Every home theater system needs an alternative coaxial cable to create a secure connection for audio and video signals. And while this electrical cable is popular for better sound quality, did you know that it has different uses? In this in-depth review, join our resident audiophiles as we unravel when and how to use a coaxial speaker wire to aid your typical audiovisual needs.
What is a Coaxial Speaker Cable?
Before we discuss the perks of a coaxial cable, any person who intends to use this type of speaker wire must get familiarized with its standard definition before usage. You may not be aware, but coaxial cables are generally used to accommodate the smooth transmission of RF signals.
With a coaxial connection, this distinct speaker wire can carry high-frequency digital transmissions and lower audio output ranging from around 20 kHz to 300 GHz. However, unlike RCA, coaxial cables only perform digital signal transmissions over analog.
If you inspect it closely as our team did, you’ll notice that a coax speaker cable has an inner metal conductor and woven copper shielding that shares one axis. This unique wire construction brought the name coaxial cable to life.
Over the years, coaxial cables have been an essential part of every 20th-century home sound system. With the coax cable construction getting patented in the 1880s, the coaxial cable is known to deliver higher bandwidth of digital signals and increased durability when compared side-by-side with standard audio cables.
As it became an industry norm to sell coaxial speaker cables due to their immunity to interference, manufacturers also started to innovate their components to improve coaxial connections.
In the middle of the 1880s, the usual speaker wire was substituted by a metal tube. The hole in the tube’s center aids the conductor of the digital coaxial audio cable. Thanks to this, coaxial cables served as the first efficient component for TV signal transmission.
How Does it Differ from Digital Coaxial Cables?
For people unfamiliar with different speaker cables, you may find coax cable and digital coax cable a bit confusing. So, we’re here to explain how a digital coax cable differs. First off, a coaxial digital connection produces more efficient signal transmission through electricity despite not being digital internally.
The digital coaxial audio cable also serves the same purpose and has the same construction as a coaxial cable. Because of this, the digital coax cable delivers high impedance to go against the electrical current. On top of that, digital coax cables includes a center wire made of insulation material, a plastic case, and a metallic shield.
Audio equipment geeks like us highly prefer the digital audio coaxial cable for its wide-range electrical frequency handling. Besides carrying digital audio signals, you can connect a coaxial digital audio cable to cable boxes, cable TV modems, runners, satellites, radios, TV antennas, home speakers, high-end speakers, Blu-ray players, and many more due to their audio and video applications. Plus, a digital coaxial audio cable can also handle electrical frequencies across a broad audio spectrum. However, a coaxial digital connection can’t handle higher-quality, multi-channel audio formats.
Components of Coaxial Cables
Like the typical digital coaxial cable, the coax cables have four crucial components that keep them from functioning correctly. Our resident audio experts urge you to study these parts: core conductor, dielectric insulator, metal shield, and plastic jacket.
At first glance, it may appear like a simple speaker cable with a cylinder-like shape, but its tip is a core copper conductor wrapped with a dielectric insulator. The signal is carried through this line and plays the role of the ground for the coaxial cables.
Anyone that sells coaxial speaker cables could attest that most of these core wire components now come in copper and stranded copper coatings. Copper-plated steel is another common material for the center conductor in these cables.
Depending on the kind of coaxial cable, the type of insulators merged into the core wire may vary from foam plastic, solid plastic, or air spacers. It also has a PVC-coated sheath, making the insulator’s outer layer easy to stretch.
Next to that, you’d find a braided wire made of copper. You’ll also see it in silver-plated variety, but that version of braided strand is very rare. This part of the coax cable is often referred to as the shield or shielding. With this component in the core wire or center conductor, the audio equipment can prevent losses and enhance performance in speakers. You may also find a coaxial cable with two shields, which is braided copper wire with aluminum foil.
Although you can find coaxial cable wires with four layers of shielding (two layers each of aluminum foil and braided copper wire), making the standard coaxial cable thicker than it already was is something our experts wouldn’t recommend, for it highly affects flexibility. The last layer for this speaker wire is the plastic jacket. Typically, it’s a Polyvinyl Chloride material known for high resistance and toughness , but it all depends on the cable’s purpose.
Types of Coaxial Cables
Let’s now discuss the types of coaxial cables. No matter how much wire dilemma you’ve got, reading through the RG standard is the best solution you can rely on when dealing with a coaxial cable setup. Each speaker cable type tells you its compatibility features through core coax cables diameter, outer measurement, dielectric insulator, impedance, and where it’s commonly used.
