Do the type/brand of XLR Cables really matter? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 89 Old 06-03-2016, 08:51 AM - Thread Starter
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Do the type/brand of XLR Cables really matter?

Hi All,

I just purchased a Marantz pre/pro combo (AV8802A, MM8007, MM7705 and Pioneer ELITE BDP-88FD) and I am wondering if the brand/type of cable really matters? I am using this set up for a home theater (7.4.4) and I will not be using this for music.

When I look the price of cables the price ranges far and wide. I look at Monprice and cables are very cheap but I notice a big difference in $ if I get Canare, Mogami, Belden, etc. Will I see any big difference in sound for what I want these cables for?

Thanks for any advice you maybe able to give.

Thanks
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post #2 of 89 Old 06-03-2016, 09:00 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diver_Ron View Post
Will I see any big difference in sound for what I want these cables for?
No. My only concern with inexpensive XLR is the connectors. I'll only use name brands, Neutrik, Switchcraft, ITT Cannon, Amphenol. If a name brand connector isn't specified I'd steer clear.
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post #3 of 89 Old 06-03-2016, 09:17 AM
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Hello Diver_Ron,

I use Monoprice, they work just fine.
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post #4 of 89 Old 06-03-2016, 09:23 AM
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I've always loved the experience using Neutrik cable ends. Something about that nice solid mechanical engagement that puts a smile on my face.
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post #5 of 89 Old 06-03-2016, 01:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diver_Ron View Post
Will I see any big difference in sound for what I want these cables for?
No. You won't see (pun intended) or hear a difference in sound. Good construction is all that is required.
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post #6 of 89 Old 06-03-2016, 08:59 PM
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No differences. I like Hosa.


By the way, balanced connections help cancel out noise picked up along the way from one component to the next, not all of it but the specific kind which is called common mode, but they also do a fantastic job of perfectly passing along the existing noise in the signal itself.


People often hear hiss in their audio and errantly think "If I upgrade to XLRs instead of RCAs this problem will go away" and guess what, it usually doesn't. AC hum and AM radio noise are the main things that get reduced and these aren't usually problems for home audio consumers using short lengths in say an audio rack. [Although they can stem from numerous sources besides just "my interconnects are acting like antennas!"] Run wires from the front of a studio to the back, or wire a stage, and we are talking about exactly where these issues come into play. That's why the pros insist on them.


Everything I've written so far goes completely against what most people are taught so they will attack this post. They'll point to articles which show how and why balanced connections reduce common mode noise and anecdotal stories, under sighted conditions with no scientific controls, where the owner will say, "But I switched to XLRs and boy did it help reduce my noise!" and in some instances this might actually be true, but usually it is all in their head.


Ask them for evidence based science which shows an example where under measurement, not sighted, anecdotal testimony, where using XLRs instead of RCAs reduced noise by 1 dB or more, using short, 2 meter or less runs in a real world audio system [you could easily rig the test by including an artificial noise generating device next to the RCA, but that's cheating]. None of them will be able to provide you with any such evidence.


So why does this all matter to you? Because generally XLR wires cost more (although not always) and because with some audio devices their XLR in/outs actually have more inherent noise, distortion, and inferior channel separation than their RCA in/outs and unfortunately I happen to know at least one Marantz multi-channel amp [although I'm not sure about yours] that's on that list: MM7055.


Unlike my detractors, I bring third party, objective, evidence based science to back my claims:


"THD+N from the amplifier was less than 0.007 percent at 1 kilohertz when driving 2.83 volts into an 8-ohm load using the RCA input. When using the XLR input under the same conditions, THD+N was less than 0.014 percent. Crosstalk at 1 kHz driving 2.83 volts into an 8-ohm load was –85.57 dB left to right and –84.22 dB right to left using the RCA inputs and –81.05 dB left to right and –81.09 dB right to left using the XLR inputs. The signal-to-noise ratio with an 8-ohm load from 10 hertz to 24 kHz with “A” weighting was –111.44 dBrA using the RCA input and –98.63 using the XLR input.—MJP
Read more at http://www.soundandvision.com/conten...sQxxxdj0Aa8.99


BTW, I personally own and use a Marantz prepro with both RCA and XLR connections and have used XLR for certain scenarios (long runs across the room to a headphone amp) but I usually just use RCAs. Also, the increase in noise, THD, etc. on that amp I linked to is not necessarily audible, but it is worth noting.
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In A/V reproduction accuracy, there IS no concept of "accounting for personal taste/preference". As art consumers we don't "pick" the level of bass, nor the tint/brightness of a scene's sky, any more than we pick the ending of a novel or Mona Lisa's type of smile. "High fidelity" means "high truthfulness", faithful to the original artist's intent: an unmodified, neutral, accurate copy of the original master, ideally being exact and with no discernable alterations, aka "transparency".

