Tag: wiring

Amplifier Wiring Kit Buying Guide

An Amplifier Installation Kit is Required to Install an Amplifier

When looking to get the most out of your car’s sound system, an amplifier is often times the way to go. However, installing an amp into your system isn’t as simple as buying one and plugging it in, you also will need to purchase an amplifier wiring kit that meets the power and wiring needs of the amplifier you already purchased.

Step 1: What Type of Kit Do You Need?

It is crucial to your sound system to understand what exactly you need when looking for an amp kit. When purchasing your amp kit, you have two options to choose from: a complete amplifier kit or a power kit.

Complete Amplifier Kit

A complete amplifier kit comes with everything you need to seamlessly integrate your amplifier into your sound system; the proper speaker wire, power and ground wire, RCA cables, remote turn-on wire*, fuse holders, grommets and terminals.

*See our wiring type guide for more detailed information on the wiring types you need to install an amplifier.

Power Kit

A power kit comes with everything you need to power your amplifier but will not come with any speaker wire or RCA connection cables. This includes power and ground cables, turn-on lead wires, fuse and fuse holder as well as an assortment of wiring hardware and cable ties (grommets, wring terminals, connectors etc.)

In case you already have a few of the necessary installation parts or need to replace anything from your kit these parts are also all sold individually.

Step 2: What Wire Size Do You Need?

It is important to note that any amp kit won’t necessarily work with any amplifier; the kit needs to be matched up to the amp (or vice-versa) to ensure the wires will fit properly. The cables and wires you use to install your amplifier are just as, if not more important than the amplifier itself. Using the proper wire gauge ensures your amp receives the amount of power it is designed for. The most common wire sizes for powering a car amplifier are 1/0 gauge, 4 gauge and 8 gauge. Due to the high current demands, a car amplifier needs large power and ground wires to get the energy it needs from the battery to operate to its peak efficiency.

As a general recommendation, Sonic Electronix follows the guidelines below as a quick reference in determining the appropriate wire gauge.

Wire Gauge Size Total Amplifier RMS Wattage
0/1 AWG 1000+ Watts
4 AWG 400-1000 Watts
8 AWG 200-400 Watts
10 AWG 100-200 Watts

Step 3: Do You Have Multiple Amplifiers in Your System?

For more complex sound systems, you may need to install multiple amps. The simplest, most efficient way to do this is to get a dual amp wiring kit that includes dual fuses and distribution blocks. A power distribution block allows you to have multiple amplifiers in your system while only running a single power wire from your battery. Multiple outputs then allow you to run power wiring to your amplifiers. To protect your system from any power spikes, it is necessary to match the fuse and fuse holder size to your amplifier. It is important that the fuse rating of your amp kit matches or slightly exceeds that of your amplifier. When you have multiple amps wired together in your system, just add the amperages of each amplifier together to determine the necessary amperage of your fuses.

Step 4: Tips and Tricks to the Best Sounding System

 

  • When possible, always buy 100% Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) wiring. While more costly up front, OFC wiring offers a huge performance advantage over Copper Clad Aluminum (CCA) wiring and greater corrosion resistance. CCA wire is a suitable choice for lower powered systems or restricted budget applications, but it’s performance is much lower quality.
  • Whenever possible, to ensure your system receives the proper amount of power always use true gauge wire. For more information on the importance of wire gauge, see our Wire Gauge Sizes and the American Wire Gauge (AWG) article.

 

Building out your sound system can be a complex, time consuming process, but it is also an incredibly rewarding experience when you turn it on for the first time.

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What Types of Wiring Do I Need to Install an Amplifier?

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Power wire…ground wire…everything seems to involve wires. There is no escaping it, your amplifier needs wires or it won’t provide you with high quality sound. To make sure you have everything your amplifier needs, I am going to give you a brief overview of all the necessary wires that the average amplifier uses. To make the process simple, many manufactures offer complete amplifier installation kits which come with everything you need.

Kicker 09ZCK4

Complete 2-Channel Amplifier Installation Kit 

Power and Ground Wires: The job of an amplifier is to amplify a signal from the radio or source unit. However, without sufficient power to do so, the amplifier is non-effective. A proper power and ground wire are required to provide current to any amplifier. A 4 gauge cable is the standard size for most amplifiers, however other sizes exist. The ground wire gauge must be the same as the power wire, and no more than 3ft from the amplifier. For more information on this, see our article on Power and Ground Cable.

