Speaker cable types

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Speaker cable types

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The Best Studio Monitor Cables for Your Home Studio

Whatever you are connecting speakers to, the cable you use is going to have a big influence on the way your system sounds. All because of poor quality speaker cable. The problem is that whilst even the cheapest, thinnest speaker cables out there will work in the loosest possible terms.

A better quality speaker cable will improve everything you listen to. Yes, even the most basic speaker cables will carry an electrical current between the amplifier and speakers. But what it is really carrying is an extremely complex audio signal and this is where the design and the quality of the materials used really start to matter.

In our experience the musical elements that speaker cable can have a really big effect on are dynamics, detail, tonality or timbre and perhaps most critically of all, musical coherence or timing. Timing is fundamental to the proper enjoyment and understanding of almost all types of music.

Without it music is just beautiful noise. This is what a good quality speaker cable can bring to the music you love. So have a look at the cable that connects your amplifier to speakers.

We started producing shielded speaker cable around By then we were already using really effective wide frequency shielding on interconnect cables. The improvements the shielding made were very easy to hear but there was still a nagging doubt. At the time, we had some very talented musician friends with some very beautiful instruments.

speaker cable types

There was a string quartet which we listened to a lot. The complexity and depth of the timbre of their instruments was breathtakingly lovely.

Yet trying to reproduce this, on what would then have been regarded as a very good hi-fi system, was hugely frustrating. Our first shielded speaker cable was Chord Signature and for the first time, listening to a recording of the string quartet, we could hear some of that wonderful complexity and timbre that made their music so magical.

We now produce a range of shielded speaker cables. Sound staging is improved; someone once described being able to walk among the musicians with Signature speaker cable in their system. They can bring so much to the enjoyment of music. Changing speaker cables probably means changing the position of your speakers.

For us, the aim with any design of speaker cable and interconnect is to produce a cable which has as little effect on the tonal characteristics of a system as possible; in other words, neutral. To some degree though, almost every loudspeaker cable has a tonal characteristic to it, and this tonal characteristic is something that may well affect the position of your loudspeakers.

So for example, you may have set your system up with a speaker cable that has a tonal characteristic that tends to emphasise bass frequencies. If you then change to a cable with a more neutral tonal characteristic, then it is worth doing a bit of serious listening and perhaps experimenting with the position of your speakers.

Start by moving the speakers about 3 inches backwards. If this is slightly too much, move them forwards about an inch at a time. There will be a point when you are moving them forwards when everything starts to sound coherent and properly balanced. At this point, try moving the speakers backwards half an inch or alternatively forwards half an inch. You will arrive at the correct position.

This will let you easily move the speakers to the correct position. Once you have found the best position, re-fit the spikes. This is a good opportunity to re-level the speakers and ensure that there is no movement as well; properly stable speakers do sound very good. Follow these instructions and you should end up confident that your system is sounding at its best. A basic speaker cable is probably going to be built from copper wire with PVC insulation.

There are though, better conductors, and better insulation materials. A higher quality speaker cable is likely to use Oxygen free copper.Any time components need to be connected together, the type of connectors that are used become important. More than anything, designers look for connectors that will provide a secure connection, with low signal loss.

With speakers, this problem is amplified over other types of audio and video connections. The signal going to speakers is a relatively high powered analog signal. Any analog signal can become distorted if the wire size or connector contact area is not sufficiently large to carry the signal. At the same time, signal loss, which is a reduction in voltage, increases over small wires. This is why many audio consultants recommend large wire gauge sizes for speakers, especially on systems which are using high power audio amplifiers.

Even with this clear need for high power capacity, speaker connections have been largely ignored, using other types of available connectors, up until recent times.

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In many cases and for many years, the only electrical connection used for speakers was a simple screw terminal with bare wires. While functional, this type of connection is not highly portable or secure. The common speaker connectors which have been used include:. Binding post — Binding posts are chassis mounted connectors which allow for the connection of bare wires, spade lugs, banana connectors, or pin connectors. They are a step up from a simple screw terminal, in that they provide better contact and the capability of using these types of connectors.

