Banana plugs or not?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by DavidSugar, Nov 9, 2002.

  1. DavidSugar

    DavidSugar Auditioning

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    I am under the impression that banana plugs are the best way to attach speaker wire to the receiver. The salesman at the store said they normally do not use them because the connection from the wire to the plug is an additional potential problem. They prefer to go right into the screw cap on the receiver. They only use banana plugs when there is the likelihood of frequent plugging and unplugging of the connections.

    Any comments would be appreciated.
     
  2. Jo_M

    Jo_M Stunt Coordinator

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    The best connection is the path with the least resistance (so to speak). The fewer the terminators the better off you are. A lot of people like Banana plugs for the convenience. I use them for my fronts but not my surrounds. Once I get everything the way I want it, I may go back to bare wire.
     
  3. Pablo Abularach

    Pablo Abularach Supporting Actor

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    David,

    There is a lot of opinions in this subject, but it all comes to making it easy, intalling speakers or changing conections or adding components sometimes very difficult. I think the best way to conect your speakers is with bare wire, but I have banana plugs in my speakers and in my receiver, but just because I connect a lot of stuff, and it is very easy with banana plugs.

    My suggestion is to buy a couple and try them, if you hear anything different (that you dont like) return to bare wire conections.

    Hope this helps,
    Pablo Abularach
     
  4. Marc H

    Marc H Second Unit

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    As long as all your gear uses proper binding posts, bare wire is the way to go. Why add another contact surface?
     
  5. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    I'm not certain that "adding another contact surface" will give you any appreciable real-world difference in sound. Try your connections with and without and decide for yourself. Personally, I've never been able to tell the difference and have always liked the convience of banana plugs. I use the Radio Shack gold-plated variety and have been happy with them; your mileage may vary.

    --AM
     
  6. Dalton

    Dalton Screenwriter

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    I also noted no difference at all in sound when i switched to banana plugs. What i did gain was a great convenience for hooking and unhooking equipment.

    Dalton
     
  7. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

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    Real Name:
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    Ditto that.
     
  8. John Kotches

    John Kotches Cinematographer

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    For obvious reasons, to me convenience is king. I use bananas everywhere possible.
    I'm not a fan of the bare wire connection, as copper and silver leads oxidize over time, and I'd rather not reterminate every so often to get rid of the oxidation.
    Does it affect the audibility? Probably not, but I don't like seeing it there [​IMG]
     
  9. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    Look at the collection of binding posts at the back of your receiver. Try to insert your fingers between each pair where the side-holes are like you are threading 12 ga wire into them. If your fingers cannot reach, go with bananas.

    I like the dual-bananas from Radio Shack (xxx-308) for behind the speakers. The solid spacer bar keeps the plugs from shorting if a dog/child trips over the wire while the power is on. The 2-part single bananas (xxx-306) are great for behind the receiver.
     
  10. Jeff D.

    Jeff D. Supporting Actor

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    The idea behind banana plugs vs. bare wire (copper) is that copper will corrode over time - causing the connection to deteriorate. Terminating in a quality banana plug eliminates this concern. It also makes it more user-friendly and lessens the chance of accidental shorting.
    If you are going to use a banana plug, try and find the spring-loaded Deltron type, as opposed to the ubiquitous umbrella-style. The umbrellas do not offer a very solid connection, whereas the spring loaded types always remain incredibly stiff - sometimes its a bit of a chore getting it in or out - but its a damn good connection! [​IMG]
    /Jeff
     
  11. DavidSugar

    DavidSugar Auditioning

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    After taking in all of the good advice given here I consulted a friend who is an electrical engineer, in the commercial electronics area. It turns out he is very familiar with audio issues.

    To summarize, he took over 30 minutes to explain everything and I won't go into all the details here (he could write a book on the topic) it depends.

    According to Joe, you get a slightly better connection going directly wire to binding post. However, if you make a lot of changes to your system you should use banana plugs. Just make sure that you have a very good connection between the wire and the banana plug.

    Other comments included his opinion that it would take at least 10 years or damp conditions for corrosion of the copper to become an issue, but despite the claims of banana plug proponents that connection would deteriorate exactly the same way as the wire to binding post. Soldering would generally be slightly better, but if you do it incorrectly you may have problems introduced by the flux.
     
  12. John_W_Jr

    John_W_Jr Stunt Coordinator

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    First: Silver doesn't oxidize--it tarnishes.
    Second: Soldered connections are second only to properly crimped connections in terms of good conductivity (though I don't think a difference could be "heard."). Not counting bare wire ends here (best connector is no connector, and all that). After soldering, flux (especially an "active" one) should be cleaned from the solder joint--ethyl alcohol works well.
    Third: Ever since I tried the original Monster Cable speaker wire back in the late seventies (bare ends to speaker and amplifier posts), and I noticed the wire turning green after several months, I decided never to use bare wire again. Could have just been poor copper--dunno.
    Anyway, just my $.02 and HO. [​IMG]
    Also, I use spade lugs mainly (soldered), and banana plugs.
     
