RCA cables aren’t a thing of the past just yet. They’re actually still quite useful, especially when connecting car components. For example, just recently, I bought my self a head unit for my car and found that I can use an RCA cable to connect it to my equalizer. Pretty soon, I found myself pouring through a ton of websites, trying to track down the best RCA cables I could find.
I ended up getting my hands on and testing around fifteen different cables from which I chose my top five picks for this year. You can find my reviews for each below.
Table of Contents
A Simple Guide to RCA Cables
Before we get to the reviews, I’d like to explain a few things about RCA cables. First of all, what exactly are they? These cables can carry both audio and video transmissions from a component device to a designated output, usually a TV or a pair of speakers. If you’ve ever connected a DVD player to your TV, then you’ve seen RCA cables. They’re the ones that have colour-coded plugs, which correspond to the coloured ports behind your television.
The Two Types Of RCA Cables
While there are in fact several different types of RCA cables, the two commonest ones, composite video, and component, are what you’re most likely to use.
These cables are immediately recognizable. Typically, the right and left audio channel plugs are red and white (or black) and the composite video plug is always yellow. The composite video plug is analog and it transmits video in just one signal. This isn’t ideal, considering that analog video is actually comprised of three separate signals. Hence, compressing all these signals into one can reduce the quality.
Component RCA cables are a bit more complex and are sometimes used to hook up things to high-definition TVs. Component cables have three video lines and two audio lines. The former are coloured red, green and blue while the latter is red and white/black, similar to what you find on composite video cables. In order to prevent any confusion between the video and audio red lines, cable manufacturers typically add an extra colour.
Since there are three separate lines to carry the video signals, component RCA cables are able to output at much better resolutions. This includes upwards of 480p and beyond even 1080p.
What Can We Do With RCA Cables?
RCA cables have actually been around since the 1940s and while we mainly use HDMI to connect things to our TVs and smart devices now, we still occasionally make use of the former. A popular example is connecting camcorders to a television. High-end camcorders contain three RCA jacks: two for audio and one for video, while low-quality ones have just the one jack. This means that both the audio and video signal is compressed and sent through one line.
If you’ve got an older video game console like a PlayStation 2 or an Xbox 360, you’ll need an RCA cable to connect them to your TV or a head unit inside your vehicle. In addition, a lot of car equalizers still come with RCA outputs and inputs, which allows you to connect them to older stereo units.
What Makes A Quality RCA Cable?
There are several factors that affect the quality and performance of an RCA cable. These include:
The Connector Materials
These have an effect on durability, price and the performance of the cable. The most common connector materials are gold, silver, and copper. Gold, of course, tends to drive up the price quite a bit. The main advantage of gold connectors is that they’re pretty much corrosion-resistant, reducing the amount of maintenance needed. However, there are not the best at conducting electricity. Silver connectors on the other hand, are excellent conductors with copper being a close second. Rarely, you might come across connectors that are made of zinc, nickel and even tin.
The Length Of The Cable
The longer the cable is, the less efficiently the signal is going to be transmitted. So only buy the length of cable that you need and not longer if you want to have the best possible audio and video output.
Cables need to be shielded in order to counter electromagnetic interference (EMI) and frequency interference (RF) that may be present in the environment. It does this in mainly two ways: either reflecting the interfering signals off of its body or picking them and conducting it to ground.
Here are the commonest types of shielding used in the cable industry today:
- Braid Shields – this is the oldest type of shielding but it’s still in use today. As its name implies, the shield consists of a few thin wires that have been woven or ‘braided’ together. Most often, braid shields are made up of material like copper, alumnium or steel.
- Spiral Shields – spiral shields are quite similar to braid shields but instead of having the wires woven together, every single strand is wrapped around a conductor. This gives spiral shields more flexibility and makes them easier to terminate. Spiral shields are typically more effective for audio signals, which us why they’re often used in microphones and other types of cables.
