When selecting a coaxial connector, you will need to know the key parameters of the cable you plan to connect. These include:
- The voltage
- The environment
- The required frequency
- Whether a male or female connection is required. Male connectors have protruding metal pins while female connectors have a recess designed to receive the pins
Coaxial Connector Gender Types
In electrical engineering, coaxial and other electrical cables are conventionally divided into two types: male and female. The former typically have a connecting pin or protrusion of some kind that is inserted into indentations or slots in the latter – for example, plugs and sockets (also known as jacks). Connecting a male to a female connector is referred to as ‘mating’ them.
Coaxial cable genders were designed not just to allow physical connections but also to ensure that power or signal data flows in the correct direction, from male to female connectors with matching electrical polarity, preventing interference and unsafe installations. Typically, female connectors are more resistant to damage than male ones so these tend to be placed in crucial areas with males relegated to connecting cables, which can be replaced more easily.
Note that the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ are not universally used, especially in relation to lower voltage domestic appliances. Widely used electrical standard IEC60320 does not specify gender types for the latter.
Male Coaxial Connectors
Male coaxial connectors typically have a straightforward design, combining a central pin designed to fit a compatible plug on the female connector, alongside a spring-loaded electrical contact point located at the side.
Female Coaxial Connectors
Female coaxial connectors normally feature a metallic tube designed to precisely contain the corresponding male pin, normally called the tip. This is surrounded by an insulating layer and then an outer cylinder, typically referred to as the barrel or sleeve. The latter functions as an electrical contact point, alongside the inner tube.
Genderless Coaxial Connectors
Genderless coaxial connectors combine male protrusion points and female slots in the same connection point, enabling these to be connected to either male or female connectors of matching size and type. They allow cabling within complex installations to be repurposed or reconnected quickly, without awkward removal and repositioning if it needs to be connected to a different component or cable. They have a reverse electrical polarity, with a pin protruding from the female socket and slot in the male plug designed for that pin.
Genderless coaxial connectors are also known as combination connecters. They are not the right choice for installations in which a carefully controlled flow of current in a single direction is required for safety or functionality reasons.