A good XLR cable is an essential part of professional audio and visual setups nowadays. In this article we’ll look at some of the best XLR cables around and explain what makes them so sought after.
There are many types around, from cheap XLR cables to the best, high-end XLR cables that work for a myriad of purposes ranging from studios to performances. Whether it’s recording at home or playing live in a stadium arena, you’re bound to run into XLR cables on the way.
What is an XLR Cable?
XLR stands for “external line return”. To put it simply the function of an XLR cable is to carry a signal from one device to another. This signal could be audio or it could be data for other purposes, such as controlling a lighting rig. You’ll find XLR’s in all lines of audio/visual work.
The quality of the XLR cable will determine how purely the signal is transmitted from point A to point B. You can get XLR cables in many different lengths to suit individual tasks. There’s no point in buying a 50-foot XLR cable to travel just a few feet. The longer the cable the more chance there is of signal loss, so only purchase the length for what you will need.
XLR cables have quite unique connectors, which are instantly recognisable. They come with two types of connectors – male and female. The male connector is designed to fit over the female connector. Typically the female connector comes with a small release button with which you press in order to separate the cable connectors. The majority of XLR cables are 3-pin which means they have pins for positive, negative, and ground.
You could also purchase XLR cables which have additional connections such as RCA or TRS. Additionally, they have adapters for converting a signal from XLR into other output connections.
In the following list we’ll be looking at some of the best studio cables for recording with as well as some of the best microphone cables for live situations. We’ll also go into some detail about the benefits high-quality XLR cables have over cheaper options.
The Best XLR Cables – Our 8 Favourites
Pig Hog PHM10 (2 Pack) Review – Best XLR Cable For The Money
Live music touring is demanding on equipment and reliability matters more than anything.
That’s why Pig Hog have come up with their line of cables. These XLR cables have been designed to withstand the rigors of life on the road with touring musicians. They’re built with extra-thick 8mm wire and have a robust rubber coating, which helps protect them against the elements. XLR cables are infamous for getting damaged from being tangled up or stretched over the years, so it’s extra special that Pig Hog have designed these cables with longevity in mind.
- Lifetime guarantee
- Durable – extra thick 8mm wire
- Only 10-feet each in length
The PHM10 is certainly one of the best microphone cables around for the money.
Individually these cables work out at just under $13 each, and this is a pack of 2. It’s always a good idea to have a spare cable laying around as you never know when one might let you or a band mate down. That’s not going to be so much the case with the PHM10’s though – they come with a lifetime guarantee, with no questions asked, so you needn’t worry about getting your money back or a replacement.
Mogami Gold STUDIO XLR Cable Review – Best Quality XLR Cable
The Mogami Gold Studio is one of the best quality XLR cables around, period. It’s available in all lengths from two-foot patch leads to extra-long 100-foot cables. A typical 15-foot mic cable from Mogami Gold will set you back a fair bit more than some of the competitors. So what exactly do you get for this considerable cash outlay?
One word – quality.
Mogami Gold Studio cables are renowned for noiseless transfer of signal. This means you can expect minimum hiss from your outputs whether it be an electronic drum set or an audio interface. The reason Mogami are able to create such a low-noise cable is down to the quality wiring. These are Mogami Neglex Quad High Definition cables, which are balanced and allow for the cancellation of noise and RF interference.
- Provides an enhanced dynamic range for audio
- 95% quieter
- Ideal for home recording and live situations
- Lifetime warranty
- 2-foot version comes with inferior W2893 quad cable
The Mogami Gold Studios are some of the best microphone cables for recording, as they will allow you to capture audio with minimal interference. When it comes to functionality, you can order your Mogami in a myriad of lengths. They’re available in lengths of 2, 3, 6, 10, 15, 25, 50, 75, and 100 feet so you’ll have no trouble finding the ideal size for practically any conceivable purpose.
These cables also come with a lifetime guarantee, so if they seem expensive at first, you can consider this a purchase for a lifetime. This cable is certainly the choice for the audiophiles and professional musicians.