- Tape Shields – tape shields can be made from a variety of different materials but they most commonly consist of aluminium and polyester layers ‘glued’ together. Tape shields aren’t as durable as spiral or braid shields as they’re not so mechanically strong and the adhesive is quite pressure-sensitive.
In addition to these types, you may also come across spiral wrap shields, tri-shields, and quad shields. The latter two are variants of braid shields.
Best 5 RCA Cables for 2020
Now that you know what RCA cables are, what they do and what affects their quality, let’s take a look at my top five picks for this year:
- 2-Male to 2-Male RCA audio cable enhances audio connections; ideal for...
- 2 RCA output (connect to either L or R input) and 2 RCA input; input...
- Corrosion-resistant 24K gold-plated full-metal connectors; protective...
- Eliminates unwanted noise/feedback for pure, clear audio; minimal...
- Red/white color-marked connectors for quick, easy left-and-right...
3 Lengths To Choose From
The AmazonBasics RCA cable comes in three different lengths: 4 feet, 8 feet, and 15 feet. For my purpose (connecting my car equalizer to a brand new head unit), the 4 feet cable was quite adequate. If you recall, the longer a cable is, the less efficiently it’ll transfer signals. So always buy the shortest length possible.
While I’m not entirely sure what type of shielding was used, it certainly seems to be quite effective at preventing interference. I drive by a ton of warehouses and other industrial buildings every morning on my way to work and never had a problem.
24K Gold-Plated Connectors
The AmazonBasics RCA cable contains corrosion-resistant connectors, making it very durable. The lack of rust also means that you don’t clean them from time to time.
In my experience, cables with PVC exteriors can tolerate a lot of abuse. PVC is tough and is resistant to corrosion, shock, and abrasion. At the same time, PVC can be cut easily, so you can always shorten the length of the cable if you ever need to.
The cable itself is quite thick too, meaning you’d have to work really hard to make a rip.
3.5mm Audio Jack
Thanks to the inclusion of a 3.5mmm jack, I could connect the AmazonBasics cable to pretty much any device. This makes it one of the most versatile RCA cables I’ve had the pleasure of testing.
While the audio quality is by no means bad, it could be better. If the connectors had been made out of silver or copper instead of gold, it certainly would have helped. However, the trade-off would be decreased durability.
- Decent audio quality
- Works with most audio jacks
- Tough PVC coating
- Corrosion-resistant connectors
- The connectors felt a little large and they might be too bulky in certain scenarios.
- PREMIUM TWO-CHANNEL RCA AUDIO CABLE: Professional audio quality RCA...
- OXYGEN FREE COPPER CORE SHIELDED AUDIO CABLE: Our double shielded,...
- 2X MALE TO 2X MALE AUDIO CABLE: Dual male cable connectors allow you...
- 24K GOLD PLATED CONNECTORS: KabelDirekt RCA cables feature...
- 36 months manufacturer warranty
5 Different Lengths To Choose From
When purchasing the KabelDirect RCA Cable, I had the option to choose from: 3 feet, 6 feet, 15 feet, 20 feet or 25 feet. For most car-related applications, I’d recommend getting either the 3 feet or 6 feet cable.
Oxygen-Free Copper Core Shielding
Copper is quick to corrode because it reacts well with oxygen. Hence, typically, copper wouldn’t be the ideal material for shielding, despite its excellent conductivity. However, KabelDirect’s copper shielding is actually oxygen-free, removing any possibility of corrosion. As a result, I never heard any static with these cables.
24K Gold-Plated Connectors
Gold-coatings mean that you never have to worry about the connectors succumbing to corrosion and degrading.
These RCA cables are actually joined together which prevents them from tangling and even helps save some space. However, you can easily pull them apart when you need more flexibility.
- No EMI and RF interference thanks to the copper core shield
- Corrosion-resistant gold connectors
- Five different sizes to choose from
- Pull-apart cables help save up space
- The cable is a bit stiffer than what I’m used to which made them a bit hard to handle
- It’s often difficult to tell red from white because it only features a thin, coloured strip on the connector to help you differentiate between them.
