‘Should I use spade terminals to connect my speaker cable to my audio equipment?' That's the question that a lot of people are asking themselves. Visit any kind of audio-visual forum or website on the internet or pick up any kind of specialist audio magazine or newsletter and you are sure to come across this question being raised time and time again.
It seems that people just aren't sure about using spades, and one can only assume this uncertainty is caused by the confusing and often contradictory information that is available – of course it doesn't really help that there's a huge row raging throughout the audio-visual community about whether it is best to use spades, banana plugs or bare cable.
It seems to have gotten to the stage where all that matters to each ‘side' is seeing who can shout the loudest, so if a consumer wasn't confused enough before they now have to wade through all of the half truths and misinformation caused by this dispute.
The simple truth is that deciding whether or not to use these connectors is actually quite an easy task, it's just that a lot of people out there make it much harder than it needs to be, so with that in mind, let's quickly talk about the main pros and cons of using them so that you can make an unbiased decision.
The main reason for using spade terminals, or any other type of terminal for that matter, is convenience. Wrapping bare speaker cable around a binding post and ensuring a secure connection is a delicate and awkward task at the best of time, but by fitting a spade terminal hooking up a connection is a simple matter of placing the spade lug around the binding post and tightening it down.
Spade terminals also feature a relatively large surface area, meaning that there is more metal coming in to contact with the binding post, therefore helping to maintain the strength and quality of the audio signal being delivered.
Spades are also a popular choice of termination when space is at a premium. Other types of connectors tend to add extra depth to the back of the component, i.e. they stick out a long way, spade terminals on the other hand can be fitting in such a way that they sit almost flush against the back of the component making them idea to use with equipment that is either wall mounted, or housed within a cabinet or stand.
Finally, another bonus is that spade terminals are a great way of protecting the ends of your cables from corrosion. As you know the copper wires inside speaker cables are notoriously vulnerable to corrosion, which can have a detrimental impact on the performance of your system, but seeing as most spade lugs are gold-plated your cable should be fully protected.
The main drawback to spade terminals is that they increase costs. The individual spade terminals are relatively cheap, but buying several pairs can soon mount up so consumers with an extremely tight budget may need to think twice before buying.
It can take a fair amount of time and effort to properly install spade terminals on the ends of all your speaker cables, unless of course you buy cable with spade terminals already installed – but again this cable is likely to cost more than ‘naked' speaker cable.
It's also worth noting that some people have experienced problems with spade terminals accidentally slipping out of place. If the lug isn't tightly secured then gravity along with the weight of the cable can cause the lug to work itself loose over time. This shouldn't be a major issue, but it's a good idea to always make sure the spade terminal is tightly fastened down and to give the connection a quick check every couple of weeks or so.