Analogue audio signals are delicate and need to be well cared for as they travel from source such as CD player, turntable, tuner or DAC to amplifier. Many problems can occur, mains induced hum is a potential issue, as is pollution of the signal by RFI or EMI. Mechanical viabration can also compromise signal quality, which is why some audio cables are damped to prevent resonance with the audio coming from the speakers.
The most popular conductor material for audio cables is 99.9% pure oxygen free cooper. It is often found in it's stranded form rather than solid, as the stranded form has greater flexibility and less prone to mechanical fatigue. The copper conductors are electrically insulated from the shielding by a flexible polyethylene or ptfe jacket. The chielding prevents magnetic fields in the environment from causing interference with the audio signal.
Silver plated copper conductors are often found in more expensive cable designs, which gives a more detailed and bright sound quality in comparison to copper alone. Nordost audio cables adopt a radically different approach - these cables are flat or ribbon in design, without the traditional screening seen in more conventional, round section cables.
Van den Hul specialise in creating audio cables using carbon conductors which has many benefits over copper as it is not so easy to induce unwanted interference into cables of this design.
Standard connectors for audio cables include RCA plugs or phono plugs, DIN connectors and XLR plugs, which provide a balanced connection - great for long cable runs where noise and hum could be a problem.