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The Cable War
Old 10th September 2011
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
ArnieInTheSky's Avatar
 

The Cable War

So why RCA? Why TRS? Why TS? XLR? Speakons? Banana connectors? Why don't they just use TRS for all connections? Would that not work?

Not looking for any snub or angry remarks, I just don't know why there's so many different formats to do the same thing. Like, the world marking agreed on VHS over Beta. To go to CD after cassette (and 8 track too, that was a bummer. I never felt so manly like I did when I'd slam an 8-track into my Toyota deck.) Blue Ray was the awarded format over HD DVD... but for some stupid reason, we have multiple connectors to do the same job.

Please tell my why. Why do I need 130 cables in my studio when if they all used the same connectors, I'd only need 70?
Old 10th September 2011
  #2
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by ArnieInTheSky View Post
So why RCA? Why TRS? Why TS? XLR? Speakons? Banana connectors? Why don't they just use TRS for all connections? Would that not work?

Not looking for any snub or angry remarks, I just don't know why there's so many different formats to do the same thing. Like, the world marking agreed on VHS over Beta. To go to CD after cassette (and 8 track too, that was a bummer. I never felt so manly like I did when I'd slam an 8-track into my Toyota deck.) Blue Ray was the awarded format over HD DVD... but for some stupid reason, we have multiple connectors to do the same job.

Please tell my why. Why do I need 130 cables in my studio when if they all used the same connectors, I'd only need 70?
Hello..Not all inputs are balanced. (ie. RCA)..So TRS wouldn't be the best connector for all inputs..Cost plays a part in the manufacturere's bottom line also..Then they have the thing...consumer vs Pro...() As in, the consumer level ( -10) wouldn't normally be a cable run of long distances so unbalanced cables will suffice..Pro levels ( +4) normally longer cable runs at hotter levels benefits better signal integrity ( less noise, better RFI rejection,etc.)..XLR has more contact area so this connector os normally associated with Pro levels. ( TRS also...heh..)..Maybe someone else will give better advice..
Old 10th September 2011
  #3
Gear Maniac
 
ArnieInTheSky's Avatar
 

I know all this. If the connection is unbalanced, the TRS would work the same as TS anyway. Especially if they'd just agree to use TRS connectors on everything, the input jacks could all be set up for TRS males just the signal would be unbalanced. If it's cost, I would imagine producing 9 different versions of the same connector would be more expensive than producing a single connector. Your cost per unit would go down if you manufactured one model. Since TS and RCA can't provided proper signals for balanced cables, TRS would be the most cost efficient and it's really not that much more that TS to begin with. Signal integrity... not sure how much better XLR is vs. TRS.
Old 10th September 2011
  #4
Registered User
Basically - connector types are all about connecting the current carrying conductors we call wires. There are different types of wires required for different jobs: some jobs (like speakers) requires high current, and need thick wires. Some jobs use very low current (like mics) and can use thin wires. Some jobs use high voltage, and require generous insulation. Others are very low voltage, and don't require much insulation. Some jobs are very sensitive to external electromagnetic interference and require shielding in the form of braided outside conductors. Some cables have to be very flexible, where others can be permanently fixed, or relatively stationary. Some cables need to carry more than one signal, some need to carry radio frequencies higher than audio (e.g. digital), and some cables need to supply current for active equipment (e.g. phantom power, or tube mic power supplies).

So all these different applications need different types of wires, and different numbers of wires. And physical space available, and cost decisions all affect the choice of connector that can be used.

Obviously, competitive reasons mean that certain inventors and manufactors want you to use their patented product over somebody elses.

The other important issues are compatibility with the existing market - which tends to be based on historical usage (rightly or wrongly) because people need to buy stuff that works with the other stuff they already have.

And the other issue is avoiding pluging the wrong connector into the wrong hole. There is safety in using different types of connector for different applications. Nobody is going to plug a speakon connector into a MIDI port, or a Mic Preamp by mistake ...

It's a pain, but generally the market sorts this out by people voting with their dollars.