Rockville Female to Male XLR Mic Cable Review – Best Cheap XLR Cable
Are you looking for a cheap XLR with no fuss? The Rockville XLR cable is a cheap and cheerful XLR which, for the money, is one of the best XLR cables for powered speakers and instruments alike.
This cable is 20-foot long, so it’s ideally suited to P.A. systems, small stages, or recording studios. One of the major selling points for Rockville XLR cables is their use of 100% copper conductors. Most cheap XLR cables opt for copper clad aluminium as opposed to 100% copper. This is for financial reasons as copper is the more expensive option. Copper is better, more efficient, and makes for superior signal clarity.
Also these cables have something Rockville call “internal strain relief” which means they can withstand a little more abuse, which is nice to know.
- 100% copper conductors
- Nickel plated
- Internal strain relief for durability
- Considering the price – none
These cables are well worth investing in if you are looking for affordable XLR cables. They’re better than a lot of options in the sub $10 price bracket. At 20-foot long, one cable can be used for the majority of audio purposes, making it one hell of a bargain.
If you’re looking for an XLR that won’t let you down at those crucial moments, then you may like these Mophead “Road-Ready” XLR cables. Like the Pig Hog XLR’s, these cables pride themselves on being durable and up to handling anything that is thrown at them. They have a distinct braided finish, which doesn’t just look cool and add protection – it also serves to prevent any kinks in the cable, which is a huge boon. Mophead also uses oxygen-free copper in their cables, which is known for its low capacitance. Effectively this makes for ultra-low noise and crisp tone.
- Extremely robust
- Doubly insulated to minimize RF interference
- Available in 4 colours
- Kink resistant
- Low in noise
- A heavy cable
With this product, Mophead have created one of the best XLR cables for home audio and professional situations. These cables are available in a choice of colours; black and white, green, yellow, or red. This may sound frivolous but different colours can really help when trying to trace instruments on crowed mixing consoles. For example, you could assign one colour to vocal mics only and instantly visually trace them back to the source.
These 15-foot XLR cables usually retail for a bit more than the competition, putting them in the top-end category of cables. With that said, you can usually find some great discounts on sites like Amazon, we’ve seen them at a whopping 57% off the retail price. That means mid-tier pricing for high-end quality.
Certain types of equipment require different types of connectors. Some devices function with XLR, others prefer TRS, RCA, or 3.5mm mini jack connectors. If you find yourself in the position where a standard male to female XLR just won’t cut it, then don’t worry, NANYI have you covered.
Patch leads are typically used in tight situations where long cables are not needed. Many lighting and audio rigs use patch leads to change the flow of the signal chain. Patch leads can be anything from a few inches to a couple of feet long.
NANYI have a wide range of XLR patch leads with a variety of connectors to choose from.
There’s the standard male to female, which is a standard microphone-type lead. The only issue here is the length is 1.6-feet long so it’s obviously better suited to patching on the likes of a guitar effects unit or something similar.
Then there’s male to male which is common on both audio and lighting equipment. If you need to split a stereo XLR signal into two separate channels you can opt for the male XLR to two XLR females cable. This cable is often used in larger home stereos and sometimes in car stereos with extended speaker systems.
If you’re working with mini jack (3.5mm) connectors, then you might be interested in the NANYI male and female selections. You can choose from stereo 3.5mm connector to either dual male or dual female XLR connectors. Again this type of cable is useful for home and car stereos and some cheaper audio interfaces where you want to split a stereo signal and reroute the left and right channels separately.
- Male to male connectors
- Male to 2 female XLR
- Male XLR to 3.5mm
- Cable lengths not suitable for many typical live vocal mic settings
Patch leads are useful and save money by being cheaper than unnecessary longer cables. This quality selection from NANYI offers patch leads from 1.6-feet long to 10-feet splitter cables.
