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Banana Plugs 101

written by: danmason54•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 1/27/2010

What is a banana plug and why would you use one? Read about the benefits, costs and factors you should consider.

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    Back To Basics – The Banana Plug

    With so many different types of connector out there, it can be really confusing trying to keep track of them all, and since new types of connectors always seem to be coming along, even veteran users can get a little muddled up. In this article we will go back to basics to explore the fundamentals of banana plugs and explain what they do, and why you might consider using them in your setup.

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    Why Are They Called Banana Plugs?

    Banana Plugs First of all, what’s with that funky name? Banana plugs are small cylindrical plugs that have a very distinctive bulged prong. This bulge houses a spring that, when inserted into a socket, presses outwards to ensure a solid and secure connection. The plug takes its name from the shape of this prong, which reminds many people of a straightened out banana.

    Photo by Sam Catchesides

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    What is a Banana Plug Used For?

    Banana plugs are widely used to create the connection between the end of a speaker cable and the input of a speaker, but they may also be used to create connections with other equipment, especially equipment that uses binding posts. However, for everyone who uses banana plugs there are just as many people who say that you should avoid using them, so what’s all that about, and why is there so much debate about such a simple plug?

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    The Benefits

    The truth is that banana plugs, just like everything else, have benefits and drawbacks and it’s important that you know about these in order to decide for yourself whether or not to use them in your system.

    The main benefit of banana plugs is that they offer an incredibly easy way to create a secure connection between your equipment. Trying to thread the bare end of a wire through a terminal can be extremely fiddly, and it can only take a small bump to knock the wire out and sever the connection.

    With banana plugs it’s a simple matter of pushing the plug into the jack, and hey presto, you have your secure connection. These plugs also make it much easier to connect and disconnect the cable, so if you find yourself unplugging your cables on a regular basis – perhaps you have several source devices using the same output device – then banana plugs could really make your life a lot easier.

    They also tend to look a lot more professional, which is important to some people who have their equipment on display. Of course if your equipment is hidden away in a cabinet then it doesn’t really matter what your connections look like, which is why a lot of people argue that banana plugs are a waste of money.

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    Considerations

    Some people also say that fitting any type of plug on the end of a cable is going to have a negative affect on performance as it creates an extra point for interference to be introduced to the signal. Theoretically this is true, but so long as the banana plug is properly attached to the end of the cable then there won’t be any problem at all. In fact most people aren’t even able to notice any difference in performance between a cable with a plug fitted and a cable without a plug fitted.

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    Should You Use Banana Plugs?

    So should you use banana plugs in your system? It’s hard to give a simple yes or no answer. If you want to make sure your connections are secure; or you plug and unplug your cables on a regular basis; or you are sick and tired of trying to attach the bare wire to the terminal, then yes banana plugs would be beneficial for you. If you aren’t worried about these things and you haven’t noticed any problems from using just the bare end of the wire, then there isn’t really any reason why you ‘need’ to start using banana plugs.