Spade lugs — Spade lugs come in a variety of styles, most of which are crimp-on connectors. The ones shown here are screw-on, rather than crimp.

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They are designed for use with screw terminals, but will also work with binding posts. The major advantages of spade lugs over bare wires is that they protect the ends of the wires from becoming unraveled and ensure that all the wire strands are captured in the connection.

Banana plugs — Banana plugs are a single circuit connector, commonly used for test equipment in labs. The spring sided design of the plug ensure good contact, even after repeated connections. They commonly connect to binding posts. When used with speakers, they provide a solid electrical contact, which carries ample current.

Pin plug — Pin plugs are a smaller version of the banana plug, coming from much the same origin. They do not have the spring contact that banana plugs do. Rather, they are only used with binding posts which have a hole through their center for the pin plug to go through. For this reason, they have never been very commonly used for speakers, although they have been used. These are still the most common connector for home audio, due to their low cost and ease of use; however, they must be used with the corresponding jack.

The biggest problem with these connectors for professional audio is that they are easily disconnected if the cable is stepped on or kicked. XLR connectors — XLR connectors have been used for a variety of audio and video applications, including professional speakers. While never a popular use, most mixing consoles did provide a XLR main out. The advantage of XLR connectors for speakers is also the disadvantage, that of commonality.

Since they are the same type of connector as used for microphone cables it makes it easy to replace a cable if necessary, but it also makes it easy to confuse cables as well. The current carrying capacity of cables used with XLR connectors, while adequate for low volume applications, was never high enough for professional use in large theatres and outdoor venues.

While it is no longer in use for that purpose, these connectors have been used extensively for professional audio connections for years. They are also known as TRS connectors, which refers to the three contacts on a stereo version of the connectorbeing tip, ring and sleeve.Balanced vs unbalanced explained. Including Video Tutorial. One of the key things you will have to get to grips with in your home recording studio are the various audio cable types. Audio cables are the necessary thing you need to connect up all your recording gear and interface.

In a home recording studio situation, you are mostly concerned with how to transmit the analog sound from your mics and instruments so that you can eventually capture the sound in your DAW or other recording app or software.

So, that is the key focus of this post. You can refer to our post on digital audio to discover more about digital audio recording. Mic Level is the lowest signal level which travels through an XLR connection. The mic level signal requires a preamp to raise the mic level up to line level.

You use an XLR cable whenever you connect a microphone to your audio interface or mixer. Line Level is the highest signal level which travels through a TRS connection.

This is the standard type of signal and you should use TRS when connecting any non-instrument pieces of hardware to your interface i. Note that a lot of consumer audio equipment and semi-pro keyboards etc may have unbalanced line outputs so you will use a TS cable instead.

Check the manual of your gear to be sure. Instrument Level is the most variable level signal which will travel through a TS connection. Built in on most audio interfaces. Choose this cable whenever you connect an instrument such as a guitar or bass guitar directly to your interface.

For more information, read our disclosure policy here. Mic levels are much lower than typical line-level signals. This means that any interface or mixer with a microphone as an input may be overloaded when you hit it with a line-level signal.

So, when trying to record, your equipment is not in any real danger, provided you are very cautious with the levels of volume. Start with the lowest output volume you can from the sending device, and gradually increase it so that you get a decent signal without distortion. You may find the recording result is perfectly satisfactory. The problem you may experience, though, is a poor signal to noise ratio.

The ideal thing is to buy an interface or mixer which accommodates both line and mic level. Your goal is to record a clean and loud enough signal from your microphone, guitar, keyboard, synth, or drum machine in your recording software or DAW.

Recording success has a lot to do with the audio cable types you choose. Get the audio connections right, and your audio recordings will sound good. So, how do you decide which is the right audio cable? As a general rule, you read what it says on your gear, or refer to the manual. Sounds simple? But not all jack leads are the same! This the audio cable or cord you use for your guitar, or for the left and right outputs of a synth or keyboard assuming outputs are not balanced.

