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 Understanding Cable and Connector Terminology

Understanding Cable Terminology

Cables are generally described based on the number and type of conductors, the gauge number and the usage description.

The conductor is the metal part of the wire of cable that carries electricity. "Multi-conductor" indicates that there is either two or more conductors within a single insulated sheath, or that two or more conductors with separate insulated sheaths are fused together. "Stranded-conductor" indicates that the conductor is made up of a number of small strands of wire twisted together and has the advantage of being highly flexible, making it very popular for speaker and audio hookups. "Solid-conductor" indicates that the conductor is a single wire.

The gauge number (such as 12-gauge, 12 ga. or AWG-12) indicates the size of the conductor. A lower gauge number means a larger conductor size. Just as a large pipe can carry more water than a small one, a large wire conductor can carry more electrical current. "AWG" stands for "American Wire Gauge".

The other consideration when looking at cables is where the cable will be used.

  • If you are running the cable through or behind walls, you should use cables which are either labeled "in-wall" or "UL type CL2".
  • If you are running the cable outside, it should be rated as "outdoor" or "UV-resistant", as the ultraviolet light in sunlight will cause the insulator on non-UV-resistant cable to deteriorate more rapidly.
  • If you are needing to actually bury the cable, it should be rated as "buriable".

If the cable does not carry one of the designations above, then it is rated for indoor, non-in-wall use.

Understanding Connector Terminology

Connectors are generally described based on the type of conductors, the metal plating, the body type or the installation method.

The standard RadioShack connectors are nickel-plated. Our top-end connectors (whether on a cable or sold separately) are gold-plated, to provide better connectivity and corrosion-resistance. For coastal and other high-humidity areas, corrosion can be a serious problem.

The standard body type is a straight body. Right-angle body types are used when space is an issue, to allow connection in a confined area. Piggy-back body types are used for special applications which require more than one connector to attach to a particular jack.

There are three basic methods for attaching a connector to a cable:

Solder: Most secure connection, requires soldering iron.
Crimp-on: Provides good connection, requires crimping tool or pliers.
Twist-on: Easiest to connect, provides acceptable connection, does not require tools.

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