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Common cable types

From: Digital Audio Principles

Video: Common cable types

So, in this movie we'll take a look at a lot of the common cable connections that you'll come into contact with when you're dealing with digital audio, and we'll look at a few of the different ends and plugs that you'll see. So, let's check them up. Okay, so let's take a look at some cables here. Let's start with a few balanced cables, and let's look at the XLR or microphone cable. A balance cable as we mentioned has three conductors, three pins, so this is the male end, and this is the female end of the XLR cable or the microphone cable. Pretty common, if you use microphones, this is what you are going to use most often.

Common cable types

So, in this movie we'll take a look at a lot of the common cable connections that you'll come into contact with when you're dealing with digital audio, and we'll look at a few of the different ends and plugs that you'll see. So, let's check them up. Okay, so let's take a look at some cables here. Let's start with a few balanced cables, and let's look at the XLR or microphone cable. A balance cable as we mentioned has three conductors, three pins, so this is the male end, and this is the female end of the XLR cable or the microphone cable. Pretty common, if you use microphones, this is what you are going to use most often.

Typically, this end goes into the microphone, and this will go into your mixture board or your digital audio interface. You'll see this again when we talk about the AES.BU Digital Standard, which actually is the same device. It uses the same cables, but it's just a digital cable, this is an analog cable for a microphone. Again, this is another balanced cable, and remember we talked about the three conductors, the Tip, the Ring and the Sleeve.

So, here we have that ring, so it's a three conductor cable. This one actually ends in an XLR format, so this can go into a microphone, and this can go into a balanced input on a digital audio interface. I should mention that this size, when you see this, that's referred to as a quarter inch jack, that's actually refers to the width of this barrel of the jack. This is a mini-jack, these are also balanced, or stereo--it's another way that people refer to it--but it is three conductors, Tip, Ring and Sleeve.

You can use that to connect your iPod to things or a small microphone to AV equipment, and things like that. Let's see, now here is an unbalanced quarter inch jack, just a Tip and a Sleeve. This is what you'll use to hookup devices like synthesizers, drum machines, unbalanced line level equipment, also guitar cables look similar to this, but you should know that they kind of have different ratings. So, buy guitar cable for your guitar and buy line level cables for your line level instruments.

Moving on, we have the RCA, or phono plug, this cable actually is a mess. This cable is actually a stereo mini that comes out to two RCA cables, but what we thing about right now are these RCA cables. This is a stereo pair, so if you have the output of a CD or your home stereo, VCR, you've seen these before. They're also used in the digital world for the S/PDIF Digital Convention, which allows one of these to carry actually a digital stereo signal.

So, on your digital audio interface you might just have two RCA inputs, but one is actually an input and one is an output for digital in and out. This cable is actually, it looks like a balanced cable to two unbalanced, and it splits, but it's known as an insert cable. What's important about this is when you use the inserts on your audio interface, or on a mixing board, is that you'll use this piece to come out of the mixing board or out of this end, and use this to go into the input, which one is the tip and one is the ring.

One goes into the input of like an external effects like if you have an external reverb effects box. This goes in and then that reverb box will have an input and then an output on the other side. This goes into the output of that effects box, but through one cable it goes out and back into the mixer or out and back into your digital audio interface. Now, let's look at a few more digital cables. This is called the ADAT lightpipe cable, it's actually a optical cable, when this is hooked in you can actually see red light coming out at the ends when it's hooked into a device, and we'll show you the jacks on audio interfaces and preamps.

Mostly, on audio interfaces that this goes into. This is nice, because it can carry eight channels of digital audio at once just in one lightpipe. That was developed by ADAT for their eight track digital recorders, the ADAT by Alesis. This is a fairly common computer cable right now, the FireWire cable, both ends are the same. You can use this to connect your audio interface to your computer, it's a two way cable, in and out. Also, fairly common these days the USB cable, different ends, but this also can be used to connect the USB device or your audio interface to your computer.

The other way you can connect things to your computers via a PCI card just something like this that a digital audio interface will come with at you, install this into your PC, into your computer, and then you'll hook another cable out to your audio interface. So, that's the PCI card method of connecting. Then there is MIDI, which we'll talk about in-depth in another section, but right now we'll just look at the cable. It's surrounded with a five pin, both ends are the same, and on the interface section I'll show you what the jacks that inputs of MIDI look like.

This is used to send only MIDI information, you don't really send sound over these cables, you send data. Also, let's move on and talk about a few different speaker cables. This plug is called the banana plug, and on some of the higher-end studio monitors speakers you'll get. You'll see two round posts on the back, usually a red and a black that you can screw bare wire to, like this, or you can push this into those two posts, there will be holes, and this banana plug will go into those two ports.

It's a quick and easy way to attach speakers and connect speakers. Of course, there's just a pair of speaker wire which--and this is for a smaller grade speaker--but if you're connecting studio monitors using this, you'd trim off the ends and just with your hands twist those ends so they are spun a little bit, feed them through and tighten down the screws like you do on your home stereo speakers. Finally, there's heavy-duty quarter inch speaker cable, this is just a lot thicker.

This is actually for use with a bass guitar amplifier, but you can find speaker cable that's thicker, they're using quarter inch balanced and unbalanced ends to connect your studio monitors to your audio interface. That all depends on if you're connecting amplified outputs to your monitors or if your monitors themselves are amplified, or active. But we'll talk more about that in the monitoring section. So, that's basically it for most of the cables. There's a lot more out there, there are a lots of little adapters and plugs that you can put on different cables.

