Everyone knows what a cable is for. But do cable connector components matter when it comes to tone or sound? Let’s find out.
Before we get too far into the post, let’s make sure we have the basics down.
What are Cable Connectors? – An Overview
Cable connectors are the ends or the “tips” of cables that connect the input and output devices that need to transfer signal. They’re designed to provide a consistent contact point and stable connection.
Most connectors are made with some combination of copper, gold, nickel, zinc, and tin. More expensive and higher-end connector alloys include silver, phosphor bronze, or rhodium, which can all have sonic advantages.
Overall, each of these metals brings its own properties to the table. For example, gold-plated connectors withstand corrosion more effectively because gold withstands corrosion more than most metals.
At the end of the day, it really comes down to what you’re looking to get out of a cable. If you’re looking for a cable that will transmit the best sound, then your connector components will matter. If you’re looking for something that will be durable and last from sessions to session, then the components matter less than the overall build quality.
Let’s get into some of the things to look for in connectors when shopping for cables.
What to Look for in a Connector
#1. Make Sure You’re Getting the Right Connector Types
First (and most importantly) you want to make sure you’re getting the right connectors for the equipment you want to hook up.
Some of the most common connectors for audio equipment include XLR, 1/4’’, RCA, and 3.5mm (often mistakenly called 1/8’’). These connectors all perform essentially the same function, although it’s good to know that RCA connectors can only be used for unbalanced connections.
If you need cables with mismatched connectors, that can be a challenge. Find a place with a lot of options will help you find what you need. You can always use our cable finder to find exactly what you’re looking for if you need a hand.
#2. Make Sure You’re Getting a Solid Build
The next thing to look for is solid build quality. Cheaply made connectors are more prone to fail. Some can introduce noise due to poor isolation, and it makes your cable microphonic – something you don’t want. If the solder points break down internally, it makes the cable unusable unless you can diagnose the problem and solder it yourself.
Make sure your cable connectors have solid solder points. This will make them more resistant to strain and wear and tear. Robust connectors have a better time handling the constant use of being on the road, some even having dedicated strain-relief components. They’ll also be able to withstand the elements better, especially changes in humidity.
Speaking of humidity, let’s talk about storage quickly.
Where you store your cables can have a huge effect on the durability of the connectors. Connectors stored in humid or ocean-coast climates are notorious for failure due to oxidation from the atmosphere. Also, wrapping your cables in the proper way can help ensure that the cable doesn’t break internally, and any fixes will be in the connector ends.
#3. Don’t Overthink It
Lastly, you really don’t have to overthink connectors. If you’re an audiophile, you can get into the detail on metal types and their effect on your sound. Often, these differences are inaudible to the untrained ear, so getting lost in the weeds when it comes to molecular properties and percentage of alloys is time better served towards more immediately consequential parts of creating sound.
Or, if you’re just looking for reliability in hooking up your gear, you can go with the more widely accepted industry standards and not think about it.
A good example is Neutrik and REAN connectors, which come with an industry-wide reputation for creating connectors that meet every demand. They are renowned for both their sonic transfer strength and reliable build quality. When in doubt, these connectors are a solid foundation to look out for.
To sum up, cable connector components do matter to an extent. You don’t want to use something that will break down after a lot of connecting and disconnecting. On top of that, you don’t want something that’s going to ruin your sound.
But finding the right connector doesn’t have to be a challenge. There are industry standards out there that are always solid options. Just make sure you’re getting the right connectors for your equipment and storing them properly.
Like everything in the music industry, you can go as deep as you want. There’s always the consideration of quality to cost, and how critical that is in your environment. The cables and connector types you might want in the studio for recording might not be the same ones you use on the road, or to practice in your bedroom.
No matter what you’re looking for, Hosa has connector components that will meet your needs. Check out our cable selection to see how we can connect your gear.