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Is there a practical difference between using "microphone" and "speaker" cables?
Old 18th January 2008
  #1
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Is there a practical difference between using "microphone" and "speaker" cables?

Hello,

Is there a practical difference between using "microphone" and "speaker"/"audio" cables?

3/4 of the cables I have are the Cordial 222 cables. I bought them 2 years ago and since then I wasn't interested in checking what type of cables they are. As I read they are "microphone" cables.
CORDIAL CMK 222 SW - U.K. International Cyberstore

Can I use those cables to connect my soundcard in's/out's to the mixer? And from mixer to monitors? Or those are bad cables? And I should use the "speaker" or "audio" cables?
Old 18th January 2008
  #2
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Blast9's Avatar
Speaker cables are designed to carry much more current and are therefore thicker...

Also they have 2 cores + and - and they are unsheilded

Mic cable are shielded.

Don't use anything other than speaker cables for amp >>> speaker

For mixer >>> amp or powered monitors use "audio cables"
Old 18th January 2008
  #3
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"Don't use anything other than speaker cables for amp >>> speaker

For mixer >>> amp or powered monitors use "audio cables""

OK - but why? Can you explain?
Cause it works fine like it is. What is the practical point?
Old 18th January 2008
  #4
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sd-cd's Avatar
 

And what about connecting synthesizers and samplers?
Old 18th January 2008
  #5
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christmasjones's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ds-ds View Post
And what about connecting synthesizers and samplers?


are you asking what kind of cable?

depends on the outputs.. usually instrument cable or unbalanced 1/4"

Quote:
Originally Posted by ds-ds View Post
What is the practical point?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blast9 View Post
Speaker cables are designed to carry much more current and are therefore thicker...

Also they have 2 cores + and - and they are unsheilded
Old 18th January 2008
  #6
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Blast9's Avatar
Thanks lol

--

@ ds-ds

Microphone signals are soooo tiny and weak you only need thin cables to carry them.

that's why its even more important to shield them to deflect external noise.

You're likely to damage your equipment and melt the wires if you use mic cables for connecting amps to speakers!

Audio cables are specifically designed for carrying audio signals... whether that be mic signals, guitar signals, keyboard/samplers/cowbell etc

I don't think there is a difference between mic and audio cables.

I may be wrong though, as mics and instruments/line level signals have different impedances.

Anyone....?
Old 18th January 2008
  #7
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Blast9's Avatar
OK - justr spoke to someone at Canford Audio who said that there is no difference between MIC and AUDIO cables -

THE ONLY VARIATIONS ARE THE THICKNESS OF THE CORE:

Anything under 0.22mm
= Definitely for mics

0.22mm and above are for mics or line level signals (or anything in between).

Also impedance does not affect cable performance... Capacitance between the cores or between one core and the shield does affect cable performance.

^^ Anyone care to explain capacitance? ^^
Old 18th January 2008
  #8
Quote:
Also impedance does not affect cable performance...
Damn!

I missed the repeal of Ohm's Law!


What's taking its place?


heh heh heh
Old 18th January 2008
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
Damn!

I missed the repeal of Ohm's Law!


What's taking its place?


heh heh heh
heh thumbsup
Old 18th January 2008
  #10
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Thank you Blast9!

And to the other guys - I do not know **** now. I asked for a simple answer Peace.
Old 19th January 2008
  #11
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Blast9's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
Damn!

I missed the repeal of Ohm's Law!


What's taking its place?


heh heh heh
Oh **** - loud and live on gearslutz! ... and its still only January heh

I think I seriously mis-qupted the guy from Canford (pretty sure he's called Mr Ohm )...

He probably said something like capacitance is th ething most likely to affect cables... I dunno.

All I know is I can use low capacitance guitar cables for line-outs/direct outs from a desk/interface whatnot, and the tone doesn't suffer....

So that must mean the impedance relationship must be between the instrument/mic/output device>-------------------------------------> and the input device, and not the physical properties of the wire itself?

^^ anyone wanna clarify this point? ^^
Old 19th January 2008
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ds-ds View Post
Hello,

Is there a practical difference between using "microphone" and "speaker"/"audio" cables?

3/4 of the cables I have are the Cordial 222 cables. I bought them 2 years ago and since then I wasn't interested in checking what type of cables they are. As I read they are "microphone" cables.
CORDIAL CMK 222 SW - U.K. International Cyberstore

Can I use those cables to connect my soundcard in's/out's to the mixer? And from mixer to monitors? Or those are bad cables? And I should use the "speaker" or "audio" cables?
Mic cables should be more properly called mic/line or audio level cables. Since low currents are being carried, resistive losses are not a concern and wire gauge can be modest. Since small or fragile signals may be involved cables are typically shielded to prevent corruption from electrical noise and interference in proximity.

