When you’re trying to set up your very own studio or really any kind of audio system, there are tons of details you need to consider. For instance — while an XLR cable might not look like a vital part of your setup, it often turns out to be the “weak link” that was dragging down the quality of your audio’s signal chain.
High-quality XLR cables are a necessity if you’re going to make the most out of your equipment. Without the best XLR cable, your dynamic microphone or high-end condenser just won’t work as well as you expect. In 2022, pairing a cheap cable with great audio hardware is simply a waste.
Those cheap cables wear out easily, their materials don’t conduct electricity as efficiently, and they pick up tons of interference.
But how do you pick a great XLR cable? After all, terms like strand count, conductor material, and impedance aren’t the stuff the average person is familiar with. Don’t worry, though — we’ve put together a selection of the best XLR cables you can find in 2022, along with Mogami Gold STAGE-20 XLR as our top pick.
And if you want to learn how we ranked different XLR cables and how you should approach choosing one on your own — read on below!
Top 3 Best XLR Cables in 2022
Before we get into the details on individual XLR cables and the factors you should consider while browsing for one, here are our top three picks for 2022:
- Mogami Gold STAGE-20 XLR Microphone Cable — Top Pick
- Rapco Horizon N1M1-15 XLR cable — Premium Choice
- LyxPro 10 Feet XLR Microphone Cable — Editor’s Choice
Mogami Gold STAGE-20 XLR Mic Cable – Top pick
- Durable design
- High-quality materials
- The biggest name in cable manufacturing
- One word: price
Mogami Gold STAGE-20 Review
There are plenty of discussions on what the top XLR cables for audio equipment are. However, when it comes to the very top spot, there’s really no competition — most musicians, audio producers, and technicians will tell you that Mogami makes the best cables in the business.
Interestingly enough, the brand name comes from a real-life advisor to the Japanese Shoguns — and in many ways, the XLR cables the Mogami company produces perform the same kind of supportive service.
Obviously, the cables are never the star of any show, even when people talk about hardware. However, you can’t achieve that platinum-standard sound without an XLR cable — and that’s where the Mogami Gold STAGE-20 comes onto the scene.
If you’re from the world of music, in particular, these cables need no introduction. For the past 20 years, their manufacturing plants in Japan have been shipping one of the most popular XLR cables worldwide — but why is this particular mic cable our top-pick?
So, this is the middle option between three different cable levels from Mogami. And while each of these is supposedly assembled by hand, we’ve only ever had the pleasure of testing the Gold version — so that’s the one we’re reviewing here.
The basics are the same as with most others — it’s a three-pin, XLR male to XLR female cable. However, that’s not the main draw — rather, it’s the durable build quality that the company is so proud of.
See, there’s a reason why the Gold stage XLR has been a long-standing choice among punk and rock bands, or any other type of performer with a lively stage. In our experiences, they’ve proven themselves ideal for occasions where your cable will take a fair bit of beating — for example, if you’re dragging it across the stage every night.
The in-hand feel of the cable is that they’re practically indestructible — when we tried to bend any particular section, they seemed as flexible as they were tough.
Plus, when you get into the technical stuff, you’ll find that they’ve got 105 strands. To put this in perspective, that’s three times more than your average XLR mic cable — and it’s precisely the reason why they don’t break apart so easily.
Also, the cable’s terminals end with gold-plated connectors— meaning not only we didn’t encounter corrosion even after prolonged use, but the contact was pretty much flawless.
So, they’re reliable and durable, and they have gold XLR pins — but what kind of sound do they produce?
It’s important to note that we aren’t stage-performers ourselves, so we only got to test it in studio conditions. And in that regard, they’ve proven to be as great as advertised — there’s virtually no handling noise.
However, there’s a reason why this extremely balanced XLR cable isn’t everyone’s first choice. When people who promote this stuff talk about it online, they often refer to the price as “realistic”.
And sure, considering this is practically the highest-quality XLR cable in the world, it definitely is. But depending on where you live and where you’re buying it, you’ll potentially have to pay hundreds of dollars for this kind of XLR cable — a heck of a lot more than you would for any of the other models on our list.
Still, the outstanding quality more than makes up for the hefty price — and if you can afford it, this is definitely the best model money can buy.
