Audio work involves several tools, applications and equipments to come up with the desired audio output. Testing and editing audio is also necessary to eliminate noise and other unwanted sound. With the several equipments needed in audio production, excellent connection among the devices is mandatory. Thus, knowledge of the different audio cables and connectors available is also required.
Below are some information about audio cables and connectors as well as examples of these audio accessories that are usually found in electronic and audio shops.
There are different audio cables available, each with its own specific purpose in audio production. There are cables that are ready-to-use for common applications and there are those that are being sold in bulk for customization. Buying audio cables is not that easy. Cables vary in different ways and the specifications of the right cable needed should be known.
In general cables vary in the gauge number, the number and type of conductors, and description. The gauge number determines the size of the conductor such as AWG-12, 12-gauge or 12 ga. AWG is the acronym for American Wire Gauge which is a standard for the cable sizes. A lower gauge number means bigger size of the conductor, which can also carry more electrical current.
Cables also vary in the type and number of conductors used. Conductors are the metallic part of the cable where electricity passes through. Multi-conductor cables have two or more conductors within the insulator, or there are two or more individually insulated conductors joined together. Solid conductor cables only have one conductor underneath the insulator. Stranded conductor cables have conductors that are composed of thin wire strands twisted together. This type of cable is flexible because of how the conductors are made.
Some cables are also labeled depending on where it will be used or installed. Labels can be “in-wall,” UV-resistant,” “outdoor,” or “buriable.” Cables without labels are normally used indoors.
Some of the audio cables available are as follows:
- Shielded Audio Cable – This is the simplest type of audio cable and is primarily used for connecting microphones and other audio equipments. It can have one or more conductors.
- Twisted-pair Audio Cable – The purpose of this cable is to connect different audio equipments. As the name implies, the conductors come in pairs (2, 4, 6 or 8) and are twisted together.
- Coaxial Cable – Also known as coax cable, this type has a center wire with an insulator and grounded thin metal and braided wire surrounding it to prevent radio frequency and electrical interference. Coax cables are available in different impedances (e.g. 93-ohm, 75-ohm) for different purposes. The 50- and 51-ohm cables are mainly for test equipments and for connecting radio communications devices and antennas.
- Optical Digital Audio Cable – This is one kind of pre-made or ready-to-use cables available in audio shops. This type has fiber optic cables and is primarily for digital audio connections.
Different types of audio connectors are available and are used in specific types of audio cables. These connectors differ in the installation method, metal plating and body type. Audio connectors can be soldered, crimped or twisted to the audio cable conductor. Soldering the connectors provide the most secure attachment between the cable and connector.
Audio connectors also come in different metal plating. Some are nickel-plated while others are gold-plated for better connectivity and resistance to corrosion. Their form or body type also varies. The standard form is a straight body. There are also connectors that have right-angle bodies for confined spaces and piggy-back types for those audio applications that need to have two or more connectors in a single jack.
Some of the audio connectors available are as follows:
- Phono (RCA) Connector – This connector is the standard in audio/video connections. RCA, or Radio Corporation of America, set the color-coded standard where the yellow connector being the video signal, and red and white connectors for the right and left audio, respectively.
- Phone connector – This is the type of connector mainly used for connecting microphones and headphones. Single conductor cables are used for the mono phone connector types, while stereo phone connectors should be used with two-conductor cables.
- XLR Connector – Used for more professional custom audio connections, XLR connectors link microphones to mixers, PA amplifiers or even extension cords. The connections are balanced to reduce noise pickup.
- Optical Connector – This type is also known as Toslink connector. The main purpose of Toslink connectors is to connect audio equipments with optical ports. This connector provide clean digital signal without noise interference. Optical connectors are used only with fiber optic cables.
- Banana, Spade and Ring Terminal Connectors – The primary use of these three kinds of connectors is for speaker connections and test equipments.