The Speakon (usually stylized speakON) is a type of cable connector, originally manufactured by Neutrik, mostly used in professional audio systems for connecting loudspeakers to amplifiers. The same manufacturer produces another connector dubbed PowerCon, which is designed to carry mains power rather than audio signal. The audio and power designs cannot connect to each other.
A Speakon connector is designed with a locking system that may be designed for soldered or screw-type connections. Line connectors (female) mate with (male) panel connectors and typically a cable will have identical connectors at both ends. If it is needed to join cables, a coupler can be used (which essentially consists of two panel connectors mounted on the ends of a plastic tube). Recently the manufacturer has introduced a new series called STX which includes also male line connectors and female panel connectors (in the four-pole and eight-pole version only).
Speakon connectors are a higher current carrying alternative to 1/4-inch TS phone connectors, two-pole twist lock, and XLR connectors for loudspeakers. Speakon connectors lock into their sockets with a twisting motion, making them significantly less prone to disconnection than standard phone plugs.
Speakon connectors are fully shielded from human touch, preventing electrical shock risks associated with high power audio amplifiers and unshielded connections. Speakon contacts do not short out upon connection or disconnection, which can happen to the 1/4-inch plug as it is being plugged in. This can be a benefit when working with sound equipment that is in operation.
Speakon connectors are designed to be unambiguous in their use in speaker cables. With jack and XLR connections, it is possible to use low-current shielded microphone or instrument cables in a high-current speaker application. Speakon cables are intended solely for use in high current audio applications.
The name Speakon is a registered trademark. Other manufacturers make similar connectors of various levels of quality and compatibility, intended as replacements for Speakon. Some Speakon connectors are counterfeited, and Neutrik warned its customers in May 2007 to avoid such knockoffs due to lower-grade materials and improper fit.
Speakon connectors are made in two, four and eight-pole configurations. The two-pole line connector will mate with the four-pole panel connector, connecting to +1 and −1; but the reverse combination will not work. The eight-pole connector is physically larger to accommodate the extra poles. The four-pole connector is the most common at least from the availability of ready-made leads, as it allows for things like bi-amping (two of the four connections for the higher-frequency signal, with the other two for the lower-frequency signal) without two separate cables. Similarly, the eight-pole connector could be used for tri-amping (two poles each for low, mid and high frequencies with two unused), or quad-amping (two poles each for high, mid, low and sub).
Another use for the four-pole cable is to carry two channels of amplified signal from an amplifier to a pair of loudspeakers using a 'combiner' Y-lead connected to the two output channels, and a 'splitter' Y-lead to feed the loudspeakers. Essentially the 'combiner' and 'splitter' Y-leads are the same - three four pole line connectors with a 2-core cable between +1 and -1 on two connectors, and the remaining +2 and -2 on one connecter to +1 and -1 on the third. Some amplifiers and mixer-amplifiers are configured to do this without the need for a 'combiner'.