A complete guide to audio connector types (2023)

by Sam SoundGear. Last updated on June 7, 2022.

When you think of audio and music devices, you probably think of speakers, headphones, guitars, and the like. While these devices and instruments are important, audio jacks, plugs, connectors and jacks are often overlooked.Adapter. Audio jacks are the key elements that hold the entire setup together.

Whether you configure youramplifier, connect your speakers or plug in the microphones, audio connections play a key role. Audio jacks come in many different sizes, shapes, and configurations. In this post, we will cover most of the basic questions related to this topic and by the end, you should be familiar with most of the audio jacks in the market.

Here's what this post covers:

  • Male and female audio connectors
  • Common types of audio jacks
  • Analog and digital audio connections
  • Symmetric vs. non-symmetric Audio

Difference between audio jacks, jacks, plugs and adapters

The term 'audio jack' is a general term referring to a component used to connect a wire, cable or device to another wire, cable or device. Audio components can be male or female and input or output. Although it is an audio connection, the plug is the end of the cable that connects to an outlet or port. Some connectors have locking mechanisms of different types, such as B. Flaps, blade locking or threading to prevent poor fixation and avoid accidents.

Eaudio jackis an opening or port that allows a compatible accessory or connector to be plugged into the socket. The jack is usually the stationary part of a gear that doesn't move very much. It is usually the monkey, but this is not always the case. If you are curious about the difference between a3.5mm x 1/4″ socketsWe have an article for that.

A complete guide to audio connector types (1)

Onkyo AV Receiver Connector Ports/Connectors

ANDPlug, which is usually the plug, is the part that plugs into a port or outlet. The audio plug is always connected to something. A common example of an audio jack is the 3.5mm headphone jack. This connects headphones or headphones to the 3.5mm headphone jackdigital audio player, some phones, a laptop or a PC.

Esound adapteror adapter is a device that can convert audio signals from one device to another incompatible device. An audio adapter often connects two incompatible devices. In addition to converting audio signals, audio adapters can take the physical form of one plug to another. For example, a 6.35mm adapter can be screwed into a 3.5mm headphone jack to make it compatible with another device.

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3.5mm male with 6.3mm thread adapter

If you were confused, I hope these definitions help you get a clearer view. Now let's move on to the next section.

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Male and female audio connectors

The difference between a plug and an outlet is simple. The plug can also be called a plug, and just like humans, the plug has a "pin" or "pins" that connect to something, in this case a compatible plug. The socket can also be called a jack and has a 'hole' or 'holes' in it to accept something, and in this case a compatible plug.

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3-pin male and female XLR connectors

I hope I made it easier for you to understand. Now let's look at some common audio jacks.

Common types of audio jacks

1. 3.5 mm Stereo Miniaperture

This is one of the most popular and common audio connections out there. Sometimes called a "headphone jack", it is also known as a stereo mini-jack, 3.5 mm jack or 1/8-inch jack. 3.5mm jacks are commonly used in portable music players, telephones and computer audio connections. It is also the most commonly used headphone audio jack.

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ATH-M50: 3.5mm audio box

The 3.5mm jack like the one above uses a TRS arrangement, which is short for Tip/Ring/Sleeve. A TRS setup is generally considered stereo. because it has two contacts that allow left and right audio channels. You can read more about other settings like TS, TRS, TRRS and TRRRS.

2. 1/4 inch/6.3mm female TRS connector

This is a jack commonly used in professional audio applications on keyboards, headphone jacks, pianos, recording devices, mixers, guitar amplifiers and other hi-fi equipment. It is also known as a 1/4 inch stereo jack, TRS jack, balanced jack, or phone jack as it is used by telephone companies to connect telephone lines.

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Sennheiser HD 650 6.3mm plug

The older 1/4" connector has a tip/ring/sleeve design like the 3.5mm connector. However, it is longer in length and also has a larger diameter. The 6.3mm connector can also come in various configurations such as TS and TRS. TRS is very common and is used for balanced audio orstereo.

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3. RCA jack (also known as Phono)

This type of connection is commonly used in most consumer stereo and hi-fi systems. RCA is an acronym for Radio Corporation of America, the company that introduced this connector in the 1940s. RCA connectors are also called RCA plugs, cinch plugs, or phono plugs because they were used to connect phonographs to amplifiers. If you use aTurntable with receiverand speakers require RCA connectors.

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These connectors are usually colored red and white, but not often. The red channel is the right channel while the white one is the left channel as shown in the image above. The colors are just to help you connect your devices and it doesn't matter if you switch them or use different colors as long as the same color is connected to the respective left or right ports on each end.

An RCA audio connection is used to send the 2-channel analog composite audio signal to the left and right audio channels. Although it only supports stereo audio, an RCA jack can also be used for mono audio.

4. 3-pine XLR

The XLR audio jack is used for many professional audio applications. The XLR connector was originally produced by Cannon and released as the Cannon X line. It went through several revisions to the Cannon XL and later the Cannon XLR, which is why it became known as the XLR. The XLR design is a cylinder about 2 cm in diameter and has 3 to 7 pins for plugs and holes for sockets. They are also known as gun cables or microphone cables.

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The 3-pin XLR connector, like the one shown above, is the most common XLR configuration. The 3-pin XLR is used for balanced audio to reduce the risk of noise or EMI interference and can also travel over long distances.Compared to TRS, XLR cablesConnectors are preferred for microphone cables, audio interfaces, monitors, mixers, PA applications and professional audio equipment.

5. TOSLINK/Optical

TOSLINK, short for Toshiba Link, is an optical interface for digital audio signals. It was originally designed for use with Toshiba CD players, but has grown over the years to be adopted by other manufacturers. TOSLINK is also popularly known as digital audio optical connector. The digital audio optical connector has one side square, while the opposite sides have angled corners, as you can see below.