- High Quality 2RCA Stereo Audio Cable Compatible with any Audio Devices...
- Double-Shielding (aluminum foil and Tinned Copper shielding) can...
- 99.99% Oxygen Free Copper Conductor can Provides Excellent...
- 24K Gold plated Connectors Provide Rigidity and Resist...
- Cable use High-Quality PVC Material and Copper Shell,with...
6 Lengths To Choose From
The Postta RCA cable comes in six different lengths from 3 feet all the way up to 35 feet. If you’re planning on using this inside a vehicle, then I’d advise not to buy longer than six feet.
Aluminium and Tinned Copper Shielding
The Postta RCA cable features double shielding, combining the properties aluminium foil with tinned copper. Both are commonly used as shielding materials because they’re very good at keeping out electromagnetic and radio frequency interference. Needlessly to say, I didn’t have any trouble with annoying ‘popping’ or ‘crackling’ sounds coming through my speakers.
99.99% Oxygen Free Copper Conductor
This concept appears to be similar to the copper core shielding present in the KabelDirect RCA Cable, where copper is prevented from corroding by removing any oxygen that it could have potentially reacted with. In turn, the conductor will last much longer than it normally would.
24K gold plated connectors seem to be a popular trend among RCA cable manufacturers and I’m not complaining. It certainly gives you some peace of mind knowing that the cable isn’t rusting away and that you don’t have to replace it in less than a year. Gold-plated connectors can come in handy if you live in a highly humid place, where corrosion is likely to be more rampant.
PVC has pretty much all the qualities that I look for in cables: strength, durability, reduced weight, corrosion-resistance the ability to cut and join easily…etc.
- Comes in a variety of lengths
- No interference whatsoever
- Highly effective and durable conductor
- Corrosion-resistant connectors
- Tough PVC exterior
- I can’t think of any, especially considering the price.
- [MALE TO MALE] Connectors: 2RCA male to 2RCA male 3ft audio cable.
- [PREMIUM BUILT CABLES] 24k gold plated connectors resist corrosion and...
- [BUILT FOR FLEXIBILITY AND QUALITY] The PVC jacket, copper braided...
- [STABLE SIGNALS] Polyethylene Foam (PF) dielectric insulator greatly...
- [COPPER PLATED CORE] Tin plated copper core reduces oxidation and...
4 Different Lengths To Choose From
The FosPower RCA cable offers a decent variety of length options from 3 feet to 15 feet. I personally went with the 3 feet option and it turned out to be just right for what I needed.
This cable is extremely tough thanks to its PVC exterior. It can certainly take a lot of stretching and twisting without suffering any damage.
Copper And Aluminium Shielding
The dual shielding present in the FosPower is a braided layer of copper which in turn is protected by aluminium foil. The result is a complete blockage of interference while also giving plenty of flexibility.
Tin-Plated Copper Core
Tin is far less likely to oxidize when compared to copper. Hence, the copper core in the FosPower RCA cable will be quite corrosion-resistant. In addition, the core is covered with polyethylene foam, which is an excellent insulator, thus preventing any signal loss during transmissions.
24K Gold Plated Connectors
By now, you’re probably familiar with the benefits that gold-plated connectors bring to the table. However, it’s still worth bringing up because it gives an even bigger edge to an RCA cable that’s already quite durable.
- Tough and durable PVC exterior
- The insulated tin-plated copper core gives the wire a long lifespan and improves conductivity
- Corrosion-resistant gold-plated connectors
- Decent variety when it comes to length options
- I’m having a tough time thinking of a single one.
- iXCC: Trusted by 5 million+ people for high quality innovative...
- Exceptional Sound: Built with dual-shielding, high-quality polished...
- Bi-Directional: Seamlessly transmits stereo audio for high quality...
- Tangle free design makes using and storing the cable cord easy. No...
