XLR cables are capable of transferring your audio signals over long distances with minimal interference. So now we know the importance of these cables, how do we get about finding good quality XLR cable for you in the present? To do that, we have listed and reviewed the five best XLR cables that can be used for your home audio, recording, powered speakers, condenser mics, etc. If you aren’t sure which among the five will be best for you, give a glance through the buyer’s guide section to clear a few things for you.
What is an XLR cable used for?
An XLR cable is used to connect professional audio equipment like mixers, drum mics, and drum amplifiers. The most common form factor is a three-pin variant and is a familiar presence in recording studios and live performances. It is capable of delivering balanced microphone sound or line-level signals over a long distance.
What sets the XLR apart is its ability to reduce unwanted noise caused by external electromagnetic interference, allowing it to deliver the original sound signal without any alteration, even over long distances. This is because XLR are usually balanced cables and are capable of reducing unwanted electromagnetic noise.
The Best 5 XLR Cables Comparison
1. Mogami Gold Studio XLR Cable – Best for Professional Studios
The Mogami Gold Studio XLR cable is an excellent choice for professional studios for a variety of reasons. It features gold-plated connectors, which ensure better signal and also enhance durability. The line can transfer sound clearly without being significantly affected by noise. It can reduce background noise by up to 95%; this is primarily due to the quad strand design of this cable.
It’s a male-to-female microphone cable that is one of the best in the market. The gold plated male XLR and female XLR pins are of the XLR 3-pin variant, which is pretty much the industry standard. The gold plating helps improve durability while also giving excellent signal transmission. You will be able to use it with various audio equipment like mixers, preamps, and power mixers. You could even use them with microphones and studio monitors. It is incredibly versatile, and the best part is you can use it with most instruments without any adapters.
The cable is available in plenty of different sizes, all the way from two feet to over 100 feet in length. The exterior build is excellent and provides excellent durability and insulation. However, this durable exterior combined with the heavy shielding can make it slightly heavy and limit its flexibility. The best part, this cable is covered by a lifetime warranty.
2. Planet Waves Classic Series XLR Microphone Cable – Best for the money
The Planet Waves Classic Series XLR cable delivers excellent quality while still being affordably priced. It’s a well-balanced microphone cable that can be used to connect your microphone into audio interfaces such as mixers and preamps.
This is also a male-to-female microphone cable that also features a 3-pin XLR cable. The cable has strain relief plugs; these plugs help improve durability and reliability. The whole cable is also covered by a heavy-duty PVC jacket, thereby making it more durable. The connectors are made of nickel-plated brass, which is pretty much what you can expect at its price point.
The core of this wire is made from oxygen-free copper. This material has a high impedance (low capacitance), so it can transmit signals better. It is also less prone to corrosion when compared to ordinary copper. The cable is shielded by a copper spiral which can reduce electromagnetic interference by up to 90%. This is very important if you want noise-free output. Finally, like the Mogami, you also get a lifetime warranty with this microphone cable.
3. GLS Audio 25 foot Mic Cable Patch Cords – Best for stage
Stage usage demands more from an XLR mic cable compared to studio use. The cable will need to be flexible, durable, and extremely reliable. This is where the GLS Audio’s XLR cable shines. It features many innovative features but isn’t exuberantly priced. This makes the GLS an excellent option at the mid-range price-point.
The whole cable is covered by a rubber jacket that ensures that it can take a beating if needed. It also has a tri-grip which makes sure that there is reduced interference. The core is made of high-grade copper, which can deliver outstanding sound. The conductor is two-fold insulated, which further reduces interference. You can be assured that there will be no hum or buzz even if they get moved while being connected.
This also has 3-pin connectors on both sides, although these are made of silver. The female pin has a rubber grommet which ensures that it won’t loosen even if used for hours together. This is extremely important for stage usage as a loose wire could potentially bring your performance to a screeching halt. The only drawbacks are that while the cable itself is thick due to the rubber jacket, the inner conducting core is much thinner than a few other microphone cables.
4. RapcoHorizon HOG-30B 30-Feet RoadHOG Instrument Cable – Best for budget
The RoadHOG part of this cable’s name is supposed to emphasize its road readiness and suitability for touring. This cable has a whole slew of features that make it extremely durable and deliver fantastic sound consistently.
The core is made of pure copper conductors, which allows it to deliver quality sound. As copper has low capacitance, this cable can transmit an expanded frequency. Even the noise shielding is made from pure copper and can deliver a pretty good performance. Now coming to what makes this product so durable, the whole cable is covered by a thick PVC jacket that provides excellent durability without sacrificing flexibility. The connectors have a heat shrink over their barrel, which improves strain relief. Overall this is an excellently balanced XLR cable. All this makes this an excellent budget XLR cable for tours and gigs.
5. LyxPro Balanced XLR Cable – Best for home studios
The features that make the LyxPro Balanced XLR Cable great for home studio use are its high performance, low noise interference, and a rather pretty aesthetic.
