Ultimate Guide to the Best XLR Cable

An XLR cable provides an electrical path between two pieces of professional audio, video, or stage lighting hardware. The name “XLR” comes from the history and design of the connector, and they come in various sizes and lengths with a number of different pin arrangements depending on the application. This buying guide will focus solely on the 3-pin XLR cable that is the industry standard for professional audio applications.

Full Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Buying through any of the links below will earn me a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Last Update: October 23rd, 2019

In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top 3

10 of the Best XLR Cables

Mogami Gold Studio Microphone XLR Cable

Mogami Gold Studio Microphone XLR Cable
Mogami Gold STUDIO-25 XLR Microphone Cable, XLR-Female to XLR-Male, 3-Pin, Gold Contacts, Straight Connectors, 25 Foot
×
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Mogami is a Japanese company that began experimenting with the causes of audio signal degradation in cables many years ago. Through R&D they eventually created their Neglex cable, which at the time revolutionized the industry.

In modern times, Mogami has built a reputation for manufacturing some of the best XLR cables available. They are made in a Japanese facility under strict QA/QC standards. Their founder is known to supervise the entire manufacturing process from start to finish. Mogami products are distributed throughout North America by Marshall Electronics based in California, USA.

Features & Specs

♦ XLR-male to XLR-female Nuetrik X connectors with gold contact material
♦ Contains 4 conductors (quad cable) rather than 2 for refined noise control
♦ Lifetime manufacturer warranty
♦ 100% shielding with spiral copper shield
♦ Comes in 2 ft, 3 ft, 6 ft, 10 ft, 15 ft, 25 ft, 50 ft, 75 ft, and 100 ft lengths
♦ Oxygen-free copper conductors
♦ Made specifically for studio use

Mogami Gold Stage Microphone XLR Cable

Mogami Gold Stage Microphone XLR Cable
Mogami GOLD STAGE-20 XLR Microphone Cable, XLR-Female to XLR-Male, 3-Pin, Gold Contacts, Straight Connectors, 20 Foot
×
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Like we mentioned earlier, Mogami is a very reputable XLR cable brand used globally in professional audio applications. Mogami holds their manufacturing practices to very high standards and they have a clear goal in mind – the most accurate signal transfer possible. For that reason, we featured not one, but two Mogami XLR cables in our list!

These Mogami Gold Stage cables are better suited for live stage use, as the name implies. The Mogami Gold Studio cables we covered previously are better suited for recording studios and broadcast. Both are on the expensive side, but their quad cable design can offer up to 95% noise reduction over twisted pair conductor cables in certain situations. On top of that, they have a lifetime warranty.  Visit the Mogami website for more detailed specs.

Features & Specs

♦ XLR-male to XLR-female Nuetrik X connectors with gold contacts
♦ Quad cable contains 4 conductors for excellent noise rejection
♦ Lifetime warranty from Mogami
♦ Braided copper shield rejects 95% of stray RF noise
♦ Available in 20 ft, 30 ft, and 50 ft lengths
♦ 105-strand cable core aids in reliability during rough use
♦ Oxygen-free copper conductors
♦ Made specifically for live performances in high-RFI environments

Canare L-4E6S XLR Cable

Canare L-4E6S XLR Cable
Canare L4E6S Star Quad Microphone (Balanced Audio) Cable, XLR Male to XLR Female, 5 Feet
×
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Canare is another Japanese company specializing in audio cables globally. Their quad core cable has four spiral wound conductors that aid in eliminating nearly all RF interference, which degrades your audio signal. Each 21 AWG conductor has 40 copper strands, and they also use braided copper shielding.

Be careful when buying these cables online! There are cables being sold as genuine Canare cables, but some are low-quality knock-offs from China. The L-4E6S+ cables are the Chinese brand, while the L-4E6S cables are the genuine Canare cables. Some also have Yongsheng connectors, when they’re advertised as having Neutrik connectors.