Speaker level cables are typically heavier gauge to not lose power or cause frequency response errors interacting with the non flat speaker load impedance. Further the shielding useful for maintaining mic/line signal integrity can add capacitance that may destabilize a poorly designed power amplifier.

So use speaker cables for speakers and mic/line audio cables for mic/line level signals.

JR
Old 19th January 2008
  #13
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sd-cd's Avatar
 

Thank you!

Now I understand.
Old 8th June 2009
  #14
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so, for instance, if my monitors are self-powered, i shouldnt be using speaker cables at all? i've got an motu ultralite mk3, going into a presonus hp4, then to some event powered monitors. should i be using balanced 'microphone/audio/line' cables at both stages? motu-> hp4, and hp4->monitors????

i've been using speaker cables with these powered monitors for a few years and didnt know. you think it makes a difference?
Old 8th June 2009
  #15
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Blast9's Avatar
Well - speaker cable is normally unshielded 2 core -

Audio cable is shielded, and some is also balanced

-

Depending upon your setup you might need balanced cable to optimize signal to noise ratio.

Are your interface outputs balanced?

are your HP4 inputs/outputs balanced?

Are your monitor inputs balanced?
Old 8th June 2009
  #16
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nosebleedaudio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Qx_4Life View Post
so, for instance, if my monitors are self-powered, i shouldnt be using speaker cables at all? i've got an motu ultralite mk3, going into a presonus hp4, then to some event powered monitors. should i be using balanced 'microphone/audio/line' cables at both stages? motu-> hp4, and hp4->monitors????

i've been using speaker cables with these powered monitors for a few years and didnt know. you think it makes a difference?
Depends; how long are the cables? you should have more noise with an unshielded cable.
I would use mic/line cable, Mogami 2549 for example..
Old 9th June 2009
  #17
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Guitar Zero's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Qx_4Life View Post
so, for instance, if my monitors are self-powered, i shouldnt be using speaker cables at all? i've got an motu ultralite mk3, going into a presonus hp4, then to some event powered monitors. should i be using balanced 'microphone/audio/line' cables at both stages? motu-> hp4, and hp4->monitors????

i've been using speaker cables with these powered monitors for a few years and didnt know. you think it makes a difference?
If you have powered monitors, yes, you should be using audio cable, not speaker cable.
Old 11th February 2010
  #18
Gear Maniac
 

Thanks to he OP. Useful post.
Old 10th June 2010
  #19
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I want to double-check on this— if I'm using powered monitors, then Mogami Neglex 2549 balanced microphone cable is ok to use?

My understanding from the above posts is that that's what I should be using.
Old 10th June 2010
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by supertooth View Post
I want to double-check on this— if I'm using powered monitors, then Mogami Neglex 2549 balanced microphone cable is ok to use?

My understanding from the above posts is that that's what I should be using.

yes.
Old 10th June 2010
  #21
Gear Maniac
 

Can anyone tell me a bit about the difference between line cables that are tip/ring and tip/ring/sleeve.

All I know is I'm just going from my guitar to amp, or between pedals or to the mixer I should be using the tip/ring.

I also know that the tip/ring/sleeves are used for inserts.... say like a Y cable.

Confused, thanks.
Old 10th June 2010
  #22
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Blast9's Avatar
TRS is either:

Y cable for inserts - tip = send... ring = receive - this sends and receives a mono unbalanced sig

OR if a straight cable with 2 TRS jacks - for a balanced signal, eg from a balance output on an FX unit or preamp >>> a balanced input... eg on an AD/DA interface.

You'd need 2 balanced TRS cables for L/R signals... so cable 1 would carry the Left signal, and cable 2 would carry the Right signal.

FWIW

Balanced cable could be XLR >>> XLR or Female XLR to jack... or Jack to Jack
Old 22nd April 2011
  #23
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I'd like to know if there is any difference or advantage of using a balanced instrument cable over a balanced mic cable, for say, connecting a soundcard to a pair of active monitors?.

I always assumed they'd sound the same as long as they're well built. Most XLR-XLR cables sold are sold as microphone cables.
Old 22nd April 2011
  #24
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Is there a practical difference between using "microphone" and "speaker" cables?