RapcoHorizon N1M1-15 Stage Series M1 Microphone Cable – Premium Choice
- Great value for your money
- Neutrik connectors
- A bit too short for stage performances
RapcoHorizon N1M1-15 Stage Series M1 Review
If you’re looking for a great brand’s XLR cables, there’s no need to go halfway around the world. Our second choice among premium-level cables, though cheaper than the first, is an XLR cable from RapcoHorizon.
This is a Missouri-based company that produces a variety of cables for audio and sound companies and productions. All of us like tried-and-true products, and we’re far from the only ones who have tested RapcoHorizon cables. In fact, their products have been widely lauded by musicians, studios, sound contractors, and even traveling theater companies.
But their popularity as XLR cable manufacturers aside — how does the N1M1-15 actually stack up against the competition?
If we had to choose one word to describe the main draw of these XLR microphone cables, it would be: value.
These still fall into the premium range of XLR cables, even though they’re not nearly as expensive as our top pick. However, if you’re still willing to set aside a pretty penny but also get the most out of your money’s worth — this is the model for you.
Again, we’ve got a classic XLR-male to XLR-female cable with three pins. However, in our testing, we’ve noticed one crucial difference that sets this model aside from other XLR cables: its Neutrik connectors. These nickel connectors were made by the Neutrik company — a European manufacturer of connectors with a stellar reputation.
These connectors come with 24-gauge copper conductors and copper shielding as well — and their jackets were fitter with high-quality PVC. However, all of that technical mumbo-jumbo probably doesn’t mean much to you. In practice, one thing is important — every design element of these XLR cables was carefully chosen to ensure a completely interference-free experience.
Our testing has confirmed that the manufacturer has definitely lived up to that end of the bargain in practice. However, we do have to point out that the length of the actual cable is just 15 feet. Depending on what you’re going to use it for, it may be a bit too short.
Sure, it was perfectly fine for testing in a studio environment. However, we feel that stage performers that move around quite a lot could find the cable’s length inadequate.
If we disregard the length, though, there’s not much to complain about with this model. It’s a relatively cheap cable, especially compared to our top choice — and yet it gives you more than enough value for your money. The copper shielding performs admirably as well, and we’ve found it to be the perfect middle-ground between quality and price.
LyxPro Balanced XLR Cable 15 ft Mic Cable – Editor’s Choice
- Decent strain relief
- Affordable price
- Too short for more demanding live performances
LyxPro Balanced XLR Cable 15 ft Mic Cable Review
Our Editor’s Choice is an interesting one — a decent-quality XLR cable used by an increasing number of audio engineer experts who know their instrument cables and recording equipment, but coming from a relatively new brand. LyxPro hasn’t been in the audio game as long as the other manufacturers on our list. Nevertheless, they’ve managed to make a name for themselves in a relatively short time span; even managing to produce their own guitars.
Their design philosophy is simple: start with budget constraints in mind, and make the best quality equipment possible for the set amount of money.
Of course, that’s something most companies would like to boast about — but in practice, they rarely manage it. Well, we can tell you from first-hand experience that the XLR cables produced by LyxPro are not only balanced — they’re the best cheap cables you can find.
The LyxPro Balanced XLR 15ft Cable is definitely a budget range model — and the manufacturers aren’t ashamed to admit it. Far from it, they market themselves as everyman’s audio shop, and this particular cable proves they’re true to their word.
Naturally, compared to the hundreds-of-dollars worth found in a Mogami Gold cable, this isn’t anything spectacular. However, if you want a decent XLR mic cable for a few dozens of bucks, this is as good as it gets.
We’ve tested it in a recording studio, and used it with mixers, speaker systems, different audio interfaces, and even lighting rigs — it performed admirably.
On the other hand, we’re not convinced that it would bear the prolonged wear and tear of stage performance for long — but with the 15-feet length, it really wasn’t made for anything but the most modest stages.
When it comes to the build quality, as we’ve said — it’s not top-shelf stuff, but it’s quite decent for this kind of price. There are PVC twin conducive inner shields, as well as a cotton braided shield. And this cotton yarn definitely helps when it comes to reducing incidental noise with cheaper materials.
The tips of the XLR connectors are gold-plated as well, so we didn’t have to worry about corrosion — though, again, this wasn’t that much of a problem in studio conditions, to begin with. One neat touch is the bright blue color of the cable, ensuring that you can easily spot it in the usual mess of cables that are regular for sound studios.