Speaker Wire: Whether you are wiring up subwoofers or speakers, speaker wire is used to make the connection. A monoblock amplifier will have 2 to 4 speaker terminals to make the connection to your subwoofers. A 2-channel will have 4 input terminals and a 4-channel will have 8 terminals.

RCA Cables: Amplifiers need an input signal to provide the musical data for the amp to output to the speakers. RCA cables are commonly used to carry audio or video signals from one device to another. A single cable is used for each channel on the amplifier, and they come in pairs of 2. A 2-channel amplifier will use a one pair RCA cable, and a 4-channel amplifier will use 2 pair RCA cable, etc..

Remote Turn-on Wire: Just connecting power and ground to an amplifier is not enough. The remote turn on lead wire is responsible for telling the amplifier to turn on when the vehicle or accessory power is activated. This wire connects to the blue-white turn on wire or blue power antenna on the wiring harness of most aftermarket receivers.

Speaker Level Inputs: Some amplifiers come with speaker level inputs, most commonly found on 4-channel speaker amplifiers. Speaker level inputs are used in place of RCA cables to provide a signal input to the amplifier using speaker wire connected to your actual speakers. This method is most commonly found on systems where the owner does not wish to replace the OEM radio.

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Where Do I Ground My Amplifier?

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What is the purpose of a ground wire? A ground wire provides the least resistance to “earth ground” or chassis ground so that there is little possibility for a human to get electrocuted. If you touch a live wire, your body completes the circuit which then could electrocute and potentially kill you. Ground wires are a safety feature and a must in almost all applications with electricity. Amplifiers are a source of a lot of power, so it is crucial they are grounded to prevent any problems. So, where exactly should you ground your amplifier?

The ground for the amplifier should be directed to a bare metal area of the car body, within eighteen inches of the amp’s location. Your objective is to try to ground to the main chassis or the sub frame. The most common amplifier grounding locations in a vehicle are anywhere that has a bolt directly connected to the metal chassis. However, these bolts are normally glued to keep them from unscrewing, so LockTight or mild bolt adhesive should be used to re-secure them. If you’re mounting your amplifier in the trunk, the most common ground would be the strut tower. You have to be sure to sand down any paint or rust until you see the shiny metal underneath for the best connection.

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What Gauge Wire Do I Need For My Amp?

Get the Right Wire for Your System

When installing an aftermarket car audio system, having the correct wire connections is very important. The right cables and wires ensure that the strongest signal is going to the correct destination, and that a sufficient amount of power is being sent to the receiving components. One of the most important connections in a car audio system is the power and ground cable that connect the vehicles battery to an aftermarket amplifier. The gauge of these cables will determine how much power can be sent to an amplifier.

As a general recommendation, Sonic Electronix follows the guidelines below as a quick reference in determining the appropriate wire gauge.

 

Wire Gauge Size Total Amplifier RMS Wattage
0/1 AWG 1000+ Watts
2 AWG 1000-1500 Watts
4 AWG 400-1000 Watts
6 AWG 600-800 Watts
8 AWG 200-400 Watts
10 AWG 100-200 Watts

 

For a more detailed formula in determining the gauge size needed for an installation, please refer to the steps below.  By following these guidelines, you can factor in the distance you are running the cable.  This is a more accurate way in finding out what gauge of wire you need and can possibly save you money in the long run of your installation.

1. Find the total RMS power of each amplifier:

* Monoblock Amplifier: The RMS power of the single channel will be the wattage you will reference. For example, if you have 500 watts RMS on one channel that is your final result.

* Multi-Channel Amplifier: Take the RMS power (in watts) of one channel, and multiply it by the total number of channels that amplifier has. For example, a 4-channel amplifier has 40 watts RMS on each channel, so 40 Watts x 4-Channels = 160 Watts RMS.

2. Find the total RMS power of the audio system: Add the total RMS values for each amplifier in the system to reach a grand total. If you only have one amplifier, then the value you found in step one is all you need.

3. Multiply that grand total by 2

4. Divide that number by 13.8

The final number is the approximate current draw of the car audio system.  Find that number in the “Amperes” column on the chart below.  After determining the distance from the car battery to the amplifier, you will find the appropriate gauge for your car audio system.

Car Audio Wire Gauge Chart

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How to Match a Subwoofer and an Amplifier

As you scavenge deeper into the realm of car audio, you begin to realize that figuring out the proper amplifier/subwoofer setup is a lot harder than just matching power ratings. As you sift through all of the different manufacturers, you might notice that the word “ohms” appears often.  Have you found yourself wondering, “Well the subwoofer is 2 ohms, so I should probably get an amplifier at 2 ohms?” In most cases you would be incorrect, for various reasons. To avoid confusion, we’ll let scientists deal with Ohm’s Law and instead focus on the actual matching process. In this article I will explain to you how to match a subwoofer and amplifier so you do not end up blowing any fuses, mentally or physically.

