An auxiliary cable, or an AUX cable depending on where you are looking, is a cable or wire that is meant to transmit audio signals between two devices, converting a digital signal to an analog one in the process. They are used for practically everything audio and music-related and are expected to stick around for quite some time. For reasons we will explain soon, you want to have a few on hand and you will need one soon if you are working with tech and want especially good sound for your television setup.
And while we considered offering some concrete recommendations in this article, in truth there are plenty of excellent choices, and the best AUX cable for one person will not be the best for another. Instead, we recommend considering what you need and finding an option that meets your (hopefully high) requirements.
Here’s everything you need to know about these cables and some tips on finding the best one for you:
AUX cables are so ubiquitous that it might seem intuitive to know why they are needed. Yet here are a few uncommon reasons why you might want to go shopping for one, either for your television or something else:
So at this point, we hope we convinced you that you need a cable. But why do you need the very best one? Why should you put so much effort into the search when you can order a cable online in a minute and a half or buy one at many stores? Here are a few reasons:
If all the above reasons aren’t enough, there is the simple fact that you deserve the best when it comes to your entertainment and the entertainment of any guests.
So, what should you be looking for? While this might not be everything, here are all the important aspects of a good AUX Cable:
The length you need is rather subjective to your needs. For your television setup, you are probably going to want one that has enough length to run behind the television to wherever you need it to go.
If you are using a more expanded surround-sound setup and AUX cables are required to reach all the parts, then you might need to get a longer cable, in addition to some supplies to make sure the cables are well-secured. The last thing you need is to trip in your living room.
For other uses, the best length is entirely dependent on the situation. If you are using an AUX cable to connect your phone to your car stereo then you might only need a one or three-foot cable. For larger outdoor setups you will want to get ahold of a much longer cable. In terms of what is available, you should have no difficulty finding a cable of up to 30’, and there are certainly longer ones on offer if you look.
While you may not be aware, there are two types of AUX cables: Optical and 3.5mm. Optical cables will send a raw digital signal from one device to the other, while a 3.5 mm cable converts the signal into analog before sending it.
For the most part, you will be dealing with 3.5mm cables, as they are the ones used with most of the devices you use every day, including your television. Optical cables are not as universally used, can be more expensive, and can be harder to find. That being said, they do have their advantages and are considered to provide a more reliable signal. Check to see what you are looking for before making a final choice.
Portability considerations are multi-faceted. Based on the amount of raw weight and raw material, the length matters most (a 30’ cable isn’t all that portable), though you may also want a cable that you can easily plug in anywhere. The weight of the cable per foot may matter a little, but ultimately there isn’t too much of a difference except for the most extreme circumstances.
Portability might have to be balanced with durability, as the toughest, most protected cables might also be the heaviest and least bendable. You’ll need to decide how compact you want to make the cable compared to how much you want the cable to be able to withstand the rigors of travel, whether it's across the country or to the supermarket.
Outside of devices you can fit in your pocket or connect to your car though, there probably aren’t too many reasons to get an ultra-portable cable. If you need to transport sound equipment, you probably have room for a heavier and better cable at the same time. Again, this is one of those cases where you will have to use your best judgment.
While AUX cables are cheap, you want them to last and you want them to remain working even after years of use. Once installed into your entertainment setup, they are best forgotten. If you’re thinking about your AUX cable, you probably are thinking about problems with it.
For something truly rugged, you might want to get an AUX cable that is rated for the outdoors, whether you’re putting on an outdoor show or just want to bring some speakers outside. In general, we recommend a design that involves two wires contained tightly by protective foil and then insulation. This reduces the chance for static electricity or other factors to interfere with the signal, making for a more reliable cable.
There is also the matter of the bend-life or general durability of the cable. While you can bend and move around most wires, they don’t last forever. Too much bending and movement can wear away the effectiveness of the AUX cable. In general, you want as high a number here or as high a rating as possible. Try to find a cable above 10000, though ones at or above 15000 exist as well, for the toughest of jobs.
Finally, for the most part, what makes a reliable cable are the same things that make a durable cable. Make sure it won’t snap too easily, is airtight and will not be affected by the air, and that it is well put together. If you have doubts, move on to the next option.
What’s the point of getting the best AUX cable if the signal isn’t perfect? Unless there is a very specific need for the cable or a huge red flag with a cable that otherwise has a good signal, this should probably be your starting factor. You want no hiccups in the sound, no static, and everything coming through crystal clear.
In general, good materials and good make lead to better signal quality, alongside the quality of the connectors (more on that just below). Most AUX cables are made with copper, but not all copper cables are made alike. Try to do your research on the quality of the wires before buying, or at the very least make sure it meets a minimum standard.
It can be hard to measure signal quality in a significant way. The good news is that so many cables are of such high quality that the difference is negligible.
It’s not just the wire and insulation that is important. The connectors themselves are key components of the cable, and in fact, might be the most important and valuable.
In general, gold-plated connectors are the gold standard (pun intended) for AUX cables. While pretty and valuable, gold is an excellent conductor, which leads to its use in electronics. Yet what you might not be aware of is its additional usage in AUX cables on the connecting ends, ensuring a perfect transfer of the signal. Gold plating protects connectors from corrosion and slight damage as well, making it vital for a good AUX cable. Simply put, accept no substitutes.
This is a minor detail but one that can make a huge difference. Behind the connector, there is usually a grip you can use to make the AUX cable easier to connect. And while you might only use it a few times, especially for your living room situation, you want to make sure it isn’t too big. Sure, too thin and it might seem like the cable is flimsy, but you don’t want your AUX cable interfering with other wires. Worse yet, if it's too large it might rarely be too big to work reasonably in your system. Perhaps check what you want to use it for and then check the grip width, just to be safe.
Finally, there is the matter of price, which shouldn’t be your chief concern, but we understand if you are on a budget.
In general, the price will matter greatly on the length of your cable and whether you might want extra connectors. You are also likely to find a package of cables and get several for a slightly cheaper per unit cost.
At the very least try not to get the absolute cheapest cable and get a trusted brand, but you will have to balance everything you want yourself. You can probably find an excellent cable for less than $20. It might seem like a bit for a single wire still, but being able to rely on it is worth a lot.
We mostly went over all the main uses of an AUX cable, but you might want to use it for some of the following:
For all these reasons, you might want to get a couple while you’re at it, especially if you feel the need.
There is also the matter of cable management when you are setting up your system. Poor cable management makes your living room (or at least behind the TV) look like a mess, and makes it harder to make changes when you want to add something new to your setup (or another thing). While this is a slightly more extensive topic, a few main tips here are:
As with all things, we recommend common sense with cable management and that you take your time. A bit of care now will mean you don’t need to worry if you need to change something later or switch cables.
There are a few other things you might want to know before ordering your new AUX cable and working with it:
We hope that all the information above is enough to help you make a decision on your next AUX cable, whether for your living room and television or something else. While a small part in the grand scheme of things, it makes a huge difference and can be one of the best investments you make regarding your home system, lasting you years. There is much more that can be said, but there is no need to go into the fine details of the cables right now. May you enjoy your living room and get to relaxing as soon as possible.