Audio Cable Types: A Complete Guide
Click the photo to open the full infographic.
Audio cable types are some of the most numerous of any cable, with both the consumer and professional space packed with different options for different uses and different generations of technology. That can make it difficult to know which is the best audio cable type for your new setup, whether it’s purely for listening, for live performances, or for professional and hobby mixing. Some devices only support digital or analog cables, others are legacy devices which need access to older audio cable types, and you need to consider cable length too; not to mention shielding and balancing.
The wide array of different cables for audio production and enjoyment doesn’t need to be opaque and intimidating, though. Here’s a comprehensive guide to the various audio cable types available and why you might want to choose some over others.
Balanced vs. Unbalanced cables
Before we dive into the individual types of audio cables you can pick from and what they do, there’s an important terminology that needs explaining: balance. Some audio cable types are considered balanced, while others are unbalanced, and it’s important to know whether balance will affect the eventual audio you hear, or not, as some situations require it, while others can do without.
A balanced cable is designed specifically to avoid external electrical interference by using an additional conductor wire inside the cable. Balanced cables feature a pair of conductor wires and a ground, whereas an unbalanced cable will feature just a single conductor wire and a ground. The two conductor wires in a balanced cable work together to cancel out any external electrical noise which could interfere with or affect the signal, in turn affecting the audio data the cable transmits.
Most mainstream cables aimed at home users are unbalanced, as the utmost audio clarity isn’t necessarily as important as a professional setting. Cables designed for audio creation or professional tasks, however, are almost always balanced to prevent signal degradation – though there are still some specific cases where that isn’t the case.
For an audio system to be balanced, however, it’s not just the audio cable types which need to be balanced: the equipment needs to be balanced too. Any devices connected with balanced cables also need to be balanced themselves in order to avoid the signal losing that protection at the point it reaches that device.
Unless you are building the world’s most balanced professional audio setup, however, you can typically get away with some unbalanced devices or cables, as long as you keep the cable runs short. Shorter cables have less potential for external interference, so can mitigate any problems that can arise with unbalanced cables. The ideal scenario for unbalanced cables is keeping them shorter than six feet.
Now that you understand the difference between balanced and unbalanced cables, let’s dive into cable types.
Audio Cable Types
TS Cables – short for Tip / Sleeve and often referred to as guitar cables or instrument cables – are one audio cable type that you want to keep as short as possible because they are always unbalanced. They allow you to connect mono (one-channel) audio sources like guitars, other unbalanced instruments, effects pedals, and drum machines to amplifiers, mixers, and audio interfaces.
Although they have the same physical dimensions as other audio cable types, like TRS, you can usually tell a TS cable from its contemporaries by its singular black band in the middle of the metal connector. TRS cables, in comparison, tend to have two black rings on the metal connector
TS cords are mostly available in 1/4-inch sizes, though you’ll also find the 1/8-inch (3.5mm) TS cable used in consumer products like mono headset microphones. The 1/4-inch TS cables feature better shielding and are the better option if given the choice to avoid signal noise.
Although TRS cables look quite similar to the TS audio cable type, you’ll be able to spot the difference because it has two rubber strips on the connector header, which form 3 conductors: Tip / Ring / Sleeve. However, whereas the singular ring is a clear indicator of an (unbalanced) TS cable, just spotting the two rings on a TRS cable doesn’t tell you much, as they can be balanced or unbalanced depending on their use.
TRS cables can be balanced with a positive, negative, and ground conductor when used on mono equipment. TRS cables can also carry 2-channel stereo audio, making them unbalanced because the left and right audio channels take up two of the conductors.
TRS cables are most commonly used in headphones and headphone outputs on certain instruments, mixers, audio interfaces, and studio monitors. There are also TRRS cables – Tip / Ring / Ring / Sleeve – which have three black rings. They’re used in the same kind of instances, but with that additional ring, there is space for both left and right-channel audio, and microphone audio on a single audio cable type. This can be useful if a device has a built-in microphone and you want the audio from that to be separate from the other channels.
With both TRS and TS cables, there are plenty of methods of converting between the connector types and others – from TRS to TS cables to 3.5mm to 1/4 adapters.
