There are so many cables to use when it comes to DJing. Choosing or using the wrong cable can be disastrous and could potentially damage your equipment. In this guide, we will show you the cables you are most likely to come across and use while DJing.
Analogue cables come in two categories: balanced and unbalanced. Balanced audio cables reduce the amount of noise and interference that gets picked up as audio signals travel from one end to another. They can be used in circumstances where cables are prone to noise and interference, or cover a significant distance, such as in a mobile or club DJ set-up.
Balanced cables are generally mono meaning that you need to connect two balanced cables to get stereo sound, just like the outputs of your DJ mixer or controller. Some unbalanced cables are stereo and so only need one socket connection.
XLR is one of the most common types of balanced plugs. It is used as the master audio output from club mixers and some larger DJ controllers, alongside this it is commonly used for microphones.
XLR cables have the advantage of being very secure but they quite bulky compared to other connector leads. This can be seen as an issue, especially when concerning digital controllers where space is very limited. Since they are a balanced connection, two cables are needed to transmit a stereo signal - one for the left channel and one for the right.
A newer analogue audio connection, the Speakon is a cable designed to take high current signals. Speakon connectors have a twist-lock mechanism that secures them into the socket therefore making them popular during live sound applications. They are often used for connecting power amplifiers to loudspeakers and as a result, Speakon to XLR cables are also commonly found in large-scale festival and event rigs.
Optical cables carry different channels of digital audio through a single cable by transferring information using a series of light flashes. Digital connections are occasionally found on some audio interfaces and some CDJS. In most DJ applications, optical connections take the form of a S/PDIF socket. This carries two channels of audio and is usually used to output a stereo mix from the audio interface to a set of speakers.
ADAT cables are used in music recording and production studios. They carry eight channels at 48kHz, or four channels at 96kHz and are used to send all eight channels of a multi-channel microphone preamp to the audio interface.
USB cables have become common in audio production. USB ports are located in Midi keyboard controllers, audio interfaces, and modern synths and drum machines. These cables allow music equipment and computers to connect to each other.
These cables don't transport sound; they transmit data using a language known as Midi (Musical Instrument Digital Interface). This allows for various types of musical information to be communicated, including pitch and velocity.
These cables are commonly run between a keyboard / controller to a MIDI interface, which then connects to your computer and lets you control the virtual instruments within your digital audio workstation. Over the years MIDI cables have been replaced with USB cables as these have the ability to transfer Midi data directly to the computer.
Choosing the right cable and understanding the difference between these can enable you to make education decisions when purchasing your gear.