What types of audio connections are there and which one is best to use?

When connecting a sound equipment or peripheral, we have to use different audio connections . And although the jack (or mini jack) connection is the most widely used and standardized, there are multiple options, each with its specific characteristics and offering different improvements . Next, we are going to tell you what are all the types of audio connections that exist , their characteristics and which one you should use for the best audio performance.

While it is true that there are many options to connect sound equipment, really the most widely used connections are 3 or 4 nothing more. However, that does not mean that we do not have other possibilities, each with its own characteristics, so we are going to see them. Of course, in this case we are going to omit the HDMI connection because, although it can also be used for audio, its primary functionality is to transmit video and it is beside the point.

Types of audio connections

As a summary, in the following image you can see all the audio connections that are currently used, but keep in mind that they are not ordered in any specific way, it is simply a list.

ADAT / Toslink

ADAT stands for Alesis Digital Audio Tape. It is a digital multichannel format that uses a helical rotating drum with two read heads and two recording heads arranged on a drum every 90 degrees. It was the first MDM (Modular Digital Multitrack) format, and is capable of recording up to 8 tracks with up to 24-bit resolution using a 44.1 or 48 KHz sample rate, allowing synchronization of up to 16 ADAT devices.

Currently, the ADAT is no longer marketed, but its connector type has been inherited by the S / PDIF digital audio connection, and we can find it on almost any PC with a Toslink connector. This standard was created by Toshiba in 1983 and is based on the use of optical rather than electrical signals.


FireWire, also known as IEEE 1394, is a type of multiplatform connection that transmits data serially at high speed (up to 400 Mbps). It allows the connection of up to 63 devices, and supports cable lengths of up to 4 meters. In 2000 the FireWire 800 standard was published which almost doubled the speed (786.5 Mbps) and reduced the delay. Unlike ADAT, it allows plug & play connection.

This is one of the audio connections that have been discontinued, due to the appearance of more interesting ones. The latest advancement in the FireWire connection came with the release of the S1600 and s3200 versions, which quadrupled the speed of the Firewire 800.


The well-known USB can also be used for exclusive audio transmission, and proof of this are the USB headphones or microphones that we can find for PC. The audio in this case is completely digital and requires processing, either by software or by hardware, with a transmission speed of up to 60 MB / s on the USB 2.0 interface.

Over time, the USB 2.0 interface has been updated, which has led to the birth of USB 3.0, 3.1 Gen1 and Gen 2 and even 3.2. The improvements introduced in the new versions are related to the transmission speed. USB 3.0 has a transmission speed of up to 600 MB / s; USB 3.1, up to 1.25 GB / s and USB 3.2 up to 2.5 GB / s.


The acronym S / PDIF stands for Sony / Philips Digital Interface Format. It is a hardware-level transmission protocol of PCM-modulated digital audio signals between devices. Currently we can find it with a Toslink or RCA connector, the latter being coaxial with 75 ohms, but there are also occasions when this protocol can be used with XLR or even 25-pin D-Sub connectors.

Despite its age, it is still used in commercial or domestic applications, such as sound bars, DVDs or, for example, Home Cinema with Dolby Digital.


Also called the Cannon (since they were the inventors), this type of audio connection has been the professional standard for many years. It stands out for its low impedance and ease of connection, and for this reason it is also known as a “balanced cable” in the audio industry, since the input and output voltage circulates through the positive and negative poles instead of the power cable. “balanced” high impedance, where only one internal wire has the load.


BNC comes from Bayonet Neill-Concelman, and is a type of coaxial connector that gets its name from its “bayonet” type closure, which ensures that the connector will not come out if we don’t want to (it will literally break the cable before the connector comes off ). Its main characteristic in addition to the type of closure is that it has a constant impedance, which allows connections with cables of many meters.

This connector, by the way, is not used exclusively in audio, since in the past its use in networks was popularized thanks to its 10Base2 data transmission capacity to connect the network bus to the interfaces.

TS / TRS (Jack)

There are many, many variants that this type of connector has, which has become the standard in the audio industry because it is the easiest, fastest and plug & play way to have analog audio that does not require anything else, so the signal it delivers is exact to the one captured. It is also called a TS (tip-sleeve, tip-sleeve) or TRS (tip-ring-sleeve, tip-ring-sleeve) connector because of its shape and because it distributes the connection poles in a single body.

It is one of the most used audio connections in the world at all levels: PC, players, laptops, tablets, etc.


MIDI is the abbreviation for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, which as its name indicates is a means of digital connection specially conceived for musical instruments, and today it is the standard connection for (music) keyboards. This interface was invented so that musical instruments could communicate with each other, and that one instrument could control another. For this reason, the famous pedalboards used by many guitarists have a MIDI connection (since the pedalboard is used to modify the sound of the guitar).

We see it in all professional studios, since it is the audio connection that allows producers to work with different production software (FL Studio, Ableton, Pro Tools, Logic Pro, etc.).

What type of audio connection is best to use?

With the large number of audio connections out there, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed and not sure which one is best to use. Do not get overwhelmed, because as you may have already noticed each type of connection is designed for a specific purpose, and as we indicated at the beginning, in reality only 3-4 types of connection are used in normal environments.

For a PC , the recommendation is to connect the speakers via S / PDIF / Toslink for the best lossless digital audio, while if you want a professional streaming quality microphone you should avoid the USB connectors and you should go for a microphone with XLR connection , which will be the one that delivers the most realistic sound (the bad part is that you will need a preamp or XLR to Jack converter to be able to connect it to the PC).

Now, if you are not looking for the best audio quality, then the USB connection is plenty and enough for what you need, especially because it is the one that has the least complications (although it needs additional software and drivers, of course) after connecting through Jack.


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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