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I have to purchase an instrument, that its output (mono) can be either 1/4 TS or RCA.
The device signal goes to a preamp (If I'll go for the RCA version, the cable will be RCA to TS).

My question is:

  • Signal Quality: Are there any signal quality differences between these two types?
  • Durability and maintenance: Does any of them tend to be more durable than the other one?

TS:
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RCA:
enter image description here

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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

1/4" TS/TRS is a far superior interconnect than RCA/phono in every way, except size.

If you have to choose an output for an instrument, it should be 1/4" if at all possible.

1/4" TS cables are more robust, much more easily repairable, and are used throughout the professional audio industry.

RCA cables were invented (by RCA) for use in consumer electronics, because they look less intimidating (I guess). Most mixers have a pair of in/outs to use with a tape deck for recording, but everything else is going to be 1/4" (or XLR).

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RCA cables were invented because they were cheaper to make and more compact, and intended to be used in situations where the connector wasn't often plugged in and unplugged (like 1/4" plugs which were used for things like headphones). It was easier than bare wires, more secure than banana plugs, and yes, they're a bit more durable in their primary intended use. I've had 1/4" plugs fall apart on me after just a few dozen plug-ins/unplugs; the insulating ring between tip and sleeve gives way and the structure of the entire plug is gone. –  KeithS Feb 12 '13 at 22:40
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  1. Signal Quality - there shouldn't be any difference in signal quality between a good RCA cable and a good 1/4" cable, as long as the connector and jack are making good electrical contact.

  2. The problem lies in making good electrical contact. As NReilingh states, RCA plugs were designed for consumer electronics and probably also minimal cost. Our modern 1/4" cables are an evolution of the old phone exchange patchboard plugs. These plugs were designed to make good contact over many repeated plug/unplug cycles. The shield on RCA plugs tends to flare out after repeated use, eventually resulting in very poor connections.

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