How To Install Flat Speaker Cable

Here’s my room. I wanted to connect my surround speakers behind the couch. The stereo is to the left of the TV just out of the photo.
photo of room

I had already run wires up to the TV and through to the main right speaker (by the left-most window). But wasn’t sure how best to wire the surrounds.

I did consider going through the walls— cutting up the drywall and/or removing the baseboard and cutting a channel in either the backside of the baseboard or the drywall/studs. But that seemed like too much destruction.

I decided to go with flat speaker cable and run it along my baseboard.

Choosing the Wire

I started at one of the big-box stores, figured I’d patronize the physical store if they had a decent selection and had samples available.

They had just one kind in the store (I did ask if they had others) and no samples. So I left. The one kind they had was Acoustic Research Microflat cable. Couldn’t figure out what gauge, probably 18. This was a 50′ roll for $55.

The big drag with this: the cable is for just 1 speaker. I needed to drive two speakers (left and right surround) and wanted to run both sets of wires along one wall. So first I’d need two of these spools (now we’re up to $110) and I would need to be careful to line up the two cables next to each other or on top of each other along the baseboard so it looked reasonable. Forget it.

Some Googling showed some other promising options. First I searched for Monster Cable. They have a line of SuperFlat wire, but it turns out to not be super flat at all. I found this stuff called Flatwire from DeCorp that looked really nice. Super thin. Cons: still need two runs of cable, plus it requires painting (unless you like the copper look), and doesn’t include ready-to-stick adhesive on one side. Both of these last two could be ideal for some installs— if you need to do lots of 90 degree turns, you wouldn’t want paint/adhesive on there. But I didn’t want to deal with adhesive or painting. Next.

The best product I could find for me was Taperwire.

The clincher– they make a 4-strand cable, so you run one wire that drives both surround speakers. It comes with adhesive on the back, and the other side is white.


I purchased through Sewell Direct, listed on Taperwire’s site as an authorized dealer (Amazon didn’t list the 4-strand option). The price was $55 for 50′, and you only need 1 spool since it includes 4 strands. So it’s cheaper, and I only have to run one strip, and comes already white and with the adhesive on the back. Perfect. [Update 12/5/08: Looks like the price went up, their site now lists the spool at $79. Still cheaper than 2 spools of anything else. Update 6/16/09: Price went up again to $109. Bummer.]

By the way, Sewell Direct was great— they sell this wire in white or clear, 2 strands or 4, 16 or 18 gauge, and in tons of different lengths from 10-100′. I had a little trouble finding exactly what I wanted (4-strand, 18 gauge, white, 50′)— Sewell had live chat support via their web site that was extremely quick and helpful. I placed my order.

It arrived in a few days. Here’s the spool:
spool of wire

Here’s a close-up of the outside:
close-up of wire - outside

And here’s a close-up of the inside– you can see the 4 strands of wire:
close-up of wire strands

The Install - Starting End

Okay, so now to do the install. The trickiest part is the start and the finish. Here was my starting point:
starting point

The copper colored wire is for my main right speaker. The two white cables are for the surrounds. I needed to run the surround wires from left-to-right in this photo. But how to start?

I cut a slit just above the baseboard and planned to have the connection between the flat wire and the normal wire stay hidden inside the wall. Note- these wires are not rated for in-wall installations. Install at your own risk! (UPDATE November 2009- I replaced the white & copper-colored speaker cable with in-wall rated wires.)
cutting slit in drywall

Needed to make sure I inserted it with the white-side up. You’ll see why in a minute.
inserting wire into drywall slit

Once it was in there, I needed to fish it up and out of the green box so I could make the connections. I started with this grabber thing, but ended up using a bent coat hanger.
grabbing wire from inside the wall

Here you can see the wire going in the slit in the drywall, then back out the junction box. I’ll make the connection to the white wires in a minute.
wire is through slit and back out junction box

Next I want to get the wire down onto the baseboard and start running it to the back of my room.

The orange colored part you see is the back to the adhesive. For the part going into the wall cavity, I wanted the sticky part covered up, but now I want to expose it. I took a razor and carefully cut the adhesive backing and peeled some back.
cutting tape backing

Here I’ve pulled the adhesive backing away.
pulling back adhesive backing

And here I’ve pulled the wire back into the wall a bit (I pulled on the end I’d fished back out the green box) so the only part coming out of the wall has the exposed adhesive. I’m ready to start sticking it to the wall & baseboard.
ready to tape

I used a plastic putty knife to help me with the angles & turns. Here I’m sticking the wire to the drywall for just a 1/4″ or so before the baseboard starts.
using a putty knife

Now I’ve got it down the baseboard and am ready for the turn. The simplest thing to do is one 90 degree turn. But then the adhesive-side is facing out into the room. I could have put the adhesive side out for the first little run (would have required me to insert it into the wall pink side up), but I’m just going to double-up the fold to keep the white side out.
first 90 degree turn

So I fold it as if I’m turning to the left, but then fold it back on itself so we can turn to the right. It makes this turn triple thickness, but I thought it was worth the tradeoff for not having to paint.
making the right-side turn

Here is my first corner– I just use the plastic putty knife to help make a nice crease.
first inside corner turn

Here it is so far. The color isn’t a perfect match, but it looks pretty good.
progress so far

The Install - First Connection

Before I get much further, I want to connect the flat wire to the white speaker wires and close up the wall plate.

