Speakers can be wired using several different methods. Parallel and series are the two most frequently used wirings, and both have varying impacts on the way the sound and performance of the speaker.
On the whole, parallel speaker wiring is considered the best option. This is because, more often than not, using parallel wiring produces a superior sound quality to series wiring. Using this method, the individual crossover is only exposed to the resonance of one speaker, maximizing efficiency.
There is, however, more to explore within this topic than you might think. Series speaker wiring can benefit particular scenarios, potentially making it the better option for your goals.
This comprehensive guide will provide you with all the essential information on parallel and series wiring for speakers to understand how they work and which you should use for your audio setup.
Differences Between Parallel and Series Speaker Wiring
When it comes to wiring a speaker, parallel and series are the two most common wiring methods. Although both of these speaker wirings are effective, some critical differences between them must be considered.
Firstly, before we get into the main differences, in most cases, it will be more beneficial to use parallel wiring for speakers rather than series wiring. This is because parallel wiring usually offers more reliable performance and better overall sound quality.
Nevertheless, there are some rare instances where using specific speakers in series is possible and could be preferable to using parallel wiring. The issue is that using series wiring is unpredictable and can lead to unwanted noise being played through the speakers.
Parallel speaker wiring is straightforward, which is why it is the most popular method. It consists of combining all of the positive cables and then all of the negative wires.
These combinations can be easily made by connecting each speaker to one amplifier terminal or linking the speaker’s connections. This removes the need to send a cable back from the speaker to the amp.
Series wiring, on the other hand, is a little more complicated. The negative terminal on one speaker must be connected to the positive terminal on another speaker, and this process is repeated for every other speaker used in the sound system.
Once you get to the final speaker in the chain, the negative lead that is left will be sent back and routed into the amp. This means that there will be a positive lead left over from the first amp in the chain and a negative lead left over from the final speaker, both of which need to be connected to the amplifier.
The reason that parallel speaker wiring is preferred is that the crossovers are only exposed to the correct resistance of one speaker. In contrast, series wiring exposes the crossover to altered Ohms. This can make the sound less predictable and harder to manage.
Parallel speaker wirings have a consistent sound quality, while series wiring can sound strange and undesirable.
Crossovers and Speaker Wiring
Crossovers are essential components that need to be considered to understand why parallel speaker wiring is considered more reliable than series wiring. A crossover is essentially an electronic component that includes inductors and capacitors.
The purpose of a crossover in a speaker is to remove sounds triggered by the speaker’s resistance load. This load is measured in Ohms, and when it fluctuates, a process known as the crossover shift is triggered.
The crossover shift causes the frequency to be altered, and this means that undesirable frequencies can be transmitted between the speakers.
You might be wondering how this is relevant to parallel and series wiring. The main reason is that when the additional resistance load is added, series wiring becomes highly susceptible to producing unwanted noise.
Parallel wiring is less prone to being affected by the unwanted noise caused by the process I’ve just outlined. This is why it’s recommended that setups with multiple speakers should use parallel wiring, particularly if you are concerned with achieving the best possible sound quality.
When parallel wiring is used, the speakers are subjected to an identical output voltage from the amplifier or stereo device. This power is split evenly between the speakers, resulting in a more consistent volume.
On the other hand, series wired speakers operate at a lower power, which results in a lower volume. This occurs due to the Ohms load of the speakers being higher so that the amplifier outputs less power.
The total amount of power that reaches each speaker in the system is, therefore, lower because it is shared between them. This results in a lower overall volume from series-wired speakers than those that use parallel wiring.
Can Series Wiring Be Used for Any Speakers?
Series wiring is generally not a better option than parallel for speakers, but in some rare cases, it can be effective. For example, series wiring works well with the following types of speakers:
- Piezo tweeters (and some other horn-based tweeters)
- Single-cone speakers
The reason that series wiring can be used effectively with the above-listed speakers is that none of them include crossovers. This removes the possibility of the problems caused by the crossover shift discussed in the previous section.
Speaker voice coils have minimal inductance; therefore, you can wire them in series and usually get good results. Still, you will end up with a slightly lower power being provided to the speakers in your system because the speaker load is still being altered, even if it is marginal.
Unfortunately, a lower overall volume is a side effect of using series wiring no matter what you do. The only way this can be combatted is by boosting the amplifier or stereo system level, which may make unwanted noise more noticeable.
It’s also possible to combine series and parallel speaker wiring, but this method is rarely used. It would be helpful if you had a wide range of speakers or if your amplifier had a minimal number of channels available.
To achieve this, you’d need to wire several groups of speakers using series wiring, then connect each group to the amplifier using parallel wiring. This could result in either a reduced or increased impedance, depending on how you wire the speakers together and the number of speaker groups in total.
Does a parallel circuit overheat easily?
Circuits that use parallel wiring are unlikely to overheat. Each of the loads connected in this parallel circuit receives an equal voltage level, resulting in consistent power distribution and minimizing the risk of overheating.
Do parallel circuits require more or less wiring?
One of the only disadvantages of parallel circuits is that they need more wiring than other types. This is because they must be connected to every part of the circuit, so that the voltage remains consistent.
Can I connect four speakers to one channel?
If you need to hook four speakers up to one channel, the easiest way to achieve this is by using a special device known as a 4-zone switch. This device is connected to each speaker and will ensure that the impedance is matched to minimize the risk of overload to the amplifier.