What annoys me the MOST is DC power adapters ... really wish a real standard would emerge there ...
Old 10th September 2011
  #5
Lives for gear
 
O.F.F.'s Avatar
 

Unlike TRS XLRs clearly show the direction of signal flow which I like.
Old 10th September 2011
  #6
Gear Guru
 
Muser's Avatar
The shielding on XLR is better and unlike Jack, there's a larger contact area. plus they are strong and when you push them in, they don't contact the other signals intermittently.

also on metal cased jacks going into a metal jack socket which contacts the case, the shield signal will always be making with the chassis. you can choose if that's the case with XLR by wiring the shield to the XLR case or not.

I prefer phono and XLR to jacks to be honest but phono are more for fixed installation.
Old 10th September 2011
  #7
Gear Maniac
 
ArnieInTheSky's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
Basically - connector types are all about connecting the current carrying conductors we call wires. There are different types of wires required for different jobs: some jobs (like speakers) requires high current, and need thick wires. Some jobs use very low current (like mics) and can use thin wires. Some jobs use high voltage, and require generous insulation. Others are very low voltage, and don't require much insulation. Some jobs are very sensitive to external electromagnetic interference and require shielding in the form of braided outside conductors. Some cables have to be very flexible, where others can be permanently fixed, or relatively stationary. Some cables need to carry more than one signal, some need to carry radio frequencies higher than audio (e.g. digital), and some cables need to supply current for active equipment (e.g. phantom power, or tube mic power supplies).

So all these different applications need different types of wires, and different numbers of wires. And physical space available, and cost decisions all affect the choice of connector that can be used.

Obviously, competitive reasons mean that certain inventors and manufactors want you to use their patented product over somebody elses.

The other important issues are compatibility with the existing market - which tends to be based on historical usage (rightly or wrongly) because people need to buy stuff that works with the other stuff they already have.

And the other issue is avoiding pluging the wrong connector into the wrong hole. There is safety in using different types of connector for different applications. Nobody is going to plug a speakon connector into a MIDI port, or a Mic Preamp by mistake ...

It's a pain, but generally the market sorts this out by people voting with their dollars.

What annoys me the MOST is DC power adapters ... really wish a real standard would emerge there ...
I'm not confusing the cables with the connectors. I would maybe agree with say, using a standard connector for all low impedance cables but even there, XLR, Banana, Speakon? There's arguments for all sides but there's no real solid reason to use one or the other. For every debate about how a Speakon isn't going to let go, there's someone else saying if the cable gets yoinked, the whole cab comes flying down instead of the cable being pulled out. It's small bickering on both ends imo and in the end, they both work, so let's all just pick one and use it. That way when I take one set of speakers out to a gig, and then the next night I need a different set of speakers, I don't need to find those other cables to do the same job.

As for RCA, my instruments, my processors, in's and out's on the console, in's on the DI's, they are all 1/4 inch. Why still RCA on some odd ball pieces of gear? To accommodate those old designs? That doesn't make sense. People aren't selling 8-tracks any more to accommodate those fans. It's time to move on.

When you say the inventors and manufacturers want you to buy, this is the only reason I see having multiple connections but that's for the wrong reasons. I want what's most efficient and compatible, not what someone else thinks I should use because of some trinket like, "It locks in!" If you have a problem with your cables popping out, tuck them away and stop pulling on them. Or how about the invention of the cable lock as opposed to, need separate cable ends and receptacles for this guy.

Anyway... more or less just me steaming but I really haven't heard a good enough reason to have so many different types of connectors.
Old 10th September 2011
  #8
Gear Maniac
 
kheftel's Avatar
 

xkcd: Standards
Old 10th September 2011
  #9
Lives for gear
 
ddageek's Avatar
 

RCA
cost pennies, cheap, think consumer
1/4
Can fit alot in small space, switching jacks are easy to make,

XLR
Locking everything you said

The next are designed for high current

Bananna /5 ways/ spade
Cheap easy to switch polarity can be either friction fit or wrenched tight, 5 ways can use Bare wire in a pinch.

