If you’re a vinyl enthusiast, you’ve probably heard the term “phono cable” thrown around.
But what exactly is a phono cable, and why is it so important for your turntable setup?
In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of phono cables, from their purpose to their technical specifications.
Whether you’re a seasoned audiophile or just starting out with vinyl, understanding phono cables is essential for getting the most out of your turntable.
So let’s dive in and discover what makes these cables so special.
What Is A Phono Cable
A phono cable is a type of audio cable designed to connect a turntable or tonearm to a separate phono stage or phono input of a preamplifier. This cable is particularly important because the low-level output from the phono cartridge is very precise but also very fragile.
Phono cables are made for impedances from 10 ohms and under 0.2 millivolts, which means they need to have a very low capacitance (under 80 pF by meter) and low resistance. The purpose of a phono cable is to connect the tonearm of a turntable to a phono preamp, which is necessary for most Hi-Fi setups with a vinyl system.
While some Hi-Fi devices may have a built-in phono input, it’s rare for these inputs to fully exploit your analogue source, especially if you want to install a low output MC cartridge on your turntable. This is why you will most likely need to add a phono preamplifier to your system in order to use your vinyl turntable.
The phono cable will come in between the tonearm of the turntable and the phono preamp. It’s offered with various connectors, including RCA/RCA, straight DIN/RCA, L shape DIN/RCA, and more.
The Purpose Of A Phono Cable
The purpose of a phono cable is to provide a low-impedance connection between the tonearm of a turntable and a phono preamp. This is necessary because the low-level output from the phono cartridge is very precise but also very fragile. The cable must have a very low capacitance and low resistance to ensure that the signal is not degraded or distorted.
In most Hi-Fi setups with a vinyl system, it’s common for a Hi-Fi device to have a phono input. However, this input may not allow you to fully exploit your analogue source, especially if you want to install a low output MC cartridge on your turntable. In such cases, you will need to add a phono preamplifier to your system, and the phono cable will come in between the tonearm of the turntable and the phono preamp.
The phono cable is offered with various connectors, including RCA/RCA, straight DIN/RCA, L shape DIN/RCA, and more. It’s important to choose the right connector for your setup to ensure that you get the best possible sound quality. With the right phono cable and setup, you can enjoy the full potential of your vinyl turntable and get the most out of your analogue source.
How Phono Cables Differ From Other Audio Cables
Phono cables differ from other audio cables in a few key ways. First, they are designed specifically for connecting a turntable or tonearm to a phono preamp or phono input. This means that they are made to handle the low-level output from the phono cartridge, which is very precise but also very fragile.
Second, phono cables have a very low capacitance (under 80 pF by meter) and low resistance. This is necessary to ensure that the cable does not introduce any additional noise or distortion into the signal.
Third, phono cables typically have a different type of connector than other audio cables. The most common type of connector for a phono cable is an RCA plug, which is used to connect the cable to the phono preamp or phono input.
Finally, phono cables are often more expensive than other audio cables because they require a higher level of precision and quality in their construction. This is necessary to ensure that they can accurately transmit the delicate signal from the turntable to the phono preamp or phono input without introducing any additional noise or distortion.
Understanding The Technical Specifications Of A Phono Cable
To understand the technical specifications of a phono cable, it’s important to note that the cable is designed for low-level signals and requires specific impedance and capacitance levels. Phono cables are made for impedances from 10 ohms and under 0.2 millivolts, which means they need to have a very low capacitance (under 80 pF by meter) and low resistance. This is because the extremely low-level signals produced by turntable cartridges and passive electric guitar pickups are sensitive to conductor characteristics, and they can easily be “colored” by capacitance, which will attenuate the high frequency sounds.
The function of phono cables requires a low capacitance of about 80 pF and below. This is because the cable needs to be as transparent to the signals as possible, with tone control done by knobs and settings rather than by the cable itself. The resistance levels must also be low for the cable to operate effectively.
A primary function of the phono cable is to link the tonearm on your turntable to the phono preamp. The cable is essential for most Hi-Fi platforms with a vinyl setup, as it enables you to fully exploit your analogue source. While some Hi-Fi devices may have a built-in phono input, it’s rare for these inputs to allow you to take full advantage of your analog source, especially if you’re installing an MC cartridge with low output on a turntable. This is why you will most likely need to add a phono preamplifier to your system in order to use your vinyl turntable.
Choosing The Right Phono Cable For Your Turntable
When it comes to choosing the right phono cable for your turntable, there are a few factors to consider. First and foremost, you need to ensure that the cable is designed specifically for use with turntables. This means that it should have a low capacitance and resistance, as well as the appropriate impedance.
Next, you’ll need to consider the length of the cable. Phono cables are typically shorter than RCA cables, which is important since turntables need to be placed close to the speakers for proper sound reproduction. Make sure to measure the distance between your turntable and phono preamp before purchasing a cable.
Another important factor to consider is the connector type. The most common connector types for phono cables are RCA/RCA, straight DIN/RCA, and L shape DIN/RCA. Make sure that the connector type of the cable matches the input type of your phono preamp.
Finally, you may want to consider investing in a high-quality phono cable that offers superior insulation and noise elimination. AudioQuest’s Golden Gate RCA interconnects are a popular choice among audiophiles for their unique durable construction and superior sound quality.
Maintaining And Upgrading Your Phono Cable For Optimal Performance
To ensure optimal performance from your phono cable, it’s important to maintain and upgrade it as necessary. While no maintenance is required for some phono cables, it’s always a good idea to inspect the contacts and clean them if they are tarnished or dirty. Cape CodTM polish is a popular choice for this task.
If you’re looking to upgrade your phono cable, consider the impedance, capacitance, and resistance of the cable. A higher quality cable with lower impedance, capacitance, and resistance can improve the overall sound quality of your vinyl system.
Additionally, you may want to consider upgrading to a balanced phono cable. These cables are designed to carry a balanced signal from the turntable or tonearm to the phono preamp, which can reduce noise and interference for a cleaner sound.
When upgrading your phono cable, make sure to research available options that work with your setup. Consider factors such as space requirements and sound quality, as well as price. There are many options available at various price points, from budget-friendly options to high-end boutique style cables.
Overall, maintaining and upgrading your phono cable can make a significant difference in the sound quality of your vinyl system. By choosing a high-quality cable and keeping it well-maintained, you can ensure that you’re getting the most out of your analogue source.