One of the most iconic and durable audio cable types, XLR cables are big and bulky, and as you might expect from such a sturdy cable, XLR cables are always balanced. That means that you can run really long XLR cables without fearing signal interference in the same way you would with a TS cable, for example.
XLR cables are one audio cable type that have really stood the test of time. Initially developed in the 1950s as a variant of the classic Type O connector, with the addition of a locking mechanism, and rubber insulation around the three contacts, we reached the XLR design that is still in use today.
Thanks to their lengthy history, XLR cables are found on all sorts of devices, from the very old to the very new, but they are particularly common with microphones, speakers, PA systems, DMX lights, and certain instruments. XLR cables are a great way to connect these sorts of devices to mixers and stage speakers to guarantee a clear and crisp signal, whether you’re running a short six foot cable, or a longer one that extends 50 feet.
Not all XLR cables are created equal. Cable Matters’ own XLR cables are designed for professional use, with strain relief on the connector, gold plated XLR pins for increased durability over long time use, and individual insulation and foil shielding for the internal wires, to further improve noise protection for the signal. You’ll also find plenty of XLR converter cables for XLR to 3.5mm, XLR to TRS, and XLR to RCA cables.
You can get away with cheaper XLR cables without the additional protections, especially if you’re just doing some hobby audio editing at home, but if you consider yourself any kind of audiophile, you will notice the difference. If you’re mixing audio professionally, too, it’s worth investing in quality cables to make sure that you don’t deliver an inferior product.
SpeakOn cables don’t see any use in the consumer device space and are considered by most to be the industry standard for connecting together professional speakers and amplifiers. Although they are typically unbalanced, they are still a popular alternative to 1/4-inch speaker cables thanks to their ability to lock in place to avoid accidental disconnection during live performances. They’re also rated to handle a higher level of electrical currents than other audio cable types, including TRS and XLR, and often come with reinforced cable braiding to improve durability and reduce wear and tear.
As SpeakOn cables are solely designed to be used in high-current audio systems, they can be used with impunity for speaker and amplifier connections. Before their development, there was the possibility of using a low-current microphone or instrument cables to connect speakers, but with the development of SpeakOn in the late 1980s, and its subsequent adoption by most amplifier manufacturers, there’s little reason to use anything else. The distinctive look of SpeakOn cables further helps them stand out from other cables of similar size or construction.
For connecting devices that don’t have the SpeakOn connection, there is also the possibility of using a 1/4-inch speaker cable to SpeakOn cable adapter cables. Do note, however, that there are different types of SpeakOn cables, some designed for higher-powered bi-amped configurations. SpeakOn cables not rated for such use, will not be viable.
Speaker Cables / Banana Plugs
Although similar in size to a TS cable, speaker cables are distinctly different in construction and are designed for connecting speakers to amplifiers – though more commonly in home audio or hobbyist audio production than in professional instances. They are most often used to connect A/V receivers to external speakers.
Banana plugs aren’t strictly necessary for in-home or hobbyist setups, as you can use the naked copper wiring and plug that directly into many amplifiers, synthesizers, or other audio equipment. However, banana plugs can make a connection neater and cleaner. They can also be incorporated with a banana plug wall plate in a home theater to reduce speaker wire clutter behind TVs or A/V systems. This can make managing your audio system easier in the future, as you can quickly plug and unplug the Banana plugs much faster than you can bare speaker wires.
RCA cables are a common feature in home A/V systems and are also often found in DJ setups connecting CDJ players and turntables to mixers. Similar to TS cables, each RCA cable has just two wires inside, making them inherently unbalanced, so it’s a good idea to keep them as short as possible.
Although many devices will be able to connect directly to one another over a pair of RCA to RCA connectors, for devices that are otherwise incompatible, it is also possible to use interconnect cables with different headers to bridge that divide. Cable Matters stocks a number of options for those sorts of connections, including 3. 5mm to RCA cables and XLR to RCA cables.
If you’re just connecting consumer devices, however, there are more modern options, like HDMI, which you should consider instead.
Used to send event messages, rather than audio signals, MIDI is an audio cable type that has been around since the 1980s and has been an important component in the development of digital audio production ever since. Often replaced by USB – or offered alongside it – in modern devices, MIDI is still an important component of many sequencers, synthesizers, and instruments, and it offers extensive legacy support to the decades-worth of audio equipment that is still usable today.
