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A Complete Guide To Audio Cable Types

Views: 242     Author: Lydia     Publish Time: 2023-11-21      Origin: Site

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A Complete Guide To Audio Cable Types

Audio cable varieties are among the most numerous of any cable, with both the consumer and professional markets brimming with various possibilities for various needs and eras of technology. This can make determining the ideal audio cable type for your new setup, whether it's solely for listening, live performances, or professional and hobby mixing, challenging. Some devices only support digital or analog connections, while others are legacy equipment that require access to earlier audio cable types. You must also consider cable length, as well as shielding and balance.




However, the vast assortment of different cables for audio creation and enjoyment does not have to be opaque and daunting. Here's a complete introduction to the many audio cable types available, as well as why you would prefer one over another.





Unbalanced cables vs. balanced cables



Before we go into the many types of audio cables available and what they perform, there's a fundamental phrase to understand: balance. Some audio cable types are deemed balanced, while others are unbalanced, and it's crucial to understand whether or not balance will effect the final audio you hear, as some situations necessitate it while others don't.




A balanced cable is specifically intended to eliminate external electrical interference by incorporating an additional conductor wire within the cable. Balanced cables have two conductor wires and a ground, but unbalanced cables only have one conductor wire and a ground. A balanced cable's two conductor wires work together to cancel out any external electrical noise that could interfere with or impact the signal, so influencing the audio data transmitted by the cable.




Most home-use cables are unbalanced, as maximum audio clarity isn't always as critical as in a professional situation. Cables designed for music creation or professional jobs, on the other hand, are usually always balanced to prevent signal degradation - but there are occasional exceptions.

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Unbalanced vs. balanced cables





However, in order for an audio system to be balanced, not only the audio cable types must be balanced, but also the equipment. Any devices linked via balanced cables must also be balanced in order to prevent the signal from losing its protection when it reaches that device.




Unless you're creating the world's most balanced professional audio setup, you can usually get away with some unbalanced devices or cables as long as the cable runs are kept short. Shorter cables offer less possibility for external interference and can help to alleviate any issues that may come from imbalanced wires. Unbalanced cables should be kept no more than six feet in length.




Let's look at cable kinds now that you know the difference between balanced and unbalanced cables.





Types of Audio Cables



TS cord


TS Connectors


TS Cables, often known as guitar cables or instrument cables, are one form of audio cable that you want to keep as short as possible because they are always unbalanced. They enable the connection of mono (one-channel) audio sources such as guitars, unbalanced instruments, effects pedals, and drum machines to amplifiers, mixers, and audio interfaces.




Despite having the same physical dimensions as other audio cable types, such as TRS, a TS cable can usually be distinguished from its contemporaries by a single black band in the middle of the metal connection. TRS cables, on the other hand, typically feature two black rings on the metal connector.




Although 1/4-inch TS cables are the most common, 1/8-inch (3.5mm) TS cables are also utilized in consumer items such as mono headset microphones. The 1/4-inch TS cables have stronger shielding and are the better choice if you want to avoid signal noise.





TRS connection for cable





TRS Connectors


Although TRS cables appear to be quite similar to TS audio cables, you can tell the difference because it has two rubber strips on the connection header that form three conductors: Tip / Ring / Sleeve. However, while a single ring on a TS cable is a clear indication of a (unbalanced) cable, finding two rings on a TRS cable doesn't tell you much because they can be balanced or unbalanced depending on their application.




When used on mono equipment, TRS cables can be balanced with a positive, negative, and ground conductor. TRS cables can also transport 2-channel stereo audio, however they are unbalanced because the left and right audio channels need two conductors.




TRS cables are widely found in headphones and headphone outputs on various instruments, mixers, audio interfaces, and studio monitors. TRRS cables - Tip / Ring / Ring / Sleeve - also feature three black rings. They're utilized in the same situations, but with that extra ring, there's room for both left and right-channel audio, as well as microphone audio, on a single audio cable type. If a device has a built-in microphone and you want the audio from that to be distinct from the other channels, this can be handy.




There are numerous techniques for converting between TRS and TS cables and others, ranging from TRS to TS cables to 3.5mm to 1/4 adapters.