So, in conclusion — it’s not the perfect stage XLR cable because it’s shorter than 20 feet and it doesn’t have the best durability and build quality we’ve seen. But within its price range, it’s one of the best cheap cables you can find, and it’s quite well suited for studio work.
Planet Waves Classic Series XLR Microphone Cable
- A decent choice for a very low price
- Well-known manufacturer
- Higher interference
- Lower build quality
Planet Waves Classic Series XLR Mic Cable
To people who are active in the music industry or just like fiddling around with audio equipment, the D’Addario company and its accessories require little introduction. If you don’t know them, they’re one of the biggest audio equipment manufacturers in the world, and they have different brands all over the planet.
Planet Waves is their Australian product line, creating various audio accessories — including XLR cables.
Now, right off the bat, we’ll point out — this isn’t a high-quality cable. At least not compared to the stuff we’ve tested above. However, it has two things going for it: it’s extremely cheap, and it’s just good enough to warrant a purchase if you’re looking to save money on your XLR cables.
Plenty of teenage bands and up-and-coming musicians have used it, both for studio and stage work. And yes, you can use it on-stage comfortably if you don’t particularly care about occasional bits of interference — it’s an amazing 25 feet long.
It’s also surprisingly sturdy for such a cheap price — the molded strain-relief collars it’s fitted with ensure long-lasting durability. And this is one of the rare XLR cables we’ve actually tested on a stage — so it definitely packs a punch.
However, this is where we arrive at its downsides, and the main reason why this microphone cable is both affordable and not at the very top of our list. Theoretically, nickel-plated brass plugs and heavy oxygen-free conductors made of copper should result in zero handling noise.
But in practice, we’ve found that this is not the case. Now, this could be something related to our equipment, but we’ve tested other cables to make sure and found that this Planet Waves model doesn’t provide the advertised shielding to protect its signal.
Still, it’s not the worst XLR cable by any stretch of the imagination. And it’s a decent entry-level purchase that does the job well enough. Also, you’d be hard-pressed to find this kind of cable length for such a small price otherwise.
Best XLR Cable Buying Guide
If you’re not an audio equipment aficionado, chances are that some of the more technical terms we’ve used above weren’t very understandable to you. Fear not, though, as we’re going to explain the intricacies of XLR cables right here as a part of our buying guide. That way, you’ll know exactly what to look for when you start browsing.
Just a heads up — all XLR cables have three basic parts:
- The connector — the part which actually connects your equipment to the cable.
- The conductor — the actual wires inside of the cable.
- The shielding and insulation — the material that protects both you and the conductor; typically, it’s a combo of cotton yarn, copper, PVC, and foil. Depending on your XLR cable, it could be braided, wrapped, or even non-existent.
Naturally, the price is the first thing you should consider when you start looking for your next XLR cable. As with any other purchase, the smartest thing is to decide what kind of money you’re willing to spend beforehand — and only start browsing after that.
Seeing as the most expensive models we’ve talked about can cost hundreds of dollars and the cheapest ones go for less than 30 bucks — think long and hard about the quality and features you actually need in your XLR cable.
Generally, flexibility is a good thing — but whether it’s important or not matters more or less depending on how you intend to use it. For instance, XLR cables for studio equipment don’t need to be particularly flexible — they’re unlikely to move around all the time.
Conversely, a microphone cable you’re going to use on stage and take on tour should be far more flexible. Generally, cables with more shielding are less flexible — studios prioritize that over flexibility.
Realistically, cables used for live events don’t need as much shielding because low interference isn’t as noticeable as it would be in a studio.
There are two types of cable conductors you can choose from:
- Four copper wires, also called a Star Quad — more expensive, better noise reduction, stiffer
- Two copper wires also referred to as a Twisted Pair — less expensive, and more flexible.
Generally, the Twisted Pair with two copper wires is largely the most popular option — though the Star-Quad is slowly gaining popularity, even though it’s the more expensive option. If you’re wondering which one you should opt for, it’s all a matter of cable quality and how much you’re willing to spend on it: the more copper wires you have, the more reliable and stronger your audio signal will probably be.
When it comes to XLR cable shielding, you can choose between a bunch of different materials that we’ve mentioned above. The most popular ones are:
- Cotton Yarn — wrapped around the cable’s internal sections
- PVC — A combination of rubber and plastic wrapped around the entire cable or individual cable strands.
