What is an Audio Cable?
Audio cables are used to transfer analog or digital signals from audio sources to an amplifier or powered speaker. There are two categories in which these cables can fall under, analog or digital cable types.
Analog cables transmit information through a stream of electricity and have two types of cables, balanced or unbalanced that is used to transfer 3 levels of audio signal, Mic Level (balanced), Instrument Level (unbalanced) and Line Level (balanced).
Unbalanced and Balanced Cables:
Unbalanced cables have two connectors with two conductors and are connected to two wires, a ground, and a signal wire. These cables are, for example, used to connect a guitar to an amplifier. They are not the best at suppressing noise from outside interference and start with low-level signals.
Balanced cables, on the other hand, have 3 conductors in a connector and has 3 wires in a cable, two signal wires, and a ground wire. The reason for this is because balanced cables are best used to shield against any form of interference.
3 Levels or audio signals:
Mic Level – signals from your microphone. These signals are sent through a common microphone cable and are transferred to a Line Level using a mic preamp.
Instrument Level – signals coming from an electric instrument. The signal is sent through a cable and transferred to a Line Level by the use of a DI Unit.
Line Level refers to the signal strength portrayed with the use of audio equipment.
Balanced analog cables:
XLR Male: Connects to several hardware inputs and can be identified by its 3 pins.
XLR Female: Connect to microphones and several hardware outputs. These connectors can be identified by its 3 holes.
TRS: Connects both inputs and outputs and has 3 surfaces, a Tip, Ring, and Sleeve.
Unbalanced analog cables:
TS: TS cables only have 2 contact points a Tip and Sleeve, unlike the TRS cable that has 3.
RCA: RCA connectors are the most common wires used to connect CDJs and turntables to audio mixers. These cables also have one signal cable and one ground cable.
Digital cables record audio sound in binary codes, ones “1s” and zeros “0” and then this information is transmitted electronically. With the developments happening in technology, digital audio has become the more dominant format in which people record their music hence using digital cables as it means faster transmitting, transporting and copying.
Types of digital cables:
MIDI cables: These cables transmit digital information called event messages. These messages are instructions that give information about: ON/OFF, notes being played, velocity, aftertouch, tempo, and volume.
USB cables: These cables are found on MIDI keyboard controllers, audio interfaces, modern synths, and drum machines. Exchange of information between musical equipment and computers is made possible with these cables and also sometimes is able to transport MIDI information.
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