Kelton XLR Microphone Cable (2 Pack) Review – Best Budget XLR Cables
This pack of XLR cables by Kelton is ideal for the musician on a budget. You get two plug and play cables with metal housing connectors and a choice of length. Musicians looking for simple connecting cables from instruments to pedal effects will be happy with the 6-foot version of these cables. If you plan on using them in within a live P.A. setup then you’d be better off going for the 25-foot option.
- Available in 6-foot and 25-foot lengths
- Good value
- Not as durable as more expensive brands
These XLR cables will function perfectly well within most music and lighting setups that require basic 3-pin XLR’s. They’re priced low to appeal to beginner musicians and budding home studio owners. For the money it’s hard to argue with the quality although don’t expect them to last years if you’re touring with them.
Pig Hog PHM50 High Performance 8mm XLR Cable Review – Best Long-Distance XLR Cable
This is a great long-distance XLR cable. It’s one of the best XLR speaker cables for it’s sound quality, build, and durability.
We say this is a good speaker cable, as it happens to be 50-foot long. It’s also coated in a thick, high quality rubber covering which acts to protect the inner cable from the inevitable footfall that you experience at live gigs. This cable is a touring engineer’s dream as it promises to provide quality sound along with superior durability.
- Lifetime warranty
- Heat-shrink protected connectors
- Thick and durable cable
The Pig Hog PHM50 retails on the higher-end can quite often be found for with a nice little discount. It’s one of the more expensive options on this list but, in fairness, you are paying for quality here. Online reviews reveal this to be one of the most popular XLR cables available. If you need a long distance XLR cable and are willing to invest in quality then go for the Pig Hog PHM50.
The AmazonBasics fall into the category of cheap, affordable, entry-level cables.
AmazonBasics specialize in providing consumers with cheap accessories in a wide variety of fields. They’re like any other cheap, low-budget provider and target the consumer who is not concerned with professional grade equipment and just wants to get the job done in an affordable manner. They have a flexible PVC jacket which houses the inner cable as well a copper spiral shielding which reduces excess noise and RF interference.
- Available in four different lengths – 6, 10, 25, and 50-feet
- Protective metal housing
- No kink protection
- Larger connectors may not fit certain equipment
This cable has a lot going for it that makes it good value for money. It has decent quality male and female connectors, although some consumers have reported that they are slightly too large for certain equipment. Buying one to test out for $6 might be the safest way to proceed and then if you are happy you can purchase more.
This article has broken down some of the main things to be aware of when shopping for XLR cables. The two most important things are your budget and the purpose of use.
In some cases, such as home stereos, a cheap XLR for under $10 will do that job. It’s OK to spend small on a cable that will not be tested for its durability. If it’s a case where the cable will not be disturbed or unplugged regularly, then the chances are that it will experience little wear and tear. In this case you do not need to go over the top and purchase a high-end cable.
Band members will need to spend enough to get a cable that will withstand a bit of abuse. Cables regularly experience wear and tear in the rehearsal room as well as in live situations, especially when it comes to singing microphone cables. These cables tend to be the most exposed on stage and are regularly trampled on and sometimes even tripped over!
Ultimately, if sound and durability are of major importance, then it’s worth investing in quality.
Most top-end XLR cables come with lifetime guarantees so it ends up being worth the initial investment if you plan on using them regularly. A good XLR cable will have quality components and so produce a low noise signal. They have better housing and more insulation against any outside RF interference. Braided cables are recommended for the extra durability.
Also, be cognisant of the ideal length of cable you need. You’d be surprised how annoying a cable that is too long can be. In most cases, 15-foot is an ideal length for the purpose of live shows or in a home studio. Sometimes you’ll need to go longer when dealing with P.A. systems, bass bins, powered speakers, etc. It’s worth mentioning that you can also join XLR cables with their male female connectors. This is only possible with male to female connections but is a useful technique and can get you out of a hole of you find yourself struggling for a longer XLR cable.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about some of the best XLR cables on the market today, and wish you well in your search for the right cable.
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