The MIDI audio cable type can be used interchangeably for MIDI In, MIDI Out, and MIDI Through connections, and always features a five-pin connector. Some devices come with all three of these different MIDI port options, so which you plug your MIDI cable into will very much depend on where that device is placed in your audio setup. You may wish to use multiples of those ports too, sending and receiving MIDI event messages to and from the same device.
S/PDIF, or Sony/Phillips Digital Interface cables, are more commonly found on mainstream consumer A/V systems, some set-top boxes, games consoles, and TVs. They come in optical (also known as Toslink), and coaxial (RCA) form.
They’re a little antiquated in the consumer space, with HDMI largely taking the place of this sort of audio connection in modern devices. However, older devices can still benefit from using optical where HDMI isn’t an option, or when a dedicated audio (rather than audio and video) connection is more desirable to ease setup and device configuration.
Arguably the most popular digital interface the world has ever seen, USB cables are almost ubiquitous on modern audio devices, equipment, and accessories whether they’re designed for listening or creating. They come in various sizes and types, with USB-A and USB-B being the most common, although the newer, reversible USB-C is seeing increased usage in all manner of consumer and professional devices.
USB cables can deliver audio data, power, and even MIDI commands using the MIDI over USB protocol. This makes them great for connecting computers to audio interfaces and synthesizers, and in many cases it can take the place of multiple cables where audio and MIDI cables are required for a complete connection. The new USB-C connector includes built-in support for audio, making it an increasingly popular replacement for the 3.5mm TRS connector on smartphones and tablets. That said, consumer devices are also moving away from physical connectors entirely, and pushing for Bluetooth audio in many cases.
However, USB cables aren’t compatible with some older instruments and accessories and compared to some of the sturdier audio cable types, they can be prone to damage after prolonged use. There is also less regulation in USB cabling than there is in professional audio cables. That can mean getting cables which claim to be rated for certain features, or come with a certain level of shielding, and they don’t live up to those claims.
If you’re buying a USB cable to use in a professional audio production setting, it is extra important to do your research to find the right USB cable for you, and to make sure that it’s of quality construction.
Thanks for reading our guide on audio cable types. While there are so many different types of cables out there, each one has its pros and cons. Cable Matters prides itself on creating the best audio products in the market. Visit our store to find the right solution for you, or expand your audio knowledge through some of the related posts below.
A guide to audio connectors and cable types
Thankfully, hooking up audio and AV systems is much more straightforward than it used to be. For most people, home entertainment systems no longer consist of large racks of individual components hiding a rat’s nest of wires and connectors, and we’re better off for it. But there are still times you need to connect audio hardware devices, and if you need to source cables (cords), connectors, or adapters, knowing the specific names of each type is necessary. Let’s go over the ones you’re most likely to encounter.
Editor’s note: This post was updated on July 7, 2023, to account for changes in our house style and formatting standards.
How do I connect my headphones?
The two most common sizes of TRS jack connectors.
Wired headphones connect to a playback device’s analog headphone socket using a jack plug. Suppose they’re standard stereo headphones with no microphone. In that case, it’s a three-terminal tip-ring-sleeve (TRS) connector, easily identified by the two insulating bands (usually black) on the barrel of the jack. These are commonly found in two sizes. The smaller size found on portable devices is referred to as a minijack, or by its diameter, 3.5mm. It’s sometimes called a 1/8-inch jack in the US, though that’s an approximation. The larger size of headphone jack you’ll find is commonly known as a 1/4 inch (or 6.3mm) jack plug. Adapters are easy to find to change one size jack plug to the other.
This earphone’s cable terminates into a 90-degree TRRS jack.
Wired headphones with a microphone built-in use a modified version of the same-sized minijack plug but with an additional electrical terminal (to carry the mic signal) in the form of an extra ring, making it a tip-ring-ring-sleeve (TRRS) connector, which has three insulating bands visible on the barrel.
How do I connect my headphones when there’s no jack socket?
These end in a 3.5mm connector, so you’ll need to use a stupid dongle on new phones.
