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Published Sep. 27, 2021

The right XLR cable can make the difference between a clean, high-quality recording and a staticky mess of distorted dialogue and muffled music. While the brand and model of your microphone and interface ultimately will determine the caliber of your sound quality, cables can have a bigger impact than you might imagine. If you’ve put a lot of thought into your recording equipment, extend the same consideration to your cable selection. The best XLR cables will deliver superlative sound so you can focus on creating quality content. 

How We Picked These Products

Methodology 

To select the best XLR cables, we took a close look at the hardware that makes up the connections at each end. We also examined the cable shielding, which protects the insulating conductors that deliver the signal from one piece of gear to the next. We took a look at connector material, which enforces the coupling between the cable and mixer, interface, etc. Finally, we thoroughly examined the cables we use in our home studios and asked professional technicians for recommendations, paying particular attention to durability. 

The Best XLR Cables: Reviews and Recommendations

Best XLR Cable Overall: Hosa HMIC-010 Pro

An Industry Standard

This no-nonsense cable is used by the pros and is known for its durability. HOSA

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Why It Made The Cut: You often see Hosa XLR cables in many at-home and professional studios; while they aren’t the fanciest model around, they provide top-notch sound and reliability at a great price.  

Specs:

  • Shielding: 90 percent Braided Shield 
  • Connectors: XLR male to XLR female
  • Connector/Contact Material: Silver-plated REAN  
  • Available Lengths: 5, 10, or 15 feet

Pros: 

  • Affordable
  • Durable  
  • Rugged silver REAN connectors 

Cons: 

  • No frills or fancy materials 

Despite what some may say, you don’t empty your wallet to achieve excellent sound quality. While the Hosa HMIC XLR cable doesn’t offer much in the way of frills, these units have been used in professional studios and concert stages for decades. The HMIC cables are very durable; they can stand being stuffed in a backpack or road case, and can handle being buried beneath an amp or other heavy gear. No less importantly, they provide excellent interference reduction and are praised for their signal transfer. 

Best High-End XLR Cable: Mogami Gold Studio 03

The Gold Standard

Four conductors help this industry favorite tamp down interferences for superior sound. Mogami

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Why It Made The Cut: Mogami makes high-end XLR cables of the highest quality that are legends in the field. For those happy to spend a little extra, the Gold Series units feature quad-cabling that will eliminate any and all interference and deliver the best possible signal. 

Specs: 

  • Shielding: Braided Shield 
  • Connectors: XLR male to XLR female
  • Connector/Contact Material: Solid Gold 
  • Available Lengths: Options range from 2 to 100 feet

Pros: 

  • Quad Cabling 
  • Neutrik Connectors 
  • Coaxial Spiral Shielding 

Cons: 

  • Expensive 

The champagne of XLR cables, the Mogami Gold Studio series, with its four conductors (also called quad cabling), will suppress electromagnetic interference by a stunning 20 decibels. They are ideal for protecting audio signals in spaces filled with equipment producing no end of noise. The Studio series cables are suitable for audio interfaces, amplifiers, mixers, preamps, microphones, and processors. While you don’t have to spend this much to achieve superlative sound, look no further than the Mogami Gold Studio series if you have room and your budget and want the best XLR cables available. 

Best XLR to TRS cable: Monoprice Premier Series XLR to TRS

Adapt Your Audio

This dependable cable makes the connection when the jacks don’t match. Monoprice

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Why It Made the Cut: If you need to transfer a balanced, line-level signal, say from an interface to a mixer, this XLR to TRS cable from Monoprice is one of the best tools for the job. 

Specs: 

  • Shielding: Braided Shield 
  • Connectors: TRS male to XLR female
  • Connector/Contact Material: Gold Plated
  • Available Lengths: Range from 1.5 to 50 feet 

Pros:

  • Gold plated connectors 
  • Inexpensive 
  • Lifetime warranty 

Cons: 

  • May need to tighten plugs 

TRS cables, also called ¼-inch cables, feature three conductors that transfer balanced signals from a variety of outputs. While you may often use a TRS to TRS cable, sometimes you need to employ an adapter when your output and input jacks don’t match. Enter the Monoprice XLR to TRS cable. The stout, 16-gauge model offers solid protection from noise and interference, plus it’s available in eight lengths to suit multiple applications. 

Build Your At-Home Studio

This easy-to-use cable can help get you started recording. HOSONGIN

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Why It Made The Cut: The Hosongin USB to XLR Link Converter cable is equipped with helpful features, like an indicator light, and plug and play connectivity to make recording easier.

Specs:

  • Shielding: None
  • Connectors: USB male to XLR female
  • Connector/Contact Material: Metal alloy / Silver plated 
  • Available Lengths: 3.3, 6.6, 10, 20 feet 

Pros: 

  • No driver installation necessary 
  • Helpful indicator light 
  • Compatible with Mac and Windows Computers

Cons:

  • Cannot supply phantom power 

If you’re new to recording music or podcasts and you’re not ready to commit to a dedicated interface to record and process audio, an XLR to USB cable like this one from Hosongin will get you going. With the ability to plug your mic directly into your computer (as long as it doesn’t require additional power), you won’t waste time trying to configure extra equipment. This adapter works with all computers and doesn’t require additional drivers, making it the perfect cable to pursue your newest endeavor.