Radio Guide Standard
|Radio Communications, Ethernet, Amateur Radio
|HD/HQ RF video transmission (short distance)
|Amateur Radio Transmitters
|Cable TV systems, Satellite TV, Cable Modems
|Cable TV, Satellite TV, better shielding capacity than RG-6/U
|Satellite TV, Cable Modems, Cable TV
|Cable Modems, Cable Television, Satellite
|Cable Televisions, Cable-connected Internet
When shopping for coax cables, the flexible coax is the most common type of coaxial cable that you’ll encounter. If you look closely, you’ll differentiate this speaker wire from the rest with its fine wires and braided cable design. Despite its known flexibility among most coaxial cables, our team wouldn’t suggest this option if you’re looking for added shielding as it’s prone to signal leaks.
Unlike other types, flexible coaxial cable has a polymer wrapped around its inner conductor that acts as the dielectric. It’s accompanied by an outer jacket that serves as an extra layer of protection. The flexible coax cable is often used for household video equipment and TVs.
If durability is your priority for coaxial cable setups, we urge you to select a Semirigid speaker wire instead. With construction similar to pipes and a metallic exterior that serves as a conductor, rest assured that this speaker cable has uniform impedance and high shielding capabilities. However, keep in mind that the quality may not be as pliant as the last type of coaxial speaker cable we discussed.
Although the overall design and internal construction of the semirigid coax isn’t meant for flexing, there’s no doubt that it can enhance any high-frequency output thanks to its copper sheath design. These features of the coaxial speaker cable also signify quality shielding and resistance to interference.
Another coaxial speaker cable worth considering for increased shielding and noise resistance is the Triaxial coax cable. Unlike other kinds, this speaker wire is composed of two conductors. One is for signal grounding, while the other is for earth grounding. It also has braids that act as shielding for coax cables.
On top of that, these components are grounded. This makes this electrical cable capable of driving the noise away from inner conductors and pass through grounding currents.
Compared to a standard speaker cable, this delivers a better signal-to-noise ratio as it rejects sound interference and increases bandwidth during the process. Because of the high bandwidth and more stable connection, cable loading and signal leakage have a very slim chance of happening with this type of coaxial speaker cable.
To save you time and money, there are also coaxial cables used in dual-wired installations, also called dual coax. These are the typical speaker cable types used for TV antennae, satellites, and cable setups.
Instead of one, this kind of coaxial speaker cable setup houses two conductors. Thanks to this, the magnetic noise and cable loss are reduced. Besides that, it protects the core conductor from ground loops.
This type should not be confused with the twinaxial cable.
Another crucial feature that would differentiate each coaxial speaker wire is its impedance. You may not know, but this feature determines the compatibility of the cable within the speaker system. It also signifies the power transfer levels and standing waves.
It has an audible effect on sound quality and overall listening experience, so our resident audiophiles highly recommend checking this part of the post.
If you want to connect a coaxial speaker cable to devices in radio transmission applications or transmitter antennas, then 50-Ohm coax wire options are the best recommendation our resident audiophiles can give. Besides high-frequency audio transmission, these wires can accommodate Coaxial Ethernet Networks.
A digital coaxial cable under the 50-Ohms category is designed to provide power and voltage similar to a transmitter output. Because of this, it’s suitable to use for long distances, as with radio transmitters. The electrical signals that travel through these coaxial cables are efficiently transferred without the hassle of losing signal strength.
The speaker cables highly suited for household usage are the ones with 75 Ohms impedance. If you happen to have a coaxial speaker cable lying around your toolbox, it’s most likely a 75-Ohm. You can also connect it to cable television systems, cable boxes, and other video device transmissions.
Generally, the digital coaxial audio cables under this standard impedance metric are used for AV signal transmission. In fact, it has the capability to transmit even when installed 50 ft. high. The frequencies it can handle range from 12 GHz to 3 GHz, producing a broadcast-quality transmission and stable signal integrity.
Although its likeness for signal loss is lower than its 50-Ohm alternative, this type of connector has a low capacitance. But don’t mistake it as a bad thing. This combination is what makes 75-Ohm compatible with the majority of the digital signals out there.
However, our experts note that impedance on the amplifier is the main issue when using a coaxial wire as a speaker wire. It will add impedance load to the power amp.
Coaxial Cable Connectors
When you connect speaker wire cables to a device, there are coax cable connectors specifically designed to shield these connections. It basically makes source to gadget connections a lot easier to handle. If you’re a newbie, chances are you can’t pick out the right one for your digital audio needs, so take a closer look at the wire types below to get the gist of their construction, dielectric type, and purpose.
BNC connectors are short for Bayonet Neil-Concelman. These wires are generally used for RF and video applications, including televisions, testing instruments, radio frequency equipment, and radios. Besides convenience, our resident audiophiles are fond of this coax cable connector for its stable wide-range frequencies from 10 GHz up to 4GHz. However, anything after that may produce radiation and losses.
