Why are compression connectors so important?

Even if you’re just a regular TV viewer, you probably noticed that the connectors on your cables don’t look like they used to. There was a time that video cables had a hexagonal connection between the black outer insulating layer and the connector itself. In other words, they looked like this:

and now they look like this:

with a generally round appearance to the end. The old style is referred to as a hex crimp, or crimp-on connector. The connector starts out round and is attached to the cable by applying pressure until the edges flatten out. Crimp-on connectors were the standard for cable and satellite until the mid-1990s when they were replaced with the new style, called compression connectors.

Compression connectors use a special tool that pushes the bottom of the connector up into the middle part, creating a tighter seal. Compression connectors are the standard for all digital cable and satellite installations, and we advise that all connections in your home theatre use these compression connectors. But why?

In our Cable Comparison Shootout, we showed that a decades-old cable with a hex crimp could perform just as well as a newer one, but that’s not always the case. Hex crimp cables have three critical flaws that can make a cable fail over time:

  1. The crimp is likely to loosen over time, letting water in and ruining the connection.
  2. Because the pressure on the cable itself isn’t the same all the way around, the outer shield is more easily broken.
  3. It’s harder to make a good crimp-on cable so there are more poor quality ones out there.

On the other hand, compression cables are much easier to make well and are designed to protect the metal shielding that is an essential part of a coaxial cable. Today’s cable and satellite systems carry much, much more data than older systems so it is important that cables be in tip-top shape.

While we’re on the subject, you should also avoid plastic molded cables, because they are far more prone to quality control issues as well.