It is mono because you only have one channel through which to send the signal.In a tangle over speaker cable jargon? Here we help you understand it with some useful tips on buying your own. The age old argument of cable quality has raged between audiophiles since the dawn of time well not really, but certainly for quite a while. Other enthusiasts save their cash buying budget cables and claim that they make no difference to the sound quality whatsoever.

So rather than poking our nose between these two opposing camps and risk getting dragged into the ongoing battle, lets elude the heated quarrel and instead offer up an overview of speaker cable jargon and give you some useful tips on how to buy your own.

Speaker cable is the wire used for the electrical connections between speakers and amplifier sources. It has three key electrical properties: resistance, capacitance and inductance. Resistance is by far the most important property to look at. Simple enough. Resistance is affected by two key aspects: wire length and the cross sectional area of the wire. The shorter the wire is, the less resistance it will have. Read it here.

The cross sectional area of the wire is referring to the thickness, or gauge, of the wire. The thicker a wire or the lower the gauge, the less resistance. It is therefore a combination between speaker impedance, length and gauge that affects the resistance. Copper is the most widely used material for speaker cable due to its low cost and low resistance. Silver is slightly less resistive than copper meaning a thinner gauge will still offer a lower resistance, however as you might have guessed silver is expensive so a thicker copper wire will actually still be cheaper to buy.

Many different levels of purity are available for cables, and whether or not this brings a significant benefit to the audio is down to personal preference and for you to decide for yourself. Specific terminations are available to use at the ends of your speaker wires to aid the connections to sources and speakers. The most popular options are oddly and hilariously named banana plugs and spade plugs.

The final option with speaker wire is whether to bi-wire or not. If your speakers only have single wire connections then of course it makes this decision simple —single connections it is!

But if your speakers have two sets of speaker connections then they can be bi-wired. Again this is one for the die-hards to continue arguing with, but bear in mind that equivalent quality bi-wiring is almost always more expensive than single wire configurations.Skip to main content. FREE Shipping on eligible orders. InstallGear 12 Gauge Speaker Wire - Available to ship in days. Previous Page 1 2 Under 3 ft. Free Shipping by Amazon.

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speaker cable types

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For decades, stereo systems were largely component-based gear requiring a certain level of knowledge and understanding to get home hi-fi systems up and running, with various components sending signal to each other. There were separate amplifiers, turntables, CD players, cassette decks, etc — and each had to connect to one another to get sound to the speakers.

In the last 20 years or so, the way we listen to music has drastically changed. DJing and PA systems on the other hand, still remain firmly entrenched in a more traditional use of audio cables to connect various components and there may be many younger DJs that are not fully familiar with the various types of cables available and how each functions.

There is generally either an output or an input. When it comes to audio connections, Output refers to the sound coming out of those ports, while Input refers to ports that receive that sound. For instance, when connecting a device like a CDJ or controller to a DJ Mixer, you want the CDJ outputs sending audio to your mixer inputs for their respective channels.

This means the signals for the left and right speakers differ. In most audio gear, that means separate ports and cables are required for the left and right side of the signal. Traditionally, the right side port will be colored red, while the left side will be white or black.

Speaker Cables – What You Need To Know

In order to use balanced cables, the hardware must also have balanced outputs. This will be labeled on the gear. If you have to use long cables, you should always try to use balanced cables and outputs! This is a specific range of volume output by devices. There are, however, certain devices that output considerably quieter or weaker signals that require an extra stage of amplification to output at a similar volume.

The two most commonly encountered pieces of gear for DJs will be turntables and microphones. Microphones also require a pre-amp as passive mics also tend to be very weak compared to line level sound. Most line or front-of-house mixers have both line level and mic level inputs that can be plugged into. Unlike phono pre-amps, the input does not alter the sound outside of amplification so it is possible to plug a line level output into a mic input and drastically lower the gain to prevent clipping.