BNC connectors are also used for old computer networks like 10BASE-2 Ethernet and IBM PC network. But despite that, it can still be connected to different coaxial wires as it still provides tight audio and video connection.
If you’re aiming for the lower spectrum of microwave frequencies ranging around 18 GHz, N-type connectors will surely provide the result you need. It may come as a surprise to you, but this is one of the very first connectors in the world to deliver microwave frequencies.
And because it’s durable and weather-proof, most broadcast equipment still use this type of coax cable connector as well.
For working with frequencies 0 Hz to 24 GHz, the best option is SMA connectors. Because of modern technology, you’ll need coax connectors that can handle high frequencies such as Wi-Fi antenna systems — and SMA connectors have no problem with these transmission requirements.
This audio receiver component works well with antenna systems for radio and mobile. Aside from transmitter antennas, SMA connectors can also handle microwave systems.
Among the choices here, F-type connectors are by far the most typically seen in the market as they’re highly suited for antennas and satellite and cable TV. Despite its availability, the only problem is that this coax cable connector can only handle frequencies up to 1GHz.
On the brighter side, standard F connectors are inexpensive, so anyone can easily afford them. In addition, it can still deliver performance standards required by several TV applications. In fact, F-type connectors are also sold in 50-Ohm and 70-Ohm varieties in the market.
Another common option to consider is the RCA connectors. Known for both audio and video connection, it’s not surprising that RCA cables can accommodate frequencies ranging up to 10 MHz. Although RCA is the oldest type of connector in the industry, its availability is still widespread.
If you’re having trouble finding RCA in the market, this coaxial connector is also popularly called cinch connectors. If you’ll use the coaxial cable for home theater systems, RCA connectors in a powered subwoofer would work well.
Not all equipment in need of connectors is the same. So if you need one to cater to applications that are limited in size or space, then micro coaxial connectors can save the day. It’s an ideal pair with antennas and boards.
The electrical performance of this connector can handle up to 6GHz. Typically, you’ll find these coax cable connectors in telecommunications, wireless connections, and GPS applications. It’s also marketed in 50-Ohm and 70-Ohm varieties.
The Threaded Neil-Concelman (TNC) options are basically the same as BNC but come as a threaded version. However, our team would recommend TNC connectors more than BNC when it comes to working with microwave frequencies.
Unlike other coax cable connectors, it only comes with a 50-Ohm variety, but it has the capacity to handle operations up to 11GHz. These high frequencies are highly owed to its screw coupling and quality threaded design that BNC doesn’t have.
Pros and Cons of Coaxial Cables
Compared to using regular twisted pair cables, coax wires are actually less prone to noise and interference. Our testers found great delight in working with different types of coaxial cables over the short distance because they still delivered reliable performance and better sound quality than a regular speaker wire. While the shorter length could be an issue, it has a thicker conductor than RCA audio cables and a relatively lower induction rate.
If you buy the likes of Mogami cables, you’ll also notice that their impedance load highly suits the needs of a speaker wire. And because it has higher bandwidth than optical connection to accommodate a digital signal, users can expect this coaxial speaker cable to produce better sound production in stereo systems.
Compared to a regular speaker wire, these cables are also widely used in a professional setting as they have high durability and can produce better digital audio.
The cherry on the top is the lower price range of coax cables. Because these brand selections are prevalent in today’s market, most of these options are now reasonably priced. Audiophiles on a tight budget can benefit from this because this connector is extremely affordable without any compromise on the quality of video and audio signals.
Other than that, the setup for coaxial cables isn’t complex at all. Even if you’re an audio newbie, installing this cable on your sound system wouldn’t be hard for you at all because of its simple design and construction.
We’ve discussed the pros as length, but every perk comes with a disadvantage. Unfortunately, coax speaker cable is no exception to this. The usage of this kind of audio signal transmission may produce electrical noise one may find displeasing. And since it’s just one cable, everything stops working when there’s a defect, so you should keep the cable intact.
And while these cables are known for superior elevating the quality of audio connections, coaxial setups don’t support popular sound technologies like DTS-HD Master Audio. If you’re keen on extensive and heavy usage, you may find its speed fluctuating from time to time.
The wire length can pose instability issues if you prefer long cables. The installation for long distances can easily incur higher costs due to the cable’s thickness, so make sure to measure the length you need. It’s also crucial to note that leakage of RF signals may happen anytime during the course of the connection.
If you’re transmitting audio signals amid high utilization, distortions are bound to happen whether you like it or not. It can also lead to speed change when handling broadband connections.
There are also different types of coaxial wires that are thick and rigid. Because of this, the installation of the cable may be harder. Besides that, signal loss during transmission is also an unavoidable situation if you’re looking for more length. The best you can do is check the capacity of the type of cable or connector you’re using.