Since smartphones have abandoned the headphone jack, you have three options. If you already have wired headphones you want to use; you’ll need a special adapter (a dongle) to connect to the phone’s system connector (a Lightning connector on iPhones or USB-C for basically everything else) and provide you with the analog 3. 5mm headphone socket you need to plug in your headphones. These are also referred to as digital-to-analog converters (DACs).
If you want to stick with wired (for reasons) and don’t want to deal with dongles, you can get a set of wired USB headphones to plug directly into your phone. If you prefer to avoid dealing with dongles or wires, you can also go down the wireless, Bluetooth route.
What are the other types of headphone connectors called?
The Drop+Ether CX closed-back headphones come wired with a four-pin XLR for differential drive.
You may have run into premium headphones with other jack sizes, different pin configurations (4.4mm Pentaconn), or larger XLR-type connectors. These are required to run your headphones in a balanced or differential drive configuration.
What connectors are used at the headphone end of the cable?
The cable plugs into the bottom of each ear cup via 2.5mm jacks.
When the cable is removable, the plugs used at the headphone end vary quite a bit, and we won’t cover them all here. 3.5mm jacks with a twist-to-lock system are relatively common. You’ll also find 2.5mm TRS jack plugs on some headphones (Bose, for example), while others have 2.5mm TS jack inputs at the bottom of each ear cup for the wires to connect to (the Monoprice Monolith M1060, for example). Premium headphones can use mini XLR connectors; some use propriety connectors like Sennheiser‘s two-pin push-fit connector.
The MMCX connectors are gold-plated and fit snugly into the SE215 female input.
Many in-ear monitor (IEM) headphones employ micro-miniature coaxial (MMCX) connectors. As the name implies, this connection standard is small enough to fit into a pair of in-ear monitors easily. These are used mainly for better-engineered in-ear monitors, where having a replaceable cable means the headset doesn’t become trash if the cable fails. Plus, the connection itself locks into place and allows for 360 degrees of rotation, so not only does it make the cable easier to replace, but it also makes it harder to break in the first place.
What else are jack plugs used for?
Jack plugs are also used to connect audio signals at “line level” in several contexts. 3.5mm TRS minijacks are found at the ends of the standard auxiliary (“aux”) cable to connect your phone directly to a portable speaker or car stereo system. The larger 1/4-inch plugs are used in semi-professional applications to connect signals using TS plugs (unbalanced applications) or TRS plugs (balanced applications).
What are XLR connectors?
XLR cables are used for microphones and other pro audio applications.
XLR connectors carry the tiny electrical signals produced by microphones and in other instances where signal integrity is essential — typically professional audio environments. Microphones have male outputs, and mic preamps have female input connectors on the front; hence, the standard XLR cable has a female on one end and a male on the other. The locking connectors are relatively large and heavy, explicitly designed for carrying balanced signals and wired using balanced (microphone) cable. This cable type is well suited to longer cable runs, as they have better shielding and noise rejection abilities.
What are RCA connectors?
RCA-type plugs are usually color-coded red (right) and white (left) for stereo interconnection.
RCA (or phono) connectors are smaller cinch-type connectors used in interconnects for connecting “line level” audio signals in consumer products. You’ll likely recognize the red and white color-coded stereo cables from their use in connecting older hifi system components or the yellow plugs that carry analog video signals to TVs from old DVD players, VCRs, or video game consoles. Since they can only carry unbalanced signals, they’re only suitable for relatively short-distance transmission of audio and video signals. They are still reasonably common, particularly for connecting record player turntables to phono input stages or connecting home theater subwoofers. They are also used for coaxial, digital audio connections (see the section later on).
Unlike a lot of connectors, the RCA name isn’t derived from a particular physical aspect of the connection. It’s named after the Radio Corporation of America, which developed and introduced the standard in the 1930s.
What connectors are used for speaker cables?
Speaker wire comes in different gauges and can be terminated with bare connections or connectors like these gold-plated banana plugs.
Unless you’re hooking up a PA system, the primary connector you’ll likely need to connect your speakers is the banana plug, shown above on the right. Many speakers have binding posts or terminal clamps that will accept the bare ends of the speaker wire. If that’s the case, connecting the positive terminal at the source (amplifier) to the corresponding terminal on your speaker is essential to keep everything in phase. Most speaker wire has an identifying mark on one of the conductors to help you keep track of what’s what. In some smaller powered speaker systems, the cable that connects the left and right speakers uses RCA (phono) connectors, as shown below.