Best Budget XLR Cable: LyxPro LCS

Save Without Skimping

This cable provides dependable quality at a very reasonable cost. LyxPro

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Why It Made The Cut: LyxPro XLR cables are a reliable choice available in various lengths at a great price.  

Specs: 

  • Shielding: 98 percent Braided Shield 
  • Connectors: XLR male to XLR female
  • Connector/Contact Material: Gold Plated
  • Available Lengths: Options from 1.5 to 200 feet 

Pros: 

  • Multiple colors makes organization a breeze 
  • Angled Options fit in tight spaces 
  • Affordable 

Cons: 

  • Connectors could be more durable 

Our pick for great value, the LyxPro XLR cables come in a variety of lengths and over eight colors for extra organization and identification. A 98 percent braided shield and cotton yarn wrap cancels hum, static, and other noise, keeping your recordings clean and preserving signals during a live performance; you can even use them for DMX lighting. Gold-plated contact points and self-locking connectors are stable and secure. A 24 AWG gauge and oxygen-free copper conductors provide superior conductivity and reliability. 

Things to Consider Before Buying an XLR cable 

Function and Use 

Three-pin XLR cables deliver audio from microphones and other gear to interfaces, mixers, and other inputs. The best of them prevent unwanted noise, interference, and distortion even over long distances. They are also able to supply necessary phantom power to many microphones. XLR cables are a necessary staple found in recording studios and live performances; you’d be hard-pressed to find an audio event that doesn’t employ at least one or two, if not dozens. 

Balanced vs. Unbalanced

Balanced cables have three conductors: positive and negative signal wires and a ground, which shields them from interference. The positive and negative signals are nearly identical to one another, though, in opposite polarity i.e., one of them is inverted. If electrical interference is encountered, it will enter both of these signals. When these signals are received by a device with balanced inputs, it reverses that inverted signal, giving you sound, and eliminates noise, delivering a clean signal. 

Unbalanced cables house two wires, one signal wire, and one grounded wire, which means the audio transported is more susceptible to interference. 

Your Equipment 

Before you buy an XLR cable, double-check your existing equipment. While most mixers, microphones, and interfaces rely on XLR connections, some may use TRS cables to receive signals. Additionally, most connections will require a male-to-female cable, but you may need a male-to-male connection if you’re connecting an interface to some speakers. If you want to connect your mic directly to your laptop, you’ll want an XLR to USB cable. To connect an instrument to an interface, look for an XLR to TRS cable. We’ve provided some options in our product picks, so make sure you check your equipment and read any instructional manuals to ensure the cable you’re purchasing is the cable you need. 

Shielding

Here’s where some XLR cables differ—and a way for you to determine quality. There are three types of shielding: tin-plated copper, braided copper, and aluminum laminate. Copper is strong yet pliant and the preferred material for most audio situations. Braided copper is strong and durable, with high conductivity that is excellent at keeping out interference. Braided shields are top of the line, generally a bit more expensive, and common in quality cables. Serve, or spiral-wrapped, copper shielding uses flat strands wrapped in one direction for maximum flexibility, though it is slightly less effective at intercepting interference. Serve shields are found in mid-range cables. Foil shielding uses a combination of aluminum wrapping and copper drain wire; they are popular for stage snakes but are the least effective at blocking interference hence their more budget-friendly price tags. 

Connectors 

The other spec you’ll run into when searching for XLR cables is connector type. Gearheads and audiophiles often debate which material provides the best connection. The frontrunner is solid gold for its strength and durability, followed by gold-plated metals. Solid gold connectors are typically more expensive, and their necessity has been questioned, but at the very least, you will have a top-notch connector that won’t let you down. You’ll also find silver connectors that offer high conductivity but tarnish faster than other metals, so they will need to be cleaned more often.  

FAQs

Q: Are RCA or XLR cables better?

Generally speaking, if you have the choice, XLR cables are better than RCA cables. XLR cables are balanced, whereas RCA cables are unbalanced. Although they are cheaper and acceptable for short distances or low output, we recommend grabbing an XLR for just about any recording or playing needs. They deliver, and maintain, high-quality signals from instruments, microphones, and more. 

Q: Do longer XLR cables provide inferior sound compared to shorter cables? 

No. A balanced cable like an XLR is designed to mitigate noise and distortion and length won’t impede its ability to do so. However, you’ll want to periodically monitor the cable for extreme bending or twisting as that can cause microphonic noise or static discharge. 

Q: Why are XLR cables so expensive? 

XLR cables are a necessary tool when it comes to microphone usage and recording. You’ll find them in professional studios and stages across the globe. Their popularity means prices can be high, especially when it comes to quality units—music makers and more will have no choice other than to grab a few XLR cables to support their connections (and manufacturers know this). Additionally,  a well-designed cable is necessary for a clean recording, so quality is often reflected in the price as well.  

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re producing the next great true-crime podcast or laying down tracks for your next single, an XLR cable is likely going to be an essential part of the process. Make sure you consider what kind of XLR cable you need, the distance it will need to cover, and how much you want to invest. Always purchase cables from reputable brands to ensure superior interference interception plus noise reduction and check for compatibility with your other gear before buying. Crystal clear audio awaits. 

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