Coaxial vs. Optical vs. HDMI Cables
Now, let’s compare the coaxial cable to two cables that are also used for video and audio signals. If we’re comparing optical to coaxial speaker wires, our resident audiophiles can bet 100% that the latter sounds better. Coaxial transmission can carry higher bandwidth than an optical digital connection, with 192 kHz versus 96 kHz.
However, the inability to accommodate lossless audio formats makes both the optical cable and coaxial speaker cable similar. On the brighter side, optical connections can be directly connected to the DAC of AV receivers as it restricts noise passing from the source device to the circuit. Optical connection cables also have optical fibers instead of copper wire. These optical fibers transmit light, not electric signals. Furthermore, an optical connection can support uncompressed PCM audio channels as well.
The coaxial connection has a greater bandwidth range than an optical digital connection, so delivering enhanced capacity for different services from voice, multimedia, video, and even data isn’t a problem when you connect this external cable. Its installation process is also not rocket science, unlike other connectors.
Compared to coaxial and digital optical cables, an HDMI connection offers incomparable bandwidth. These types of audiovisual connectors can accommodate updated sound formats such as Dolby Digital, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, and DTS Master Audio. The same applies to video formats as they can work well with 4K Ultra HD resolutions and various HDR configurations. This connector is typically used in source devices like an AV receiver, soundbar, or TV.
Unlike coaxial and digital optical connections, the HDMI cable setup also prevents wire clutter as you wouldn’t need too many connections to handle the audio and visual upgrades moving forward. Most audio-visual devices released in this day and age also use HDMI connection compared to a coax or optical cable as their standard, which further elevates the essence of HDMI cables in the industry.
Is a Coaxial Speaker Cable Better Than an RCA Cable?
Although RCA cables and coaxial speaker wires tend to look alike and are often substituted with one another, did you know that they have slightly different capabilities you’ll need to consider?
Setting aside how coax wires are thicker than RCA cables, coaxial is preferred because of its compatibility with 5.1 channel audio using one cable. This kind of setup isn’t possible with an RCA connector.
Another advantage coax options have over RCA cables is their impedance. Upon inspecting, our team concluded that coaxial cables typically have 75-Ohm impedance, whereas RCA has 50.
If we’re being honest, you can judge RCA cables vs. coaxial cables based on their technology. Since the coax cable features digital connections, it’s obvious that its compatibility with modern devices will be its greatest edge over RCA alternatives.
As you look at the market now, you’d know that RCA connectors are slowly fading behind the curtains. In contrast, the coaxial cable is still widely used by the majority in the industry. The coax speaker cable is still on the horizon for cable and internet connections.
RCA connectors are thicker than coaxial cables based on their design. It means that the RCA connector can be harder to set it up than a coaxial cable. Plus, these cables aren’t compatible with digital devices, so it adds another step to the process of signal transmission. And because the coaxial cable has added shielding, it has less signal interference than an RCA connector.
Aside from interference advantage, coaxial speaker cables support a wider range of frequency bandwidth. With this, there’s no doubt that its component can work through different audiovisual applications out there.
Can You Use a Coaxial Cable For Subwoofers?
Yes, you can use this type of audio cable for subwoofers. In fact, there are specifically designed speaker cables meant for subwoofer units that offer higher quality sound and uninterrupted connection. Just find yourself a wire stripper or a sharp utility knife to remove all the existing connectors to your subwoofer before you start hooking up a coax wire. It’s better if you have unused coaxial cables lying around for this coax deconstruction.
As you may know, a subwoofer requires wires with strong shielding to prevent interference, so it’s not a bad idea to consider coax cables for these connections. You can also connect speakers to this.
But while you can use it as a subwoofer cable, these may not be as interchangeable as you’d think. Just keep in mind that all digital or video cables follow the standard of 75-Ohms. But any type of coaxial digital audio cable will work with no specific impedance requirements.
Is a coaxial speaker cable good for audio?
Yes, a coaxial cable is good for audio transmission. Besides typical speakers and subwoofers, coax wires can also be used as microphone cables as they’re known to deliver from low frequencies to high noise ratios. You can also count on these digital audio cables to ensure secure connections.
Coaxial speaker cables aren’t hard to find in the market nowadays, so it won’t be long until you sight one when you decide to shop for home speakers, coaxial speakers, or home theater equipment. And now that you’re well-informed on how coaxial cables work, the types of coaxial cables, and how they’re ideal for audio and video signals, our resident audiophiles highly suggest putting your audio needs first and taking your time before jumping into any purchasing decisions. We hope this guide on coaxial audio cables was helpful to you!