Speaker Cables

Banana Plugs: Do They Make Speakers Sound Better?


There are many ways to connect speaker wire to your AV receiver or speakers. One of the more popular is banana plugs. These connections look esoteric and somehow higher-end than the other types. But the question is, do banana plugs actually make your speakers sound better?

Answer: No. But they won’t make them sound worse either.

Types of Speaker Wire Terminations

There are four ways to terminate your speaker wires. Bare wire (nothing), pin, spade, and banana plugs. Bare wire is the cheapest (of course) but is the hardest to work with. Pin connectors are rare and are mostly used for spring-type binding posts (though they can be used with other types). Spade connectors are fairly common but can be problematic. Banana plugs, however, are some of the easiest to use. They insert into the back of your five-way binding post and can be changed swiftly and easily. But banana plugs won’t make your speakers sound any better.

Pictured: Five-way binding posts. Notice the hole in the back.

Why Don’t Banana Plugs Affect Speaker Sound Quality

It isn’t just banana plugs. No matter what speaker wire termination you use, sound quality is unlikely to be affected. If there were going to be an effect, it would be a degradation in sound quality. But we don’t expect that either. The electricity from the amplifier will conduct just fine from the wire, through the connector, into the binding post on the speaker, and through the internal wiring and crossover.

Are More Expensive Banana Plugs Better?

In terms of sound quality? No. The cheapest copperplated banana plug will sound the same as the most expensive solid gold or silver banana plug. But while they won’t make your speakers sound better, more expensive banana plugs do have value. That value is in how easy they are to connect to your wire and how securely they connect to your speaker terminals.

There are two main types of banana plugs – compression and locking. Compression banana plugs are slightly wider and compress as you plug them in. The locking type uses a screw mechanism to expand the tip. The compression type is easier to swap out but the locking type creates a more secure connection. Neither one is inherently better than the other. Honestly, compression banana plugs are pretty much the norm these days so you’ll probably end up with those.

What does make the most difference is how easy it is to connect the banana plug to the wire. As you shop, pay careful attention to online reviews about wire installation. We also like banana plugs with plastic bodies. This eliminates any chance of a short if the banana plug connectors accidentally get too close. This is especially problematic on the back of AV receivers. The binding posts are often as close as possible to save space. Plastic bodies insure that there won’t be any shorts.

Conclusion

Banana plugs look cool and make swapping out your speaker cables a breeze. We wish we could say that banana plugs make your speakers sound better as well, but it just isn’t true. Fortunately, they have many other redeeming qualities that make them a worthwhile purchase.


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