Cables are a critical component of a musical setup; they can be termed as vessels carrying the musical blood to the entire system.  They connect the stereo receiver with many other equipment like TV, stereo system, musical instrument or another device. To ensure that the signal passes through one source to another effectively, it is important to have a quality audio cable fixed in place.

In this tutorial, we will talk about the basic components of audio cables, types and how it affects the audio signal.


Basic Components of Audio Cables:

Audio cables have two sides of them, interior and exterior. Let us discuss them one at a time.

Center Conductors:

This is termed as the driving force of the cable and is also the primary component of the entire structure. Center conductors are commonly made of copper or sliver coated-copper. The gauge is also an important part here, the larger the gauge the better the efficiency of the cable.


The dielectric wraps cover the conductor as an insulator.    They are commonly made of foam polyethylene. These wraps play a critical role in deciding the ability of the cable to resist electrical current. This is an important aspect because, without impedance, there is a chance that speakers blow up. The impedance of the source and the cable must be same to ensure no deviation.


Just like its name, the shield is responsible to protect the main conductor from the extraneous noise that can hamper the signal transmission. The higher the percentage of coverage the more protection the shield offers.

Cable Jacket:

Constructed of Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC), cable jacket keeps the inner material safe.


These are the components that help the cable plug into different electrical devices like a receiver, speaker system, CD player, musical instruments, computers, etc.

Different types of Audio Cable:

There are mainly two types of audio cables available in the market; balanced (two signal wires and a ground wire) and unbalanced (two connectors, one signal wire, and one ground wire). Here is a further classification of audio cables:

Analog RCA cables:

These cables are around since 1960 and used for connecting old and new components. They can be used to connect mics, DVD players and others to stereo receivers. They are unbalanced and thus best for shorter distances. They can also be used for S/PDIF or Digital Outputs. 

Speaker Cables:

These are unbalanced cables used to transmit audio signals to speakers from a stereo receiver.

Optical Digital Cables:

Optical cables are the latest technology and transmit digital sound with light pulses; they have a dense shield from outside interference.

Coaxial Digital Cables:

These are another pair of advanced cables used for transmitting digital signals between components.

This was a quick introduction to different types of cables and their anatomy. In our next session, we will catch up about the different functions of the many audio cables and how they affect the sound quality.


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