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The Sound Man
Call Theeditor Ntege Eric 2/2/2011
Cables carry an audio or video signal from one device to another such as DVD players and TVs, stereo receivers and speakers, and computers and video projectors. Cables don't change the nature of the audio or video signal they carry. They don't convert or process signals in any way. That's the job of the devices on either end. A cable in itself is just the messenger. Cables are made up of three basic parts:
The conductor is the wire that actually carries the signal.
One or more layers of shielding prevent the wire from acting as an antenna that picks up radio frequency interference (RFI) and electromagnetic interference (EMI)
The connector is the plug at the end of the cable that connects to your device. Cables are important components of any home stereo or home theater setup. If you don't use the right cables for the right job then you could end up with a below an average level of sound or picture quality. And if you use cables that are damaged or otherwise junky, you could really end up with a lousy experience. We can chose to look at the overwhelming amount of cable types into three categories: audio-only, video-only and audio/video cables that carry both sound and picture.
1. The most common audio cables are called analog RCA cables. These are the cables with red and white, or sometimes red and black connectors. RCA cables are widely used to connect devices like VCRs and DVD players to TV sets or CD players to stereo receivers. RCA audio cables come in pairs with two connectors on each end, a red one for right stereo and a white (or black) connector for left stereo. They are often bundled with video cables. Experts recommend gold-plated RCA connectors for extra protection against corrosion, especially if you live in a humid environment
2. The other most common type of audio cable is speaker wire. Speaker wire runs from a stereo receiver to all speakers except the subwoofer (that requires a coaxial cable). Each speaker needs its own dedicated wire. Speakers not only receive audio signals via speaker wire, but also power. Speaker wire is made from 99 percent oxygen-free copper and
usually comes "unshielded," which means you can see the copper conductor. Speaker wire comes in different thicknesses or gauges rated from 12 to 18 (thickest to thinnest). As a general rule, the longer your speaker wires, the thicker the gauge you should use. For speaker wire lengths up to 20 feet (6.1 meters) long, 14-gauge is sufficient, but anything longer than 60 feet (18.3 meters) requires 12-gauge wire.
3. Most audio recordings are digital nowadays, and there are several newer cables that specialize in carrying high-bandwidth digital audio signals. Optical digital cable (also known as fiber-optic and Toslink) transmits audio signals as pulses of light and is impervious to interference
4. Another digital audio cable is called digital coaxial. It looks the old coaxial cables that connect satellite dishes or cable TV signals to televisions, except this is specially designed to carry digital audio. You'll find optical and digital coaxial jacks on newer DVD players, CD players and stereo receivers.
5. XLR cable originally designed for professional audio use, XLR audio cable is used primarily with high-performance audio gear. The connector has three pins ² a positive conductor, a negative conductor, and a ground. The ground wire helps reduce electronic noise throughout the cable. A clasp built into the round XLR plug locks it tightly into the socket, ensuring a secure connection. XLR cables are also used with microphones requiring "phantom power." An electrical charge runs through the ground wire, powering the microphone's internal preamps and allowing it to function.
1. The most common type of video cable is called composite video. A composite video cable consists of one yellow RCA connector that's usually bundled with red and white RCA analog audio cables. It's called composite video because all of the video information -- color, brightness and sync -- is composited, or squeezed, onto one cable. Composite video cables were designed for older TVs and have a maximum resolution of 330 lines. They're fine for watching VHS tapes on the old TV in the basement, but if you have a newer television, or an HDTV, composite video cables simply won't cut it.
2. S-video cables are a step up from composite video with a maximum resolution of 400 lines. You will recognize an S-video cable by its circular, nine-pin connector. S-video separates color information from picture information, resulting in a crisper image.
Although S-video jacks are found on a lot of TVs, DVD players and home theater receivers, the cable's initial popularity was quickly eclipsed by component video.
3. Component video cables consist of three RCA connectors colored red, green and blue. With component video, not only is color separated from picture, but the color portion is split into two separate signals. The result is a super-sharp image with deep color saturation. Component video cables are ideal for connecting high-definition video components like Blu-ray players and HDTVs. Most home theater receivers come with several sets of component video jacks.
4. DVI (digital video interface) cables were designed specifically for use with HDTVs and other high-definition video components. They have large, 18-pin connectors that look like computer cables. DVI cables offer the exact same image quality as component video cables, except that DVI comes with a built-in copy protection protocol called HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection).
5. VGA (Video Graphics Array) cables while used primarily for computer monitors, VGA cables also connect to LCD flat-panel screens that display images from both traditional audio/video and computer video sources. These 15-pin connectors carry packets of digital information in a different format than that coming from other sources such as DVD players or cable boxes.
6. RGB (D-sub 15-pin) cable Found on some HDTV-ready TVs and HDTV tuner boxes, RGB connections are used for transferring video signals, including high-definition content. As implied by its name, RGB sends the red, green, and blue components of the video signal along separate paths. Though RGB connections can take a number of forms, one that's increasingly common on TVs and set-top boxes is the D-sub 15-pin jack. If you own a computer, D-sub 15-pin connections may look familiar ² they're the same ones found on standard VGA-type computer monitors. RGB connections pass video signals in the analog domain.
1. For years, coaxial video cables were one of the only choices for connecting video components. Coaxial video cables have that famous one-pin connector, sometimes called a stinger that can either be pushed or screwed into place. Coaxial video cables are now mostly confined to outside connections, such as satellite TV or cable TV lines that come through the wall. A single coaxial cable carries both video and audio signals.
2. HDMI cables are an updated version of DVI. HDMI cables were also designed for use with HD components, but their connector is much slimmer, like a large USB cable. HDMI also includes HDCP copy protection
3. In Europe and the UK, the most popular dual-purpose cable is called SCART (Syndicat des Constructeurs d'Appareils Radiorécepteurs et Téléviseurs). SCART cables have fat, 21-pin connectors. In Europe, SCART cables do the work of RCA analog audio cables as well as composite, s-video and component video cables, but they can't carry highbandwidth digital video or audio signals, such as those necessary for high-definition TVs.
4. FireWire, or IEEE 1394, cables are mostly associated with connecting devices to computers, but a few high-end home theater receivers and HDTVs now come with FireWire ports. FireWire is capable of carrying compressed MPEG-2 video and digital audio. You might use a FireWire cable to connect a digital video camera directly to your home theater system to show off some unedited footage.
Composite video cable
Analog RCA Cable
Coaxial video cable Speaker wire Component video
BALANCED AND UNBALANCED LINES (optional to students)
Many people refer to anything with a 3-pin XLR-type connector as a ³balanced´ line but in reality, a lot of equipment has unbalanced inputs and outputs that are carried on XLR connectors. Lets look at the unbalanced configuration; in many electrical systems, there Is always a need for a reference point for their voltages generally referred to as the ground along which the ³hot´ signal voltage ³swings´ positive (above) and negative (below) while the ground remains with its reference at ³zero volts´ and in a cable connecting two pieces of equipment, the shield is used as signal ground. The larger the system and the greater the distances between the source and load, the less effective this unbalanced configuration becomes and may cause a lot of problems. The voltages of a balanced line are not referenced to the ground or common. Instead, the signal is carried on a pair of conductors with the signal applied to this pair differentially, their levels are the same, but their polarities are opposite and they alternate with the frequency of the signal, and give a total signal level which is the difference between the two individual voltages. The interference cancels itself and hence a common mode rejection.
Example: For example, if one conductor is at +5 volts, the other will be at -5 volts, and the signal level will be 10 volts. Total Signal level = +5volts minus -5volts = +10volts
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