What is the difference between a phono cable and an interconnect cable?

What is the difference between a phono cable and an interconnect cable?

In the audio domain, there exists different types of cables that are adapted for different Hi-Fi devices. In analogue, there exists two main types of cables: phono cables and interconnect cables. These cables have various connectors (RCA, XLR, DIN…). maPlatine.com explains the differences between these two categories of cables.     

1. What is the purpose of a phono cable?

A phono cable is made for impedances from 10 ohms and under 0,2 millivolt! This phono cable has to have a very low capacitance (under 80 pF by meter) and low resistance.

A phono cable serves to connect the tonearm of a turntable to a phono preamp. This is the case in most Hi-Fi set-ups with a vinyl system. Indeed, it is possible that your Hi-Fi device to which you connect your turntable already has a phono input, and in consequence, you can use a phono cable to connect your turntable to your Hi-Fi device (amplifier, etc.).

Transparent The Musiclink Plus phono cable

But this is very rare because amplifiers offer a phono input that does not enable you to fully exploit your analogue source and especially if you want to install a low output MC cartridge on your turntable. This is why you will most certainly need to add a phono preamplifier to your system in order to be able to use your vinyl turntable. The phono cable will therefore come in between the tonearm of the turntable and the phono preamp.

Lehmann Audio BLACK CUBE phono preamplifier

The phono cable is offered with various connectors: RCA/RCA, straight DIN/RCA, L shape DIN /RCA...

Connectors of phono cables

2. What is the purpose of an interconnect cable?

If you therefore own a phono preamp, you will need another cable to connect your phono stage to an amplifier. In order to do this, you will need an interconnect cable. Interconnect cables are also offered with various connectors: RCA, XLR, DIN, etc.

Connectors of interconnect cables

An interconnect cable is made for high output sources. They are often resistant, capacitive, and transmit a signal superior to 1V RMS and an impedance of more than 10,000 ohms up to 47,000 ohms.

Tellurium Q Black interconnect cable

An interconnect cable can also be used in another set-up. Indeed, if you own a turntable that has an integrated RIAA preamplifier (ex: Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB HC turntable or Pro-Ject Debut III Record Master manual turntable), all you need is an interconnect cable to connect your turntable to an amplifier or all other Hi-Fi devices. With this record player model, you no longer need a phono cable!

Pro-Ject Debut III Record Master manual turntable

3. In summary…

As you understand, the connection of a Hi-Fi system must respect technical rules. You therefore need to use the correct cable in the correct place in your set-up.

Diagram How to connect a turntable

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We hope that these few explanations will help you understand the difference between a phono cable and an interconnect cable. For more information, do not hesitate to contact our technicians by phone (0033 299 654 163) or by email (contact-inter@maplatine.com).