If you’re new to connecting up audio speakers and PA equipment you may wonder what a SpeakOn cable and connector is, and why it’s necessary? after all, we’ve been using XLR cables for decades so why the need to change? Firstly here’s what a SpeakOn cable connection actually is.
So, what is a speakon cable?
A SpeakOn cable has a special type of connection invented by Neutrik that excels at connecting amplifiers to loudspeakers. A SpeakOn cable is a type of connection that can only be used with high-voltage audio equipment and hence can never be mistaken with any other use.
According to most experts in the industry, their introduction meant the start of a new era for audio connections in the world.
Let’s look in more detail into this type of connector so you can learn everything there is to know about them.
What Is A SpeakOn Connector?
For years, high-end audio cables have been mistaken by users, and, most of the time, speakers are connected to amplifiers using regular XLR or ¼ cables.
A SpeakOn connector used to feed a large PA or audio system is a better conductor of the high level of electrical current that is afterward translated into audio waveforms than a regular ¼ inch cable or even an XLR one.
This higher capacity for electrical current is a synonym for a better quality of audio hitting the ears of the audience. If you invested thousands of dollars into state of the art equipment to sound amazing and end up wiring it all with low-quality regular ¼ inch cables, you´ll be wasting your money.
Take a look here on Amazon at SpeakOn connectors.
What Is A SpeakOn Connection Good For?
Now that you know what a SpeakOn connector is, it’s time to discuss their use. Lets take a look at what a SpeakOn cable is great for:
- Amplifier to speaker connections – This is the most common use for this kind of connector. Whether it’s a huge PA system or a bass amp head to its cabinet, the result is always enhanced by the use of this kind of connection.
- Outdoors connections – Since the SpeakOn cables are capable of carrying huge amounts of current to translate into audio, they are thoroughly shielded to minimize the risk of any potential electrical shock. If you are going to have outdoor connections, I highly recommend using SpeakOn cables.
- Risky stages – SpeakOn connectors design was done in such a way that it is virtually impossible for anyone to trip on them and stop the music. The twist-and-lock feature is great for risky stages.
- Take a look at this article on how to connect a power amp to active speakers.
Advantages Of SpeakOn Connectors
Let´s take a look at some of the advantages of switching over to SpeakOn connectors in the near future:
They can handle it
Because of the structure and the contact area with the sound source, SpeakOn connections can handle higher levels of current making them ideal especially for big PA systems that handle high volume.
Since the actual connector for these kinds of cables is deep inside the plastic shielding, the risks of oxidation, corrosion and such are minimised. This extends the life of the cable and at the same time helps audio quality due to the isolation.
Take a look at this page on Amazon to see a massive selection of speakOn connections and cables.
Twist And Lock
The locking feature of SpeakOn connectors is great for risky stages as stated above, but also for protecting your audio equipment since a sudden disconnection of one side of your PA can severely harm your equipment.
SpeakON Connectors Are Unmistakable
It can and has happened before that your awesome guitar player is an ace of the instrument but has a hard time remembering to bring the cables to the show and ends up using a speaker cable to plug in his instrument. With SpeakOn connectors, that will never happen; plus SpeakOn connectors are generally blue which makes them easier to locate especially on a dimly lit stage.
Service Them On The Go
Servicing a SpeakOn cable is as easy as it gets. You can even put on new connectors to its ends in a matter of minutes and with a minimal amount of tools. When an XLR or ¼ inch connector is damaged, servicing it on the spot is mission impossible unless you have a ton of patience and soldering iron ready to go. This is a great advantage of the SpeakOn cable set-up.
Here’s a useful video on how to make and repair your own SpeakOn cables
Do Speakon Cables Have An Impact On Tone?
Well, the main reason why most people switch to SpeakOn cables and connectors is because of safety and reliability, but what about the sound?
According to most users, the fact that the surface area contacting the audio source is bigger than on a ¼” cable, SpeakOn cables are able to deliver better sound quality than any other connector.
As a matter of fact, most professionals in the industry have it in the rider of the artist (AKA sound requirements to perform) to have all-SpeakOn connections in the backline.
Finally, every SpeakOn connector cleans itself after using so you can forget about audio degradation as a product of continuous use, grime, oxidation and such. Everything standing between the audio source and the connector means sound quality loss.
Top Brands And Models
Knowing what a SpeakOn connector is, is not enough; it’s time to take a look at which models/brands you should be looking at. For brands, we recommend you go for the original: Neutrik.
SPX & FC Series Connectors
These are the models that revolutionized the market with their appearance.
First, a 2-pole connector was all there was and now you can get the NL8-FC, for example, that features 8 poles.
These SpeakOn cables all feature a plastic robust housing as well as the traditional chuck type cable-clamp that works perfectly with the twist and lock idea. All connectors are touch-proof and self-cleaning for extended life.
From the NL2FX, which is the simplest 2-pole connector, all the way to the NL8FC; Neutrik manufactures these cables using the highest standards.
Just by picking one up and experiencing the quality of the cord you realise that these cables are serious business. They come in different colour combinations so you can be sure you are connecting the left side of the power amp with the left side of the stage, for example.
Angled NL4FRX Cable Connectors
Finally, the NL4FRX is an angled version of the SpeakOn connector that works great in reduced stages and small spaces where cabinets and speakers have to be close to the wall behind them. They work great in small stages to avoid singers getting their feet tangled in the monitor cables since you can tilt them back and away easily.
STX Series SpeakOn Cables
“When things get tough, the pros go STX!”
This could very well be the slogan for the STX series of Neutrik Speakon cables. They are available in a wide array of formats and include much more metal in the connectors than any other line.
They come in nickel or black chrome finishes and feature connectors from 4 to 8 poles. The idea of Neutrik when creating this line was to aim at the professional touring musicians and their need for an extra-rugged, more durable cable that will stand the nuances of the road.
Are SpeakOn Cables Worth The Extra Investment?
We’ve just been through all of the reasons why SpeakOn connections are superior to XLR and ¼” inch cables. Now, is this difference enough for you to invest that extra money on them? Let´s take a look at some of the reasons why you should go the extra mile:
- Stay connected – Whether you are a musician or in charge of the PA, when the music stops, it is a problem for all of the involved. Secure your gig, losing that paycheck might be more expensive than investing in SpeakOn connectors (especially for your professional reputation).
- Sound Better – Because of the higher contact zone and the self-cleaning connectors, everything just sounds better with SpeakOn cables. Again, if you want people to hire you, you have to sound the best.
- Always Be Ready – Since you can quickly self-service SpeakOn cables on the spot and even attach new ends very easily, you will always be ready to switch a malfunctioning cable and let the show go on in a matter of minutes. A sound man that is always ready is more likely to land more gigs.
- Here’s a useful video showing how to convert XLR to SpeakOn
I hope this article has helped educate you on what a SpeakOn connector is, what the benefits of SpeakOn cables are, and why it is worth the extra investment. All that’s left is making the decision of changing your current setup for an all-SpeakOn one.
In the world of professional sound, you need to be prepared for any eventuality.
Saving money on SpeakOn connections and using your expensive PA equipment through regular ¼ inch cables is like buying a Lamborghini and using regular fuel in it.
Your chain is only as strong as its weakest link so don’t let a cheap cable ruin your reputation and your finances.
A switch to SpeakOn cables today will enhance the ease of use of your setup and make the audience hear the difference.