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post #7 of 89 Old 06-04-2016, 05:44 AM
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What Bill and Ratman said: With XLRs it’s more about the connectors than the cables. Check the pictures on their website - Monoprice uses cheap connectors like the kind described here.

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post #8 of 89 Old 06-04-2016, 07:44 AM
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To be more specific, the very well-made and reasonably priced Monoprice XLR cables I have are used in a home audio application. They are used between my preamp and power amp. They get the job done.
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post #9 of 89 Old 06-04-2016, 08:38 AM
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To add:
I stated "construction" not "connectors". With that, if you expect to frequently unplug/plug the XLR cables, then Wayne makes a valid point for consideration. But, if you intend to connect up the gear and infrequently unplug/plug the cables, don't fret.
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post #10 of 89 Old 06-04-2016, 01:59 PM
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Solder your own. You can get shielded Mogami signal cable for $0.30/ft and Neutrik connectors for a couple dollars each
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I have never tried Monoprice XLRs. I generally use Pro-Co from Sweetwater Sound; decent construction with Neutrik connectors at a reasonable price. I have had a lot of bad experiences with Hosa cables (poor connectors and build quality, plus the cables themselves tended to break and be generally less resistant to abrasion) though still own a few of them as well. My experience is mostly in commercial or professional installations which puts more stress on the cables so Hosa may be fine at home. I went with Pro-Co in my system. I have used Mogami and Canare as well as a few others but haven't felt compelled to pay the cost difference over Pro-Co. If you can build your own, as stated above, you can save a lot of money.

On XLR vs. RCA there are a couple of things at play:
  • With a truly balanced connection the signal passes through two conductors isolated from the shield (ground). This provides better EMI/RFI rejection since the shield is separate from the signal return and the balanced signal design rejects common-mode noise. It also provides the option of lifting the shield (safety ground) to break a ground loop.
  • A differential signal offers reduced distortion and noise. Differential operation cancels even-order distortion terms, and the signal level increases by two (2x) but (uncorrelated) noise by only the square root of two (1.414x) so there is a slight SNR advantage. You can see this in a lot of detailed spec sheets for pro equipment (most of which does not have RCA connections but does allow single-ended operation).

For audio, the first point is most critical in the vast majority of installations.

IME/IMO - Don
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post #12 of 89 Old 06-04-2016, 03:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diver_Ron View Post
When I look the price of cables the price ranges far and wide. I look at Monprice and cables are very cheap but I notice a big difference in $ if I get Canare, Mogami, Belden, etc. Will I see any big difference in sound for what I want these cables for?
Among the brands you list and for your purposes I suspect the difference if any would be difficult to hear at best.

In the general case, it's like starting a religious war.
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post #13 of 89 Old 06-04-2016, 06:19 PM
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I didn't like the Monoprice cables, mostly because they were excessively large. They use very large gauge wires and thick insulation, which might make them popular because they look so beefy, but I found them to be a major PITA to deal with because they are relatively inflexible and take up too much space. I really like the Mogami cables I made in my DIY amp build, because they are really flexible and much smaller.
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...because they were excessively large...because they are relatively inflexible and take up too much space.

I just walked over and checked the cables...

"excessively large"
No, the power amp AC cord is much larger.

"relatively inflexible"
Well, I bent them back and forth and I got a lot of flex out of them, nothing broke.

"take up too much space"
I checked the space and it turns out that the preamp and power amp take up way more space.
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post #15 of 89 Old 06-04-2016, 06:49 PM
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Avoid IXOS- they're expensive, filled with BS and the box probably costs more than the cables. I used one set and when I looked at them, I was pissed. No-name connectors, translucent white nylon mesh and three braided wires. I offered to return them and the customer told me "in the grand scheme of things, it's not a big deal". I never liked Munster or AudioQuest and it was the only time I have sold expensive cables.
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post #16 of 89 Old 06-04-2016, 07:21 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FriscoDTM View Post
I didn't like the Monoprice cables, mostly because they were excessively large. They use very large gauge wires and thick insulation, which might make them popular because they look so beefy, but I found them to be a major PITA to deal with because they are relatively inflexible and take up too much space.
Since probably 99% of XLR cables are used for pro-sound that's to be expected, as they need to be very durable.
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post #17 of 89 Old 06-04-2016, 07:30 PM
 