There are a few criteria we have to look at first. For example, the distinction between a monoblock amplifier and a 2-channel amplifier, as well as the difference of a single voice coil subwoofer versus a dual voice coil subwoofer. I will discuss these categorically and explain each one, so when it is all said and done, you just have to match up your equipment in a chart to find the answer! Let’s start with some terminology:

Channels

This does not refer to the channels that you switch between on your TV while trying to find the Lakers game, and it does not refer to a channel that is filled with water. In the audio world, the word “channel” refers to the stream of data on one line, or in the case of amplifiers, one cable of power. A single channel amplifier has one terminal that distributes power to a speaker, while a two channel amplifier has two terminals that distribute power. Likewise with 4 and 5 channels amplifiers, it’s the number of routes available for information or power to flow.

If you have ever heard the terms “mono” and “stereo” you most likely link that to a sound system. If music is recorded in “stereo,” it means that it has a left and right side, so the left side might output the sound of the guitar while the right side pumps out the vocals. Stereo is effectively 2-channels, so the recording engineers can choose to have certain music play on one side or the other at any given time.

Bridging

When you bridge two channels together, they create one channel. This is used most often in 2 or 4 channel amplifiers. If you have two channels but only want to run one speaker, the channels can be bridged, or wired together, to create one single channel. It’s exactly like a wooden bridge in that it connects two paths together as one (Learn more about amplifier bridging).

Monoblock and Class D Amplifiers

Monoblock and Class D amplifiers have only one channel that is typically used for powering one subwoofer at lower frequencies. I find this type of amp to be the best choice for running one or two subwoofers. How do you run two subwoofers off of an amplifier that has only one channel? This can be a headache for those who do not know the difference between series and parallel wiring. If you have two subwoofers, you can wire the subwoofers together in series or parallel and then wire them to the amplifier.

Two Channel Amplifiers

A two channel amplifier can be wired in a few different ways because it has two channels which you can bridge together to create one channel. You can run one channel to each subwoofer, which acts as though each sub has its own monoblock amplifier hooked up to it. You can bridge the channels together into one channel and run one subwoofer or more, but this option forces you to run the amplifier at a 4 ohm load. While two-channel amps are a good option, I prefer to run a monoblock amplifier system.

Four Channel Amplifiers

A four channel amplifier has, well, four channels. This type of amplifier is mostly used to power speakers, not subwoofers. The average car has four speakers, two in the front and two in the back. Each channel connects to one speaker. Simple enough, right? But we can make this somewhat complicated by using subwoofers instead and bridging the channels together. If you have four channels (1,2,3,4), you can bridge channels 1 and 2 together, and then bridge channel 3 and 4 together. So you end up with two channels total. You cannot bridge those two channels into one channel; it will end up destroying your amplifier. The majority of the time, when a channel has been bridged, it turns into a four ohm channel. So if you have two channels, each at 2 ohms, and then bridge them together, it turns into four ohms (I will address ohms soon, so don’t worry!).

Single/Dual Voice Coil Subwoofers

Now I have to introduce the two major types of voice coils, Single Voice Coil (SCV) and the Dual Voice Coil (DVC). You will see this a lot as you look through different subwoofers. A SVC subwoofer has one voice coil and one set of terminals, one positive (+) and one negative (-). A DVC subwoofer has two voice coils, each with its own set of terminals. Because of this, DVC subwoofers offer more wiring options than SVC speakers. You will see that most DVC subwoofers can be wired at two different ohm levels, unlike a SVC which can be wired at only one ohm level. There is little to no difference in sound quality between the two types of subwoofers.

Ohm

First let’s check the dictionary’s definition of an ohm. “A unit of electrical resistance equal to that of a conductor in which a current of one ampere is produced by a potential of one volt across its terminals.” Confusing right? Don’t worry, sometimes I have trouble understanding it too! Basically, it’s the resistance to the flow of energy. The higher the ohm, the more resistance. So, 2 ohms has less resistance than 4 ohms. Amplifiers often give their power ratings at 2 ohms and 4 ohms. You will notice that the power rating at 4 ohms is less than the power rating at 2 ohms, or even 1 ohm on some amplifiers. The goal is to buy an amplifier and subwoofers that will give you the most power when you wire them together.