Cable connection XLR



XLR Connectors


XLR cables are one of the most classic and durable audio cable kinds. They are large and thick, and as you might expect from such a strong wire, they are always balanced. That means you may run extremely long XLR cords without danger of signal interference, as you would with a TS wire.




XLR cables are one form of audio cable that has truly stood the test of time. Initially designed in the 1950s as a version of the traditional Type O connection, we arrived at the XLR design that is still in use today by adding a locking mechanism and rubber insulation around the three contacts.




XLR cables are found on a wide range of equipment, from the very old to the very new, thanks to its long history, but they are especially frequent with microphones, speakers, PA systems, DMX lighting, and specific instruments. Whether you're running a little six-foot wire or a lengthy 50-foot line, XLR cables are a wonderful way to connect these types of devices to mixers and stage speakers to ensure a clear and crisp signal.




Not all XLR cables are the same. Cable Matters' XLR cables are intended for professional usage, including strain relief on the connector, gold-plated XLR pins for greater durability over long periods of operation, and separate insulation and foil shielding for the internal wires to further improve signal noise protection. There are also XLR converter cables for XLR to 3.5mm, XLR to TRS, and XLR to RCA.




You can get away with using cheaper XLR cables without the extra protections, especially if you're just doing some home audio editing, but if you consider yourself an audiophile, you'll hear the difference. If you mix audio professionally, it's also worth investing in high-quality wires to avoid delivering a subpar product.





Cable connector with a banana plug





Banana Plugs / Speaker Cables


Speaker cables, while comparable in size to TS cables, are constructed differently and are designed for connecting speakers to amplifiers - but more typically in home audio or hobbyist audio creation than in professional circumstances. They are most commonly used to link A/V receivers to external speakers.




For in-home or hobbyist setups, banana plugs aren't technically necessary because you may use naked copper wiring and plug it straight into various amplifiers, synthesizers, or other audio equipment. Banana plugs, on the other hand, can make a connection look neater and cleaner. They can also be used in a home theater with a banana plug wall plate to eliminate speaker cable clutter behind TVs or A/V systems. This can make controlling your audio system easier in the future because Banana plugs can be plugged and unplugged much faster than naked speaker wires.






Coax digital connector




S/PDIF Connectors


S/PDIF, or Sony/Phillips Digital Interface cables, are more typically seen on consumer A/V systems, set-top boxes, games consoles, and televisions. They are available in optical (also known as Toslink) and coaxial (RCA) configurations.




In the consumer arena, they're a touch out of date, with HDMI primarily replacing this type of audio connection in newer gadgets. However, older devices can still benefit from using optical when HDMI isn't available or when a dedicated audio (rather than audio plus video) connection is preferred to simplify setup and device configuration.





USB port connector





USB Connectors


USB cables, arguably the most popular digital interface in history, are nearly ubiquitous on modern audio devices, equipment, and accessories, whether they're built for listening or creating. They are available in a variety of sizes and types, with USB-A and USB-B being the most common, however the newer, reversible USB-C is becoming more popular in a wide range of consumer and professional devices.




The MIDI over USB standard allows USB cables to send audio data, power, and even MIDI commands. As a result, they are ideal for connecting computers to audio interfaces and synthesizers, and in many circumstances, they can replace numerous cables where audio and MIDI cables are required for a complete connection. The new USB-C connector offers audio capabilities, making it a popular substitute for the 3.5mm TRS connector seen on smartphones and tablets. However, consumer gadgets are increasingly abandoning physical connectors in favor of Bluetooth audio in many circumstances.




However, USB cables are incompatible with some older instruments and accessories, and they are more prone to damage after prolonged use than some of the tougher audio cable varieties. In addition, USB cabling is less regulated than professional audio connections. This can imply purchasing cables that claim to be rated for specific features or to have a certain level of shielding but fail to live up to those claims.




If you're looking for a USB cable to utilize in a professional audio production scenario, it's especially vital to do your research to locate the perfect USB cable for you and ensure that it's well-made.




Thank you for reading our audio cable types guide. While there are numerous types of cables available, each has advantages and disadvantages. Cable Matters takes pleasure in producing the greatest audio devices on the market. Visit our store to locate the best option for you, or read some of the related pages below to broaden your audio knowledge.

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