The most common and popular cord you may recognize is the 1/4 inch analog plug. Their are two flavors mono, known as TS, (Tip sleeve) and stereo, known as TRS (Tip Ring Sleeve)
1/4 TS – mono (unbalanced)
The main thing about the T/S cable is that is a single channel, which is also called mono, and you don’t want to confuse or misuse instrument cables vs speaker cables.
Uses: Instrument connections i.e. guitar/synth, power amp, and speaker connections.
Instrument cords which contain a wire and a shield, which helps to minimize the noise, is different from speaker cords which carry more power, and doesn’t have a shield.
1/4 TRS – stereo
A stereo cord, or Tip Ring Sleeve (TRS) cord, contains two separate channels and left and a right.
The advantage of balanced cords is that you can run longer cables without adding excess noise to a signal.
Uses: Headphones, audio equipment and gear that requires balanced connections. A TRS Y cord can also be used for inserting effects and signal processors to the line in on a mixer.
XLR – These are used for microphones and line connections in some cases. The male and female ends are different, and carries a low impedance signal. XLR cables are balanced.
RCA – These are also called phono plugs, and are often found on home stereo’s, they are like a TS plug, and aren’t very common in pro audio equipment. RCA plugs are also used for Digital S/PDIF signals.
ADAT Lightpipe – This allows you to send 8 tracks of digital audio at one time through a fiber optic cable.
TDIF – TDIF is a competing format for ADAT, designed by TEAC, not nearly as common as ADAT, and uses a 25 pin connector.
S/PDIF – Uses an unbalanced coaxial cable and RCA plugs. S/PDIF can transfer two channels of digital data at one time. S/PDIF is a more well known option, but similar to AES/EBU connectors.
AES/EBU – (Audio Engineering Society/European Broadcasting Union) AES cables are similar to S/PDIF, and can allow you to transmit two channels of data at one time. AES uses balanced XLR, unlike S/PDIF
Firewire – A.K.A. IEEE 1394/ iLink, Firewire is probably the fastest connection format between computers and digital devices. Firewire was made by Apple, and is common on a large range of equipment by an expansive range of companies. Firewire cables have the same connectors on both sides. cable bus installation
Firewire 400: Data transfer speeds are up to 400 Mbps.
Firewire 800: Transfer speeds of up to 800 Mbps.
A connection format between electronic equipment used to transfer data, typically from a device to a computer.
USB – (Universal Serial Bus) Just about every computer today has at least one or two USB ports. It is a heavily popular and convenient format for connecting interfaces, (audio & midi) controllers, midi keyboards, external hard drives, printers directly to your computer. The “A” (recieving) and “B” (sending) connectors look a little different is size and shape.
USB 1.0: The standard, it is the original and can handle a 12 Megabits per second data rate.
USB 2.0: The new standard, it can process 40x the data flow – 480 Mbps.
Because of the considerably faster transfer speeds USB 2.0 is quickly becoming the new standard format for new gear on the market.