How To Test RCA Cables with A Multimeter

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If you believe RCA cables are dead, you couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s a fact that HDMI cables are very sought-after today for connecting cables. However, there are still a lot of appliances with RCA inputs only, like TVs. 

Radio Corporation of America first created the RCA cables in the early 1940s. Since that time, it has become common globally, building its legendary status as one of the oldest AV connectors still in use today.

You will find reasons why RCA cables are very good: they are efficient, simple, and clearly marked for hassle-free installation, often with both ends color-coded, with a white or black for the left audio channel and a red end for the right. A composite-type cable will have those two and the third-yellow input for connecting video. 

Keep in mind that RCA cables have analog signals. That means you won’t be able to plug it right away into a digital device like a laptop and will require an adapted version required to fit the right port, like having an HDMI or XLR input at one end. 

While the build and quality have an effect on the sound, an RCA cable does not have to be super costly to offer you awesome audio. There are other things you need to look out for, though. 

What is an RCA Cable? 

A RCA (Radio Corporation of America) connector is a kind of electrical connector that is utilized to carry audio or video (AV) signals. It’s the oldest type of cable in use, which dates back to the early 1940s. Even though the design of these cables changed a bit, it’s still compatible along with other recent models. The cable comes with coaxial cables too. 

An RCA connector is also called a photo connector or AV jack, as it’s originally utilized for the internal connection of the pickup to the framework in home radio-phonograph consoles. That was originally a cost-efficient connector with a basic design that was utilized for disconnection and connection when servicing console equipment.

Further, the connector has two plugs: female and male. The male plug features a center pin surrounded by a band, where the female plug has a bit slighter band surrounding a hole for the pin. The connection is created by pushing the plugs into the socket. Those come in different colors, but the following colors are the most typically utilized: 

  • White or black – left channel audio
  • Red – right channel audio
  • Yellow – video 

What Do These Colors Mean?

As stated earlier. Every RCA cable and compatible device utilizes a color code system to display the proper socket for every cable plug. 

RCA cables are utilized to connect the video and audio parts of a wide array of devices, such as cable boxes, speakers, VCRs, DVD players, gaming consoles, and TVs. RCA cables can transmit composite analog video and component analog video. 

Every signal type has every cable plug, and the color is color-coded to help you determine that type of signal it will send. 

The most typical RCA cable colors seen in a household environment are white, yellow, and red. That’s because the most typical devices that need RCA connectors, like gaming and TV systems, only feature three basic video and audio ports: one for composite analog video and two for analog video (right and left). 

The composite video indicates the blue, green, and red video signals are all being performed by a single cable. In the color code, white and red stand for audio to the left and right speakers correspondingly, and yellow stands for the composite video. 

For RCA cables, the connector plays an essential role both in terms of the cable’s durability and signal quality. Typically, you’ll find connectors composed of gold, nickel, copper, and silver. 

How to Test Your RCA Cables?

What is the best way to test your RCA cables? This is where a digital multimeter got you covered. A multimeter is a digital tool that could come in very handy for troubleshooting different electronics projects. 

This device is a combination of ohmmeter, ammeter, voltmeter and works as a piece of standalone test equipment. It is not limited to only such measurements as it can also measure frequency, capacitance, and gain of transistors. 

You need to test your RCA outputs on your car stereo using a multimeter tool if you’re getting no sound from the amplifier. That will help you identify what exactly the issue is more precisely and if it’s connected with any RCA outputs on the radio.

They are utilized to send an output signal into the car amplifier through RCA cables. If RCA connectors on your CD player are defective, you will lead to no music being heard. This section can be utilized to test both subwoofer and speaker RCA preamp outputs. 

Here are the steps you need to do to test your RCA cables with a digital multimeter (DMM):

  • Set the digital multimeter to read in AC volts. 
  • Make sure the volume on your car stereo is nearly turned up fully. That will send a powerful signal to the RCA for it to be picked up more effortlessly.
  • Using the probes of your digital multimeter, measure the AC voltage from the outer ring and the center pin.
  • Do you see the AC voltage going up and down on the read-out screen? Then that means it is normal and shows no problem. Hence, it would help if you did further diagnostic troubleshooting. Nonetheless, do you receive readings or no readings at all? Then it indicates you have an issue with the RCA preamp outputs. 

Final Thoughts

When looking at RCA connectors, you must go for a connector, which is plated with the highest quality gold. If it’s made from copper or silver, its conductivity would be better. If it’s totally made of gold, its conductivity would be less, unlike the other two materials. 

Moreover, nickel plating is decent enough for protection against corrosion, but it’s not as protective as gold. That’s much cheaper than gold plating, too, so normally, the lower-end cables would have that plating. If you’re searching for something that lasts long, then always opt for gold-plated connectors. The risk of corrosion only lowers the life of the cable, but it also weakens the signal quality.

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