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The pro recording music studios...what brand of XLR cables are they using for their mics, amplified instruments and recording machines? ...In general.
...And the brand of connectors. ...In general.
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post #18 of 89 Old 06-04-2016, 07:39 PM
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I just bought some of these, haven't gotten my other equipment yet though to try them out, but I have used their RCA and HDMI cables and have had great success with them. Always great reviews and very good build quality in every cable I have gotten from them. The XLR's I got are very nice from what I felt, good metal connections with a solid clip at the end. http://www.amazon.com/Microphone-Cab...ilpage_o03_s00 I have used the Monoprice ones before as well. I will say the ones I provided a link to from Mediabridge seem to be built better imo.
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Your link don't work.
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post #20 of 89 Old 06-05-2016, 06:53 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthSky View Post
The pro recording music studios...what brand of XLR cables are they using for their mics, amplified instruments and recording machines? ...In general.
...And the brand of connectors. ...In general.
In general they make their own, using Belden, Canare or Mogami wire and Switchcraft, Neutrik, ITT Cannon or Amphenol connectors. Some of them might have a 'high end' cable or two on hand to placate customers who think that there's any reason to use them. A few even use all 'high end' cables, which means they're either fools or they're charging too much for their services, or both.
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post #21 of 89 Old 06-05-2016, 02:27 PM
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Let's call each time you disconnect and then reconnect an XLR connector "one cycle". Let's say by statistical analysis you determine the mean time before failure, MTBF, for my cheap $10 Hosa XLR is 100 cycles (I'd actually expect it to be much greater than that, perhaps by a 10 fold factor or more, but I am intentionally using exaggerated figures for this hypothetical scenario).


The competitor is $20 "Bulletproof" brand XLR which tests as having a 100 billion cycles MTBF. In your home theater use scenario, the topic of this thread, you move to a new home yearly, [again, way more than typical, but we are using extreme examples on purpose] so each time you need to disconnect the XLR and then re-hook it up at the new house, i.e. one cycle, once every year. Now let's do the math. How many years do you have to live, from now, such that the $10 extra spent to buy the Bulletproof brand XLR actually saves you money due to not having to rebuy it, since it never breaks, compared to the Hosa?

In A/V reproduction accuracy, there IS no concept of "accounting for personal taste/preference". As art consumers we don't "pick" the level of bass, nor the tint/brightness of a scene's sky, any more than we pick the ending of a novel or Mona Lisa's type of smile. "High fidelity" means "high truthfulness", faithful to the original artist's intent: an unmodified, neutral, accurate copy of the original master, ideally being exact and with no discernable alterations, aka "transparency".

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post #22 of 89 Old 06-05-2016, 02:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthSky View Post
The pro recording music studios...what brand of XLR cables are they using for their mics, amplified instruments and recording machines? ...In general.
...And the brand of connectors. ...In general.


If this one breaks yearly, which I kind of doubt, you'd be out $50 for a decade of use, and it is the number one best seller from one of the largest retailers out there, Amazon, with a 4.5/5 star rating by buyers:
http://www.amazon.com/CBI-MLC20-Micr..._bs_11973421_1


I'm not claiming this answers your question, but I thought to point it out. I'd guess the answer to your question is Mogami, but it depends on how you define "pro", etc..

In A/V reproduction accuracy, there IS no concept of "accounting for personal taste/preference". As art consumers we don't "pick" the level of bass, nor the tint/brightness of a scene's sky, any more than we pick the ending of a novel or Mona Lisa's type of smile. "High fidelity" means "high truthfulness", faithful to the original artist's intent: an unmodified, neutral, accurate copy of the original master, ideally being exact and with no discernable alterations, aka "transparency".
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
If this one breaks yearly, which I kind of doubt, you'd be out $50 for a decade of use, and it is the number one best seller from one of the largest retailers out there, Amazon, with a 4.5/5 star rating by buyers:
http://www.amazon.com/CBI-MLC20-Micr..._bs_11973421_1
That may be a perfectly OK cable for home use. No experienced pro would ever use it, because the cheap connectors are just the sort that are likely to fail on the job. It's not about the money, it's about the reliability. I've seen connectors like that crap out after a few gigs. I also have Switchcraft and Neutriks that are still in use after 30 years of hard duty.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Fitzmaurice View Post
the cheap connectors are just the sort that are likely to fail on the job.
I'd like to do more research. Tell me, what brand and model are these connectors. Thanks.

In A/V reproduction accuracy, there IS no concept of "accounting for personal taste/preference". As art consumers we don't "pick" the level of bass, nor the tint/brightness of a scene's sky, any more than we pick the ending of a novel or Mona Lisa's type of smile. "High fidelity" means "high truthfulness", faithful to the original artist's intent: an unmodified, neutral, accurate copy of the original master, ideally being exact and with no discernable alterations, aka "transparency".
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The bulk Monoprice Mic cable is well designed. I use that with Neutrik XLR's and roll my own cabling.
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post #26 of 89 Old 06-05-2016, 07:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Fitzmaurice View Post
That may be a perfectly OK cable for home use. No experienced pro would ever use it, because the cheap connectors are just the sort that are likely to fail on the job. It's not about the money, it's about the reliability. I've seen connectors like that crap out after a few gigs. I also have Switchcraft and Neutriks that are still in use after 30 years of hard duty.
But Bill, it says right there in the description that it uses “high quality XLR male and female connectors!”

