6 Best XLR Cables for Mics and Gear [Buyer's Guide]
Posted in Recording & Audio Equipment | Last Updated on October 18, 2019
The quality of your XLR cables really determines the way the sounds from your drum set are picked up in the microphone and rendered in the end output mix. Getting cables that have good shielding and quality connectors can help you as they last the wear and tear longer and pick up sounds better while shielding from unwanted noise interferences.
It is true that when you are already investing in a top-notch drumming kit or any instrument set for that matter, it is wise not to ignore or take lightly the choice of what cables you want to be using.
Let’s look at the best XLR cables in different categories so that you can pick the product that best suits your needs.
Mogami Gold STAGE XLR Microphone Cable
The Mogami Gold STAGE XLR Microphone Cable is a 3 pin cable with quality Neutrik connectors. It is 20 feet long and has a core that is made up of copper strands, which are thicker than most wires and makes it accurate and transparent in picking up sound. This XLR cable is insulated well, and this makes it virtually indestructible. It sounds great and is mainly built for the stage, so it is also tough as nails when handled during performances. The cable is flexible and doesn’t invite too many tangles.
Some say that the thinness of the cable invites noise at times and that the female connectors don’t click into place for some of the older connectors. Other than this, the other downside is that it is a little pricey, but there is a lifetime warranty that makes this cost worth it.
Overall this is a very reliable cable that can undergo rugged road conditions and still stand the test of time.
Mogami Gold STUDIO-15
The Mogami Gold Studio Microphone Cable is a quieter cable when compared to its counterpart, the Mogami Gold Stage. It is 15 feet long with 4 conductors with gold contacts. These cables are perfect for recording in your music studios as they provide a dynamic range of sound with superior clarity and noise-canceling capabilities. The quad cable design in this product improves the crispness of the audio by quieting the other sounds from the background. It is so good that even when we carry around the cables near other power cords, they don’t produce and cross-talk or static. These also have Neutrik connectors, which are included with gold pins and have a good overall build.
On the negative side, I’ve noticed that it knots up sometimes and doesn’t retain shape.
In my opinion, this is an excellent cable that you can definitely invest in as it is very durable and can last you a lifetime.
Mogami Silver Studio 15
The mid-range product list starts off with a product from the Mogami provider again. This is a 15 feet cable which is more economical, yet is made with high quality. Every cable is set up with good connectors and is reported that these cables are straightforward to use, sound great, and comes in the perfect length.
With the lifetime warranty that the company gives, you can use the Mogami Silver in live stage performances and also in your studio. If your budget is slightly smaller, I recommend you get this product from this category as it will not disappoint you.
Cable Matters - Premium XLR to XLR Microphone Cable 2-Pack
The Cable Matters XLR Cable is a pro-grade cord that is made with 3 pin XLR connectors. These cables come in 15 feet of length and are easy to use because the connectors are made with durable metal that they can be plugged in and out effortlessly. This particular product is definitely budget-friendly as it comes in a pack of 2 so that you also have a spare with you if necessary for a very minimal price.
The jacket of this wire is flexible and makes it simple in terms of wrapping up the cable after use, which makes it perfect for stage use. This cable can also be used for your recording sessions, as well. However, some people have spoken out about how cold weather makes the wire more stiffer to work with. During typical scenarios, the fact that it is flexible doesn’t make the cable weak as it is on the thicker side and hence is long-lasting.
For the cons, I’ve heard about the soldering being done isn’t done with proper technique and that while the connectors are easy to plug in and plug out, some have spoken about them being of cheap quality and slightly loose when joined.
Although it is said that these wires have oxygen-free copper conductors and copper braided shielding, which is responsible for giving you a cleaner sound, some online reviews say that these wires pick up radio frequency noises anyway and didn't provide the cancellation of sound as the company had promised.
Having cables that give clear signals is a necessary feature when it comes to buying XLRs. The fact that these wires are still picking up on unwanted noises is a deal-breaker for me, and I wouldn't go for this product. Nevertheless, since this is an inexpensive cable, you can keep this in mind if this is on your purchase list.
Planet Waves - Classic Series XLR Microphone Cable
The Planet Waves Classic Series XLR Cables is 25ft long, making it useful for bigger shows and larger recording rooms. They come with nickel-plated connectors that are made of brass. The jacket that covers these wires is towards the tougher side but also flexible to just the right amount. Everything is shielded well and provides a sound without any unwanted noise. The heads of the connectors for these wires are also pretty stable and long-lasting.
The average lifetime for this wire, people say, is from a few weeks or months, depending on how careful your usage is. Some also report that the female side of the XLR jack is coated and that this makes it a bit on the larger side for most microphones.
This cable is suitable for you if you're looking out for a low-budget option but still want the goodness of most of the features of a high-end cable. This will be the best decision for you if your someone who plays music as a hobby and doesn’t put your wires through a lot of usages.
LyxPro Balanced XLR Premium Series Professional Microphone Cable
Our final pick is the LyxPro Balanced, which is 15 ft long. This cable is durable and versatile, so it can be used for live shows and also indoor recordings. You will find that the inner shields come with twin conductive PVC. It also comes with an almost entirely braided shield with a cotton yarn wrapping. All these features reduced any noise interferences significantly and transmit frequency with high quality and clarity. Connectors are housed with metal and provide protection to your wire ends and also engage well. The contact points are gold plated, which gives you durability against any most humidity or corrosion. The construction of the wire is lightweight and solid at the same time.
