Types of cables and connectors
How to choose the right cable?
Choosing the right cable for your device can sometimes be difficult. With so many connections that we can meet in the studio and stage, we can often lose a lot of precious time and nerves when we want to force a device to operate. This guide is intended to clarify doubts about how cables work and which devices we can connect to some cable.
Cables balanced vs unbalanced
The balanced electrical signal is transmitted via three cables: ground, positive and negative channels. Both channels transmit the same signal, but in one of them they are inverted in the counter-phase, which, when applied to each other, causes a complete reduction. Then, when transmitting the signal through the cable, the noise usually appears on both cores simultaneously. A device that receive balanced signal, reverses the phase of one of the channels and thus recovers what was previously sent, and the noise (now inverted in the counter-phase) decreases. This noise suppression method works well with long cables. For transmitting a balanced signal from one device to another, cables with XLR and TRS connectors are used.
Unbalanced cables are less complicated, but they are much more susceptible to noise problems. In general, these types of cables should be as short as possible to minimize the amount of interference that they will carry to the target device. A noticeable difference in signal quality may begin in cables exceeding RCA m.
In the audio world there are five most popular types of connectors: TRS and XLR for balanced cables, as well as TS, RCA and SpeakON for unbalanced connections.
TRS is shortcut for Tip, Ring and Sleeve. This type of connector looks like a standard stereo jack, so it has two signal wires and a ground. They are most commonly used to connect devices capable of transmitting a balanced signal or a stereo signal to a headset. We can also meet cables in the form of so called. "Y" that means two mono jack cables on one side and one stereo jack on the other. These types of cables are mainly used in mixer inserts where one wire is used to send a signal and the other wire to receive a signal.
Round XLR connectors also have three pins: positive, negative, and ground . They are typically used to transmit a signal from a microphone or a balanced signal. They also use to various types of active studio monitors and other speakers.
Ts is shortcut for Tip, Sleeve, and as you can imagine, it is a jack with one signal conductor and a mass. Cables equipped with a connector of this type are capable of transmitting unbalanced signals. They are mainly used in guitar cables and instruments that send a line signal.
His other name is chinch. This is a connector that is used to connect most consumer audio equipment. They can be found, for example, in CD or DVD players. With respect to digital audio, it is also possible to connect devices supporting the S / PDIF standard.
SpeakON is used during connecting power tip with stage speakers or listening monitors. They have a special lock and are able to transmit very high currents. It is worth to remember that under no circumstances should we use instrumental cables to connect the amplifier with the passive loudspeaker.
Other connectors that worth to know.
AES / EBU is a popular alternative to the S / PDIF standard, and the most common connector used in this case is AES Type I.
Optical cables are designed for S / PDIF dual-channel optical and Alesis ADAT optical connectors. The ADAT standard is capable of transmitting up to eight digital audio channels. Both standards can be found in many digital devices on the market.
S / PDIF (Sony / Philips Digital Interface Format) - this is a standard for connecting digital devices. It has been based on AES / EBU and in many cases the two standards are compatible with each other. S / PDIF uses unbalanced cable with RCA connectors or optical cables for data transmission.
FireWire (IEEE 1394) - Offering a high-transfer standard that was designed to deliver video. Currently it is also used in digital audio interfaces. It has 4- or 6-pin connectors for FireWire 400 and FireWire 800 respectively. There are also 6- and 9-pin plugs that are additionally capable of transmit powering.