How Hi-Fi Magazines Write about Cables, Part 9: Banana Plugs

61-GbTPO+oL._SL1500_.jpgI hate connecting speaker wire to speakers and amps. I finally broke down and bought some banana plugs: I bought 24 of them. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

With banana plugs, you run your speaker wire in the big hole in the side, after unscrewing the bottom part, then screw it shut to hold the wire firmly. You can then insert the plugs into the speaker terminals, assuming your speakers are compatible with banana plugs.

As you can see, the banana plugs I bought aren’t expensive, but you can spend a few hundred dollars on a pair of them. Remember, for a stereo with two speakers, you need four pairs: one for each end of each speaker cable.

So, I naturally went in search of reviews of these audiophile banana plugs. I was surprised that I didn’t find any. Imagine spending a couple thousand dollars on speaker cables, then putting $2 banana plugs on them. Wouldn’t that ruin the entire system? Apparently not; even in audiophile forums, I don’t see any kind of raving about top-of-the-line banana plugs. (Many expensive audio cables come with banana plugs fitted, but not all.)

So, if the cable is great, it makes a difference. But you may connect an expensive cable to your speakers or amps with cheap banana plugs, and that has no effect? Interesting.

If anyone does find reviews of banana plugs, let me know.

14 thoughts on “How Hi-Fi Magazines Write about Cables, Part 9: Banana Plugs

  1. I’m no die-hard audiophile, so I am not up on the current prevailing wisdom, but I would imagine audiophiles shying away from banana plus for speaker connections. Every connection along the line is an opportunity for the introduction of noise and/or a reduction in fidelity. I would think bare wire would be preferred.

    But then, I wouldn’t (and don’t) use anything but lamp cord for speaker cable anyways. So, what do I know?

    Joe

    • I have heard no evidence that banana cables would, if not corroded, change the sound. If it can be heard, it can be measured. This isn’t rocket science.

      Peace,
      Gene

  2. I’m no die-hard audiophile, so I am not up on the current prevailing wisdom, but I would imagine audiophiles shying away from banana plus for speaker connections. Every connection along the line is an opportunity for the introduction of noise and/or a reduction in fidelity. I would think bare wire would be preferred.

    But then, I wouldn’t (and don’t) use anything but lamp cord for speaker cable anyways. So, what do I know?

    Joe

    • I have heard no evidence that banana cables would, if not corroded, change the sound. If it can be heard, it can be measured. This isn’t rocket science.

      Peace,
      Gene

  3. “If it can be heard”

    When it comes to hard-core audiophiles this is the point. Many claim to hear things that can’t be measured. Why else would people be willing to spend thousands of dollars on speaker wire, measurements be damned? I’m not saying they are right. I am only saying they exist. Eric Johnson claims he can hear the difference when his guitar cord is plugged in “backwards”.

    “This isn’t rocket science”

    Yes, but some of this is rocket surgery. 🙂 Which is why I said “opportunity”, not “absolutely”. As someone who builds amps and works in live audio support, I _can_ say (other things being equal) the cleanest electronic path is more often the one with the least points of connections. A number of problems can occur at break points in a circuit line—increased resistance, RF interference, etc. While not always or even often a problem, those points usually are the weakest links and often the first place to check when troubleshooting.

    Mechanically, a lot of people avoid banana plugs because they can be more easily pulled out. In the pro audio world many techs use Neutrik connectors for speaker connections.

    But, whatever. All that really matters is the person with the equipment is happy. I wish I knew more about banana plugs to be of real help.

    Joe

    • Claims of audible differences in cables are largely unproven. You can claim anything you want, but will the claim stand up when the product labels are hidden?

      Peace,
      Gene

      • “but will the claim stand up when the product labels are hidden”

        That’s the question, isn’t it? I remember when I worked at a music store along tie ago, a pro audio rep gave a workshop and talked about the audible range of most normal humans. He would play a signal through his system starting at 20 hz and would progress up to 20kHz or until people couldn’t hear anything any more. most people dropped off around 12k-14kHz. One guy claimed he heard 18kHz until the engineer confessed he didn’t play an audio signal. Of course that doesn’t mean the guy didn’t hear something, he just didn’t hear it from the demo. 🙂

        One anecdote I heard about Ej and his belief in polarity in wiring was he was going nuts trying to find out what was wrong with his rig during a sound check. He finally found one cable his guitar tech plugged in “backwards”, swapped how it was plugged and that fixed it.

        But then what we hear is one of the most subjective things. A lot of new, wanna-be recording techs will invariably start asking about the most “transparent” microphone for recording, a mic that doesn’t colour the sound. Well, there really is no such thing. And just like the old commercials from some speaker company I cannot remember to save my life, no one listens to their audio in an anechoic chamber. There are so many things that can colour the sound (including the speakers) the most you can do is find what sounds good to you.