Speakon
Locking, hard to screw up a quad amp system ( we old guys remember bananas and 1/4 )

Every connector has a purpose, you have to think beyond "YOU" and look at it from a manufacture/ Designer, installer , support , and end user stand point!
I know consultants some won't speck a line level piece with out 1/4 others demand XLR. These are powerful guys who spec huge systems, you going to piss either group off? A couple of buck to get your gear in systems by both groups worth it's weight in gold !

I also remember when almost all DJ boards were all RCA, a couple of guys wouldn't spec them, so they added XLR and 1/4pm , didn't change any thing but the Jacks.
Alot of DJs cried because they took away the RCAs, so now alot have a tone of jacks !
Old 10th September 2011
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by ArnieInTheSky View Post
So why RCA? Why TRS? Why TS? XLR? Speakons? Banana connectors? Why don't they just use TRS for all connections? Would that not work?

Not looking for any snub or angry remarks, I just don't know why there's so many different formats to do the same thing. Like, the world marking agreed on VHS over Beta. To go to CD after cassette (and 8 track too, that was a bummer. I never felt so manly like I did when I'd slam an 8-track into my Toyota deck.) Blue Ray was the awarded format over HD DVD... but for some stupid reason, we have multiple connectors to do the same job.

Please tell my why. Why do I need 130 cables in my studio when if they all used the same connectors, I'd only need 70?
Because these things evolve, in large part. Sure, there are standards committees and they occasionally agree on standards and even more occasionally, those standards are actually adopted -- or adopted for a while.

Sometimes a connector originally puposed to one use will become popular for other reasons. XLR's became popular for many pro uses because they locked. Because of that, they came into use for both balanced mic signal runs -- but also for use with speaker cables. You wouldn't want to use a mic cable for a speaker run -- although you can, sorta -- but those connectors work very nicely and might well save a power amp if the XLR keeps a speaker from accidentally coming unpatched.

However, XLR's are bulky and more expensive. The 1/4" TRS connectors originally purposed primarily for stereo headphone connections (and also communications headsets where the third connector was used for a mic instead of another PB channel) began to be used on small format/less expensive gear. (And that was accelerated when hybrid 1/4" TRS/XLR connectors appeared on some gear, increasing flexibility.)


Other connectors and uses similarly evolved. It's safe to say that many connectors were probably designed for a single purpose -- but designing and fabricating connector manufacturing gear is expensive, and it's often cheaper and easier to find a connector/cable that will work for a given purpose and use that -- even if it adds to the profusion and confusion of cable uses.
Old 13th September 2011
  #11
500 series nutjob
 
pan60's Avatar
 

i think we used all be using barrier strips.

i like them, never did like seeing those beauties slip away.
Old 13th September 2011
  #12
Gear Nut
 

Others have touched on some individual points, but there are many good reasons why certain connectors are used in certain situations.
Locking
Current capacity
Safe disconnect under load
Pin contact order
Cost
Size
Number of pins/convenience

I think you're forgetting manufacture's cater to a whole other group of people who take their gear on the road. These connectors need to survive countless miles banging around in the back of a semi, as well as stay put in racks, because rewiring multiple sealed amp/processing racks at every venue is unacceptable. There needs to be an as-foolproof-as-possible standard for the countless strangers who will be handling your rig, which is why each application has its own standard.
"lol idk it just fell out" is a completely unacceptable excuse for interrupted signal flow during a high-profile event.

If I had to wire multi-box multi-way systems with TRS, or worse, banana jacks, I would not be doing live sound.
Old 13th September 2011
  #13
Actually, the reason XLR is used over TRS in some cases is that when a TRS is inserted into a connector with +48V, the tip of the plug will momentarily connect with the ring contact in the socket, while the ring of the plug touches the sleeve contact. This short-circuits the phantom power supply by bridging the +48V line straight to the ground and, although most phantom power supplies can handle it, the resulting voltage spike can cause great damage to the input preamp(s) of your audio desk or high-end mic Pre's. The pre-amp input stage can be damaged right off the bat (particularly with older types of electronically balanced inputs) but, it is more normal to find a gradual degradation in performance as various circuit components deteriorate.

http://www.misterpatchbay.com/Patchb...chbay-FAQ.html
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