Connectors

Information sheets - Connectors

When you start on your Hi-Fi journey, you have to deal with connections. In order to save you from long moments of solitude in front of your future Hi-Fi installation, this guide will certainly help you find your way among the different connectors you may encounter on all hi-fi devices.

Some cables are needed for the network connection, others for audio or video links. They can have the same function but with different connectors.

The essential key is to follow the path of a signal. Indeed, starting from a source (CD player, network player, etc.), you must consider the out signal of these devices to enter another device (in). The connectors of both ends of the cable are often the same but they can also have two different ones, for example: a 3.5mm jack at one end and two RCAs at the other. By following the path taken by the signal between the two devices, you know instantly which connector belongs to which device.

 

You must also distinguish between three types of connection:

- Power cables
- USB cables
- Ethernet cables
- Analogue audio cables (RCA, XLR, 3.5mm jack/3.5mm jack, 3.5mm jack/RCA)
- Digital coaxial cables (coaxial, optical, BNC, AES/EBU)
- Audio video cables (HDMI)

 

You must keep in mind that each cable is a separate component of a Hi-Fi system. Their quality immediately affects the sound quality of a signal, whether digital or analogue. Price differences for cables are related to the materials used (copper, silver, etc.), the quality of the connectors and the shielding.

Here are a few examples of connectors you may see on a network player with a DAC:

Quelques exemples de connectiques

1- Power cable

A power cable, sometimes called a mains cable, is used, as everyone knows, to connect Hi-Fi devices to your electrical mains supply in order to make them work. A high quality power cable optimises the sound quality of the various components of your audio system and it is vital that good conductivity for the power supply is obtained. The connectors, conductors and their geometry provide good electrical transmission. 

Example: Audioquest NRG-10 power cable

Câble secteur Audioquest NRG-10

2- Information transfer table

A. USB cable (Universal Serial Bus)

The USB is an industry standard developed in the 1990's. The aim was to make the connection between external devices and computers easier. The USB is used for the connection, communication and sometimes to supply power between computers electronic devices (network player, converter, NAS, etc.).

There are now 4 different USBs defined by the data transfer rate in Mbps Mega bit per second or Gbps Giga bit per second (transmission speed):

- USB 1.0: 1.5 Mbps (low Speed)
- USB 1.1: 12 Mbps (Full Speed)
- USB 2.0: 480 Mbps (High Speed)
- USB 3.0: 5 Gbps (Super Speed)

There are 3 types of connectors for USB cables:

- type A-B
- type mini A-B
- type A

 

USB- type A-B

Used to connect two USB (a USB-A to USB-B storage device)

For example: Audioquest Cinnamon USB cable

Câble USB Audioquest Cinnamon

  • Computer ? USB A-B cable ? DAC
  • Computer ? USB A-B cable  ? preamplifier with DAC USB-B, amplifier with DAC with USB-B.
  • Hard disk ? USB A-B cable ? network player
  • Hard disk  ? USB A-B cable ? DAC,
  • Hard disk ? USB A-B cable  ? preamplifier with DAC USB-B, amplifier with DAC with USB-B.

mini USB A-B cable

Example: Audioquest Forest USB (A-B) mini USB digital cable

Câble USB Audioquest Forest

  • Computer ? mini USB A-B cable? DAC
  • Computer ? mini USB A-B cable? preamplifier with DAC USB-B, amplifier with DAC avec USB-B.
  • Hard disk ? mini USB A-B cable ? network player
  • Hard disk  ? mini USB A-B cable? DAC,
  • Hard disk ? mini USB A-B cable ? preamplifier with DAC USB-B, amplifier with DAC with USB-B.

 

USB A-A cable

Used to connect two USB devices (a USB A to USB A storage device)

Câble USB type A-A

  • Computer ? USB A-A cable? DAC
  • Computer ? USB A-A cable? preamplifier with DAC USB-B, amplifier with DAC with USB-A.
  • Hard disk ? USB A-A cable ? network player
  • Hard disk  ? USB cable A-A? DAC,
  • Hard disk ? USB A-A cable ? preamplifier with DAC USB-A, amplifier with DAC with USB-A.

B. Ethernet cable

An Ethernet cable is used to connect devices (network player, computer, audio server, NAS, etc.) to the internet network. The connectors of these cables are RJ45 sockets.

There are 3 types of Ethernet cable: Category 5, 6, and 7. This category is defined by its capacity to transmit data at relatively high frequencies (Mega Hertz: MHz) as well as its bit rage capacity (Mega bit per second or Giga bit per second).

