Speakon vs. 1/4

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by KeithBMI, Mar 2, 2006.

  1. I did a search but I couldn't find anything.

    What are the pros and cons to using a speakon as opposed to a 1/4 input.

    Is it sound quality, security, or something else?
  2. ghindman


    Feb 10, 2006
    More contact surface, so better power transfer

    Locks in place - no automatic shorting like a 1/4" jack

    No exposed conductive surface.
  3. Skel


    Jun 19, 2005
    Boulder, Colorado
    Do you get a noticable difference in sound quality? Because I've heard Speakons can be kind of a bad thing - say your head slips, and where a 1/4 would just come unplugged, a Speakon is "locked on". I *do* know that I have some JBL SRX715 PA speakers, and they *only* have Speakons, if that says anything.

  4. jhfva


    May 2, 2004
    Roanoke, VA
    Speakons have more contact area so you get better signal transfer. In the audiophile world, there use to be an arguement about fuse distortion because all the signal was going through a little fuse wire after passing through railroad rails. If you've ever looked inside a 1/4" plug and jack, you'll see that there is actually very little contact area. I think I saw in an Ampeg manual that the speakon can handle more power, which goes back to the contact area. There probably are some 1/4" that have bumps to increase contact area, but these plugs are rare. I know a set of Planet Waves instrument cables have this.

    Speakons lock in place, keeping constant pressure on the connection resulting in a more reliable connection.

    The speakons that I've worked with are screwed onto the wire making them easy to install. I'm sure that there are probably some 1/4" plugs with this feature. The new Planet Wave video cables we're selling just fit right on the end of the cut wire with no stripping required.

    Speakons are not found on everything. I was surprised that my new Ashdown MAG300 didn't have speakons!

    I'll bet that 1/4" cables are cheaper and easier to find.
  5. Groundloop


    Jun 21, 2005
    And yet some people are still trying to save a buck. A bassist of my acquaintance has her $3000 + stack connected with literally $5 or $6 worth of cables. The cheapest 1/4" plugs available and 22 gauge lamp cord.

    Sigh. :rollno:

    BTW: I agree with all the positives that have been listed. Speakons are the way to go.
  6. Skel


    Jun 19, 2005
    Boulder, Colorado
    Well, you just sold me - it makes no sense to have great gear and not pay any attention to your cables.

  7. AxtoOx


    Nov 12, 2005
    Duncan, Okla.
    Speakons are only needed for higher powered amps, that may be why some don't have it. They are needed for my bi-amped WT1205 cause I'm pushing 1200 watts. I used them on my 450 watt Ampeg because they are more efficent and won't shake out of the cab at high volume, but 1/4's would have been fine for that. I use good quality cables anyway so the cost difference wasn't that much if any.
    I also agree with everything else.
  8. tadawson


    Aug 24, 2005
    Lewisville, TX
    Only needed on high power amps from a power handling standpoint. From the mechanical security, indestructability, and lack of exposed conductors, they are an excellent idea on ALL amps. Unless you live on the backside of the moon, speakon cables should be almost as easy to find as 1/4", albeit a little more expensive. If you make your own, though, you can go speakon for less than any store bought 1/4" cable of any quality . . . about $10 for 3-4 foot long, 4 wire, biamp capable . . . . and a buck or so less if you only go 2 wire.

    Regarding the sound question, 1/4" sound fine . . . right until they fail, and they they sound like total crap . . . . been there, done that, more than once . . . unfortunately . . . .

    - Tim
  9. I remember talking to a bloke a while ago who reckoned that when you use more than about 400w - go for the speak-ons, anything less and 1/4 inch are ok.
    I do know a bassist who uses 1/4's with 600w tho - and they never complain.
    Use speakons myself...........
  10. Plain Old Me

    Plain Old Me

    Dec 14, 2004
    I don't really care about the cables too much. I use both speakon and 1/4 in my rig, and neither has failed. They both work just fine. I have never seen any speaker cable fail because of the type of connector; I have seen both speakons and 1/4 inches fail because the internal wireing comes loose. Unless you are pushing tons of watts (like at least 1600) the connection doesn't matter much. Having the speakon attached is kinda nice. The lack of corrosive surfaces is nice too. But in the end, it really doesn't matter much.
  11. dave_bass5


    May 28, 2004
    London, UK.
    I was plesently surprised to find a locking 1/4 socket on the back of my Schroeder 1210.
    Nice one Jorg.
  12. hibbs


    Aug 14, 2005
    Cambridge, ON
    Speakons. I use 'em. MEaW
  13. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    1/4 " phone plugs were designed in the 1930's for telephone connections (remember the old switchboards)- not for high power amplification.
  14. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    The Speakons are nicely engineered connectors.

    However, I have never seen a 1/4" connection fail, even when pushing large power amplification through them. In fact my fav cabs don't have Speak-ons, and I had to make hybrid cables to drive them from the power amp, which seems kind of pointless.

    So, it is difficult to separate the myth from the reality on this one. Does anyone have links to actual data on breakdown testing with 1/4" connectors?
  15. Use speakon!

    My dad has made so many of those for my school's sound system.

    Speakons = the sex.

    and don't worry about your head falling off your cabinet and it being ripped apart or something... just make sure that the cable is long enough to reach the floor. (duh) unless you are throwing your head around while still attached to your cab on a regular basis... you shouldnt need to worry.
  16. Lowtonejoe

    Lowtonejoe Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2004
    Richland, WA
    Speakons - More expensive, locks in, not nearly as common as 1/4"

    1/4" - Less expensive, does the job fine for most non-stadium touring folks, won't yank pieces of equipment to the ground if folks trip on the cables (ususally), available in different current carrying capacities.

    Here is one rated for 15A.


    All that being said, I have nothing against speakon other than having to pay a premium for something I don't necessarily need. Eventually price will come down, or inflation will catch up and they will end up on everything because the are the connector du jour.

    We have gotten along many, many years without speakons. Although there have been exceptions (there are always exceptions) 1/4" connectors do the job well.


  17. ghindman


    Feb 10, 2006
    I believe the issue with higher power handling is two-fold:

    1) More contact surface, so better power transfer. The smaller contact of a 1/4 inch plug has higher resistance just due to physical size, so the more power you're trying to pump through it, the worse the issue becomes.

    2) Safety - when you plug/unplug a 1/4 inch jack, it shorts by design - you're sliding the positive contact over the negative. While this isn't an issue if you're properly plugging/unplugging everything while powered down, if someone kicks out your speaker cable while you're playing, you've potentially got a big problem. Of course, if they kick your speakon cable hard enough, they'll pull your head off your cab, and then you have a whole different set of issues. ;)
  18. tadawson


    Aug 24, 2005
    Lewisville, TX
    I don't know about "actual breakdown testing" but Ihave had several go bad on me personally . . . . typically, it is a loose contact, resulting in either intermittent loss of signal, but once I had one that got "soft" on a subwoofer, and the level dropped to about 30% (and got NASTY) and the connector got real hot . . . . .

    It was right after than that all my stuff went to speakon. Never looked back, and never a problem since. And with speakong running around $4 each, I don't think (unless you have a CRAPLOAD of cables) that cost is a valid argument at all.

    - Tim
  19. mindflow


    Oct 31, 2004
    San Diego
    does anyone know a good place to get speakons? i have only seen them in GC and all they had was the really long ones. anyone got any good deals online lately?
  20. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    Make 'em yourself, you don't even need to solder. My last 3 footer cost me about 7 bucks.

    Failing that, try here: Audiopile
    or try the vendors in the Commercial section of Talkbass, they get good reviews.