The Advantages and Disadvantages of Banana Plugs

There’s a lot of debate among home entertainment enthusiasts about banana plugs and whether or not they are worth using. For every magazine article or internet message board post that praises them, there are just as many that claim that they are expensive and don’t offer any benefits. Not surprisingly, a lot of people are completely confused about this issue, so here is a brief breakdown of the major advantages and disadvantages so that you can see both sides of the argument, and make you own mind up about whether you want to use these plugs or not.

Banana plugs have several advantages: for a start they offer a much more professional appearance to your system. A lot of people feel that bare cables don’t look very pleasing, so a gold plated banana plug is the ideal way adding a bit of style to a terminal. Another advantage is that banana plugs make it so easy to make connections, there’s no more need to fumble around trying to thread the speaker cable around a binding post, just push the banana plug into the jack and you are good to go.

Sooner or later copper connections are likely to start corroding, and this can cause interference to be introduced in to signal. However, seeing as most banana plugs are gold plated they are totally resistant to corrosion, giving you one less thing to worry about.

Some people argue that these plugs, or any terminals for that matter, have an effect on the sound quality, but this really isn’t the case. The signals carried by speaker cable are relatively low frequency so any distortion caused by the plug on the end of the cable is absolutely minute; the vast majority of people wouldn’t be able to notice any difference in sound quality at all.

Banana plugs allow you to quickly and easily make connections that are secure and protected against corrosion, which coupled with the advantages above all seem to paint a very positive picture. However, banana plugs do have some drawbacks.

A major issue is cost. With a pair of banana plugs retailing at around $10 (although it is possible to spend much more) the task of fitting a plug on the end of every speaker cable can soon mount up, especially if your system uses several speakers all with their own cables. You could easily end up spending over $100 just on plugs, and for some people this cost just cannot be justified.

Something else to bear in mind is that an incorrectly installed plug may have an adverse impact on sound quality. This has been countered lately with plugs that simply screw onto the end of the cable instead of needing to be soldered on. However, whenever you introduce a connection you are creating a potential weak-point for interference to be introduced. When using bare wire there is just one point that interference can enter and that is between the end of the cable and the terminal; but when using banana plugs you double this as interference can enter between the end of the cable and the plug as well as the end of the plug and the terminal.

There’s no right or wrong answer to the question of whether you should use these connectors, it’s one of those things that really does depend on you. If you are only interested in getting the best sound quality, then it’s probably best to avoid unnecessary expense and just leave the end of your cable bare. However, if you want your connections to look professional, or if you want the added convenience of being able to quickly connect and disconnect your speaker cables then banana plugs are a worthwhile purchase.