RCA is one of the most ubiquitous cable formats in audio gear. Developed in the s, it has remained largely unchanged since and continues to be one of the standard cables for linking audio components. This cable is used for everything from CDJs to mixers to main outputs to stereo systems.

Due to the unbalanced nature of RCA cables, they are best used for shorter distances. These cables are also used as PA Speaker cables, microphones, and instrument patch cables. Outside of headphones, in the DJ world, they are often used as main outputs or booth outputs. The important thing to note: these cables can either be balanced or unbalanced.

TRS cables are balanced while TS cables are unbalanced. The easy way to tell the cables apart is that TRS cables have an extra plastic ring around the jack rather than the single in a TS cable.

XLR cables are one of the standard cable formats for pro audio.And distilled your choices down to a list that fits your requirements, or at the very least, starts you off on the right footing. Table of Contents. In addition to the cables we suggest below from Amazon, take a look at this handy Sweetwater cable finder. In most any type of recording or production studio, several different types of cables may be used for the purpose of passing audio from one piece of equipment to another.

You are probably already familiar with instrument cableswhich connect electric guitars and keyboards to amplifiers, signal processing devices, or directly into the mixer. These types of cables are typically of the TS variety, which will be explained in more detail below. You may also be familiar with cables used to record microphoneswhich generally use the XLR type connector.

For purposes of connecting studio monitors to other equipment, the aforementioned TS cables may be used as well. However, commercial recording facilities generally use TRS and XLR cables to connect studio monitors to mixing consoles or studio amplifiers.

A balanced audio signal [image credit ] The subject of balanced and unbalanced cables is often the cause of a great deal of confusion, particularly as it pertains to wiring up studio monitors.

The main difference between the two is that unbalanced cables carry only the positive audio signal and the groundwhile balanced cables carry the negative signal in addition to the positive signal and the ground. Unbalanced cables only have two conductorswhich are typically seen as the two contact points on either end. Balanced cables have a third conductorwhich can be determined by the three contact points on either cable end as well.

Balanced cable connectors have a number of benefits over unbalanced connectors. They generally have higher signal-to-noise ratios, making them better suited to applications wherein audio quality is a priority. The higher signal-to-noise ratio also makes balanced connectors more suitable for longer cable runs, or connecting equipment over longer distances.

Finally, balanced connectors are less prone to electrical interference than unbalanced cables. This helps reduce buzzes, humming, and crackling in the audio path, if not eliminates them entirely. When connecting two pieces of equipment that are capable of handling balanced signals, using a balanced cable is a no-brainer….

But there are situations where unbalanced connections might be more feasible—if not the only—option. Some mid-range and entry level studio monitors are equipped only with unbalanced input ports, which may be of the quarter-inch or even the RCA variety. With such monitors, the only option is to use unbalanced cables. Even if you have studio monitors that are capable of handling balanced signals, your output device may not have similar capabilities.

For example, many audio interfaces intended for the hobbyist or home studio market do not have balanced outputs. You then have no choice but to use unbalanced cables.

speaker cable types

One of the most important things to remember with regard to balanced connections is that every single component in the signal path should be balanced in order for the connection to be truly balanced. It is especially important to make this distinction when you consider that many balanced ports are designed to accommodate unbalanced signals as well. Many mixing consoles for example have input ports that are able to handle both balanced and unbalanced signals.

If even just a single one of these is unbalanced, the entire connection is unbalanced as well. When in doubt, always check the manual or do some research online on your gear to find out what type of connectors your equipment has.

For purposes of connecting studio monitors, the connectors you are most likely to see are the quarter-inch plugs similar to those used for plugging in electric guitars into amplifiers and effects processors.

But not all quarter-inch plugs are the same, and it is important to know for which specific purpose each type is intended. The easiest way to tell the difference between the two types is to count the number of contact points or distinct metal surfaces on the plug itself. TS connectors only have two contact points, while TRS connectors have three.

This allows TRS plugs to carry a balanced signal, as explained in the previous section.


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