What You Should Know About Audio Cables

audio cables for speakers

In the world of wireless technology, do audio cables matter? Yes, actually they do. In fact, analog gear is suddenly very much in use again. In studios and for professional musicians audio cables are still quite important. Since there are no wireless studios, cables continue to be one of the most important component of working with audio-based industry.

Just as important as the cable is the connector, particularly brass cable glands. Cable glands are devices that attach the cable to the instruments. In a headphone, the connectors lies on the other side of cable, connecting the headphone to the main device. Selection of both the cable and the connector has to be made carefully. For now let’s focus on the types of cable:

Digital and analog:
We can divide cables into analog and digital cables. Both transmit audio signals. The difference is simply that digital cables transmit digital signals, analog cables carry electrical signals. The digital signals are in the form of binary code. Here we are mostly focused on analog cables.

Analog Cables
Analog cables can be further divided into balanced and unbalanced cables.

Balanced cables:
These cables are designed to cancel out interferences and hums in the environment. This is achieved by adding wire inside, dividing the construction into a ground wire and two conductor wires. The second wire helps the two conductor wires to cancel out the noise.

Unbalanced cables:
The unbalanced cable construction contains only two wires: a ground wire and a conductor wire. With no extra cable to cancel out the noise, these cables pick up radio interference and electrical noise.

It is important to note here that unbalanced cables do not make unbalanced connections. The circuit can be balanced with mixers and cables, unbalanced cables make perfectly stable connections. Knowing whether the cable is balanced or unbalanced is important in the final assembly. For instance, if the cable is unbalanced, you may have to shorten its length to ensure a balanced connection.

Types of analog cables:

XLR Cables:
These type of cables are always balanced. The connector, often brass cable gland will fit snugly into its receptor. This makes the connection very stable and not likely to come loose by accident. These are used for speakers, microphones and PA systems.

TRS Cables:
Used mostly with electric guitars, TRS cables can be both balanced and unbalanced. They contain two conductor wires and one ground wire. For a balanced connection, the cable is simply used as is and the two wires inside cancel out the noise. But when used in a way that both wires inside carry signals (as in a stereo), there is no cable left to cancel the noise.

TS Cables:
These types of cables are always unbalanced. They are used for equipment with mono output, such as drums and guitars. You can recognize them by the single rubber stripe on the connector. These are kept short because to ensure that the cable does not pick up noise and disturbance.

RCA cables:
These are unbalanced cables with one conductor and one ground wire. These are laid in pairs with connector in red and on in white. The red connector is for right and the white for left. You will often see them on DJ turntable.

Digital Cables
We are quite familiar with digital cables today with the number of digital equipment that we have at our home. The two most common types of digital cables are:

USB cables:
We’ve all seen USB cables that connect our devices, from phones to cameras. Their function is mainly information exchange, transferring data from the computer to your equipment and vice versa. The trend for USB cables is towards miniaturization as new models brome smaller. These are also widely available and it is easy to find replacement for yours.

MIDI cable:
The function of MIDI cable is to transfer data and not sound. It will have three kind of jacks: MIDI in, MIDI out and MIDI thru. The out jack is for sending information, the in is for receiving it and the thru jack is for transferring information to another equipment.

These different cables are used with the right kind of brass cable glands for creating a connection.

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