The Best RCA Cables: How to Connect you A/V Devices Easily - Rolling Stone
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Make an Instant Connection With These RCA Cables

If you’re hooking up a turntable, TV, DVD player, composite or component video, chances are you’re going to need one of these cables

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Radio Corporation of America first designed the RCA connector in the early 1940s, and since then, it’s become common worldwide, establishing its legendary status as one of the oldest AV cables still in use today.

The reason why RCA cables are so good: they’re simple, effective and clearly marked for easy installation, often with both ends conveniently color-coded, with a red end for the right audio channel and a black or white one for the left. A composite-type cable will have these two, as well as a third yellow input for connecting video.

Since RCA cables carry analog signals, you won’t be able to plug it directly into a digital device such as a laptop, and will need a slightly adapted version designed to fit the proper port, such as having an XLR or HDMI input at one end.

And while the quality and build does indeed have an impact on the sound, an RCA cable doesn’t have to be super expensive to give you great audio. There are still a few things to look out for though.

What You Need to Know About RCA Cables

Shielding around the cable is important. Since the connection through an RCA cable is a low-voltage one, it’s prone to interference, and good shielding can cut down on that. Length also matters, since the signal weakens as soon as it leaves your device, and if it has to travel a longer distance to your sound output, you’ll be losing quality the farther it has to go.

An RCA cable should also be flexible too, especially if you’ll be weaving and winding it to reach its destination. Braided shielding will ensure that your cable can bend and twist without breaking the wires inside. A worn out or broken cable can become an unwanted “mono” cable over time and only play one channel, which is endlessly annoying.

But inside counts as well. Varying materials, like copper, nickel and silver, are what carry and protect the sound signal, dissipate unwanted noise like clicking and popping, and can make a difference in the resulting audio you hear. Some brands feature Oxygen-Free Copper (OFC) which claims to have better conductivity and therefore better sound, but it all comes down to a matter of preference.

These four options will help you start getting great sound out of any setup.

1. AmazonBasics 3.5mm to 2-Male RCA Adapter

These split RCA cables fit firmly and deliver reliably crisp audio from any device with a headphone port.

With a 3.5mm auxiliary audio jack on one end, and two male RCA connectors on the other, this is an old-school option for quickly hooking up your phone, tablet or laptop to external speakers – no Bluetooth needed.

The polished metal RCA connectors are dual-shielded, while the 3.5mm connector is gold-plated and corrosion-resistant, delivering a clear sound with little signal loss.

A flexible PVC exterior helps protect the inputs from getting bent, but the wires aren’t as insulated on the outside as some other brands, so be careful not to twist and tug them too much.

AmazonBasics 3.5mm to 2-Male RCA Adapter

Amazon

2. iMBAPrice RCA M/Mx3 Audio/Video Cable

This gold-plated cable is perfect for hooking up audio and video media, such as a DVD player, Hi-Fi, or HDTV. There’s little loss of signal quality, as it comes through clear and is guarded against EMI/RFI interference.

The gold-plating is legit, not just a cheap plastic painted part, protecting it from corrosion and rust over time (and preserving the sound signal too). Installation is easy, as each cable is clearly marked and color-coated, able to twist and bend without damaging the wiring inside.

The lengths vary, from three feet up to 100, so there are a host of different options here to build your ideal HD setup without leaving loads of slack hanging around.

iMBAPrice RCA M/Mx3 Audio/Video Cable

Amazon

3. JSAUX RCA Stereo Cable

From the first glance, you’ll notice these look different than the rest of the competition. But these nylon-braided cables aren’t just about aesthetics – they serve a practical purpose too.

The nylon braiding is built to bend over 10,000 times, and prevents the cables from getting all tangled up behind your stereo. They can bear significantly more weight and wear, and are fused with tough fiber for ultimate flexibility.

Audio quality is great here too; no clicking/popping or frayed wires. The connectors are plated in 24k gold, providing protection against oxidation over time, while oxygen-free copper wires send sound signals between devices seamlessly in full stereo.

JSAUX RCA Stereo Cable

Amazon

4. KabelDirekt RCA Stereo Cable

KabelDirect makes cables that e-sports pros rely on, so they need to be fast, flexible, and reliable.

Their RCA cables hold up to that standard, delivering clear sound and a snug fit, with no overheating or loss of signal.

Gold-plating comes standard, as does the double-shielded, oxygen-free copper core to prevent interference. The cables are coated with protective PVC, and can easily pull apart if you need to separate them out. Plus there are plenty of different sizes available too.

KabelDirekt RCA Stereo Cable

Amazon

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