        The only concern with the banana plugs pictured that I can think of is they seem to have a screw connection to the speaker wire. If the author thinks going direct to the speaker terminal connection (presumably a spring or screw connection) is an issue for whatever reason, those plugs likely won’t solve that. He is just putting that contact point one connection removed. I can’t imagine they would necessarily serve him any better. If he wants an arguably _better_ connection with the banana plugs, I would recommend at least a banana plug that is well soldered to the speaker wire to get the greatest benefit from the banana contact.

        Or not.

        Joe

        • I remember the live versus recorded concerts conducted by an old-time audio speaker manufacturer, Acoustic Research. Beginning in the 1960s, AR presented over 75 of those concerts that featured a string orchestra and an echo-free recorded version. The demonstration was compelling. I was real young when I first heard one, and I was convinced. But the demonstration was very limited, and very carefully controlled. You’d never get the same effect in your home, and, in fact, the original AR acoustic suspension speakers had regular upgrades. How do you upgrade perfection?

          The current owners of the trademark, VOXX International, specialize in wireless speakers. They are relatively cheap and the company makes no promises of perfect sound.

          Peace,
          Gene

  4. “If it can be heard”

    When it comes to hard-core audiophiles this is the point. Many claim to hear things that can’t be measured. Why else would people be willing to spend thousands of dollars on speaker wire, measurements be damned? I’m not saying they are right. I am only saying they exist. Eric Johnson claims he can hear the difference when his guitar cord is plugged in “backwards”.

    “This isn’t rocket science”

    Yes, but some of this is rocket surgery. 🙂 Which is why I said “opportunity”, not “absolutely”. As someone who builds amps and works in live audio support, I _can_ say (other things being equal) the cleanest electronic path is more often the one with the least points of connections. A number of problems can occur at break points in a circuit line—increased resistance, RF interference, etc. While not always or even often a problem, those points usually are the weakest links and often the first place to check when troubleshooting.

    Mechanically, a lot of people avoid banana plugs because they can be more easily pulled out. In the pro audio world many techs use Neutrik connectors for speaker connections.

    But, whatever. All that really matters is the person with the equipment is happy. I wish I knew more about banana plugs to be of real help.

    Joe

    • Claims of audible differences in cables are largely unproven. You can claim anything you want, but will the claim stand up when the product labels are hidden?

      Peace,
      Gene

      • “but will the claim stand up when the product labels are hidden”

        That’s the question, isn’t it? I remember when I worked at a music store along tie ago, a pro audio rep gave a workshop and talked about the audible range of most normal humans. He would play a signal through his system starting at 20 hz and would progress up to 20kHz or until people couldn’t hear anything any more. most people dropped off around 12k-14kHz. One guy claimed he heard 18kHz until the engineer confessed he didn’t play an audio signal. Of course that doesn’t mean the guy didn’t hear something, he just didn’t hear it from the demo. 🙂

        One anecdote I heard about Ej and his belief in polarity in wiring was he was going nuts trying to find out what was wrong with his rig during a sound check. He finally found one cable his guitar tech plugged in “backwards”, swapped how it was plugged and that fixed it.

        But then what we hear is one of the most subjective things. A lot of new, wanna-be recording techs will invariably start asking about the most “transparent” microphone for recording, a mic that doesn’t colour the sound. Well, there really is no such thing. And just like the old commercials from some speaker company I cannot remember to save my life, no one listens to their audio in an anechoic chamber. There are so many things that can colour the sound (including the speakers) the most you can do is find what sounds good to you.

        The only concern with the banana plugs pictured that I can think of is they seem to have a screw connection to the speaker wire. If the author thinks going direct to the speaker terminal connection (presumably a spring or screw connection) is an issue for whatever reason, those plugs likely won’t solve that. He is just putting that contact point one connection removed. I can’t imagine they would necessarily serve him any better. If he wants an arguably _better_ connection with the banana plugs, I would recommend at least a banana plug that is well soldered to the speaker wire to get the greatest benefit from the banana contact.

        Or not.

        Joe

        • I remember the live versus recorded concerts conducted by an old-time audio speaker manufacturer, Acoustic Research. Beginning in the 1960s, AR presented over 75 of those concerts that featured a string orchestra and an echo-free recorded version. The demonstration was compelling. I was real young when I first heard one, and I was convinced. But the demonstration was very limited, and very carefully controlled. You’d never get the same effect in your home, and, in fact, the original AR acoustic suspension speakers had regular upgrades. How do you upgrade perfection?

          The current owners of the trademark, VOXX International, specialize in wireless speakers. They are relatively cheap and the company makes no promises of perfect sound.

          Peace,
          Gene

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