Many audiophiles believe cables can have a huge impact on the sound quality of any device. In many modern devices, there are multiple ports installed either in the front or at the rear end of the device, sometimes both. Each of the port serves a different purpose like there are some ports dedicated to Display which includes (DP, RCA, and HDMI); for Audio (3.5mm or 6.3mm audio ports); for data transfer, you get (USB 3.0 or USB A, C ) and lastly for internet connectivity you have (Ethernet port).
All of these ports are crucial in any type of device. Since here we are referring to speakers there's one more cable to consider apart from all these cable ports i.e coaxial port "coax" for short. No device can go by without including coaxial ports in them.
Coaxial ports are the oldest format in ports but are still trusted and included in modern devices. Many speaker manufacturers rely on coax cables for various types of data transfer. Hence, coaxial cables still stand out in modern age gadgets or devices.
Even though there are plenty of the latest and faster cable options available, why still choose coaxial cable? Well, this is exactly what you will know in this post. Here, you will understand why coax is so reliable and how these types of cables work?
What is a Coaxial Cable?
In layman's terms, a coaxial cable is an electrical cable by which audio and video connections can be made. They have been a vital component in many videos and audio setups, even in today's time. These cables carry TV networks from various distributors to individual homes, sometimes referred to as 'Cable TV'.
The coax cable works to convert RF(Radiofrequency) signals into input signals. The RF range is present between the upper end of the audio spectrum and the lower end of the infrared spectrum, which goes from 20000 Hz to 300GHz. In addition to being an audio-video transmitting cable, it is also used as a speaker cable that can also be used in Ethernet modems, TV antennae, and cable boxes.
As far as history is concerned, these cables have been in use for more than a century as they were first used in 1858, but the technology was not quite popular back then. Right after it got its patent rights in 1880, almost 22 years after its first use, coaxial cables became the new standard of transmission in every household and office. The construction of the coax wires was very rigid and practical, which helped it become immune to signal interference and suitable for carrying signals over long distances.
Its overall construction coined the term 'Coaxial'. The core of the cable i.e the inner conductor and the copper coated woven shielding, share the same axis, making them coaxial. Hence, the name.
To prevent shocks or currents, these cables are wrapped in a plastic jacket that is an insulator. After all, a coax cable is an electrical cable that transmits RF signals and RF signals produce currents; hence, they are protected with heavy plastic sheaths.
Coaxial cables are always black and cylindrical in appearance. The thickness varies, but the structure remains the same in all coax wires. Every coax cable has these key elements: core conductor, dielectric insulator, metallic copper shield, and plastic jacket.
Materials of a Coaxial Cable
Materials used in each coax cable depend on the individual component. The first center copper rod, also known as a core conductor, is designed with copper-plated steel, if not this, then stranded copper can also be used.
The core conductor is wrapped by an electric insulator which is made of materials like solid plastic, foam plastic, etc.
For the shielding, woven or braided copper wires are used. Moreover, in the case of high-quality coaxial cable, the shielding might have aluminum foil along with braided copper wire or copper wire alone. Two-layer shielding is good in one way as it improves the performance and better signal transmission, but on the other hand, it makes the cable thick and non-malleable.
The last layer of the coaxial cable is the jacket commonly made with PVC material. The purpose of use decides the material of the coat. Sometimes they are made with fire, UV, oxidation, or water-resistant materials. You get different materials for outer sheath or jacket based on your use.
Pros and Cons of Using a Coaxial Cable
Coaxial cables are preferred in the latest devices and gadgets for multiple reasons. They are used for radio signal transmission and Wi-Fi systems, cable modems, cable TV, etc. Regardless, this technology is ancient and is still used by many manufacturers worldwide. To know it better, let's see their advantages and disadvantages in a nutshell.
Types of Coaxial Cables
Like any other component, coaxial cables are also classified based on certain parameters. There are various coax cables available on the market to choose from but they can be confusing while buying. You can easily select one from the broad segment if your usage purpose is known. But, if not, you must know the parameters that differentiate them from one another so that you can buy what you need.
Some of the parameters are as follows;
- Type of dielectric insulator
- Type of connector used
- Type of impedance
These are the parameters when it comes to discussing types of coaxial cables.
Based on the type of impedance a coaxial cable poses, you can determine which cable would be suitable for you. Commonly used impedance ranges are 50Ω and 75 Ω.