Active loudspeakers have built-in amplifiers and require a power source.
How is speaker wire different from regular stereo wire?
Stereo interconnects, which usually have red and white (or red and black) labeled RCA connectors on the ends, are intended for low audio voltages (line level) with low current, and have a central insulated conductor surrounded by a shield (ground) for each channel (left and right).
Speaker cable, or speaker wire, consists of a pair of conductors surrounded by an insulating, flexible PVC or similar material that either has bare ends or banana plugs (see above) at the end. This cable should be specified to carry the power needed to drive loudspeakers to produce sound. Heavier gauge wire is required for higher power, and cables should always be kept as short as possible. As long as these basic requirements are met, there’s no point in spending a lot of money on cables, as this past experiment demonstrates.
How are digital connections different from analog ones?
Digital audio connections transfer signals between devices without converting them to analog and back again, which means the quality is preserved. Another bonus is that digital signals are less susceptible to sources of noise and interference, which makes cable quality even less of a concern than with analog.
What type of wire do I need for a digital audio connection?
HDMI cables carry up to 32 channels of digital audio.
Standard consumer-level wired stereo digital connections, often labeled “coax”(pronounced co-axe, not like the word coax), use the same RCA connectors we discussed previously, specifically with 75ohm coaxial cable. Home theater and AV systems are more likely to use high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) cables, which also carry digital video signals. These allow eight or 32 audio channels (for HDMI version 2 and above) for surround systems, including Dolby ATMOS, and offer bidirectional capabilities in the form of HDMI ARC and eARC.
What are optical connections for?
An optical cable can transmit stereo digital audio signals.
Optical cables (also called TOSLINK) carry digital audio between devices in much the same way as a wired coax connection, using light to represent the binary data instead of electrical voltage levels. These are preferred in most applications for stereo as they provide electrical isolation between devices, and they can also carry up to eight audio channels in multichannel applications.
If you’re looking to transfer audio between devices, these are the most common ways, depending on the type and age of equipment you’re looking to connect. Hopefully, this has helped, and now whether you’re looking to listen to music wirelessly or hook up a state-of-the-art soundbar, you’ll know what you need to do it.
Professional switching: cables, cords, adapters cheap
Professional switching: cables, cords, adapters cheap | SZ-AUDIO
DMX cable, 2 x 0.12 mm², diameter 6 mm, length 100 m.
Professional instrument cable 0.12 mm² , 6 mm in diameter and 100 m long
Microphone cable, balanced, diameter 6.5 mm. Conductor – CU (copper). Length 100 meters.
Speaker cable, conductor cross section 2*2.5 mm2. Diameter 9 mm. Conductor – CCA. The coil includes 100 meters.
Speaker cable, section 2*1.5mm2. Conductor – CCA. Coil 100m. Black color.
Speaker cable, section 2*075mm2. Conductor – CCA. Coil 100m. Black color.
Microphone cable, 2×0.12 sq. mm, diameter 6 mm, 100 m, color black.
Speaker cable, 2 x 1.5 mm². Price per bay 100 m.
Compact lavalier microphone adapter for iPhone
XLRm – XLRf 1m
Professional microphone cable XLR male – XLR female, 1 m
XLRm – XLRf 1m Black
Professional microphone cable XLR male – XLR female 1 m long, black
XLRm – XLRf 1.