Features & Specs

♦ Neutrik XX connectors with silver-plated contacts
♦ 21 AWG quad core copper conductors
♦ 95% braided copper shielding
♦ Irradiated polyethylene insulator
♦ PVC outer jacket

LyxPro Quad Series 4-Conductor Star Quad Balanced Microphone XLR Cable

LyxPro Quad Series 4-Conductor Star Quad Balanced Microphone XLR Cable
LyxPro Balanced XLR Cable 15 ft Premium Series Professional Microphone Cable, Powered Speakers and Other Pro Devices Cable, Black
×
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

LyxPro is the next supplier in our list of the best XLR cables. This company sells a wide variety of audio equipment including microphones, headphones, speakers and PA systems, cables, instruments, stands, and signal adapters.

While their brand isn’t as established as others on the list, they do have great ratings and reviews for their star quad cables. Users say this cable is well built, and by its very nature, it rejects nearly all of any stray RF radiation that may ruin your signal. The price of these cables for the quality is what really makes them stand out from the crowd.

Features & Specs

♦ Quad conductor 24 AWG cables made from oxygen-free copper
♦ 98% braided copper shielding
♦ Gold-plated contacts
♦ 5-year warranty
♦ Cotton wrapped conductors

For a quad cable with gold contacts and the lengths available, the LyxPro Quad Series is a good deal. The cotton layer between the four conductors and the shield will prevent any static discharge interference. And these cables also come with a 5-year warranty!

Silverback Roar XLR Patch Cable

Silverback Roar XLR Patch Cable
Silverback Roar XLR Patch Cable, 6ft. Premium Microphone Cable
×
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

If it’s durability your after, these Silverback Roar XLR cables from Sewell are what you’re looking for. They feature a tough Nylon outer jacket which adds to reliability and durability compared to bare PVC. Another unique feature is their metal spring connectors. They help to guard the sensitive solders between the cable conductors and the connector pins, which are a common point of failure in low-quality cables.

Aside from durability, they offer many of the other quality features we covered earlier. Their gold contacts will provide a clean connection for extended periods of time. They also utilize a copper spiral shield to cut back on noise interference, and a PVC jacket beneath the Nylon braid.

Features & Specs

♦ XLR-male to XLR-female connectors with gold contact material
♦ Nylon outer jacket
♦ Metal spring connectors
♦ PVC inner jacket
♦ Copper spiral shield

Cable Matters 2-Pack XLR Microphone Cable

Cable Matters 2-Pack XLR Microphone Cable
Cable Matters 2-Pack Premium XLR to XLR Microphone Cable 15 Feet
×
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Cable Matters is a smaller company focusing primarily on – you guessed it – cables! All products and materials from Cable Matters are sourced from reputable manufacturers whom operate out of ISO14001 and ISO 2004 certified factories. All of their products are also UL, RoHS, CE, and FCC certified.

While they may not have an established brand name or long track record, their excellent ratings and reviews from hundreds of satisfied customers can vouch for the value they provide. In addition, these cables come in pairs and they are very inexpensive.

Features & Specs

♦ XLR-male to XLR-female Cable Matters OEM connectors with gold contact material
♦ Heavy-duty construction – PVC jacket stands up to tough use
♦ 16 AWG oxygen-free copper conductors
♦ Individual conductor PVC shields, foil shielding, and braided copper shielding
♦ Comes in 3 ft, 6 ft, 10 ft, 15 ft, and 25 ft lengths
♦ Double pack is great for a pair of studio monitors

The Cable Matters 2-Pack XLR Microphone XLR Cable is a great economical choice for someone who’s on a budget. Heavier gauge conductors will reduce flexibility, so these are better suited for stationary/studio use.