- Aluminum foil — wrapped around internal sections
- TAC braid — copper plated with tin
Now, we’ve mentioned some of these XLR connectors above — the technology behind them is largely the same, and their quality depends on the material they’re made of. Gold is a worse conductor than silver, but it also has much larger corrosion resistance.
You can find plenty of different manufacturers and connector brands out there — Neutrik Connectors is one of the most popular ones, though Sunrise, Monoprice, and Rean are all decent as well.
Guide to Buying the Right XLR Cable
So, What are XLR Cables Used For
An XLR is a balanced cable used in a variety of fields for audio for scientific purposes.
They give a lot of protection for the signals they carry and have the capacity to carry strong signals.
The ‘XLR-3’ cable is the most commonly used one-for carrying audio. Read also: Best RCA Cables For Audiophile 2022
It is identified by its connectors which have three pins (Male) or three holes (Female) inside the cylindrical hub.
Keep in mind that a similar looking cable is also used for controlling lights. You need to avoid that since it is not suitable for transmitting audio.
Balanced vs. Unbalanced Audio Cables
If you are wondering what Balanced andUnbalanced cables are, here is a brief explanation:
“A balanced cable uses two wires to transmit the same audio signal in such a way that the noises they carry cancel out each other at the end.”
This is how it works
The connector at the source gives the original audio to the first cable (Red) and an inverted version of the same audio to the second one (Blue).
As the signals travel through the cables, they gather up the same noise in both the cables.
When the signals reach the receiving connector, the signal from the second cable is again inverted.
Now the original audio signal is recovered from the second cable and the noise signal becomes inverted.
The two audio signals from both the cables get combined together but the two noise signals cancel out each other since one of them is inverted.
Thus a balanced cable blocks interfering noise from getting transmitted through the system.
It is to be noted that the XLR’s third wire is used for the purpose of grounding.
There is also a shield covering all the wires so that they are protected from any electromagnetic interference.
Type of Shield
Your choice of the perfect XLR for you depends largely on the cable’s shield type.
Typically, there are three types of shields used in XLRs.
In a braided shield type, a conductor like copper covers the three inner cables in a ‘criss-cross’ manner. This creates a very strong protection for the inner cables from outer noise signals.
Cables with a braided shield are to relatively more expensive than other types of cables. And for the premium, they offer the most protection from noise interference.
But there is a catch to these great cables.
Since they have a metal conductor braided over the inner cables, it tends to be very difficult to flex or bend the cables without damaging them.
So braided shields are for you if you are strictly going to use them without having to move a lot – as in a studio.
Serve (or) Spiral
In this type of shielding, a copper wire is wound over the conductors in a spiral manner. The area of conductors covered by the shield can be around 90 to 100%.
It also has a good shielding effect but slightly less effective when compared to the braided ones.
But it makes up for better flexibility which makes it most suitable for stage performances.
Here, an aluminum foil completely covers the conductors.
The foil, being very thin, makes the cable the most flexible of the lot.
And since aluminum is cheaper than copper, this cable is also the most inexpensive of the three!
Of course, there must be a catch right? Well, yes.
Actually, there are two,
- Aluminum foil is not as good as copper wires in shielding the conductors inside.
- Since the foil is very thin they are very much prone to breakage when the cable is bent
So these are the three shield types that you need to be aware of. Now let’s move to the conductors.
Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) or not?
The conductor – the thing that actually carries the audio signal- is made of copper.
There is a debate concerning how pure this copper has to be to be able to transmit without any loss in quality.
Some people say that it has to be 99.99% oxygen free copper to really get the highest quality.
And so manufacturers seem to have got hold this and use this for marketing.
Hence, “Oxygen-Free Copper” is on the feature list of many cables.
But the truth is, the difference in quality between Oxygen-Free Copper and the ones which are not so is barely noticeable.
This level of purity may be significant in a laboratory setting but not for audio transmission purposes.
If you are an audiophile who is after the highest quality audio possible, there is another fact to face.
The quality of audio can only be as good as your ears. So in order to hear audio in the highest quality possible, you need to have a perfectly sensitive ear.
So in my opinion, oxygen-free copper is not a mandatory requirement.
But at the same time, it is be noted that there are different grades of copper and good manufacturers are expected to use the best among them.
Connectors – Gold Plated or Nickel Plated?
