Some audiophiles will tell you XLR cables are not very important when looking for good quality audio. However, they are often what you can call a “weak link” between the signal chain of your audio.
You probably have a high-quality condenser or dynamic microphone, and the last thing you want is pairing it with a cheap cable accessories.
Those who have used such will tell you they wear out fast and pick up in interference. Besides, you must know that different materials conduct electricity differently.
Buying XLR cables can be a good investment if you know what to do. And the basic way to begin is understanding what these cables are all about and how to get in touch with the best.
Understanding XLR cables
Even though they are simply used to connecting microphones – which many of us know – there are certain things you may want to be aware of too.
For instance, you might meet terms like balanced and unbalanced, low or high impedance, conductor material, and many confusing others.
But you don’t need to worry about such for now. I will be helping you get the best XLR cables among the different choices. You don’t have to worry about these confusing terms.
XLR cables come in different lengths and material quality. This can translate to budget, mid-range, and high-end, although the ones on the list below are not arranged in any particular order.
You still need to know how to pick your cables, so that even from the list, you have an easy time.
XLR cables have four different components that generally define them:
- Conductors. These are the cable’s main components, usually twisted together and made with their own insulation. The conductors feature many individual strands of copper wiring that make up the bigger wires. You can get two, or four bigger wires depending on the cable. The conductors send an electrical signal from one end to the other, carrying with it the desired information.
- Fillers. XLR cables are round as their standards shape. You will not easily find any other shape. Also, you may have wondered how they keep their roundness. Well, it is because of the fillers. These are also components that smooth out any warping that might occur. They are important because your cables have to keep the straight and smooth round appearance to work effectively. If they were not filled with filler, the chances of getting the best sound quality would be very low.
- Shielding. This component is responsible for preventing any interference, including noise, humming, and many other things, from reaching the signal. The shield is like a barrier that ensures the information inside the cables remains clean, and it is transferred in the same state to the next location. If a cable does not have proper shielding material, you will notice the sound quality comes from the microphones is not the best. Hence, many manufacturers use this as part of their selling points.
- Outer jacket. The outer jacket is what you see when you look at the cables. They protect the entire cable from damage.
These components may be the same in all XLR cables, but the material that makes them determine their prices. And the higher priced ones really make a difference.
It does not make any sense that you want to connect a $1000 mic and audio interface with a $20 cable. If you are interested in only the best quality, then consider investing in something that makes sense.
Best XLR Cables Reviewed
We all know cheap cables are not the best when it comes to sound quality. But there are a few hidden products that will surprise you. And AmazonBasics XLR cables is one of them.
This is an all-copper conductor cable with spiral inner copper shielding. But it is way better than any other cheap XLR.
It comes measuring 6-inches to 50-inches in length. They have a flexible PVC jacket, all copper conductors, and inner copper shielding.
- It is not the best you can get. Probably just good as a backup cable.
The LyxPro LCS Premium cable features 98% braided shield, twin PVC inner shields, and cotton yarn shields. It comes with everything nice in terms of specifications.
It is not the brand that markets its quality; the cables themselves have continued receiving a lot of positive reviews. Their quality and value for money is something you don’t get every day.
They are available from 1.5-inches to 100-inches. The black metal housing connectors and cable strain relief, and gold-plated contact points make it ideal for any job.
- High quality
- Best for big areas
- Even though there are not many complaints about the cables, the price might be an issue.
Mogami was just a small workshop in Tokyo, Japan, when they began. In 1977, they impressed a lot of audiophiles with the quality of the cables.
Today, they have grown into a worldwide brand for premium “Hi-Fi” cables. With help from Marshall Electronics, they have made the Gold Studio XLRs one of the market’s top products.
As the name suggests, this 100% coverage spiral copper shield, Neglex free copper cables with 4-conductor, is made for studio recording.
They are available from 2 inches to 50 inches: the feature black metal jacks and Gold-pin Neutrik XLR connectors.
- Consistency in quality
- Improved sound production
- Zero noise operation
- A bit heavy on insulation because of the bulky jacket and shielding design.
The Gold Stage XLR cables by Mogami balances sound quality with reliability and mobility. Hence, they are good for stage and touring.
The company has invested a lot in its quality, utilizing 105 copper cores that have three times more strands than other brands.
They are designed for mobility and complimented by a full-coverage braided shield and a solid XLPE insulation. It has 95% braided coverage, with crush resistance via fiber filler. You can get them from 20 inches to 50 inches.
- A reputable brand
- Proof of reliability and durability
- Best quality
- It is the price that keeps many buyers awake.
If you are looking for high-quality cables, Cable Matters is the name to trust. Their 2-pack Premium XLR to XLR mic cable features oxygen-free copper, and copper braided shielding.
The soft PVC jacket ensures great flexibility as the molded strain relief and grip treads give it strength to serve you for long.
It is available from 3 inches to 50 inches and features Gold Plated XLR Pins on metal connectors. You can’t go wrong.
- Solid and durable
- Clean performance
- A few users have complained about the soldering
- Some say it is too thick.
StageMASTER SEGL-15 is one of the best XLR cables the market has to offer. It functions for both studio and lives performance settings.
It provides a flexible noise control shield and hands soldered connectors for long-term use. Its 90% shield covering ensures you get all the best features and an affordable price.
- Great sound response
- Some users have complained it does not last long.
Perhaps you have already heard about the Hosa Pro Balanced XLR cable. The company takes another approach with silver-plated Neutrik REAN connectors and thick conductors on this cable.
It is designed for professional users, specifically those in need of improved signal transfer in the studio. The thicker 20 AWG OF core makes all you may want to get the best performance.