Kopul Studio Elite 4000 Series XLR M to XLR F Microphone Cable

Kopul Studio Elite 4000 Series XLR M to XLR F Microphones Cable
Kopul Studio Elite 4000 Series XLR M to XLR F Microphone Cable - 15' (4.6 m)
×
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Kopul is a brand of the Gradus Group, a supplier of photography, video, audio, computer, home and portable entertainment products. The Kopul branch focuses primarily on audio and video cables and connectors for all sorts of applications, including pro audio XLR cables. Check out the Kopul website for more details on the company.

The Kopul Studio Elite 4000 Series XLR cable is a solid high-end studio and broadcast choice. The high-quality Neutrik connectors and additional build quality raise the price above the more economical choices, but will add to a cleaner signal in the long run, especially when paired with a 3-year warranty.

Features & Specs

♦ XLR-male to XLR-female Nuetrik XX connectors with silver-plated contacts
♦ 98% braided copper outer shield
♦ Made for studio use and broadcast industry
♦ Oxygen-free stranded copper core conductors wrapped in polyethylene and PVC inner shield
♦ Cotton yarn between shielding and conductors to eliminate friction and electrostatic noise
♦ 3-year limited warranty

GLS Audio 6 ft XLR Patch Cables

GLS Audio 6 ft XLR Patch Cables
GLS Audio 25ft Mic Cable Cords - XLR Male to XLR Female Colored Cables - 25' Balanced Mike Cord - 6 Pack
×
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

GLS Audio is another smaller family-owned company from Orange Grove, California. The founder Gary Sunda originally started building guitar amps in the 60’s, and also began doing other audio gear repair work for local clients with the help of his wife. Gary eventually went on to design Randall guitar amps in a partnership with Don Randall himself.

Gary’s family eventually saw a need for cheap XLR cables that still maintained pro audio grade performance. GLS Audio was able to achieve this by selling cables directly from his family owned business to the buyer, greatly reducing the price while maintaining quality. For this reason along with excellent ratings from happy customers, these cables make it on our list of best XLR cables.

Features & Specs

♦ XLR-male to XLR-female Tri-Grip™ strain relief chrome
♦ Thick, flexible rubber jacket
♦ Two 21 AWG twisted inner copper conductors
♦ Balanced cables
♦ Comes in multiple colors for easy organization and labeling

The main advantage of these XLR cables from GLS Audio is the multiple colors they come in. This can help keep things organized and less confusing on the stage and in the studio. They utilize thick 21 AWG copper conductors and have a thick flexible jacket for more durability and less stiffness. GLS designed these connectors with stress relief and reliability in mind.

Hosa HMIC REAN XLR3F to XLR3M Pro Microphone XLR Cable

Hosa HMIC REAN XLR3F to XLR3M Pro Microphone XLR Cable

Hosa Technology is another well known supplier of digital and analog audio gear for hobbyists and pros alike. They started in 1984 mainly with electronic adapters and their main offices are in Buena Park, California. Engineers and producers to this day know Hosa makes quality adapters and XLR cables.

Hosa seems to be on the cutting edge of their industry, and they regularly come out with new and innovative ideas and solutions for their customers. Let’s take a look at the features and specs for the #1 pick on our list of best XLR cables.

Features & Specs

♦ XLR-male to XLR-female REAN connectors with silver-plated contacts
♦ Comes in 3 ft, 5 ft, 10 ft, 15 ft, 20 ft, 25 ft, 30 ft, 50 ft, and 100 ft lengths
♦ 90% oxygen-free copper braided shielding and conductors
♦ Heavier-gauge conductors (20 AWG)

The Hosa HMIC REAN XLR3F to XLR3M Pro XLR Microphone Cable is an excellent choice for low to mid-price XLR cables. REAN is a brand of Nuetrik, making the REAN connectors very reliable. Silver contacts also help to reduce the price while boosting conductance, making these arguably the #1 bang for your buck when it comes to the best XLR cables on the market. Visit the Hosa website for more details and specifications.