Here I’ve cut the white wires and connected them to the flat wire with the special connector blocks that come with the spool. There are better pictures and explanations of how you expose the 4 strands of wire and connect them to the terminal block a bit later. After this, I just pushed the wires back into the wall cavity. I’ve also added a wall plate here for the main right speaker, but if there wasn’t a speaker here, I’d just use a blank wall plate.
first wire connection

(After the initial install, I replaced the white and copper-colored wire with proper in-wall rated wire. You can see the in-wall rated yellow wire in the photo below.)
in-wall wiring

Here is the completed photo of the starting end. I took the photo with the camera at normal eye level— you can see the copper colored wire going to my main right speaker, and you get a good sense of how noticeable the flat wire is (i.e., not that noticeable). Looks pretty good.
completed starting end

The Install - Continued Cable Run

Back to the wire run. Here it is about to take a tricky turn, including an outside corner.
double corner

I just used the putty knife to help make the turn, wasn’t hard at all. The adhesive on the wire is just right— very sticky, but you can adjust it a little as you go.
outside corner

Here the run is about 2/3 complete and you can see the flat wire along the baseboard.
two-thirds complete

I ran the flat wire along this wall to the corner and behind the couch to the middle of the wall on the right side of the photo. Again, this is a good example of how noticeable the flat cable is after installation.
photo of room

Here’s the end of the line! I trimmed the wire (you can cut it with scissors) and prepared the ends for the termination blocks. The wire comes with good instructions for doing the terminations— you use a razor to separate the copper wire from the white front and adhesive backing.
end of the line

The Install - End Termination

Here is the wire after removing the white cover and the backing.
preparing wire ends

Next, I took a wire cutter (you could use scissors) and slit each strand in half the long way and then folded each on top of the other. You need to do this so the wires fit into the connector blocks. Also, I stripped back about 1 inch of bare wire— I found I needed this much to have room to bend the wires so they’d make it to the openings in the connector blocks.
wires slit and folded

Here you can see the first side of the connection is complete. The termination blocks work with a small flat head screw that bends down a metal connector onto the wire you’ve inserted.
first side of connection

I’m using the same type of white speaker wire as I was using at the start— this wire will go from the termination block up to the surround speakers.
normal speaker wires about to connect

Here the termination is all done— the white wires are connected and I’ve screwed the termination blocks to the baseboard (screws are included with the blocks). After playing some music through the system, I figured out which wire was which and I marked the terminals R+ R- L+ L- with a red Sharpie.
all done

A note about starting the connection behind your stereo

If you were starting the flat cable behind your stereo, you’d probably run a short piece of regular speaker cable from your amp/receiver down to the baseboard, then have a similar connection to what I’m showing here as the beginning of your run. In my case, that wasn’t a good option since there is a gas fireplace next to the stereo. I ended up running a piece of speaker cable behind the fireplace (don’t worry, it isn’t hot) and used the slit in the drywall to get it onto the baseboard.

A note about alternate end terminations

If you wanted to do an in-wall surround speaker or mount a surround speaker on the wall with a bracket, you could use the same technique I did to start my run for your ending. One way you could do it:
1. Cut the hole where you want the bracket/surround speaker (probably 4-6′ high or higher).
2. Cut a small hole (maybe a 1/2″ round hole) just above the baseboard directly below the mounting hole.
3. Attach a small nut or washer to a piece of string and drop it down from the mounting hole to the hole by the baseboard.
4. Once you fish your string out the hole, cut a slit in the drywall and push the flat wire through.
5. Attach your string to the flat wire. (I’d poke a hole in the flat wire, run the string through it and tie a knot.) Pull the string and flat wire up behind the drywall to where your bracket will mount. You may be able to attach the flat speaker wire directly to your speaker, or you may need to splice it onto normal wire for the last foot or two.
6. Patch up the 1/2″ hole with some spackle & touch it up with paint.

Another (easier) option is to install a low-voltage junction box in the drywall about 2′ above the baseboard (like the green box I have above) in between your speaker and the slit in the drywall. If you have an electrical outlet on this wall, match the height of your junction box with that. Use this hole in the drywall to make your connection between the flat wire and the normal wire like I did for my first step. Use the same trick with the string and a washer to get the (now normal, not flat) speaker wire up the wall to your speaker/bracket. When you’re done, just put a blank wall plate over the junction box.

Conclusion

Here is my finished room. You can see my right surround speaker in the photo just behind the blue blanket on the couch. The left surround is on the little table behind the couch just out of the photo.
finished room

I’m very happy with the Taperwire product, and happy with my install! I don’t plan on painting the flat wire to match my baseboard— it looks just fine to me. After moving the furniture back, I don’t notice the wire on the baseboard at all. Hope this is helpful to some other folks out there.