Wow, I hadn't seen JR post here before. What he says should be made a sticky for all those "what's the difference" threads. One of the major names in pro audio design who can also write in a way that newbs understand. While still being careful to be technically correct. He could tell you exactly what this or that characteristic is going to do to a given circuit, but understands that folks like the op may not be able to handle the whole hayload.

I tried to give a JRish explanation of the purpose of balanced signals in another thread and of amplifier clipping and speaker power ratings on another thread. Which gelled for me after reading JR's posts on PSW.

Maybe someone could take posts like JR's here and put together a FAQ sticky. Just basic technical things like balanced signals, gain staging, signal flow, and such. Leave the kick mics and best $500 preamp to the fight it out threads.
Old 29th April 2011
  #25
Gear Maniac
 

OK here's a brief synopsis of cabling most commonly used in audio.

Balanced: means the cable carries the signal through a twisted pair that is not referenced to ground (it is called floated). When hum (electromagnetic radiation - usualy at 60hz) induces noise into the cable, it induces the same amount into each conductor in relation to ground. With a balancing transformer or an active circuit (called a differential amp) the noise cancels it's self out and you are left with a relativly noisless signal. This is called common mode rejection. Most balanced cables are three conductor (2 = twisted pair and the third one is a shield (which we'll get into in the next paragraph). Usualy this is either a 3 pin XLR or a 1/4" TRS cable. CAT 5 networking/LAN cable uses common mode rejection to stay noise free as well. Balancing becomes more critical as the voltage is lowered and cables get longer (mics at -50db MUST be balanced line whereas Speakers at +30db++ need not be balanced at all). FWIW, if either of the conductors gets shorted to the grounded shield the common mode rejection doesn't work any more and the cable becomes unbalanced.

Unbalanced: any two conductors that carry a signal. A standard 1/4" guitar cable/patch cord and an RCA patch cord are both good examples of unbalanced cables (speaker cables are unbalanced as well but we'll treat them seperately in the next paragraph). If they are carrying mic level (around -60db to -40db), instrument level (around -30db to -20db) or line level (around -10db to +4 db (a couple of industry standards home stereo & Pro audio respectivly)), they must be shielded. This shield keeps out RF & hf buzz (think lighting dimmer or neon buzz). This is called electrostatic noise. the better the shield (rated in percentage of coverage) the less noise. The quietest shields are foil (100% coverage) but it is not flexable and breaks down after a while. A tight braid shield is best for portable (non installed) audio.

Speaker cable: This cable must carry fairly high voltages (sometimes as high as 100+ volts) but more importantly carry high current. The guage needed is dependent on current load and length. The lower the number, the bigger the wire. Typicaly 18-16 ga is sufficient for short runs under 150 watts in the studio but guages up to 12 and 10 are used for high power SR systems. Too small of a guage will dissapate some of your wattage as heat (lowering output from the speakers) and in the extreme will act like a fuse and burn up.

One note is if your speakers are POWERED or ACTIVE then the amplifier is in the box already (as are the speaker cables) and all you are doing is supplying them with a -10db or +4db signal. As a general rule use balanced cabling where you can.

Impedence of the cable isn't really an issue at audio frequencies unless the terminating impedence is very high and the cable run is very long. Being fairly hi impedence, electric guitar cables shouldn't be much longer than 20' and acoustic instrument piezzo pickups (being VERY hi impedence) should be even shorter. About the only other instance where impedence is an issue is with ribbon mics (best to have a hi z preamp as close to the mic as possible - same with piezzo pickups).

Funny thing is, I'm known in the industry as J.R. (and am actualy a member of PSW (although I rarely post there)).

I hope this clears things up for the OP.

Last edited by Dogoth; 29th April 2011 at 06:06 AM.. Reason: Typos
Old 15th November 2012
  #26
to shield or not to shield. that is the question...

i have a really silly question, can i use unshielded cable from external mic pre like an avalon m4 to my interface (Apogee Symphony IO) i always have used shielded cabling but ive been told that using unshielded will open up my sound.
Old 15th November 2012
  #27
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Unshielded cab, otherwise known as lamp cord or speaker cable, is unsuitable for ANY instrument/line level audio connection. It allows any stray electrical or magnetic field to induce noise in the signal and gives you no advantage (nope, doesn't "open up" the sound). Because the voltage/amperage in speaker cables is so much higher than line level signals, the little stray noises induced by external fields are swamped and unimportant (ie you don't need shielded speaker cables).
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