Audio & Video Connectors

Audio and Video Connectors Overview and Types

Audio and video connectors come in many different types. The various types are typically chosen based on the application; whether they will be buried, mounted to the outside of a house or in a climate-controlled area, etc.


Introduction to Audio and Video Connectors

Today, audio and video connectors are much more varied and sophisticated than they ever have been. In addition to the various connectors produced by the many different manufacturers in the A/V industry, there are also connectors that are designed for analog and digital signals, both of which are still in widespread usage.

Some connectors carry both audio and video and others carry only one or the other. There are industrial versions of these connectors that are designed to hold up to a significant amounts of abuse and there are household versions that are quite serviceable in the appropriate conditions but that are not particularly strong or durable at all.

The main function of an audio or video connector is to carry a specific type of signal from the point of origin to the device on which it is interpreted into a form useful for human beings. For instance, the coaxial cable that runs into homes carries signals from either a cable television network or a satellite dish and delivers that to the box that interprets the signal. Most often, that box connects to the television, necessitating the use of several cables to deliver the desired media.

Computers, tablet devices, mobile devices, projectors, stereos and other devices all typically have specific cables associated with them, though they may take many different types of connectors. A stereo tuner, for instance, may have a 1/8''output jack for headphones, an RCA connector for the speakers and an HDMI connector for handling digital input. There are endless variations on how these connectors are used between the different devices they're employed on.

Where these connectors are concerned, they are often intended for broadcast use vs. home use rather than for industrial use vs. home use. Broadcast grade equipment, including cables and connectors, is typically much more expensive than home user grade equipment.


Overview of Audio and Video Connectors

All of these connectors have in common the fact that they are used to handle audio signals, video signals or both. This is their primary role. They have been around longer or shorter between the lot of them, with some of them having very long histories of usage and others having only come on the market in recent decades, or even years, due to the advent of digital technology and the conversion of a great deal of analog broadcasting to digital signals.


Audio & Video Connector Accessories

Audio and video connectors have a huge number of accessories associated with them. Because they can range from sophisticated digital connectors to simple bolts that wire is wrapped around -as in the case of older stereo speakers- there is a tremendous variation of sophistication among audio and video connector accessories.

Many of the accessories used with audio and video cables and connectors are designed to make it easier to run the audio or video line. For instance, an audio or video line may be provided with cable mounting hardware that makes it easy to hook it up to the side of a house or an easier run. It may also come with weatherproof accessories that prevent rain and snow from ruining the quality of the signal it is carrying.


Audio & Video Connector Adapters

Because there are so many different types of audio and video connectors, there need to be adapters that allow one type of a connection to interface with another. Most people are quite familiar with audio and video connector adapters from using them in their own homes.

Some adapters take what amounts to the same connector and allow it to be attached to a connection of a different size. For instance, adapters that allow older 1/4-inch jacks to be converted to 1/8 inch jacks are very common devices. Other common connectors include connectors that allow RCA connectors to be converted to 1/8 inch jacks and so forth. Some adapters allow the quality of the signal to be changed. For instance, there are adapters available that allow a mono audio signal to be split into two channels, which isn't the same as converting it to stereo but which allows for stereo simulation.

Video adapters come in many different types, as well. A video adapter may allow one type of connector to be attached to a different type of receptacle, such as a BNC to RCA adapter; a very common type. Others are male to female adapters. These are typically used to extend the length of a line and are utilized in audio and video connections. For example, running audio out of the back of a computer using a 1/8 inch connector, a user may find that they don't have enough line to make it to their stereo. By utilizing a male to female adapter, they can plug the male and of their output line into the female receptacle for the extension, giving themselves enough cord.

Some signals require more sophisticated adapters than others and, in some cases, a converter, not an adapter, is the suitable choice.


Audio & Video Faceplates

Audio and video faceplates provide an easy way to set up permanent connections. They are typically used in office buildings, industrial settings, broadcast facilities and other settings where permanent wiring is located behind the walls.

Audio and video faceplates come in a staggering array of different varieties. Some of them are set up so that they can be used with multiple different types of connections. For example, an audio video faceplate may have RCA connections, a connection for a computer, a separate 1/8 inch jack for a different audio source than the RCA cables or any other number of connectors in just about any configuration imaginable.

