Dongle Hell • Notes on Cables
There are a lot of cables in the audio world.
On one hand, fuck jargon, and on the other hand, you will need to know what to google in order to get adapters.
Headphone jack / aux jack / 3.5mm / 1/8” / eighth-inch / mini jack
This one has a lot of names.
It carries two channels of audio at line level. Every phone had it until Apple got greedier.
XLR is a professional standard that is very resistant to interferance from radio transmitters. This is because it is “balanced”. You can run it much longer than most other cables, and they can be plugged in to eachother like extension cords. Most microphones use XLR.
quarter-inch / 1/4” / TRS / TS / PHONO
This one is tricky. Both variations are common, the TRS (tip,ring,sleve, with three metal sections) and TS (tip sleeve, two metal sections)
TRS is usually balanced single channel audio except on any jack labled headphones. Then, it is two unbalanced stereo channels.
TS is almost always single channel audio, but can be mic level (very low level) line level (medium) or it can be used to carry high-power signals to older unpowered speakers (very very high level).
Low end microphones use TS connections.
RCA connectors carry one channel each. They are unbalanced, and pretty common.
Adapters to have
Lightning to 3.5mm adapter
Because apple is a fuck, never leave home with out one of these Lightning to 3.5mm adapters. Someone will wanna play music off an iPhone.
1/8” Stereo to 1/4” TS Mono Cable
This is my favorite way to hook a phone up to a mixer. It merges the left and right channels into mono, which is what you want since you want to make sure that everyone gets the whole song. Buy Link
There are a lot of other ways to hook up a phone, but I have found this to be the most flexible.
1/8” Stereo to Dual TS Cable
Like the above, but maintains stereo. Easier to find, but in a demo context I find stereo to be annoying.
1/8” Stereo to Dual RCA Cable
Another way to hook up a phone or laptop to a mixer, but note most mixers don’t have much contol over the RCA inputs. (no adjustment) so it may be better to use the 1/4” options above.
1/8” Stereo to 1/8” Stereo or Aux Cord
They come up all the time.
Here is a video about the difference between unbalanced cables and balanced cables like XLR.
In general, you wat to use XLR for any cable longer than 30’ ft (10m).