The investment that consumers make when creating a home cinema system requires considerable planning and focused diligence. However, one of the most neglected components of a stereo or home entertainment system are the devices that carry the powering electrical signals. Audio cables connect turntables, receivers, amplifiers, and speakers to produce sound. Audio cables that possess inaccurate wiring or poorly constructed plugs can disrupt the electricity flow, and thus, cause noticeable audio problems. The plugs that secure the wires to electronic components are perhaps the most important factor in determining audio quality.
Audiophiles can find stereo cable plugs at most electronics shops or retail outlets that specialise in selling audio components. They can also go online and find great bargains at the leading auction site, eBay. Some eBay terminated interconnect plug sellers may offer near mint condition plugs at discounted prices. Before audiophiles jump into the terminated interconnect plug waters, they should first receive an overview about terminated interconnects, learn about two important electricity concepts, and then research the four primary types of plugs that connect audio cables with audio and video system devices.
Audio Cable Overview
Standard audio cables are comprised of two wire conductors that are encased in some type of plastic insulation. Audiophiles must consider audio speaker cable type, gauge, and most important, the type of connecting device.
Audio cables are divided into two categories: analogue and digital. The cables are rated by wire size measured in gauge, which is the diameter of the wires inside of the plastic insulation. Wires that possess large diameters handle greater current loads than smaller diameter cables. Low gauge measurements mean thicker wire and a higher capacity to carry current. Gauge requirements vary due to audio cable length. Every metre in audio cable length translates to increased electrical resistance.
Here is a chart that matches audio cable length with the correct gauge of cable.
Less than 25 m
Between 25 and 65 m
Greater than 65 m
Audio cables that must install behind walls or under floors, such as stages, should have gauge ratings for this specific purpose. Always check audio cable labels for gauge ratings.
Audiophiles determine the type of speaker connection options by analysing the speaker cable terminals on the receiver and speaker. Attachment of the cables can be done with spring clips or five-way binding posts. Spring clips utilise a clamp designed to accept bare wire and pin connectors. While bare wire can provide the cleanest sound, many audio experts prefer five-way binding posts that secure connections through the use of plugs.
Two Important Electricity Concepts
Terminal interconnect plugs ensure electrical currents run unabated through audio cables to each audio system component. Two electricity principles influence how efficiently plugs perform their jobs.
Audio technicians describe the skin effect as the level of efficiency that electrons move along wire and interconnect surfaces. The skin effect does not have much of an impact on sound quality between 20 and 20,000 Hz, but the skin effect can negatively impact sound quality outside of that frequency range. Silver-coated copper terminated interconnect plugs are the most sensitive type of plug to the skin effect.
Type of Wire
Strand jumping occurs when the electrons moving along a single wire jump from one wire strand to another wire strand. This phenomenon causes significant audio disruption because the speakers do not receive an adequate amount of electrical impulses. Stranded wires do a better job of mitigating strand jumping than the other type of wire, solid core. Banana plugs represent the best plugs to buy for preventing strand jumping.
Types of Terminated Interconnect Plugs
Audio cables connect the electronic components of a stereo or home cinema system. Audiophiles must choose the right cables to enhance the audio quality of their systems, as well as understand the varied connection methods. Terminated interconnects typically utilise plugs to connect the audio cable wires to the speaker or receiver electrical terminal. There are four primary types of plugs to consider, with each one providing unique advantages.
Banana plugs have banana-shaped prongs that secure speaker wires. Because of the elongated shape, more of the audio cable can be stripped, and thus, banana plugs form a strong electrical connection between cable and speakers. Banana plugs are easy to plug and unplug from most speakers. Audio systems that require behind-the-wall installations require the use of wall plates, which include jacks that only securely fit banana plugs. Moreover, banana plugs enhance the appearance of the wiring that attaches speakers to receivers. Many audiophiles believe banana plugs are the most reliable way to connect amplifiers with receivers.