The attractive feature of these cables is that there are plenty of colors for you to choose from. This is great if you want multiple cables but don’t want to mix them up. Getting different colors for different purposes helps make organizing a lot easier.
There was this one review that talked about the color of one or two dark cables getting on to the lighter colored ones, but I think this con definitely outweighs the professional output this cable gives, and you can confidently buy it.
Things to Consider when buying XLR Cables
There is a lot of technical jargon that surrounds the terms “XLR cables.” Let’s break down the wire and see what these terms mean and how they affect the quality of sound.
Most models will have conductors, which are each covered by insulation and filler. This is then shielded to avoid noises from outer surroundings and then packed in an outer jacket to give it that extra protection.
XLR cables will have many things in common when it comes to which of the above properties it has. One of these is almost all of them are 3 pins and are male to female connectors. Also, every one of them will definitely come with a jacket over it.
The top-notch cables have a couple of performance factors that make people shower their positive reviews on the product. The following are a few of the basic factors:
- Connector’s conductivity
- Connector’s type
Get the right length
The length of the cable usually depends on your needs. You should, however, keep in mind that the longer the cable, the more hurdles you will run into when setting up your wires. Your cable will also be prone to more damage when they are lying disorganized. You will also be having more noise-related (humming or buzzing) issues that come part and parcel with a long wired cable. Try to stick to the 15 length wire if your product sells them or pick the next closest number to avoid the above-stated issues.
Note the thickness
Now core thickness is one of the main factors that help eliminate noise while the cable picks up signals. This is always a needed feature that you will need either when recording or when playing on stage. Thicker cables are good when it comes to sending sound without any bad interference. This makes such an application great for your recording sessions. While the same will be looked out for in the stage as well, it is better that your wires are more bendable so that it becomes easy to layout, roll up, and move wires before, during, and after performances.
This type of flexibility is mainly provided when the strand count in your cable is towards the higher range. Each wire in your conductor is normally made of many tiny wires, and these are the ones that come together to make up the strand count which affect your ease of use and long life of the cable.
Twist it up
Coming back to the conductors again, if you’ve noticed the wires from the olden days' appliances, you’ll see that the positive and the negative wire is twisted up together. This is the same technique that is used inside your XLR cables for the positive and negative copper conductors. If there are many twists in the wires, this will contribute to the level of how much protection your wire gets from noise and how durable it is. This, of course, increases the time a company should spend in making these wires are the creation time and material used to make such wires increases.
Shield the signal
When a signal is picked up by your XLR cable, the shielding does the job of safeguarding it from outside interference. Just like how extra electricity in appliances is sent to the ground, this shielding is connected to a different pin, which does the same job and in turn, keeps the audio clean. Companies choose to then use the process of braided, spiral shielding, multi-spiral shielding, foil shielding, and cotton yarn to fix this problem.
Braided shielding is done by bringing wires of strong copper together.
Spiral shielding gives you more flexibility and is more preferred for stage applications. Sometimes the single spiral shielding just doesn't cut it. Here some companies bulk up the shielding and use the multi-spiral technique. But for both these options, you must handle the wire carefully as bending them too much too often can lower the quality of the cable as it creates gaps in the shielding.
Finally, the foil shielding is one amount the cheapest application and hence is found in general cable brands as it only provides you with just the basic protection from interference.
Cotton yarn is another inexpensive material that does a good job of blocking out unwanted sounds, which can lower the quality of any recording.
The casing or the jacket is also a part that is added into the XLR that does the work of protecting the wires from physical damage.
The conductivity of the connector
Connectors come in gold and silver metal coatings, which are responsible for primarily increasing the efficiency of the flow of electric current. Science will tell you that silver would conduct electricity better, but due to the deterioration of this metal that is attributed to humidity or pain everyday use, it must be kept clean if you want to expect better results. If you are someone who doesn't want to do this, then you can opt for gold but should also consider the cost when doing this.
Pick the right connector
A connector will make or break the longevity of your XLR cable. Many of the products we discussed above have Neutrik as their connector, and this is because it is a well known and trustworthy brand as these connectors fix together really well and are durable. Have a watch out for those cables that have four-wire conductors, as when compared to their 2 wire counterparts, as the four-wired ones raise the bar for the quality of signals that are captured by your XLR wire.
Let the fillers do the work
The filler is one of those items that help your XLR wires hold its shape and also give a smooth finish for your cable. This shouldn’t be mistaken as an aesthetic feature, as this also adds a lot of value to your product as it increases the lifespan of it.
Balanced vs. unbalanced cables
If you are planning on getting yourself some unbalanced ones, keep in mind that they are best when bought at a shorter length. However, if you want a versatile cable, it is best to go with a balanced one, and you can avoid a great deal of the noise interference I keep talking about. XLRs are balanced cables that do just this.
Quality and cost
When it comes to compromises that you should make, it comes down to what your priorities are as what you are looking to get out of your cables. If you choose to stick to quality, the sound that the XLR is able to produce will be pristine.
As the quality goes down, so does the level of interference, which might get annoying while playing live or recording your music. High-quality products will also have a longer shelf life, and you do not have to spend all your savings on replacing an XLR that you probably just bought.