Frequency/bit rate:

- Cat 5  < 100 MHz/ < 100 Mbit/s
- Cat 6 < 250 MHz/  < 1 Gbits
- Cat 7 < 1000 MHz/ < 10 Gbits/s

 

Note that higher category cables are compatible with those of lower category. Say that the network is cabled using Cat. 5, then it is possible to connect computer, a network player, an audio server, etc. using Cat. 6 or 7. 

Example: Audioquest RJ/E Pearl Ethernet cable

Câble Ethernet Aduioquest RJ/E Pearl

  • Network player ? Ethernet cable ? box
  • Network player ? Ethernet cable ? PLC unit
  • PLC unit ? Ethernet cable ? box
  • Audio server ? Ethernet cable ? box
  • Audio server ? Ethernet cable ?PLC unit
  • Computer ? Ethernet cable ? box

3- Digital audio cables

A. Coaxial digital audio cable

The coaxial audio cable is a digital audio cable used to connect digital sources (network player, audio server, etc.) to digital/analogue converters or to an amplifier featuring a digital/analogue converter. Indeed, the human ear cannot hear digital, so it must be converted into analogue.

A coaxial cable comprises a cable (central conductor) and two conductors. The central conductor, which can be single strand or multi strand, is surrounded by a dielectric material (insulator). This insulator is surrounded by a conductive braid (rolled aluminium sheet) called shielding, then by an insulating sheath.

Câble audio numérique coaxial

The impedance of audio coaxial cables is 75 ?. The connectors of these cables are RCAs.

Connection of coaxial digital cables – RCA-RCA 75 Ohms, for example the QED Performance Digital Audio coaxial digital cable 

Câble numérique coaxial QED Performance Digital Audio

  • Network player with DAC ? coaxial cable ? any source featuring a coaxial digital output
  • DAC ? coaxial cable ? coaxial output network player
  • DAC ? coaxial cable ? coaxial output CD player
  • DAC ? coaxial cable ? any source featuring a coaxial output

Used at the output

Coaxial digital cables – RCA-RCA 75 Ohms, for example the Wireworld Starlight 7 (RCA) coaxial digital cable

Câble coaxial Wireworld Starlight 7

  • Network player ? coaxial cable ? DAC
  • Network player ? coaxial cable ? amplifier with DAC
  • Network player ? coaxial cable ? audio video amplifier with DAC
  • CD player ? coaxial cable ? DAC
  • CD player ? coaxial cable ? amplifier with DAC
  • CD player ? coaxial cable ? audio video amplifier with DAC
  • Audio server ? coaxial cable ? DAC
  • Audio server ? coaxial cable ? amplifier with DAC
  • Audio server ?coaxial cable ? audio video amplifier with DAC
  • Source with coaxial digital output ? coaxial cable ? DAC network player with DAC

B. Toslink optical digital audio link

The Toslink optical digital audio link is used to connect digital sources (TV, CD player, network player, etc.) to a digital-to-analogue converter (DAC). It is an optical fibre carrying a digital audio signal by light. The main advantage of fibre optics is that it is insensitive to electromagnetic interference, thus ensuring optimum transmission of the sound. 

 

Used at the input

Connection of optical digital cables, for example the Wireworld Supernova 6 optical digital cable

Câble numérique optique Wireworld Supernova 6 

  • Network player with DAC ? optical cable ? any source featuring a coaxial digital output
  • DAC ? optical cable ? coaxial output network player
  • DAC ? optical cable ? coaxial output audio server
  • DAC ? optical cable ? coaxial output CD player
  • DAC? optical cable ? any source featuring a coaxial output

Used at the output

Connection of optical digital cables, for example the Wireworld Supernova 6 optical digital cable

Câble numérique optique Wireworld nova 6

  • Network player ? optical cable ? DAC
  • Network player ? optical cable ? amplifier with DAC
  • Network player ?optical cable ?audio video amplifier with DAC
  • CD player ? optical cable ? DAC
  • CD player ? optical cable ? amplifier with DAC
  • CD player ? optical cable ? audio video amplifier with DAC
  • Audio server ? optical cable ? DAC
  • Audio server ? optical cable ?amplifier with DAC
  • Audio server ? optical cable ? audio video amplifier with DAC
 
 

C. BNC digital audio cable

BNC digital audio cables are frequently used in the professional world such as recording studios, but it is not uncommon to find this connector on high-end Hi-Fi products. The BNC connector is a bayonet connector, it is thus named as it must be rotated to fit it.