Parallel Wiring

If you have two parallel lines, it usually means they run next to each other but never touch. Parallel wiring is similar to it. If you wire in parallel, you would hook all of the positive speaker terminals together on one line, and all of the negative speaker terminals on the other.

Series Wiring

Series wiring can become a bit confusing. You take a single current path and arrange it among all of the components. It effectively makes a chain, so everything is hooked together as one. The parallel wiring, you would hook together similar terminals only, instead of wiring everything together.

Series/Parallel Wiring Charts

Single Subwoofer Wiring

OHMS Voice Coil Parallel Series
1 Ohm DVC 0.5 Ohms 2 Ohms
2 Ohm DVC 1 Ohm 4 Ohms
4 Ohm DVC 2 Ohms 8 Ohms
6 Ohm DVC 3 Ohms 12 Ohms
4 Ohm SVC N/A 4 Ohms
8 Ohm SVC N/A 8 Ohms

Dual Subwoofer Wiring

OHMS Voice Coil Parallel Series
1 Ohm DVC 1 Ohm 4 Ohm
2 Ohm DVC 0.5 Ohm 2 Ohm
4 Ohm DVC 1 Ohm 4 Ohm
6 Ohm DVC 1.5 Ohm 6 Ohm
4 Ohm SVC 2 Ohm 8 Ohm
8 Ohm SVC 4 Ohm N/A

Combining Subs and Amps

Hopefully you have a greater understanding after reading the terminology section. This next section is aimed at helping you find the perfect amplifier and subwoofer combination. If you did not understand any of the terminology, the subwoofer wiring chart will help you out. The chart is based on a one channel amplifier wiring setup. If you have two subwoofers, it assumes you are wiring them to a single channel. If you have two subwoofers and two channels, you would look at the “1 Sub” section, because each sub gets its own channel. In the end, the power of the amplifier needs to equal the power of the subwoofers. For example, and amplifier that has 400 watts should be paired with one subwoofer that runs at 400 watts, or two subwoofers that run at 200 watts each. Regardless of the combination, the main goal is to equal out the power while running the products at their respective continuous power ratings.

Alright, so let’s say you buy two Kicker 10CVR124 subwoofers. Each sub has an RMS power rating of 400 watts, and each subwoofer is a 4 ohms, Dual voice coil sub. Scan the chart for 2 subwoofers, then find the matching ohm level and voice coil type. So, we look for the DVC (Dual Voice Coil) and then the 4 Ohms right next to it. From here we see that It lists the ohm levels that wiring these subwoofers together in series or parallel will produce. So looking at the chart it says these two subwoofers can be wired in parallel at 1 ohm or series at 4 ohms. Remember what I said about the ohms? The lower ohm level has less resistance. So let’s choose a 1 ohm stable amplifier to give these subwoofers the most power! Because each subwoofer runs at 400 watts RMS, we need to find an amplifier that runs at around 800 watts RMS.

Let’s look at a Monoblock, or single channel amplifier. The Rockford Fosgate R750-1D monoblock amplifier puts out 750 watts at 1 ohm at one channel. While it is not exactly 800 watts, we do not have to be perfect. Just don’t go too much over or under. As it is, this would be a near perfect match. If you decided to wire the subs at 4 ohms, you would have to find an amplifier that puts out 800 watts of power at 4 ohms, which can be very expensive.

Let’s keep the same subwoofers but choose a two channel amplifier. Assume we will not bridge the channels. This changes things a bit, because you need to act as though you have one subwoofer instead of two given that each subwoofer has its own channel. So in this case, we look at the chart for 1 subwoofer, with a dual voice coil, at 4 ohms. It says in Parallel it wires to 2 ohms, and in series it wires at 8 ohms. Lets choose the 2 ohm stable amp to get the most power. I found an RE Audio CTX-1600.2 amplifier which has 700 watts of power bridged at 4 ohms (each channel has 350 watts of power at 2 ohms). Each subwoofer gets one channel, so each subwoofer gets 350 watts to it. This is just about right since each subwoofer has an RMS power rating of 400 watts.

If you took the same amplifier and bridged the channels together, once bridged they stay at 4 ohms. So while these subwoofers would still work, you would have to look back at the 2 subwoofer chart. It has to be wired in series, because this amplifier is not 1 ohm stable.

