Does using an audio extension cable reduce the sound quality on your headphones? That’s a question that we get a lot from people. It usually comes when people set out to find the best audio extension cables for their headphones or for other equipment. That’s when they start wondering whether or not buying a long cable will result in a loss of audio quality. If you have been asking yourself this question, then this article is for you. Before we get into the subject of this article, here is a page on best Bluetooth headphones for 2020.
Audio extension cables do not reduce Sound Quality
You will hear a lot of theories about this out there. However, the fact of the matter is that Audio Extension cables do not really reduce sound quality. At least not by enough to be discernible during common day to day use. There are other factors that come into play, however, such as shielding and conductor quality.
Role of audio cables
This may seem like a simple question. But it goes to the core of answering the question on whether or not having a longer cable affects sound quality. So, what does an audio extension cable do?
Basically, an audio cable acts as the medium through which the signal travels from the source to the receiver. The source here could be your phone, your television or any other piece of electronic equipment that produces audio.
Theoretically, there is always loss due to impedance
So, why do people believe using a long extension cable will reduce audio quality? Theoretically, every cable will have some degree of impedance. So, a certain portion of the original signal will be lost along the way as it moves from the source to the receiver through the cable. However, that loss is so small as to be irrelevant.
What are audio cables made of?
Audio cables are made from copper. Signal transmission from the source to the receiver is analog. So, if they are all made from copper they must be the same right?
Factors affecting quality of audio extension cable
Well, not really! We have already noted that cable length does not really affect audio quality. Not unless the source and the receiver are miles apart. In an ordinary setting, using an audio extension cable should not have a noticeable difference.
However, the fact remains that different cables out there will produce different results. Try out 2 cables, and chances are high that you will notice difference in sound quality. Why is that the case? We have already discounted length as a factor. Well, there are other factors out there that affect the quality of an audio extension cable. The following are the most important;
- Quality of conductor (OFC)
Quality of Conductor
The quality of the conductor is a big factor affecting the quality of an audio extension cable. If you buy one that’s made from low quality material, you will have less than optimal results. Go on the market today, and you will come across different terminology that’s used to describe audio cable quality.
Oxygen Free Copper
This is the first bit of terminology that you will hear with regard to the quality of audio extension cables. Note that the terminology is polarizing. There are people out there who will state that Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) is a marketing gimmick. Then there are other people who will say that OFC is the key to high quality audio.
What is Oxygen Free Copper?
Copper has oxygen in various amounts. Oxygen free copper is a type of copper in which all the oxygen has been removed. Oxygen Free Copper is 99.9% free of oxygen.
Why remove Oxygen?
Oxygen in copper is an impurity when it comes to making audio cables. Oxygen reduces conductivity in copper. Removing it, therefore, theoretically increases the conductive qualities of copper. It means signals will be able to move from one point to the other with minimal impedance.
Should I choose and OFC cable?
Yes, there are people out there who believe OFC is nothing but a ploy by manufacturers to get you to buy what you don’t need. But, OFC cables actually do have some advantages;
- They are better conductors meaning your signal quality should be better. However, sound quality improvement is not really noticeable.
- They are more resistant to corrosion. These cables will last longer than ordinary cables. Again, probably not something that you will notice under normal use.
- They produce far less heat, which can be useful in a delicate environments, such as in vehicles.
Insulation is another factor that affects the quality of an audio transmission cable. It’s something that you need to keep in mind when buying an extension cable for your headphones or for other audio equipment. Insulation is important because the world in which we live is full of electromagnetic signals. You may not be aware of them, but they are still there. But what does insulation do?
What does insulation do in cables?
Insulation in cables does 2 things;
- It keeps the audio signal in
- It prevents interference from outside signals
- It protects the cable from water damage.
- It protects the cable from heat.
- It protects people from electric shocks
Why is this important?
This is important in that it helps keep the signal pure. It therefore has a huge bearing on the quality of the audio that you get on your speakers or headphones. If you buy an extension cable for your audio equipment that is not properly insulated and jacketed, you may hear static and other forms of interference in some instances.
Material used to insulate copper cables
Insulation has to be made from materials that are able to resist the flow of electricity. A good example is polyethylene.
Workmanship is the last factor that affects the quality of an audio cable. A cable that is made from all the right materials and that has been properly insulated will still perform dismally if there is poor workmanship, such as in soldering.
Summary: Does using an Audio Extension Cable Reduce Sound Quality?
Now to get back to the question; Does using an audio extension cable reduce sound quality? The answer is no. Having a longer audio extension cable does not automatically reduce sound quality. Theoretically, some signal is lost whenever signals are transmitted. However, this loss is so minimal as to be undetectable in the scenario that we are talking about there.
There are, however, other factors that affect sound quality in relation to audio cables. These include insulation, quality of copper and workmanship. So, you shouldn’t automatically think that having a longer cable will reduce the quality of your audio. That is not the case! Or rather, it is only the case if you have some high quality testing equipment to detect the difference.