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The red laser beam transmits a digital audio stream through optical fiber

TOSLINK is used to transmit digital audio signals between different devices. Audio formats supported by TOSLINK or optical connection are Lossless 2.0 PCM and Compressed 2.0/5.1/7.1 Dolby Digital or DTS. DVD-A, SACD or HD audio such as DTS-HD Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD are not supported.

With a TOSLINK/optical connection, digital audio signals are converted to light for transmission over the fiber optic cable. Although it uses fiber optic cable, the length of a TOSLINK cable is normally limited to 5 meters. This is due to the low power of the LEDs used in the transceivers.

6. Banana Plug

Speaker wire connections can become unreliable as they can become loose or tight over time, which will certainly affect the sound quality of your system. Banana plugs come as a solution. A banana plug is a connector that connects electrical harnesses, such as g. speaker cables, for a neat looking setup and overall easy installation.

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Audio Technica banana plugs

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A banana comes with a metal peg that resembles the shape of a banana. Banana plugs do not improve or degrade your system's audio quality. The main benefit of using banana plugs is to avoid mess and increase practicality. Connecting the plugs correctly may take some time, but connecting to your A/V receiver takes just 10 seconds. Ultimately, it's a personal choice to use the banana plug or not, but I think it's a good investment, affordable, and well worth the time and energy.

7. Speaker pins

Speaker pins, like banana plugs, provide a way to terminate speaker wire connections. However, unlike banana plugs, speaker pins have a straight and narrow profile. The choice of banana plugs, speaker pins or spade connectors depends on the connector available on your system. Make sure you have binding posts or spring-loaded speaker terminals.

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Monoprice gold plated speaker pin connectors

The spring clip works by pressing the clip in, inserting the bare wires or speaker pins and releasing. A spring connector only accepts bare wire connectors and speaker pins, not banana plugs or spade connectors.

Binding posts have a screw collar that unscrews to reveal the hole used to connect bare wires, speaker jacks, banana plugs or spade terminals.

Speaker pins, banana plugs and spade connectors provide convenience. Speaker pins can work with spring and tie posts, but banana and spade connectors only work with a tie post connection. There is no noticeable difference in audio quality when using either of these connectors.

8. Conector MMCX

MMCX connectors are mostly found on headphones and IEMs. MMCX is short for coaxial micro-miniature. They are small, as the name suggests, hence their wide application in headphones and IEMS. One headset we saw with an MMCX connector was the Monolith M1060, but it was updated after it proved to be problematic.

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MMCX or 3.5mm plug

MMCX connectors are universal, as is the 3.5mm plug. An MMCX connector fits over the MMCX connector and also allows for 360 degree rotation. In addition to its small size, suitable for use in headphones and IEMs, the MMCX has the added benefit of versatility. It's easier to swap MMCX cables to add new features like Bluetooth or a built-in microphone.

(Video) Understanding Audio Cables & Connectors

9. Conector SpeakON

SpeakON connectors are a very new connector developed by Neutrix. It is designed to operate professional audio equipment with inductive loads and high currents, and most importantly, to prevent damage from arcing if disconnected under load. The SpeakON plug has a twist-lock mechanism that locks it into a socket.

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SpeakON connectors are available in 2-, 4-, and 8-pin iteration designs. However, the 2- and 4-pin designs are physically interchangeable, allowing you to use a 2- or 4-pin design from the same compatible port or plug. SpeakON connectors are relatively new, but may gain in popularity over time due to their advantages over other speaker connectors.

Analog and digital audio connections

First, what is the difference between analog and digital audio cables?

analog cablesIt uses a continuous electrical signal that alternates the voltage between positive and negative in a sine wave pattern. For example, if the audio data is a 200 Hz sine wave, the audio signal traveling through an analog cable goes through 200 plus-minus cycles per second.

Analog cables come in two types, namely unbalanced and balanced. Read below to learn more about balanced and unbalanced cables. Common analog connectors include RCA, XLR, TS and TRS connectors.

digital audio cableStream audio in a language that computers can speak. The binary code or 1s (ones) and 0s (zeros) are transmitted as a series of voltage transitions. There are some digital cables that you may already be familiar with, as you'll find that more and more of them are being used to connect devices.

Examples of digital audio connectors include TOSLINK or optical connectors, MIDI, USB, and digital coaxial cable cables.

Symmetric vs. non-symmetric Audio

Many audio cables can be classified as balanced or unbalanced. It is important to understand these two concepts to improve the sound quality of your system and reduce noise and interference. We have a detailed post about it.symmetric vs. non-symmetric Audio. However, let's go over the important points to consider with these two audio cable configurations.

unbalanced tonecomes using an audio cable with two wires, one signal and one ground. The signal line carries the audio signal, while the ground line carries part of the audio signal, acts as a reference point for the signal, and serves to shield the main signal line. While it does a good job of shielding the signal cable, it also acts as an antenna, picking up noise and other electromagnetic interference.

Unbalanced cables typically use two different audio jacks. The standard TS (tip/sleeve) jack commonly used to connect a guitar to an amplifier and RCA jacks.

balanced ropesThey have three wires, two signal wires and a ground wire. The ground wire also protects the signal cables from interference and noise. The two signal cables carry the same audio signal, but with reversed polarity. A simpler way to think of it is that one signal line carries the (-1) signal while the other carries the (+1) signal. When the audio signal arrives at the receiving device, it is restored to its original form and any interference or distortion is changed and cancelled.

Balanced cables have two common connectors. TRS (Tip/Ring/Sleeve) audio connectors found on headphone jacks and XLR cables commonly found on microphone cables.

The main benefit of using balanced cables is their ability to reject noise and other interference. That said, balanced cables can last much longer without sacrificing sound quality.


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