Featuring a four-stranded copper core, this cable can deliver outstanding sound consistently. The core has a braided shielding made from oxygen-free copper conductors, ensuring a minimal noise level. It also features a cotton yarn wrap to improve the shielding further. The cotton yarn combined with the shielding delivers an excellent signal-to-noise ratio.
It has gold-plated connectors, ensuring you aren’t stuck with a corroded connector a few years down the road. The overall construction is also pretty good, and it will last you many years without an issue.
This cable comes in multiple color options, so you can get something that suits the interior of your recording room. While it isn’t a lifetime warranty, this cable is covered by a five-year warranty which should give you some peace of mind,
Things to Consider when Buying Best Microphone Cables
While an XLR cable might seem to be a simple cable on the surface, you must remember that it’s a piece of professional equipment and is way more complicated than you think. Many companies use technical jargon while marketing their products. This usually results in you buying an expensive cable with “premium” features that, in reality, do not give you any benefit. While we have listed the best XLR cables, you need to know a few more things to pick the right one. To help you out, we have discussed all the features that matter below. Go through it, and you will be able to make a fairly educated purchase decision.
A few audio companies tend to market their expensive cables to deliver significantly better audio quality somehow. What you have to keep in mind is that the difference in sound quality between a high-quality XLR cable and a normal XLR cable is insignificant under normal circumstances.
However, there are a few places where high-quality cables deliver better sound. In locations with a lot of electromagnetic noise, the better shielding of high-quality cables helps reduce their effect on the sound. High-quality cables also tend to be better constructed and, therefore, more durable than a regular cable. If you want uncompromised sound quality, you should invest in a durable cable, has adequate shielding and is reliable. It doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive.
Usage: Recording versus Stage
The exact specification of the XLR cable you need heavily depends on your use case.
An XLR cable meant for stage needs a lot of features. It has to be extremely durable as you cannot completely control what goes on the stage, and somebody might step or drop something on it. In addition to being durable, it also needs to be flexible as you might move a lot on stage. Stranded cables are your best choice if you want something flexible. For shielding, you want dual spiral ones as these can deliver excellent noise reduction while remaining flexible. You will need premium connectors as you under no circumstances wish for a wire coming loose mid-performance as it will result in a supreme headache for you. The core also needs to be of high quality as stage cables are usually long, and you do not want the signal to attenuate before it reaches the end.
You get more leeway when you are undertaking studio recording. You do not need expensive connectors as there isn’t much of a penalty if something disconnects. You don’t have to get high-quality cores as the cable is typically shorter and there’s isn’t much risk of signal loss. You can also get away with cables that aren’t very flexible nor durable. However, you will need effective shielding as your recording room is probably covered with devices that cause electromagnetic noise.
The longer your cable is, the more likely it is to be affected by electromagnetic disturbances. A long cable effectively ends up becoming an antenna, which will attract a lot more interference. Cables that are over 100 feet long are especially prone to interferences caused by length. If you want to avoid such issues altogether, you should use wires less than 30 feet long. This will ensure that your sound output does not get clogged by such interferences. Another issue with long wires is that it increases the chances of getting tangled up or getting damaged; it could also make your whole setup a little bit messier. So please calculate how much cable length you require before you buy anything.
The cable’s core is the most crucial part of an XLR cable as it transmits the audio signal. Having a good quality core is instrumental in ensuring that the signal is transmitted without any loss.
Gold cores are a common sight in quality XLR cables as gold is an excellent conductor, is quite ductile (ductility refers to the ability of a material to be stretched into wires), and is surprisingly cost-effective for this purpose. However, many people prefer an oxygen-free copper core as it has a higher impedance.
The core can either be one solid piece or be stranded. Stranded wires consist of 2 or 4conductors that have been weaved together in a spiral form. Typically, stranded cables are preferred as they have better clarity and reliability. When you buy stranded cables, check out their cable lay. Cable lay refers to the distance it takes for one spiral to complete. You should prefer ones with short cable lay as they have better balancing. Also, avoid cables with low capacitance, as these will subject your audio signal to a low-pass filter; this is primarily an issue with guitars.
Nowadays, electromagnetic waves are omnipresent. From the tall cellphone tower to the giant smartphone in your pocket, everything is emitting electromagnetic waves. These waves can quickly deteriorate the signal’s quality in your XLR cable if there isn’t any shielding. The third pin in your XLR cable is actually used for shielding, and all the electromagnetic noise picked up by your method of shielding is transferred to the ground via that pin,
Only if there is proper shielding will the signal in your cable be less affected by these waves. Cable shielding is achieved typically through copper or aluminum.
There are two main types of copper shields. The first one, braided copper shielding, uses thickly braided copper that gives it maximum conductivity and surface area, thereby making it the most superior option. This makes it suitable for recording work as any studio will be filled with electronics, and you will need all the possible shielding you can get. However, these XLR cables tend to be relatively rigid and expensive. The second option is spiral copper shielding; this cable is more flexible than braided ones but tends to be less effective at shielding. This makes it suited for stage as stage work needs flexible cable but doesn’t need that much shielding. A third but less common method is using copper foil.
