The Complete Guide to Buying a Terminated Interconnect

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The Complete Guide to Buying a Terminated Interconnect

Recording studios rely on cables, also known as "interconnects", to sync various types of professional audio equipment, such as microphones to preamps. Interconnects of various styles and length allow input and output devices to communicate with one another. The terminators secure the interconnects that ensure the connection is consistent. The alternative to using terminators are bare-wire interconnects, but users must take extra precautions to make sure the devices do not lose connectivity. Buyers wanting to keep away from bare wires should become familiar with the dominant connector styles.

There are many other reasons audiophiles prefer using terminators, but like all technology, these interconnects have their shortcomings. Fortunately, with the integration of new metals, many of the disadvantages have been reduced or even eliminated. Buyers should have a clear understanding of the various types of connectors, differences among the metals used and what the advantages of terminating interconnects are to find the right cables.

About Terminated Interconnects

Devices synced by interconnects have either bare wires exposed at both ends or have terminations at the end. Simply put, the terminated interconnect is the physical link between the input and output devices. Professional grade audio equipment requires high-end terminators with a sizeable surface area that is optimised for applying pressure to ensure a constant connection.

Types of Connectors

Having the right sound equipment is essential, but if users do not have the proper cables, it does not matter how state of the art the devices are as they simply underperform. Therefore, it is essential for buyers to know about the five main types of connectors and how they link multiple devices.

Additionally, there are two types of speaker wire terminals: spring clips and binding posts. Bare wires are threaded through spring clips, and although the initial setup is secure, bare wires short out. The better option for connectors is binding posts. Terminated interconnects, with the exception of those with pin connectors, use binding posts to plug into. The chart below differentiates between the various types of connectors.

Connector

Description

Banana Plug

Single post interconnect; favoured for simple design and solid connection

Bare Wire

Most inexpensive option but has potential to fray and lose connectivity; only used with spring clips

Dual Banana Plug

Two-pronged interconnect, one for a positive speaker lead, the other for a negative; aligned and spaced to fit 5-way binding post

Pin Connector

Versatile interconnect that can be used with spring clips or binding posts

Spade Connector

Efficient connector that hooks behind the collar of many binding posts

Terminated interconnects are often more expensive than bare wire set-ups, but like other expensive purchases, consumers get what they pay for. Although the initial upfront cost of using terminated interconnects is more, opting for better quality from the start saves time and money spent repairing and replacing cables.

Metals Used for Connectors

There are four main metals that dominate the connector market. Copper conducts electricity well enough, but there are some serious drawbacks to using solid copper wires. Gold is idyllic, but its hefty price tag makes solid gold wires and interconnects impractical, but there are plenty of gold plated interconnects for sale. Rhodium is the most recent addition to the list of excellent conductors. It is similar to silver and often paired with silver to create a superior quality interconnect. Silver is perhaps the most beneficial and versatile metals available. While pure silver interconnects are an expensive investment, many prefer to save some money and purchase silver-plated models. The sections below give a general overview of the types of metals used for interconnects.

Copper

Copper has been used for speaker wires for decades, and although it efficiently conducts electricity, it is easily tarnished and oxidises quickly. Therefore, copper must be routinely replaced. Though copper is relatively inexpensive, the expense of these replacements over the years can really add up. Copper is often paired with silver for a vastly improved speaker wire.

Gold

Gold is another metal favoured because it conducts electricity well and has the ability to withstand corrosion. The biggest drawback to gold is the expensive price tag. Instead of manufacturing pure gold wires and connectors, companies use other wires that have been dipped in gold or gold-plated to fight corrosion.

Rhodium

Rhodium is the latest metal to debut in the realm of interconnects and wires. It has similar properties to silver, and it is an excellent metal for transferring electrical impulses. Like gold, rhodium does not corrode. Moreover, rhodium has low electrical and contact resistances, making it an all -around solid choice, especially if the wire or interconnect comes in contact with air. It is commonly used with banana plugs and spade terminals.