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post #27 of 89 Old 06-05-2016, 07:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
Tell me, what brand and model are these connectors. Thanks.
Neutrik, Switchcraft and Amphenol, in that order. I used Canare, Mogami and Belden cable in my PA, with all Neutrik connectors and I don't think one ever let me down.
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post #28 of 89 Old 06-05-2016, 07:40 PM
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Actually, I wanted to know what brand of connectors are used on the cheap ones (the best selling ones on Amazon I linked to earlier) he said were the type to "likely to fail on the job.", but "may be a perfectly OK cable for home use" (which is exactly what the OP said he was using them for). But I suspect he has no idea and is suspicious of their reliability, in pro use (which doesn't matter) based on their price. He'll correct me if I'm wrong.

In A/V reproduction accuracy, there IS no concept of "accounting for personal taste/preference". As art consumers we don't "pick" the level of bass, nor the tint/brightness of a scene's sky, any more than we pick the ending of a novel or Mona Lisa's type of smile. "High fidelity" means "high truthfulness", faithful to the original artist's intent: an unmodified, neutral, accurate copy of the original master, ideally being exact and with no discernable alterations, aka "transparency".

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post #29 of 89 Old 06-06-2016, 01:07 AM
 
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"I wouldn’t touch the Venoms, no matter how good they may sound. Their XLRs look pretty, but are substandard. As described in this post, the female is a poor design, similar to cheap cables offered by Monoprice and Hosa, that I’ve seen fail time and time again.


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By contrast, the ZenWave D2’s appear to use a Neutrik-based connector – can’t go wrong with those.


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Bottom line, I can't see spending good money on high-end cables with structurally-inferior connectors.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt"

Last edited by NorthSky; 06-06-2016 at 01:14 AM.
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post #30 of 89 Old 06-06-2016, 04:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
Actually, I wanted to know what brand of connectors are used on the cheap ones (the best selling ones on Amazon I linked to earlier) he said were the type to "likely to fail on the job.", but "may be a perfectly OK cable for home use" (which is exactly what the OP said he was using them for). But I suspect he has no idea and is suspicious of their reliability, in pro use (which doesn't matter) based on their price. He'll correct me if I'm wrong.
They are likely a very cheap Switchcraft knock-off. The price for the cable with connectors is $5. The price for one Switchcraft A3M is $4 list, $2.75 in quantity, A3M are about the same. The photo shows connectors that look like, but cannot possibly be Switchcraft, which makes them a cheap knock-off. The problem with those that I've run into is not usually contact reliability, though the pins are typically tin plated, not even nickel, and very very thin plating which wears off in very few cycles, then the material oxidizes. The bigger issue is construction failure. I've opened them up for rewiring only to have them fall apart. The strain relief is poorly made, brakes when yanked or whipped. There is even a plastic shell version that breaks when you step on them, but looks like shiny metal.

I actually design and build broadcast and recording studios. I would never use that cable. My XLR connectors of choice for the last 35 years has been Neutrik NC3MXB and NC3FXB for cable-mount, and the equivalent for panel mount. Those have gold plated pins and sockets, and assembly quickly and easily with a good strain relief and no set screw. I don't use anything that cheap because I can't hang reliability of a studio or remote system on a cheap cable. Just not worth any savings.

My cable of choice for "permanent" wiring (installed, not moved) is Gepco 61801EZ, 22ga, twisted pair, foil shield. Comes in a rainbow of colors, foil shield is bonded to the outer jacket, so it strips off with it...that's the EZ part. For custom-length mic cables, or anything that will be moved frequently, I use Canare L4E6S. Star-quad, braided shield, and a total PITA to use, hence used for custom lengths only. Standard lengths are purchased, and wherever possible, specifically with the Neutrik connector above. I spec pre-build cables whenever possible because I can buy them for a fraction of the cost of making them once time is figured in. The only other type is a smaller diameter mic cable used for permanent mic installations that require more flexing than the Gepco wire can take. No part number handy, sorry.

I like to use pre-made XLR cables with Neutrik XLRs for HT installations, Proco does just fine, though they don't use the gold pin versions, but that doesn't matter. Gold gets you lower oxidation in difficult atmospheres, that's about it.
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