How To Strip Speaker Wire

By José Carter  |  August 28, 2021
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José Carter
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José is a veteran audiophile with an MSc in Engineering, and a passion for sharing his audio knowledge with others.
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When it comes to your beloved speakers, you could never imagine doing them any harm.

However, sometimes, some adjustments are required in order to restore them to pristine working conditions. Stripping your speaker wire is just one of these things.

We get it, there aren’t many situations where you want to cause intentional harm to the speakers that you’ve spent a lot of time saving for and spending money on. However, if you do want to make fix a blown speaker, make adjustments, connect banana plugs or wire up a new hifi - there is a chance that you’re going to have to strip your wires.

In case you’re worried, don’t even worry. Our helpful guide will have you stripping speaker wire like a pro in no time.

Why Do I Need To Strip My Speaker Wire?

When you strip a wire, you remove the protective, insulating sheath that covers the outside of the wire. This might need to be for a few reasons, depending on what you’re aiming to achieve.

Image 1: Speaker wire comes in various forms, thus knowing how to strip different types is important.

This is because when you strip a wire, you expose the core wires by removing the protective plastic sheath. Exposing these can result in short-circuiting, fire or damage to your speaker. While you might slightly damage the wires during this process, it’s not the end of the world and can be avoided.

The Best Ways To Strip Speaker Wire

The best way to strip speaker wire is to use the right tools for the job, which, listed from best to worst are:

  1. A dedicated wire stripping tool.
  2. A pair of wire cutters, or pliers.
  3. A sharp blade cutter, or knife.
  4. A pair of scissors.
  5. Lastly, your teeth.

However, how do you go ahead and achieve this properly? Let’s find out using the steps below.

Using A Wire Stripping Tool

One of the best ways to strip speaker wire is using a tool built for this job: a wire stripper.

A wire stripping tool is like a special pair of industrial scissors that has various shaped ‘holes’ carved into the blade, into which the wire is placed. When you close the wire stripping tool, it will close enough to cut the outside insulation but will leave the core wires intact, and then pull the wire back as you release the handles.

Wire stripped being used on wire.
Image 2: Using a wire stripper is one of the easiest ways to strip speaker wire.

As this tool is specifically built for stripping wires, you will likely not have any issues as long as you place the wire within the correct size hole.

The benefits of this tool is that it’s quick, effective and unlikely to damage your wires because it’s highly adjustable and built for the job. Here’s a quick primer on how to use it:

  • Measure out the length of the wire that you need to cut.
  • Mark the section which you plan to cut and strip.
  • Place the tip of wire about half an inch into the jaws of the stripper.
  • Carefully close the strippers on the wire, ensuring you don’t push too hard into the core wires.
  • Either pull the wire away from the stripper, or, release the handles of the stripper.

What should be left is a neatly cut, completely stripped speaker wire that you can now use for any audio-related projects. If you haven’t stripped enough, simply repeat the process until you have the desired effect.

Repeat for any other wires that you want to strip.

Stripping Speaker Wires Without Dedicated Tools

If you can’t afford or prefer not to buy a dedicated tool for the job, there are other, more risky at-home methods that can help you achieve your desired effect.

Here, you’ll be doing exactly what the wire stripper does - but, you won’t have the mechanical detail of a tool that’s built for stripping. You’ll be doing it using your own eyes and sense of touch.

Stripping Wire Using A Pair Of Wire Cutters, Or Pliers

The next best option is to use a pair of wire cutters, or pliers. While these tools are actually built to completely sever wires, if you’re gentle enough you can use them to remove the outside cover of the wire.

Image 3: You can also use wire cutters to strip wire - if this is an option for you.
  1. Place the wire in the wire cutters, or if using pliers, at the bottom where the wire cutting section is.
  2. Start to gently squeeze the tool, until you can see the sheath start to give way.
  3. At the time, pull the body of wire away from the wire cutter so that there is tension on the wire.
  4. As you continue to squeeze and pull, the insulation will eventually give way and the wire will remain exposed.

