The world of audio cables is a little confusing. With digital audio cables, analog audio cables, conductors, connectors, and different types of wiring, there is a lot to wrap your head around when getting custom audio cables for your project.
But lucky for you, you just stumbled onto a manufacturer that can help you better understand custom audio cables. Cloom Tech will discuss the types of audio cables and materials, connectors, and conductors that they use.
So without further ado, let’s help you better understand custom audio cables.
Table of Contents
1. Audio Cables—Digital VS Analog
Let’s start with the most basic question that you may have, what’s the difference between analog and digital cables. Digital and analog are two major types of cables, and from there, the types divide off into more specific analog or digital cables. So let’s start with analog cables.
If you grew up in the heyday of CRT TVs, you might already know what analog cables look like. Those red and white cables that you would connect to the back of your TV are analog audio cables. But it was more than just the color of these cables that were different; they functioned very differently.
Analog cables, as the name implies, depended on continuous waveforms in their lines. These waveforms would transmit information throughout the wires and would power devices of your choice. Without getting into how waves work, they perform cycles as they move their way to the target. So if the sound or information coming through the cables is 200Hz, it produces 200 cycles every second. Many music purists still prefer using analog lines, even though they are inferior to digital cables in almost every way.
Now digital cables, as compared to analog wires, are a little easier to explain since they use a completely different type of technology. While analog lines use waveforms to send information from one device to another, digital cables depend on binary code to transfer data sets.
Binary code, also known as machine language, is all current-day devices used to work. Computers mainly use the binary system to communicate with other parts of themselves and easily display information. So instead of using waveforms, digital cables transmit information using 1s and 0s in specific pairs. The simplest example of a digital line is an aux cable, and an ordinary aux cable can combine the left and right sides of sound in one wire. Moreover, since digital cables consistently improve with every passing year, there is no pre-determined type.
2. Audio Cables—Varieties of Analog Cables
Since we already referred to analog cables just a minute ago, let’s dive a little deeper. As we previously discussed, there are no types of digital lines due to consistent evolution. On the other hand, analog cables only have two types, balanced and unbalanced cables.
As per their name, Balanced cables have three different wires inside them, which provide better clarity to the sound. The three wires – ground, positive, and negative, use phase cancellation to remove unwanted noise. Balanced cables can reduce noise thanks to the added negative polarity.
The signal runs through both the opposite and contrary wires until it reaches the end of the fence. Both of the wires pick up this unwanted noise at the start of the cable. But at the beginning of the wire, the negative polarity inverts to pick up the sound and then changes back to negative at the end. The negative and positive noise will cancel each other out, creating pure silence.
After reading about balanced cables, you can probably tell what crazy wires are. Unlike the stable wires, these cables are very different because they do not have a negative polarity wire. It essentially means that they are not able to cancel out unwanted noise from the end device. This problem is especially apparent when the cables are 20 meters or longer.
Unbalanced wires can’t take out the noise because they only have a positive wire, and that is it. The sound comes in from the start of the cable and goes all the way to the end. Now, if you’re wondering why people use this in the first place, that is because of some instruments. Various instruments take on a very odd design that requires an analog cable, and the noise is just an unwanted menace that people will have to bear.
3. Audio Cables—The Conductors
Now, you may be wondering what a conductor is. Conductors refer to the metallic string present inside the wire. All sorts of cables, regardless of audio or video, have these conductors in them. Simply put, conductors are elements that can conduct electricity effectively.
Other than common elements that can conduct electricity, there are also alloys and plating with different electrical characteristics. Plating is the process of covering a material, which is often not conductive, and coating it with a cloth. That is an oversimplification of conductors in wires.
Since we don’t have enough time to talk about the many alloys and plating metals, let’s instead talk about the raw natural minerals.
The Natural Conductors
Natural metals are excellent conductors, including copper, tin, gold, silver, steel, and nickel. These are some of the most trusted conductors when it comes to any electrical appliance. But while tin, metal, and iron are no longer standard cables, the show’s real stars are silver and copper.
Copper is the most common conductor in audio cables, and since it is considerably cheaper than almost every other alternative, companies prefer it to any other conductor. However, just because every manufacturer uses them doesn’t make them the best, as they have one major flaw: oxidation. Oxidation is very common in conductors and can somewhat reduce their effectiveness, and in the case of copper, there is a sharp decline in performance due to oxidation.
Silver is easily the best conductor but is also the most expensive one, and its excellent performance and ability to conduct electricity flawlessly make it a prime choice among manufacturers. That said, its electricity conduction is not why manufacturers prefer it over others, and they prefer silver because of its oxidation properties.
4. Audio Cables—Most Common Analog Connectors
Now that you better understand the components of these wires, we can get into the most common types of analog connectors. Let’s go over some of them right now.
XLR Cable Connectors
Another prevalent type of analog connector is the XLR connector. You may have seen this connector in your school or college, as it powers microphones. And while some come with ten pins, the more common ones come with only three pins. The significant difference between this particular connector and the RCA connectors is the type of sound they transmit.
RCA connectors transmit a stereo sound, whereas the XLR connectors transmit a mono sound. Moreover, thanks to the unique XLR connectors, you can disconnect live sound equipment without picking up external noise.
RCA Cable Connectors
Very few cables are as iconic as the incredible RCA cables, especially for Millennials. The white and red wires allowed for balanced output, and then added yellow wire could also transmit video. Sure it wasn’t the best, but it was notable for its time. Since a single RCA cable only transmits one type of polarity, either positive or negative, unnecessary noise will be. But with both wires, they can quickly negate the sound that would otherwise come.
TRS and TS Connectors
Musicians out there may be very familiar with our next entry, the TRS or TS connector. These wires are identical to each other, with the most defining feature being their connectors. The TRS and TS connectors are very similar to the 3-mm headphone jack but are slightly bigger. Moreover, the TRS and TS connectors serve two very different purposes. One helps transfer mono sound, whereas the other transfers a stereo sound.
Much like microphones, various instruments are only able to produce mono sound. In other words, Electric and bass guitars can only make unbalanced sounds and will require a TS connector. A TRS connector is the same as a TS connector, except it can produce stereo sound. The double rings on the jack represent the wires that are running through the fence. You may have seen this connector on your headphones, which is why they can produce stereo sound.
The TT connectors or tiny telephone connectors are essentially smaller versions of the TRS and TS connectors. You may not know about these connectors since people often refer to them as 2.5mm jacks. These are at least 50% smaller than the regular 3.5mm jack. But the smaller size in no way means that it is inferior to its bigger counterpart. The reason for this smaller connector is so manufacturers could save space. But with the universal adoption of the 3.5mm jack and much more reliable Bluetooth headphones, these TT connectors are few and far between.
And with this, we come to an end of the custom audio cables guide. Most popular audio cable manufacturers produce audio cables that can be more expensive than other cables, yet almost the same. So it is often best to have custom-made audio cables for your project; contact CLOOM Tech Today!