Electronic Connector Types

Earlier we reviewed RF connector types commonly used in ham radio applications.

There are also a number of common electronic connectors used in amateur radio that you should be familiar with to have a working knowledge of equipment interconnect and interfacing.

Presented below are eight common non-RF connector types.  Some are for power but most carry audio or control signals between devices and equipment.


D-subminiature connector commonly called D-sub.  Name derived from its general “D” shape with one side longer than the other.

Five shell sizes 1-5 (A thru E).  Standard and high density for all five shell sizes.   9-50pins standard, 15-78pins HD.

Ham radio general purpose use such as control interface; also for serial (RS-232) communication plus video between PC and monitor.

dsubs     D-sub conv

d-sub ortho   d-sub sizes

Reference here.



An old, simple, and cheap design still widely used for audio and video signals.  Sometimes called phono plug and jack.

Typically used for L and R stereo audio channels with white and red color coding.

Reference here.


Phone, 1/8″ (3.5mm) and 1/4″ (6.35mm)

Another old and reliable design still widely used for audio signals.

1/4 standard and 1/8 mini plug/jack sizes are the most common.

phone compare     phone function

phone jack2     phone jack1

Two wires for mono signals, three for stereo.  A four pole version is occasionally used with two ring contacts.  In ham radio use this might be a HT with speaker, mic and PTT switch; three functions sharing a common fourth terminal.

Reference here.

Mini-DIN type

DIN is an acronym for Deutsches Institut für Normung, the organization for German national standards.  The DIN standard encompasses a wide variety of electrical and electronic connectors. As used in ham radio the specific subset of Mini-DIN is what we normally encounter.

The Mini-DIN is 9.5mm diameter (3/8″) and can range from 3 to 8 pins with unique arrangements:


din m     DIN6F

Used on many modern transceivers for audio, data and control interface. Example below:

DIN ham

Reference here.


Modular (RJ45, RJ11)

Familiar as the computer network (LAN) and landline telephone cable plugs and jacks, modular connectors have many other uses.

Mod conns

Available from 4 to 10 positions, modular connectors are used in modern transceivers for mating front panels or remote control heads where the cables can be short or long, depending on location.  Transceivers also seem to be mostly using modular connectors for microphone connections now, although with frustratingly non-standard pin assignments.  There are other general uses for modular connectors in ham radio as cheap interconnect that is readily available.

Reference here.


Used on many transmitters and transceivers for mic connection.  Also found on some test equipment and other ham products for power and signal interface.

Modern transceivers seem to be mostly using modular connectors for mic connections now.

Officially called multi-pin mobile connectors, these are more commonly referred to as microphone connectors.  Also termed Japan-style or Foster, these screw-on circular connectors are available with 2 thru 8 pins and may be used for signals or power.

mic conn

Some info on this connector family can be found in the  Philmore-Datak  catalog.


The 15-45A Powerpole product has become the de facto standard for 12VDC power interconnect for amateur radio equipment.


This topic is involved and important so we posted it previously, found  here.

Power adapter

Familiar to anybody who routinely uses electronic devices.


We’re discussing the output connector of a “wall wart” power adapter which converts line voltage to some lower value for a gadget.  Can be AC power but more commonly DC.

Power adapter

More properly termed cylindrical or coaxial power connector, the receptacles on the device usually have a male center pin while the adapter has a plug with female contact.  Several common sizes (not interchangeable) but all have the same general appearance.  Size does not denote voltage and current, either, so as a user you must know exactly what you need and find a suitable matching adapter.

Polarity with DC types is always a concern.  Universal adapters are available with multiple voltages, plug ends, and a polarity switch.  Power adapter plugs generally have no locking features so can be pulled out easily (sometimes a problem/issue).

Reference here and a very informative, practical one here.

Of course, you will also find equipment-specific connectors such as mobile and base radio power supply plugs.  With increasing use of computers in amateur radio we also see many common PC-type connections for peripherals such as USB.

Adapters are readily available for most of the audio connector types to convert plug styles as needed to use certain cables.

You will find phone plug size converters such as 1/8 to 1/4 and 1/4 to 1/8:

adapt2     adapt4

Splitters or combiners are also available if needed:

adapt3     adapt1

While on the subject of connectors, some multi-pole connectors have the ability to be keyed.  That is, the contact arrangement is such that it is difficult—if not impossible—to plug the wrong cable into a different type, even if the same body size.

Connector keying may be accomplished by rotating (clocking) a contact arrangement, adding blocking features to the face mold, or inserting a blocking plug into an unused contact cavity.


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