The biggest advantage of audio video faceplates is that they provide a great deal of protection for the wiring behind them, they allow for more or less permanent locations and, with the faceplate and the other hardware attached to them, the jack itself is protected against damage from pulling and so forth.


Audio & Video Patch Panels

Audio video patch panels are used to connect together many different audio and video sources and to provide input and output capabilities in very complex audio video systems. These are typically rack-mounted devices that contain a large number of inputs. They are often provided with only one type of input; for instance, an HDMI audio video patch panel would not have inputs for 1/4inch jacks, in many cases. There are patch panels, however, that do have multiple different types of connectors built into them.

These are typically fairly expensive devices that are utilized in professional applications. People with sophisticated home theater systems may also utilize these devices to allow output from several devices to be routed into one specific device.


HDMI Connectors

HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface. This is one of the newer connectors on the market and is one of the most popular, owing to its flexibility, compact size and 10.2 Gb per second transfer rate, which makes it fast enough for just about any application at present.

What makes HDMI connectors so useful is that they can transfer video data that is uncompressed from one device to the next. Their high transfer rate makes this possible. They can also transfer audio and video to a video projector, a television, a computer and just about any other device that has the appropriate input and output. These devices are typically found on high-end tablet computers.


Jack/TRS Connectors

TRS stands for Tip Ring Sleeve, according to Media College. Jack/TRS connectors are very common types of connectors that are used for analog signals. The two most common types of connectors of this type are 1/4-inch and 1/8-inch connectors, also sold as 3.5 mm connectors. There are also 2.5 mm jacks. These jacks come in Mono and audio variations, and they can be separated by the number of rings on them. Stereo jacks have two rings while mono jacks only have one.

These connectors are sometimes referred to as headphone jacks, phone jacks, audio jacks, microphone jacks and more. They have been in use for so long that there are many different names associated with these particular types of connectors, usually directly related to the type of equipment they are used on. These devices have been in use -in one form or another- since World War II and even before, so there are a huge number of different types of jacks that have been on the market at one time or another.


Loudspeaker Connectors

Loudspeaker connectors are typically DIN connectors that are designed so that the wrong type of connector cannot be plugged into the wrong type of socket. These are circular connectors, which feature a ring of metal surrounding an arrangement of pins that are plugged into a socket. These connectors are notable for being able to be manufactured in very durable versions, suitable for industrial and professional audio use.


Miniature Connectors

Miniature connectors come in many different varieties and are typically simply miniaturized versions of larger connectors. A 3.5 mm jack, for instance, is simply a scaled-down version of a 1/4-inch jack. Not too surprisingly, those smaller jacks are sometimes referred to as mini jack audio cables.


RCA Connectors

RCA connectors were developed by the comopany of the same name in the 1940s. These are still in very common usage today. In most applications, these connectors are male and are received by a female input. This type of connector is so ubiquitous that it has been adapted for usage in many different applications, including RF, power diversions, and more. These connectors are very easy to use, only requiring the user to push them into place. They consist of a central male connector surrounded by a metal ring, with the metal ring being flexible enough to allow it to be inserted onto larger connections and to provide a secure hold.


SCART Connectors

SCART connectors were very popular in Europe, but never really got popular anywhere else. These types of connectors were developed in the 1970s and were designed for analog video signals. Because they were designed for analog video signals, this design of connector has largely gone obsolete and has been replaced by digital connectors. They may appear on older equipment, however, necessitating that they remain available on the market.


VESA Connectors

VESA is a type of video connector that is actually a combination of several different types of connectors. VESA connectors allow FireWire, USB, video and audio signals to be carried by the same cable system. It is important to note that some of these are cabling systems, not a single cable that receives multiple different types of inputs and provides different types of outputs. The main purpose of VESA is to make it possible to reduce the total number of cords that a desktop computer needs, allowing for better use of space and, of course, presenting less risk that one of the stray cords is going to be tangled or damaged.


XLR Connectors

XLR connectors are very common equipment in professional audio and video production. They can be used to provide phantom power, can carry audio signals, can carry video signals and are designed to be extremely durable. In fact, most of these types of connectors have very sturdy connection equipment that makes it virtually impossible for them to be disconnected accidentally or for the pins that make up the connection to be bent from the application of torque or linear force. These are often utilized in great number on audio visual patch panels at professional concerts and when professional speakers give presentations. The cables to which they are attached are typically just as sturdy as the connectors are and are designed for rugged environments.