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How to Convert Wired Speakers into a Bluetooth Speaker

So you have a set of wired speakers you want to make Bluetooth compatible? It can be a pretty straightforward project that will save you on a set of comparable Bluetooth speakers.

Here are the steps to turn wired speakers into Bluetooth speakers:

  1. Get a Bluetooth receiver.
  2. Get the proper cables for connecting the Bluetooth receiver to the speaker system.
  3. Pair the source device to the Bluetooth receiver.

There are several reasons you might want to convert wired speakers into wireless. Enabling Bluetooth allows you to stream audio from any Bluetooth-capable device. This means you can watch videos on your laptop with your speaker, or you can play DJ on your phone.

Get a Bluetooth Receiver

Bluetooth AUX Audio Transmitter -On Table

If you’ve decided to go wireless, this is a great way to start. To make your speakers Bluetooth capable, you will need a Bluetooth receiver. This process is slightly different than if you were to make wired speakers wireless. A Bluetooth receiver takes a wireless Bluetooth audio signal and converts it to a line-level electrical audio signal. A line-level signal is a low-voltage signal that is resistant to noise. This is the same signal you will get out of a preamp, laptop, or cellphone.

Apart from headphone speakers, a line-level signal is not sufficient to drive a speaker. Line-level signals are designed to transport a sound signal using a minimal amount of power. A line-level signal is meant to be boosted before passing through your speakers.

Bluetooth receivers are generally fairly inexpensive. In general, you can get a good quality Bluetooth receiver for $10-30. Generally speaking, a Bluetooth receiver will have a female aux jack and female RCA connections. You can also find Bluetooth receivers, usually designed for car audio systems, that will only have a male aux output.

Recommended Bluetooth Receivers

We also have a full guide on recommended Bluetooth Receivers, if you’d like more details.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Bluetooth Receivers

Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of Bluetooth Receivers:

  • Wireless Connectivity: Eliminates wires for greater placement flexibility.
  • Compatibility: Works with various Bluetooth-enabled devices.
  • Cost-Effective: Cheaper than buying new Bluetooth speakers.
  • Easy Installation: Simple plug-and-play setup.
  • Retains Audio Quality: Can transmit high-quality audio.
  • Limited Range: Bluetooth’s range is typically around 30 feet.
  • Potential Interference: Susceptible to interference from other devices.
  • Audio Delay: May experience a slight delay, especially noticeable in videos or games.
  • Compatibility Issues: May not work with older devices or different Bluetooth versions.
  • Power Source: Requires additional power supply.

Connect the Bluetooth Receiver to the Speaker or Speaker System

Depending on your speakers and the Bluetooth receiver you get, you will need to get (or make) certain cables to hook them together. Sometimes, these cables will be easy to find. However certain set-ups will require you to improvise.

For the most part, a Bluetooth receiver will have female stereo aux and RCA outputs. If you choose to get a car adapter, however, it will come with a male stereo aux output. In general, the aux outputs are intended for computer speakers whereas the RCA outputs are intended for home speakers. And, if you’re trying to connect outside speakers to a receiver, we have a guide on that as well.

Connecting Bluetooth Receiver to Powered or Active Speakers

Bluetooth Receiver to Powered or Active Speakers
Typically connected via RCA cable. Sometimes connected via AUX cable. It depends on the active/powered speaker system.

Powered speakers must have their external power supply. Powered speakers use a power supply to add voltage and current to the line-level signal. Because of this, you can plug a wireless speaker adapter directly into a set of powered speakers.

Alternatively, if you want to add a Bluetooth audio channel to your powered speaker system, you will want to hook your speakers up to a preamp’s output channel, plug the Bluetooth into one of the audio input channels of the preamp, and use the other channels for your other audio devices.

A preamp is essential for adding volume control to powered speakers lacking it. Without a preamp, your Bluetooth device serves as the volume control, requiring manual adjustment before each use.

Connecting Bluetooth Receiver to Passive Speakers

Bluetooth Receiver to Passive Speaker System

Passive speakers do not have a power supply. With passive speakers, you need to amplify the line-level signal with an amplifier or A/V receiver. If you are using a power amplifier, you can hook the Bluetooth receiver directly into any open audio input channel.

If you have an A/V receiver, ideally, you will have to connect the Bluetooth receiver to the HT Bypass or Direct channel on your A/V receiver. These channels bypass the preamp stage, allowing the Bluetooth device to control volume, gain, and EQ settings effectively.

If your A/V receiver lacks an HT Bypass or Direct In, connect it to an available audio channel. However, this may result in low audio levels unless the Bluetooth device is used to control the volume, preserving settings for other devices.

RCA and Aux Connections

AUX and RCA Cables

Where you may run into trouble is with the speakers themselves. Speakers generally come with one of three kinds of connections. The easiest to hook up to a Bluetooth device with RCA, since most Bluetooth receivers have RCA outputs, and therefore only standard RCA cables are required to plug in.

If you are using a car audio Bluetooth receiver, you will need to get a converter cable. You will need to find a cable with a female aux connection on one side. If you have speakers with an RCA connection, finding an aux female to left and right male RCA cables is usually not too difficult. However, if your speaker has speaker clips or uses banana plugs, it may be more complicated.

Banana Plugs and Speaker Clips

A final speaker connection you may encounter is a banana plug. Like with speaker clips, banana plugs have designated positive and negative plugs. Whereas most connections combine positive and negative connections into one plug, banana plugs have separate plugs for positive and negative. Thus, if you find an RCA to banana plug connection, it will have one RCA plug for every two banana plugs.

Another kind of connection you might run into is speaker clips. Rather than a standard plug, speaker clips have spring-loaded terminals that accept bare wire. Just like banana plugs, speaker clips have separate positive and negative terminals.

Preparing Cables for Speaker Wire

Although you can find RCA to speaker wire cables, they are not very difficult to make yourself. Simply take a standard RCA cable and cut off the plug on one side.

Strip off a small amount of the outer tubing to expose the two wires inside. Strip a small amount of tubing off of each wire and plug one into the positive terminal and one into the negative terminal.

Ideally, these internal wires will be color-coded by the speaker clips. But, if they are unlabelled, it should not make too much of a difference, since audio signals are alternating current.

The most complicated conversion you may need to make is between a stereo aux connection and speaker clips. Whereas RCA connections are single-channel, having only one positive and one negative wire per plug, stereo aux connections combine two channels in a single plug.

A single negative signal grounds the positive signals in a stereo aux connection. Thus, if you strip a stereo aux cable, you will find three wires inside left, right, and ground. Often, these will be labeled red for right, white for left, and the ground wire will either be black or may be unwrapped.

Since a stereo aux cable’s left and right channels share a ground, you will need to split the ground. Get two lengths of small gauge wire, attach them to the ground wire, and solder the three wires at a single point.

Hook up the left channel to the positive terminal on one speaker and the right channel to the positive speaker of the other speaker. Then hook up one of each ground extension to each speaker’s negative terminal.

Pair with Bluetooth Receiver

Once you have connected your Bluetooth receiver to your speakers, you have finished the hard part. Now you will need to pair your device with the Bluetooth receiver. First, turn on your Bluetooth receiver. If you have powered speakers, plug them in after turning on your Bluetooth receiver.

Next, set your Bluetooth receiver to pair. Finally, turn Bluetooth on on your device and find your Bluetooth receiver and pair. At this point, you should be able to broadcast audio to your speakers. You can now enjoy various features, like connecting one AUX and one Bluetooth device at the same time. Happy listening!