Understanding Mains Connectors

It can be confusing to know what sort of connector you need thanks to the myriad of different mains sockets found on equipment. I’ve listed below some of the more popular types used in more recent equipment:

Figure of 8

The Figure of 8 connector is less common nowadays. It’s not an especially high current connector but does have one interesting feature. Because the plug is completely symmetrical it can be inserted two ways around which on some equipment is audible - give it a try! Due to its small size it’s only available on the thinner audiophile mains cables. It’s also often referred to as a 2 pin plug and sometimes the Telefunken connector (who designed it).


Not terribly popular in the hi-fi industry yet, but Rega have started using the Cloverleaf connector as it’s a very compact 3 core connector.

IEC Connector

By far and away the most popular mains connector. The IEC is a 3 pin connector and should really be called the 13A IEC but it’s been quite common to lose the current rating when referring to it.

There are actually two types of 13A IEC connectors, I’ve included a picture below for completeness although it’s not normally something that needs to be worried about for audio use.

The IEC connector on the left is called an ‘IEC Hot’ and the one on the right an ‘IEC Cold’, the only visible difference being the slot at the bottom. As the name suggests the Hot version is also suitable for higher temperature applications such as kettles. Audiophile mains cables can have either Hot or Cold connectors on them but both will fit into the Cold socket that is used on all audio equipment.


The 16Amp IEC (pictured above right, next to a 13A IEC for comparison purposes) isn’t that common at the moment, but can sometimes be found on larger amplifiers and power supplies. The real benefit with this connector, apart from its higher current rating, is that it makes an even more positive connection than the smaller standard IEC which is ideal when using really stiff and heavy mains cables.

Neutrik Powercon

Only found on a small number of pieces of domestic audio equipment this round connector is a locking design so makes a good positive connection. This connector is available on some Isotek cables, please ask for more details.