Coaxial Cable Review
Why Do I Need Coaxial Cables?
Coaxial cables have been around for decades and carry signals to and from your electronic devices. Securing a strong connection from your wall to your television or from your DVD player to a monitor makes all the difference in picture quality. Likewise, a faulty connection from your cable modem to your router can seriously slow down or completely disrupt your internet connection.
Using inferior coax cables can lead to snowy picture quality and slow bandwidth. Here’s what you need to know to find the best coaxial cable for your needs so that you can avoid any problems. Also, learn more in our articles about coaxial cables.
The History of Coaxial Cables
Early forms of coaxial cables – coax for short – carried signals at the time of the telegraph. Initially, coax transmitted short encoded messages across continents and oceans. Coax cables as we know them were first introduced in the 1930s to transmit television pictures and carry telephone signals.
For decades, coax served as the de facto standard for TV cable. As time went on, people slowly began to realize the potential of coax cables and devised new ways to use them. In addition to telephone and video signals, coax cables now carry a heavy data load to provide internet service to millions of homes around the world.
If you own a television that is more than five years old, look on the back and you will find the familiar female coax jack. Similarly, coax outlets almost exclusively wire homes built between the 1950s through the early 2000s.
Similarly, almost all high-speed internet modems connect via coaxial cables. In many cases, coax is the only means of connection for televisions and internet modems. It may be old technology, but coax is not going away – not while so many devices still depend on this simple, adaptable connection standard.
Coaxial Cable Basics
Coax has a prominent presence in the technology world. The best coax cable is highly durable, comes in a variety of lengths and colors, and uses high-quality components. Furthermore, the best coaxial cable distributors offer bulk supplies and tools to create custom-length coax cable. Because they are ubiquitously used, you should make sure to buy the best coaxial cables possible.
Analog vs. Digital Coaxial Cords
There are two different types of coaxial cables on the market: digital and analog. Digital coaxial cables transmit data in a binary stream that passes through a microchip. As long as the zeros and ones make it down the wire intact, the signal can reconstruct without any data loss. Despite being standardized, the quality of each digital coaxial cable is still somewhat variable, and you'll want to find a good one.
Analog coax cables transmit information using waves. It is sent along the cable by pulses of positive and negative voltage. Digital data is more resilient than analog, but when interference causes data loss, audio output becomes spotty.
For most of your audio systems – especially six-channel surround sound systems – a standard digital coaxial cable will do the trick. If you want more than six separate audio streams, check to make sure your digital coaxial cable can take the strain.
Also, remember to consider the setup of your audio system. If you plan to run your cable through the wall, choose one that is UL certified. If not, choose a discreetly colored cable that will blend with your décor.
Connector and Wire Features
When you connect devices via coax, you want the best connection possible. Coaxial cables come with either F-Type, BNC or RCA connectors. The best coax cables sport gold-plated terminals that provide the best connection to female coax outlets and protect the inner copper wiring from corrosion.
A well-constructed cable can help to prevent spotty pictures on your television and poor audio. Look for a pure copper conductor and braided shield guards with at least one layer of protective foil. These materials help to block out interfering signals from your other appliances.
For example, cable distributed by Cables To Go uses gold-plated terminals and oxygen-free copper wire in its cables to reduce signal loss. Oxygen-free copper yields a lower signal loss ratio for audio, video and data transmitted across the coax cable. This gives you a better picture, sound and bandwidth.
Cables should also include shielding. Shielding is foil surrounding the wires that carry the signal in the coaxial cable. The foil protects the signal from outside elements and ensures that the signal meets its destination with the smallest loss possible. Some manufactures, like Monoprice, offer quad-shield technology, which is four layers of shielding.
Cable length options are essential because everybody has a different setup. Before you buy any cable, measure out your room to know how much you will need to avoid purchasing cable that is too long or too short. A little bit of good planning can save you a lot of time and money. For digital coax, look for cable length options between 1 and 6 feet; these lengths are ideal for connecting your DVD player to a receiver. Of all the coaxial cable manufacturers and distributors we looked at, few match the sheer number of options available through Monoprice.
Choose a Company That Provides Help & Support
If you pay a premium price for your audio cables, expect a lifetime warranty. Most manufacturers are particularly good with cable warranties, but make sure you know what you are buying – it could mean the difference between having the cable for a year or for life. If you need help getting things wired up, it is always nice to have good customer support to fall back on.
Many companies also offer warranties. These can be tricky, though. Some companies, like Accell, require an RMA number (Return Merchandise Approval number) before you can get a replacement cord or a refund. This number comes in the original packaging, so if you throw the packaging away you may be out of luck. You will also be responsible for the cost of shipping with some companies, so even with a warranty you may still need to dish out some cash. Other companies, like Mediabridge, state that all cables are subject to examination before the warranty is honored.
Coaxial cable is the old-timer of connection cables. It is still going strong and we would sorely miss it if it went away suddenly. Shopping for coaxial cable should get you connected as quickly and as painlessly as possible. With just a little bit of information, you can make an informed purchase that will leave you satisfied.