  13. DavidSugar

    DavidSugar Auditioning

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    First I would point out that term tarnish as it relates to silver is an unscientific name for oxidation and is also an appropriate layman's term for oxidation of copper. However, silver, especially when moisture is present, oxidizes much quicker than copper and although it is a better conductor of electricity than copper, is only suitable for permanent connections(source electrical engineer and electrician).

    Second, I may have been ambiguous in my previous posting, but, according to the electrical engineer, confirmed this morning with a professional electrical contractor with 35 years experience in every aspect of the business including low voltage(which is what audio is) and a manufacturer of automatic welding and soldering equipment in the consumer electronics business (I didn't realize I knew so many experts) the best possible connection from an electrical perspective is a properly soldered one.

    However, in the real world, very few amateurs and maybe many professionals are not capable of properly soldering for a variety of reasons including lack of proper tools,use of incorrect solder and/or flux for the job and in almost every case, lack of skill. According to all three, a proper soldering job, done by an automatic machine lasts virtually forever, think about circuit boards. According to all three, a proper soldering job is always superior to even the best crimp job as there is always a minute amount of space between the connector and the wire. In the real world they all feel that a good crimp job will last a long time unless moisture is present. If moisture is present, a proper soldering job is far superior to even the best crimp job.

    A final point, the electrical engineer as significant part of his full time job has tested numerous types of wire and found the following: Virtually all brands of copper wire, whether the cheapest off brand or the most expensive name brand are virtually identical when it comes to the chemical and physical properties of the wire. There is however, some variation in the quality of the insulation and the connectors. His suggestion, before purchasing wire, check for the flexibility and thickness of the insulating material, which can be a sign of quality. Also the green tint noted by some is the visual result of the oxidation of the copper(which turns green when oxidizes). He states that if this occurs in a short period of time, the wire is probably being used in a damp location. The oxidation will not however, affect in any way the electrical capacity of the wire unless the part of the wire where the connection occurs is oxidized.
     
  14. Brian Fitterman

    Brian Fitterman Stunt Coordinator

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    I have used many banana plugs.

    The ones I got from Niles worked great, but they were all metal and very heavy. They shorted on my once when another interconnect wire dropped and fell accross the two plugged in the back of the amp.

    I then tried vampire ones...not that good at all.

    Then I went to the Audioquest BFA style...I would never do any other kind. These offer the greatest area of contact from plug to binding post. They are tight and do not come out easily, and accept very large AWG wire. But they are costly. $4-5 each! Not cheap if you are bi-wiring.
     
  15. John_W_Jr

    John_W_Jr Stunt Coordinator

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    David: Thanks for the info. Like your earlier post, I didn't go into great detail on my post either. I'm not an EE, but a PC board designer and fabricator. Much of what I do is mil-spec work; we use silver plated copper wire with teflon insulation. Tarnish is an oxidation, but with silver the reaction to oxygen is not as severe as it is to copper. Maybe that's the distinction: moisture vs. air? The silver coating really makes for better "whetting" when soldering (we use Sn63 solder, sometimes Sn62).
    I should have justified crimped connections by saying they require a gas tight seal to be truly effective--otherwise, yes, all bets are off as your EE friend pointed out. With soldering, I should add that strain relief is utmost important (true for crimping too) in that brittleness occurs when soldering wire to a connector. We use heat shrink tubing over the joint and extending about .5" back onto the wire--this relieves any stress from the joint. For cleaning flux, we use AP-20 (Tetrachloroethylene/Amyl Acetate--try finding that at Radio Shack [​IMG]).
    On somewhat of a related note: One of the things I see happening most often is cracked solder joints--mainly on low cost audio components. RCA jacks are soldered to one side of a rather cheese-y (technical term) pc board (with non-plated thru holes) and the jacks aren't supported by the chassis panel at all. The only support is at the solder joint. Now, connect and reconnect those Monster turbine RCA connectors several dozen times and see what happens (typically, you'll hear crackling noises, and/or drop outs if the cracked joint is severe enough to cause only an intermittent connection). I'm not saying always--but I've seen it frequently; but never on an audio component where the RCA jacks that are board mounted AND mounted to the (rear) panel.
    Thanks again for the dialog--I love getting into (and learning) the physics of this hobby. BUT I'm not a GEEK! [​IMG]
     
  16. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    some of my friends (who i think are full of hooey [​IMG] ) say that the banana plugs not only deteriorate the sound, but that they affect the sound by changing the characteristics of the audio signal.
    that being said, i use the rat-shack plugs and love em.
     
  17. DavidSugar

    DavidSugar Auditioning

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    John: Your your latest comments are almost identical to my EE friend's. As you correctly point out, when soldering is used, a professional, quality job is important.
    Thanks for the clarification. I think we've beaten the you know what out of this topic.[​IMG]
     
  18. John_W_Jr

    John_W_Jr Stunt Coordinator

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    David: I'm always learning--and your right: well beaten topic. On to the movies! [​IMG]
    Ted: I, too, use some banana plugs in my HT system. But your post reminded me about some comments Richard Vandersteen (of Vandersteen Audio, natch') has made concerning banana connectors. Uhhhh, basically, there are NO provisions for banana plugs on my Vandersteen 3A signature speakers. [​IMG] I can say no more...:b
     

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