If you’re a vinyl enthusiast, you’ve probably heard of a phono to phono cord. But what exactly is it used for?
In this article, we’ll explore the world of phono cables and their importance in connecting your turntable to your audio system.
From understanding the difference between phono and RCA cables to exploring the various types of connectors available, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this essential piece of equipment.
So sit back, relax, and let’s dive into the world of phono to phono cords.
What Is A Phono To Phono Cord Used For
A phono to phono cord, also known as a phono cable, is used to connect the tonearm of a turntable to a phono preamp. This is essential in most Hi-Fi setups with a vinyl system. While some Hi-Fi devices may already have a phono input, it’s rare that they enable you to fully exploit your analog source. This is especially true if you want to install a low output MC cartridge on your turntable.
In such cases, you’ll need to add a phono preamplifier to your system to use your vinyl turntable. The phono cable will come in between the tonearm of the turntable and the phono preamp.
Phono cables are designed for impedances from 10 ohms and under 0.2 millivolts. They have low capacitance (under 80 pF by meter) and low resistance, making them ideal for carrying an analog audio signal.
Phono Vs RCA Cables: Understanding The Difference
While both phono cables and RCA cables are used for audio equipment, they serve different purposes and have distinct differences.
Phono cables are specifically designed to connect the tonearm of a turntable to a phono preamp. They have low capacitance and resistance, which makes them ideal for carrying the analog signal from the turntable. In contrast, RCA cables are two-conductor cables commonly used on consumer-grade stereo equipment. They usually have two jacks, one for the left and right channels, which are colored white and red respectively. RCA cables can carry unbalanced signals, making them suitable for relatively short-distance transmission of audio and video signals.
Another crucial difference between phono and RCA cables is their signal types. Phono cables carry phono level signals, which are low-level signals with high impedance. In contrast, RCA cables can carry both phono level signals and line level signals, which are higher-level signals with low impedance.
It’s essential to note that cables do not convert signal levels from one to the other; they only take the signal type/level that is fed to them and deliver it to the other end. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that you use the appropriate cable for your equipment to avoid signal loss or distortion.
The Importance Of Phono Cables In Audio Systems
Phono cables play a crucial role in the audio system, as they ensure that the analog audio signal from the turntable is transmitted to the phono preamp with minimal interference and distortion. The low impedance and low capacitance of phono cables are specifically designed to carry the delicate signal produced by the turntable’s cartridge.
While some Hi-Fi devices may have a built-in phono input, it’s often not adequate for high-quality sound reproduction. In such cases, a separate phono preamp is required, which can only be connected to the turntable via a phono cable.
It’s worth noting that not all phono cables are created equal. A high-quality phono cable should have precision metal stranding of cable wires to maximize strength and ductility, as well as dielectric shielding for insulation, noise rejection, and signal purity. Oxygen-free copper is also preferred for high dynamic range and pristine signal transfer.
The shielding in phono cables is especially important because their levels are comparatively low. The more noise they pick up, the more it gets amplified when boosted by a preamp, which is why manufacturers often promote braided shielding in these cables. The braid provides more complete coverage of the conductor, minimizing noise that would degrade the sound.
Types Of Phono Connectors: Which One Is Right For You?
When it comes to choosing a phono connector, there are several options to consider. The most common types of phono connectors include RCA/RCA, straight DIN/RCA, and L shape DIN/RCA.
RCA connectors are the most widely used and can carry both audio and video signals. They consist of a male and female plug, each with two metal contacts. The audio they carry can be either analog or digital, depending on the type of cables and devices being used. RCA plugs are the metal connectors on the end of an RCA cable, while RCA sockets are found on the body of the device that is being plugged in.
Straight DIN/RCA connectors are commonly used in Hi-Fi systems and have a straight pin configuration. They are designed to provide a secure connection between devices without any signal loss.
L shape DIN/RCA connectors are similar to straight DIN/RCA connectors but have an L-shaped pin configuration. They are ideal for use in tight spaces where a straight connector may not fit.
