The Difference Between Mono and Stereo Cables



  • Hello, my question seems stupid, can anyone help answer me? Thank you!



  • Dear Lisa,

    Thanks for your asking.

    The Difference Between Mono and Stereo Cables
    Most standard 1/4" cables (guitar cables) have two conductors, like the one at the bottom of the photo to the right. They carry monophonic (single-channel) signals, such as a single pickup on a musical instrument.

    A TRS -- aka "Stereo" -- cable adds an extra connection, which allows the single cable to carry TWO channels of audio. Here's how!

    The cable at the bottom of the graphic is a "standard" 1/4" instrument cable. It has two conductors (1 and 2), separated by an isolating ring (i) so that they don't contact each other. The TIP (1) carries the "hot" or positive audio signal; the SLEEVE (2) is the ground or negative audio signal. Simple, effective, and readily available, as they have been used on a kajillion guitars, basses, and other musical instruments around the world for decades.

    The stereo cable builds upon this design. It adds a RING (3) to the TIP (1) and SLEEVE (2). This, again separated by the isolating rings (i), allows a second channel to be carried by the same cable.

    The TIP carries hot channel 1, the RING carries hot channel 2, and the SLEEVE gets the ground signal from both channels (combining their grounds still keeps the two channels separate.)

    And now you can probably figure out where the "TRS" name comes from (Tip/Ring/Sleeve).


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