I recently purchased a new TV ( Sony SXRD 60″, simply stunning ) and decided to redo all the wiring in my home stereo. For the most part, cables simply had to be rerun and tie-wrapped for neatness, but the big problem was the speaker wire.
For a while, I had wanted to get speaker connectors for my speaker wire ( or at least every time I had to connect them to the receiver ). You know the hassle: twist the wire so it stays together, try and slip it in on an impossible angle into the speaker connection on the back of the receiver while you’re laying behind the stereo cabinet. Two or three attempts per connection and it makes the whole thing crazy. Plus the oxidization of the copper and potential loss of signal quality. I knew speaker connectors were now a necessity.
My receiver and speakers all had round speaker terminators that either unwound to let you insert the bare speaker wire or accepted banana plugs in their center. This
seemed to be the best choice: so-called banana plugs or connectors are a push connection that is thicker in the center to create a good connection. There are also spade and pin connectors, but that depends on your receiver and speakers.
Over the next few weeks I looked for bargains in stores and online and eventually ended up with banana plugs from three manufacturers: Monster, Acoustic Research and Belkin, in descending order based on price. All the retail packaging I’ve seen has connectors in two pair packaging, allowing you to connect one speaker. Every plug I looked at had gold connectors, which seems to have taken the audio world by storm. From the get-go, I wanted Monster connectors but they were $40 CDN, so I ended up with Belkin for $10 CDN. I caught a deal on Monster plugs and then realized I needed another four pairs and grabbed the Acoustic Research for $15 CDN. Unfortunately, this made my system a ragtag collection of three types of banana plugs, but the end result ( audio quality ) seems to be the same for all. Let’s look at the three products in detail.
The Monster Quicklock Gold Banana Connector was very straightforward and easy to install. The gold top half unscrews from the body. Bare a portion of your speaker wire and slide it through the bottom of the black rubber half and they splay the wire onto a circular jagged coupler. Screw the top half back on and your connection is solid. This connector accepts pretty well any thickness or speaker wire and keeps a solid connection. The easiest of the bunch to work with. The best ( cheapest ) way to order them is in bulk online.
The Acoustic Research Performance Series Banana Plug was easy to install as well but couldn’t accommodate the thinner speaker wire I used for my rear surrounds. The top half unscrews from the bottom. Cut your speaker wire off and don’t bare any, as you push the wire onto a spike in the top half of the connector, which first passes through the bottom connector and a plastic clamp/ring. Screw everything together and it’s a good fit. Medium and large plastic clamps are included, but I really needed a small for my rear speakers. The top banana portion is made of two folded bands that easily compress with handling, but they can be opened again with a small flat screwdriver before insertion into your equipment. This is a sold product for a good price. Follow the link but don’t expect much; probably the worst retail product website I’ve seen in a long time.
The Belkin PureAV Gold Banana Plugs are budget connectors. The plastic cover slides off the top revealing a cylinder. Bare your speaker wire, jam it into the end, twist the connector for its threading to catch, slide the plastic cover on and hope it holds. I tried a few methods and it sort of worked on thicker speaker cable. Compared to the first two connectors that are screwed together for a tight fit the Belkin’s plastic sleeve screams “cheap construction”. Of course, they were the cheapest and in the end, you get what you pay for.
The best overall was the Monster plugs, which work great for all speaker wire gauges. The best product to buy, no question: just keep in mind the significant savings of buying online or in bulk.
Acoustic Research was a solid value and a good choice for most speaker wire; definitely, the best bang for the buck if you’re buying at retail.
Don’t buy the Belkin plugs unless…no, just don’t buy them. To be fair the other brands offer speaker connectors in the same low price range, plastic shrouds and threaded design. Belkin’s high-end banana plug is designed to only work with their own speaker wire, so they don’t have a mid-high range product.