What Does XLR Stand For?

If you’re involved in music production and pro audio, you’ve most likely heard the acronym “XLR” being thrown around here and there. We use XLR cables to connect condenser microphones to audio interfaces, and even high-end headphones sometimes use mini XLR connectors. But what does XLR stand for? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning behind the acronym, and some history behind our favorite mic cables.

Cannon Electric & XLR History

Well, what does XLR stand for? It’s important to know the history behind XLR connectors in order to gain an understanding of where the name came from. The first version of the XLR connector was created by James H. Cannon, who started the company Cannon Electric back in the 1915.

The XLR connector was originally called the Cannon plug. The Cannon plug was branded as the Cannon X series connector during manufacture and production. This is where the “X” in XLR comes from. The “X” doesn’t stand for anything specific or technical, it’s just the letter Cannon chose for branding purposes.

Design Improvements

By the early 50’s, the Cannon X connector had been through an upgrade. They added a locking latch mechanism to the original design so that the plug would stay in place. The “L” in XLR stands for the word “locking” or “latching” to reflect this design improvement. They called the new connector the Cannon XL.

By 1955, Cannon Electric had implemented yet another upgrade to the Cannon XL connector. This time, his engineers added resilient rubber/neoprene insulation that surrounded the female contacts. The “R” in XLR stands for the word “resilient” or “rubber” to reflect another improvement to the original design.

cannon xlr plug

The original Cannon XLR connector. We can see the latching mechanism (the “L”) and red rubber insulation (the “R”) around the female contacts.

Recap: What Does XLR Stand For?

We can answer the question “What does XLR stand for?” by simply looking at the history behind the design of the component.

  • the “X” comes from the original name of the connector – the Cannon X connector
  • the “L” comes from the addition of a locking latch mechanism
  • the “R”  comes from the addition of resilient rubber/neoprene insulation around the female contacts

Thanks for reading! Do you think XLR stands for something else? Drop us a line in the comments below.

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  • Antoine LAURÈS

    Hello !
    I’m an electronic engineer and I love sound (and music…), so XLR has been a long term friend of mine !
    Thanks a lot for your very clear explanations.
    I would like to add a point that was told to me by one of my teachers in the 70’ : the “X” character wasn’t chosen at random, without any reasons, but simply to show that the signal was carried – for the first time, and to avoid earthing problems and buzz – on a twisted pair cable (with a shield).
    Although not sure this was historically true, I have always been thinking this particular letter was a good mnemonic !