With so many different audio cables available, it is not easy to know the best one for you to set up, whether solely for listening or creating podcasts. Some devices only support digital or analog cables. In contrast, others are referred to as legacy devices that need access to older audio cable types and must also consider the cable length.
The array of various cables for audio production and enjoyment should not appear intimidating to you. Here, we will look at the different types of audio cables and why you may want to go for a particular kind of cable.
Balanced vs unbalanced cables
|Balanced cables||Unbalanced cables|
|A balanced cable has a design to avoid external electrical interference by using additional conductor wire inside the cable and they feature a pair of conductor wires and a ground.||An unbalanced cable will have just a single conductor wire and a base.|
|The two conductor wires in a balanced cable function together to cancel out any external noise that could interfere with or affect the signal and affect the audio data that the cable transmits.||Most of the cables used in the home are unbalanced.|
|Wires made for creating podcasts or professional tasks are balanced to avoid signal degradation.|
|It is essential to remember that you need all your cables to balance for a balanced audio system, and your devices also need to be balanced.|
It is advisable to keep all of your cables as short as possible, ideally less than six feet.
Types of audio cables for podcasts
1. TS Cables
TS cable, short for Tip/Sleeve, often referred to as guitar cables or instrument cables, is a type of audio cable you want to keep as short as possible because they always appear unbalanced. They let you connect to mono audio sources such as guitars, other unstable instruments, effects pedals, and drum machines to amplifiers, mixers, and audio interfaces.
TS cords are primarily available in ¼ inch sizes. Although, you will find 1/8 inch (3.5mm) TS cable used in devices like headset microphones. The ¼ inch TS cable provides better shielding and is a better option if you have want to avoid signal noise.
2. TRS cables
Although they look similar to TS cables, you can spot the difference because they have two rubber strips on the connector header, forming three conductors. TRS is short for Tip/Ring/Sleeve. These cables can either be balanced or unbalanced depending on their use, with a positive, negative, and ground conductor when used on mono equipment. TRS cables can also have two-channel stereo audio, making them unbalanced because the left and right audio channels use two conductors.
TRS cables are in headphones and headphone outputs on some instruments, mixers, audio interfaces, and studio monitors.
3. XLR Cables
It is one of the most iconic and durable types of audio cables for making podcasts. XLR cables are big and bulky, and as you may expect from such a cable, they are always balanced. It means that you can run XLR cables that are relatively long without the feat of signal interference.
XLR cables in devices, particularly microphones, speakers, public address systems, and specific instruments.
These cables provide an excellent way to connect these devices to mixers and stage speakers to guarantee a crystal clear signal, whether you are running a short line that is six feet or one as long as 50 feet.
4. Speakon Cables
These cables don’t see the need for use in the space for devices and are commonly used to connect professional speakers and amplifiers. Although they are usually unbalanced, they are still a popular alternative to ¼ inch speaker cables. They can lock in place to avoid accidental disconnection during live shows or performances. Often at times, they come with reinforced cable braiding to improve durability, reducing wear and tear.
You use these cables in high-current audio systems; you can use them for speaker and amplifier connections. Before they came to be, it was possible to use low-present microphones or instrument cables to connect speakers. The distinctive look of the speaker cable goes further to help them stand out from other wires of similar size or construction.
5. Speaker Cables/ banana plugs
Although they are similar in size to a TS cable, speaker cables are strikingly different in construction and design to connect speakers to amplifiers. However, they are more common in home audio than in professional instances. More often, they are used to connect A/V receivers to external speakers.
Though these cables can result in copper wiring, a popular way to make the connection more secure and neater is with banana plugs. These can be factored in with a banana plug wall plate in a home theater to minimize speaker wire clutter behind TVs or A/V systems.
6. RCA cables
These cables are a common feature of in-home A/V systems and are in DJ setups connecting CJ players and turntables to mixers. Like TS cables, each RCA cable has just two wires inside, making them inherently unbalanced, so it is a good idea to keep them as short as possible.
Although many devices will be able to connect directly to each other over a pair of RCS to RCS connectors, for otherwise incompatible devices, it is still possible to interconnect cables with different headers to bridge that divide.
7. MIDI Cables
They are used to send event messages rather than audio signals. MIDI is a cable standard that has been around since the 1980s and has been an essential component in the development of digital audio production ever since. Although USB cables can take the place of MIDI in some instances, MIDI is still a necessary component of many sequencers, synthesizers, and instruments.
This audio cable can be used interchangeably for MIDI In, MIDI Out, and MIDI Through connections and always comes with a five-pin connector. Some devices come with all three of these different MIDI port options, so which plug you fit your MIDI cable into will depend on where that device is in your audio setup. You may also wish to use several ports to send and receive MIDI messages to and from the same machine.
8. S/PDIF Cables
Sony/Philips Digital Interface cables are on mainstream consumer A/V systems, consoles, and TVs.
They are pretty antiquated in the consumer space, with HDMI taking the place of audio connection in modern devices. However, older machines can still gain from using optical, where HMI is not an option, or when an audio link is more desirable to ease setup and device configuration.
9. USB Cables
No doubt they are the most popular digital interface the world has seen. USB cables are seen everywhere on modern audio devices, equipment, and accessories, whether designed for listening or creating. They come in various sizes and types, with USB A and USB B as the most common.
These cables can deliver audio data, power, and even MIDI commands using MIDI over USB protocol. It makes them great for connecting computers to audio interfaces and synthesizers. In many cases, it can take the place of multiple cables where audio and MIDI cables are needed to have a complete connection. The new USB C connector has built-in support for audio, making it a popular replacement for the 3.5mm TRS connector on smartphones and tablets.
USB cables are, however, not compatible with some older instruments and accessories. Compared to some more substantial audio cable types, they are prone to damage after prolonged use.
In conclusion, the different types of audio cables can be either balanced or unbalanced. The unbalanced line works best when it does not exceed six feet to prevent interference that will distort its sound and alter overall performance. On the other hand, a balanced cable can be as long as 50 feet as it is more sturdy and durable.
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