me to plug these cords into?
     
ibook_steve
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Apr 27, 2009, 09:40 PM
 
Not necessarily. The receiver may only accept bare speaker wire (+ and -). If you're buying a system, check to make sure it has these connectors for the speaker out connections. Worst case, you can cut off the connectors and connect as long as you match positive and negative correctly from the receiver back to each of the speakers.

Steve
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analogika
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Apr 28, 2009, 04:08 AM
 
Originally Posted by ibook_steve View Post
Not necessarily. The receiver may only accept bare speaker wire (+ and -). If you're buying a system, check to make sure it has these connectors for the speaker out connections. Worst case, you can cut off the connectors and connect as long as you match positive and negative correctly from the receiver back to each of the speakers.
If somebody went through the trouble of using color-coded RCA plugs to make tracking the wires a piece of cake, it strikes me as rather dumb to cut them off.

Better use a female RCA plug and a piece of cable that can then be stripped.
     
torsoboy  (op)
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Apr 28, 2009, 05:00 AM
 
So since there are five sets of speaker wires, that means that it is setup for dolby 5.1, right? So I wouldn't want to get a newer system that did 6.1 or 7.1, correct?

Sorry for the super-newbie questions.
     
ghporter
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Apr 28, 2009, 08:29 AM
 
Originally Posted by torsoboy View Post
So since there are five sets of speaker wires, that means that it is setup for dolby 5.1, right? So I wouldn't want to get a newer system that did 6.1 or 7.1, correct?

Sorry for the super-newbie questions.
It means that the wires are there for five speakers. You hook up the speakers based on what your receiver or amp can do. And most systems are backwards compatible; my Sony receiver can do anything from 7.1 to plain-Jane stereo.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
torsoboy  (op)
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Apr 28, 2009, 06:14 PM
 
great. thanks for the help everyone.
     
tooki
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May 3, 2009, 08:09 AM
 
RCA plugs for speakers strikes me as very odd, since neither speakers nor amps tend to have RCA jacks for this purpose. Is it possible they're line inputs, going to a power amplifier somewhere in a closet?
     
tooki
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May 3, 2009, 08:42 AM
 
Note also that if those plugs follow the recent color standards, it's an incomplete set.

Red: right front
White: left front
Green: front center
Blue: left surround
Gray: right surround
(Tan: left surround back)
(Brown: right surround back)
Purple: subwoofer

For a 5.1 system, all but the two in parentheses are needed.
5.0 omits the subwoofer channel -- but subwoofers are generally self-amplified, so they don't use speaker outputs at all, but rather a preamp output.
     
ghporter
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May 3, 2009, 11:58 AM
 
Originally Posted by tooki View Post
RCA plugs for speakers strikes me as very odd, since neither speakers nor amps tend to have RCA jacks for this purpose. Is it possible they're line inputs, going to a power amplifier somewhere in a closet?
It would be good to hear where those RCAs come out of the wall; maybe the previous folks had an amp in the rack with everything else. I wouldn't do that myself, because of both heat and potential power hum (from the device, not through the speakers). But a separate amp makes a lot more sense than RCA jacks on a receiver.

Come to think of it, I wonder what sort of receiver would have been used to drive that amp. My amp/receiver/switcher has 110 W/Channel, and I've never gotten anywhere near that with just the two speakers I'm currently using. In my roughly 20X20' living room, I can rattle the windows with something below 1/3 max volume.
( Last edited by ghporter; May 3, 2009 at 12:01 PM. Reason: Looked up actual power per channel)

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
   
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