Cheap, Cheaper, and Cheapest

AR-adapter1.jpgRecently I needed adapter to go from a mini-stereo headphone jack to a pair of female RCA jacks. I bought two; one from Ebay and the other from Amazon. When they arrived, I compared them because that's what I do. Even when it comes to inexpensive audio adapters, there's cheap and then there's worse than cheap - just plain bad. The one from Amazon, which came from Cables-To-Go, proved to be a far better adapter, even though the two cost virtually the same - around $3. What were the differences?

First off, look carefully at the two black bodies of the adapters - see how similar the decorative square patterns are. Very similar, but different - the one with gold plating has squares rather than rectangles. While this isn't exactly the prime-contributing factor in overall audio quality, still it indicates that either one was copied from the other or they were BOTH copied from a seminal original model. I suppose the original purpose of the detail was to ad texture to the sides to give a grip for removing the adapter. But how much of a grip do you need to remove a mini-stereo adapter?

AR-adapter2.jpgNotice how the gold-plated unit has shorter RCA female connectors? They're more than 1/8 inch shorter than the silver adapter. That could spell trouble for some RCA cables - not enough height to allow for a firm connection. The gold-plated version also has a slightly thicker diameter stereo jack with slightly different spacing on the sections.

Even the finishes of the two adapters was different. The gold plated unit's plating is on the dull and slightly rough side compared with the more precise and shinier silver finish. Also looking into the ferrules of the RCA connectors I can see that the silver one has a lot more surface area inside for the male part of the RCA connector to contact, which will make for a better connection.

But the final, and in my opinion, most egregious difference between the two adapters is that the gold-plated adapter doesn't have any markings to show which is the right and left channels! Instead of a white (for left) and red (for right) the RCA plug sections the gold unit has two yellow inserts. Only by putting on a test disc with a "This is the right channel, this is the left channel" track could I determine the right from left channel, and mark them for the future. Boo hiss.

So which one was from Amazon? The silver one; of course. Just because something is gold-plated doesn't make it better. And if you need an adapter, you'll find a superior one on Amazon, rather than Ebay.

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