RF and Coaxial Connectors Overview

In electronics, the term connectors refers to standardized fittings that are used to connect cables to devices and to circuits. There is a wide variety of different models available, some of which owes to the fact that there are many different types of cable in use and some of which owes to the fact that these connectors are used under vastly different conditions between one and the next. Some designs have to be well suited to harsh environments, shock and vibration and other threats.

Where connectors are concerned, the means by which the connection is actually secured is one of the most vital considerations. For example, if a cable is to be used in a situation where it might be subjected to a great deal of mechanical stress, a threaded connection offers significant resistance to the connection being separated by pulling, vibration and so forth. Such connections also provide good insulation against the environment.

In other applications, convenience may be more important than the level of protection. Snap on connectors make it very easy to make connections.

There is a tremendous range of sizes where connectors are concerned. Some of them are small enough fit on printed circuit boards and others are small enough to fit within the bodies of cell phones. Some connectors are much larger, designed to be used in large-scale data facilities, broadcasting facilities and even in military applications, when durability and resistance to damage and disconnection are vital to safety.



There are connectors designed to work with cable other than coaxial, such as twinax and Triax.

In addition to the type of cable utilized with the connector, there are also many different sizes of connectors available, as mentioned above. These connectors include miniature types, subminiature types and microminiature types. These types of connectors are typically used with very advanced applications, such as providing connections between various components on a motherboard or other sophisticated electronic equipment.

Some of the most common connectors come in variations that don’t have to do with size, but with their electrical characteristics. For example, HN, MHV and SHV connectors are all designed to be used with high voltages. Those connectors are variations on N type connectors and coaxial connectors, respectively.

Some of these connectors come with features that make them highly specialized. For example, connectors that feature a quick lock mechanism are ideally suited for applications where equipment needs to be plugged in and unplugged from jacks frequently and quickly. For example, mobile broadcasting might require that equipment is plugged in and unplugged very rapidly if it is being used to cover live events.

The various connector plating, impedance levels, contact materials, mounting styles and termination methods, and many other variables, mean that there is a huge variety of RF connectors on the market. They are used widely in industrial applications, but are also the means by which people who subscribe to cable television and satellite television in their homes have their equipment connected. These are among the most common electronic components.


What Defines Them

Coaxial cable and the other types of cable mentioned above are used with RF applications. RF applications require that the cable provide a consistent level of impedance at the point where the connection is made. This type of cable is provided with a shielding that serves to insulate the RF being carried through the cable from interference from outside the cable.

RF connectors are very sensitive devices. When they are subjected to mechanical stress or environmental conditions that they are not designed to tolerate, they can easily be damaged. This is why it’s vital to ensure that the proper connector is selected for a given application.

This does require a bit of knowledge. For example, RF connectors that have threaded connections are designed so that the threaded portion itself is the portion that is rotated, not the cable. Rotating the cable while connecting the connector can actually damage the connection.


The Reason for the Variety

For the aforementioned reasons and others, RF connectors are among the electronic components that are highly specialized. These tend to be application-specific devices and many of them are designed to work within a given range of frequencies, which is an entirely other level of specialization.

The diameter of the conductor utilized has a direct relationship to the highest frequency that the connector can be used with. If the diameter of the outer conductor is decreased, the connector can work with higher frequencies. Other techniques are used to customize these cables for specific frequencies, such as the addition of dielectrics and even working with the geometry of the connection.

Some RF connectors are designed specifically to be used with measuring equipment, and are among the most specialized of all. There is some cross usage, however. Some of the measurement equipment is also very useful in less precise applications, even down to the level of hobby radio operation.

Most RF connectors come in male and female varieties, though some do not have these designations. Because these are used in such diverse situations, there are also many different subtypes of just about every type of connector. Even simple connectors, such as RF splitters, may come in many different designs, some with many more outputs than others, some designed specifically to be mounted to a wall and in other configurations.


1.0/2.3 Connectors

These are cable mount connectors and through hole connectors that are designed for compact instrumentation applications.


1.6/5.6 Connectors

Manufactured by brands such as TE Connectivity and Telegartner, these connectors come in right angle and straight orientations with cable and panel mount options. They are used for telecommunications equipment, for instrumentation.


7/16 Connectors

This range of connectors has good qualities in terms of power handling and is particularly well suited to applications where the environment and vibration may be hazards. These are used for applications with 50 ohms impedance.


BNC Connectors

BNC connectors can be used with many different types of RF coaxial cable and come at various impedance specs.


Coaxial Plugs & Sockets

There is a huge range of items in this category, including many different mounting types, termination methods and types of connectors. Various contact materials and body orientations, among many other options, are available.


F Connectors

These connectors come compatible with a variety of cable types. The range includes crimp, hex crimp, solder and twist on terminators, right angle and straight orientation and other options.