The BNC digital audio cable is used to connect digital sources (CD player, network player, etc.) to a digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) or to an amplifier featuring this connector. The impedance of BNC cables is 75 ?.

Câble audio numérique BNC

BNC connector:

Connecteur BNC

  • CD player ? BNC cable ? DAC (with BNC input), preamplifier with BNC input DAC
  • Network player ? BNC cable ? DAC (with BNC input), preamplifier with BNC input DAC

D. AES/EBU optical digital audio cable

The AES/EBU digital audio cable is a digital audio cable with XLR connectors. This cable is frequently found in the professional world but the connector is also featured in high-end Hi-Fi products. It is a cable that is optimised as it has a stable impedance (110 ?), which can have longer cable lengths if necessary, without deteriorating the signal. The AES/EBU cable has a female connector at one end and a male connector at the other. 

Female connector/Male connector:

Connecteur Femelle / Connecteur Mâle

  • Network player ? AES/EBU cable ? DAC
  • Network player ? AES/EBU cable ? amplifier with DAC
  • Network player ? AES/EBU cable ? audio video amplifier with DAC
  • CD player ? AES/EBU cable ? DAC
  • CD player ? AES/EBU cable ? amplifier with DAC
  • CD player ? AES/EBU cable ? audio video amplifier with DAC
  • Audio server ? AES/EBU cable ? DAC
  • Audio server ? AES/EBU cable ? amplifier with DAC
 
 

4- Interconnect analogue audio cables

Interconnect cables are used to connect one source (CD player, audio server…) with an amplifier, a preamplifier or an audio video amplifier.

They are analogue cables. Modulation to a high level signal (line). It comprises 1 or 2 conductors and a ground braid used for shielding. The connectors are RCA (asymmetric) or XLR (symmetric). For lengths greater than 5 m, it is preferable to select an XLR interconnect cable to prevent unwanted noise and signal loss.

 

A. XLR

Example: QED Reference Evolution XLR interconnect cable

Câble de modulation XLR QED Reference Evolution

  • CD player ? XLR interconnect cable ? preamplifier, amplifier  or audio/video amplifier
  • Network player ? XLR interconnect cable ? preamplifier, amplifier  or audio/video amplifier
  • FM radio tuner ? XLR interconnect cable ? preamplifier, amplifier 
  • DAC ? XLR interconnect cable ? preamplifier, amplifier  or audio/video amplifier
  • Preamplifier ? XLR interconnect cable ? amplifier or audio/video amplifier

B. RCA

Example: Audioquest Big Sur (RCA-RCA) interconnect cable

Câble de modulation Audioquest BIG SUR

  • CD player ? RCA interconnect cable ? preamplifier, amplifier  or audio/video amplifier
  • Network player ? RCA interconnect cable ? preamplifier, amplifier  or audio/video amplifier
  • FM radio tuner ? RCA interconnect cable ? preamplifier, amplifier 
  • DAC ? RCA interconnect cable ? preamplifier, amplifier  or audio/video amplifier
  • Preamplifier ? RCA interconnect cable ? amplifier or audio/video amplifier

C. 3.5mm/RC jack

Example: Audioquest Evergreen interconnect cable

Câble de modulation Audioquest Evergreen

  • MP3 player ? 3.5mm/RCA jack interconnect cable ? preamplifier, amplifier or audio/video amplifier
  • Smartphone ? 3.5mm/RCA jack interconnect cable ? preamplifier, amplifier or audio/video amplifier

 

D. iPod/RCA

30-pin Apple nomad devices ? iPod/RCA cable ? preamplifier, amplifier or audio/video amplifier

 

E.  Stereo 3.5 jack input

  • MP3 player ? 3.5mm jack/3.5mm jack interconnect cable ? preamplifier, amplifier or audio/video amplifier
  • Smartphone ? 3.5mm jack/3.5mm jack interconnect cable ? preamplifier, amplifier or audio/video amplifier

5- HDMI video cable

HDMI video cables and carry audio and video. It is a digital link. They are used to connect audio video devices between each other, for example, a DVD or Bluray player to a TV set or to a dock featuring an HDMI output to a TV set or to an audio video amplifier.

 

Sortie HDMI

  • Bluray player ? HDMI cable ? audio-video preamplifier,     audio-video amplifier or TV
  • DVD player ? HDMI cable ? audio-video preamplifier,  audio-video amplifier or TV
  • Satellite receiver ? HDMI cable ? audio-video preamplifier,  audio-video amplifier or TV