Choosing the correct audio lead for your piece of equipment can be a tough task, seeing as there are many different types of leads and connectors available on the market today. You may also see the terms 'Balanced', 'Unbalanced', 'Stereo' and 'Mono' thrown about in this section also. This is because these are important terms to understand when selecting the correct cables for the job in hand. So what do these mean?
A Balanced audio lead is one of the more common types found because of it's shielding capabilities over longer distances. A balanced lead means it has a positive (+), a negative (-) and a ground. This helps with unwanted interference that you may experience over longer runs such as to powered speakers or stage runs. The connectors commonly found with this type of lead are stereo ¼'' Jack or XLR connections. This is because they have three separate parts to them. An XLR, male or female, will have three pins or contacts for the +,- and ground. A stereo jack is often signified as having two black rings around connector offering three separate points of contact.
An unbalanced lead is typically found in linking audio sources together that are next to or no further away than one metre. An example of this would be in a DJ booth with two CDJ style CD players and a mixer all sat next to each other often linked together by an RCA/Phono cable. A balanced lead isn't needed because of the short distance where interference shouldn't be an issue. Common connectors associated with unbalanced leads are ¼'' Jack and RCA/Phono. These are unbalanced connectors because they only have two separated points of contact, one for positive (+) and another for negative (-).
Mono means that the sound only has one channel and the same sound will come from multiple speakers. You cannot create a stereo image with a mono feed. In large applications such as concerts or nightclubs, you will tend to find audio being run in a mono format because it can be hard to create a stereo image in a large place with no central reference point.
Stereo means that the sound has two independent channels and you are able to create a stereo image. You tend to find this kind of set up in recording studios and home hi-fi. This is because there is a single central reference point where both left and right can be heard independently and a stereo image is required so the listener can distinguish where certain sounds are coming from