FME Connectors

These are used in WAN applications, as well as in mobile phones and tracking systems. They include options for plating, orientation, cable type and more.


MCX Connectors

These are miniature connectors that are available in miniature and subminiature designs. They are used in broadcasting and other applications and come in options for different types of cables and terminations.


MMBX Connectors

These are used to interface cables with boards and are used in cellular and other applications.


MMCX Connectors

This style of microminiature and miniature connectors can e mounted to PCB boards, in panels, on surfaces and other options. They are produced by brands such as RS and Molex.


MVH Connectors

These RF connectors are made by Amphenol and Kinds Electronics. They include right angle, straight, rear and other mounting options.


N Connectors

These connectors are available in 50- and 75-ohm models. They come with a range of options for cable type, connector type, mounting type and more.


OSMT Connectors

These connectors are used directly on PCB boards and come in microminiature sizes. They have snap on mating.


OSP Connectors

These connectors have 50 ohm impedance and come in straight body orientations. They work with RG 405 semirigid cable.


QMA Connectors

QMA connectors are based on SMA connectors, but they have a coupling mechanism that is easier to use and safer for the connection. They have a threaded coupler, but the dimensions are derived from SMA connectors.


QN Connectors

QN connectors are based on N connectors but have a threaded coupling added to them, providing faster connection and a much safer junction. They come in various frequency ranges and a variety of other specifications.


RF & Coaxial Adapters

RF and coaxial adapters allow different types of cabling to be connected and come in various impedance ratings, contact plating, operating frequencies and beyond. These are made by a variety of different manufacturers.


RF & Coaxial Faceplates

RF and coaxial faceplates provide a safe and standardized way to provide connections for television aerials, satellite equipment, FM radios and other appliances. Options for size, the number of outlets and many other specifics are available.


RF Attenuators

RF attenuators can be selected based on their attenuation, measured in decibels, the type of interface they work with, their impedance levels in their operating frequencies. Different contact materials and other options allow selections to be greatly customized.


RF Splitters

These are used with TV coaxial cable to allow a single signal to be split between many devices.


RF Terminators

Available in designs for specific mounting types, different impedance values and a variety of different interfaces, these provide a reliable connection for RF cables.


SHV Connectors

Available in different mounting styles and for several different types of cable, SHV connectors can be used in many different applications, including high-voltage applications.


SMA Connectors

These connectors come in standard and subminiature sizes and in a wide range of different mounting types and termination methods.


SMB Connectors

These connectors provide a very convenient, snap on style connection for coaxial cables. They are available in many different termination methods, including crimp solder, crimp, clamp and others.


SMC Connectors

These connectors are commonly employed in applications where vibration is a threat. They provide a very common type of connection that is utilized by many different types of electronic devices.


SMM Connectors

SMM connectors have a snap on mounting style and are used with coaxial cable.


SMP Connectors

SMP connectors are very durable, reliable equipment, some models meeting military specifications. These are used in satellite, communications, radar and other types of sophisticated equipment.


SMS Connectors

SMS connectors are used with coaxial cable and come in a variety of different mounting designs and termination styles.


SSMB Connectors

SSMB connectors come in designs that can be mounted directly to motherboards, to cables and in other ways. A variety of different terminations, cable types and designs are available.


TNC Connectors

PNC connectors are very common and are available in a range of different cable compatibilities, terminator types, mounting options and many more specifications.


Triax Connectors

These come in bayonet and threaded mating types, cable and panel mounts and are typically soldered at the termination point. They are used in data applications.


TV Aerial Connectors

TV aerial connectors are manufactured by companies including RS and Phoenix Contact. They come in cable mount and DIN mount designs and different body orientations and styles.


Twinax Connectors

Twinax connectors are designed to work at 100 ohm impedance and come in bulkhead and cable mount styles. They use solder terminations and are made by companies including RS.


Type 43 Connectors

Type 43 connectors are telecommunications equipment and include right angle, straight and U body orientations. They include the ITT, QT and SMZ series.


UFL Connectors

These are 6 GHz connectors utilized in data applications.


UHF Connectors

UHF connectors come in miniature and standard sizes, a variety different of mounting types and body orientations. They can be utilized with crimp and solder terminations and are manufactured by many different companies.


Choosing RF and Coaxial Connectors

In choosing these components, it’s vital to know the frequency at which the application needs to work, the voltage, the type of mounting, the type of termination and whether a male or female connection is required. These are very common components, so they are generally available in boxes of components and as single components. Large suppliers such as RS offer these from a variety of different manufacturers and they can generally be purchased to suit very specific needs, whether that has to do with the operating conditions under which they are being used or the need for them to be used in very small sized devices.


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