Audio cables are one of the most controversial topics in hifi. After all, how much difference is that $5,000 set of speaker cables going to really make?
Well, that’s a topic for another post (or a heated debate on the forums). For today, let’s start with the basics and focus on the common types of connectors you are likely to see.
- Bare wire. Another term for “bare wire” connectors is “unterminated,” meaning no connectors have specifically been attached. Bare wire will get the job done, but as you may have experienced if you have tried it, it can be tricky to work with. The strands can get messy and it can be tricky to insert them into the speaker binding post and get a solid connection. You will go this route if you have a spool of Radio Shack speaker cable that you are cutting and stripping yourself. It will get the job done, but for your permanent setup, it is not recommended because:
a. They are tricky to work with
b. They won’t get a very solid connection, possibly degrading your audio quality. 3 out of 5 FleaCoins
- Banana Plugs. Banana plugs look like little pointy cylinders. Kind of like the actual fruit banana, only without the crescent-shaped bend. The real beauty of banana plugs is that they are “Oh So Easy.” All you need to do to hook them up is stick them in the openings at the end of the binding posts! Slide them right in and you are in business. This is great for when you are swapping speakers often for A/B tests, or if you end up needing to unplug & replug them in for any reason. 4 out of 5 FleaCoins
- Pins. You won’t see these too often except for maybe on really old cables. These are a small metal pin, that would work like a banana, only instead of inserting them in the end of the binding post, you clamp the post down on them as if they were spades. These don’t work well with modern binding posts as you won’t get a good solid connection like you will with a spade. Not recommended. 2 out of 5 FleaCoins
- Spades. Spades are fantastic. They are shaped just right to insert into your standard “5 Way Binding Post,” and you can really crank those binding posts down hard to get a very solid and stable electrical connection. These are the AudioFlea recommended connectors for speaker cables. 5 out of 5 FleaCoins
At the end of the day, the age of your equipment, and the purpose of the use will typically determine the connector type you use for your speaker. If you find yourself constantly connecting and disconnecting your speakers for A/B testing or other reasons, go with the banana plugs, otherwise stick with the spades and they’ll get the job done right.