50 Ohm Coaxial Cables
These are the most basic and frequently used coax for RF signal transmission because they are suitable for numerous transmitter antennas and radio transmitters. Moreover, 50 Ω coaxial cables are used in Ethernet modems and high-frequency digital signal transmission.
75 Ohm Coaxial cables
These are most common in office and household communications. Devices like TV, speakers, landlines can be well treated with 75 Ohm coaxial cables. The 75 Ω coax has low signal attenuation and low capacitance. Low signal loss and low capacitance combination are ideal for video/ audio signal transmissions thus, 75 Ω cables are used.
Besides these two, there are other impedances, namely 52Ω and 93Ω, but they are not quite as popular as 50 Ω and 75 Ω coaxial cables.
This is another way of determining which coaxial cable will be suitable for you to use. Radio Guide classification is an ancient technique but is still prominent in many countries. The classification starts common for every coax i.e, with the letter R and G, then there will be numbers alone or numbers with letter combinations depending on its type. With the RG classification, dielectric type, diameter, shielding, and lastly impedance, anyone can easily predict the application of the cable. For better understanding, you can also refer to the table below;
With Impedance and RG type information, you can easily purchase the right or desired coax cable.
Cable TV, Satellite TV, Cable modems
Same as RG-6/U but with better shielding
Same as RG-6/U
Same as RG-8/U
Same as RG-7 but with lower losses
Amateur radio, radio communications, Ethernet
HQ HD video signal transmission over short distances
Connectors for Coaxial Cables
There are multiple connectors in coaxial cables based on the type of RG classification. Not only that, but the connectors on a particular coaxial cable will also depend on the application or purpose of the coaxial cable.
Can you use Coaxial Cables as a Speaker Cable?
Users might be in a dilemma whether a coaxial cable can also work as a speaker cable when connected to speaker ports? Well, the answer to this question is "YES." You can undoubtedly use coax as a speaker cable as long as your coax supports digital Audio transmission. Although, the conversion of your existing coax into a digital audio speaker cable is no rocket science. You have to replace the connectors and you're done.
If your existing coax is a standard F-Type connector, you will need to replace it with an RCA connector. Of course, it is understood that the speakers to which you wish to connect must have an RCA port only then will it be able to work.
For better performance, connecting the speaker cable to a powered subwoofer is recommended because speakers alone cannot handle such a huge impedance load. This kind of setup will create pressure on the amplifier, which ultimately causes more resistance to the entire speaker system. Hence, do not use coax cable as a speaker cable very frequently.
How to use Coaxial Cable as a Speaker Wire?
The conversion of your existing coax into functional speaker wire is easy; you must follow the steps mentioned below;
Most household devices have two connectors at each end of the coaxial cable that connects the source and the output device. For it to become a speaker cable, you must remove both the connectors of the coaxial cable.
Coaxial cables in various sizes and lengths, but most of the cables measure 6 feet and above. So, make sure the coax you will be using for your speaker system must be above 6 feet.
To work as a speaker cable, you need to remove the insulation jacket from your existing coaxial cable. You can remove it using a knife or any other cable tools.
Once you have removed the jacket successfully, you need to unbraid the copper shielding as it will be used as wiring for your speakers. Don't untangle in the hustle; take time while doing the unbraiding process.
Once the unbraiding of the shield is done you have to dig deep till you reach the inside of the insulator. For this, you will need to use a cable stripping tool to easily rip off the wires and get to the core wire that is present inside the insulator.
This is how you can convert your regular coax cable into a fully functional speaker cable.
Coaxial cables do offer higher quality when it comes to Audio. The installation is easier, plus it supports higher bandwidth. But, you cannot entirely rely on these cables; they are not as good as HDMI cables when it comes to the highest audio quality and does not support formats such as DTS X, Dolby TrueHD, etc. For urgent situations when HDMI is unavailable and you need moderate audio quality, coax can serve as the best alternative.
The most common cables you can use for your subwoofers are RCA and specialized subwoofer cables. Nevertheless, you can also coax it as a subwoofer cable as it has more than 40 ft. distance reaching capacity and has better shielding as compared to other audio cables.
Coaxial cables are not just meant for transmitting RF signals. Still, it has an extending function as an audio/video signal transmitter and can also be used as a speaker cable. Due to their versatility, these types of cables are included even in modern devices and gadgets. Many manufacturers swear by its affordability, higher-bandwidth handling, and durability. After reading everything about coax cables, will you use them as a speaker cable? Think about it!
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