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Various Types of Audio and Video Cables

Updated: Jan 31

For those of you who are into audio and video (music, recording, live streaming, and even broadcasting), you're no stranger to the world of cabling. There are numerous types of cables available in the market, each serving different purposes depending on the hardware used. Sometimes, our friends tend to mispronounce the names or functions of these cables. In this article, we will explain some commonly used audio and video cables and their functions. Let's together explore the types of cables frequently used in both audio and video.


1. ADAT

ADAT, or commonly referred to as Optical cables, is often used to expand inputs on an Audio Interface that has optical input-output capabilities. To expand inputs, it's usually employed with an External Preamp. ADAT connections can transfer a maximum of 8 simultaneous inputs at a sample rate of 48 kHz. If you want to use a sample rate of 96 kHz, the maximum number of channels will decrease to 4 inputs.




2. FireWire

FireWire is a cable developed by Apple in the 1990s. IEEE 1394, or commonly known as FireWire, was first introduced to Macintosh computers in 1999. This type of connection flourished in its time, with every professional audio and video hardware utilizing FireWire connections. Here are the various types of FireWire cables:



3. USB (Universal Serial Bus)

USB is commonly found on various gadgets such as laptops, PCs, smartphones, tablets, and more. It's incredibly user-friendly. There are different USB connectors, including:


USB Type A, which is typically used on PCs, flash drives, external hard drives, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth dongles, and more. Currently, USB Type A comes in three speed variants: USB 1.0 (12 Mbit/s), USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/s), USB 3.0 (5 Gbit/s), and USB 3.1, often referred to as Thunderbolt (10~40Gbit/s).


USB Type B is commonly used for printer cables and fax machines. In the professional audio world, this type of cable is usually used to connect Audio Interfaces and MIDI Controllers to computers.

USB Micro B is widely used for older smartphones, external hard drives, and more. It's more commonly known as micro-USB. Micro USB also has


USB Type C is the newest USB type. Currently, USB Type C has become the new universal connector standard because of its reversible nature. Unlike Type A and Type B, even regulations in Europe require all devices to use USB Type C to reduce electronic waste and make it easier for consumers without the need for multiple chargers. Reportedly, Apple is one of the biggest supporters of USB Type C research. USB 4 / Thunderbolt also uses Type C as its interface, but it increases the speed significantly from the previous maximum of 5 Gbit/s to up to 40 Gbit/s, often referred to as USB 3.1 / 3.2.



It's important to note that the USB type is different from the USB generation. For example, a USB Type C connector that still uses USB2.0 bandwidth will have a maximum speed of only 480 Mbit/s.


4 . S-PDIF (Sony Phillips Digital Interface Format)

The function of S-PDIF is almost similar to ADAT connectors in that they can expand digital inputs/outputs. However, the S-PDIF connector can only provide 2 inputs/outputs (20 bits). If you want to use 24 bits, there may be a possibility of errors or what is known as Jitter (jitter is an error during the conversion of audio processing to digital).





5. XLR 3-pin

XLR was created by James H. Cannon and is sometimes referred to as a Canon cable. This cable has balanced connections because it consists of 3 pins (1 = +, 2 = -, 3 = gnd). This cable is essential for Condenser Microphones to carry electricity from phantom power. This connector is also often used for professional stage lighting due to its reliability and durability.




6. BNC (Bayonet Neill–Concelman)

BNC is often used to synchronize the sample rate between an Audio Interface and an External Preamp. Additionally, this connector is used in wireless system receiver antennas. The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) also uses this connector for SDI or serial digital interface, a protocol used for digital video transmission in broadcast or film production environments. The cables used typically have a 75-ohm impedance.


Fun fact: This connector is also used to connect antennas to televisions.





7. TS (Tip Sleve)

TS stands for Tip-Sleeve (Tip=Left, Sleeve=Ground), which is an unbalanced (mono) connector. This cable is also known as a jack cable and is used for musical instruments such as electric guitars, electric basses, keyboards, and more.




8. TRS (Tip Ring Sleve)

TRS stands for Tip-Ring-Sleeve (Tip=Left, Ring=Right, Sleeve=Ground), which is a balanced (stereo) connector. This cable is commonly used for headphones and speaker monitors that require TRS I/O cable connections.





9. RCA (Radio Corporation of America)

RCA stands for Radio Corporation of America and was created in the 1940s. RCA is also commonly referred to as A/V (Audio Video) cables because they often have a yellow connector for video, red for left (stereo), and white for right (mono).


It's worth noting that S-PDIF also uses RCA connectors, specifically digital coaxial. Unlike digital optical, S-PDIF coaxial uses coaxial cables for transmission (usually with a 75-ohm impedance), similar to SDI using a BNC connector.








10. MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface)

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. The cable technology was standardized by the music industry in 1983. It's typically used to connect electronic musical instruments to computers. MIDI works by sending command messages to the computer, which can then be read by the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software being used.


The MIDI protocol used today remains the same as it was since 1983, with communication only going one way from the transmitter to the receiver/host. However, according to midi.org, MIDI 2.0 is being developed and will allow for bidirectional communication in the future. Additionally, MIDI may be enabled for network communication and communication with each other.




11. RJ45 (Registered Jack)

This connector is a standard equipment in networking used to connect two or more communication devices (computers, routers, laptops, etc.). RJ45 is also the interface used for AoE (Audio over Ethernet) and AoIP (Audio over Internet Protocol). The provided bandwidth varies from 1 Gbps (Gigabit) to 10 Gbps or more. Protocols for audio networking also vary, such as Dante, Ravenna.



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