When choosing a phono connector, it’s important to consider the type of equipment you’re connecting and the space available for the connection. It’s also important to ensure that the connector is compatible with your equipment and that it provides a secure connection without any signal loss. Ultimately, the type of phono connector you choose will depend on your specific needs and preferences.
How To Choose The Best Phono To Phono Cord For Your Turntable
When it comes to choosing the best phono to phono cord for your turntable, there are a few factors to consider. First and foremost, you’ll want to ensure that the cable has a very low capacitance and low resistance, as mentioned above. This is important for maintaining the integrity of the analog audio signal.
Another factor to consider is the material of the cable. While copper is commonly used in entry-level and mid-range cables, silver-plated copper is a good choice for a solid middle ground of quality and lasting material. The insulation material is also important – PTFE or Teflon are good choices to keep oxygen out and ensure the best sound possible.
Connectors are also an important consideration. Phono cables come with various connectors, including RCA/RCA, straight DIN/RCA, and L-shaped DIN/RCA. Make sure to choose a connector that is compatible with your turntable and phono preamp.
Finally, it’s worth considering the brand and reputation of the manufacturer. AudioQuest’s Golden Gate RCA cables, for example, are known for their unique durable construction and superior sound quality. Do your research and read reviews to find a phono cable that will help you craft your perfect set-up!
Tips For Properly Connecting Your Turntable With A Phono Cable
When connecting your turntable to a phono preamp using a phono cable, it’s important to follow these tips for optimal sound quality:
1. Make sure that both your turntable and receiver lack a built-in phono preamp. If they do have one, you may not need to use a separate phono preamp.
2. Connect your turntable’s audio signal cable and ground wire into your separate phono preamp box. Be sure to connect your turntable’s ground wire (if it has one) to the grounding post on the phono preamp.
3. Plug the phono preamp’s audio output into one of your receiver’s analog audio inputs. This will allow the analog audio signal to be transmitted from the turntable to the receiver.
4. Connect the preamp to its power supply, and you’re all set! Your turntable should now be properly connected to your Hi-Fi system, and you can enjoy high-quality analog sound from your vinyl collection.
5. If you have a turntable with a built-in preamp, you can connect it directly to a receiver via an RCA cable without needing a separate phono preamp.
6. If you’re using Wi-Fi-based wireless audio systems, it may be easiest and cheapest to bypass Wi-Fi altogether and make an analog connection using a phono cable.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your turntable is properly connected to your Hi-Fi system and that you’re getting the best possible sound quality from your vinyl collection.
Common Issues With Phono Cables And How To Troubleshoot Them
While phono cables are designed to carry an analog audio signal with low capacitance and resistance, they can still encounter some issues. Here are some common problems you may encounter with phono cables and how to troubleshoot them:
1. Crackling or Popping Sounds: If you hear crackling or popping sounds coming from your speakers when playing vinyl records, it could be due to scratches on the record or too much dust on it. However, if the issue persists even after cleaning the record, it could be due to loose cables somewhere in the audio chain or the speaker wire not sitting flush in the speaker terminal. To troubleshoot this issue, try tightening all cable connections and ensuring that the speaker wire is securely connected to the speaker terminal.
2. Low Audio Output: If you’re not getting enough volume from your vinyl records, it could be due to a faulty phono cable. To troubleshoot this issue, try swapping out the phono cable with a new one and see if that resolves the problem. Additionally, ensure that the phono preamp is properly connected to your amplifier or receiver.
3. Hum or Buzzing Sounds: If you’re hearing a hum or buzzing sound coming from your speakers when playing vinyl records, it could be due to a grounding issue with the phono cable. To troubleshoot this issue, try connecting a ground wire from the turntable to the phono preamp or amplifier/receiver. If that doesn’t work, try swapping out the phono cable with a shielded one that has better grounding.
4. Interference: If you’re hearing interference or noise in your audio signal when playing vinyl records, it could be due to electromagnetic interference (EMI) from other electronic devices nearby. To troubleshoot this issue, try moving any electronic devices away from your turntable and phono preamp. Additionally, try using a shielded phono cable that can help reduce EMI.
By understanding these common issues and how to troubleshoot them, you can ensure that your vinyl listening experience is free of any unwanted noises or interruptions.