Aluminum is typically used in a foil form to cover XLR cables. This shielding method is excellent at blocking low-frequency electromagnetic waves but is sadly not as durable as copper. The advantage aluminum has is that it is cheaper and lighter than copper. Such cables are typically used for specialized purposes or in stationary cables.
Connector Type and Strain Relief
You do not want to cheap out when it comes to your connector, as a cheap connector while helping you save some bucks today will lead to you having to buy a replacement cable pretty soon. Not only are cheap connectors not durable, but they are also not reliable. You will be risking your live performance coming to a stop due to some loose wire every time you use a cheap connector.
The best XLR cables usually have Neutrik connectors as these are the best in the industry; however, they are also the most expensive ones out there. Gold and silver are two of the best materials for connectors. While gold isn’t as conductive as silver, it is more resistant to corrosion, and many people like how it looks. However, unless you are working near the sea or some other highly corrosive environment, a silver connector will usually be good enough, and there isn’t much to justify paying a premium for gold ones.
Strain reliefs are mechanisms that make sure sudden tugs or strain on your cable don’t lead to detachment or damage. These are essential if you are using the cable on stage as you cannot always control what happens, and your cables shouldn’t be harmed even if something disastrous happens.
FAQS about XLR Cables
Does it matter what XLR cable you get?
Yes, it does matter what XLR cable you get, as the sound quality, durability, reliability, shielding, and cost will defer between XLR cables, and you want to get one that suits you best. Avoid cheap cables as they will be short-lived and cause you a lot of reliability problems in the short time that they live. Think about what you want to use the cable for and make a decision based on that. If you are going to use something for the stage, you want it to be extremely durable and completely reliable. If you’re going to use it on stage, you will need to look at other parameters. We have discussed this in-depth in the buyer’s guide section; give it a read-through if you’ve skipped it.
Are all XLR cables the same?
Nope, all XLR cables are not the same. There are various factors by which each XLR cable can differ from the other. This includes the shielding it uses, connector type, type of signal it’s meant for, core material, and plenty more. Always
Are XLR cables better than TRS?
Yes, XLR cables are better than TRS. This boils down to main reasons. XLR grounds whenever you plug it into anything, so this prevents any shorts or pops. XLR also tends to be much sturdier than TRS. However, other than for these two reasons, there isn’t much to set these two apart.
Do XLR cables sound better?
Yes, XLR cables sound better than many other types of cable. XLR cables are capable of reducing noise levels and delivering a better signal-to-noise ratio. However, you will have to pick up an XLR cable with good shielding and proper connectors if you want to enjoy the advantages of it.
Is there a difference between the XLR microphone cable and the XLR speaker cable?
Yes, there is a difference, XLR microphone cables and XLR speaker cables differ in their thickness and shielding. XLR Speaker cables have a bigger diameter and are unshielded, while XLR cables for microphones are thinner and are shielded. However, nowadays, XLR speaker cables are more or less obsolete, and almost all the XLR cables in the market are microphone ones. That said, avoid substituting one for the other as it can result in interference, improper operation, bad signal output, and sometimes can even damage your equipment.
Are expensive XLR cables worth it?
Not really. While we advise you to avoid dead cheap XLR cables, there are a few low costing cables that are as effective as a high-end one. Just spend some time researching, and you will be able to find one such cable. Do not fall for the marketing tactics of ultra-premium cables; you will only be wasting money that will be better spent elsewhere.
What are the required components for an XLR cable?
The primary components that make up an XLR cable are its core, its connectors, and the shielding it has. The core should be made of quality materials like gold, silver, or copper and should be between 20AWG and 26 AWG to get the best signal transmission. AWG refers to American Wire Gauge, and the lower its value is, the thicker it is, i.e., 20 AWG is thicker than 26 AWG. The thicker the wire, the better the sound transmission. The length of the cable is also essential, and it is best to get ones ranging between 3 to 50 feet long. It would help if you always got the lowest length cable that meets your need, as the longer a cable is, the more interference it picks up.
Coming to shielding, this is how you protect your audio signal from external electromagnetic inferences. Usually, tin, copper, and aluminum are used for this purpose, with copper being the preferred choice. The connectors used must fit snuggly; this ensures they do not loosen by mistake.
Conclusion – So which is the Best XLR Cable
Well, it seems like we have reached the end of this article. To conclude, a good XLR cable has a great core, adequate shielding, reliable connectors, and durability. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but sadly some are expensive. If you want the best of the best and do not mind spending for it, we cannot recommend the Mogami Gold Studio cable enough; it is simply the best money can buy. However, if you are on a budget, you should take a look at RapcoHorizon as it delivers excellent quality even though it’s priced affordably. Hopefully, we gave you a good idea of what to look for in the best XLR cables for microphones, home audio, and etc.