PRO TIP

If your wire cutters are sharp enough, you can use the ends to lightly ‘nip’ the side of the casing to create a tear and then pull away from this point. Do not attempt unless you’re confident you know what you’re doing here.

Stripping Wire Using A Blade Cutter Or Knife

When using a knife, you’re leveraging the edge of the blade to cut through the insulation to eventually remove the outside sheath of the wire.

The greatest risk here is that you’re going to cut straight through the wire, not cutting the sheath but completely severing the core wire. This will only shorten your speaker wire and cause frustration.

WARNING

This method can result in smaller wires being severed and pulled away - so use this method at your own risk. With that out the way, let’s dive into it.

So, let's get into it - there are two ways to do this: with gravity or against it.

The Easy Way: With Gravity

With gravity, you’re going to place the wire on a flat surface and gently place the blade on top of it. Slowly push on the blade until it begins to cut into the out wire cover and then stop.

Slowly move the blade back and forth, making sure that the wire ‘rolls’ underneath the blade and the sheath is evenly scored all the way around.

Lift the blade up and away from the wire, and simply grab the severed insulation between your thumb and forefinger and pull it away from the body of the wire.

The Difficult Way: Against Gravity

Hold the knife in your hand and push the wire against the exposed blade using your thumb.

Gently roll your thumb against the wire and blade, rolling the wire so that the insulation sheath is severed all the way around. Do not apply too much pressure and risk cutting your finger.

Also, be careful to judge that you’re not pushing too hard or you’ll cut straight through the wire.

And voilà, if you’ve done this correctly you should have a well-stripped wire with an exposed core wire - ready for a project.

Stripping Wire Using A Pair Of Scissors

Using a pair of scissors to strip wire is very similar to the process described above.

However, rather than using a blade, you’re going to open the scissors up wide so that one edge is exposed and use this like the edge of a knife. Because scissors can be duller than knives, practice this method with caution as you’re more likely to damage your wires.

Scissors being used to cut a piece of wire
Image 4: Stripping speaker wire with scissors is possible, but can lead to mistakes if not careful. 

Once you’re ready, simply follow the steps listed above that we described for using a knife and you should be off to the races.

It’s highly advised NOT to put the wires between the scissors and to squeeze the scissors, trying to score the sheath this way. In all likelihood, you’ll misjudge and apply too much pressure - completely severing the core wires.

Stripping Wire Using Your Teeth

The last, and least recommended method, is using your teeth to strip speaker wire.

This should only be done as a last resort, and exercised with caution. With this method, you have the least amount of control and can not only damage your speaker wire - but, also your teeth.

Baby holding wire in it's teeth.
Image 5: Using your teeth to strip speaker wire? Probably not the best first choice.

If you have any crowns, fillings or orthodontics on your front teeth, it is NOT recommended to follow this route as it could result in a costly trip to the dentist.

With that out of the way, stripping wire with your teeth follows the same method as using a tool - it simply requires severing the sheath until it’s able to be pulled away from the core wires.

Let’s see how you would do that below:

  1. Place the wire between your front teeth and bite down gently.
  2. Roll the wire from side-to-side underneath your teeth until you feel the sheath give way.
  3. Stop before getting any further, and start to gently pull the wire away from your mouth.
  4. With enough attempts, the sheath should begin to tear and the core wires will show.

This method can take the most time, and is not recommended if you have a few wires to strip.

If that’s the case, rather fork out the extra cash and get the right tools for the job - rather than having to buy new speaker wires or replace your crown.

Conclusion: Stripping Speaker Wires Like A Pro

By this point, you’ve used your knowledge of wire stripping to take off the ends of your speakers and prepare them for any project that you’re currently working on.

Whether that’s connecting them to banana plugs, setting up a new amp or just recalibrating your current setup for the sake of it - you’ll now be well sorted. By this point, you’ve worked out the exact pressure to apply to cut the outside sheath of the speaker wire insulation.

With those core wires exposed, you can now twist, turn and make any changes that you need to. In no time, your speakers will be on their way to sounding crystal clear and incredible.

José Carter
Founder
José is a veteran audiophile with an MSc in Engineering, and a passion for sharing his audio knowledge with others.
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