Silver

Silver is yet another metal favoured for its ability to conduct electricity. Of all the metals, pure silver has the lowest contact resistance and ranks highest in electrical and thermal conductivity. It resists corrosion and maintains stability in pure water or air, but it does not fare well when exposed to hydrogen sulphide, ozone, or sulphuric air.

Pure Silver

Pure silver interconnects are expensive, and with the cost of silver consistently rising, the price tag for these continue to grow. RCA and BNC have pure silver interconnects available. While some audiophiles think pure silver interconnects create the most pure sound, others find the sound silver produces sounds that are too harsh or brash.

Silver Coated

Silver coated interconnects are a simple and effective way to keep the silver interconnect prices down. Silver is often paired with copper or rhodium, and with the silver on the outside, users can enjoy the benefits of a silver interconnect and pay a fraction of the cost.

Terminated Interconnect Metals Chart

All the various metals have both advantages and disadvantages, whether it concerns price, conductivity, corrosion resistance, and so on. The following chart summarises the distinctive qualities of each type of metal connector.

Metal

Description

Copper

Inexpensive metal; good conductor but prone to oxidation

Gold

Expensive; excellent conductor and resistant to corrosion

Rhodium

Superior conductor that does not corrode; often paired with silver

Silver

Widely used metal; resistant to corrosion under normal use, and often used with copper or rhodium interconnects, but there are some pure silver models for sale

Sound professional should weigh the pros and cons for each type of metal used for interconnects. While no metal is perfect, the combination of silver with other metals proves to be a smart match. For example, silver plated interconnects are high quality investments at a fraction of the cost.

Solid Core or Stranded Wire

Metal wires used in interconnects come in one of two designs: stranded wire or solid core. Stranded wire is comprised of many thin strands twisted together. It is often considered inferior to the alternative because of "strand jumping". Strand jumping is a term that refers to the phenomenon of electrons traveling up one wire and then "jumping" to another nearby wire. While strand jumping can be potentially dangerous with high voltage wires, those who own home and professional audio equipment have a relatively low voltage range. Moreover, stranded wires trump solid core wire since the stranded design allows the wire to be much more flexible and durable.

Solid core wires are often marketed as superior simply because they do not have strands to facilitate strand jumping, but there are still other matters to consider. Solid core wiring does have one instance where it proves to be superior to stranded wire: transmitting high frequencies that are out of the range of human hearing.

How to Buy Terminated Interconnects on eBay

Finding the interconnects on eBay is a breeze as long as you know the type of cable you need. Enter a few keywords in the search bar to get your first results; be sure to include certain types or length of interconnects to narrow the focus of your search. If you find your searches yield only a few results, try removing keywords to broaden your search. For even more help, check out eBay's Search Tips page.

In addition to using keywords, shoppers also have the opportunity to sort results. If you are looking for a deal, arrange results from lowest to highest price; eBay add in shipping to ensure the list is accurate. Similarly, if you are searching for a pure silver or other expensive cable, list items from highest to lowest price. You can also sort by distance from seller, time left in auction, and new or used condition.

Conclusion

The argument for using terminated interconnects over bare wires simply comes down to cost and expectations of sound quality. Bare wires might be the least expensive option, but depending on the type of wire and exposure over time, the interconnect could fray or corrode. Buyers should familiarise themselves with the various types of connectors and the advantages of each; similarly, they should also choose interconnects based on the metals used.

Copper is the most basic and budget friendly option, but over time it must be replaced. Gold is an excellent conductor; however, solid gold cables are too expensive to produce, and many instead are gold-plated. Silver and rhodium share a lot of the same traits, and between the two, rhodium is the most cost effective choice. Audiophiles understand that the devil is in the details. Top of the line equipment can only work so well with subpar interconnects. Therefore, it is best to avoid bare wires and use terminated interconnects to ensure consistent connectivity and premium sound quality. Buyers with the knowledge of various types of interconnects and the metals used to make them can easily find the necessary ones on eBay.

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