- What you get: iXCC 3.5mm to 2RCA male 6ft Cable *1. Warranty:...
5 Lengths To Choose From
From 3 feet all the way to 25 feet, you have plenty of options when it comes to length. As with all other cables, 3 feet was all I needed and what you’ll most likely use if you’re connecting components inside a car.
Just like with the AmazonBasics RCA cable, I was able to plug the iXCC into pretty much any device I wanted. The connections weren’t loose either; they stayed perfectly secured until I pulled them out.
Compared to the others on this list, the iXCC’s RCA cable was quite small in diameter. This makes it a great option if you’re trying to work in close quarters.
Gold-plated connectors found on the iXCC RCA cable aren’t just corrosion-resistant, they also prevent electromagnetic interference.
- A lot of variety when it comes to choosing your length
- Compatible with a wide range of devices from head units to video game consoles
- One of the thinnest cables I’ve come across, which are perfect for installation in tight spaces
- Corrosion-resistant and interference-blocking connectors
- They feel a little less durable than thicker cables.
The Best Overall…
It wasn’t quite easy for me to pick which cable I should go with ultimately. All of these cables share features like the 24k gold-plated connectors and double-shielding which made the task of picking my overall favourite difficult. However, after much deliberation, I decided to go with the FosPower RCA Cable. Here are my reasons:
First of all, this cable is incredibly tough thanks to its PVC shell. I could twist it and stretch it out all I wanted and it would still work perfectly. The copper and aluminium hybrid shielding worked very well, with no static noise whatsoever when I was trying to listen to music to and from work. That was quite impressive, considering how my commute takes me through an industrial area, where electromagnetic and radio signals are abundant. Lastly, the FosPower RCA cables feature corrosion-resistant gold connectors and copper cores, which means I could use them for quite a long time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do RCA Cables Make A Difference?
RCA cables or any type of cable for that matter can’t really enhance the audio or video quality. All they can do is try to transmit the audio signal as efficiently as possible while countering interference. An RCA cable with good shielding and the shortest possible length is your best bet for a high-quality audio or video output.
How Many RCA Cables Do I Need For A 4 Channel Amp?
Typically, you’d need 2 pairs of RCA cables (four connectors in total) when you’re connecting a 4 channel amp. The recommended length is 18 inches, which is 1.5 feet. Typically, the lowest length of RCA cable you can purchase is three feet so you may have to cut it if you don’t want excess cable length dangling out.
1.5 feet is enough for most vehicles. It leaves you with enough length to hide the cable under your rear seat or another appropriate location.
What Are The Best Quality RCA Cables?
Brands like iXCC, FosPower and AmazonBasics are pretty safe bets when it comes to RCA cables. Any of the five mentioned in this article should serve you well in a wide range of applications.
How Important Are RCA Cables?
RCA cables are indispensable when it comes to transmitting analog audio or video to a device. While HDMI has largely replaced RCA cables in modern devices, they’re still rather important. If you use electronic devices such as vintage gaming consoles, then RCA cables are quite indispensable.
Do You Need RCA Cables On An Amp?
This depends entirely on whether the head unit has line-level RCA outputs. If it doesn’t, then you can simply use traditional speaker wires to connect the head-unit to your amplifier.
Are XLR Cables Better Than RCA?
XLR cables carry balanced signals. They have three pins. While the hot pin carries a particular signal, the cold pin also carries the same signal but inverted. The third pin carries the earth. At the point where the XLR cable meets the receiving component, the mirroring signals from the hot and cold pin tend to cancel each other out. This ultimately leads to the removal of interference, despite how long the cable is.
As we’ve already seen, RCA cables use a couple of methods to get rid of interference as well so it’s hard to say which is better. Personally, there have been scenarios where I’ve found XLR cables to work better than RCA ones. Similarly, the opposite has been true in a few other scenarios.
The products featured on this page were last updated on 2020-03-06 at 19:59 /. Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.