AmazonBasics XLR Cable

AmazonBasics XLR Cable
AmazonBasics XLR Male to Female Microphone Cable - 25 Feet, Black
×
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Amazon is has grown into a massive global e-commerce authority, so much so that they have created their own brand called AmazonBasics. Naturally, their XLR cables are some of the best out there. These cables utilize a spiral copper shield and copper conductors. Amazon designed their metal connectors with reliability in mind, featuring a strain-relief design. A PVC outer jacket protects the internal components and adds to durability.

The AmazonBasics XLR cables are two core cables, meaning that they may block less RF interference than others like the Mogamis or Canares mentioned above. All things considered, for the majority of hobbyist producers or home studio applications, these cables will work just fine. They also have a 1-year warranty for some added peace of mind.

Features & Specs

♦ XLR-male to XLR-female zinc alloy metal connectors
♦ Comes in 6 ft, 10 ft, 25 ft, or 50 ft lengths
♦ Silver-plated contacts
♦ PVC outer jacket
♦ Spiral copper shielding

How to Pick the Best XLR Cable

In professional audio, XLR cables are commonly used for recording and miking. They create a balanced signal path for the audio signal as it travels between the microphone and other gear like audio interfaces or mixing consoles. A noise-free audio signal is paramount when recording, especially if someone is paying you to do it as a service.

Like many other products in the professional audio field, we can encounter some very clever marketing that’s been designed to sell us on the best XLR cable. These tricks and strategies usually appear as pseusdo-scientific or overly technical adjectives that get attached to different components of the cable. They’re designed to confuse the buyer and create the appearance of a technically superior product.

However, they almost always result in an XLR cable that is more expensive, but doesn’t perform significantly or measurably better than cheaper cables. These tricks take time and effort to uncover, so we did the research for you! Let’s take a look at what actually matters first, and then we’ll present a list of the best XLR cables based on this criteria.

Shielding

  • The shielding is a layer of material that surrounds the conductors of the cable.
  • It reduces or eliminates electromagnetic interference and noise from radio-frequency radiation sources in the surrounding environment.
  • Common shielding materials are copper, tin plated copper, and aluminum laminate foil.
    • Foil is cheaper and lighter, and great for blocking RF interference, but far less durable than copper and only suitable for stationary cable and specialized applications.
    • Braided copper shielding is the most effective due to the high conductivity of copper and superior coverage. There is a trade-off though – the cable is more rigid, and the manufacturing process is expensive.
    • Spiral copper shielding is more flexible and better suited for stage use than braided, but the coverage isn’t as high and over time, gaps can develop in the shield with repeated movement and bending.

shielding comparison table

The best XLR cable for your application will have either braided copper or spiral shielding, and some have two shields for nearly 100% coverage. Think about what you’ll use your XLR cable for in order to get an idea of what type of shielding will work best.

Balancing

  • Balancing is an engineering design choice that helps to cut back further on electromagnetic noise from the surroundings.
  • It works by creating a phase-inverted copy of the original signal and sending it along one of the two signal conductors. Noise is equally introduced to both signals along the length of the cable, and gets cancelled out when the inverted signal is shifted back to normal and then added to the other signal.
  • By definition, all 3-pin XLR cables and 1/4″ TRS cables are arranged for balanced audio, and contain at least two conductors that transmit the audio signal. There are two pins for audio, and the 3rd is the ground wire which is connected to the shield.
  • Even greater noise cancellation is achieved in the best XLR cables by using quad conductor cable, which can eliminate 99% of all noise that may make its way through the shield.

The bottom line is that the best XLR cables contain four conductors instead of two to further eliminate noise interference. This has been proven to make a difference in environments with high amounts of RF interference.

Hosa HMIC XLR cable with connector sheath removed. Red and blue are signal conductors. Black is the ground wire, soldered to the copper shield. The white material between the conductors is cotton.

