Basics of Audio Interconnects and RCA Jacks - dummies

Basics of Audio Interconnects and RCA Jacks

By Danny Briere, Pat Hurley

The standard analog audio interconnect is the most common type of short-run cable connector in any home theater. Audio interconnects use a standardized RCA jack. Traditionally, these cables come in pairs for two-channel (stereo) audio connections.

In the realm of the home theater, with its multiple surround-sound channels, cables don’t always work in neat pairs. You may find yourself using these cables:

  • Individually, like the cable that connects a subwoofer to the receiver or controller

  • In big bunches, like the six cables that connect an SACD or DVD-Audio player to the receiver; or

  • In even bigger bunches, like the eight cables for connecting a Blu-ray disc player’s audio output

Any audio interconnect with RCA jacks will plug in to any corresponding RCA plug on a piece of A/V equipment. Here’s an image of RCA plugs on a stereo (dual) pair of audio interconnects. Look familiar?


If you go shopping for audio interconnects, you’ll find a huge array of different cable constructions. The typical audio interconnect is a coaxial cable, which means that it has two electrical conductors surrounded by a shielded jacket within the cable. This jacket is called shielded because it is designed to keep stray electromagnetic energy from getting into the conductors and causing interference with the audio signal. Some cables are unshielded but twisted. Twisting has a similar effect to shielding — twisted cables can cancel out interferences.