Speaker Wire Confusion - Need HELP


New member
Username: Wadegboudreaux

Post Number: 1
Registered: Jul-12
Hooked up new ceiling mounted patio speakers and when attempting to connect to my new pioneer receiver, the following happened: The prewired wire grouping marked "Patio" coming from my TV wall has four wires (Red, Black, Green, and White). I was looking to hook up to Zone B, which has a right (Red and Black) and a left (Red and Black)...what do I do?

Gold Member
Username: Magfan


Post Number: 2793
Registered: Oct-07
I don't know what common wiring practice is, but if I walked into a room with those wires connected to outdoor speakers, I get an ohmmeter and start testing. If you find 2 pair with NO conntinuity between them, they are l/r speakers and you'll have to mess around to determine phase. IF a pair of wires are zero ohms, they are both ground and the other pair is L/R hot.
With just a battery and an assistant, zap the battery across the wires in pairs. Have someone listen carefully for a 'tick' sound out of the speakers. You may be able to determine by that method which is which. and even L/R, as if that matters for patio speakers. Only ONE speaker should 'tick' at a time.

How did you hook 'em up at the patio? THAT should be the big hint, shouldn't it? What did you hook where? Any idea which is + / - on either speaker? PHASE will matter much more than L/R.

Any chance of getting a tip from the original installer?

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 17287
Registered: May-04

I assume this was a pre-wired install and you are simply adding to wiring which is already in place. From experience I can tell you that pre-wires are sent out to the low bidder and the work is not always up to par with what should be there. The biggest warning sign is shorted wiring due to a drywaller coming in after the wiring was laid in the walls. The drywaller is generally also a low bid item and they are working fast with no incentive to take care of any stray cabling. A nail or screw can easily pierce the cabling which can cause problems down the road or, in the worst cases, have crossed both legs of the speaker cable and now you have a dead short to which you are about to connect your reciever.

It is good policy to do a continuity check on any pre-installed cables before you make any connections to your amp. If you have an Ohmmeter or DVM, disconnect your cables at the speaker end and do a quick check for continuity from one cable leg to the end of the cable run. Then check across pairs with no load connected to insure you do not have any shorted cabling. If you don't have a continuity meter, buy one. They are cheap and they will save you many hours of frustration down the road. Radio Shack or any home improvement store sells them for less than $20 and most of the sales people can tell you the basics of how to operate the meter. Instructions for basic wiring checks can also be found on line with a search engine.

It would appear that the original installer chose not to do a very good job of wiring your patio speakers or, at the least, thought they had a better idea for how to wire speakers than everyone else. The most basic way to trace your wiring is to climb into the space were the cabling should run. Normally, this would be an attic or crawl space though, if the cabling was installed before drywall was put in, the connection point where the cables go from R/B/G/W to R/B & R/B might be hidden from view. If you can visually locate the split, knowing which wires run where should be fairly easy to deal with. You can also check on the propriety of the connection at the split and whether it should be replaced or repaired before making a connection to your audio system. Never assume anything when you are dealing with wiring and an unknown installer. This is true whether you are dealing with a speaker install or just a new wall switch/outlet. Building codes tell installers how to do correct lay outs but I can guarantee you there are installers who have just been promoted from street person looking for a job to "audio installation expert" the morning of your job. Previous home owners are even less reliable.

If you can't find the split to confirm what the installer did, I would - thinking logically, which is a big stretch when you're trying to think like a minimum wage pre wire laborer working as fast as they can to get the job done - assume the R/B and the G/W pairs form the end runs of your cabling. Use a 9V battery to confirm this guess. As leo said, you'll need an assistant to stand under the patio speakers while listening for a slight clicking sound. Strip back the insulation from the wires at your receiver end of the run (the "home run" end) and hold the red leg on the "+" terminal of the battery. Take the bared end of the black leg and touch it to the "-" terminal of the battery. This should produce movement in the speaker which your assistant can confirm as having heard a "click" from one of the speakers. This won't be loud so make sure you do this when the volume levels around your patio are rather low. If there's no click heard, try the G/W pair and do the same test. If there is still no click, you'll simply have to begin experimentation with one leg being the constant "+" leg and you flicking each of the other legs one at a time until you determine which set of legs makes up one speaker connection to your patio's pairing. Once you've determined which pair is running to one speaker, repeat the process to find the opposite speaker's leads.

At this point, I would disconnect the runs at the speakers and perform the continuity check I described above. Doing this check can avoid blowing up your receiver, so I wouldn't blow this step off due to the extra work involved.

You might find the cables you see coming from the wall actually do nothing. This could be the result of another occupant of the house doing some jerry rigged wiring and nothing is correct or it might be the result of dead shorted cabling. However, using the battery first and doing the continuity check second should help you avoid lots of headaches and wondering why you have no sound or possibly why the receiver just put out that puff of noxious smelling smoke and now nothing works.

Correct phase between speakers is important though patio speakers do not lend themself to those values which are affected by phase. If you are concerned that both speakers are moving in the same direction simultaneously - this is "in phase" operation, once you've determined which cable legs run to which end inside the house, reverseor repeat the procedure with the battery and check for phase. If you can observe the direction the driver moves with your patio speakers, make your cable arrangement move the driver forward when the "+" terminal of the battery is connected to the "+" terminal of the speaker. If, for some reason, you cannot detect the movement of the patio drivers, attach a speaker to the home run end of your cables and observe which direction the driver moves - in or out - when you flick the battery at the patio end. Normally the connection should be Red/Black so I would begin there and hold the Red leg to the battery's "+" terminal. When you touch the Black leg to the battery the driver should move forward. If it moves backward then you have the typical new house pre-wire performed by a security company's worker rather than an install done by a home audio company. Once you've determined which pairing moves both left and right speakers forward when connected to the battery, mark the legs for future reference and proceed with your continuity check.

Good luck. At times it is best to simply run new cabling and hope you can use the existing cables as pull wires.


New member
Username: Wadegboudreaux

Post Number: 2
Registered: Jul-12
Thanks for the help Appreciate it. It was a simple fix. There was a metal face plate on the brick wall on my back porch that housed the speaker wires for connection. I noticed it before, but never new what it was for. Decided to open it to take a look, and Suprise Suprise when I found my L and R pairs coming from the speakers and the four pair cable (red, back, green, and white) ready for connection. I just connected the Right red/black to red/black and the the Left red black to white/green, then wired from the (same) cable on my TV wall to my new receiver and Bingo--my patio was rocking in a matter of minutes!

Gold Member
Username: Magfan


Post Number: 2799
Registered: Oct-07
Keep the above information in mind should you decide you need another remote pair of speakers in the future.
Doing stuff right the first time is a whole bunch easier than fixing some thing which is messed up in some wacky, unknown fashion.

Enjoy the music:
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