I would not recommend a 4-Channel amplifier for subwoofers, but if you have to have one, just know that you will not be able to find an amplifier that puts out 400 watts each channel. However, you could bridge each of the channels together, making it a 2 channel amplifier. In this case you would need to bridge a 4-Channel amp with power levels at 200 watts per channel. Once bridged it turns into 400 watts at 2 channels. Does this work with our subs? According to the chart, a bridged four channel amp is classified as a two channel amp. Since each sub gets a channel, you will also look at the 1 Sub section on the chart. The chart tells us that a 4 ohm dual voice coil wires to 2 ohms or 8 ohms, not 4 ohms. Since the subwoofers we choose can only be wired at 4 ohms, you would need to find a different set of subwoofers that are suitable for 2 or 8 ohm loads.

Now you should be ready to start building your own system. Besides an amplifier and subwoofers, you will need to purchase speaker wire, wiring kits among other install accessories. Call us at 1-877-BUY-SONIC if you have any questions along the way.

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Browse the entire selection of car amplifiers at Sonic Electronix. Use what you learned in this article to find the right amp for you.

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Browse the entire selection of car subwoofers at Sonic Electronix. Use what you learned in this article to find the right subwoofer for you.

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How to Choose Speaker Wires

Choose the Right Speaker Wire for Your System!

More than likely, you will need speaker wire to install your auto speakers. Most car speakers require speaker wire, although there are few speakers that connect with plug-in devices and do not use speaker wire. The speaker wire you use should be based on the length and gauge your setup will require. This article will help you make the right choices and reveal what kind of speaker wire is the best in the industry. Not all speaker wires are created equally—the quality of the speaker wire makes a difference.

How do I choose the proper gauge and length?

The gauge of a speaker wire is defined by the American Wire Gauge. The range is numerical, ranging from 10-gauge to 18-gauge. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the wire. Greater thickness enables a larger signal flow. In other words, a thicker wire transfers a better signal. It is important to evaluate the distance between your amplifier and speakers. To measure this distance, use a string to emulate the likely course of wiring. Wire will likely run along the sides of the vehicle without forming tight bends at the corners (leave slack to avoid signal degradation). Be sure to account for error by adding to your final estimate.

As the wire length increases, it degrades the signal, so you should offset increases in length with greater thickness. Generally speaking, if the distance from the speaker to an amplifier is less than 80 feet, then 16-gauge wire will suffice. If the distance is between 80 and 200 feet, you should use 14-gauge speaker wire. If the distance is greater than 200 feet you should purchase 10- or 12-gauge cables.

What is speaker wire made of?

Speaker wire is typically constructed with copper because copper has a relatively high conductivity and a low resistance. Some manufacturers construct speaker wire from silver, because silver has higher conductivity than copper. The downside is that silver is more expensive than copper and it can have impurities that cause it to perform worse than standard copper wire.

How do you measure speaker wire quality?

While it is hard to quantify, many attest that there is a noticeable difference in speaker wiring. Many car audio enthusiasts swear by NVX, and it is especially recommended for use with higher quality speakers. The NVX development team conducts exhaustive research when developing their first-class speaker wire.

What are my options with NVX Cables?

The NVX line includes the EnvyFlex speaker cables from 12 to 16 gauge and in rolls of 25 feet ro 400 feet.

The EnvyFlex line is made silver-tnned 100% virgin copper for the absolute best transfer of signal and power and has a flexible jacket for easy installation.

Mant competition-quality systems use NVX Cable. The signal accuracy ensures that speakers, subwoofers, and amplifiers will produce finely-tuned music.

How do I connect my speaker wire?

Speaker wire has two leads, one positive and one negative. Most new wire is fashioned with connectors. If the wire doesn’t have connectors, you would have to strip the insulation and twist at both ends of the wire. This is not recommended since it can cause a short circuit.

When ordering wire, be sure to order wire that is compatible with your receiver and speaker terminals. If you order the right wiring, each wire should correspond with a color coded terminal.

What types of terminals are there?

The two standard types are snap clip (aka. spring) terminals and binding post terminals. For snap clip terminals, push down the clip and insert the wire into the terminal. This will secure the wire. Snap clip terminals are compatible with bare wire or wires fashioned with pin connectors. They are not compatible with spade connectors, banana plus, or dual-banana plugs, which require a binding post terminal.

It is not possible to use bare wire with a binding post. A binding post terminal requires spade connectors, banana plugs or dual-banana plugs. After you unscrew the binding post, directly insert he banana or dual banana plugs into the terminal. If using a spade connector, set the spade connector underneath the spade connector and screw the connector back into place.

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