But it is its tempting price that lures many buyers. The company has managed to maintain its price while offering high-end functionality.
- 90% OFC braided shield
- Highly functional
- The cable is a bit stiff.
Things to Look for When Buying
Buying XLR cable can be overwhelming and more confusing than you may have thought. There are so many products in the modern market; sometimes, you just don’t know where to start.
However, as I mentioned earlier, there are a few things that make the difference, and you might want to have a look. Consider the following.
Now that you know what components make XLR cables and why some are more expensive, what are the best components. There are all sorts of materials that define these components.
When looking for XLR cables, start from the shielding material. Go for those that have copper shielding and cotton yarn.
One of the biggest issues with XLR cables is noise and interference. Copper and cotton yarn is the best materials that prevent these. You can be sure to get the best recordings and feel happy about your achievement.
And if you can get gold plated conductors, again, you have hit the jackpot. Gold-plated material prevents oxidation from taking place fast if you will be using the cables under humid conditions. They will perform well under any circumstances, giving you a way to get the best performance.
We all want great sound quality. And in this case, wire conductors are very vital. It is advisable to go for four-wire conductors, as opposed to two. Four conductors do a better job in noise reduction than anything else.
You will get a smooth sound based on how you make your investment. Understanding conductors means you can make more informed decisions and avoid going for a cheap item.
If you don’t care much about sound quality and would not mind comprising some, a two-conductor cable can do just fine. Also, these conductors come with nickel plating, and they are not very dysfunctional.
You will, of course, experience a few issues here and there. Electromagnetic interferences may occasionally cause humming and buzz, but you will have a good time for the rest of your use.
There is nothing more important than getting the right cables with the right components. It all comes down to price too.
Who does not like the good sound from their microphones? We all do.
You will hear from some audiophiles that different leads make a difference. And this is why many companies sell very expensive leads.
But in terms of Balanced XLR cables, audio engineering professionals and actual measurements have a different option. There is no audible difference between properly working XLRs under normal conditions.
Nevertheless, there is notable frequency interference in the same situations where cables with less shielding are quick to pick these signals up. A cable that is damaged will also have these glitches, noise, or stop working altogether.
Hence, if you don’t want to get disturbed with sound quality issues, you may need to consider balanced cables. They are durable, reliable, and have a great shielding. With these, you can relax for long without having to look for a replacement.
Where do you want to use the XLR cables from? Basically, there is a studio and live stage conditions that require cables.
When buying them, therefore, start by looking at these environments. There are solutions set out for each condition.
There is often a lot of movement on a stage. Therefore, the cables will be under too much stress, with others being stepped on a lot.
This means you want cables that are strong and durable enough to handle these pressures. Even if you move around, you can always count on their strength.
On the contrary, a studio environment is fixed. All the cables are passed through extra protection and hidden from the naked eye. In this case, flexibility and durability will not be that important.
Again, this has to do with getting the right cable for the job. Determining the cables’ right length is extremely important as you don’t want anything shorter than what you need.
Remember, this can include your cables running around various obstacles. If you are in a studio, you want them to go across walls from one room to the other.
But this does not mean you must always get long cables. Sometimes getting longer than what is necessary can be a bad idea.
For instance, operating balanced cables can work without any audible signal loss for 100 feet and above. Hence, it won’t be an issue even if you got excess length.
But having extra cables running all over can create a big mess. You can even find it hard to set your tools in the right positions because you have cables everywhere. Besides, the chances of getting them damaged or tangled up with other cables are very high.
You can easily get your performance, rehearsal, or recording setup disorganized by such cables. If you don’t need them, there is no reason to have them around.
XLR cables come in different thicknesses, ranging from 20 to 26 AWG, where 20 is the thickest. Thicker cables do a better job in signal transfer, hence, more preferable for studio application. Thinner ones are more flexible, therefore, good for the stage.
Some audiophiles insist on using Oxygen-Free Copper (OFC), which offers the best signal transfer. Despite this, consensus between pros is that there is no difference.
There are three main types of materials used for cable shielding: aluminum laminate, Tin Plated Copper, and copper. The shielding is connected to the third pin of the cable and directs intercepted interference to the ground.
Most users prefer a spiral copper shield for stage application because it offers 97% coverage and flexibility. However, it is important to note that gaps do open up when the cables are flexed too much. This is why some cables have been designed with multi-spiral shielding. This gives them protection from the core.
Braided Tin Copper shielding is more applicable in a studio setup. It comes with higher 98% coverage, oxidation protection, and better conductivity.
Foil shielding is common on generic, cheap cables. They provide effective interface protection without costing too much.
Type of connection and Stain relief
This is just another way of saying you get what you pay for. With a few bucks, you will buy a cheap cable that will translate into higher spending in the long run.
Look for a brand that has a good reputation in offering high-end results. And in this case, Neutrik continues to lead the market for excellent XLR connectors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are all XLR cables the same?
Not all XLR cables are the same. The difference comes in from the material they are made from. Cheaper options, for instance, are made with less lasting materials.
In terms of purpose, they are designed the same.
Do XLR cables sound better?
Yes. Even though some users prefer wireless, microphones, a quality XLR cable is more reliable. You will never have to worry about signal loss due to connectivity issues. Besides, some of the top-quality cables reviewed above are designed to offer the best performance.
Does XLR cable length matter?
Yes. It is very important that you get the right length. The last thing you want is a cable that is shorter than what you need.
What gauge is XLR cable?
The XLR cable core is an important consideration when buying them. Thicker one can support better signals, giving you a more reliable function.
If you are looking for the best sound from your microphones, you need to check how you buy XLR cables. The products reviewed above and the buying guide should get you started. I hope you found it useful, especially because there are so many options.