Two-channel Stereo sound can be provided by two Mono cables, or a single Stereo cable.

What differences, whether significant or not, are there between pairing each voltage lead with its own ground lead versus sharing a single ground lead between [an arbitrarily large number of] audio channels?

Below I include details of my thoughts that raised the question.

Mono cables each transmit one channel and each have two leads: voltage and ground. Using mono cables, the number of channels (N) can be increased arbitrarily by using a matching number of N Mono cables, for a total of 2N leads.

Each Stereo cable can by itself provide two audio channels with only three leads: voltage L, voltage R, and a single ground lead (shared between channels L and R), effectively providing the same throughput with one less lead than the Mono configuration, which makes me wonder what [functionally inconsequential] differences there are between 1 x Stereo quality vs 2 x Mono quality.

Furthermore, 4-lead cables (such as stereo headphones + mic over a single bus) provide 3 channels using 4 leads: voltage L, voltage R, voltage M (mic), and one single ground lead shared by all three channels!

Assuming there is no quality loss when channels share a ground lead, then a Mono-only multi-channel configuration wastes half its leads save one (N-1).

  • Once you're inside the amp., isn't it all grounded to the chassis anyway? – Tim Dec 20 '14 at 8:16

There is no significant difference between two unbalanced mono connections and a single stereo connection. However, with two mono lines you have the option of making both balanced, which is usually a good idea for longer connections. With single-cable stereo, this is typically not possible because suitable 5-lead connectors aren't available (at least not widespread).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.