These types are smaller versions of the 1/4-inch phone connectors used on radios, camcorders, CD players and such. Most camcorders and VCRs have minijacks for connecting headphones and external microphones. Stereo microjacks-even smaller yet-often carry control-1/4 signals in 8mm-family camcorders.
You can find an adaptor to alter almost any connector. The question is: when should you do it and when shouldn’t you?
Only use adaptors in emergency or temporary situations. Any time you use an adaptor you risk a bad connection and the resultant signal degradation, or even a full scale break in the connection.
Is this because all adaptors are inherently shoddy? No, but they’re not permanent connections. Most don’t carry the cable’s shielding, making them more likely to pick up noise. They can slip when subjected to tension, resulting in a reduced connection.
Overall, the important thing about adaptors is that they add another variable into the equation, another item to troubleshoot.
That said, sometimes you have to fudge. In emergencies, the safest course is to use the right type of cable and the best quality cable first; then match the adaptors.
Always remember that “line” inputs/ outputs and “mike” inputs/outputs on audio equipment are of such different impedances that one will not work with the other. You can’t run a cable between a “line out” from a camcorder or tape deck and plug it into a “mike in” on another recorder-no matter what type of simple adaptor you stick on the end.
There are special matching transformers available that will take you from a “line” input/output to a “mike” input/output. Like any other adaptor, they’re better than nothing in an emergency or temporary situation; but they’re not a long-term solution. The long-term solution: buy equipment that interconnects with the right signal level and impedance.
Once you decide what type of cable you need, there are still some choices to make…multi-strand or single strand connectors, foil or mesh shielding, crimped or molded ends. Most cables are manufactured to such high standards today, that the main reason for choice comes down to application.
“Cables with single strand conductors and foil shielding are pretty rigid,” says Cornell. “If you’re buying Cable for a situation that doesn’t require flexibility, go with these. Shielding is rated in percentage of coverage and these are the highest rated, 1OO percent. If you require flexibility, multi-strand and mesh are the way to go. These cables once had greater problems with resistance to noise, but good ones are now also up to about 95 percent coverage.”
Molded cables will cost a little more, but offer some strain relief to the connections. Strain relief refers to the ability of the cable to withstand tension and fatigue from bending or pulling of the cable. Have you noticed how the headphones to your portable music machine tend to short and break right by the base of the mini plug? Strain relief will help prevent that type of breakage. Some cables come with rubber protectors or springs at the base of the connector to provide strain relief.
The bad news: once a molded cable has broken, you can’t repair it.
Crimped ends on cables have metal rings and cable insertion points squeezed tightly around the ends of the cable. They can suffer from strain and come loose or even disconnect from the end of the cable.