N-type Connectors: What They Are and How to Use Them

16/09/2022 Leon

N type connectors are the most commonly used RF connectors in the world. This connector can handle relatively high power compared to BNC or TNC connectors. The standard version operates up to 11 GHz, while the precision version operates up to 18 GHz.

Type N connectors are high performance RF coaxial connectors. Type-N RF connectors are used in many applications, especially where RF performance is critical.


Although not widely used in small labs and hobbyist applications, Type-N connectors are especially suitable where high power and performance are required. The physical size of N-type connectors is larger than other types of connectors, such as BNC connectors, making them suitable for larger low-loss cables.



N-type development

Type-N connectors have been around for many years. It is said to have been originally designed by Paul Neal of Bell Labs and takes its name from the first letter of his surname.


The development of the N-type connector stems from the need for high-performance RF connectors with constant impedance. It was originally designed to operate up to 1 GHz. Since its initial introduction, it has found many applications that require excellent RF performance and the ability to carry high power and use larger coaxial cables. It also proved to far exceed its original 1 GHz design goal.


N-type performance

The connector has a threaded coupling interface to ensure that it mates correctly to provide the optimum performance.


There are two versions of the N-type connector that are available:


50 ohm

75 ohm


Of the two versions of this RF connector, the most widely used is the 50 ohm Type-N connector. This is because 75 ohm systems are rarely used in commercial and professional systems these days.



There are subtle mechanical differences between the two versions of the Type-N connector, and the two types cannot be matched. Connecting two different types of connectors together can damage them. The 50Ω connector system has a larger center pin, which provides a lower characteristic impedance, which can cause irreversible damage when mated with a 75Ω connector. Some manufacturers provide their connectors with enough springs to accommodate this, while others don't, so it's best to differentiate between the two standards.


This connector can handle relatively high power compared to BNC or TNC connectors. The standard version operates up to 11 GHz, while the precision version operates up to 18 GHz.


Type N coaxial connectors are used in many RF applications, including broadcast and communications equipment, and their power handling capabilities allow them to be used in medium power transmitters, but they are also used in many receivers and general RF applications.


Recommended body casing tightening torque is manufacturer dependent. Good hand tightness is usually used in most cases, but see the manufacturer's datasheet for a more accurate number. Typically about 15 in-lbs or 1.7 N m. The main operating requirement is good RF contact without large steps or gaps, as the torque limit depends only on the quality and cleanliness of the screw. Therefore, it is possible to have a reasonable margin on the numbers.


N type rated power

Type N connectors are known for their performance and power handling capabilities. Other connectors may offer high frequency performance, but if you want a connector that can handle reasonable power levels, Type-N is a popular choice.


The peak power capability of the N connector is determined by the voltage breakdown in the center pin area. However, the average power rating depends on the level of heating that occurs at the center contact, especially due to the resistance at the contact point. This depends on the frequency due to the skin effect.


The actual power handling capability of a specific connector can be found in the manufacturer's data sheet for that specific connector. There are slight differences between manufacturers due to the different materials used for contacts and finishes.


As a rule of thumb, a fully loaded (VSWR = 1:1.0) new connector might handle 5000 watts at 20 MHz, but might drop to 500 watts at 2 GHz. I have.


When using parts from unknown manufacturers, it is advisable to include a significant safety margin, as some products on the market are of very poor quality.


Connector type

Type-N connectors come in many forms. In addition to plugs and sockets, there are also items such as adapters and attenuators.


Type-N plugs are designed to accommodate not only the desired impedance, but also specific coaxial cable formats. This way, all internal components are compatible with the coaxial cable used. Therefore, you must specify the type N plug to be used for the cable you are using. While you have some latitude, it makes sense to choose the right cable format.


Type-N to BNC Adapter

Type-N connectors are typically used where performance is most important, where larger cables are usually required to minimize loss levels. Type N connectors are slightly larger than BNC and TNC connectors, making them ideal for these applications. Therefore, various N-type connector versions can be used to accommodate larger types of coaxial cables.


In addition to this, there are right-angle and right-angle variants. Of these, straight connectors are the most widely used, but right-angle connectors are also available, where the cable exits the plug at a right angle to the centerline of the connector. They are ideal for many applications where cables need to be routed out of the connector in this way or where space is limited. Unfortunately, right-angle connectors have slightly higher loss levels than straight connectors. This probably won't matter for most applications, but at frequencies close to the connector's operating limit it can make a slight difference.


There are also different types of sockets or female N-type connectors. Considering the fact that TNC connectors are often used in RF applications, bulkhead mount connectors are often used where coax entry is provided. Also, they have different cable sizes, the correct type should be used.


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