All kinds of different configurations are possible, and you'll basically come across those as you need them. So, that's more or less it for cables.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Digital Audio Principles
Digital Audio Principles

110 video lessons · 26633 viewers

Dave Schroeder
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 50s
    1. Welcome
      50s
  2. 39m 10s
    1. What is sound?
      4m 15s
    2. Hertz and frequency response
      5m 34s
    3. Phase
      2m 39s
    4. Capturing audio
      3m 39s
    5. Sample rate
      6m 16s
    6. Bit depth
      9m 47s
    7. The waveform
      5m 3s
    8. Audio file formats
      1m 57s
  3. 7m 25s
    1. What is a digital audio workstation?
      2m 59s
    2. Typical DAW signal flow
      4m 26s
  4. 50m 33s
    1. What microphones do
      1m 57s
    2. Element types
      5m 0s
    3. Pickup patterns
      6m 51s
    4. Axis
      2m 52s
    5. Frequency response and the proximity effect
      5m 10s
    6. Phase issues
      1m 41s
    7. Microphone types
      8m 44s
    8. Miking vocals
      5m 39s
    9. Miking amplifiers
      2m 17s
    10. Miking drums
      10m 22s
  5. 16m 39s
    1. Cables and connectors overview
      2m 42s
    2. Balanced and unbalanced cables
      3m 19s
    3. Common cable types
      7m 13s
    4. Cable tips
      3m 25s
  6. 12m 16s
    1. What is an I/O device?
      1m 41s
    2. Analog to digital conversion
      3m 10s
    3. Tour of an audio interface
      4m 49s
    4. Interface considerations
      2m 36s
  7. 21m 5s
    1. What is a preamp?
      3m 21s
    2. Input levels
      5m 29s
    3. Padding
      2m 18s
    4. Phantom power
      2m 37s
    5. Phase reverse
      3m 4s
    6. Preamp demo
      4m 16s
  8. 12m 56s
    1. What is a mixer?
      5m 55s
    2. Input section
      1m 17s
    3. Channel strips
      3m 16s
    4. Master section
      2m 28s
  9. 18m 21s
    1. What is monitoring?
      2m 11s
    2. Speakers
      4m 47s
    3. Room considerations
      5m 43s
    4. Headphone types
      3m 50s
    5. Monitoring levels
      1m 50s
  10. 15m 23s
    1. What role do computers play?
      1m 36s
    2. Performance issues
      4m 11s
    3. Hard drives
      4m 38s
    4. Mechanical noise
      2m 10s
    5. Authorization
      2m 48s
  11. 6m 54s
    1. Planning for recording
      54s
    2. Doing a system check
      1m 26s
    3. Planning your inputs
      1m 42s
    4. The recording environment
      2m 52s
  12. 25m 52s
    1. Types of digital audio software
      38s
    2. Multi-track recorders/sequencers
      4m 56s
    3. Two-track recorders/waveform editors
      4m 55s
    4. Loop-based music production software
      5m 44s
    5. Plug-ins
      6m 56s
    6. Other varieties
      2m 43s
  13. 18m 59s
    1. Common components
      46s
    2. The transport
      2m 4s
    3. The toolbar
      3m 19s
    4. The Edit/Arrange window
      4m 42s
    5. The mixer
      5m 8s
    6. The file list
      3m 0s
  14. 19m 17s
    1. Setting up a session
      3m 30s
    2. Assigning inputs and getting signals
      3m 19s
    3. Input modes
      3m 28s
    4. Overdubbing and punching
      5m 14s
    5. Bouncing down
      3m 46s
  15. 19m 42s
    1. What is editing?
      1m 21s
    2. Waveforms
      2m 53s
    3. Making silent cuts and trims
      7m 1s
    4. Fades and automation
      8m 27s
  16. 1h 23m
    1. What are plug-ins?
      3m 0s
    2. Using plug-ins
      6m 11s
    3. EQs
      7m 4s
    4. Dynamics pt. 1: Compressors, limiters, expanders, and gates
      5m 40s
    5. Dynamics pt 2: Applying dynamic effects
      7m 2s
    6. Pitch shifting
      6m 14s
    7. Reverb
      9m 28s
    8. Echo and delay
      6m 23s
    9. Modulation effects: Phaser, flanger, and chorus
      9m 39s
    10. Sound tools pt. 1: About, gain, normalize
      7m 39s
    11. Sound tools pt. 2: Reverse and time compression/expansion
      6m 29s
    12. Sound tools pt. 3: Noise reducers, dither
      8m 11s
  17. 23m 43s
    1. What is MIDI?
      3m 6s
    2. Keyboard controllers
      1m 23s
    3. Computer-based virtual instruments
      1m 6s
    4. Control surfaces
      1m 6s
    5. Recording and editing MIDI
      12m 4s
    6. Virtual instruments
      4m 58s
  18. 27m 29s
    1. What is mixing?
      1m 54s
    2. Some common objectives
      3m 4s
    3. Some useful techniques
      5m 59s
    4. A quick mixing demo
      16m 32s
  19. 18m 48s
    1. What is mastering?
      2m 24s
    2. Sonic maximization
      9m 43s
    3. Final preparations and exporting
      6m 41s
  20. 13m 34s
    1. What is audio compression?
      2m 16s
    2. Popular formats
      2m 9s
    3. Bit rate, sample rate, and channels
      5m 42s
    4. Other adjustments and considerations
      3m 27s
  21. 15m 6s
    1. Essential gear
      7m 36s
    2. Voice recording setups
      1m 43s
    3. The voice production process
      5m 47s
  22. 10m 4s
    1. Analog vs. digital
      2m 48s
    2. Tube vs. solid state
      5m 6s
    3. The continual upgrade
      2m 10s
  23. 18s
    1. Goodbye
      18s

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