Are you confused about the difference between RCA and phono connectors? Do you want to know how to properly connect your audio equipment or audio-video systems?
Look no further! In this article, we’ll break down the basics of RCA and phono connectors, including their history, uses, and differences.
Whether you’re a seasoned audiophile or just starting out, understanding these connectors is essential for getting the most out of your audio equipment.
So sit back, relax, and let’s dive into the world of RCA phono connectors.
What Is RCA Phono
RCA phono connectors are a type of connector that can carry both audio and video signals. The term “RCA” refers to the metal connectors on the end of an RCA cable, while “phono” is an abbreviation for “phonograph”.
Originally, phono connectors were used in the early days of sound recording to connect a phonograph to a radio that served as an amplifier. In the 1940s, Radio Corporation of America (RCA) designed the connector to wire an RCA Victor turntable to a radio to greatly amplify the sound.
Today, RCA phono connectors are widely used for carrying a signal to many types of electrical hardware and devices. You will usually find them on a wide range of devices such as amplifiers, portable music players, TVs, speakers and Hi-Fi equipment, and headphones.
The audio carried by RCA phono connectors can either be analogue or digital, depending on the type of cables and devices being used. RCA sockets are found on the body of the device that is being plugged in. In common use, a jack normally means a female socket, while a plug indicates a male cable termination. Jacks provide either an input or an output for signals being sent to or from another device. These RCA sockets will normally be labelled input or output accordingly. Input means they will be receiving a signal from another device, while output means they are sending an audio or video signal elsewhere.
The History Of RCA And Phono Connectors
The RCA connector, also known as the phono connector, has a rich history dating back to the early days of sound recording. The connector was originally created to allow the connection of a phonograph turntable to a radio receiver in order to amplify the sound. The design was introduced by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in the 1930s and quickly became a popular connector for carrying audio and video signals.
In the 1940s, RCA designed the phono connector to wire an RCA Victor turntable to a radio to greatly amplify the sound. This design helped to popularize the use of phono connectors and they became widely used for carrying a signal to many types of electrical hardware and devices.
Today, RCA phono connectors are found on a wide range of devices, including amplifiers, portable music players, TVs, speakers, Hi-Fi equipment, and headphones. They are commonly used for carrying both analogue and digital audio signals.
Understanding RCA Connectors
RCA connectors consist of a male and female plug, each with two metal contacts. The prong connects the signal wire, while the shell connects the ground sheath that wraps around the signal wire. The purpose of RCA phono connectors is to provide a low-impedance connection between devices to carry an analog audio signal.
An RCA or phono connector can carry both audio and video signals. The two most common types of RCA connectors are composite video and component. Composite video typically uses red, green, and blue connectors, while component video requires five RCA cables for stereo audio with component video.
It is important to note that each audio or video signal requires a separate RCA connector and cable, which can make systems very complex. Inputs, outputs, and even RCA cables can be color-coded to reduce confusion. A typical color scheme for RCA connectors has white and red referring to audio signals and yellow to composite video.
Understanding Phono Connectors
Phono connectors, also known as RCA connectors, consist of a male and female plug, each with two metal contacts. Their purpose is to provide a low-impedance connection between devices to carry an analog audio signal. As far as they only have two contacts, you will need two connectors and cables to make a stereo connection.
A phono cable is made for impedances from 10 ohms and under 0,2 millivolt! This cable must have very low capacitance (under 80 pF by meter) and low resistance. The phono cable serves to connect the tonearm of a turntable to a phono preamp. This is the case in most Hi-Fi set-ups with a vinyl system. Indeed, it is possible that your Hi-Fi device to which you connect your turntable already has a phono input, and in consequence, you can use a phono cable to connect your turntable to your Hi-Fi device (amplifier, etc.). But this is very rare because amplifiers offer a phono input that does not enable you to fully exploit your analogue source and especially if you want to install a low output MC cartridge on your turntable. This is why you will most certainly need to add a phono preamplifier to your system in order to be able to use your vinyl turntable. The phono cable will therefore come in between the tonearm of the turntable and the phono preamp.