You got to be well informed when it comes to the connectors of XLRs because of the many marketing gimmicks.
Protecting the connectors by plating them with a corrosion resistant material is very important.
Otherwise, the XLR connector will get corroded in the course of time and you’ll have all sorts of problem with the audio.
Nickel-plated XLR connectors do an equally good job in defending against corrosion as any other material like Gold or Silver.
Therefore, unless for laboratory use, you’ll get a similar result whether you use Nickel or Gold plated connectors.
When you find that a manufacturer is charging a huge premium for the plating material used, beware.
If you are still unconvinced, you may do a search online and go through the plethora of forum discussions regarding this issue.
So, having understood the parts of an XLR cable let’s move on to some factors that you need to consider before you go for the purchase.
Factors to be considered
Length of wire
An XLR Cable being a balanced cable, virtually cancels out all noise that it pickup over its length.
Having said that, this holds only if the cable has good and even shielding.
If the shield is damaged or has gaps in-between, then the noise gather by the two connectors may not be same.
And as we learned earlier, balanced cables need two cables with similar noise in order to cancel out each other.
So if you need a long cable (>20ft), it is good that you spend a little bit more and get a braid-shielded cable with >95% shield coverage.
Also, the longer the XLR cable, more the chance for the signal to become weak.
But this reduction in signal strength should not matter for any stage or studio usage for up to 100m length.
There is always some loss or modification of analog signal when you transmit it through any system.
So the signal passing through every cable gets modified or ‘colored’ in a certain way when it comes out.
Our aim is to find the XLR cable which is least artistic!
When we have a cable with a less colored or ‘flat’ response, we can control better the tonal quality of the audio.
And the only way to find how a particular cable colors the signal is by using it or reading a review of those who’ve used it.
It is one of those things that are looked upon lightly when purchasing cable.
How rugged the cable and connectors are designed and made is very crucial.
Almost all cables look great. But not many stay in one piece after a couple of live stage performances.
Check out how the connectors are joined to the wire and make sure there are no loose fittings.
Also, try squeezing the connectors and the cable to get a feel whether it’ll survive the dropping and dragging on the floor.
It is not necessary that you get the most rugged one you can find.
But since you know how your cable is going to be treated, make sure it is rugged enough for that.
How good are DIY XLRs?
There are many high-quality XLR connectors and cables available that you can make a DIY XLR Cable on your own.
The most common way is to solder Neutrik XLR connectors to the desired length of Canare quad-core cables.
The DIY XLR cables will cost peanuts when compared to the ready-made ones
If the connectors, cables, and soldering are of good quality, you could get an audio quality that matches the expensive cables.
So here you go! You now know what it takes for an XLR cable to satisfy needs.
Now go on, buy your perfect XLR cable and share this article with anyone in need!
Best XLR Cable: Frequently Asked Questions
Are there different quality XLR cables?
Just like most other products out there, not every XLR cable is made equal. Yes, there are varying qualities of XLR cables and a bunch of different ways in which a microphone cable can be either good or bad.
For instance, cable length, connector types, and material quality are all factors to consider — and factors that may impact your sound quality.
Do XLR cables affect sound quality?
Well, yes — they can’t improve sound quality beyond the actual output of your audio equipment, but low-quality cables can have a negative impact that you want to avoid. Higher-quality XLR cables produce cleaner and better sound and more reliable feedback.
Plus, they’re generally more durable if they were made from higher-quality materials, so they’ll last you longer than the cheap cables you have to buy over and over again every couple of months.
Who makes the best XLR cables?
All of the manufacturers we’ve reviewed above do a decent job — though Mogami is still our top pick as the best XLR cable. The company offers balanced XLR cables, sometimes utilizing oxygen-free copper and gold-plated XLR pins.
Wrapping Up on High-Quality XLR Cables
As you can see, there are lots of ways in which having the best XLR cable is important for your audio work. And if you’re asking us which the best one is — the Mogami Gold STAGE-20 XLR is still the cable we’d go for; though if you can’t afford it, we’ve selected a bunch of great runner-ups for you to choose from as well.
Dave Pearson is a Canadian musician, sound editor, and audiophile. He is also the founder and owner of the website SoundProofGeek. On SoundProofGeek, Pearson offers advice and resources on audio equipment, including how to assess and improve audio quality, how to troubleshoot and repair audio equipment, and how to improve the music listening experience.
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