Professional microphone cable XLR male – XLR female, 1.5 m
XLRm – XLRf 2m
9 0004 Microphone cable
Professional microphone cable XLR male – XLR 2 m female
XLRm – XLRf 2m Black
XLR professional microphone cable male – XLR female 2 m long, black
7 Learn more
XLRm – XLRf 3m
Professional microphone cable XLR male – XLR female 3 m
XLRm – XLRf 3m Black 9000 3
Professional microphone cable XLR male — XLR female, 3 m, black
XLRm – XLRf 5m
Professional XLR male to female XLR microphone cable, 5 m
7 Learn more
XLRm – XLRf 5m Black
Professional XLR Male to XLR Female Microphone Cable 5m, black
XLRm – XLRf 6m Black
Professional microphone XLR male to XLR female cable, 6 m, black
XLRm to XLRf 10m
Professional XLR male to XLR female mic cable, 10 m
7 Learn more
XLRm – XLRf 10m Black
Professional microphone cable XLR male – XLR female, 10 m, black
Jack 6,3 – Jack 6, 3 Mono 1m
Professional instrument cable with 2 x 6. 3 mm mono plugs, 1 m long
Jack 6.3 – Jack 6.3 Mono 3m
Professional instrument cable with 2 mono jacks 6.3 mm each, 3 m long
Jack 3.5 – 2X 6.3 3m
Professional cable with 3.5mm to 2x 6.3mm jack plugs, 3m long
9000 2 Jack 3.5 – 2X Jack 6,3 1.5m
Professional cable with jack plugs 3.5mm to 2x 6.3mm, length 1.5m
Jack 3.5 – 2X RCA 3m
Professional Y-cable with 3.5 mm jack to 2 RCA connectors, 3 m long
Jack 3.5 – 2X RCA 1.5m
Professional Y-cable with 3.5 mm jack to 2 RCA connectors, 1.5 m long
900 02 2 RCA – 2X 6.3 1.5m
Professional cable with 2 RCA – 2X 6.3 mm connectors, length 1.5m
2 RCA – 2X 6.3 3m
Y-cable 9 0005
Professional cable with connectors 2 RCA – 2X 6. 3 mm, length 3m
Jack 6.3 – Jack 6.3 Stereo 3m
Professional audio cable with 2 x 6.3mm stereo plugs, 3m long
Jack 6.3 – XLR 3m
9000 4 Audio cable
Audio cable, Jack 6.3 – XLR 3m, length 3 m. , length 5 m.
Jack 6.3 – XLR 10m
Audio cable, Jack 6.3 – XLR 3m, length 10 m. Metal case.
3-pin XLR connector (female). Metal case.
Connector for 6.35 mm jack, black
Connector for 6.35 mm jack, black
Connector for 6.35 mm stereo jack, black.
Mono jack connector 6.35 mm, black.
Mono Jack 1/4″. Metal housing.
Switching allows you to connect between two or more devices. SZ-Audio manufactures all its types: from iPhone adapters to microphone cables.
Modern gadgets have a good level of sound recording. However, to ensure high-quality, professional sound, you need to use special equipment, but most devices do not have a special microphone connector. In this case, you need an adapter that will allow you to connect peripherals to the device. We offer adapters for synchronization with iPhone and GoPro.
Our devices are easy to use: just connect the gadget and peripherals to the adapter and you can start working. Compactness is another strong point of SZ-Audio adapters – it can easily fit into a bag or even a pocket. The design of adapters is made in a business style, so they look appropriate during business negotiations, business conferences and interviews.
SZ-Audio also produces MIDI cords – devices for transferring data between a musical instrument, a computer, etc. Using MIDI cables, you will get excellent professional-level sound.
SZ-Audio also offers a wide range of instrument and microphone cables. Our microphone cords have an XLR connector for professional equipment. Such microphones are used during performances and sound recording. This is due to the fact that XLR connectors have high reliability and connection quality.
If you have any problems or questions about the products, please contact our consultants via the interactive chat, which is available directly on the site. The consultant will be happy to answer all questions regarding the product.
AV cords, adapters, connectors
Great gift! And not only!
Terminals for creating data networks – WiNet-302 and WiNet-402
Receipt of equipment for fountains
More details on the website:
http://grand-builder.ruGo to top of page0340
http://poleznii.ru http://investment-money .ru
http://mending-house.ru Go to top of pagehttp://hold-house.ru
Product name +/-
(USB plug – 2.5mm power supply) 1.5m (BS-370
(USB plug – 3. 5mm pit angled) 1.5m (TD-371
(USB plug – 4.8mm power) 1.5m (BS-372)
0.1 m USB 2.0 A female -> micro USB B 5pin male,
1-001G Audio connector 2. 5mm “pcs” stereo plastic “gold-plated” on cable
1-021G Audio-video connector 2.5mm “pcs” 4 pins plastic “gold-plated” on cable
1-040 Audio connector 3.5mm “pcs” mono plastic on cable
1-041 Audio connector 3.