Phono cables are offered with various connectors: RCA/RCA, straight DIN/RCA, L shape DIN /RCA… RCA type plugs are usually color-coded red (right) and white (left) for stereo interconnection. Phono connectors are smaller cinch type connectors, often used for connecting “line level” audio signals in consumer products. They are still fairly common, particularly for connecting record player turntables to phono input stages, or for connecting home theater subwoofers.
The Differences Between RCA And Phono Connectors
While RCA and phono connectors may look the same, there are some significant differences between them. The primary difference lies in their intended use. RCA connectors are designed to carry both audio and video signals, while phono connectors are specifically designed for analog audio signals.
Another difference between RCA and phono connectors is their impedance. Phono cables typically have a lower impedance than RCA cables, which is necessary for carrying the low-level signal produced by a turntable’s cartridge. Using an RCA cable instead of a phono cable for this purpose can result in a weak or distorted sound.
It’s also worth noting that while phono connectors are always RCA connectors, not all RCA connectors are phono connectors. In other words, the term “phono” refers specifically to the use of an RCA connector for analog audio signals.
Finally, it’s important to note that not all RCA inputs and outputs are designed for analog audio. RCA is now used for composite video and S/PDIF digital audio as well. Therefore, it’s essential to check your equipment’s specs to ensure you’re using the connector for its intended purpose.
How To Properly Connect RCA And Phono Cables
When it comes to connecting RCA and phono cables, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, it’s important to understand that phono cables are specifically designed for use with turntables, while RCA cables are more commonly used for connecting other audio sources like CD players and DVD players.
To properly connect an RCA cable, you will need to first identify the input and output sockets on your device. These sockets will typically be color-coded red and white, with the red socket indicating the right audio channel and the white socket indicating the left audio channel. Once you have identified the correct sockets, simply plug one end of the RCA cable into the output socket on your device and the other end into the corresponding input socket on your amplifier or receiver.
When it comes to connecting a turntable using a phono cable, things are a bit different. Unlike RCA cables, phono cables have four conductors: two positive and two negative. These cables are also typically shorter than RCA cables, as turntables need to be placed close to the speakers for proper sound reproduction.
To connect a turntable using a phono cable, you will first need to identify the tonearm on your turntable. This is the part of the turntable that holds the cartridge and stylus. Once you have located the tonearm, simply plug one end of the phono cable into the tonearm and the other end into the input socket on your phono preamp. From there, you can connect your phono preamp to your amplifier or receiver using an RCA cable.
It’s worth noting that if your amplifier or receiver has a built-in phono input, you may not need a separate phono preamp. However, if you are using a low output MC cartridge on your turntable, you will likely need to add a phono preamp to your system in order to fully exploit your analogue source.
In order to properly crimp an RCA connector onto a suitable cable, you will need to remove the old connector and strip the cable back from the termination point. You will also need a cable crimping tool kit to reattach a new plug. The process of performing a cable crimp is straightforward and involves inserting the new RCA terminal into the crimping tool, inserting the cable wires into the terminal, and squeezing the handles of the crimping tool together to cold weld the terminal onto the wires.
Common Uses For RCA And Phono Connectors
RCA and phono connectors are commonly used for a variety of audio and video applications. One of the most common uses is for connecting stereo left and right analog audio, but the RCA connector is also used for composite and component video and coaxial digital audio connectors.
Audio equipment such as amplifiers, portable music players, and Hi-Fi equipment often use RCA connectors to hook up speakers or other devices. TVs also commonly have RCA inputs for connecting DVD players, gaming consoles, or other external devices.
Additionally, RCA connectors can be used for transmitting video signals. Composite video signals are transmitted using a single RCA connector, while component video signals require three separate RCA cables. This makes them useful for connecting DVD players, cable boxes, or other video sources to a TV.
In summary, RCA and phono connectors are versatile and widely used in the audio-visual industry. They can carry both analog and digital signals and are found on a variety of devices, making them an essential component in many homes and businesses.