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What are Coaxial Connectors?

By K. Schurman
Updated May 16, 2024
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Coaxial connectors are components attached to the end of a coaxial cable. The connectors allow the coaxial cable to make a connection with a jack or outlet on a set-top box, television, musical instrument, audio speaker, or other device. A coaxial connector shields and protects the exposed end of a cable, preventing interference and damage. Some people shorten the term coaxial to coax, and both terms have the same meaning.

The most common use for coaxial cables and connectors is to carry radio frequency signals, also called RF signals. Coaxial cable is often used to carry TV signals throughout a home, although it can carry many types of signals, including audio and data signals. Usually, coaxial cable has a black, plastic outer layer that you'll see and that protects the more delicate layers inside, including the center core, the dielectric insulator, and the metallic shield.

Coaxial connectors at the end of cables often are made of metal, usually plated with gold, nickel, or tin. Most coaxial connectors include a long metal sleeve trailing away from the top of the connector that slides over the cable. Hundreds of different types of coaxial connectors exist. Different types of coaxial connectors work for audio jacks, headphone jacks, microphone jacks, RCA video jacks, speaker jacks, and TV video jacks, among other types of connections.

Most coaxial connectors are round and hollow. To insert a TV coaxial connector onto a cable, some layers must be stripped. The connector then fits over the exposed end of the cable, and a special tool crimps the connector's sleeve, attaching it tightly to the cable. Often times, the center core, which looks like a thin copper wire, extends just beyond the open end of the connector.

An F connector is a common type of coaxial connector used with TV signals, in part because it works well for coaxial cables that aren't moved frequently. When connecting coaxial cable with an F connector, the connector slides onto a jack on the set-top box or other device. The center core, which is the male portion, extends from the connector and inserts into a small hole in the jack, which is the female portion. The center core serves as the pin of the male connector, which allows F coaxial connectors to be very inexpensive, because they don't need a prefabricated pin, as do some other connectors. The F connector includes a hexagonal nut, and, by turning the nut, the connector threads onto the jack, ensuring that the coaxial cable and the device are firmly connected.

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