Audiophiles who select the five-way binding post method of connecting audio system components should consider silver-plated spades to ensure secure cable connections. Pure silver possesses the highest level of electrical and thermal properties. Silver also has the lowest contact resistance of any other metal used to construct audio cable wires. Gold and copper spade plugs prevent oxidation, but the metals do not come close to conducting electricity with the efficiency demonstrated by silver. Spade plugs are shorter than banana plugs, which means there is less bare wire to secure. Spade plugs are typically used on single-conductor wires, such as the wires used to attach audio system components. The plugs are not as effective with home cinema systems or elaborate audio productions, such as for live music acts. Audiophiles either solder or attached stripped conductor wires to the spade plug.
When high-fidelity systems began to appear in homes during the 1960s, RCA connectors replaced the three-quarter centimetre phone connectors. This type of plug, which is often referred to as a phono or cinch connector, is commonly used to carry audio and video signals. Perfectly balanced analogue audio signals require plugs that contain three terminals, two for the analogue signal and one for grounding the electrical current. RCA plugs only allow for two separate connections, and therefore, are not suitable in unbalanced signal audio environments.
Most RCA plugs possess a standard plug on each end of the cable. The male connector is surrounded by a ring and is segmented to optimise flexibility. Audio devices mount the female jack, which consists of a central hole that has a metal ring encircling it. The female ring is smaller in diameter and longer in length than the ring that surrounds the male connector. The area between the outer and inner rings is typically insulated to protect against corrosion. Through the years, RCA plugs have been used for other purposes than originally intended. RCA plugs now secure power, RF, and loudspeaker connectors. The plugs have also been adopted as connectors for composite video signals.
XLR plugs are primarily found on professional video, audio, and lighting equipment. The connectors have a circular design and carry anywhere from two to nine connection pins. Professional music producers use XLR plugs to balance audio interconnections that include AES3 digital audio transmissions, such as for lighting control, low-voltage power supplies, and video clarity. Three pin connectors are the most common style of XLR connector and a music industry standard for ensuring balanced audio signals. Most microphones, regardless of size, come with XLR plugs. The plugs also connect amplifiers with larger loudspeakers because they possess a current-carrying capacity of 15 amps, which is most suitable for loudspeakers. Many rechargeable electronic devices operate with three-pin XLR plugs. This type of audio cable connector carries two to 10 amps at a charge of 24 volts.
Buying Terminated Interconnect Plugs on eBay
You do not have to travel far to find the right terminated interconnect plugs for your audio or home cinema system. Simply access eBay from your desktop computer or smartphone and analyse the sellers who offer the type of plugs that match your shopping criteria. Type specific keywords into eBay's powerful search engine to reduce the number of search result pages. For instance, type "new banana plugs" or "Neutrik RCA plugs" to shorten the amount of time you spend looking for the right eBay plug buyer. After you find the right seller, navigate to the seller's product page to review accepted payment methods, delivery terms, and return policies.
Search for eBay audio cable termination sellers who have earned the top-rated seller distinction. These sellers have established strong records for selling superior products and offering generous return policies. Moreover, eBay places customer feedback on seller product pages. Look for sellers who have received positive feedback over the past year and have earned high praise for selling audio system components. After you build a business relationship with an eBay seller, ask the seller if he or she runs an eBay Store where you can buy products directly.
Dedicated audiophiles enjoy talking about the latest electrical components and technologies. They rave about the latest sound coming from a speaker and how a recently introduced amplifiers projects bolder sound. However, rarely do the dedicated audiophiles talk about the importance of the audio cables that connect all of the components of a stereo or home cinema system. Audio cables transmit the signals that convert electrical impulses into sound. While the wires comprise an integral part of audio cables, the plugs that secure the exposed wires often determine whether there is full resonance or distorted feedback.
Consumers have many choices when it comes to plugs, but they should consider any of the four most popular types of plugs. Because of the long shape, banana plugs secure more of the exposed wire than any other type of plug. Silver spade plugs possess high levels of electrical and thermal properties. RCA plugs contain metal rings that ensure secure cable attachments. XLR plugs, especially those with three pins, are the preferred terminated interconnect plugs utilised by sound technicians and music producers. The complexity involved in finding the right plug for an audio system means some audiophiles should consult with electronics sales professionals to ensure they receive the best connection between their audio system components.