How to: Connector types

While many amplifiers and speakers use spring clips that grip bare wire, others require different types of connectors to assemble your system. Here are some of the most popular connector types:

RCA connectors are the most commonly used for home stereos and video components, because they can carry both audio and video signals.

Mini-plugs can also be referred to as a 3.5mm or 1/8-inch connector. Portable devices such as iPods use the 3.5mm interface as a line-out connection for headphones or for connection to an auxiliary input on an amplifier. Like RCA connectors, they can be used to make audio and video connections.

Banana plugs are often used to make speaker wire connections on high-end speakers. These connectors have a uniquely shaped pin that bulges in the middle, causing it to resemble a banana. They are used in pairs and require binding posts.

Speaker pins are also used to terminate speaker wire connections. Instead of a wide body like a banana plug, a speaker pin has a straight, narrow shape. These pins are used to connect to push-on speaker connections found on many CE devices, and to 5-way binding posts.

3-pin XLR connectors are mainly used for balanced audio signals, which reduce interference. There are several styles with differing numbers of pins; be sure to select the one compatible with your output.

Spade or ring connectors are flat, soldered connectors used primarily with bolt or screw type connections.

HDMI (High Definition Multi-media Interface) connectors are used in conjunction with Hi-Def audio and video to transfer digital signals without requiring conversion to analog.

TOSLINK (optical) is a proprietary fiber optics cabling system that provides a distortion-free connection between a digital source and digital receiver or recorder.