Finding the best XLR cables is an easy task if you are aware of the basics.
Manufacturers use a lot of marketing gimmicks to sell mediocre XLR cables at an unreasonable price.
That’s why I’m here with this article to let you know what I think are the best XLRs out there.
You will also get to know all the basic stuff to help you choose the perfect XLR cable for you.
So without further ado, let’s begin.
Importance of Proper Cabling
People who are into or want to get into some serious audio production know the importance of proper cabling.
Your cables act like ducts of an HVAC system.
No matter how much the central AC performs, the cooling you get will not be good if the ducts have leakage
And when it comes transmitting high-quality audio, the story is not much different.
In order to carry high-quality audio most people go for XLR cables.
There are a variety of good XLRs available in the market.
Let’s start off with the three best XLR cables on my list.
What Are the Best XLR Cables (2018)?
The Mogami Gold Studio XLR cables are there to put an end to all your skepticism regarding the difference cables make to the audio quality.
If zero noise and accurate sound reproduction is your target, this is the one for you.
They’re best suited for studio use and come with all the bells and whistles of a top-notch XLR cable.
You need to give this cable a try if you want to know what a well-balanced XLR cable really is.
You’ll hear absolutely no hum or buzz being added to your audio!
Mogami XLR cables are one most commonly used cables among top recording studios.
And you also get a lifetime guaranty which I think is very cool.
- Top notch protection against noise
- Accurate sound reproduction
- Solid build quality
Read more reviews on Amazon
These cables offer the perfect balance of performance and price. The audio reproduction quality matches that of more expensive cables.
It has a braided copper shield with 95% coverage which results in nearly zero noise interference.
Being a braided XLR cable it is a tad difficult to flex and route around on a stage.
If you don’t need to do many turns while routing, these can take occasional stage abuse too.
Finally, these come with different color options and a five-year warranty.
- Excellent protection against noise
- Superb audio reproduction
- Color options
- Connectors have a tight fit with mics
Read more reviews on Amazon
If you’re tight on the budget and in urgent need of an XLR to get the job done, this is the one for you.
Of course, it’s not going to give you the virtual zero noise cancellation not the perfect sound reproduction of a Mogami XLR cable.
But the quality is good enough, for usage such as in conferences, camps, jamming etc.
At its price point, you won’t get any XLR cable better than this.
- Very good noise cancellation
- Great sound quality
- Super Affordable
- Sound quality not great for recording
Read more reviews on Amazon
To sum up, the Mogami Gold Studio XLR cables are the ones to go for if you don’t mind shelling extra money in exchange for the best audio quality and noise cancellation.
The LyxPro XLR Cables offers you the perfect compromise with premium quality and affordable price.
And the Amazon Basics XLR Cables are for you when your budget is very tight. Be assured that although it’s a cheap cable, it will serve you the purpose very well.
Guide to Buying the Right XLR Cable
So, What is an XLR Cable?
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.
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!