Mono and stereo audio connections by Ric Ording

connectors

Almost all analogue leads carry a single mono signal. Therefore, to connect a device in stereo you must use 2 leads, 1 each for the left and right channels. To monitor the stereo effect, you must pan them left and right. There is 1 exception ... headphone leads carry a stereo unbalanced signal down a single cable that utilises a TRS (stereo) 1/4" jack plug or stereo mini jack.

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Analogue leads

In the sound recording studio almost all analogue leads carry a single mono signal. To connect a device in stereo you must therefore use 2 mono leads (left and right).

There is 1 exception ...

  • Headphone leads carry a stereo unbalanced signal down a single cable that uses a 1/4" (stereo) jack plug

Digital leads

Because digital signals can encode multiple channels in a single signal only one lead is required to carry mono, stereo and multi-channel signals. Examples include ...

  • An AES XLR lead, carrying an AES/EBU 2 channel signal
  • A digital phono lead, carrying an S/PDIF 2 channel signal
  • A Toslink optical lead, carrying an 8 channels ADAT signal
  • A BNC lead, carrying a 56 channel MADI signal

Note: AES (XLR connectors) and SPDIF (phono connector) leads require a different cable to their analogue counterparts (mic and phono leads).

NOTE: You may also want to read about digital audio synchronisation.