Core & Conductors

Materials

The conductors are the parts of the cable that actually carry the audio signal. Copper conductors have the highest conductivity, ductility, and cost effectiveness. Oxygen-free copper, also known as OFC, is marketed as a superior material over plain copper due to its enhanced conductance. The reality is that OFC does not make a significant difference in conductance. It’s all marketing hype, unfortunately. Still, some audiophiles insist on having it.

Some manufacturers place cotton between the conductors and shielding. This is to help eliminate static discharge interference due to friction, and to also maintain the proper spacing and distance between the conductors.

Cable lay

XLR cables can have two or four conductors woven around each other in a spiral pattern. Cable lay is the distance required for one conductor to make one full 360° revolution. A shorter cable lay means more revolutions per unit length. This results in more effective balancing and an overall better cable.

Stranded vs. Solid

Stranded conductors are better than solid conductors. Multiple small-diameter strands have a longer bend life than a single solid conductor of the same effective cross sectional area. For this reason, they are more reliable and better suited for stage use.

Stranded lamp wire

An example of typical stranded copper wire.

Capacitance

Cables with very high capacitance can create a subtle low-pass filter on the audio signal. Some claim this type of distortion is very noticeable with guitars. This has resulted in a market for low-cap guitar cables with solid silver conductors! Heavier-gauge conductors will increase the overall capacitance of the cable measured in picofarad per foot (pF/ft), but for our concerns, this difference is negligible.

The main takeaways here are that oxygen-free copper doesn’t make a difference in the way your cables will sound, and cables that contain cotton will perform better than those that do not due to the reduction in static discharge interference.

Connector Quality

  • many low-quality XLR cables fail at the connectors
  • locking mechanisms are always a plus
  • gold is highly corrosion resistant and you’ll find it used on many cable connector contacts. My opinion –  it’s not 100% necessary, but the amount of gold being used is so small that it adds a negligible amount to the cost
  • silver contacts are actually more conductive than gold, but less corrosion resistant
  • always look for strain relief designs in your connectors – these will add significantly to the reliability and life of your XLR cable
  • Neutrik XX connector design is one of the best

Length

  • The longer the cable is, the more prone it will be to signal degradation and interference. A long cable behaves like an antenna, and the longer it is, the more stray RF interference it will absorb.
  • As a rule of thumb, lengths over 100 ft will begin to add interference. Lengths under 30 ft are the most practical.
  • Always aim for the shortest length needed for your specific application.

Specific Situational Uses

  • if you plan on using your XLR cable on stage, it needs to be built to take the abuse
    • make sure your cable has high-end connectors with stress relief components
    • a dual spiral shield and stranded conductors will add to flexibility
    • higher gauge = smaller diameter = more flexibility
    • thick jacket that won’t tear easily
  • a studio cable will need less emphasis on ruggedness and more emphasis on noise rejection
    • PVC conductor insulators are best
    • braided shield (non-spiral) is more rigid but provides better noise coverage

The video above shows an example of what a poorly designed XLR cable looks like. We can see the solders have failed due to high stress placed on the connection. Towards the end of the video, we can see that the braided shielding is also lacking in coverage. Make sure you avoid the XLR cable brand in this video at all costs!

Warranty

Last but not least is the warranty that comes with the cable. The best XLR cable brands stand behind their product and offer long warranty periods. Some even guarantee their product for life. It should be obvious to pick the cable with the best warranty terms.

Concluding Remarks

At the end of the day, you should consider the specific uses and applications for your XLR cable in order to make a choice that’s right for you. For a live performance application, you want to go with dual spiral braid shielding, a smaller diameter conductor (higher AWG gauge), and high-quality, durable connectors. For studio or broadcast, non-spiral braid is best. Oxygen-free copper doesn’t help much at all, and I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on that in your decision-making process. Quad cable is great for special applications with high amounts of interference. Silver contacts are more conductive than gold, but gold is more corrosion-resistant over very long periods of time.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this provided enough insight on XLR cables to help you make a great choice!

Spread the Love
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • 1
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • 1
  •  
  •  
There are currently no comments.